Perrier’s Bounty tries hard to be as pithy and witily profound as In Bruges, but doesn’t quite manage the task. To be fair, Bruges is a masterpiece and a Goliath of a script to aspire too, but this one has its own brand of scrappy crime fun, full of enough beans to keep the viewer jumping for its slight running time. Few films can boast narration provided by the Grim Reaper, and fewer still can say that said Reaper is voiced by Gabriel Byrne. But indeed, Byrne beckons us into this violent fable with his patented tone, both baleful and quaint. The fable in question concerns Michael McCrea (Cillian Murphy) an irresponsible young Irish lad who is seriously bereft of both luck and common sense. He lives in a small town in northern Ireland and owes a hefty loan to local crime lord Darren Perrier (Brendan Gleeson). Because of how tiny the town is, it’s pretty easy for Perrier’s goons to find and engage him in a road runner goose chase all about the area, forcing him to scoop up his on and off girlfriend (Jodie Whittaker), and head for the hills. He’s also joined by his uber eccentric father (Jim Broadbent) who believes that the Grim Reaper has visited him at night and given him the alarming prognosis that he will die the next time he falls asleep. Broadbent is a solid gold asset to any film he’s in, and practically spews perfectly timed comic banter non stop. Michael thinks he has a way out of trouble with local petty thief The Mutt (Liam Cunningham, aka Ser Davos Seaworth, also a comedic treasure here), which turns out to be another notch in the belt of bad judgment. Meanwhile, Perrier’s crew reels after one of their slain thugs (at Michael’s hand) turns out to have been involved in a love affair with another, who now has the wrath of vengeance in his eyes. There’s a scene where Gleeson comforts the bereaved hoodlum and seems deeply wounded at the couple’s reluctance to tell him of their love. Gleeson assures them he has no issue with homosexuality and wishes they would have shared with him. In the context of hardened criminals out for blood, this kind of exchange is priceless and brings rigid archetypes right down to earth, for maximum hilarity and well earned pathos. The film meanders a bit, but never out ran my attention span, following through with it’s story in ways both welcomingly bloody and predictably quirky. It doesn’t add up to anything life altering when all is said and done, but damn if the things which are said and are done along the way aren’t just pure genre entertainment, inducing chuckles, thrills and nostalgia for other films withing the niche. In the troupe of writers who look up to Guy Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino and Martin McDonough, this scribe is on to something. Keep an eye out for Lord Varys, Roose Bolton and a young Domhall Gleeson too.
Very excited to bring you my latest interview, with actor Richard Brake! Richard has a legendary career, appearing as the fearsome Night’s King in Game Of Thrones, the murderous criminal Joe Chill in Batman Begins, and in countless films and shows including Ridley Scott’s The Counselor, Hannibal Rising, Rob Zombie’s Halloween II and the upcoming 31, Doom, Spy, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Water For Elephants, Death Machine, The Numbers Station, Ray Donovan, Peaky Blinders, and more. Please enjoy!
Nate: You were born in Wales. Are you purely of Welsh background, and when did you make your way to America? Was acting something you always wanted to do, or did it find you by happenstance? Did you attend any acting schools?
Richard: I’m Welsh through and through. My parents are Welsh and my grandfathers worked in the coal mines. But we moved to America when I was young. I grew up all over, mostly down south. But we came back to Britian a lot and lived there for a while when I was a teenager.
I wanted to be a writer. I started writing stories when I was very young. When I was 17 I started writing plays, short plays, heavily influenced by Edward Albee. I went to a small high school in Ohio, and one evening I was sitting outside with my best friend when a girl came over and begged us to audition for the school Play. It seemed they didn’t have enough boys auditioning and it was a big cast. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. My friend and I sort of reluctantly agreed to audition and we got cast as the judges. After a few rehearsals I was hooked. I loved the collaborative nature of it all, rehearsing, playing, all of it. I actually loved that more than the performances. I remember walking back to my dormitory with my friend after one of the rehearsals and saying to him “this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” I’ve been lucky to see that come true.
I went to Duke University and studied English and Drama. I did a lot of theatre there, then studied in New York at the Michael Checkov Studio with an amazing actor Beatrice Straight. I knew I wasn’t very good, or at least as good as I wanted to be. So I went to England and Studied at a Mountview Drama school for three years. I was incredibly lucky that they had just hired a Russian teacher named Sam Kogan. He was a genius. An amazing teacher.
Nate: You have a very distinct style and energy that lends itself to playing larger than life, comic book style characters. Did you mean to take this avenue, or did those types of roles just happen to find you because of your style?
Richard: I think that just comes from the writing of those particular projects. It lends itself to a certain extreme expression. And I am willing to be extreme if it works for the piece.
