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Chris Peckover

Wingman Wednesday

Levi Miller

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You better not cry. You better not pout. And here’s why…

The new holiday hybrid “Better Watch Out” is coming to town this Friday and it’s going to entertain the hell out of you!

A tongue-in-cheek riff on home-invasion horror, the film is a beautifully-wrapped package filled with shock, awe, and laughs. Bound to become a Christmas classic in the same way that “Die Hard” and “Gremlins” are considered for those viewers who are just west of weird, “Better Watch Out” is the earliest gift you’ll receive this season.

We recently sat down with star Levi Miller to discuss the range of his character Luke, how the creepiest people are sometimes those who don’t look the part, and what he admires most about the incredible actors he has worked with over the course of his career.

TrunkSpace: “Better Watch Out” is a really fun, entertaining ride from start to finish. How much of that fun translated to what you were doing on set every day? Was the experience of making the film just as memorable as it is for those who are getting a chance to watch it now?
Miller: To some extent for sure, there is always enjoyment that comes out of doing something so out of the ordinary. During filming there were plenty of memorable moments and I believe those moments reflect into the film itself.

TrunkSpace: We actually read in an interview with director Chris Peckover that something you did in the audition for “Better Watch Out” ended up making it into the film. Can you tell us about that because it is not something you hear happening very often?
Miller: When I first read the script for “Better Watch Out” I was highly engaged with Luke – he is a character with so much range. So I suppose I deeply focused on him and researched him for a long period of time until I understood him and his diverse personality.

TrunkSpace: It seems like some of those early choices you made for the character ended up becoming part of your overall performance. That being said, what was the most difficult aspect to capture regarding Luke’s personality? What took you some time to absorb and translate into your performance?
Miller: Luke is a very dominating character and throughout the film he becomes more and more dominating. Although I like to have somewhat of a control of a situation, being dominating is something that I found very crude and difficult to capture. But throughout filming I began to slip into Luke’s personality and I understood how to become that side of him.

TrunkSpace: One of the things we loved about your performance was Luke’s innocent, and yet at the same time, devilishly sinister smile. Did you spend some time working on those physical mannerisms and reactions? Did they have a particular influence?
Miller: The mannerisms portrayed whilst being Luke were mostly based off Luke’s personality itself. They kind of just blended in with my performance. I’ve always thought that the creepiest people are those that are known to be – but look the most innocent.

TrunkSpace: The film is opening today. Do you have any expectations about how it will be received because so far, the buzz has been really good – currently it is rocking a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes?
Miller: All I hope for is that audiences enjoy it and that they feel the emotions I intended them to feel.

TrunkSpace: Outside of performance, “Better Watch Out” is also a departure genre-wise from other projects you have worked on in the past. Was part of the hope in tackling a project in this horror/comedy hybrid territory that you’d start to steer your career in a new and more mature direction?
Miller: I never really thought about that. I’d love to play as many different characters as possible, but I much prefer to choose roles based on the films and the roles themselves rather than the career side of it.

TrunkSpace: Hugo Weaving. Reese Witherspoon. Hugh Jackman. Oprah Winfrey. These are just a few of the people you have shared scenes or a set with. Do you look at these experiences as not only work, but as bits of on-the-job education? Do you actively try to absorb knowledge from all of these costars who are not only successful, but extremely talented in their craft?
Miller: Absolutely, many of the people I work with along the way, cast and crew, have been in the industry for many years if not decades. These people have such a deep understanding and love for the craft and it’s an experience on its own having a conversation with them. But what a lot of these people have in common is how grounded they are – that’s something that I truly admire.

TrunkSpace: Something all of those individuals share is career longevity. Is there a particular actor who you admire for their ability to manage a successful career (and yet still push themselves through their performance) that you would be ecstatic to see your own career emulate?
Miller: There are many actors that I look up to and admire and Leonardo DiCaprio is one of them. Many of the roles he has played have been incredible. “The Wolf of Wall Street” is probably one of my favorite films. He is also a great humanitarian – definitely someone I admire.

Unwrap “Better Watch Out” today in theaters and On Demand!

Featured image by: Chris Wood with Michael Roud Photography

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Wingman Wednesday

Ed Oxenbould

EdOxenbould_Halloween_Wingman_wednesday

You better not cry. You better not pout. And here’s why…

The new holiday hybrid “Better Watch Out” is coming to town this Friday and it’s going to entertain the hell out of you!

