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By Christopher Stipp

The Archives, Right Here

I’m awesome. I wrote a book. It’s got little to do with movies. Download and read “Thank You, Goodnight” right HERE for free.

And now, you can follow me on Twitter. Find me here, my oh so original name on the thing is Stipp so come on and follow my stray ramblings. I’m really digging being able to follow such luminaries as Not Henry Rollins, Not Gene Simmons and others who aren’t the real celebutards they lead you to believe they are. It’s Web 2.0! Catch it!

Now, before we get into the interview with Julian Morris of DONKEY PUNCH I have some things to give away.

Specifically, I have 5 copies of the Buena Vista Home Entertainment release of BLINDNESS starring Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo. I also have a metric ton of posters featuring the image to the very right so if you’re looking to spruce up a cheery room here is your opportunity. For those who are unfamiliar with the film’s premise it is as follows:

From acclaimed director Fernando Meirelles (”The Constant Gardener”) comes this extraordinarily intense and gritty thriller that will change your vision of the world forever. Led by a powerful all-star cast featuring Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo and Danny Glover, this unflinching story begins when a plague of blindness strikes and threatens all of humanity. One woman (Moore) feigns the illness to share an uncertain fate in quarantine, where society is breaking down as fast as their crumbling surroundings. Based on Nobel Prize-winning Jose Saramago’s novel - let “Blindness” lead you on a journey where the only thing more terrifying than being blind is being the only one who can see.

If you’re interested in winning a copy, drop me a line at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com. I can’t think of anything difficult for you to win one so we’ll make this a first come, first served giveaway. And, because of some issues of shipping to locales out of North America, we’ll limit this contest to our neighbors to the north and anyone in the continental United States. It’s not that I don’t love you nutty Europeans but tracking this stuff to make sure it gets to you has been a pain. Blame the postal system.

Now, on with the interview…

———————–

The thing about Julian is that he’s a great interview.

The man has a way with casual conversation that you wonder if he’s been doing this for a long time or if he’s just that sincere when he talks about what gets him excited with regard to his work. The first time I talked to him it was over some water at the Beverly Hills Hotel (a swank locale that is excruciatingly difficult to navigate into but reeks of people who have more money than I’ll ever see in this lifetime) and I was struck by his genial and affable nature. That’s why when it was he who I could talk to regarding his newest venture, DONKEY PUNCH, I not only said yes but I campaigned to speak to him; it’s just easier when you have a connection with someone, however tenable and dubious the tether, that this helps to kick start a conversation when you only have 15 minutes to talk.

You’ve got to be able and make the subject feel comfortable and when you’re doing it over the phone it’s almost like you’re rushing a relationship where no one has the time for witless banter. Julian, though, is a true gentleman in the sense he’s willing to share his thoughts but is willing to go that extra few inches and talk about what he’s really thinking. It may not mean much to you, those who are reading this, but for someone like me, who is stuck on the other end of the phone, it’s the difference between a long 15 minutes and a conversation you wish could go a little longer. To be sure, you’ll hopefully be reading another conversation between him and I in the near future.

Again, like last week, DONKEY PUNCH is in limited release and will be out on video in mere months.

JULIAN MORRIS: Chris?

CHRISTOPHER STIPP: Sir…

MORRIS: Good to hear your voice again.

CS: You too. How have you been?

MORRIS: The last time was the Beverly Hills Hotel, right?

CS: That’s correct. How have things been?

MORRIS: Since I’ve seen you last, things have been incredible. Social’s been great. Life’s great. Did a movie with Tom Cruise. Did, this one, DONKEY PUNCH. Played a doctor on ER. What else? Got another movie coming out this year that you would be interested in, called SORORITY ROW.

CS: Well, I had no idea that you were in this film. Zero.

MORRIS: What? You saw it?

CS: I’m having a copy being sent to me. I think it’s at my house today.

MORRIS: Great.

CS: I’m hoping to be able to watch it tonight. I’ve just culled a bunch of information about it and now I’m really amped to see it at least after reading everything about it.

