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September 12, 2016

Brad Armstrong Gets Religion in 'Preacher's Daughter'

This article originally ran in the September 2016 issue of AVN magazine. Click here to see the digital edition. It’s the fifth day of shooting on The Preacher’s Daughter—an arduous endeavor that has taken the cast and crew of the Wicked Pictures production all across the Southland, from Ventura County to the San Gabriel Valley, in search of picturesque settings. And today’s set is certainly that. Walking into this Victorian mansion surrounded by 1950s tract homes is like stepping into another time. Stunning woodwork, soaring ceilings, period light fixtures—every detail looks historically congruent. And director Brad Armstrong, bearded, bespectacled and conservatively attired, fits right into this picture from the past. Playing the titular preacher, Armstrong is working both sides of the camera. But at the moment he’s focused on bringing a pivotal scene from his screenplay to life. Inside the kitchen, the players take their places. Cast as the preacher’s wife, sexy MILF performer Alexis Fawx is almost unrecognizable, wearing jeans, a plain shirt and minimal makeup. She’s preparing to face down Xander Corvus as Billy, the bad boy who has seduced her daughter, Marissa, played by Mia Malkova. Confronting the cocksure troublemaker who has invaded their home, the angry mother shoves Billy’s legs off the kitchen table: “Get out of my house!” On a dime, Corvus turns on the heat, letting his own anger flare. In character as Billy, he quickly regains control and counterattacks: “I’m not the one running around with the town whore and leaving my wife to tend the garden. ... He’s got you fooled. He leaves you at home while he goes out with who knows what.” To a proud preacher’s wife, those are fighting words—and a fight ensues. What follows is a pivotal moment in the story, so we’ll spare the need for a spoiler alert and leave it at that. Outnumbered by the crew in the tight space of the kitchen, the players do the scene again and again, with small variations in blocking and emotional intensity. Despite some mishaps—Fawx’s faded blue jeans split at the seam with a loud rip at one point, and Corvus chips a tooth when he’s inadvertently hit in the face with a prop skillet—Armstrong gets what he’s after. On the last take it feels as if Fawx is completely in the moment, allowing herself to really feel fear. The crew claps, and Fawx gives a smile that’s tinged with relief. She’s a newcomer to Wicked features, and has passed with flying colors. The break gives the director and actors a little time to talk about their roles. Showing some gorgeous stills on his smartphone, Armstrong runs through the scenes they’ve already finished, synopsizing his script. One stunning image shows Corvus and Malkova as the young lovers in a happier scene, embracing outside by a picturesque railroad bridge—a location Armstrong was particularly pleased to secure. He also has shots of other cast members who are not present, including Jessa Rhodes and Blair Williams. He hasn’t worked with many of the performers before, and he expresses satisfaction with how well production had gone. One person Armstrong has worked with before is Xander Corvus. “Wonderful is the word,” the director says. “The best actor in the business besides maybe Steven St. Croix.” He points out that Corvus already got an AVN Award for Best Supporting Actor in Underworld, another Armstrong movie, and the director predicts this one could bring a matching Best Actor trophy. “I’m Billy Davidson, and I’m kind of the bad guy of the movie, I guess,” Corvus says. “Throughout my whole career so far I’m always comic relief or the romantic good guy, I’m one of those thing. I’m either the funny guy or the romantic. But they’ve finally started putting me into bad-guy roles. It’s so much fun playing a villain. I feel like it’s a really cool experience.” Another thing that’s familiar to Corvus is today’s location. “This was Peter Parker’s house in Spider Man,” he volunteers. “I’ve done a lot of Wicked,” Corvus says—no exaggeration, given that he’s closing in on 50 titles. We tick off some of the movies, including Underworld. “Yeah, that was a good one. ... That was some serious costumes.” Also on set today is Mia Malkova, as Billy’s love interest. Her character, Marissa, “has a bit of a rebellious side like any teenager. And she catches the eye of Billy, the town bad boy, and she has the googly eyes for him.” “I have the googly eyes,” Corvus interjects. “She’s sweet, she’s a good girl, but she’s also a little bit of a whore,” she deadpans. Malkova is no stranger to features, but Preacher’s Daughter is her first Armstrong production. “This is one of the larger movies I’ve been on,” she says. “It’s been really nice. It hasn’t been stressful at all. Everything’s been taken care of.” Asked what was most difficult about the role, she says, “The only thing I’ve found challenging is yelling because I have a very soft voice. ... I’m usually in a happy, chipper mood so it doesn’t come naturally, so I have to practice.” Fawx, too, is happy to be working on a production of this scale. “The crew and cast have been great—I’m so happy. Doing this has been really fun. ... I can’t wait to see the finished project.” Playing “the country woman, the wife” is a departure for Fawx, who’s more known for all-sex and vignette titles. Asked how she got the role she says, “Brad actually contacted me on Twitter. ... Twitter has become such a force in our industry as far as communication with other performers, directors and producers.” While waiting for her sex scene, still to be shot later that evening, Mercedes Carrera talks about her character, Lana, a Native American denizen of the town who is also a hooker. “I really love the role in this movie. I read the script and I was, like, ‘Yesss!’ It’s so awesome. She’s kind of an interesting character. Lana is a very pivotal role in a lot of ways. She provides a lot of the ammunition that is used against the pastor. She’s kind of subversive. But she’s also complex, and that’s what I appreciated about her. ... She’s got an accent, she’s got a history, she’s complex and she’s really—she kind of calls out a lot of the B.S. on the pastor.” Carrera has two sex scenes in the movie, including anal with the preacher. She also has a complicated relationship with Billy. “I lied to [the preacher] about my relationship with Billy and told him he’s my half-brother, so I’ve kind of weaved this web ...” Carrera muses, “The interesting thing about this movie is that it points out the gaps in logic of this kind of moral structure that sometimes comes along with religion. Because here you have this pastor who claims to care about the weak and the downtrodden, and claims to love everybody, and yet when it comes down to it he’s pushed just as easily to sin but he won’t even confront it. Lana and Xander are honest with themselves about who they are.” For Carrera, “This was a good opportunity to act—I really love acting. Which is something I didn’t realize until I got into pornography.” The call comes for quiet on the set—another dialogue scene, this one involving the preacher and his kin. Corvus is also there—but literally outside looking in. The crew busily tries to figure out the best way to implement Armstrong’s vision and capture the family praying while Billy peers in a window, as well as a shot from Billy’s point of view. Production manager David Lord serves as a stand-in for Armstrong while he checks the camera angles. As he mimes a prayer, Lord looks as if he’s worried he’ll be struck by divine lightning. “Oh, it’s so weird,” he jokes. Once that’s in the can, it’s time for dinner. Evening is approaching—everyone’s been here for hours and they will stay well into the night, but spirits are high. It’s the last day, and the consensus is this will be a job well done. The Preacher’s Daughter is scheduled for a September 14 release from Wicked Pictures.

 
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