'The Mill' Director Says Hulu Horror Movie Is Like 'First Time You Hear a Rage Against the Machine Album
Words by Stephen Andrew
(POPCULTURE) One of Hulu's newest horror movies this fall is The Mill, a sci-fi movie starring Lil Rel Howery as a man held captive by the corporation he's dedicated his life to. While the movie is certain to fill viewers with existential dread, director Sean King O'Grady describes it as something closer to heavy metal activism. During an exclusive interview, O'Grady told PopCulture.com that when he initially read the screenplay by Jeffrey David Thomas it felt lie the "first time you hear a Rage Against the Machine album."
"Jeff's script punched me in the face. It really did," O'Grady said during our conversation. "I couldn't sleep the night that I read it. I spent the whole night putting together this visual treatment of what I was going to do with the movie. Then my producing partner, Josh [Feldman], we had a blood pact the next day within 24 hours of reading this script that we were going to make this movie before the end of last year." He then added, "I mean, it hit me in the same way of like, remember the first time you hear a Rage Against the Machine album, or Public Enemy, or now Run the Jewels. It felt like that to me. It was a challenge. And you don't read those scripts very often."
The film begins with Howrey's character, Joe, waking up in a bizarre room with high walls and no ceiling. He soon comes to learn that he's being kept there by the Mallard Corporation — the company he works for — who expects him to push a mill and meet quota while working under terrible conditions. As he desperately tries to get home to his pregnant wife, Joe repeatedly finds himself trapped in a futile fight.
Sean King O'Grady and Stephen Andrew interview
O'Grady revealed that Howrey joined the film "really early" on, which gave them lots of time to work out how they would bring the story to life. O'Grady and Howery had previously worked together on I Love My Dad, which Howrey stars in and O'Grady produced. "On set, I remember sitting there watching Rel and watching the seriousness to which he approached his comedy and thinking, 'Man, I really want to do a drama with this guy.' Obviously, I knew he'd been in Get Out, and he's phenomenal in that as well, but I was just waiting. I was just sitting waiting for the right thing to approach him with," O'Grady recalled. "When I read The Mill script that night, all I could picture was Rel. I just, for whatever reason, knew he was the guy to do this. So, we sent it to him and he dug it, and we were super fortunate. "
"We spent about four months prepping the movie with him and working on it, and talking about the themes, and talking about the way we were going to shoot it, and how we were going to approach it. It was very detailed in that prep work in those months," O'Grady went on to share before revealing, "Then the day that Rel showed up on set to shoot, everything changed. Because this set is real."
"This is 15,000 pounds of concrete. It's 18-foot walls. It's a real cell that we built that you cannot get out of," O'Grady explained, then adding that Howrey made a big decision in order to best capture his character's plight. "I asked Rel if he would feel more comfortable if we showed him around the set first. So, for safety reasons and also just personal comfort. He talked for a minute and he's like, 'No, I don't want to see it. I actually want to be blindfolded.' So, we blindfolded him when he went in for his first take."
"We walked him down this catwalk, this dark catwalk on the side of the stage that was like 30 feet maybe. It was terribly unsafe," O'Grady joked, "[We] walked him onto the set, laid him down on his back with this blindfold on. Only when we yelled action for the first take, did he take the blindfold off." He continued, "I'm not spoiling anything, this happens 30 seconds in. You see the movie and you see Joe, the character, moving around the cell trying to figure out where he is, that's Rel's real reaction. At that moment, Rel became Joe, and was Joe until we wrapped." The Mill is now available to stream, only on Hulu.