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Ever-prolific actor Shiloh Fernandez knows the ins and outs of starring in a remake.
The 37-year-old Ukiah native’s been there before in his genre-bouncing career, one that caught the fancy of audiences in 2013’s “Evil Dead” remake and also in Catherine Hardwicke’s 2011 “Red Riding Hood,” opposite Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman and Julie Christie, not to mention his earlier TV appearances.
His latest film (he has another coming out the following week) is a cinematic renovation of “Private Property,” a 1960 lo-fi bit of indie tawdriness that way back then ruffled the feathers of the pious. The scandalous and steamy neo-noir originally starred Corey Allen, Warren Oates and Kate Manx.
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In Chadd Harbold’s appropriately shot-on-the-cheap 2022 remake, Fernandez once again fully commits to his part, giving “Property” a rattlesnake-like quality with a scaly performance that switches from sexy to dangerous, sometimes with just a glance.
In it, he plays shady Ben, a new “gardener” who too easily moves his way into the cushioned, chaise-longued SoCal life of a wealthy, bored wannabe actress (Ashley Benson). Meanwhile, his sidekick (Logan Miller) stands leering on the sidelines. The film releases Friday in select theaters and will also be available to rent online.
Fernandez acknowledges he experiences a different kind of pressure when he’s plunging into remake territory.
“I certainly had that experience with ‘Evil Dead’ [Sam Raimi of “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” directed the original 1981 cult hit], and I was a little reticent to take that on, but I’m really amazed by the fan base and how they enjoyed that movie,” he says.
He and Ohio native Harbold have partnered before “Property,” on the 2016 romantic drama “Long Nights Short Mornings.” The duo clicked and looked through various projects to pinpoint the next one they’d do together. “Property” leapt to the top of that stack.
“It’s a lost film,” Fernandez says of the original. “For years, nobody saw it, and it was restored and then re-released. In the beginning, it was banned in places or was considered a pseudo-sexual terrible thing that nobody should watch: trash.
“And when it was re-released [in 2016], it was lauded as ahead of its time.”
All that intensified the experience for Fernandez and others in the cast. “There’s an added pressure, but we had to shake that off and do our thing,” he says.
Fernandez is doing a lot of things in a variety of films. In addition to “Property,” he lassoed a supporting role in the upcoming Western (a dream role partly because his great-grandfather was part of Butch Cassidy’s renegade team, which Robert Redford wrote about in “The Outlaw Trail”) “The Old Way” opposite Nicolas Cage. He’ll also be seen in the hard-hitting drama about a troubled L.A. woman (Nadine Crocker) fighting her way back after a suicide attempt “Continue.” It collected good reviews at San Jose’s Cinejoy film festival in April, where it received a world premiere.
There’s much more ahead for the busy Fernandez, who took on various jobs before starring in TV, movies and plays, including as an American Apparel model. One of his most visible roles was on the TV cult fave “Jericho.” He was also once considered for the role of dreamy, angst-ridden “Twilight” vampire Edward Cullen, a high-profile role that segued to Robert Pattinson.
Next up after “Private Property” is his small but essential work as a Brad Paisley-esque popular country singer Caleb Crawford in the nifty Blumhouse horror thriller “Torn Hearts” out on digital May 20. It stars Katey Sagal, Abby Quinn and Alexxis Lemire.
In it, Fernandez — who counts amongst his favorite movies the late Peter Bogdanovich’s 1993 romantic drama about wannabe songwriters in Nashville, “The Thing Called Love” — sings a song.
Even given the parameters of a depersonalized Zoom interview, Fernandez — who takes pride in having grown up in the Northern California city of Ukiah — comes across as personal, unaffected and sincere. In fact, there’s nary a hint of the duplicitous character he plays well in “Property.”
Director Harbold says he thinks Fernandez likes working with him because the director pushes him into new directions like that.
“In ‘Long Nights Short Mornings,’ he was playing a charming and handsome man with an easy way with women — but a deep sadness and loneliness that I don’t know if he had tapped into before,” Harbold responded via email. “For ‘Private Property,’ I was interested in turning his fundamental qualities villainous without diluting them. … What if his endearing, engaged personality was fake? Would you know it? And how much of that act is real? — that was an exciting tension to explore.”
Fernandez says he wouldn’t know what to do if he weren’t an actor.
“Sometimes I think I would be a really good criminal,” he says. “And I feel that way when I do the things that I do. I feel it’s a bit of a con because I pretend.”
So what did get him into wanting to pretend for a living?
Fernandez singles out Laurel Near and Paulette Arnold’s School of Performing Arts & Cultural Education, founded in Ukiah in 1995, for laying the creative foundation for the profession he loves.
“It’s just incredible and amazing,” he says. “And I credit them for taking a kid who only grew up playing baseball and (then) showing me the arts and plays.”
It was a marked departure for Fernandez, who didn’t have a TV growing up in Redwood Valley.
“In high school, my mom finally got DIRECTV, and I can remember going over there and seeing this movie called ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ , and I had no idea who Johnny Depp or Leonardo DiCaprio were … but it reminded me so much of my own life and situation. It just struck a chord, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and wondering if that was a job that you could do.”
It was taking those experiences and helping make others feel as if their stories are getting told or that they are being recognized that clinched it for Fernandez, whose career shows no sign of slowing down.