The Devil Has a Name Star Haley Joel Osment Talks Tackling Unexpected Roles

Actor Haley Joel Osment had breakout success early in his career, starring in projects like The Sixth Sense and A.I., with the former earning him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting role. The actor may have taken some time away from acting later in his career, only to emerge in full force in a number of unexpected and exciting projects. Whether he be playing a tech executive in HBO's Silicon Valley or a familiar to vampires in the What We Do in the Shadows TV series, we never quite knew where the actor would appear next, with his latest project, The Devil Has a Name, seeing the actor tackle yet another ambitious role. The Devil Has a Name hits theatres, On Demand, and Digital HD on October 16th.

In the film, widowed, broke, and adrift, farmer Fred Stern finds a new purpose in life when he learns that a multi-national oil company has been polluting his water. But as his crusade against the powers that be spills out of the courtroom and into his personal life, Fred must find a way to avoid the ruin of his farm, his family, and his dreams. Inspired by bizarre, true events, The Devil Has a Name pulls back the curtain on the culture of greed that poisons Corporate America, from sea to polluted sea.

ComicBook.com recently caught up with Osment to talk to the new film, his approach to finding the right roles, and if he'd revisit a film from his past for a follow-up.

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(Photo: Momentum Pictures)

ComicBook.com: Your character goes through quite a journey in this film, from having a gun pointed in his face to doing a ton of drugs in a green room ahead of a talk show appearance, allowing you to play almost completely opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. Was there a particular favorite scene to shoot for you, or possibly a favorite scene because of the actors you got to work with?

Haley Joel Osment: It was a blast from start to finish and it's fun playing that character who pops up every little while in the film creating this montage of intense or strange interactions with all the characters in the main plot. I mean, getting into a brief car chase with David Strathairn and, on the serious side, that diner scene, getting to do that great, meaty scene with him and Edward James Olmos as well, Eddie directed the scene, was so memorable. It was just a really fun shoot.

You mentioned some of the talent you got to work with, and this cast is just packed, did you know who you'd get to be working with when you signed on to the project or did you learn that impressive roster after you'd gotten involved?

They had cast most of the roles, so when I got the script in that email, seeing Alfred Molina, David Strathairn, and Martin Sheen, I was getting very excited and it was a pretty quick decision to say yes.

Edward James Olmos directed and starred in the film, and he has such a legacy in the movie industry, but he strikes me as a sort of intense guy. What was that experience like working with him as a co-star and as a director? Is there anything about him that fans would be surprised to know?

Gosh, I don't know if there'd be a lot to surprise them because he is one of those people where you go through the characters that he's played through his credible career, you get a sense of this principled, stand up guy and the prolific guy that he is. Seeing his energy towards all these social programs and charities that he's worked with, to the work of putting together a movie, I mean, directing a movie just is an enormous undertaking that takes up years of your life. He just always had so much going on and was so plugged into the social movements that are happening around the country at the same time and was so good at communicating the elements of that, that he wanted to bring into the movie and the things that he was going to do in post and editing and all of that. He's just such an impressive person to hang out with and I loved every minute of it.

Speaking of social issues, this movie is based on a true story. Did you do much of your own research into the situation to help motivate your performance or did you specifically let the script guide you?

There was plenty of really inspiring stuff in the script and very clear descriptions of who this guy was. Definitely a lot of funny stuff with him gave me a lot to run with as an actor. But I guess with the outside research, it's been difficult to avoid reading about it and thinking about it all the time in the last couple of years. These ecological and corporate regulation issues have been a problem for a really long time, but they've definitely seemed heightened and gotten more intense since Trump got into the White House.

So there was a number of people in the Trump administration, the usual oil and energy lobbyists, grifter sort of people that flow into the White House every time there's a Republican administration that made it pretty easy to find inspiration for certain aspects of Alex and identifying him. You see it in the movie that there's pure evil people in these corporations, and then there's just sort of the hapless, self-promoting [Anthony] Scaramucci-style grifters who just get in way over their heads and I think that's more who Alex is.

In recent years, whether you're in Tusk or Comedy Bang! Bang! or What We Do in the Shadows, I never know where the hell you're going to show up.

That's great. That's what I'm going for.

So are you actively seeking out roles and projects that seem unexpected or is it that those unexpected projects are what appeal to you most?

It's an evolving time for the industry and who knows what sort of changes are going to be happening. Plenty of changes have already happened because of the pandemic, but one definite good thing is that there's just been such a boom in comedy and in that world. I hadn't done too much of that earlier on in my career, so getting the opportunity to do things like Comedy Bang! Bang! and now with What We Do in the Shadows, which was one of my favorite shows last year when it first came out, it's just been really exciting opportunities.

My process for taking things has been the same since I started doing this, since I was old enough to have a process, and it's just finding scripts that seem interesting and fresh to me and characters that seem different from things that I've done before and those opportunities that I've been fortunate to have to get to do this spectrum of things. Getting to do The Boys last season and things like that, it's just that there's some really cool projects out there.

A lot of audiences met you with The Sixth Sense, which was a massive success, both financially and critically. In 2017, M. Night Shyamalan shocked everyone with an end-credits scene in Split that had Bruce Willis show up as his Unbreakable character, confirming it was a surprise sequel to Unbreakable. If Night called you up to say he needed you for a scene in a new movie, because it was secretly a Sixth Sense sequel, would you come back or would you want someone else to take over the role?

I doubt that he would do a third crossover, but yeah, anytime Night calls, I mean, that's his universe. So I'd definitely be up to dive in there with him again. But yeah, it was crazy. We had the 20th anniversary of the film last fall and we did a screening at [the] Hollywood Forever [Cemetery] and all that stuff. And it's wild that it's been that many years.

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The Devil Has a Name hits theatres, On Demand, and Digital HD on October 16th.