NIck Jongerius & Charlotte Beaumont | THE WINDMILL

PrintE-mail Written by Jonathan Anderson

With The Windmill (formerly The Windmill Massacre) having screened at this year’s FrightFest, we were lucky enough to catch up with director Nick Jongerius and star Charlotte Beaumont to discuss the film.

STARBURST: What’s the premise behind The Windmill?

Nick Jongerius: I’m terrified of windmills! I was born on a street called ‘The Saw Windmill Street’ and there was this really creepy mill 500 metres away from my house. That fascinated me. When I moved to where I live now, I noticed there were other windmills as well. It was like they were following me. I thought maybe I should do something with this – I was contemplating what to use for my feature debut, and I thought windmills. A windmill’s like a machine, I can work with that, and work it into a story.

It’s very Dutch as well…

Nick: That was also the aim, to find these Dutch icons like clocks, dykes and the windmill, and then drench them in blood, basically!

You’ve turned your nightmare into everyone else’s now…

Nick: Let’s hope so!

We watched the concept trailer on YouTube, and the style and setting have changed slightly in the film. What was the thought process behind that?

Nick: When I did the concept trailer I didn’t think of the story in depth, I just did it. I cooked up this short story – it was a study of violence. I’m fascinated by violence, how people come to violence. I thought let’s try to do that. Then it got picked up, and then I was like what am I going to do now? People are demanding something! And then I started to think ok, if I’m going to make a film, although it’s the horror genre, I’d like to put in as many of my own interests and fears as possible. For example, the Japanese character in the film is because I’m a big fan of Japan. The culture and the way they handle death. Also, I was aiming for a Grimm fairy tale as a big thing for the film. I didn’t just want to make a down and dirty horror film – I wanted something else in it as well. I was very nervous about the fact it changed so much as the concept trailer was so popular – it’s been viewed two million times. I hope people don’t think I’m taking the piss, it’s not the case. When I worked it out the story changed, the setting changed, almost everything changed except for the windmill.

The main character is Australian – what’s the reason behind that?

Nick: We – Chris the scriptwriter and I – were talking about giving the characters interesting backstories. For me, the girl, an innocent girl on the run from her past, connected with me. I thought, “Okay, if she’s on the run let’s get her from a place far away” – and then Australia came about. It’s not that I have a fascination with Australia or anything like that – it’s based on distance.

How did you prepare for that, Charlotte? Is that the first time you played someone from another country?

Charlotte Beaumont: I think it is, actually. I’ve done things in an American accent before – quite comfortably in plays and stuff – but in film and television usually I play someone from England. I’ve never even touched on Australian before, but I loved the challenge. It also made me really nervous. When I met with Nick he said “She doesn’t have to be Australian. If you’re not comfortable with it, you can make it anything you like,” but I thought let’s just commit to it and do it. I feel quite comfortable with accents. If I could nail it and really do the work for it…

Did you listen to the accent, or round up your Aussie mates?

Charlotte: I found all the Australians I could! There’s a brilliant accent website called I.D.E.A. and they’ve got loads of dialects. You can listen to loads of people talking about their lives in their accents, so I listened to that. Then I got a vocal coach to record every single one of my lines in the Australian accent and I’d just listen to that over and over again and just talk in an Australian accent all the time. Once I got those lines down and I knew the sounds, I started improvising in it so I could just talk in it, which was helpful. There was some improvisation on the day and if I’d prepped less I don’t think I could’ve… it’s really daunting! We also had Noah Taylor with us, who was Australian. So I could ask Noah “Does that sound dodgy?” and he’d be like, “It’s 90 per cent there!”

In the film, everyone seems to be punished for their sins. Do you believe in a purgatory or a Hell?

Charlotte: I don’t think I do. Everyone’s version of sin is very different. In some people’s version of Hell you can go there for having sex before marriage. It’s a hard one to judge, so I’m not going to commit to any form of purgatory. I feel like if I don’t believe it then it won’t happen to me!

Nick: I chose the Grimm fairy tale story because I thought if I take this too seriously then it will be a story about ‘do I believe in death or not’. Choosing the Grimm fairy tale approach, it’s more about good and bad – good versus evil – then it is about believing in purgatory. If you ask me personally, I think there is something there, but it’s probably totally different to what we would expect.

Charlotte: I think karma is also a big thing. It’s paying for what you’ve done and getting what you put out there back. I’m quite a big believer in karma.

Nick: Also with The Miller you get a chance to redeem yourself. Takashi is genuinely sorry about what he did. That’s your ticket out of here. If you’re not willing to face your worst secrets then The Miller gets you!

Charlotte: That’s nice about Jennifer, actually, as Jennifer never really shows repentance. She’s such a loving person, she cares deeply about people, yet this one terrible thing she’s done just highlights that not everyone’s perfect.

Nick: The shot of Jennifer and her father is one of the things I’m most proud of. Scene description removed to avoid spoilers!

What’s the future for The Miller? Will there be a sequel or franchise if it’s successful?

Nick: Probably. Let’s see if it’s successful first. If there is a demand then there will be another Miller story, but I’m not sure if I’ll be ready to direct something like that again. I really liked the Abe character and that is somebody I’d like to explore more. For the moment I’m working on a sci-fi thriller and the script is already finished. That for me is the next step, to get away a little bit from being a horror director! I’m comfortable with horror as I love it, but as a filmmaker I’d like to explore other things as well.

Do you have a favourite icon or character?

Nick: Freddy Krueger. I’m jealous of the whole concept of A Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s so unbelievably unique and perfect. Using nightmares…

Charlotte: I’m a bit rubbish with horror films. I like being in them but I don’t have a strong enough stomach to watch them. The Miller’s my favourite character!

Have you managed to catch any films while you’ve been here?

Charlotte: This is my first day!

Nick: For me I thought the Karaoke Crazies was this perfect little gem. It’s not a horror film. It’s a beautiful little story, a little bit Jean Pierre-Jeunet.

Nick, you mentioned you’re working on a sci-fi thriller. Charlotte what are your next plans?

Charlotte: I’m still doing Broadchurch at the moment... Broadchurch Series Three.  That’s filming until October.

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