A tongue-in-cheek riff on home-invasion horror, the film is a beautifully-wrapped package filled with shock, awe, and laughs. Bound to become a Christmas classic in the same way that “Die Hard” and “Gremlins” are considered for those viewers who are just west of weird, “Better Watch Out” is the earliest gift you’ll receive this season.

We recently sat down with star Ed Oxenbould to discuss why he thinks people will love the movie, the possibility of it becoming a seasonal staple, and why he likes getting back into the skin of the characters he plays.

TrunkSpace: You’re still at such an early stage in your career, and yet, the work you have done thus far is so diverse. Obviously “Better Watch Out” and “The Visit” are very different from some of your early work like “Paper Planes” and “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” Has it been a goal of yours to diversify as much as possible?
Oxenbould: I think it’s super informed to try a mix of different things. They’re all such great learning experiences and I feel like they made me a better actor just by purely gaining new knowledge – new experience. Also, I think it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s something every actor wants to do is – try everything. I don’t know, maybe I’ll find stuff that I like the most and I’ll do it the rest of my life. (Laughter)

I like to think that I’ve got a good mix of genres. I hope to keep going with that.

TrunkSpace: “Better Watch Out” is a genre hybrid and tonally there’s not a lot of movies out there like it, particularly when it comes to holiday films. It was such fun ride as a viewer and we’re curious if that feeling of it being a good time translated to the work itself, especially considering you had already worked with Olivia before.
Oxenbould: 100 percent! That’s what I loved about it. The script is so much fun. The film is so much fun when you watch it.

TrunkSpace: There’s a lot of unexpected twists and turns in the film as well. It’s difficult to catch audiences by surprise these days, but “Better Watch Out” pulls that off in unexpected ways, with one twist in particular.
Oxenbould: Yeah, that’s what I thought was really good because, it’s a really good one. I mean, it wouldn’t be a good movie experience if you went in knowing that twist and I think they’ve done a really good job. I think that people are going and getting surprised, because it is a very unique, surprising film. It’s changing. It changes every second. I think if people can have that surprised reaction, that’s exactly what we hoped for.

TrunkSpace: The film carries both elements of comedy and horror. Did one of those elements draw you to the film more than the other?
Oxenbould: I just think it was a combination of those two. I love it when people can really mix those two together. We just go on a journey through the whole film and I think that’s what makes it interesting – when you can watch a show and be laughing one minute and then wincing in fear the next. I totally think Chris (Peckover) is the one to have done that perfectly. I think it’s a perfect blend of both of those.

TrunkSpace: And those lighter moments sort of lull you into a false sense of security and then WHAM, you’re back to feeling uncomfortable.
Oxenbould: Yeah, it’s great. It definitely amplifies each thing. I feel like, when you’re getting scared, the funny seems funnier and the scary seems scarier, which is great. Just being able to amplify those moments – I think that really makes it a better movie.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, was there a particular moment or scene where you felt inhabiting Garrett stretched you as an actor?
Oxenbould: There wasn’t one particular moment. I think it’s just that the overall character was so great and remarkable for me. I think he had such a great character arc and we really developed a lot in rehearsals. He starts in one place and goes through a crazy, crazy kind of change because of the experience he goes through, which is kind of life changing and overwhelming. Ultimately, it just completely changes him as a person and it’s great to play a character like that.

TrunkSpace: And from what we read, the character Garrett wasn’t in the original draft of the script, right?
Oxenbould: I’m not 100 percent sure. I do know that he was originally a chubby, Puerto Rican kid because that’s what he was when I read it. When I read the script, I was initially going for the role of Luke. I was only going with Luke in mind, but in the back of my head I always thought, “Man, I’d love to play Garrett… if only he wasn’t chubby and Puerto Rican.”

TrunkSpace: What was it about him that first peaked your interest?
Oxenbould: I loved his sense of realness. And I think he has the best character arc in it.

He had some great moments, which would be really challenging and great to play as an actor. To get to play those and get to put them on screen – it was really fantastic.

TrunkSpace: We know that you wrapped the film nearly two years ago. Is it unusual to be sitting down and talking about the film again as if it was new, when in reality, you’ve already moved on to other roles and characters?
Oxenbould: I always think it’s great when you get to do press and you get to kind of get back into the skin of the character. You spend so much time playing them, they just kind of become a part of you. You make this fictional character a part of yourself and it just sticks with you.

