This Friday, July 20, INTERVIEW WITH A HITMAN, action star Luke Goss' latest effort (and only his second British movie), is released in select UK cinemas. I can't review the film yet as it's embargoed, but here's the official blurb and trailer:
Trust no one. Feel nothing... Never lose.
This is the mantra that has helped a ruthless Eastern European assassin rise to the pinnacle of his profession. Raised in the harsh slums of Romania, Viktor knows the value of life more than most, which makes him the perfect killer. But after being betrayed by the very men who made him, he must fake his own death and escape to London. Here he joins a new gangster family and finds his rules are again put to the test in the midst of a vicious underworld power struggle.
Viktor is now better, faster and more ruthless than ever before. With the secrets of his past refusing to fade away, an encounter with a dark beauty turns his world on its head and offers him the chance for a new life. But can he ever escape the existence he was born into? It is not long before a deadly threat from a past he thought long buried surfaces and he is forced to change his path. It is time to face that which cannot be forgotten.
A couple of weeks ago, I hopped on the phone with Luke to discuss the film, his thoughts on the British film industry and more. It's the second time I've had the privilege of speaking to him (the first is available HERE) and it really is a pleasure to chat film with an actor so passionate and serious about his craft, not to mention so enthusiastic about well-defined characters. We drifted into rather heavy spoiler territory (apologies), but it was great to go in-depth with his character and share our interpretations of the story.
LUKE GOSS: Adam, hi.
BRITGEEK: Hi, Luke, how are you?
LG: Hello. Ain't It Cool, right? I like that site, a lot. Have we spoken before?
BG: Yeah, we spoke about PRESSED, about six months ago.
LG: Oh yeah. Okay, cool, nice to talk to you again.
BG: Yeah, and you. Well, congratulations on INTERVIEW WITH A HITMAN.
LG: Did you see it yet?
BG: Yeah, I saw it yesterday and really liked it.
LG: Oh, thank you. I like it too. I was happy with it. I think it's a really kind of an interesting picture. When I first saw the first cut it was getting there, and then we all sat around and we had a lot of notes and I saw the new cut and I think it's kind of cool.
BG: Absolutely. I remember you mentioned the film when we last spoke and you actually compared it to PRESSED as a drama, as opposed to an action film of which you're quite synonymous, and I agree, I think, like PRESSED, it's an internal story and focuses on a character's evolution as a human being.
LG: Yeah, I mean for this I think it's even more of a character piece than PRESSED. For me, I think it's more stylistic and I think from a guy's point of view – and girls – it's quite a melancholy movie, and I liked it because, unlike PRESSED, which was definitely good at what it was, but it probably could have done with a little bit more money and I think it was trying to have some pay-off that maybe didn't show up, but at the same time [is] still really well done, but this film I think is meant to be the size it's meant to be. Again, it's not modest, it's kind of edgy-stylish, if you know what I mean, but it's very melancholy, which I really, really enjoyed.
LG: I think the hitman feels authentic. I mean I hear about a movie and I see the word 'hitman' and I'm interested, I want to know what it's about. It's kind of a thinking man's version of that normal story that we get to see with these assassin kind of things.
BG: Yeah, it's certainly quite a dark story.
LG: And the fact that love is a catalyst within the ramifications of, I think it's kind of really unusual to put that element in a movie about a hitman, I think it's a really smart script and I was happy with the movie. I actually really think it's kind of cool.
BG: So what actually attracted you to the character of Viktor?
LG: I guess it was just because he's quite a wordless character, so I knew immediately [that as] soon as you don't really say a great deal for long periods of time … it would be challenging. I also loved … the end. It was like thinking, 'How does this man ever become redeemable? How does he redeem himself in any way?' But at the end of story, I kind of felt some kind of sympathy for him, which felt like a debate to me, I'm thinking, 'Well, it kind of feels like I shouldn't, but I do,' and that twist at the end with Bethesda, I didn't see it coming really. And also with the director really being a valid part of both the title of the movie and the interesting kind of voice-over and narrative throughout the film, everything that's there feels quite valid, you know what I mean? It feels like it should be there, and it's not sensationalising anything. Every character that's there is there for a reason, I think. It seems, I don't know, like a thinking person's watch.
It was just an enjoyable read. I remember reading it, I was sitting there drinking a glass of wine, and I was kind of lost in it for a while and I felt just, I don't know, a loneliness when I was reading it, and I thought, 'Wow, I'm feeling this from the page,' so I just wanted to see if I could make him seem kind of stoic in a cinematic sense, but let it be driven by loneliness or, if you like, isolation and almost a dysfunction, as opposed to just trying to look cool, and hopefully we pulled it off.
BG: Yeah. I think it's good when you have to think about a film once you've watched it, or even during, because there's not enough films being made today, I don't think, that really connect with you and once the credits have rolled, you actually have to sort of digest what you've just seen.
