- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2015

Scott Glenn has made a career out of facing the darkness.

In films such as “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Vertical Limit” and “Training Day,” Mr. Glenn often has chosen roles that apply a magnifying glass to the far-off reaches of human behavior.

Perhaps it is little wonder, then, that the 74-year-old veteran of nearly 100 TV and movie roles over a 50-year career accepted the lead role of Eugene in “The Barber,” a suspense-thriller that opens Friday in the District.

“What jumped out at me when I read it, right away, was how many colors to paint with or riffs I’d have if I did this thing,” Mr. Glenn told The Washington Times from his home in Idaho. “And also what I got right away was kind of the seductive unpredictability of the story.

“I gave the script to my wife, and I said, ‘Hey Carol, should I do this?’ Less than 20 pages in, she said, ‘You’re crazy if you don’t.’”

Eugene is a mild-mannered, small-town barber whom a mysterious young man named John (Chris Coy) believes to be a serial killer who slipped through law enforcement’s fingers decades earlier. Eugene insists he is not who John believes him to be, but the two men slowly become entangled in a web of mentoring, deception, betrayal and, ultimately, murder.

Of the twisted mentor-mentee relationship that develops, Mr. Glenn said, “What I decided was [to have my character] genuinely like this kid. And there’s a sadistic strain in me that sort of delights in twisting everything, even on him. But I think I like his company.”

Even though John has the supposed drop on — and damaging knowledge of — Eugene, Mr. Glenn said, “I know from the get-go who he is and what he is and what he’s doing,” which serves to ratchet up the tension as the film forges ahead to its shocking conclusion.

Mr. Glenn said the only other time in his career when such a relationship between two characters paid off so handsomely was in the 2001 dirty cop drama “Training Day,” in which his character, Roger, is shot in his home by Denzel Washington’s character, Alonzo, who previously claimed to be Roger’s good friend.

Mr. Washington personally phoned Mr. Glenn and insisted that he play the part.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to play my oldest friend in the world, who’s white, and my entire audience, including my entire black audience, has got to really be pissed off at me and feel really betrayed when I shoot you,’” Mr. Glenn said. “And I kind of felt that same dynamic [between Eugene and John] in this movie, too.”

Mr. Glenn is no stranger to the macabre world of serial killers, thanks to his portrayal of FBI bigwig Jack Crawford in 1991’s “Silence of the Lambs,” a film that dominated that year’s Oscars, garnering trophies for stars Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, as well for director Jonathan Demme.

In researching his role with real FBI profilers, Mr. Glenn gleaned insight into serial killers. Portraying Eugene in “The Barber” brought his research full-circle, he said.

“There were some things that I’d learned that weren’t really addressed in ‘The Silence of the Lambs,’ and I guess they weren’t really meant to,” Mr. Glenn said. “One of the big ones was that these real killers that I studied and listened to [in recorded] interviews are not Hannibal Lecter, and they’re not the guy Ted Levine played in ‘Silence of the Lambs.’ I mean [Mr. Levine’s character, Buffalo Bill,] walks into a room and everybody else walks out — he’s so scary from the get-go.”

Mr. Glenn said Hollywood has largely gotten it wrong when it comes to such twisted criminals. He maintains that what makes real-life killing addicts especially unnerving is their everydayness, the fact that they live behind a veil — what Mr. Glenn calls “the disguise of normalcy.” He points to John Wayne Gacy, a Midwesterner who performed as a clown at children’s birthday parties who killed upwards of 30 people, and Edmund Kemper, known as “the Co-ed Killer.”

“Kemper looks like some insignificant guy that you could stand next to,” Mr. Glenn said. “Ted Bundy was in fact a young Republican — really good-looking and clean-cut and well-dressed. That’s what allows these monsters to get close to people so they can hurt them.

“And I thought this script, that nail is really kind of hit on the head. I love that about the film.”

Mr. Glenn appreciates the multiple plot twists and turns “The Barber” takes, which he says will keep the audience unnerved.

“It was almost a mystery that keeps solving itself, but the solution is alive to the audience. It keeps switching gears on the audience to the very end of the film,” he said.

He maintains that the story also keeps its characters on edge and “constantly reshuffles so that even the relationships keep changing enough so that the minute the audience feels like they’re on emotionally solid ground, two or three beats later, you look down and see, ‘Whoops, I’m still in quicksand, and I’m sinking deeper.’”

Mr. Glenn likens reading an enticing script, such as “The Barber,” to catching the waft of good cooking from the galley.

“You start to salivate,” he said. “I mean, it really happens on that level — it’s a matter of appetite. And this is before I can even think about it” consciously. “It’s not something you see and leave and soon forget,” he said of the film. “This one kind of walks home with you.”

Furthermore, he felt “The Barber” allowed him to exorcise some of the demons raised in his research for “The Silence of the Lambs.”

“For me, if there was a cathartic thing about [‘The Barber’], it was sort of being able to put a scab on some of the wounds that were opened up in doing that research” a quarter-century ago.

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