Nate: What does life look like for you besides acting? Hobbies, interests, family? What lines of work did you find yourself in before the industry?
The usual, waiting tables, telephone sales, all kinds of jobs to make a few dollars.
I have two great kids, an ex wife I get on with, and a girlfriend. That keeps me busy!! If I get a chance I play a bit of guitar, badly. I also practice Ashtanga yoga. I’ve been doing that for a long time, almost daily. It keeps me sane in this insane business.
Nate: I watched an interview with you once where you mentioned that having an active imagination is important in the craft. Would you care to elaborate on that? Does it stem from your training or is this a quality you’ve unearthed in your own exploration of the work?
Richard: Active imagination was a term coined by Sam Kogan. Before I studied with Sam, if I was working on a character, I often saw the character in my imagination as if he was in the third person. I’ll give an example of what I mean, that’s probably the best thing to do. Let’s say my character needs to find out where the money is hidden. He’s a bad guy, a drug dealer. He’s captured the person who knows and tied him to a chair and now he’s torturing him. It’s a lot of money and he wants it so he can quit drug dealing and live on a remote island with the woman he loves.
An actor needs to have an objective (Sam called them “purposes”) to motivate his action. That’s a pretty basic acting tenant. You hear that all the time as a young actor. “What’s your character’s objective. What does he want?” So in this case, I want the guy to tell me where the money is. In passive imagination I see my self in the third person standing over the guy as he blurts out the location of the money. In active imagination I see it all through my eyes, feel the temperature of the room, the smell of his sweat, ect. My character has a long term objective of being on the island, peacefully enjoying life with my girlfriend. So in passive imagination, I see myself sitting on a chair in the sun drinking a mai tai, while my girlfriend rubs suntan lotion on herself. It’s like watching a movie. It’s all in the third person. In active imagination, I can feel the chair under me, the heat of the sun, the smell of the lotion, the taste of the mai tai. I see it all through my eyes, rather than watching it outside of myself. It is far more effective to prepare for a role using active imagination than passive. Passive just causes bad acting, because it doesn’t really motivate. Active imagination motivates. It get’s those objectives into the actor’s being not just his head.
Nate: Game Of Thrones: you made quite an impression as the Night’s King. How were you approached to play the role? How much of you was make up and how much was cgi? How was the battle of hardhome scene for you? Mainly cgi or a lot of practical?
Richard: I auditioned.
Very little CGI. I was in the make up chair for close to 6 hours. Then a couple of hours to get it off. The contact lenses were massive, as big as you can put in a human eye. Torture. But worth it. I loved the episode and playing the character. I’m very proud of it. It’s an amazing show that has resonated with so many people.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t available for Season 6. I had a long contractual commitment on The Bastard Executioner. I was very sad about that as I love the show and being a part of it.
Nate: Another iconic, yet smaller role- Joe Chill, from Batman Begins. How was that experience for you?
Richard: Great. I loved working with Nolan. He is so assured. Great director. And I was a huge Batman fan as a kid, so it was a dream come true to play the guy who killed his parents. Hahahaha, that’s a pretty weird dream, come to think of it, but there you go.
Nate: You mentioned before on Twitter that your favourite role you have done is Doom Head from Rob Zombie’s upcoming film 31. Why was that? And what can we expect from the film, and from your work in it?
Richard: I saw the film at Sundance and it rocks! Rob Zombie is a genius. He’s so creative, generous, inspiring. I can’t say enough good things about him. He has this incredible ability to bring out the very best in everyone who works with him. It’s a real gift, and it shows on screen. I can’t wait for people to see it.
Nate: A film I really enjoyed you in was Good Day For It, with Robert Patrick and Lance Henriksen. Was that an enjoyable experience?
Richard: We had fun. We shot it on a super low budget in the Poconos for 2 weeks or so. We all stayed in this off season ski lodge. All I remember is laughing all the time. Lance is a very funny guy.
Nate: You appeared in Death Machine in a central role pretty early in your career, with it a lot of previous credits? How did were you cast in that?
Richard: As always, I auditioned. I think I was 27 years old. I was probably a little too young in truth to play the President of an Arms Corporation, but I got it. I was so thrilled to work with Brad Dourif. He’s so focused and very generous. I was young and nervous and he was very kind to me.
Nate: Besides 31, are there any other projects you are excited for and would like to mention?
Richard: I’m in the new season of Peaky Blinders. It’s going to be the best season yet. It was one of the bests things I’ve read, and the director, Tim, did a great job. I think it comes out in early May. I’m filming Ray Donovan at the moment. It’s also incredibly well written, acted and directed. Two great shows to be a part of. I’m also hoping to shoot a film my friend Jeff Daniel Phillips wrote later this year. He stars in 31 too. It’s a psychological horror we would like to film in Wales. We are raising the money, etc now. I play a reclusive Goth Rocker from the 80’s. Things get pretty crazy and dark when a young woman comes to visit.
