Hey FOOLS! Prester John and I had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of interviews with some of the cast of Animal Kingdom. For those who are unaware of the film it is a fantastic Australian film about a family of criminals and a young man who tries to survive amongs the lives being lived around him. You can check Prester John's review here. So here is the first of the interviews that we did, this is with director/writer of the film, David Michod, and actor Sullivan Stapleton who plays Craig in the film. Michod had a quiet nervousness which I really felt like I could have been talking to Spike Jonze, everything was thought out and softly spoken but I felt like I could talk for hours and Stapleton was your typical Aussie bloke who loved a joke and a chat, there is no doubt after all the interviews that all involved are now good friends and you'll see it in the banter between them. After some pleasantries are explained here is what went down.
CineFOOLS: Can you explain the name of the film Animal Kingdom?
David Michod: On a certain level it's painfully obvious. It's the whole, kind of, survival of the fittest story and a story for me, in a way, about... I wanted the movie to be an entire ecosystem of different kinds of people and the effects that criminal activity have on that entire ecosystem. But, you know, obviously at the centre of it is a thing about a kid navigating a kind of moral terrain, forming a moral compass in a morally corrupt world. How does that happen and where do you end up.
CF: How did you come up with the idea of Animal Kingdom?
DM: It kind of came out not long after moving to Melbourne. Discovering what, for me then, was a big new city. A really great, a very different... you know Sydney and Melbourne feel quite similar to me now just because I know them both so well but back then having moved from Sydney, Melbourne felt like a mini Chicago. There was something really great about that and there's so many great true crime books about all of the stuff that...all of the things that had happened on these streets that were so near to me at the time. Really early on I... particularly a couple of books by a guy named Tom Noble who used to be the Chief Police Reporter at The Age and they were just great books about crime in Melbourne in the 80's and early 90's. I just started building what I hoped would be a big bad Melbourne crime story.
CF: How'd you get involved with the project Sullivan?
Sullivan Stapleton: The film was already cast, which annoyed me because it's a Melbourne story that had been cast with mainly Sydney actors.
DM: Rubbish! That's bullsh*t!
SS: Oh besides Guy Pearce, cause he's famous. It was one of those jobs that the hype had gone around and we'd all heard about it. I'd heard it was cast and I thought "What a shame!" and the asked me to come in to test for a cop, originally I had said no. I was like "I don't want to be a cop, I don't want to be an extra." Then I thought about it and after digging my tenth hole or something that day, building some other schmucks house I said "alright I'll be a cop." I went in for this cop and it was it was the first time I'd met Dave and we played. He obviously had no idea which cop I was going to be so he'd tell me "mean cop...nice cop...good cop, bad cop" and we mucked around and it was fun. So working with Dave, it was..I thought yeah definitely I want to be apart of this regardless and then they called me back for Craig. So I went in there and had a bit more fun, I think I scared the sh*t out of some dudes that were going for a commercial. There were these poor guys, as an actor, going for a commercial and they heard me screaming and yelling as Craig. They must have been thinkg "Are we... do we have to do that?" Also we went for a lunch, I don't know whether this is myth or not so we can ask David. But we went for lunch with the casting agent and she had a salmon salad or a chicken salad or something but it went past my nose and I said "Don't eat it, it's off," she said "No it's fine," and I said "It's off, don't touch it!" She was like "No don't worry about it, I won't get anything." I said "No.. come here" and this guys was standing over to the side and I said" Come over here mate. You've got to send this back." He said "There's nothing wrong with it," and I said "Send it back mate, take it to the kitchen!" So then he came back saying "sorry it was off." I told her to pick something else and I got the girl another salad, it was no big deal but apparantly after we'd walked Dave said to her "I think that's Craig."
DM: It was true, there was something about Sully that was, kind of, he'd been doing little bits of testing and working on things but it was that lunch that we went out there, basically just the way that Sully was completely and shamelessly ordering to deal with stuff it was just, I felt like I was watching Craig. If he were a builder/actor.
CF: So you're part of comedic relief in the film as well as being one of the scariest roles in the film. How do you get inspiration for that. Is it like you said, you're just naturally Craig?
SS: I left the intense stuff to Ben (Mendelsohn), and Frechy (James Frecheville) was all fresh eyed and working his way through it, so then I just tended to muck around. Try to bring some fun to the set because if I didn't no one else was going to. When it got to the point where we were going around the table and working on it, I was actually sh*tting myself about Craig cause it's easy to play a character as a cliche, it can just become an angry drug addict charactature. So we said that would boring, so we tried to give him some heart, some emotion and that was the hard part. Discovering and trying to place Craig.
DM: That is definitely true. It's one thing to say Sully had characteristics that I thought were very appropriate for the character but once you make that, once you identify that thing and then make that decision to cast that person you then need to know that that person has the whole skill set and the ability to make minor adjustments so that we can then go "Okay, I know that you're kind of in the ballpark that I'm thinking about, but now we actually need to do the work." Cause as Sully said the character could have been played all sorts of different ways and a few other people did really good tests that were just a little too crazy. Where there's something lovable, I think, about the character that Sully and I have created together.
CF: As a film that is written and directed by yourself how does it feel seeing the completed film? Spending so much time invested in a project can it be a different feeling to what you'd expect when you started working on it? I hope that makes sense.
DM: It totally makes sense but the answer probably won't. Which is, I feel good about the movie now, I feel proud of it on a very real level but on another level I have no idea what it is. I just know that all the way through the process I was trying to do the things that intuitively felt right and on some technical or intellectual level felt right, you know, you keep doing that and you chuck it out to a few people and then bounce back and think I need to...and by the time you get to the end you feel like you've done the work that needs to be done but I lost the plot one time.
CF: So the win at Sundance couldn't have helped, how has that helped your career? Has it made you even crazier?
DM: Yeah a little bit crazier, definitely a little more anxious. Weirdly, as great as it's been and in a way we couldn't have hoped for a better reception there, it also suddenly makes me start...
SS: It puts more pressure on you.
DM: Yeah it puts more pressure on me. Suddenly it makes me feel like i'm doing meetings and phone calls than i'd like to be doing. Sometimes i'd like to have my options narrowed right down so I wasn't having to be the master of my own destiny.
SS: That was where we first saw the momentum of it, of the buzz. Everyones talking about the buzz around a film and we knew about it. But when we got to Sundance you saw it, it was pretty electrifying. It's great to be a part of something that is this good and that people love and react to. They wanted to see it but it was sold out and people were harassing us for tickets. There was one guy that actually said to me "Can I come and see it?" and he'd taken care of us at one of the bars and I said "Yeah, yeah, yeah" and a friend of mine saw this and I didn't mean it but it just came out really wrong "I said yeah, actually hang on. You can't it's sold out." But I laughed as I said it and I bet he thought "You f*cken *sshole!" I'd just realised that we can't get tickets. It was nice to be able to say "I'm sorry, it's absolutely sold out." Which was a great way to be.
CF: So what's your next project?
DM: Sully would like to be in it, what ever it is. He keeps telling me every day. So for that reason I'm thinking of doing a film with only women.
SS: I could do that, it'd be a great twist.
DM: No I think it'll be a film with only women and monkeys.
SS: I could do that too.
DM: I actually don't know, there's a few things I'm mulling over but until Animal Kingdom is out in the world I almost can't think about anything else.
CF: Well thank you so much for your time. Best of luck to both of you.
So there you FOOLS have it, Animal Kingdom opens 3 June in Australia and 13 August in the US so check it when you can. It is a great film. Check out the trailer below and keep tuned for interviews with Ben Mendelsohn, James Frecheville, Luke Ford and Jackie Weaver.