TrunkSpace: Just before we spoke we hit up Rotten Tomatoes. “Better Watch Out” had a 92% ranking at that time and a lot of people were saying it’s the next perennial, unexpected holiday classic like “Die Hard.” When you were shooting it, did it feel like it had the potential to have that kind of long, extended shelf life that people revisit?
Oxenbould: You know, I think that’s almost the general theme with it, being more of a cult hit – more of a cult classic. I would say that was the overall feeling, that this would have a long shelf life. I think that Chris did an amazing job in creating it, writing it and bringing it to screen. I hope that people love it as much as I do.

TrunkSpace: We discussed career diversity at the start of our conversation. Looking ahead, you have some really heavy dramatic work due up, including “Wild Life.” Was a role like that a welcome turn performance-wise seeing it is a departure from some of the more genre films you’ve been working on? Is it important to keep highlighting different aspects of your abilities?
Oxenbould: I mean, if it doesn’t work out that way, then I’d gladly take whatever. I think that would be great, because I feel like you wouldn’t get typecast. Also, it’s really enjoyable as an actor because you get to play a whole bunch of characters. The character that I played in “Wild Life” was completely different to Garrett, although they were similar to me in the way that they have things that I would never do, and that I would never say. It’s great to get to experience all of that and that’s honestly, that’s why I do it.

Oxenbould in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Photo by Dale Robinette – Still Photographer – © 2014 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TrunkSpace: Does that put you in a position to approach finding a character in a different way? Was finding Garrett a different journey than finding Joe from “Wild Life?”
Oxenbould: 100 percent. And, obviously with each rehearsal process, there’s a different way of developing your character.

I don’t have a set way. I kind of follow what the director wants and what kind of movie it is. But, yeah, 100 percent, Joe and Garrett I developed completely differently.

TrunkSpace: Are you hard on yourself as an actor, and if so, where?
Oxenbould: I think it changes project to project. I like to push myself and give it my all. I’m relatively tough on myself, but I like to think that I could always to better. I always feel like I’m pushing and pushing.

“Better Watch Out” unwraps in theaters and On Demand this Friday.

Feature image by: Sally Flegg

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Wingman Wednesday

Chris Peckover

ChrisPeck_Halloween_Wingman_wednesday

You better not cry. You better not pout. And here’s why…

The new holiday hybrid “Better Watch Out” is coming to town this Friday and it’s going to entertain the hell out of you!

A tongue-in-cheek riff on home-invasion horror, the film is a beautifully-wrapped package filled with shock, awe, and laughs. Bound to become a Christmas classic in the same way that “Die Hard” and “Gremlins” are considered for those viewers who are just west of weird, “Better Watch Out” is the earliest gift you’ll receive this season.

We recently sat down with writer/director Chris Peckover to discuss his incredible cast, tapping into the mind of a preteen, and why filmmaking is similar to brain surgery.

TrunkSpace: What has your overall journey with “Better Watch Out” been like, because from our understanding, it took some time to get where you are today with it, right?
Peckover: Oh, yeah. I haven’t even talked to anybody about how long it took to get made. I started working on the script in 2013, so it’s been a long journey. Unsurprising and unrare in movie world. Just from finishing the movie last June, it’s finally coming out, what, 16 months later?

It’s been fun. It’s been fun seeing the movie find its feet with audiences, and considering that it premiered at Fantastic Fest last year, it’s really been gaining steam over the past year as more people have watched it and have been talking about it. I feel like I might not get to see something like that happen again, where people are still talking and excited even more.

TrunkSpace: And your cast is stacked with these incredible young actors whose own careers are blowing up. They all have these huge projects coming out, which in a way, really extends the shelf life of your movie.
Peckover: You’re right. We shot the movie in Australia and we have all Australian actors. The only two non-Australian actors were the two parents, Patrick (Warburton) and Virginia (Madsen). In hindsight, I think we found the four best teenage actors in Australia at the moment. Very, very lucky.

TrunkSpace: Levi Miller knocked it out of the park with this amazing mix of innocence and lock-your-door-crazy in his performance. Having him as part of your film must have been a gift to your vision.
Peckover: Dude, in hindsight, writing a 12-year-old character who had to hit so many different parts of the spectrum, we were really shooting ourselves in the foot thinking that we were going to pull that off. We read about 200 boys for the role and Levi was the only one…

I think it’s going to be hard to express just how rare what Levi was doing was. He’s the only actor of everyone who we read, of all 200, who brought this creepy sexuality to his role, which was so important because our movie is about this 12-year-old, weeks away from turning 13, and he’s finding his tastes. Finding what he likes. The premise of the movie is that he wants to hook up with his babysitter before she leaves for Pittsburgh, even though she’s 18 – way older than him and yet he wants to try to kiss her and so on.

