Now playing in theatres is Joe Carnahan’s wildly thrilling The Grey (review here), which follows a small group of oil drillers forced to survive in the Alaskan wilderness after suffering a horrific plane crash. One by one nature – as well as a clever pack of wolves – begins to leave its mark on the group as they continue to face insurmountable odds stacking up against them.
Starring alongside Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Joe Anderson, Dermot Mulroney, Nonso Anozie, Ben Bray and James Badge Dale in The Grey is actor Dallas Roberts (currently playing a recurring character on CBS’s “The Good Wife”), who turns in an incredibly understated and elegant performance as Henrick, the quietest member of the roughneck crew.
Dread Central recently had the opportunity to chat with Roberts about his experiences while making The Grey, the challenges of making a silent character connect with audiences and some information on another genre-related project he has in the works- Shadow People.
The New York-based actor didn’t know if he had nailed a part in Carnahan’s harrowing survivalist tale for quite some time after auditioning; he discussed with us his initial thoughts on working with the director and the script as well.
“I’d been a huge fan of Narc, but I hadn’t seen Smokin’ Aces or The A-Team before I came onto The Grey,” expressed Roberts. “I didn’t meet Joe until after I auditioned since I put myself on tape from New York City and sent it off into the dark void that tapes go into; that was my audition. A couple of weeks had passed, and I hadn’t heard anything but didn’t really think about it until Joe called me and said, ‘Let’s do this- we’re going up the mountain, and you’ve got to come do this with me. It’s not going to be easy so I hope you’re ready.'”
“I was really taken with Joe’s enthusiasm for telling this story and the promise of an intense but once in a lifetime experience on a mountain north of Vancouver. The thing Joe loves to do the most in the entire world is making movies, and that’s a fun environment to work with. I loved his passion, his script, and I knew I was up for anything the minute we hung up the phone that first time,” added Roberts.
The actor, who turned in notable performances in recent films like 3:10 to Yuma and Walk the Line as well as AMC’s short-lived “Rubicon,” talked about the challenges of bringing a “strong, silent type” character to life and responds to Carnahan’s remarks regarding not needing a bunch of “pretty boys” for his testosterone-fueled film The Grey.
Roberts said, “Henrick was interesting to me because he’s not a guy I’ve ever played before. He says very little throughout the movie, and in this pack of ‘wild dogs’, he’s the silent one so I knew going into this that my biggest challenge was making a character resonate while not saying much at all. But that’s what spoke to me most about coming on to play Henrick- I wanted that challenge. Joe did let us improvise a bit, too, which I think helped make our characters feel really natural. We all bonded rather quickly on this set, and I think that shows throughout the movie a bit.”
“My only reservation about Joe saying he didn’t need ‘pretty boys’ for The Grey is that I’m hurt he doesn’t think I’m a ‘pretty boy’!” laughed Roberts. “As an actor, you dream about these roles that will take you on these great adventures, like flying planes or riding horses or going on an expedition, so I think I was just mostly excited by what we were going to have to face while making The Grey. Sure, it was blistering cold, and we were taking bets to see who’d drop off the production because of how intense it was, but at the end of the six weeks, we all made it through, and I had one hell of an experience shooting this little movie.”
Roberts went on to talk about his four-legged co-stars in The Grey, saying “I never got too close to the real wolves- in fact, the handlers kept encouraging us to not look directly into their eyes so as to not stir them up so THAT was a bit intense. But I can say that the animatronic wolves that we used were remarkable creatures; the paws, the LED lights – everything about them really – made it really intense when we’d shoot these scenes and you’d see them coming up behind you. That was fantastic to work with.”
With The Grey in theaters everywhere this weekend, we asked Roberts about another genre-related flick on the horizon for him: Shadow People with writer/director Matthew Arnold.
“Shadow People is about these three creatures based on a Pan-Asian myth who kill you in your sleep by taking your breath away,” explained Roberts. “I play a radio talk show host named Charlie who specializes in the paranormal, and I discover that some people can break the spell of the Shadow People and some people cannot. It’s got a nice creepy feel to it, and I think it’ll really get under your skin if you’re a horror fan. I think it should be coming out later this year.”
Look for The Grey in theatres now.
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