Every once in awhile, a movie really surprises me. It’s not too often. The reason for that is by the time I sit down in a theater, due to watching all the trailers and covering the film for sometimes two years while the project is coming together, when I finally see the finished film, I know all the major plot points and characters. It’s an unfortunate side effect of writing about movies.
Which is why Red Hill really floored me. I’d heard good things going in, but I was not prepared for how much I’d enjoy this film. Across the board, from the filmmaking to the acting, it’s top notch and it definitely deserves a wide audience. So you’re probably asking what is it about and how can I see it? Hit the jump for those answers – along with my exclusive interview with Ryan Kwanten (he plays the lead).
Before going any further, Red Hill gets released tomorrow in New York, Austin, and Los Angeles. It expands to addition cities in the coming weeks.
And even though I could offer you an official synopsis, I suggest watching the trailer first. That way you can see some of it for yourself:
Red Hill is about a young police officer Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten) relocates to the small country town of Red Hill with his pregnant wife Alice to start a family. But when news of a prison break sends the local law enforcement officers – led by the town’s ruling presence, Old Bill – into a panic, Shane’s first day on duty rapidly turns into a nightmare.
Enter Jimmy Conway, a convicted murderer serving life behind bars, who has returned to the isolated outpost seeking revenge. Now caught in the middle of what will become a terrifying and bloody confrontation, Shane will be forced to take the law into his own hands if he is to survive.
A taut thriller which unfolds over the course of a single day and night, and told with explosive action and chilling violence, Red Hill is a modern-day western played out against the extraordinary landscapes of high-country Australia.
As I said, everything about the film is well done. From the script to the acting, it’s a great Australian western and it’s nice to see another solid film in this genre.
Anyhow, I was recently able to get on the phone with Ryan Kwanten. While most of you just know his work from HBO’s very popular series True Blood (he plays Jason Stackhouse), Kwanten demonstrates in Red Hill that he’s the real deal and this role will definitely be a calling card for other directors.
During the interview we talked about what drew him to the role, the violence of the story, what are some of his favorite western’s and what did he watch to prepare for the role. We also talked about how his career has taken off in the past few years and another of his future projects, The Knights of Badassdom.
As usual, I’m offering two ways to get the interview. You can either read the transcript below, or click here to listen to our phone conversation. Again, Red Hill is really worth checking out.
Collider: Hey how are you doing sir?
I’m doing excellent. How is your day filled with doing press?
Kwanten: You know I always used to view it as somewhat of a necessary evil, but as my I guess, career’s advancing, for lack of a better word, I’m becoming a lot more passionate for the jobs that I do. So, it becomes easier when you like what you do.
I’ve spoken to a lot of actors, and they tell me that because they love the craft of acting, that they almost don’t get paid to act, they get paid to promote.
Kwanten: Yeah, I mean even the acting process I get paid to wait between setups, and the acting I do free. And it’s, anything extracurricular outside of that is, you know just in terms of a social life I never really, that’s not something that interests me like going out there and promoting myself socially doesn’t really intrigue me. I’d much rather have my work do it for me.
Oh no, I completely understand. Well I’m sorry to ask the most generic of the generics, but could you talk a little bit about how you originally got to the project?
Kwanten: Oh sure, yeah. It was an offer that came through the desk of CAA, which is my agency, and I read the script and it was pitched as a Western, and I’m a huge fan of that genre. It was a real cool, sort of modern take on that western genre, and it was a character who was pitched as being the hero, but what I liked about it is that it sort of went against the iconic version of the hero. It wasn’t the Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, impenetrable force that you felt like no matter what posse was put up against them, they could always hold their own. He was a guy who was very fallible, you know the first time you see him he’s forgotten his gun and he has to sort of rise above the odds and survive the day and save the town, save his wife.
When you were reading the script, I watched the film recently and I’ll be honest I didn’t know much walking in, and I was actually really blown away by the film. I really thought it was great. I’m just curious, as you were reading the script, cause obviously you knew nothing as you were reading the pages, was this one of those kind of scripts where you’re turning the pages, forgetting about that maybe I’m gonna do this but actually just interested in the story?
