*Spoiler warning! This interview contains some minor spoilers for Green Room and the fate of a couple of characters*
If you don’t know the name Callum Turner just yet, you will do soon. After starring alongside Patrick Stewart, the late Anton Yelchin, as well as Imogen Poots and Joe Cole in Green Room, he’ll next be seen in blockbuster videogame adaptation Assassin’s Creed going toe to toe with Michael Fassbender. We asked Callum what it was like to work in one of the year’s best thrillers, written and directed by the incredibly talented Jeremy Saulnier, how he felt about his character’s (punk band Ain’t Rights’ lead singer Tiger) grisly end in Green Room, and got the lowdown on his character in Assassin’s Creed.
STARBURST: How did you get involved with Green Room? Had you seen writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s previous film Blue Ruin?
Callum Turner: Blue Ruin was the reason I got involved. It was kind of a bog standard process like most jobs. It’s never that exciting. You audition for something, and it was because of Blue Ruin that I understood the tone and the measured way of acting that Jeremy liked. So I just put that down on a tape. I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do and then I spoke to Jeremy on the phone and he was really interested and obviously I was just super excited to work with him. For me it was a no-brainer. The fact I’d seen Blue Ruin was my ‘in’ and made me understand what this film was going to be like.
Did you listen to any punk to prepare for being the leader singer of the Ain’t Rights? It felt pretty natural seeing you up on stage singing ‘Nazi Punks’.
It was my research. It wasn’t really a genre that I listen to a lot but I still have the Misfits and The Damned and the straight edge guys like Black Flag and Minor Threat. I listened to a lot of Bad Brains and actually only listened to that music while I was in the role and shooting. But it was really the physicality that excited me and getting to go and tear loose basically on stage.
That day it was Halloween we shot the performance. I was absolutely shattered because we went into overtime. I think we went about three or four hours over time that night. And I was still doing the same thing. It was an intense day.
It must have been a short shooting schedule. Was it a tough shoot generally? How was it working in confined spaces with such a small cast?
We shot it chronologically so actually it worked perfectly for us. The stuff that was on location was only exterior shots. We shot everything else in a studio. So the green room was all built. Ryan (Warren Smith) the brilliant set designer built it all from scratch. The stuff in the bar with the stage, that’s all a studio so they built all that. It’s incredible work. And it’s a low budget film so to do that is pretty incredible.
But shooting with everyone, it was incredible. I’ve made brilliant friends. I see Joe (Cole) and Alia (Shawkat) and I see everyone all the time. Obviously Anton was becoming one of my best friends. I shot another movie with Imy (Imogen Poots). I went to a festival with Joe. We really made such good friends. The producers I’m friends with. Jeremy I’m friends with. It was a really beautiful experience.
Because it was my first American film, it was kind of a touching thing too. And it was Joe’s first American film too so we bonded over that.
How did you feel about Tiger’s death? Did you have to do extensive work with the actual dog? Was there a lot of prosthetics involved?
All of the above. How did I feel about it? I hated it. Because I wanted Tiger to live on for ever and ever. Joe and I actually go together on the same page of the script. We were like, “Well it’s our first American film and we die on the same page. We’re brothers forever.”
It’s a puppet dog. It’s not an actual dog. Obviously there are actual dogs for the other shots. But when it was on top of me, can you believe it, it looks like a real dog but it’s a guy with his hand up a dog’s ass on top of me. Straddling me. on my face. It was pretty insane.
We were gutted. We loved the film but once you guys got out of that room, you were dispatched so quickly!
But that’s the brilliant thing that Jeremy does with the violence. It’s so sudden. It snaps you. Mark Webber’s character that gets shot with a shotgun, it’s just so brutal because it comes out of there like no one’s business. You’re like, “OK, he’s going to save the day” and then “Bam!”. It’s the same in Blue Ruin with the guy in the trunk when he gets shot from a distance. You think he’s going to kill and then “Bam!” - Jeremy’s the master at that. It’s literally keeping you on your toes completely and utterly.
How is it to work with Jeremy?
Jeremy is the calmest director that I’ve ever worked with. He’s so relaxed and in tune with his ideas and knows exactly how he wants to shoot something. It was all very precise. And then with the acting he lets you play. He really wants you to bring what you can to the table. And I remember this one moment with Imy. It was a shot of Imy just after she’d cut Eric’s (Edelstein) belly open. This one shot of her and she’s like crying so hard. Jeremy brings her down step by step by step by step. All the levels that she could do. Right down to her not crying at all. And he really just understood how to play with an actor. And looking at Imy, I was like, “Wow, that’s some of the best acting I’ve ever seen in my life”.
Looking ahead, what can you tell us about your character Nathan in Assassin’s Creed?
Nathan is an assassin and he’s the one who’s wary of Cal, who is Fassbender’s character. I think that’s probably all I can say. But he’s the one who’s sort of suspicious and not so sure about him.
How’s it been on your first blockbuster? Are you finished on it?
We wrapped a few months ago. It was amazing. Michael Fassbender is one of my favourite actors, and Justin Kurzel, I remember I saw Snowtown in the cinema in 2011 and said, “Man, I gotta work with that guy’. That was when I’d just started acting. So to work with both of them was a real pleasure and also they’re both just the nicest people going, and that set the tone for the rest of my career. If these guys are so nice, then why can’t anyone else be?
And also it was just so good watching Justin. I think Justin is maybe more relaxed than Jeremy. They’re both super relaxed people when they’re on set. I give them equal standing in the table of being relaxed.
It’s a different beast. It’s a huge film. But Fassbender and Justin they made their names in independent film so it didn’t feel completely like what I imagine a huge franchise film to feel like.
We read that you learned a lot about life from films. What are the films that have changed your life and made you want to get into acting?
A Shane Meadows film called A Room for Romeo Brass and it’s about these two kids that are just knocking around and then this guy, 24 or 25, played by Paddy Considine befriends them because he’s in love with one of the boys’ sisters. And then he becomes really nasty and he’s obviously crazy and it takes one of the boys’ dads to sort it all out at the end of the film. It’s a really beautiful, beautiful film and I learned from that film not to trust people that want to hang around with kids. When I was growing up, there was a few people that wanted to do that and I was always wary of them and wouldn’t get involved in those situations. But you can learn from anything. You can learn from Billy Elliot that as a working class kid you can do whatever you want. That’s what films do. That’s the beauty of films.
You mentioned Shane Meadows there. Who is top of your wish list to work with?
The list is endless. Some people are dead on the list. I still want to work with them though. I’m not giving up hope yet.
You mentioned two British films. Have you got a career plan? Would you like to do a mix of British and American films in the future or will you just see where the world takes you?
Just see where the world takes me. I don’t see any difference between British film and American film. For me, it’s about the filmmaker. There’s no way that Shane Meadows isn’t any less worthy than Jeremy Saulnier and vice versa. It’s just about working with interesting people and nice people and finding good roles and good stories to tell.
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