Q&A: Actor Christopher Denham on the Psychothriller “FORGETTING THE GIRL”
Camera-wielding protagonists have become a bit of a specialty for actor and filmmaker Christopher Denham; a familiar face from the likes of ARGO, SHUTTER ISLAND and SOUND OF MY VOICE, he co-starred in Barry Levinson’s found-footage environmental shocker THE BAY and made his directorial debut on a HOME MOVIE gone very wrong. FORGETTING THE GIRL, just released on DVD and Blu-ray by RAM Releasing, finds him playing a photographer who has questionable relationships with his subjects.
Denham’s Kevin Wolfe makes his living taking headshots for aspiring New York actresses and models, and has made a habit of asking them out, in order to help quash troubling memories of the death of his sister in childhood. As we observe his interactions with potential girlfriends Beth (Elizabeth Rice) and Adrienne (Anna Camp) and his assistant Jamie (Lindsay Beamish), who’s infatuated with him, it becomes gradually clear just how deep and dark his issues with women truly are. Also starring BOARDWALK EMPIRE’s Paul Sparks as a pervert who lives in Kevin’s building, FORGETTING THE GIRL (which you can win a copy of by going here) was directed by Nate Taylor from a script by novelist Peter Moore Smith. It’s one of two genre showcases for Denham’s talents this month; his second film at the helm, PRESERVATION, premieres at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival this month (see exclusive pics here).
FANGORIA: What was it that attracted you to FORGETTING THE GIRL?
CHRISTOPHER DENHAM: I’ve always been a big fan of the genre and was looking to do another one. It had been a while since I’d done a film of this kind, and when it came to me, I was immediately struck by the restrained, intelligent nature of Peter’s writing. I had actually read a book of his in college called RAVELING, a Hitchcockian thing that I was a big fan of, so this script and the chance to work with Nate seemed like a good combination of factors. Nate was an editor on a film I really like called KISSING JESSICA STEIN, and in general I sort of gravitate toward editors-turned-directors because they don’t waste much time with actors; they know exactly what they need to put it all together. And I was intrigued by the fact that he wanted to rehearse this almost like a play, so we did about a week, week and a half of rehearsals before we started filming, which was a great luxury that you don’t often have.
FANG: Was it a challenge playing a character who starts out directly addressing the audience, and essentially tells the story directly to us throughout the film?
DENHAM: I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but my background is primarily in theater, and I believe Nate was trying to find someone who had some kind of roots in the stage, where you can have those direct asides to the audience, so that it wasn’t this completely artificial, diagetic device. It felt familiar to me coming from doing plays, where you’re addressing the audience and all that kind of stuff.
FANG: We don’t really know how disturbed or dangerous Kevin is for quite some time; how did you find those different levels within his character?
DENHAM: Well, it’s hard to say without giving too much away, but it was important to me, and I think to Nate too—the most interesting thing about the script was the ambiguity of all these people. No one in the film is quite who they say they are, and the heart of it is that Kevin is essentially just a guy who’s desperately alone, you know? Setting it in New York, there’s sort of a Travis Bickle thing about him, but it starts in a place I could hook into, which is just that loneliness—he’s seeking a connection with someone—rather than blatant psychopathy.
FANG: Did you do any kind of research into the kind of photography Kevin specializes in?
DENHAM: Yeah, coincidentally, my best friend from Chicago growing up is a headshot photographer, and I did a little ride-along with him, I guess you’d call it. I went out and learned the cameras and the process, that daily grind.
FANG: It’s interesting that HOME MOVIE is about someone who’s very concerned with capturing the world on camera, and now you’re playing a person like that yourself.
DENHAM: Yes, and more and more, I think we’re seeing how our world is viewed through that prism of technology, and how disabling that can be. In fact, PRESERVATION sort of revolves around that general idea as well.
FANG: What is it about that idea that especially fascinates you?
DENHAM: I don’t know; I guess it’s because I’m a Luddite, and not a technophile, and it’s a little scary to me that I feel like a 90-year-old man sometimes. I’m really, sincerely trying to convince my wife to get a dial-tone rotary phone, but I don’t think she’s gonna go for it. It’s just so overwhelming that all these devices that are supposed to connect us actually make us so disconnected in many ways, you know? You see it on the subways now; it’s like, no one looks at each other.
FANG: What went into casting your co-stars?
DENHAM: Well, we were very fortunate to get our first choices for everybody. Paul Sparks is my favorite New York actor; I did another horror film with him, Andrew van den Houten’s HEADSPACE, a long damn time ago, and he’s so great. He always brings something very different to every role. Anna Camp is great too, and I think everybody responded to the fact that sometimes in horror films, you can get one-dimensional people, and the girls are just running around naked and all that stuff, and I believe they responded to the depth and ambiguity in all these characters.
FANG: On that note, do you consider FORGETTING THE GIRL a horror film, or a psychological drama with horrific elements?
DENHAM: You know, that’s what intrigued me; as a fan of the genre, those are the sorts of things I gravitate toward, the movies that sort of sit in between. The definitions are always arbitrary, like “psychological thriller”—I mean, what is that? I guess it’s just a horror movie without so much blood, and I suppose that’s what this is. Something where you’re invested in character, and it’s not necessarily about the splatter effects—but you do notice those effects as well. I think the most interesting thing about the film is that it does sort of lie between a psychological thriller and a horror film, and there may even be a small element of romantic comedy in there somewhere [laughs]. I think of it at the end of the day as a sort of Hitchcockian throwback.