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'Goat' director on the link between hazing and acting: 'Sometimes actors are masochists'

Ben Schnetzer, left, and Nick Jonas in the movie
Ben Schnetzer, left, and Nick Jonas in the movie "Goat."
Paramount Pictures

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The new film 'Goat' is not a horror film, per se, but it is a truly terrifying look at a commonplace practice on American college campuses: hazing. 

'Goat' is based on a memoir by Brad Land which recounts the violence he experienced when he was 19-years-old.

First, he is physically beaten by strangers during a carjacking, then he is further tormented by guys he looks up to as friends, as a pledge to Clemson University's Kappa Sigma fraternity.

Actor Ben Schnetzer plays Brad in the film. His old brother Brett, also a member of Kappa Sigma, is played by Nick Jonas:

Director and co-writer Andrew Neel talked with Take Two's Alex Cohen about the film.

Interview highlights:

On the balance between keeping actors safe and creating an environment in which the abuse felt almost real

There were parameters in place that safeguarded everyone from getting hurt. And there was a 'safe word' that people could yell at any moment that would stop the whole set. There were certainly moments when I actually called cut because I felt as though it was going too far. But for me it was important to set up an environment where it could get to that point. We had to take it right to the point of real abuse so we could make that all feel real... And, you know, I think any good actor is excited to get into a situation like that. Certainly scared, I could see a little fear on their faces. But in a lot of ways, that's the fun of acting is really pushing yourself into intense environments psychologically. I mean, in a lot of ways, sometimes actors are masochists in their own strange process.

On the idea of violence as a way to bond, and as a part of human nature

Well when you're poor you're in a gang, and if you're middle class, maybe you join a frat. You know, this behavior is not exclusive to fraternities. In fact, that's the tip of the iceberg. Hazing behavior, bullying, gang behavior, whatever you want to call it, I think it is in pretty much every single culture and it transcends pretty much all socioeconomic strata. It is part of who we are, and how we deal with that part of who we are is the question that we have to face. I think often behind the thin veil of law and order lurks a very dark, violent tendency in the human animal. 

To hear the full interview, click the blue player above.

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