The romantic dramedy Griff the Invisible (opening in limited release this weekend) from writer/director Leon Ford, is a quirky but charming film about a shy, awkward guy named Griff (Ryan Kwanten). Office worker by day, mystery superhero by night, Griff’s secret life is jeopardized when he meets the equally unconventional Melody (Maeve Dermody), who quickly becomes fascinated with him and all of his idiosyncrasies, equal only her own. Struggling with the pressure to live in the real world, Griff finds hope in the newfound love he and Melody share, and she encourages him to embrace his unique view of the world.
During this exclusive interview with Collider to promote the film, actor Ryan Kwanten, best known for playing Jason Stackhouse on the popular HBO vampire series True Blood, talked about how much the story of Griff resonated with him, maintaining who you are in a world that’s constantly trying to change you, playing a character within the character, getting to wear a superhero suit, and how he hopes that people who feel like outsiders will enjoy the film and be reassured that they’re not alone in the world. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: How did you get involved with this film?
RYAN KWANTEN: My agent back in Australia said, “There’s this script that’s getting a lot of heat,” but in this business, you hear that phrase a lot. Everything is “getting a lot of heat.” So, I read it with a little bit of cynicism going in, but was very quickly swept up in the story of Griff and couldn’t believe how much it resonated with me. It was one of those stories that I felt like I would have to beg, borrow, steal, kill and do whatever I had to do to get onto this film. And, even if I didn’t get it, to be honest, the story really just stuck with me. I found it very unforgettable.
What were the specific things about the character and story that struck you?
KWANTEN: To maintain who you are in a world that’s constantly trying to change you is the greatest achievement, and I think that’s the battle that Griff is constantly going through. That’s what I feel like everyone is going through in life. Everyone is being told by society to talk this way, to dress that way, to be this person or to be that person, and it’s so important to just maintain a sense of self. We live in L.A. where people just quite often lose track of who they are. It’s very scary and sad to see. That’s why this story resonates with people. We’ve played it now throughout the world and it really seems to capture people’s hearts because it’s got something to say. You’re not alone.
This role is so different from what people have come to know from you. Were there things that you did to develop how you wanted to play Griff, the look you wanted him to have, and the mannerisms you had?
KWANTEN: Yeah. When Griff is walking around in public, he’s playing a character. He’s doing his best to camouflage himself in society, so he wants to wear very drab colors and not be too bright. Even at the office, he wants to try to be as invisible as he can, but his boss tells him that the more invisible he tries to be, the more visible he actually becomes. There’s that notion of playing the character within the character, and then there’s the superhero element, too. There’s the liberation and the freedom he feels when he garners that suit, goes out into the world and solves these crimes. You have to inhabit both roles, and do it in such a way where they are two very specific roles. But, the great thing about this film, unlike most superhero films, is when both of those worlds start colliding and he’s got to try to hang onto who he is, amidst both.
Did you approach him as somebody who is delusional, or did you approach him more as somebody who’s developed this little world to deal with how everybody treats him?
KWANTEN: The latter, definitely. I didn’t see him with any kind of mental disorder, at all. Maybe he has a little bit of socio-phobia, but outside of that, it’s more just someone who had chosen to embrace his imagination, and that just evolved over time.
What was it like to develop the look of the suit and to see yourself in it?
KWANTEN: The actual suit that Griff wore to work, we made sure that the sleeves were a little bit shorter and that it was almost slightly comical, in the way that it didn’t quite fit him. It almost didn’t seem to be from that period. It looked a little too drab, with the vest underneath and the hairstyle that was almost like an ‘80s news reporter. And then, in terms of the superhero suit, that was a real effort between myself, the wardrobe designer, the director and the producers, all collaborating and putting in our two cents to come up with what you now see on screen. I think it was a really good job because, obviously, it’s a superhero outfit we’ve never seen before. It’s Griff’s imagination, so it has all the elements of the best superhero outfits, but it’s what he envisaged it as.
What was it like to work with Maeve Dermody and develop the relationship between your characters?
KWANTEN: The most appealing thing to me was knowing that we had this beautiful relationship on paper, and trying to make that come into a reality. Fortunately, we got Maeve on as the actress to play Melody. She carries herself with such grace, but she plays the character with such vulnerability and innocence that I think it really gives more impotus to Griff’s storyline, too. That role, in the hands of a lesser actress, could have been almost a caricature, but she’s very magnetic, whenever she gets onto the screen.
What do you hope people take away from this film?
KWANTEN: Everyone in life knows what it’s like to be picked on and to feel like an outsider, but it’s great for people who are being bullied to watch the film and realize that there’s other people out there. Don’t feel like you’re alone because you’re not.