Best known for his roles as Alfred Pennyworth in Fox’s Gotham and ‘Pilot Smith’ in Event Horizon, Sean Pertwee is as prolific as he is versatile. One of Britain’s most popular actors he took some time to talk to STARBURST about spanning the television and film divide, and more specifically Dog Soldiers.
STARBURST: Does it feel strange to be talking about a film you made almost 20 years ago?
Sean Pertwee: Yes, and no. I’m proud of the film but I’m a little surprised about the longevity of its success. And also across the pond in America. I mean, I don’t understand what half the cast are talking about as they’re all northerners so god knows what the Americans think. People think they’ve discovered it over there and it’s become a sort of stalwart lycanthrope yarn.
Did it feel like you making something different and a bit special at the time?
Very much so. I remember I was working with some highbrow, serious actors at the time and they’d be off doing some gritty drama somewhere. And I’d be off doing a werewolf film. Everyone was more excited about that. It was a very exciting time. There’s been countless British horror films since then but it felt like Neil [Marshall] was the one who brought it all back to life.
We wanted to specifically ask you about the scenes from when you were attacked to when you were knocked out. What direction did Neil give you as we understand you’d also had a drink or two?
It’s well known now but wasn’t at the time! Things were going so well I suggested we experiment with brandy. Everyone knew. I wanted to be totally chaotic and I wanted to avoid it becoming like torture porn. I wanted it to be a mess, as I’m supposed to high on copious amounts of morphine and alcohol. Neil just said go for it. We did it and it was a joy to see it at the premiere as I didn’t remember exactly what happened.
It comes across so intuitive and spontaneous, which is a tribute to everyone in the scene.
We were so confident with what we’d achieved so far. With the location and the yomping to get there, we were just in it. There was an energy we wanted to continue once we made it to the house. It was important we kept it going and I think it’s a good scene and very funny. And also painful.
It looks like it was an intense filming process.
It was all shot chronological. That’s what gives the impetus and sense of urgency. It’s a real surprise when people die. And when they died they were flown off set that day and they were off, which created a real sense of loss.
You’ve worked with the same directors on several occasions, Neil in particular.
I love working with Neil and have done so again recently. After being away for several years in the states working on a massive production it always feels like going back to my routes working with Neil as you’re flying by the seat of your pants. He trusts me and I trust him. I know when he’s happy and I’ve always admired the fact that he knows the world he’s trying to create inside and out. And I greatly admire his conviction to the end product.
You touched on it there that you’ve been away making Gotham. Is it difficult to span the two worlds, coming back to make a low budget horror like The Reckoning or is it something of a palate cleanser?
It’s smelling salts. It’s what it’s all about. I’ve never under appreciated being able to work. Initially, when you’re going over to the States and you’re asked to sign a seven-year contract, it just fills with you with fear and abhorrence as the whole thing about being an actor was the excitement of never quite knowing what you’re going to do next. But then you get to work with some amazing people and it’s great. And it’s sad when it ends, but then to come back and go straight off to do The Reckoning with Neil is fantastic and it’s cleansing and what it’s all about. It’s a different world but makes you feel very alive, for good or for ill.
In television, it seems like you’re been quite mainstream but in film you seem drawn to small, interesting projects, such as The Seasoning House for example.
That’s a good movie and I enjoy working with Paul [Hyett – special effects, make-up artist and director] and it was his first feature. That’s what it’s about for me. I’m lucky enough to pick and choose but I probably make some strange decisions. After Event Horizon, I could have stayed in America but it didn’t interest me at the time. I like doing small, weird stuff which I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do.