LG: Yes, it's like when people keep saying, 'Well, what do you want people to take from this film?' Like, whatever they want, but as long as they’re actually saying, 'Well, should she have done this or shouldn't that,' or, 'Man, I guess if he didn't have this kid, blah-blah-blah,' whatever the debate would be … It's nice that you say... hopefully it will just inspire a couple of conversations after the movie finishes rather than, 'What do you want to get to eat?' I hope so. I'm glad, brother, I appreciate it, thank you.
BG: What I really liked, again comparing the film to PRESSED, there are brief moments in INTERVIEW WITH A HITMAN with just your character by himself and there's no dialogue, and like you said, your character is a man of few words throughout the film, but I think in these more intimate moments, they're far more telling of him as a character and the changes in his mindset, than in the scenes he shares with other characters where he's putting on a more cold and calculating front.
LG: Yeah, that's that thing, that's why I said about wanting to generate a stoic kind of energy from him based upon necessity or even just thought process or just discipline in a self-preserving way, both emotionally and physically, but also for his own demise. He lives with the concept that somebody could be wanting him as dead as much as he has to do that to others. There's no real room for him to stand out, it's a constant calculation in his life. I think this one is more of a character study than PRESSED, but I definitely enjoying making it a great deal, and so much so that the producers and I, there's another movie we're planning on doing in November.
BG: Oh, excellent.
LG: I'm happy with it.
BG: There's a really great scene where Viktor's taking a shower after finding out that Bethesda's pregnant and he holds the gun to her head while she sleeps, and I think that's a really pivotal moment with the character and his evolution, because it's kind of the moment he's in a way humanised, and he realises that this almost instant escape or exit strategy that he's literally grow up with is not the right direction to take.
LG: That's a great observation and that's what's so nice about making a film and then I speak to someone like you, a journalist who's watched the movie, and then you're illuminating – from your observations – that moment, and that's exactly what I was trying to achieve and the film-maker was trying to achieve, and it's like he finally has to have that epiphany and realisation, and his life just became instantaneously obsolete, like it's over; it's not effective any more.
LG: It's simply not effective and there is no escape from being human, and it's obviously been a part of him and it just simply has risen to the surface now and there is no debate, and I think love to him has been something that's only proven to be painful, and I think, yet again, it's the one thing he's afraid of. But then he's quite a strong man, I think, and, I don't know if you picked this up, but he kind of makes a decision where he's okay with it, you know, he's gonna do this, even though he didn't know he was part of [Bethesda's] plan … I kind of wanted him to have a shot at life, but obviously he should pay a price for his actions and he does.
BG: Yeah, it's certainly quite a shocking climax.
LG: Did you see it coming?
BG: I didn't, no. I was thinking of different ways I had inklings for, but none of them the way it did turn out, so that was pleasantly surprising.
LG: Oh, that's nice.
BG: Or not so pleasantly surprising for the character.
LG: Yeah, the good thing is though, for me when I first watched it, I knew it was coming obviously, but I got the genuine feeling I didn't want that to be the outcome, but you're kind of forced to accept it.
BG: Yeah, exactly.
LG: Which I think is always good in film, you know?
BG: It keeps you on edge.
LG: Yeah, I mean if you're given a conclusion that you know makes sense, but you're kind of [like], 'Fuck it, I don't want their demise now,' you kind of get to the point where you're invested in the movie, but it's not a debate because that's what you've been delivered, you're kind of forced to accept it.
BG: Yeah. I think that's a testament to the script and the performance of that character when you become invested in that character so much to the point where you don't want the end to be that way.
LG: Right, exactly. I'm hoping that people feel that way. It's going to be interesting to see how the film is received.
BG: Definitely. Now I once read somewhere that you enjoy playing antiheroes the most because they have so much depth. I'm inclined to agree because often heroes and villains can be quite one-dimensional, but I think with antiheroes, they simply wouldn't work as characters if they weren't well written, and in the case of Viktor, seeing him as an antihero, he really does have a well defined character arc.
LG: Yes. You see his back story. It's always nice when the back story is not just in the mind of the actor [and] the audience gets the centre of that, so they carry that with them, and that's why I decided to play the scene with Sergei where I kill him. I said to the director, 'Just so you know, this is heartbreaking for me and my instinct if I'm acting truthfully to the scene and how it feels to me,' 'cause I don't substitute, I'm basing it one-hundred percent about how I feel about the scene, I said, 'I am devastated by this. I'm devastated by the fact that I would [have] bet anything that he wouldn't be the one [who] shows up.' He might be asked to and I'd accept that, and he may come and say, 'Look, I'm going to have to do this at some point, but you've got to get out of town, you've gotta go, you've got to get out of here,' but to actually just relinquish all kind of courage from his mind is devastating to me ... And that's why when I cried, when the tear's dropping out of my face, I said that way when people see me later in the story, they'll know that that's in there, that's what's going on. He may look contained, but that's what he carries with him. Thankfully he was happy with that choice.
