Rising star Keli Price has appeared in various productions, but was brought into the indie spotlight with the recent feature, Sleep No More. As a fan of ’80s horror, Keli went for the film’s leading role, nailing it from the audition to the onscreen feature. Read on to find out how he became involved in this feature and other behind the scenes details you don’t want to miss!
PopHorror: Hi, Keli! Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I recently viewed your new film, Sleep No More, and I found it to be interesting and suspenseful. It reminded me of Flatliners from the ’90s and the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. Are you aware of either one of these two films playing an influential part in Sleep No More?
Keli Price: Oh, absolutely! It’s funny because I was doing another film in China, and the director of that feature was very involved with ’80s horror. He directed Waxwork and a few other known films in that time period. He saw the trailer to Sleep No More and he pointed out that the film totally has a Flatliners element to it. He thought it was so cool that it had that sort of inspiration. So, I thought about it, and I talked to the film’s screenwriter, Jason Murphy, about it. He told me there was definitely an influence in the beginning for sure. And A Nightmare on Elm Street? (laughs) It’s funny that you say those two films, because I was explaining Sleep No More to a friend yesterday, and I used those to references as well. So yeah, I would say both had some influence for the film.
PopHorror: That’s very cool! So, how did you become involved with this project? What drew you to the lead role as Joe?
Keli Price: I received the script and an audition. After reading the script, I felt that it was something different from previous stuff that had come my way. There were so many different elements to it, and I felt that it separated itself from the pack. It had this ’80s element to it. And I personally love the early Spielberg movies, as well as the previous films we just spoke about. But really, it was the writing that drew me to the script as well as the film. The writing was beautiful! And the dialogue was great! There are some scripts that I read, and I think to myself that I would change one thing or another. But with this one, I didn’t have any of that. It was just good! So, that got me interested in the film. But for the role of Joe, there were elements that I connected with specifically in regards to things like his relationship with his mother. The two scenes that were utilized in the audition process were the scenes where Joe talked about his mother in the hospital. And so that was an instant connection for me. I have a very close relationship with my mother. I also really admire Joe’s leadership qualities, and I want that for myself. I thought it was so freakin’ cool that this guy had the ability to captivate his peers and that they go along with him. That’s just a cool quality to have.
I initially auditioned for the film with Lisa Fields, the casting director, and I received a callback from Producer James LaMarr and Director Phillip Guzman. And remember finishing the first scene of the second audition and Philip comes over to me and says, “Alright, man!”and gives me a high five and a hug. That was very cool because it made me feel more relaxed. It was super chill, and Philip is a Texas guy that has an easy going personality, which helped me in the audition room to relax and fall into the character’s role. It can be very nerve wracking going into a room like that. Going onto a set is one thing, but the initial audition scenario can be very nerve wracking. But the fact that I had a director who came up to me and gave me a high five is just great. It just relaxes you. So, after that, I had a final audition where I read with a few different actresses who were going for the role of Dr. Whatley. And then I went back to New York, which I do every year around my birthday, and I got the call around that time. I was on my uncle’s roof in Brooklyn, which overlooks the skyline of Manhattan, and I was granted the role. It was this beautiful moment that was so surreal. It loved it.
PopHorror: That sounds like a great moment to remember, for sure! What was your favorite part of filming Sleep No More?
Keli Price: In a way, it felt like I was a part of a bootcamp in the best way possible. There were just so much dialogue. There were many times to where we would receive dialogue the day of shooting due to script changes. So, there were times to where I would have a whole monologue given to me an hour before shooting, but I would have other scenes prior that were coming up. (laughs) And so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to go over everything, but it was such a learning experience. To have all that dialogue and scientific jargon that I needed to memorize, know and research, all in a small amount of time, was crazy. There was so much going on and so much to do. I have a dog that I left in LA because I couldn’t bring him to set, and there was this moment to where I was in the middle of a scene, and I was talking to the dog walker. (laughs) I was like, “I’m sorry, I gotta go!” But it was a good experience, for sure.
PopHorror: You just touched on it a little bit, but what was the most challenging part of production?
Keli Price: It was a little bit of what I just said, but there was also a heat element. When you’re working in Texas during July, it can be very very hot. And when we were working on location, we had to turn the air conditioning off because it interferes with the audio. So, it was very hot, and I was wearing sweatshirts. In most scenes, I was wearing winter-type clothing. So, I was always sweating. It almost started feeling good after awhile. It’s almost like I went for a run or something and, as long as I had the nutrients, it ended up feeling like a workout while acting.
PopHorror: I’m personally more of a fan of the heat that I am of the cold, but that would be challenging, for sure! So, in regards to the theme of Sleep No More, have you had any personal experience of sleep deprivation?
Keli Price: I have had a little bit. I’m someone who is always moving and always working. I’m not someone who really sits still. So, for sure. There are many times to where I’m receiving emails in the middle of the night, and I have the urge to check them. Because I’m always on the move, there are periods of time to where I don’t feel like I get enough sleep. But I traveled from New York to Chicago for a documentary I’m producing, which is coming out this winter. While there for 2 days, I think I may have gotten maybe 1 hour of sleep. (laughs) But that was probably the most I had gone without sleep. (laughs)
PopHorror: Did you experience any hallucinations due to the experience?
Keli Price: What I notice when I don’t get enough sleep is that it feels weird. It feels like you’re drunk in a way. It feels like your mind is there, but you’re not. (laughs)
PopHorror: I think anyone lacking sleep knows what you’re talking about. (laughs) By the end of Sleep No More, we’re left with a certain sense of some things being hallucinations while other things were far too real. Do you think this is an open interpretation for the audience?
Keli Price: Yeah, in a way, it kind of is. There are both of those things. In some ways, there were some people experiencing real things while others were hallucinating. So, we don’t really know what was real and what wasn’t, and I think that what happens when you don’t get enough sleep. I know, from a personal standpoint, when I don’t get enough sleep, things are heightened. Even the little things. So, we don’t really know what the mind is creating and what is really happening.
PopHorror: I can see that. The interpretation of your surroundings when the mind and senses are out of sync can be weird, to say the least. Are there any upcoming projects that you might like to talk about?
Keli Price: Yes, actually. I just did a film in China called Underdogs Rising, which is coming out in 2019, and I’m very excited about it. It’s a 3 part series and my character is someone who goes through a transformation. At first, he is a villain. But we see him slowly transform, which is a big character arc.
PopHorror: That sounds very appealing! Thank you again, Keli, for your time.
While Keli’s film career is not exclusive to horror, it would not surprise me if he returns to the genre very soon. In the meantime, Sleep No More will soon be available on all major VOD platforms and retail outlets. As far as the next move Keli makes within the horror genre, you can bet that we’ll have it covered, right here on PopHorror.