In horror films, the grand finale is all-important. From the gripping chase through the Overlook Hotel’s snowy maze in The Shining to Hereditary’s bloody treehouse showdown, the closing chapter always packs in the most scares. Honeydew – a slow-burning terror from indie director Devereux Milburn – doesn’t buck the trend, and descends into a dread-inducing fever dream that will stay with you long after the credits roll.
Honeydew is bolstered by a terrific performance from Sawyer Spielberg, son of Steven and Indiana Jones actress Kate Capshaw. Having followed in his mum’s footsteps and pursued a career in acting, Spielberg, 29, has previously stuck to theatre, but here takes his debut lead in a film that his mates have told him is “really disturbing”.
He plays Sam, one half of a stranded couple who run into trouble when seeking shelter at a family-run farm. Speaking with NME from a secret shoot “somewhere in the south east of England”, Spielberg talks of traumatising his pals, DIY filmmaking and watching old movies with his dad.
Hi Sawyer, what was your first reaction to the Honeydew script?
Sawyer Spielberg: “It sucked me into this mad world. I lost track of where I was, and that’s when I knew that I wanted to be in this movie. I didn’t even read the whole script; I just auditioned and then finished it after I’d been offered the part.”
How would you describe your character Sam?
“Sam is very different to me. He doesn’t know what he really wants. He’s in a co-dependent relationship that isn’t really working. They’re blind in many ways, and that’s what leads them into trouble.”
Are you a big horror fan?
“I’ve always been afraid of horror movies, they always get under my skin. Then in 2017 I watched every single horror movie out there and began to love the genre. The Silence of the Lambs and The Shining spoke to me – any story about a person descending into madness scares me the most. That’s why Honeydew – which is about our characters walking into a house and it getting more and more disturbing – scared the crap out of me.
How did your childhood shape your acting career?
“I’ve been around acting my whole life. My dad introduced me to Paul Newman and Steve McQueen when I was growing up. I didn’t know who the great actors of my generation were because we were busy watching classics from the 1950s and 1960s. I got into stage acting when I was 17, and stayed in the theatre for a long time. Honeydew is my first real film.”
Are there any filmmakers you’d want to work with?
“I just saw Sound of Metal and thought the story was amazing, and the cast were so committed. I want to work on something that [director] Darius Marder is working on. There are a lot of directors out there who aren’t big names who are doing quality work.”
Would you ever be tempted to follow in your dad’s footsteps and direct?
“I don’t think that I would right now or any time soon, I feel like all of my energy is going into acting and performing.”
How was shooting your first film?
“It was rough but rewarding. We had to do what would usually be a 30-day shoot in 11 days with a very small crew and cast. It took a lot of time and discipline, but coming out of it, I felt like I could do anything.”
I heard there was an incident with the director and a moving car…
“Our DP found this old 1990s Saab and it barely worked; it kept breaking down. At one point we had to push the car down a hill and then jump in to film the scene with the cameras in the back. We hit a big road bump halfway down the hill, and I saw Dev rolling out of the car out into the bushes in my rearview mirror. We were pushed for light so carried on and did the whole scene. Everyone was fine, it was one of those special moments that I’ll never forget.”
Have you had any good reactions to the film?
“I’ve had extreme reactions. Some friends have been really proud of me and happy to see me in the role, others were really disturbed. I hope that people reach out to me and ask, ‘Why did you make me watch that? I can’t believe you’. That’s when we’ve succeeded.”