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In Part One of Fango’s exclusive chat with actor Ryan Kwanten, the Australian star talked about the making of his violent modern day Western RED HILL, which opens this Friday in New York, LA and Texas. Though RED HILL writer/director Patrick Hughes subtly infuses his debut film with nightmarish elements right out of an ’80s slasher flick, it’s a bit of a stretch to call the film horror. The same, however, can’t be said of Kwanten’s past, present and future genre work, which includes SAW creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s 2007 box-office stiff DEAD SILENCE; his current stint on HBO’s vampire hit TRUE BLOOD (where the actor plays the randy Jason Stackhouse); the just completed KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM, for WRONG TURN 2 director Joe Lynch and the upcoming THE FAMILY, where the boyish actor will play, of all people, the heinous mass murderer Charles Manson in a career-challenging change of pace.
FANGORIA: Your first major starring film role was in DEAD SILENCE. What went wrong on that one?
RYAN KWANTEN: It went through a bunch of different script changes. The script that I originally signed on to do was vastly different to what ended up on screen. I’m sure there was some sort of studio politics going on as well; [director] James Wan had trouble there. But you win some, you lose some, and that was my first time greenlighting a studio film, and I was still very much getting my foot in the door and establishing myself. I am a lot more careful in making every decision now; my decisions are based more now on what inspires me creatively.
FANG: Jason Stackhouse seems to have really found himself in the last season of TRUE BLOOD.
KWANTEN: Oh, has he?
FANG: Would you agree with that?
KWANTEN: I think he’s still finding himself. He has a long way to go. But he’s getting closer, that’s the thing. He’s not going backward, and a majority of his life he was, so it means he’s moving in the right direction now.
FANG: Could you tell us a little about season four?
KWANTEN: Absolutely nothing, my friend, and it has nothing to do with confidentiality. I have no idea if it’s even being written yet. And it really doesn’t do me too many favors to know too much in advance. I’m like Jason, just acting in the spur of the moment.
FANG: What do you owe TRUE BLOOD’s growing popularity?
KWANTEN: Yeah, it keeps building and building. I’m not one to surmise. I think that the first season, people were almost-not ashamed to watch it-but they were watching it in private, by themselves. Once people started finding out like, “Wait, you’re watching it as well?” then they just started talking about it. And by the beginning of the second season when our ratings jumped exponentially, people began to start embracing that dark side together, and it made it more mainstream, communal, to the point where it’s like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah come on over. We love that show too!” But it was all based out of people discovering it singularly.
FANG: Did it take a while to get comfortable with the nudity? Is that secondhand now?
KWANTEN: I’m not quite always comfortable with it, although I always know I’m in very capable hands with [creator] Alan Ball and company. It’s not like our writers are ever exploitive.
FANG: What can you discuss about director Joe Lynch’s KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM?
KWANTEN: Joe was f**king amazing. He’s one of the coolest guys I’ll ever meet. The story of my character in the beginning of the film is that, he finds out the love of his life has been cheating on him, so he goes back home to his flatmates, played by Steve Zahn and Peter Dinklage, who kidnap him, for lack of a better word. They take him to a local larping game-live action role playing. Things start getting a little weird with the game, traces of blood… and then it suddenly goes from a very comical sort of film into more of a horror world. It dances that fine line between horror and comedy. You have blood, gore and out and out shock value. I’m very excited to see how that one turns out. We are hoping to release it at Comic-Con next year, which would be a superb launching pad.
FANG: Are there a lot of neat demon FX in the movie?
KWANTEN: Yeah, we used the guys from Spectral Motion [HELLBOY 2, BLADE: TRINITY]]. Joe called in a favor from Guillermo del Toro to get them. That was great too, not having to deal with a bunch of CGI stuff, which was better for us as actors to be able to act with live creatures, like the 14-foot beast I’m up against called Abominog. It’s crazy.
FANG: What are your career goals at this stage?
KWANTEN: I’m actually well beyond where I thought I’d be at this point, so if I get struck by lightning when I walk outside of this building, I’d die a happy man right now. But I’m just continuing to push the creative boundary; I’m playing Charles Manson in a new film called THE FAMILY, I’m doing a romantic comedy next year, another one in South Africa for [director] Bruce Beresford…
FANG: Who is the Manson movie for?
KWANTEN: That’s for Scott Kosar, who wrote THE MACHINIST and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake.
FANG: He’s directing it and writing it?
FANG: What’s the angle? It’s been told so many times.
KWANTEN: Yeah, but it hasn’t been told overly well, for lack of a better phrase. We really want to try to humanize the victims. The little that we do know about Manson has been amplified; we’re starting to find out a lot more than we actually did at first. Scott’s done an abundance of research already, and I’m well on my way to following him. I realize there’s a lot more to the madness of Manson than meets the eye, and there’s a reason why he had so many followers, and why they’d do anything for him.
FANG: You’re going to be visiting some pretty dark places on that one. Are you looking forward to that? Nervous at all?
KWANTEN: I go into every project with a sense of a little bit of nervousness because you care about it, so there’s that air of trepidation. This is a real-life iconic figure that you have to bring to life and do it with authenticity and believability.
FANG: Would you sit down with the maniac himself for research, if given the opportunity?
KWANTEN: Sure. I’m a masochist of a different sort [Laughs]. It would be sort of like Clarice Starling going to visit Hannibal Lecter!
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