‘The Devil All the Time’ Author Relives Time Filming in Alabama
Donald Ray Pollock, the author of “The Devil All the Time,” can now see his novel come to life on Netflix as the streaming platform's newest psychological thriller.
Pollock’s writing career began when he started creating short stories, but after authoring two novels, he said he couldn’t see himself doing anything else. He said that the idea for “The Devil All the Time,” published in 2011, originally began with two characters.
“I knew I was going to write a book about a serial killer couple,” Pollock said. “And their names were going to be Carl and Sandy Henderson.”
As his writing progressed, Pollock began to develop an array of characters that were all intertwined in each other’s lives. A guilt-ridden war veteran, a lustful preacher, a crooked cop, and a holy rolling minister are just some of the other characters Pollock included in his novel.
“After I worked on it for a while, I realized that there probably weren’t going to be a lot of people interested in reading about these two despicable characters for an entire novel,” Pollock said. “That’s when I started sticking other people in there.”
The movie adaptation of "The Devil All the Time" debuted on Netflix today, and Pollock could not be happier to see his work on the big screen.
“It’s not often that a writer gets to see one of his books turned into a film,” he said. “For that, I am so incredibly grateful… [Director] Antonio [Campos] was able to do things with the film that put his signature on it, but I think everyone who worked on the film followed the storyline really well.”
The production process, which started around 2015, began when Randall Poster, a film collaborator known for working on films like “Skyfall,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel," bought the option for the film. A year and a half ago, after the script was written and Campos was chosen to direct the film, it was picked up by Netflix.
Filmed a quick drive away from Tuscaloosa in locations like Anniston, Pell City, Birmingham and Montevallo, "The Devil All the Time" captured the quiet, slow setting that Pollock was looking for when writing the book. His characters, violently wicked as they are, needed a simple backdrop for their sins to stand out.
While on set for the film, Pollock was lucky enough to experience his very first Alabama-style torrential downpour.
“I was only on the set for maybe a day and a half and that was toward the end of the shooting,” Pollock said. “It poured down rain all night the morning before we went to these woods… What I got out of that most was a newfound respect for people who make movies. I didn’t realize how hard it could be. It was a good experience, but a tough job.”
While the film and novel take place in Knockemstiff, Ohio – Pollock’s hometown – production was exclusively done in Alabama.
“There are many places like Knockemstiff, the town where I grew up, in Alabama,” Pollock said. “[The production team] did a really good job of choosing the place. Alabama really did turn out to be the perfect place.”
Part of the widespread anticipation for “The Devil All the Time” comes from the star-studded cast. A-list names like Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgård, Sebastian Stan, Eliza Scanlen and Jason Clarke were more than willing to get on board for the film’s production.
“Their performances were… well, they were dead-on,” Pollock said. “They were better than the book. The actors were able to take those characters and turn and twist them into ways that even I hadn’t thought of. They were all amazing… from the minor characters all the way to Tom Holland.”
As for what's next, Pollock wants to keep growing and pushing his art out to other media. “The Heavenly Table,” his most recent novel, is another piece of work he would like to see up on the big screen.
“I think it would make a great TV series,” he said. “It’s a bigger book than 'The Devil [All the Time]' with a lot of characters that would be perfect for TV.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, Pollock has utilized his newfound free time inside to work on a novel that he hopes to get published very soon. To watch "The Devil All the Time," click here.