Acclaimed actor Paul Walter Hauser (“Richard Jewell”) can be a movie buff — so it’s no surprise that he describes his Emmy-worthy turn as “Black Bird” serial killer Larry Hall in cinematic terms — including Hall’s “Vincent D’Onofrio in ‘Full Metal Jacket’ stare.”
“I’d say for my process … is that if I treated [the role] another way it takes the humanity out of it and I’m sort of leaning into this tendency to overact,” Hauser, 35, told The Post. “So slightly than be like, ‘Wow, I’m playing a serial killer so I higher prepare’ … [Hall] was a human before he was a murderer, before he was a rapist, so that you don’t need to play a killer like a killer. You play [him] like a human — and that’s where you get Alan Rickman in ‘Die Hard’ or Christoph Waltz in ‘Inglourious Basterds.’
“These villainous roles are at all times higher when there’s some kind of human element,” he said. “There’s one other world where Larry Hall owns a body shop and cooks a vat of chili that he brings right into a dive bar on Monday nights to look at football.”
“Black Bird,” streaming on Apple TV+, is a six-episode series based on James Keene’s 2010 autobiographical novel, “In with the Devil.”
Golden Globe winner Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”) plays Keene, a high-level Chicago drug dealer who’s busted by the FBI and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He’s offered his freedom, but provided that he transfers to a maximum security prison and wrangles a confession from Hall — a high-talking Civil War re-enactor with mutton-chop sideburns who’s suspected of killing as many as 14 young girls.
Hall claims his prior confession to certainly one of those murders was coerced (they were just “dreams,” he says) — and he may very well be free to kill again if his appeal is upheld … so Keene is on the clock.
Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser) is suspected of killing not less than 14 young girls in “Black Bird.”Alfonso Bresciani
Hauser said he “found a few YouTube videos” with “about 12 seconds of composite audio” of Hall’s voice. “It was very high and strange and appeared like a cartoonish voice,” he said. “I attempted to bring him from a ten to an 8 to make it more palatable for the audience. It does go up and down based on what he’s saying. I believe when he’s lying it has an inclination to go ever higher and there are moments where you may tell he’s just sort of being himself along with his guard down — and his voice is lower.
“I did the smallest amount of research of any character I’ve ever done, almost. I did more research for [his roles in] ‘BlacKkKlansman’ and ‘I, Tonya’ than I did for Larry Hall,” he said. “It’s really about [‘Blackbird’ executive producer/writer/showrunner] Dennis Lehane’s sensible writing after which my creative ownership taking hold of what’s there. There are various things, like the best way I move my tongue within the show, the vocal decisions, me taking a bite out of the center of a chunk of bread after which sticking my finger through it prefer it’s Play-Doh.
“For me to know where Larry grew up or what size shoes he wore, those things don’t really help that much,” he said. “At the top of the day, your imagination is best than any Wikipedia page.”
The majority of the series plays like a choreographed dance of wills between Keene and Hall — a mental ballet that eventually explodes right into a physical confrontation between them in the series finale.
Larry (Paul Walter Hauser) squares off with Jimmy Keene (Taron Egerton) in prison.Gavin Bond
“By the top of the shoot Taron and I were exhausted and emotionally spent,” Hauser said. “I’d lost 40 kilos to play Larry and had to maintain it off in Recent Orleans, and Taron sculpted his entire body and put muscle on and had to maintain it on the complete time. Taron and I like one another very much [but] while you’re doing these roles together for six months, it does take a toll where you’re like, ‘We would need a break.’
“By the top, we were able to tear one another apart, though we were just playing characters.
“If that moment [in Episode 6] feels emotionally charged and chaotic, that’s since it was,” he said. “That’s how we were feeling — it was reality bleeding into the story.”