Interview: Richard Brake Talks Becoming an Obsessed Tattoo Artist in PERFECT SKIN - Dread Central
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Interview: Richard Brake Talks Becoming an Obsessed Tattoo Artist in PERFECT SKIN

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Over the past several years, Richard Brake has become a force to be reckoned with, especially in the horror genre, with his broad smile and distinctive voice that allow him to portray sinister roles with ease. He is known for playing the Night King in Game of Thrones, the malevolent Doom-Head in Rob Zombie’s 31, and The Chemist in Mandy. In Perfect Skin, Brake plays Bob, a lonely tattoo artist with an unusual obsession. The film is the directorial debut of co-writer Kevin Chicken and is set for a U.S. release after a successful run on the UK festival circuit.

I’m a big fan of the intensity Brake brings to every role, so I was thrilled to see him take the lead in a horror film. Ahead of the American release, Dread Central had the exclusive pleasure of talking with Richard Brake about Perfect Skin, how he gets into character, his love of British thrillers from the sixties, and a lot more! Read on to find out what we talked about.

For information on Perfect Skin’s U.S. release and more, you can visit the film’s official website.


Dread Central: I’ve seen Perfect Skin and I was mesmerized by it. The cinematography is stunning and it’s a very frightening story. Why did you want to be a part of the film?

Richard Brake: Thank you. I’m pleased you enjoyed it. I’m very proud of it. I think what drew me to it initially was the complexity of the characters, especially Bob. He wasn’t just some evil, crazy, torture-loving madman. In fact, I think there is something incredibly sad and very human about Bob. I really wanted the audience to feel some sense of understanding, maybe even pity for him. Considering what he does, that was quite a challenge. But I felt that was the heart of the film. If you were to read just a blurb about the film you’d think it was some kind of torture porn, like Hostel or Saw or something. But in actuality, it’s a much more complex character-driven film. I felt that the moment I read the script. It read like an early Hitchcock, or like one of those independent British films from the sixties like Peeping Tom. I love those films.

DC: Bob is a very fascinating character. The movie gives a glimpse of his backstory, but you still wonder why he has a cage in his basement. What appealed to you about Bob and how did you get the role?

RB: I often play characters that are incredibly damaged, shall we say. I’m playing a serial killer at the moment in a TV series, and when I work on his backstory there is, of course, plenty of abuse, abandonment, animal torture, and the usual signs of psychopaths. But I felt Bob was different. His motivation was much more about losing his ability to create art, to feel in control of his life. It’s all falling apart around him and what he sets out to do with Katia is a final attempt to regain some control and make one final work of art. There is something so human about Bob, something we can all identify with, or at least that’s what I felt and wanted to portray. So that’s what drew me to the character. He’s not a psychopath, but a man driven to do something people would view as psychopathic.

I was also reminded of something an English teacher once said to me when I was in high school. His theory was that Hemingway used his art to feel a sense of control in this uncontrollable world. So once he felt his writing was no longer any good and he couldn’t regain that sense of control, he felt there was no need to keep living, so he shot himself. Now that was just his theory, and I’m sure plenty of Hemingway scholars will tell me to piss off. But that stuck with me when I thought about Bob. He too is losing his ability to create art, to feel in control. That fascinated me about Bob.

I got sent the script by my agent and asked if I wanted to meet the director, Kevin. Like I said, I loved the script and the character, so I was more than eager to meet with Kevin. As soon as I met him, I knew I was in safe hands. His vision of the film was very much like mine. He’s a huge Hitchcock fan and he loves the British sixties art house thrillers like Peeping Tom and 10 Rillington Place. So after meeting Kevin, and Fiona and Cordelia, the producers, I knew I wanted to do the film for sure! In fact, I was offered something much more financially lucrative at the same time, but I so wanted to play Bob and work with Kevin, I turned it down. That’s how much I wanted to do this film. And I have never regretted that decision.

DC: You have some very intense, intimate scenes with Natalia Kostrzewa. You also embody a tattoo artist really well. How did you get inside Bob’s head to prepare mentally for the role?

RB: I love all the scenes with Natalia. She’s amazing. She’s so understated and so present. I had about a month to prepare before we started shooting, so I took a crash course in the art of tattooing. Mo Coppoletta, and all the tattoo artists at The Family Business tattoo parlor in London helped me immensely. I spent hour after hour shadowing them and learning everything I could about the art of tattooing. They were all very patient with the skinny actor hanging around the place for weeks. I just felt it was very important I looked as authentic as I could. I knew quite a few tattoo artists would watch this film, so I didn’t want to disappoint them. I don’t think anyone is going to let me near them with a real needle, but I think I did a pretty good job.

So a lot of my preparation was very practical. I also tried to learn all I could about body suspension. I was tempted to try it myself, but I just didn’t have enough time before shooting. And I was probably a bit terrified too! Other than that, I always spend a lot of time creating a history and mindset for the character. If I explained everything I did to prepare for a character, it would take up the whole interview and probably bore most people to death. So I’ll spare you (laughs).

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DC: Bob’s suspension scene freaked me out! Can you tell me how the scene was done?

RB: I can’t quite remember the details of how we did it. But I do remember it was incredibly stressful for everyone involved. I think it involved precise timing of the camera, lighting, tattoos, prosthetics, actors, just about every department. Also, remember this is a low budget film, so we really only had one shot to achieve it. It’s pretty incredible how it worked out. I have to say one of the reasons I love working on films like this is the level of talent and commitment of everyone involved is incredible. And no one is making loads of money, they are doing it because they love making films. It’s the same feeling when I make films with Rob Zombie.

DC: The artwork in the film is gorgeous. How long did it take for makeup and to apply all the tattoos we see in the film?

RB: That was by far the toughest part of the film. I was lucky, it didn’t take too long for me, but poor Natalia had hours and hours of tattoo application on some days. It was pretty stressful and tough on everyone. The makeup department did an incredible job under a lot of time pressure. We had twenty days to shoot this film. That is not much. They deserve a lot of credit. And of course, so does the design team at The Family Business Tattoo, who created all of the tattoos. I don’t think Kevin will make another tattoo movie anytime soon. Stressful (laughs)!

DC: I also really enjoyed your performances in 31 and Mandy. Bob isn’t as extreme and sadistic as Doom-Head and The Chemist is much more calm and philosophical. Which type of role do you prefer to play?

RB: I love playing all of them. I love the variation. Believe it or not, I was actually filming a series called The Royals when I shot Mandy. The Royals is this lightweight romantic comedy-drama. So one day I’m pretending to be this Italian Count who’s wooing Joan Collins and the next day I’m playing an acid-soaked drug manufacturing chemist delivering a mad monologue to the great Nic Cage. That kind of diversity is my favorite part of the job.

DC: I’m really looking forward to 3 From Hell. Can you tell me what else you’re working on?

RB: I’m looking forward to 3 from Hell, too! We all are. It was so much fun to film. I love working with Rob and Sheri. They are both so talented and such lovely people. Everyone is incredibly excited about this film. I can’t wait for people to see it. I have quite a few things coming out next year, including a crazy psychological horror film called Feedback. And of course, I’m very much looking forward to people seeing Perfect Skin once it’s finished its festival tour.

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