MORRIS: It’s pretty out there. I’m really proud of it. I think it’s really different from movies that are being made for our demographic. It’s a smart movie. Incredibly disturbing but people get a kick out of it.

CS: How did it come across your table? And I only ask because I know because Ollie [Blackburn] is a first time director. This film was only made for less than a million pounds if I am to believe the reports.

MORRIS: Well, I loved Oliver Blackburn’s reel. I loved the short films that he’s done. I loved the videos he’s done. And when we were meeting to discuss the film – his insights into the character and his vision really excited me. And also with the way he directs, you would never believe he is a first time director. He directs with the confidence and also the ease of someone who has been doing it for decades. So, how I came about it was being in America a lot I was shooting this film Privileged and my agent called me up from London and said there is a script that I think you will love and initially I was being looked at for another part but I really like the character I play and when you see it you will understand why. He’s interesting. At the beginning he’s quite shy, slightly awkward, young man but with this huge internal to be the alpha male or at least within the respect of the huge chasm between the man that he is and the man that he wants to be and that was really exciting to play out. He does the famous Donkey Punch. How could I say no to that?

(Laughs)

CS: Exactly. That’s all I’ve been hearing about this technique. How was it doing the thriller/horror genre? You’ve been through it now with your other film…

MORRIS: CRY WOLF…

CS: So do you have this down to a science about what it takes?

MORRIS: I guess I’ve been lucky in that all the characters I’ve played have been exceptionally different. Josh is very different from Owen in CRY WOLF. And not only that, the movies have been very different. Whereas CRY WOLF is, I don’t want to say generic, but it was a very Hollywood slasher of it’s time and I think that a film like SORORITY ROW which I just did is like a remake of one of those 90’s films like SCREAM – a lot of that dark twisted humor running though it and DONKEY PUNCH is more intellectual and serious one. I don’t know that I would describe it as a horror film as much as fascist almost in it’s intensity of extreme thriller in the way STRAW DOGS was and I know that Pauline Kael, the terrific critic, she coined it “fascist cinema” and I think DONKEY PUNCH is more in that genre. Like Michael Haneke’s film, FUNNY GAMES, CACHE, etc.

CS: Speaking of the way the movie unwinds, I read that it was very unique in that it was almost shot in sequence.

MORRIS: Yes, the director was great. Some things were done on stage and that was separate, but it was all one location on the boat, either below the boat or on deck and did that in sequence setting up the character development.

CS: The old adage of you never shoot on water

MORRIS: You never work with animals or kids…especially in porn.

(Laughs)

You know what? I think it was surprisingly nice shooting on water. It was a gorgeous super yacht that was the kind that you see on MTV owned my wealthy people or huge rock stars. It was great fun. And also the fact that we were all on this boat in this relatively small space. There weren’t dressing rooms, never in trailers, a single green room. We would be there in our wet costumes when it was cold, covered in blood and it was intense. There was never escape of the characters or anyone else and I think that intensity comes through in the film.

CS: How was that? Now you’ve been on a few sets of this kind – this variety. What kind of challenges does horror, an intense thriller, like this present? What do you have to bring to a role to really get that kind of emotion across in your performance?

MORRIS: Well I think in any scene you want to bring realism. I think with the horror genre you tend to be looking at the emotion of fear a lot and particularly with horror and I think it’s true with all cinema, at least in the cinema I like to make and the characterization I like to make, you want it to be an incredibly empathetic vicarious experience for the viewer in a sense that I want the audience to empathize with my character plus I want them to feel what my character is going through. Any successful cinema, when you are feeling what that character is going through, when you are in that experience, so whether I’m running away from a nice bear I can cry wolf I want the audience to be running with me. I want them to get that tightness in their chest, their heart pounding or in this film – there’s a torture scene and I’m digging a knife in someone (I hope I didn’t give anything away but I think it’s fine to say) I want the audience to be torturing that character with me or at least going through what I’m thinking and what I’m feeling while I’m doing it. If I’ve done that successfully that’s great. If not, oops.

