Night Hunter is a new crime thriller that arrives in UK cinemas on Friday 16th September via Signature Entertainment. The film follows a police force and a local vigilante as they become caught-up in a dangerous scheme involving a recently arrested troubled man who is linked to years of female abductions and murders. It also has a rather impressive cast including Henry Cavill, Alexandra Daddario, Stanley Tucci, Brendan Fletcher, and Sir Ben Kingsley. It’s a very high pedigree of acting prowess, yet the film is written and directed by David Raymond; the film is his first feature. Ahead of the release we sat down with Raymond to find out how he manged to entice such well known names to a project from a fledgling filmmaker, researching police work, and shifting from politics to Hollywood.

You have a degree in politics, how do you go from that into film-making?

I never studied film. When I was growing up, film was never really an option. It wasn’t something you could say no to, the idea of going and working in movies was just non-existent. I managed to break into the industry as it were, by writing a script in Microsoft Word of all things, whilst I was working in the city. I think the turning point was around the time of the Lord of the Rings movies coming out. I love those, but I was so jealous that people got to go do that for a living. I thought, ‘well fuck it, I’m gonna write my in. It’s the only way I can break into the industry.’ So I wrote a script called Heroes and Villains, and cut to a couple of years later, managed to get a film made. I was in it. I’m a terrible actor (chuckles), but I learned a lot. I realised at the time that directing was something I really wanted to do. So that was my entrance into going from a degree in politics, to working in the city for a year, to saying I don’t want to waste my life, I want to go make movies.

Where did the idea for Night Hunter come from?

The necessity for it, was the main thing. I’d almost got a couple of other things made and the sale agent, who are the main hub of independent film, especially when your talking about your first film, they tend to dominate. A lot of them had liked my other material, but it was either too expensive or too complicated. They said to me, ‘we need a genre thriller. If you come up with a genre thriller, we’ll make it.’ I think around the time, I can’t remember his name, but I remember seeing in the news out of Belgium or somewhere in Europe, where a guy had been caught with having some women in his basement for years. He was fathering children and fathering their children, and not only is that horrific, but I remember seeing interviews of the guy’s brother and family in the news. They were all claiming they had no idea that for a decade he was living this double life in his basement. I just remember looking at that and going, ‘that is bullshit’. If my brother had a bunch of people living in his house, that everyone would know about it.

I think that’s where the idea came from, but Night Hunter is nowhere near as dark and horrific as that. If I’m honest, it’s more of a popcorny thriller. There’s none of that – I don’t like that type of violence – so there’s none of that on camera. Of course the basis of the story is a guy who has abducted young women, but it’s not that you see bodies and cages. It’s more a detective story. There’s a lot of DNA in this bunker of his, where is everyone? We need to find answers, rather than the real violence of what people are talking about.

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This is your first feature film and yet your cast has actors including Sir Ben Kingsley, Henry Cavill and Stanley Tucci. How did you manage to snag such a high profile cast?

I have no idea. I just asked. I know that sounds ridiculous. I actually wrote Sir Ben’s character with him in mind. Not that you ever think, ‘I’m gonna land Ben Kingsley in my first movie,’ but you tend to write scripts with people at the back of your mind. Sir Ben was the first one in and then, if I’m honest, it was an agent that suggested Henry, I originally dismissed it because I thought there’s no way he’s going to do this. But then he read the script and we met and got on very, very well. From there I think it snowballed a little bit. I was basically being asked who I wanted. I’ve always loved Stanley Tucci. His role is very small and we only had him for a very limited amount of days, but I wanted somebody who just had that earnest ability to tell off his troops, but also every word out of his mouth is very precious, so there’s that mutual respect there. I’ve always loved Stanley and so I mentioned his name never thinking we’d land him, and he said yes, it just started swelling from there on in. To be honest, it was the same with Minka Kelly and Nathan Fillion. I’ve always been huge fans of their work and so, even though their roles are very small, when I got asked who I wanted for the roles and came up with their names, initially it was, ‘that’s not going to work’, but I managed to get on Skype with them from Winnipeg and for whatever reason, they all said yes which I’m very grateful for. They’re a lovely group of people, all very talented.

Another key cast member is Brendan Fletcher who plays Simon, he’s been working for years, but is still fairly unknown. What was it about him that made you believe that he could tackle this quite tricky role?

I think that guy is a genius, and I don’t say that lightly. He really is as good as it gets. I cast Brendan, I found him off of his audition tape because Simon was a very, very tricky role to cast. Initially we had prepped the movie in Louisiana where the aesthetic of the film was more hot and sweaty than ice cold. But because there was a late filing of my Visa to direct the movie in the States, we actually had to pivot and change to Canada, which is inevitably why I had to rewrite the script to suit this icy cold environment. My original idea with Simon was I wanted someone very innocent, but bigger. I wanted someone who looked like a school teacher. Then given the story, that shifted. To be honest, I found Brendan from his tape. His audition tape is a version of the Simon he ends up playing. He’s like Sir Ben and Stanley Tucci on camera, and I say that from an editing point of view. Because even his worst takes are still phenomenal. He’s at that level where he’s so good, it was a great collaboration between the two of us.