BG: So INTERVIEW WITH A HITMAN I believe is only your second British film in your career?
LG: Yeah, two now.
BG: Two, yeah. You do a lot of work in the United States and Canada, so what was it like coming back to England for production?
LG: It was nice. I'm at the point of my career where I'm kind of waiting I guess for that British work that's out there. And that's what's happening, younger film-makers [who] don't really give a shit about the band are like, 'Well, I like him in this film and I liked him in that film and I'd like him to be in my film,' and I think that's what's happening slowly. Being in a band fifteen or twenty years ago or whatever it was is irrelevant, but being back now with younger film-makers in the UK... I think our talent here is huge, both on and off-screen, we've got some of the best technical crews in the world and wonderful actors. It's just nice being back, and also I've been known here a long time and I get treated ridiculously nicely [laughs], so it was just nice to be in my home country for even just a few weeks, but it was still really lovely. I was here for a month and it was shooting a project here rather than just... normally I'm here occasionally for promotion, but very rarely now 'cause obviously the studios normally fly people over to the States. I saw people; friends, family, just hearing the accent, silly things like that, just hearing people speak with the same accent every day was just a treat. A real treat. It's things that you wouldn't even think about, but when you're away for ten years and you hear it, there's just something really lovely about it.
BG: Yeah. The little things.
BG: So what are your thoughts on the current state of the British film industry?
LG: I'm kind of mildly aggravated about it because I just don't think there is enough. I don't think the incentives are good enough for film-makers. I think there's not enough incentive tax breaks; the price of permits and getting permission and the red tape and getting a street blocked off. You'd never get a police officer to do that here because they'd think it was below them. Look at the days of Pinewood when it was huge and the old British film industry was massive. Don't get me wrong, I think we have amazing, amazing talent, but I wish we had a bigger presence as far as what's being released right now. It's just frustrating, I guess, I just don't think it's assisted by the government, I guess. But it should be more assisted than it is.
BG: It's great to see the film get theatrical exhibition over here. Last time we discussed – when I spoke to you in January I think it was – the strengths of the home entertainment market...
LG: Yeah, I remember that actually.
BG: I think it presents a really great opportunity for those fans of yours in the UK who know you best from your musical past to kind of catch-up with your career as an actor.
LG: Yeah, I mean, you know how hard it is now to get anything out theatrically.
BG: Oh yeah.
LG: It's really difficult, and on studio movies, and this is a select release, so I guess they've gotta go look for it, but at the same time I just think it's a, like you say, good opportunity for them to do that, but I think most of them are fairly aware, but for me it's more a case of the people [who] don't have a clue, that something like this may be the first thing they see me do and I'm happy with that, it's still a good introduction either way, you know?
BG: Yeah. It opens the doors for them to see the rest of your work.
LG: Yeah, yeah, whether it'll be the HELLBOY stuff and the bigger movies or even some of the funnier ones or whatever, who knows. Film is great because with a film like this you find yourself with a demographic that you didn't even have before. I don't think it's just a boy's movie, I don't think it's just a person's movie, I don't think it's like a dude flick, it's just kind of a thinking person's flick. I don't know if that's accurate, maybe I'm confused here, but that's how it feels to me.
BG: Oh no, I absolutely agree. So the film was written, directed and produced by Perry Bhandal, and it's his first feature, so what was it like working with him as a first-timer?
LG: It was good. He has a definite vision. I was working with someone who wrote it, produced it and directed it, so he had a very, very passionate mission and he's kind of steadfast in that belief, and I think the trick is just to, I guess, be as gracious as you can and committed as you can equally, and as an actor you've got to also know that you have some experience to bring to the table and find that wonderful kind of meeting point of strong opinions for the better of the project, for the betterment of the project, and try to assist him as much as you can and be available and to be present and to be conscious of the ideas and things that might work better or whatever, and I think we found a really good blend, and I think, at the end of the day, the credit has to go to him because he did write it and he did direct it, so I think he deserves anything that he gets from this, so hopefully it will lead to more work and more opportunities for him, because he's the writer and producer of this film, and obviously the director, and that's a great deal of contribution right there. First-time directors you have to keep your eyes open and try to be their ally, that's the best way to say it for me, be their ally and be there for them and try and make [them] the best they can be, and not strut your shit [laughs] and stamp your feet, you've got to be a team player with a first-time director because obviously they've got talent to be there in the first place, but there's obviously stuff they don't know.
[At this point we had to bring the interview to a close due to time.]
LG: Adam, I just want to say one thing: it's nice to talk to you again, my friend.
BG: It's really great to speak to you again, Luke.
LG: Always good to speak, and I've got four more coming out and some other stuff, so we must make sure we do this regularly.
BG: Absolutely. Thanks a lot, Luke.
INTERVIEW WITH A HITMAN is released in select UK cinemas on July 20, and on DVD and Blu-ray on August 27.
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