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SYFY WIRE Villains

SXSW: Bill Skarsgard landed Villains role thanks to a certain 'extinct' quality

By Christian Long
Villains Bill Skarsgard

One of the most buzzed-about films to come out of SXSW this year is the offbeat psychological horror film Villains. After its world premiere last weekend, the film went on to earn a few encore buzz screenings.

Villains follows a young couple, Mickey and Jules (Bill Skarsgård and Maika Monroe), who've just embarked on a life of crime. While they fancy themselves as a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde, their own lack of preparedness puts them in the path of George and Gloria (Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick), a couple straight out of a Tennessee Williams play just oozing with Southern charm. However, their disarming, molasses-like accents mask a nefarious secret the two are holding, which could derail everything Mickey and Jules had planned.

After one of those buzz screenings earlier this week, SYFY WIRE attended a panel with the film's co-directors, Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, who talked about casting Skarsgård due to a certain vintage quality he has that many in Hollywood today don't.

"We were searching for this actor that was an extinct species," Olsen began. "This kind of late-'80s, early-'90s heartthrob, slicked-back hair, jean jacket, River Phoenix/Johnny Depp-type thing."

When producer Allan Mandelbaum suggested Skarsgård, they worried that seeing his performance as Pennywise in IT (and the forthcoming IT: Chapter 2) meant he wouldn't have the specific comedic timing they were looking for in their "north of reality, south of farce" project.

"The energy he had, and his ability to handle the comedic beats, was such a relief," Olsen went on. "We really wanted someone in that role who had a certain physicality, and he was the total package."

The directors went on to praise the entire cast, and how everything seemed to click once they were on set.

"We were pretty sure we got it on day one," said Berk. "Seeing the banter and the interplay between Mickey and Jules was like 'Okay, maybe we didn't f**k this up.' Obviously, as we went on, it just strengthened more and more."

While Villains has captivated audiences all week at SXSW, there's no official release date as of yet. In the meantime, be sure to check out all of SYFY WIRE's extensive SXSW coverage here.