A lot of the 12-year-olds who we read, they were either playing him cutesy or just mean and devious. Even in the audition room, Levi brought this sexuality that you just don’t see in 12-year-old boys. 12-year-old boys are not thinking that. They’re certainly not putting themselves out there like that in front of a bunch of adults and a camera. That’s literally the most terrifying thing you could do as a teenager and yet he oozed this confidence. Nobody else came close to that.

TrunkSpace: And the great thing about the part is, it wasn’t only a gift for you. This role has probably allowed Levi to be seen in a way that he never would have been seen before. It felt like a game changer for his career in terms of future role possibilities.
Peckover: With “Pan” and every movie I have seen him in, he kept playing this same character. It was the awestruck boy. “Oh my god, this is amazing! I don’t know what to say!” And listen, it was through no fault of his own. A lot of people write 12-year-olds as this window into some new world.

 

TrunkSpace: As adults we forget what it’s like to be that age.
Peckover: You forget that when you’re a 12-year-old you’re dropping F-bombs constantly, you’re thinking about sex and drugs and loud music, and as soon as the parents turn their backs, you’re a totally different person. I was definitely one of those kids. (Laughter)

Around sixth or seventh grade, I feel like everyone has this feeling where it just hits you suddenly. You’re like, “Oh my god, adults don’t realize how much smarter I am than they think I am. I can get away with murder. They don’t know it.”

In fact, when we first all got together and read through the script together, I remember asking Ed (Oxenbould) and Levi, “I don’t know if I’m getting this right or I’m just remembering it incorrectly, but this movie is about how adults patronize 12-year-olds and don’t really treat them at their maturity level,” and they both slammed their heads against the table, like, “Yes!” It was nice to know that the movie would strike a chord with even kids their age. Especially in movies, they’re all very proper and tidy and boys.

TrunkSpace: With the film due out on Friday, does it feel like you can finally step away from it creatively? Does it feel like it’s finally off your creative plate, so to speak?
Peckover: When it was locked, it became very clear that there was not any money to do anything else and it was done. It’s never been a burden of, “Oh, I wish I could do this, I wish I could do that,” because really, and this is a testament to the producers for really trusting me, but if anyone asks, “So when’s the director’s cut come out,” this is the director’s cut. I got everything I wanted.

That being said, I’ve had plenty of burden in the past year and a half because I burdened myself. I’m OCD about everything. It’s like, “Okay, the baby’s been born, but is it going to walk out of the house without banging its head against the wall?” I’ve been trying to help guide it some, but really, there’s nothing I could possibly do to really have any major effect on how it’s accepted now. Now it’s outside the house. I get to watch from the window, gripping the curtain, hoping he crosses the street okay.

TrunkSpace: Sticking with the baby metaphor, you actually got a chance to have few play dates with the film before seeing it go off on its own because you did the festival circuit with it, right?
Peckover: Yeah, I’ve been to a ton of festivals. I’ve watched it in foreign languages with subtitles in foreign countries. Something that really surprised me was, it’s always a little scary doing a movie that’s tonally mixed like this where it’s funny, but then sometimes it’s really horrifying, and then sometimes it’s just thrilling and exciting and adventurous. And then other times it’s really taboo and uncomfortable. We did a bit of a rainbow in this movie, and the fear is, depending on the audience, it just totally has different effects on people.

I’ve probably been to about 20 screenings at festivals now with the movie and I’m always shocked by how identically people respond. Any filmmaker is really anxious and afraid of, “Am I worth spending money on and can I make a good movie?” It really boosted my confidence watching people watch this movie. When I intended for people to laugh, they laughed. When I wanted them to be quiet, they were quiet.

Before I was going to be a filmmaker, I wanted to be a brain surgeon. It’s kind of the same thing. Where you’re using a scalpel and you’re crafting, you’re saying, “I’m going to make people think this and I’m going to make people think that.” It’s so rewarding to be in an audience and to be just watching this organic collection of unique people and yet they all get in line and react the way that they were intended to react. It’s really “muahahaha” powerful.

“Better Watch Out” unwraps in theaters and On Demand this Friday.

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