Actor Thomas Jane, of TV’s “Hung” and “Punisher” fame, stars in and makes his directorial debut with the stylistic horror thriller “Dark Country”, which arrives on DVD this October 6 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film tells the suspenseful, twisted tale of newlyweds who make the regrettable decision of rescuing a sinister car crash survivor known only as “Bloody Face.” The movie’s unique visual flourishes belie the fact that it’s the work of a first time director, while its strong performances, notably from the sexy Lauren German (“Hostel: Part II”), serve as yet another reminder that an actor has no better friend behind the camera than the actor/director.
Hit the jump to read about journeyman actor Jane talking about his new journey into directing, the surprising big name star he called up for advice on directing yourself, and working with fanboy favorite and friend Ron Perlman.
Thomas, have you always been interested in directing?
THOMAS JANE: Yes, I have. Working with so many great directors, eventually you come to the conclusion that if you’re going to get anything interesting done, you’re gonna have to direct something yourself. I’ve really been thinking about this and looking for the right project to come along for a while.
Why did you choose “Dark Country” as your first time up at bat?
JANE: Well, I’ve been looking for something unique and something smaller scale – you know, there are only four characters in the film – something that would let me feel I could control it a little bit better than if it were a big budget film with a lot of locations and actors. I also wanted to direct something I could put a unique visual style to and have it makes sense in terms of the story. Movies like this aren’t being made or even considered anymore because today everything’s so big budget and caters to the largest audience possible. Shooting a small movie for the straight to DVD market gave me a certain kind of freedom.
During the film’s shoot, who was tougher on whom: Thomas Jane, Director, on Thomas Jane, Actor, or vice versa?
JANE: They were tough on each other [laughs]. You know, there’s no real handbook to directing yourself in a film and there are not a whole lot of guys who’ve done it. I did call up Mel Gibson and he generously talked to me for an hour and gave me so much good advice. He told me that when he directed his first film he was also starring in, he called up Clint Eastwood because he was nervous about it. Eastwood talked to him for an hour on the phone. He told him not to short change himself as an actor when directing. Sure, you’re gonna be pressed for time, and wanna do one or two quick takes on yourself and move on, but don’t do that. So, that’s the advice passed down from Eastwood to Gibson to me.
That’s an impressive lineage…
JANE: Yeah, it really gave me the confidence to go out and attempt this thing.
You and Lauren German have nice “honeymoon phase” chemistry in the film. Can you talk a little bit about your leading lady?
JANE: Well, Lauren’s a terrific actor. She’s got these classic American movie star good looks, but she can also really act. When I showed the film to people, they were really impressed with her. Anyway, she dedicated herself to this project and really gave it her all. You watch the movie and it looks like it’s a hot summer night and it’s not, it’s actually fucking freezing and the poor girl was the smallest person on the set and she had the least amount of clothes on [laughs]. She really hung in there and gave it her all.
Ron Perlman’s a fanboy favorite – how’d he come to be involved in the film?
JANE: Well, Ron’s a friend of mine. You know, I publish graphic novels, I’m a big comic book guy and I’ve got a site called rawstudios.com with fanboy stuff on there and so it was just inevitable that I’d become friends with Ron Perlman since he’s such a man of the cloth. I also did a movie with him called “Mutant Chronicles” and we had a blast and became good friends on it. And, so, it was just perfect that I got him in the movie. He just fits that world to a tee and I’m very, very happy and proud that he’s in my film.
Was working with a low budget a creative blessing or curse?
JANE: You know, it’s both. We shot the film in twenty five days. But one of my favorite films is called “Detour” and it’s with a guy, a girl and a car and it’s about their adventures and misadventures on the road. This film definitely takes a page from “Detour” and they shot that movie in, I think, under two weeks, and it’s a classic. You use what you have to your advantage. Instead of trying to hide the low budget, I tried to make it sort of a star in a way and bring out what’s kind of cool and kitschy about doing things on such a low budget – kind of the way Oliver Stone did “Natural Born Killers” using these low budget techniques to create interesting visuals.
Do you have your next directing gig lined up?
JANE: Well, I want to direct “Devil’s Commandos” as a 3-D feature, but I don’t think I’m gonna have time because I’ve gotta do a second season of “Hung” and I’ve got several other acting projects lined up, so I’m gonna be really be busy. I think I’ll end up producing “Devil’s Commandos” and let someone else direct it. But I do want to direct another film. The learning curve is so steep on your first film that it would be criminal not to employ what you’ve learned on another one.
Would you ever direct an episode of “Hung”?
JANE: I don’t think that’s my strength. That kind of comedy directing…there’s so many guys out there who can do it better than me that I don’t feel I have anything unique to give to “Hung” except as an actor. So I’m gonna let the guys who direct things like “Hung” direct that and try not to step on their toes. If I directed the show, it would be very odd. A very strange episode, outside of what people have come to expect [laughs].
Catch “Dark Country” on DVD this October 6, 2009, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.