Kwanten: I never forgot the fact that, you know I knew which character I was playing so I definitely sort of invested myself in that character, but I, yes to your other part of the question, I was able to kind of lose myself in the story. It’s a very easy read and as brutal as a film as it is, it’s very easy to watch. It’s a great popcorn film. But I mean I was pleasantly surprised cause I was really quick to make judgments, without giving too much of the film away, like judgments at the beginning as to, you know, the killer’s madness, or lack thereof, and then I was happy to be proven wrong in the end and I think that’s sort of the general consensus. People that have seen the film, they’re so quick to make these snap judgments of people at the beginning and then they’re sort of pleasantly surprised in the end. Patrick’s always talked about making a film that means something, that you don’t just forget it the moment the credits roll, and this is a film that I hope means something to people.
Something that struck me about the film was the way that he captured basically like brutal violence, but didn’t glorify it, but it’s pretty harsh compared to some movies, the violence that goes on in the film. How do you feel about that kind of level of, the realistic portrayal of the violence in the movie, could you talk a little bit about that?
Kwanten: Yeah, that’s actually a really good point you made. It’s not there for shock value, it’s there to create story, and that gives you far more of a visceral response rather than like the classic kind of horror film where sometimes it’s just a loud sound that knocks you out of your seat, it’s not necessarily pervading any further into your body than the outside, whereas every time someone gets killed in this you’re finding out another piece of the puzzle, and that is far more intriguing and engaging for an audience member.
When you’re getting ready to do a western, which is, you know, an Australian-American western, I don’t know what the right terminology is, are there certain films that Patrick suggested that you watch beforehand? Were there certain films that you watched to sort of get you ready for this genre?
Kwanten: I guess something that Patrick and I both understood from the get-go was that we were huge Western genre fans. All the John Ford films, Sergio Lenone, I had a huge history of loving those films and watching them time and time again. You know, High Plains Drifter was always one of my favorite Westerns. I mean even sort of the more commercially viable ones, I mean you could even call Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid like (interruption). It was really just sort of an ode to those, but as well as that it was creating our own version of it and modernizing it and putting our own sort of, some critics have called it Australia’s answer to No Country for Old Men, so it’s nice to get sort of that, to adhere to the classic mythology of the Western genre but also to put a modern day spin on it where audiences are gonna be intrigued enough to go and see it.
You filmed on these amazing locations, could you talk a little bit about being on location, not really having to imagine via blue screen or being on some set, you know this amazing backdrop and how that informs your performance?
Kwanten: Yeah, look I’m not a method actor but this one was, in a bizarre sense, very much sort of method acting, and we were shooting in sort of sub-zero temperatures on a very tight schedule with none of the bells and whistles that even a normal size film would have. And that worked to all our advantage, you have to kind of come together as a crew and as a cast to get through this experience and you harness that kind of energy and what you end up with is a film that was shot in small town Omeo and is now seeing the light of day. And you know we had our Hollywood premiere yesterday so for a film to get that far, you have to be working your butt off.
I definitely want to ask you, I really enjoyed Legend of the Guardians, you obviously have this project, you have a certain TV show on HBO, what’s the last year been like for you and how is it affecting what you wanna do in the future?
Kwanten: The last year, in fact probably the last two years for me, has just been absolutely electrifying. I pinch myself more than a couple of times every day and just sort of think how effing lucky I am to be in this position. You know I’ve definitely had my fair share of setbacks and hard times, but they kind of only inspire me, more than the triumphs, you know the amount of people that told me I can’t do something, that is gonna get me more riled up than the people who told me that you can make it happen. You know every sort of rung I head up the ladder, I’m just sort of proving more people wrong I guess. Without having a cross to bear, it’s more just I have very high standards for myself and my career. The show has afforded me many opportunities, it has a nice level of class to it and then beyond that it has a legion of very loyal fans.
Kwanten: I am
Could you talk a little bit about who you play in that film and what it’s about?
Kwanten: Yeah, I play a character called Joe who finds out at the beginning of the film that his love of his life has been cheating on him, and his roommates played by Steve Zahn and Peter Dinklage, sorry I’m getting the “wrap-up” but I’ll just finish this, they pretty much kidnap him for lack of a better word and throw him into this world of LARPing, which they’re very much into and I don’t know if you know what LARPing is but it’s that Live Action Role Play which they did a little bit of in Role Models, and then this LARPing game sort of turns very real and people start dying left and right. Again, my character has to sort of find the cojones to stand up to this abominable force and try and save the day.
American or Australian accent?
Kwanten: That’s American. In fact, Red Hill was the first time I’d done an Australian accent in 8 years. I’m so used to hearing “Action” and jumping into a form of an American accent.
I completely understand. Hey listen, thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it, and congratulations on the movie.
Kwanten: Thank you so much mate. You had excellent questions by the way.
Thank you, I appreciate it. Have a great day.