Nate: Thank you so much for your time, Richard, it has been an honour!
Harlan County War is a rare little TV movie that takes a partly fictional look at the union wars in rural Kentucky during the 1970’s, when a plucky band of coal miners and their wives took to the picket line in attempt to establish better working and living conditions. The story and title of the film have roots in the union wars of the 1930’s, which set the stage for this tale. Holly Hunter plays Ruby Kincaid, wife of Silas (Ted Levine) a miner who suffers through the harsh labor everyday. The townspeople are tired of the injuries, the deaths and the deadly black lung infections, and are given reluctant hope when compassionate union official Warren Jakopovich (Stellen Skarsgard) arrives to their county, promising change. Many locals are skeptical due to past corruption and disloyalty, but soon the company gets nasty and they realize that Jakopovich may be their only chance. Hunter is as fired up as she always is, her accent thicker than the moonshine everyone swills. I tracked this film down for Levine (Skarsgard too), and this is one of the best roles he’s ever gotten. He’s usually in character parts like the violent thug, stern general, gruff cowboy or yes, the skin stealing serial killer. Here he’s just a plain rural family man, a good hearted fellow who wants the best for his kin and county. Levine works wonders playing it straight here and I wish he’d get thrown more meaty and down to earth roles like this. Skarsgard can jump between being the most terrifying psychopath to the most comforting, sympathetic characters, and plays Jakopovich with compassion and dogged determination. The character building scenes between the three actors is brilliant. I feel like there’s a longer edit out there somewhere, because it jumps a bit and forgets to address one plot turn entirely, but alas it’s a tough one to affordably track down and this is the only version I could get. It’s made for TV and that shows at the seams sometimes, but it’s still solid drama about something important, and crafted very well.
The Fifth Patient is a super awesome amnesia thriller, in the tradition of The Bourne Identity. It stars Nick Chinlund (in one of his rare lead roles) as John Reilly, an american who awakens in a remote rural hospital somewhere in Africa, with no memory of who he is, how he got there or what’s going on. A local military official (Isaach De Bankolé) interrogates him, believing that he works for the CIA. He has several visitors including a woman who claims to be his wife (Marley Shelton) and a former colleague (Henry Czerny). Gradually he pieces together the fragments of his damaged mind and suddenly has memories of being involved in a terrorism plot, planting seeds of doubt and causing him to suspect he isn’t who they think he is at all. Now all he can trust are his instincts, wary of everyone around him and unsure of his own past. It’s a serpentine story with hefty work from Chinlund who handles all facets of the character superbly, including some third act surprises. Sometimes these type of thrillers fall apart at the seams in the conclusion, tripping over the rug they’re trying to pull out from the audience in terms of plot points. Not this one. It’s well constructed and makes concise sense of its story right up to the last frame. Also watch for work from Brendan Fehr, Olek Krupa as a mysterious russian prisoner and the great Peter Bogdanovitch in a nearly unrecognizable turn. Now, I’m fairly certain that this one was never officially released back in 2007, because you literally cannot find it anywhere, it doesn’t have a legit poster and even seems nonexistent in some databases. Years ago it popped up on Netflix canada for about a month, thus ending my tedious quest to see it. You’d think that such a solid film with the prolific actors in it would have been treated better, but for one reason or another, it’s been forgotten. Hopefully one day a distributor will pick it up, because it’s quite the well made, entertaining thriller with a crackling lead performance.
Undertaking Betty (or Plots With A View, as it’s called in the UK) is British black humour at its most brilliant, hilarious and surprisingly touching, in the tradition of stuff like Waking Ned Devine and Monty Python. It’s carefree and harmless but not without a raunchy sting that can’t help but be met with loving reception due to its charm and top drawer silliness. Brenda Blethyn plays a woman who has spent thirty years of her life in a small Welsh town, married to an absolute pig of a man (Robert Pugh). He’s a sleazeball who is shagging his slut of a secretary (Naomi Watts in full gumball sickening skank mode). Blethyn is secretly in love with the local undertaker and mortuary owner (Alfred Molina), the romance sparking up as the two try to find a way to get her away from Mr. Awful husband. Molina has the brilliant idea to fake her own death, letting her off the hook and allowing them to elope. She’s willing but reluctant, and so they proceed. Only one problem: Molina isn’t the only funeral outfit in town. Garish eccentric Frank Featherbed (Christopher Walken) and his peevy associate (Lee Evans) owns his own business and plans to steal Blethyn’s funeral for his own. Walken dials up the kook factor to the maximum and is pure genius, an entertainer at heart who believes that every funeral should have the showmanship and dazzle of a broadway show, leading to some amusingly awkward scenes. Just the fact that an american Chris Walken is working as a funeral home director way out in rural Wales is enough to bust a gut, let alone his off the wall performance. The resolution reaches comic heights that made me truly query why this film’s praises weren’t sung to high heaven upon release, but such is life, and death. The romance between Blethyn and Molina is sweet, endearing and balances out the larger than life sense of humour that the film keeps tossing around like confetti. Walken fans, dark comedy fans, film fans alike…please check this out.
