Actor Brendan Parry Kaufmann Talks Aussie Horror
EL: What sort of personal experiences have you had with the Aussie horror industry as far as films you've auditioned for or films you might have had a small part in? Do you think the market is there but is being "misused" with so many Hollywood pictures doubling other countries but being shot in Australia (i.e., The Ruins, House of Wax, etc.)?
BPK: My own experiences, even at the level of horror films I've merely auditioned for, has been generally very positive, as the people who love the genre seem to understand that it's ultimately meant to be fun. There was one fabulously stupid exception – and no, in the interests of discretion, I'm not going to tell you what that was.
My first paid acting job was on Queen of the Damned – it had vampires in it; does that necessarily make it a horror film? Discuss, and give examples! It really was great fun and my first experience of any shoot so big. Absolutely fascinating to be part of the process, and from that moment onward, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
As an actor, it's always been my view that roles, regardless of what they are for, are a job first and foremost, and any opportunity to work is always welcomed. The genre, nature, and size of the film counts for less than the quality of the story and the skill of the filmmakers you might be working with.
To turn to the second part of your question, if I understand it right, I absolutely do NOT accept the argument that Hollywood (or Bollywood, or anyone else) misuses Australia by using it as a location, doubling for somewhere else. Excuse my frustration (because I've heard this idiocy too often from parochial twits down here), but I think that's just bogus. Australia – Melbourne and Victoria especially – has some amazing locations. Let's use them and give the local industry some much needed work.
To follow the logic of those who think that Australia should only ever represent Australia, Star Wars should have actually been shot on Tatooine, or Where the Wild Things Are should have been shot inside a boy's imagination, as nowhere else would do. How this could be done, even leading scientists don't know – but I understand that they are refusing to rule out "magic".
In all seriousness, this is a global industry, for God's sake. All that should matter to Australian film industry people – actors included – is that films are being made here, not whom they are being made by, or even what they are about. So long as the local talent are getting significant roles, the crews are getting work, and everyone is being paid properly, then roll camera. There's a nasty bigotry behind the sort of posturing that suggests that a Hollywood production is somehow less legitimate than the local product – even when the local industry cannot possibly hope to produce enough content to keep every actor or crewperson employed. Phew. End of rant.
And Australians go to see horror films, same as anyone else. Let's make them, too.
EL: Who or what do you think might be the salvation of Australian horror films?
BPK: There's no "who", I believe – I'd be wary of self-diagnosed saviours, or anyone mounted on plinth by popular acclaim. That can unravel very quickly with one poorly edited flop, but that's probably not an original insight.
I think what will sustain the industry here, including those who wish to make horror films, is an enhancement of conditions that allow more films generally to be made – with better protection for private money when it's risked on a venture and more incentives to attract investment. But the other thing that really needs attention is marketing and distribution – a lot of good films made here have disappeared because this wasn't given enough priority. And no, I have no idea why.
As far as Australian horror films specifically are concerned, I think that Australian filmmakers need to continue to seek out good stories, regardless of whether they are Australian or not – and keep taking the risks they have taken (as in the case of Wolf Creek and Saw) to get them made.
I think that Australian filmmakers are very happy to stretch, twist, or break conventions, which gives us a real creative edge – we need to keep doing that. Retaining that painterly, earthy viscerality you see in the best Aussie films generally works for me, too.
Oh, and casting me in stuff. That'll help immeasurably. No, really – it will.
EL: As an Australian, what would you tell the rest of the world about Australia and what it has to offer the film industry?
BPK: You'll get professionalism – at all levels. Your film will get made with a care and enthusiasm that will repay your confidence tenfold, regardless of what it is about. Treat us right, and we'll give you a bloody masterpiece.
EL: What are some of your favorite horror films? And what recent horror films, Australian or not, would you have given your eye teeth to have a role in?
BPK: As I said, when I'm looking to dive behind the seat and peep through my fingers, suspense and dread are the qualities I look for. Though this will doubtless appall your more "purist" readers (who will start looking at their watch if the cheerleader hasn't been reduced to the consistency of chutney with a bacon-slicer by the end of the first reel), one of the single most frightening moments for me in a film was the bathroom scene in The Sixth Sense. Know the one? When there is no sound and you see a figure over the kid's shoulder in the background, simply silently walking into and out of shot? I think I tore the armrest off the seat.
Favourites include anything from Hammer/Amicus with Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing – cheesy crap included. Those two gentlemen brought a gravitas and dignity to everything they did. The Wicker Man is still genius, as is The Exorcist. I have a sentimental love for silent and black and white horror films, too – for their sweetness and naivety, if nothing else. Whale's Frankenstein is magnificent, still – as are Murnau's Nosferatu and Faust.
I liked Bathory with Anna Friel; and I liked the original Japanese Ring series. Creepy as hell.
If we're fantasizing, to have a crack at Dracula remains an ambition as there is a loneliness there that has never quite made it to the screen for my money. And if anyone wants to remake anything Peter Cushing has done – with me instead – call me. And I would give whatever greasy scraps of my immortal soul I still possess to play Dr. Phibes….though to be honest, if it isn't going to be me, then for God's sake, make it Alan Rickman.
But the horror I'm most keen to see properly brought to the screen is more of the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Eye teeth will be removed with pliers to be involved in anything from that canon. Mr. del Toro, for my dentist's sake, I hope you're listening.
EL: Here's your chance to "sell yourself" to any possible casting agents who might be reading this – what would you like them to know about Brendan Parry Kaufmann?
BPK: My big opportunity! Well – if we can gloss over, for a moment, what desperate, self-serving puddles of need all actors are (myself included) – allow me to introduce myself.
Hello, Casting Directors. My, look at you. You look great – have you lost weight? That outfit is SO your colour. Drink?
Setting aside my quite reasonable ambition to be Christopher Lee when I grow up, I love what I do. It's the best job in the world. And nothing would make me happier than finding myself at either end of a chainsaw or a stake for the disgust, horror, and amusement of your readers.
But let's have this conversation over lunch when I'm back in LA in the next little while, shall we?
And I'm Australian. I'll bring beer.
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