CS: And I guess on that point as well and something I want to bring back with your stint on ER for a few episodes, is the idea of ensemble acting. How is that working within a group, is there a dynamic of sorts that has to take place, whereas do you have to throw it back or forward to make sure you don’t overshine anybody?

MORRIS: Ensemble is great. I think when you are in the lead in something there is just so much what the audience sees but there’s a lot of you are on your own a lot just because of how the filming and the machinations of the filming takes place. When you are doing a scene with a lot of other actors it won’t always be with the same people you’ll be in your travel a lot of the time. You’ll be first in and last out. You’ll spend a lot of time by yourself. The experience is quite isolated. The experience is all good but it’s isolated. Ensemble acting you are with your cast mates all the time. It’s a different feeling. A great sense of teamwork and I think it helps that you are always with the other actors and feeding off them, bouncing off them, not just on camera but off camera as well so you bring that to the set as well.

CS: Being that it’s an ensemble, ensemble cast as well, all these things working against you, first of all it’s low budget, second it’s that it’s a first time director, third you are shooting this thing in 24 days. Were there really any challenging moments where people had to come together to get something done, i.e. go beyond your acting duties, or did everything go smoothly?

MORRIS: This is about two people, the producer, Angus Lamont and also the first AV, Barry Wasserman. I think both AV’s don’t get credit nearly as much as they should but they were really in charge of creating the atmosphere and space on set with which to work between the actors and the directors. They did a tremendous job. So, although we shot in 24 days it was intense. It was challenging. We were jumping in the sea which was probably pretty close to freezing and spent long hours – at one point we shot 24 hours straight. We never got the feeling that we were being rushed at all or forced to act on the nail. The space was always really terrific to work in and very comfortable. That said, the intensity of the drive and the excitement of working in such confinement both on the boat and in time, did create a sense of urgency and intensity and I think that comes through in a successful way and translates itself very well into the film.

CS: Looking at the finished product, what came up on screen, a lot of films try to mimic this, why does this one stand out? Why is this film getting attention?

MORRIS: Because it’s very real and realism works in a number of ways. It works well for the horror. The horror is this fantastic imagined horror. The baddie isn’t some supernatural being with crazy feet. It’s us. We’re the enemy. The other characters are the enemy. We are each other’s own worst enemy. My character is his own worst enemy. Because it’s so real, the audience can associate with them far more. And in that sense, the experience for them is more haunting and exciting. And the last thing is that it’s real. When these kids are on the boat, and they are young people, they are doing what any other young person would be doing or would like to be doing with their best mates, gorgeous girls, drinking a little bit, skinny dipping in the Mediterranean as the sun’s setting. It’s a crazy orgy. And up until the point of the donkey punch it is really the best of youth or the best of any fanaticized youth. After which these real people are confronted with an extraordinary situation and how they deal with it is probably how many young people would deal with it and try to get away with it. And it all goes wrong and leads to this bloodbath. Does that make any sense?

CS: What elevated this? From the very beginning you would think that if you were explaining it to someone they would be apt to say “Nah, this seems like just another teen thing” but what elevated it for you?

MORRIS: I think Oliver Blackburn is probably one of the greatest directors working right now in Britain and his vision was incredible. The cinematic devices he used, whether it was slow motion which was reminiscent of Peckinpah, STRAW DOGS, he drives this menacing destructive crushing atmosphere that’s on this boat and it is a great experience when you are watching it. It’s definitely nails getting right down to the knuckle.

CS: Julian, I know our time is short so let me ask just one more question of you. You are doing a lot of TV, you’re doing a lot of films now, where is your heart taking you? Do you want to have your cake and eat it to? Do you want to keep doing both? What’s on the horizon?

MORRIS: Yeah. I think the line now between great film and great TV is diminished. I think it’s quite easy to swim between the two and I’m just enjoying playing great characters and I want to continue playing characters that inspire me and hopefully inspire those that watch them.

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