Fifteen years after The Ring terrified audiences everywhere, Samara and her killer video tape have returned. Rings, the long-awaited third film in the franchise, promises to play on your 2017 anxieties: that tape, for example, is now available via online streaming. (We'll have to wait and see if Samara now shoots her victims a "Seven days" text in lieu of that phone call, though.) However, the biggest difference between the new film and its two predecessors is the absence of Rachel (Naomi Watts) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman), the duo who discover Samara's plan to have viewers pass along her evil.
As a kid, I was always fascinated by Dorfman's performance. Aidan was intense, brilliant, and appropriately creepy as hell. He was the good guy, but much like Danny from The Shining, he knew a lot more about the sinister supernatural entities than his well-meaning mom. It's no surprise then that Dorfman — whom also appeared in films like the remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the lighter Owen Wilson movie Drillbit Taylor — had Aidan-level smarts in real life. The former child actor currently works as an attorney and was kind enough to chat with Refinery29 about his horror past and lawyerly present.
What inspired your performance in The Ring?
"It was the script. When you read it for the first time, you immediately know that Aidan has to have that intensity and that maturity in the film. I think any actor will tell you that it really can't be artificial, it has to be organic." Did working on a horror set ever scare you?
"When we were [shooting] the sequel at [Universal Studios,] the soundstage and production studio actually flooded. If you've seen the sequel, flooding is a pretty central part of the plot. This is the first time in Universal's history that a production stage actually had something like that happen. To have it happen on a film where that's a sign of Samara was definitely scarier than any scene could have possibly ever been."
"Another example would be on Texas Chainsaw Massacre, there's a scene where there's a [real] chainsaw that they used, which was eerily close to [me] while we were shooting. Had to give that a shout out. [Laughs]." Did you watch scary movies growing up? What are your favorites?
"Oh yeah, I loved and still love horror films. What's there not to love? It's a tough competition between a good scream and a good laugh... I think my favorites speak for themselves, consult my IMDb page. [Laughs.] Other than the Ring franchise and the other stuff I've been fortunate to work on, I think The Shining was great. There's something about great horror movies and catchphrases: 'Redrum' is up there with 'Seven days.'"
Are you going to see Rings?
"Yeah, it looks great. I'm excited to see the franchise expand, generally. Who knows, maybe they'll be more. Give it a couple of years, I could see Samara coming out of Snapchat, or better yet, maybe a virtual reality Samara, an Oculus-exclusive release... I think a re-release on a VR headset would be pretty amazing." What did you pursue after acting?
"I graduated top of my class at Harvard Law at 21, and I've been working as an attorney since at Capitol Hill in D.C., and then at one of the top firms in Hong Kong. I was really fortunate to be at the Justice Department in Washington, too."
"Honestly, I just feel so lucky to have such interesting experiences. From Hollywood to Harvard, from the Boston bombing prosecution to ISIS prosecutions to actually being able to write some laws in the Philippines, I'm just really incredibly grateful for all these great opportunities."
"I actually have been engaged in the entertainment industry. I spent some time in the MPAA, and I've been working on some of the biggest entertainment impact deals in Asia as an attorney."
What advice would you give child actors of today?
"I would tell them, and I do tell them, that you can't ignore education. When you invest in yourself, when you invest in your education, it's a 100 percent guarantee return... It's a common thing not investing in your education, and I think it's really important."
Do you keep in touch with anyone from The Ring?
"Definitely. They're great people. Like any friends, you keep in touch, and that's true for a lot of projects, like Drillbit Taylor. I ran into a colleague in a grocery store in Oregon, which is probably the last place you'd expect to see someone from Hollywood."
"[Specifically with] The Ring, more surprising than keeping in touch with people from back then is how amazing it is that you can still get recognized by people you don't know in random places... For work, I was on a deal in South Korea, and this businessman in Seoul starts asking me something in Korean, and my friend tells me he was asking me 'Are you Aidan?' In Seoul, of all places."
"What never stops being cool for me is hearing my voice dubbed in a million different languages... I've seen some dubbed copies, and it's like, wow, I guess I'm better at Swahili than I remember. [Laughs.]"
Rings hits theaters February 3.