FANGORIA Presents “AXED”: Father Knows Best
Being the lead villain in a horror film is no easy feat for an actor. Do you play the strong, silent type like Michael and Jason? Or do you go charismatic and sly, like Patrick Bateman or Leslie Vernon? Considering that the tone and effectiveness of horror films hinge on solid, memorable villains, the task is daunting, and even with an intuitive director, miscasting can be the downfall of a genre film.
However, in writer/director Ryan Driscoll’s AXED (the sophomore release under the new FANGORIA Presents VOD/DVD banner; see here for details, and to find Fango’s Comcast collection on your VOD channel, search this way: Movies > Movie Collections > FANGORIA), Jonathan Hansler fills the shoes of antagonist Kurt Wendell with a surprising balance of insanity and quietness, emitting a more realistic and imposing take on the “dad from hell.” FANGORIA spoke to Hansler about his psychotic patriarch and a possible future with frightful films…
FANGORIA: In AXED, Kurt Wendell is clearly a despicable character. How were you able to grasp his identity? Was there anything about the character that you objected to performing?
JONATHAN HANSLER: Well, is Kurt despicable? His wife has lied to him. His boss has sacked him, probably to get with her. His daughter is plainly rude, crass, vulgar and tarts herself about, and his son is a pain-in-the-butt, effeminate wimp. Also, none of them really have a sense of humor, so rather like the beautiful satire in AMERICAN PSYCHO, they all deserve to die. Yes, [Kurt’s] unhinged, certainly. Extreme? Absolutely, but really a victim of “La Condition Humaine.” I can certainly relate to him, coming from a rather strict military family. We are all, in life, victims of our minds at times. But no, there was nothing I had an objection to performing. I love taking it to the edge!
FANG: Your performance is incredible, balancing dark humor, psychosis and delusion in spades. Was there anything beyond the script that inspired your villainous performance?
HANSLER: Thank you. Yes, there were many things [that inspired me]. I think if I am honest, sad though it is, a difficult childhood can help a role like this, which I had. Rather like Kurt, there were some Victorian moral values and quite a military upbringing but, as they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…
FANG: Playing a character that is both suicidal and murderous can be a horror show for an actor, but you seemed to embrace it. What attracted you to the role initially?
HANSLER: I have to say the humor. When I first read the script with Ryan, I instantly got it. I am a huge fan of shows like THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN, RIPPING YARNS and films like THE SHINING. Jack Nicholson has this edge I admire of being terrifying and funny. I love the blackest comedy, and my heroes in comedy are the darker ones like Peter Cook, Bill Hicks, etc. Again, there is a kind of Patrick Bateman there, mixed with an edge of Anthony Perkins, and soupcon of John Cleese. I trained in sketch comedy and do stand-up myself as well as being a professional actor for years, so I’m glad that the dark humor plays an important role in the film.
FANG: Would you consider any more roles in genre films or was your experience on AXED satiable?
HANSLER: Yes, please, the more, the merrier! In fact, I just shot THE DEVIL’S BUSINESS playing an underworld boss in league with Satan and have recently played a nasty piece of work in the movie that opens the next London Sci-Fi Festival, THE SEARCH FOR SIMON, with Monty Python’s Carol Cleveland and DEEP SPACE NINE’s Chase Masterson. So, yes, keep ’em coming, and as my great hero George Sanders once said, “A good character actor is virtually indestructible.”
FANG: Your scenes opposite Kurt’s family were really fascinating and as dramatic as they were intense. Did you rehearse with your co-stars to establish familiarity and tension?
HANSLER: This was a really tight shoot. I think the whole thing was shot in just 15 days with hardly any time for rehearsal at all. Generally, we just got on with it. Now with a cast of only six and a skeleton crew to match, trust me, you really get to know each other incredibly well! Anyway, thank you so much for your lovely comments. Now excuse me, but I just have to clean the blood out of my bath…