The Policeman is a cypher. It’s a character that has practically everything going on internally. On the outside, he seems like a run-of-the-mill cop, but he isn’t. There’s a genuine warmth and sadness to Elias Koteas’ performance in Let Me In. He’s someone who’s way in over his head and doesn’t grasp what’s really going on. In any other film this would’ve been the character trying to ruin the kid’s fun and more so played as a villain, but he’s not.
If anything, The Policeman is the most sympathetic character on screen. He never does anything wrong and there’s nothing morally questionable about him, unlike every other character in the film. Let Me In is an odd film in that it isn’t completely black and white. Nobody is singled out as good or bad, except perhaps The Policeman, who also plays into some very subtle religious undertones as well. Koteas brings a sympathy to a character that easily could’ve been played as the bad guy.
Here’s what Elias Koteas had to say about his role in Let Me In, satanism, and working with some of the most talented directors still working today.
The tricky thing about The Policeman is that he’s a bit of an enigma. On the outside not much is going on. Was that the greatest challenge to you?
When I first read it what was most interesting to me was that I was trying to figure out how he would affect the events of the movie and the journey, so what was tough was trying to make it relevant outside of just being a figurehead of the law slowly approaching them. I tried to personalize it and he felt very much like a ghost to me. Somebody that has gone through his whole journey and at the end of the day he’s retracing his steps looking for where he went wrong and what he missed.
It all sounded very simple, but it allowed me to view the events in a very sort of compassionate and non-judgmental way as to what led him to what he eventually goes to. That’s the way I describe it.
In most films he’d have been the guy ruining the kid’s fun, but he comes off fairly sad.
Yeah, yeah. That’s good. I felt it was a good element because I imagined he worked hard all of his life and tried to do the best he could, but somehow he missed something and he met his fate. It really is very sad. You don’t ground him in anything and he’s almost sort of a ghost moving through events. That’s the way I felt that I could hold onto it and be a part of the story. In some way, you cold take him out of the narrative and the narrative would go on. That’s not an indictment, but it’s the nature of it. So I’m glad you had those feelings, because that was my intention.
But wouldn’t you say he is important narratively? His death is pretty important for Owen.
It absolutely is. I think after the fact and when it all came together and, I finally saw the finished picture a couple of days ago, I felt so moved and was brought to tears by it. When you experience something that moves your heart it’s, that moment to me brought those two together. Owen crosses a line, but that is maybe what The Policeman’s purpose is. Maybe that was the purpose of his life, somehow. In an odd way, it works that way.
Wouldn’t you say that it’s more of a sad scene because you see how vulnerable he is with Owen, as well?
It is, and that broke my heart. They so encapsulate the 12-year old energy and not only the characters, but themselves as children. You know the life around them is going to change and there’s no stopping it. It’s very much the same way in the movie. There’s the scene where Abby takes a shower, puts on the mother’s dress, and they’re dancing to this music and for this moment they’re kids. And there’s something about that that’s heartbreaking, but in a good way.
When you got the script were you surprised in a sense that The Policeman wasn’t played as a villain?
Yeah, I was glad that Matt [Reeves] presented it the way he did as this moral conscience. I’m glad there wasn’t all helicopters and screaming sirens, and it’s all very simplistic.
Who is the villain here, if anyone?
Exactly. Who is the villain? Everyone has got their convictions, their reasons and their passions. You know, for The Policeman he wants these crimes to stop, but at the same time, you’re rooting for these kids in a certain way. It’s this timeless love and this need to connect that is really this dark thing. Her being what she is and this little boy who is lonely and bullied and has finally connected with someone that has major issues. You don’t know who to root for.
Abby of course has her obvious issues, but wouldn’t you say Owen’s are more extreme in an odd way?
Yeah. I mean, look where he came from. The phone call he has with his father is just heartbreaking and his mom, you know. He’s just so alone. It’s not a mystery that this boy is opened to this. I feel like it all comes down to parenting. I’m not a parent myself, but that’s just my instinctual feeling about it.
Even more than just his parents, the only interactions outside of Abby and his parents are with the bullies.
Yeah, he is just so sad. It’s such a sad story. When I first read it, it was obviously extreme, but there was so much I could relate to. I just wanted to be a part of it when I first met Kodi [Smit-McPhee]. From afar, he just caught that essence of a 12-year kid that is lonely and scared.