Entertainment & Arts

Rafe Spall turns ghost hunter in supernatural drama

Rafe Spall in Ghost Hunter Image copyright ITV
Image caption Rafe Spall's character is based on the real-life engineer and psychic researcher Harry Price

Rafe Spall will be leading the cast of ITV's new supernatural feature length film Harry Price: Ghost Hunter.

The Life of Pi actor will take the title role of Price, a conman medium who is given the chance to turn his life around when he is asked to tackle a haunting in a local politician's home.

Joining Rafe is Downton Abbey's Cara Theobold, who will play Sarah Grey, the family maid who helps Harry with the investigation.

The period film, set in 1920s London is based on the novel The Ghost Hunters by Neil Spring, a fictionalised account of one of Britain's most famous spook tracker.

The real Price was an engineer and psychic researcher who gained public prominence for investigating and exposing fake spiritualists.

Here Spall talks about his character, what he feels about horror films and his plans for the future.

What attracted you to this role?

Image copyright ITV
Image caption Cara Theobold as Sarah Grey swaps her job as a maid to help Harry Price in his paranormal investigations

I thought it was a really interesting world, the idea of it being set in the 1920s after World War One where you had a whole generation of people who were lost and trying to reconnect with loved ones who were gone, so there was a big prevalence of mediums and fake seances and people saying they could communicate with the dead, which in my opinion is rubbish.

Can you tell us a bit more about your character?

He started off as a psychic researcher and took a scientific approach to debunking the apparitions and hauntings, which then made him depressed because he was letting people down. So, he started telling people what they wanted to hear, and making people feel happy, and he loved that attention.

One day, someone came up to him on his doorstep and said: "Mr Price, thank you for helping me communicate with my brother, now I know what to do," and he pulled out a gun and shot himself right in front of Harry Price.

After that, the wife of a Liberal MP starts seeing ghosts in her house and was threatened with being put in an asylum. Harry Price's own wife was in an asylum and died. So, he [Harry Price] takes on the case to save the MP's wife from the same fate.

Hearing you describe Price presents him in a totally different light, some may call him a conman..

Well, he goes through stages. Initially, he wasn't a conman then he became one, then he stopped because of this experience. Price was an engineer and scientist who found his way into becoming a conman, then, almost like a recovering addict, he spent the rest of his life saying that this is the wrong way to go - the personal transition Price goes through will be shown in the film.

Can you describe Price in a sentence?

No, I think that's very difficult. I couldn't describe my personality in one sentence apart from saying: 'I'm a legendary guy' [laughs]. It's impossible to do but that's what's so great about playing the character because, like all of us, he's totally multi-faceted and organic - good, bad, mean, funny, angry, haunted, a showman.

Image copyright ITV
Image caption Richie Campbell plays Harry Price's friend Albert Ogoro

Are you in any way similar to Price?

I don't believe in ghosts or the supernatural, nor did he. We went to the same school. I grew up in New Cross, London and went to Aske's [Haberdasher's Aske's Hatcham College] and Harry went there too and if you go to the college's Wikipedia page, under notable alumni, my name is followed by his name.

So you don't believe in fate?

No - I believe in the randomness of the universe. I don't believe in the supernatural, I believe in goodness and the inexplicable thing created between two people, and that's love.

Are you a fan of the horror genre?

To be honest no, not really. I don't really enjoy being frightened but I understand why other people do. I get that but I'd never go out of my way to catch the latest horror film. I'm more of a comedy man.

What was the best thing about being a part of this project?

It was amazing that we got to shoot in London and the amazing locations you get to go on, places you usually wouldn't be allowed in, like stately homes, castles, filming in the centre of London.

How do you juggle so many different roles?

You just get on with it. I don't really struggle with it, I'm able to throw a character away once I'm done with them. It's interesting because it's like a part of you is gone but it's fine as the hole that is left is then filled by a new character.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the film?

I hope that they will be informed, interested, riveted and frightened.

What is next for you?

I did a pilot for an American TV show called Roadies for a network called Showtime. It's written and directed by Cameron Crowe and is about a major rock tour but you never see the band, you only see the people that work backstage. I get to be an English guy in it, which is terrific. I haven't got to do an American accent because that's a bit stressful. I'll be going back to Los Angeles in March 2016 for that.

Harry Price: Ghost Hunter will be on ITV1 on 27 December at 2100 GMT.

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