From writer/director Robert Krzykowski, the indie drama The Man Who Killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot follows the alternate reality adventures of a man named Calvin Barr (Sam Elliott and Aidan Turner, who share the role), who was the individual secretly responsible for the assassination of Adolf Hitler during WWII. Decades later, Barr’s skills are needed again, when the U.S. government calls on him to go deep into the Canadian wilderness to kill Bigfoot, before the creature can spread a deadly plague to the general population of the world.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Irish actor Aidan Turner talked about why he couldn’t ignore this project, how surprisingly heartfelt the story is, sharing a character with actor Sam Elliott, how it felt to have to wear a Nazi uniform and share scenes with Hitler, and how proud and happy he is with the finished product. He also talked about what it’s like to finish the TV series Poldark, after five seasons of playing the character, having no idea what he wants to do next, and his desire to do Broadway someday.
Collider: This is certainly a very interesting project. What was the appeal for you?
AIDAN TURNER: It was really interesting. It struck me. It was one of those scripts that came in and you couldn’t ignore it, really. The title alone just kept floating around in my head. It’s the kind of movie where I couldn’t quite put it into a genre. It’s probably a very cliche thing to say, but you do movies, as an actor, and you feel the need to say that there’s so much heart to a specific film, especially with some of the lower budget indie films, but there really was with this. And when I met up on Skype with Robert Krzykowski and we spoke for a couple of hours, just about the script, I knew that it was something special. He’s just a very unique individual and a very smart guy. This is his first project, and it just felt so heartfelt. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I really adored it so much, but there was just something there. It was an all-around feeling and cadence of the whole piece, and I couldn’t get it off my mind. And shooting the film was just beautiful. The funny thing is that I never really got to work with Sam Elliott. I came onto this shoot halfway through, and Sam had finished on the morning that I started, which seemed like the right time to hand over the mantle and pass over the torch. It was just a beautiful, strange, gorgeous experience. I don’t think any of us were really expecting the movie to get such a release. I know Sam is having a very big moment right now, with being nominated for an Oscar, and all of the rest of it. It’s just great that it’s finally getting to be seen by more people than I initially thought it was going to be seen by, to be honest. It’s fitting with how special the whole experience was for me.
Knowing that you would be sharing this character with Sam Elliot, were there conversations with him about it? Did you talk about what to do with your voice, especially?
TURNER: Yeah, I tried to. The first morning, I said, “I’m worried about the voice, Sam. I’m worried about the resonance.” And he said, “Don’t worry about the resonance,” in that really deep, beautiful tone that only Sam can deliver. And I really didn’t. It was something that I did on my own, and I worked as much as I possible could, just trying to fill out the register, but I felt, very early on in the preparation, that I had to be careful to not have it sound like a caricature. It’s very different to be sitting in a bar doing impersonations of different people, but when you’re actually playing a real character – in this case, it was Calvin Barr – it’s important to make the character real, first and foremost. Technically, you can try to work in some things to make us both feel like we’re the same person. There were some physical things and, obviously, things you can do, vocally, but it was important that it didn’t sound like a good impersonation of this legendary actor. That would have looked a bit foolish. So, it was just trying to find the middle ground. There’s always a balance with everything with the preparation you make, as an actor, and it’s just trying to find what the right tone is. So, that was a big thing for me, but it was more important to concentrate on us playing this character and making the character everything that Bob had written on the page, and to not have it become something that would have been a block for me. How do you sound like one of the most famous voices that Hollywood has ever produced? I think that would’ve been a difficult task. But, I think we did it. I saw the movie and I believe it. I believe the effort that I made. I believe that it could be the same person, so I’m happy with it.
I would imagine that one of the biggest challenges of this was the amount of time that you had to spend in a Nazi uniform. What was that like? Did it take a bit of mental adjustment, the first time you put it on and saw yourself in it?
TURNER: Yeah, it’s a really strange thing. You’ve seen these uniform so many times, but when you have it on and you see small details, that you’ve not forgotten about, but that just come back in super HD form, where the heels of the shoes are metal caps and you’re making this crunching sound, like if you’re walking through stones in a courtyard, or you’re walking down a corridor, you really hear these shoes coming, it’s quite eerie. And there are the small things, like the skull and crossbones that exist on the Nazi cap, that you don’t really notice until you’re wearing it, in detail, and you have a look at yourself. I suppose what separated those feelings, for me, was the fact that Calvin was impersonating a Nazi soldier to infiltrate the operations of the Nazi ranks to inevitably take a shot at Hitler and try to kill him, so it never felt like I was fully embodying what it was to be a Nazi soldier. But, yeah, it’s a very, very strange experience. The uniforms are incredibly authentic. More than anything else, it’s just strange how people on set react to you. That feeling of power is a very strange, scary thing, as you’re dressed in a black uniform and you’re with a German Shepherd guard dog. In one of the scenes, I had to do a Nazi salute and some German is spoken, and that just levels everyone. The tone changes in the room. There definitely is a feeling of something has shifted. It’s very curious, the way that uniform still does embody this real sense of isolation and fear, even if it is just for the sake of what we’re doing. We’re making a film, but it still does evoke those emotions with everyone. It makes you think it wasn’t that long ago that this horrible atrocity happened, and you’re reminded of that, when you do something like this. So, yeah, it was a very, very strange experience, to say the least.
When you play a man who kills Hitler, obviously that means that you’ll have to shoot scenes with Hitler. What was it like to shoot the moments that you spend with him? Is that just as weird as wearing a Nazi uniform?
TURNER: Yeah, it is. It’s as weird as it sounds. It’s not something that you really get used to. We shot a lot of those scenes were shot in two days. We found this incredible old house, somewhere in New England, that was gorgeous and beautiful and of the right era, and dressed it like an old Nazi headquarters. In one afternoon, we shot the scenes where Hitler gets killed, and that was bizarre. The man who plays Hitler looked remarkably like him, especially in the latter days of Hitler’s life, from what we can see in photographs and old video stock footage. He had that tremor, and he looked a bit disheveled and beaten by everything. It was really bizarre, and still is. When I think about it now, it’s as weird as it sounds when I try to explain it. The thing that worked in my favor was that Calvin Barr is nervous. He’s not a captain who needs to be around Hitler, all the time, and knows him very well. It’s a very new experience for him, too, so to be slightly freaked out by the experience didn’t go against what I was trying to play, anyway. So, it was a strange thing to shoot for a few hours, and then when it’s finished and you go home that night, you think, “Wow, I did that today at work.” Your best friend says, “What did you do?,” and you say, “I think I just killed Hitler.” It was a weird moment, but those moments happen, all of the time. They’re some of the trivial, fun moments in our job that you look at and go, “God, what am I doing for living?! This is crazy!”