In the animated fantasy adventure Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Aussie actor Ryan Kwanten voices Kludd, a young owlet who yearns to hunt, fly and steal his father’s favor from his younger sibling Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess). When the brothers fall from their treetop home and right into the talons of the evil Pure Ones, the two make very different choices as they embark on their own journeys of self-discovery.
In this exclusive interview, which took place during the film’s press day, Ryan Kwanten talked to Collider about how amazing it was to see his animated owl, the process of finding the voice for Kludd and exploring the darker side of the character. He also revealed that he’s returning to the set for Season 4 of True Blood in late November, and he gave some details on his upcoming features Knights of Badassdom, Red Hill and Griff the Invisible. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: How did you get involved with this project? Were you looking to do a voice-over in an animated film?
Ryan: No, it’s always the story that I’m interested in. When this project came through, it was originally under the guise of reading for Soren. I read the script and thought, “I actually connect far more with the character of Kludd,” and posed that question of, “Well, how about if I read for this character instead?” So, they said, “Sure,” and I did, and I guess they heard something in the voice that captured the angst and the troubled life of Kludd.
Being a film about owls, was there something specific that sold you on the idea, or something that Zack Snyder described it to you that interested you?
Ryan: I knew, from the get-go, that it wasn’t going to be your average animated family film. It was afraid to explore the darker side. I think a lot of animated films play such a rosy picture of the world, and this was saying, “Look, bad things do happen in life. It’s how you choose to deal with those things that defines who you are.” My character chooses to go a far darker route than what you probably should. Soren, on the other hand, chooses to really embrace his destiny and follow the right path.
What was the recording process like for you, and how was it to work with Zack throughout that process?
Ryan: It was really intriguing because you do it over the course of two and a half years and, in that time, you have the ability to change not just dialogue, but a character arc. There were a few times when we went in there and really changed some things. Just by changing the voice, it was amazing how much you could change the tone of the character, and we did that a few times.
How much of a challenge was it to find the voice of the character?
Ryan: That was something that was really important to me. With the voice, I wanted to find a way to start, and then the character that we ended up with at the very end of the film, his voice should be totally different to what we started with, and yet still have a throwback quality to that. He starts with a far more boyish, innocent angst, at the beginning. And then, what he turns into, at the end, is this very single-minded, darker, deeper Kludd.
What was it like the first time you saw the character, and then also saw the finished film, after all the time you spent working on this?
Ryan: It was amazing to really see the detail that they had put into Kludd. I love the addition of the mohawk and the slightly red, blood-shot eyes. There are those little things that you’ll see, if you’re watching the film close at the beginning. There are certain looks that he gives that show he’s not really happy with that situation, that are above and beyond just the dialogue, that were just little subtleties. That’s what I enjoyed playing, and that’s what I enjoyed watching in the film. It wasn’t just spoon-feeding the audience everything.
How important was it to you to have the backstory for both Soren and Kludd, so that you could see where both of them were going and not just have the hero and the villain?
Ryan: I think if you were to jump into it straight away, you would get no visceral response at all. It was imperative that you had that backstory to realize where they both came from, otherwise there’s no sense of destiny to it at all.
Were there any stories, legends or heroes that you had growing up, that made an impression on you?
Ryan: What made an impression on me growing up was that, like Zack, I was a big fan of the Star Wars trilogy, and Han Solo, in particular. Also, I really enjoyed watching things like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which was the first time the animated and the real world were put together. Even in terms of this, I thought it was a real interesting concept to try to bring the world of owls to life, but I never once saw Kludd as an animated creature. He was always a living, breathing animal to me.
Because this film is so hard to convey in a 30-second trailer, what would you say to people to get them to understand this is so much more than just an animated movie about owls?
Ryan: It is about so much more than just owls. Hopefully, they get the ability to assess their own lives. It’s actually one of the rare family animated films where you stand back at the end of it and think, “Wow! Am I living the life that I really want to live? Am I following the right path?” There were various choices they made, even with going with the more raw Australian accent, the level of details, the contrast lighting, the various worlds that they fly through. You can see the details in it, and how much that separates it from being just a good animation film to a great one.
How did this fit in, as far as your schedule with True Blood? Did you do them at the same time?
Ryan: Yeah, and other things as well. It was really just difficult at times because I was quite often in far away places, but the beauty of an animated film is that it’s made over the course of a couple of years, so they can afford to wait sometimes.
Now that you’ve done three seasons on True Blood, how do you feel about where things have gone on the show and with your character? Is there anything that’s particularly surprised you?
Ryan: There hasn’t been anything that has not surprised me, in every episode. Every single scene has played out differently than where I thought it was going to go, and that’s a good thing to be constantly surprised. I like to pride myself on being able to guess where things are going, and I’ve never been able to do that with my character.
Can you talk about what Knights of Badassdom is and who you play in that?
Ryan: I just finished shooting that in Spokane, Washington, and that’s with Steve Zahn and Peter Dinklage. That’s a comedy, of sorts. It’s a comedy mixed with horror. It’s a Role Models meets Shaun of the Dead type of film. We tread that very fine line of comedy and thriller/horror. I’m really looking forward to that. I play a guy who finds out that the love of his life has been cheating on him, so he’s immediately thrown into this world of depression, and he’s taken out of that depression when he’s kidnapped by his best friends and thrown into this world of LARP-ing, which is live-action role-playing. He immediately thinks this is the most ridiculous world ever invention, and then very quickly this made-up world becomes real and he’s forced to fight for everything.
What else do you have coming up?
Ryan: I have Red Hill coming out in November, which is a revenge western. It’s a real old school, Clint Eastwood style western with lots of brawn and lots of balls. I also have Griff the Invisible, which just premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. That’s like Lars and the Real Girl meets a superhero film. That’s one of those stories that leaves you thinking about, “Am I living the life that I want to live?” He’s a socio-phobic guy, who’s a more internal type character, as opposed to someone that’s more physically inclined.
When do you start shooting Season 4 of True Blood?
Ryan: In late November.