David Twohy’s Below cleverly combines two genres which seem to be made for each other, yet had never met up until this film. The atmospheric ghost thriller goes on an underwater ride with the submarine film for quite the unique and eerie experience. Strange occurances happen aboard a US army submarine during a routine WWII patrol mission, starting with the rescue of several stranded British castaways from a decimated ship, including Olivia Williams and Dexter Fletcher. The Captain (Bruce Greenwood) attempts to keep his crew calm, but apparantly it’s bad luck to have a woman onboard and soon uneasiness creeps in amongst them. There’s a mystery about their quarters as well, involving the supernatural, and pretty soon crewmembers are seeing, hearing and reporting eerie stuff, which adds to the tension. The crew is rounded out by an eclectic bunch of actors including Nick Chinlund, Holt McCallany, Matthew Davis, Christopher Fairbank, and Zach Galifianakis as a guy named Weird Wally who really lives up to the name. There’s some spooky moments, high drama between the cast which they pull off well, and a twist ending that explains the ghostly elements. Underrated stuff.
I have never read the Hunger Games books, and didn’t rush out to see this first installment when it was released. I have this thing where I sometimes resist a largely popular project simply because it’s buxzingwith so much hype. There’s a word for that that I resist even more, which starts with H, but good luck getting me to admit to that. Anywho, I did watch it one day on netflix, loved the hell out of it, and have seen every subsequent entry, up til last year’s final one. It’s damn great storytelling that soars on a brilliant extended performance by Jennifer Lawrence, who is the actress of her generation and a genius of the craft no matter what anyone says. People called this a slick version of Battle Royale, and while that may be true, it’s certainly not a bad thing, and not the sole extent of what the franchise achieves. There’s stinging social commentary which both condemns and makes satirical light of modern North American culture. It examines the power of propoganda for both good and bad ends. It looks at the abuse of power, and the potent rise of fascism and fear tactics, and how quickly they can become commonplace. And this is all in a young adult orientated film that stars a strong, unhindered female protagonist. Gives you hope for the world. Lawrence is powerful as Katniss Everdeen, a young woman chosen from her district to compete in the much celebrated and very violent Hunger Games, a death tournament which serves as a purge and reminder to the citizens what it cost them to rebel against their oppressors years before. This is all at the behest of mega villain President Snow (Donald Sutherland oozes quiet malice with every articulate and icy syllable), who lives in the wealthy and decadent capitol city of Panem, a dystopian version of North America. Along with Katniss there’s also Peeta (but no hummus) a local baker’s boy played by Josh Hutcherson, who really struggles to match the skill level of almost everyone around him, especially Lawrence. They are thrust into the posh and stylized razzle dazzle of Capitol life as they train for the ruthless games, watched over by previous Victor and proud alcoholic Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), as well as preening diva Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks channellig Marie Antoinette crossed with a poodle). The film takes some time to ramp up to the games, but as soon as it does the events unfold in breathless fashion set against a lush wilderness background, each and every member fighting tooth and nail to stay alive against both each other and the obstacles which gamesmasters have placed in their way. Anyone with an intense fear of wasps will want to be warned. A clever riff on the talk shows of our climate is shown, as the competitors are quizzed by Ceasar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) a manically hopped up pop personality with a hairstyle that would make a samurai jealous and teeth so white they get accused of stealing oscar nominations. Tucci is truly a well of energy and the proceedings go electric whenever he’s around. Watch for Paula Malcolmson, Liam Hemsworth, Wes Bentley, Toby Jones and Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, a kindly fashion guru who takes a shine to Katniss and designs her a dress to end all dresses. Lawrence carries the entire thing on her mockingjay wings, making Katniss a spirit of unrest, a true symbol of hope and above all, a scared girl tossed into events she can’t possibly imagine navigating. Her performance is most of what makes these films so solid, and they couldn’t have made a better casting choice. Be sure to stay fpr the credits to hear ‘Abraham’s Daughter’, a fittingly grandiose original song by Arcade Fire.