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I’ve been a fan since Freddy Versus Jason and Supernatural. He recently had a guest stint on Arrow in a role a little similar to Simon; he seems to play those parts well.

He’s a good killer, he’s a good psychotic killer. I say with him about to come spend the weekend in my house…

There’s a rather heart-wrenching moment featuring a baby… are you ready for the trauma that you’re going to cause parents across the world?

The way that I had written the movie, it’s meant to fuck with you. You’re meant to go on this emotional nail-biting journey where you jump out of your seat, have a bit of a panic attack and then at the end of the film, you go home and go to bed. That was my intention, hopefully that’s worked. I didn’t get the opportunity to test screen the film, so the first time I actually saw it properly with a live audience was the LA film festival with a thousand people in the cinema. I was giddy in my seat watching that scene play out, because we managed to get everybody by the balls and watch them have a panic attack.

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The film follows members of law enforcement, did you have to do much research into how they do things?

Actually it was Sir Ben’s character in particular. He’s coming at the problem from a very logical point of view. I’ve done a load of research on this, and this sounds pretty gross, but most sex offenders when they get out of prison re-offend. Which if you really think about it, if seventy percent or seven out of ten people when you let them out of jail, you know that most of them are going to go out and hurt someone else, why the fuck would you let them out of jail in the first place? In America I found during my research that they’re now treating sex offenders chemically. Which sounds terrible, and yes it’s castration, or a form of it, but the science beneath it is fascinating. If you treat the hormone imbalance of a sex offender, then the likelihood of them re-offending when they are let out of jail drops to something like ten percent. I’m not being funny, but why on Earth aren’t we doing that around the world? Especially knowing that these people are then let out of jail. I did a lot of research with that for Sir Ben’s character.

Also, Alex Daddario’s role as a police psychiatrist whose there to effectively assess and then break into someone’s mind. There was a lot of research done there. Actually something that fell off of the page, more because I never got the footage to explain it, but her role was that she was originally an in-house police therapist, treating other officers for their traumas that they experienced during work. Then she moved divisions, which is another thing I found a lot from a psychologist point of view. These people tend to shift departments every few years, So yeah there was a lot of research mainly over those two roles.

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Just touching on Alex, it’s a very different role to anything that audiences have really seen her play before. I’m guessing it was this that drew her to the project?

Yeah I think so. I’ve always thought she was a brilliant actor. When I had seen her do the comedy stuff, I like the idea, especially in a movie of this nature, of casting people that you wouldn’t normally expect to see it in. When she and I initially spoke, a lot of her intentions as an actor sort of mirrored her character, which I liked. She’s playing someone who is out to prove something to herself, not to prove something to any of the guys in the police station or any of that nonsense. She is really there to prove her own self worth because she’s getting beaten up a little bit in her private life. I don’t mean physically, but just emotionally. She’s there to prove to herself that she can achieve her goal. It’s gutsy and it’s raw. When I sat down with Alex to talk about the role, she was similar. Her goals in life are to try different things. She’s always wanted to lend her hand to more dramatic work. I had a feeling that she would embrace it and nail it, and I have the utmost respect for her.

Her role is very, very challenging when you consider playing opposite someone like Brendan. He and I had talked about dialogue and rehearsed together, but we did it away from everybody because I didn’t want Alex to know what he was going to do. So when she’s pissed off, for the most part he’s pissing her off, which is great because it became a very natural way of shooting the two of them playing together. But her role in particular is very challenging. For the most part she had no idea what he was doing, but still had to keep that goal of ‘I’m here to do a job’ at the front of her mind.

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So what projects are you working on next?

I’ve got a big original kid’s movie, a live-action thing that I’m putting together at the moment. The thing I’ve learned being in LA, I call it spinning plates, so I’ve got some stuff set-up with some amazing people that haven’t been announced yet, but will do as soon as it becomes real. I’m hoping that my next feature is a big kid’s movie. I have a spy thriller that I’ve just set up somewhere. Then also on the TV front, I have a feeling my first TV project will be something called United. It’s an anthology mini-series that I’ve partnered with the United Nations on. We’re telling true stories of UN staff in the field each season and I’m well into writing season one with a partner on that, that is a real dream come true. I can’t say who I’m working with yet as it’s not been made official, but when you get to work with people you’ve grown up looking up to, and they end up being nicer than you ever thought they would be, it’s great. So I’m head down writing that at the moment.

Night Hunter arrives in UK cinemas and on Digital HD on Friday 13th September via Signature Entertainment.