The Boys of 'Stanford Prison Experiment' Take You Inside the Grueling Filming Process

Ezra Miller, Michael Angarano, and more of the cast reveal what it took to turn the controversial experiment into a big-screen film.

The Stanford Prison Experiment was a study conducted by Dr.
Philip Zimbardo in the summer of 1971 at Stanford University. It was meant to
show the psychology of imprisonment with 24 male undergraduates chosen to
randomly participate either as a guard or a prisoner. What ensued was nothing
short of groundbreaking and prompted both outrage and excitement from every
corner of the scientific and psychological fields.

REVIEW: Sundance Standout, Stanford Prison Experiment,' Is Intense, Almost Too Real

To capture what happened on screen, Tim Talbott based his screenplay
on Dr. Zimbardo’s documents, including audio and footage from the experiment.
Meanwhile, director Kyle Patrick Alvarez is said to have let his actors -- a cast
of up-and-coming talent -- take gross liberties on set in order to really dive
in to their characters.

On July 17, The Stanford
Prison Experiment
will debut in theaters, but not before ETonline wrangled
stories from the cast about the physically grueling filming schedule, the power
of costumes, going method, and bonding on set.

Michael Angarano: “It Really Did Stop Me in
My Tracks”

IFC Films

“Billy Crudup’s
first day was really exciting for me,” says Angarano, a regular on Cinemax’s The
. “It was the scene where Dr. Zimbardo stops the experiment and I
think they ended up using his very first take. It was supposed to stop us in
our tracks [as the characters], but it really did stop me in my tracks. Just
based on three lines he uttered, I was so impressed.”

Nicholas Braun: “It
Was a Mix of Pleasure and Discomfort”

IFC Films

“I'm friends, and have worked, with a lot of the guys playing
prisoners,” says Braun, who also has roles in this year’s Poltergeist
and Jem and the Holograms. “I play a guard in the film and I am quite
physically abusive with the boys -- it was a mix of pleasure and discomfort
having to get into it with them. My favorite day was shooting a scene where
some of the guards make an extra aggressive entry into one of the cells to
procure the prisoners cots as punishment for their misbehavior. Ezra [Miller]
and I decided we'd pair up and go after each other, since our characters have a
major confrontation in the film. All day long, he and I just fought. We were
knocking into the walls and shaking the set. In between takes we kept it going,
wrestling and keeping the adrenaline rushing. I think it brought something
genuinely scary and violent to that scene.”

Jesse Carere: “I Felt

IFC Films

“Dr. Zimbardo dressed the prisoners in gowns to make them
feel demoralized,” says Carere, who made his mark on MTV’s Skins.
“After wearing a gown for several weeks I felt demoralized. I wanted to be a
guard by the end of the shoot and wear boots and wave a baton. I definitely
carried a weight with the role. The chain around my ankle probably didn't help
matters. When the shoot was over I felt like I could finally breathe again.”

Keir Gilchrist: “I
Became Close With the Guards”

IFC Films

“It never felt like we weren't shooting a movie,” says
Gilchrist, often recognized for his role as Marshall Gregson on United States of Tara and appearing in
the cult horror film, It Follows. “No
one actually got locked up or abused or anything, but with that said, I did
find myself being effected in a subtle way. I immediately became close with the
guards on my shift. I walked with a bit more authority than the actors playing
the prisoners. They spent all day barefoot in not much more than underwear,
whereas I had a baton, a uniform and mirrored glasses. Wearing a uniform warps
your perspective slightly.”

Miles Heizer: “I Talked About It With My

IFC Films

“Kyle put up a
bunch of pictures from the actual experiment outside the set,” says Heizer, who
played Drew Holt on Parenthood and will be in the upcoming thriller, Nerve,
with Emma Roberts. “Even though we were having a great time, it was so
interesting to stop and look at the pictures and realize this really happened.
I talked about it with my sister, who’s a psychology major, before shooting,
and we thought a lot about what the outcome would be if we had been part of
that experiment. I’d like to think that I would not do anything, that I’d just
tell people to calm down and that we could get through it because it was only
an experiment. But that’s the entire point of it -- that’s what everyone thinks
and the results were totally different.”

Callan McAuliffe: “Everyone Was Jealous of
My Ponytail”

IFC Films

“Everyone was
jealous of my ponytail,” says the up-and-coming Aussie, who played the
younger version of Jay Gatsby in Leonardo DiCaprio’s The
Great Gatsby
-- which says a lot in the looks department. “I had a bit of a
smaller character role and because of that the audience wouldn’t be paying too
much attention to me, so I got to have a ridiculous hairdo. I showboated around
set all the time, always telling people how great my ponytail was. And, well,
the other stuff that happened on set is probably too crazy to tell you.”

Ezra Miller: “It Was an Amazing Experience”

IFC Films

“I didn’t have one
bad day on the whole thing,” says the 22-year-old actor, who recently was
appointed title role of Marvel’s big-screen adaptation of The Flash.
“There wasn’t one experience where I felt the degradation of imprisonment. It
was a great time with a bunch of cool homies. It was an amazing experience to
be a part of an ensemble where everyone was always lifting each other up and
raising each other’s game in this constant symbiotic process.”

Logan Miller: “It
Would at Times Feel Very Real”

IFC Films

“Some of the toughest days were dealing with the routine
exercises and knowing that they would get more and more sinister as the shoot
days went on,” says Miller, a former Disney star on I’m in the Band, who looked forward to focusing on more dark,
comedic, adult-centric content. “When we were filming the coverage for the
observation camera used in the film, it would at times feel very real. We would
play out the scenes all the way through, with the set completely intact and no
other equipment around. Playing those through in the setting made it feel
sometimes that the film could maybe even become the experiment itself.”

Sheridan: “The Environment Felt Very Real”

IFC Films

“At times the environment felt very real,” says Sheridan, whose quick rise to
fame came with an outstanding performance in Mud alongside Matthew
McConaughey. “Dimensionally, the stage that we worked on was an exact replica
of the hallways and classrooms at Stanford University where the actual
experiment took place. The film is highly intense and raw. I hope that an
audience member would get lost in the film and begin to feel the pain and
confusion that these young men endured. The film has been thirteen years in the
making, so I just feel honored to have been around at the right place and time
to be cast in the film.”

Johnny Simmons: “It Terrified Me”

IFC Films

“I read The Lucifer Effect [Dr.
Zimbardo’s book about the experiment] several years ago while shooting Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” says
Simmons, a prolific young actor with leads in such films as The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The To Do List. “I would highly suggest
it as a companion to the film as it reveals the universal laws of human nature
which most of us would choose to ignore. It terrified me. Never in a
million years did I think I would be part of the movie version, and it is truly
a dream come true to be sharing this story with the rest of the world.”