In this directorial debut from E.L. Katz, Healy plays a freshly fired family man named Craig who, together with an old acquaintance portrayed by Ethan Embry, is convinced to undertake ever crazier challenges for money by a rich couple (David Koechner and Sara Paxton). We don’t want to say too much more but we can confirm that Healy’s character undergoes all manner of mental and physical trials, including getting a bloody nose as the film’s poster clearly shows (see above).
In short, if you thought Healy’s villainous people-puppeteer in 2012’s indie drama Compliance deserved a cartilage-rearranging comeuppance, then now is your chance to see that happen — sort of. “It’s funny because people have suggested it’s like, ‘If you liked Compliance, then you’ll enjoy watching that guy get the s— beat out of him for an hour and a half,” says the actor, whose other credits include Magnolia, Ghost World, and Ti West’s ghost tale, The Innkeepers. “It certainly wasn’t conscious but I’ve played a smarmy jerk-face in a lot of things, for want of better words, even though I don’t necessarily play one in this. Someone pointed out to me a few years ago that in Magnolia and Ghost World the actresses get angry at me for being a jerk and throw money in my face. I seem to be someone that people want to hit in the face, or throw stuff at. So maybe this is good advertising campaign for the movie because people will finally get the chance to watch that for an hour and a half.”
More seriously, Healy says that his character’s deteriorating appearance helped him on his thespian journey. “Cheap Thrills is the first movie I’ve ever done where the physical transformation really formed the character and what was happening internally for me,” he explains. “There’s always things that I like to do, like hair and wardrobe, things like that. But I shot the beginning of the movie and the end of the movie at the beginning of the shoot. So I knew where I started and where I was going to end up. It really helped me to chart the course of the character.”
Something else which helped? The presence of Ethan Embry. Still best known as the button-cute star of 1998 teen comedy Can’t Hardly Wait, the actor is almost unrecognizable in Katz’s film as Craig’s beefed-up buddy turned cash-hungry competitor, a deteriorating relationship which Healy says was somewhat mirrored offscreen. “We started off very friendly and got to a very antagonistic place,” he chuckles. “It was really intense. But he was so good at playing that role it really got me to the place where I needed to get to. We’re pals now and I look forward to working with him again. Evan and I are writing something and we’d certainly like him to be a part of it if he’s available.”
Cheap Thrills is currently available to watch on VOD and arrives in cinemas on March 21. You can check out the film’s trailer below.