In the new horror movie Sleep No More, actor Keli Price plays Joe, an ambitious graduate student in the 1980’s. He and a small group of researchers are working on the thesis that sleep takes too much time away from the pursuit of human achievement, and if a human can go 200 hours without sleep, he or she will never need to sleep again. The movie starts with their experiment going disastrously awry, and all of them facing a university board of inquiry. What did Price find to be the biggest challenge on the project?
“I’d never done a horror movie before, and and I also never had this much dialogue in a movie and this amount of technical dialogue, especially. That was very different for me. I did study psychology for a bit in college and that helped for sure, but still there was a tremendous amount of research that I did. But it did help to have a bit of a background in psychology.”
But the biggest challenge, he says, laughing was “[s]hooting in Austin, Texas for twenty-four days during July in winter clothing.”
Does he have a sense of joining a fraternity when he thinks about the long line of distinguished actors – Jack Nicholson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Bacon, Tom Hanks and Johnny Depp all come to mind – who have started in low-budget horror films?
“It would be an honor to be a part of that ridiculously amazing list that you just said.”
Price’s character Joe is sleeping with the project’s beautiful but Machiavellian faculty advisor, played with a sinister sensuality by Yasmine Aker, who has already falsified lab reports and convinced the students to hole up during a school break to continue their experiments for two weeks without authorization. Wouldn’t he think that most people would run for the door at this point?
“Most people would,” he agrees. “My specific character wasn’t one of the ones that wanted to run for it because he’s very driven – he wanted to do this study no matter what. Now obviously there was some worry – he was having conflict because his close friends were also involved in the study and he didn’t want to put them in danger. So there was some guilt when there started to be danger. But he really needed to do this study because if he didn’t he could have been facing jail time and also he was doing it in a sense because his mom was suffering from sleep disorder. It also was in a different time, the eighties, when ground breaking ideas started to come out and so they really felt like they were creating something that hadn’t been done and they would change the world.”
How did it feel to recreate a bygone time and era and why does Price feel that was necessary to the film?
“It was just cool for me. I love the movies from then, the Spielberg movies, Flatliners, Nightmare on Elm Street, all those movies that I really enjoyed, and [the eighties setting] made it different, it made it stand out from the other horror movies of today. I thought it was also changed the situation, weird things like we didn’t have cell phones, and we didn’t have internet, stuff like that.”
Courtesy RLJE Films 2018
The absence of modern communications contributes to a sense of claustrophobia that pervades the movie once the characters are locked into do the experiment. Did that translate at all to the actors’ experience filming it?
Price is perhaps a little equivocal: “Not so much, but I can relate to the claustrophobia for sure. I like open spaces and I like very high ceilings, even when I go for apartments for myself. And there was that one scene where I was locked inside with the creature that was especially claustrophobic and intense.”
Price is enthusiastic about he working with director Phillip Guzman: “I really enjoyed working with Phillip. I think it was the second day working and he comes up to me when I’d finished the scene and he gives me a high five and he hugs me, and that’s great for any actor. That hug just helped. It made me feel secure, like he had my back. I think that was a great gesture for a director to make an actor feel comfortable. That was the start of our relationship and we saw eye to eye from there on. We talked a lot about the specific scenes where I’m awake for this amount of time and whatever – like I said, I had a list for that and what happens in the first so many hours without sleep, and so we worked a lot in that regard. He’s also very very detail-oriented. So we got along great.”
So what’s next for Keli Price?
“I just did a film in China, a three-part series. It was an incredible experience being Asia. I’d never been to Asia, that was crazy in itself. At first I didn’t think my character had a lot of depth it turns out I was incredibly wrong, and we did a very good job we work together with the director to really create an interesting a character that goes from A to Z – at the end of the movie he’s completely different than when he started. It’s called Underdog’s Rising.”
What is he proudest of coming off of Sleep no More?
“Having a role in a film that I really enjoyed the writing. I’m proud of the writing, the direction and I’m proud of the other actors. Being a part of a movie like that means a lot to me because it’s not easy for actors to get roles like that. It makes it special that I believe in the project. There are projects where you can have a big role, but it’s not necessarily something that resonates with you. This one had that family aspect to it. I’m very proud of it.”