Jason Behr Interview – SKINWALKERS

     August 9, 2007

Opening this Friday is “Skinwalkers” and it’s a new werewolf movie that had the creature effects done by the legendary Stan Winston. A little while ago I posted some behind the scenes videos from when they were shooting the movie… click here if you missed it.

The movie is about a 12-year-old boy who suddenly finds himself at the center of a battle between two warring groups of werewolves. One group of werewolves is sworn to protect him, the other group is trying to kill him — and the young boy’s mother has to find out why her son is at the center of the conflict before time runs out.

So to help promote the movie, I got to participate in some roundtable interviews with some of the stars of the film, and posted below is the interview with Jason Behr.

If his name sounds familiar or you recognize his face, it could be for his work on the show “Roswell” or possibly from “The Grudge.”

During the interview Jason explained why he was attracted to the role, what it was like to work with Stan Winston, what he has coming up and a lot more. If you’re a fan of Jason’s you’ll dig the interview.

And while I won’t transcribing the interviews that were done with Stan Winston, Shawn Roberts and Natassia Malthe, if you click on their names you can download the MP3 of the interview.

“Skinwalkers” opens this Friday at theaters everywhere.

Question: How are you?

Jason Behr: I’m doing good. I’m a little hot.

Q: I heard it was really hot on this movie.

JASON BEHR: That’s the rumor.

Q: It’s the summer and you’re in leather.

That’s the rumor, but don’t tell anybody. [Laughs]

Q: You usually play the hero, did you really go after a role that wasn’t or do you consider yourself a hero?

[Laughs] That was one of the biggest draws for me was that I’m playing the bad guy. It’s such a departure for me. It was something I’ve never done before. I’m doing all these sorts of things that I’ve always wanted to do I think as a kid and then as an actor. I got a chance to shoot guns and ride motorcycles and do all this insane wire work and stunts and just be a big, badass wolf.

Q: Can you describe your character in your own words?

Varek is the very alpha leader of this group of naturalists or purists. The movie is about two very different tribes of Skinwalkers. One, Varek’s group, is the purists. They have embraced that power and embraced that freedom and blood lust and they’re almost addicted to it. They believe that power to be a gift. The others, the wimpy wolves, they believe it to be a curse and they have suppressed that primeval instinct for centuries. So I get to play the big, badass alpha werewolf which was just cool for me.

Q: I heard you went to the zoo and really studied…

I did.

Q: How does that work? Does that really help you to develop your movement?

I just wanted to be as truthful as I possibly could to the material and to Stan Winston and everything that he’s done for the project. We started off with watching this documentary about the Sawtooth Mountain wolves and you get to see this incredible footage of these very free, very beautiful wolf packs. Beyond that, I wanted to go and see what it was like at the zoo in Toronto and it really did sort of polarize. It was a real reflection and representation of these two tribal packs. You have one that’s very free and then you have the ones that are in the zoo that I felt really bad for. I’m sure they’re well taken care of, but they were confined, they were suppressed, and they were reduced to this small place. They weren’t really truly free. So, it actually gave me a little bit more insight to really have empathy for them, but it also gave me a real clear vision of what these other guys are supposed to be and how free they were supposed to be.

Q: How was the werewolf sex?

[Laughs] The werewolf sex?

Q: Yeah.

It was fantastic. You should try it sometime. What a question! To be able to actually answer that would be pretty amazing. We had our teeth in, we had our eyes in, we’re out in the middle of nowhere, and literally naked.

Q: You’re following in a lot of great werewolf sex scenes. Other people have done it before so it’s okay.

Yeah. Well it was interesting. I’ll say that. I mean you had to be careful with the teeth because you could really take some flesh off with them.

Q: To what extent did Stan Winston’s make-up help you get into character? Was that a long, arduous process?

It was a pretty long process, but it did help sort of get into that mode. Stan is a legend. He’s been doing this for a long time. I figured if you’re going to do a werewolf movie, you might as well do it with Stan because he’s the best at what he does. Pure genius. He’s been wanting to do a werewolf movie since he was a teenager. He has a story about how he would go out on Halloween dressed up as a werewolf because he loved werewolves. It’s the reason why he got into this business in the first place and he’s never done a werewolf movie before. I felt like I was in extraordinary hands with him. His creation, his wolf suit, allowed us the freedom and gave us permission to play full out. When you put on the claws and you put in the teeth and you put in the eyes and you stand up, you feel like you’ve become something else. It gave you complete freedom.

Q: When you’re in that full make-up, do you feel a little immobilized? We’ve heard how sometimes if you put in the contacts, you can’t see anything anymore.

I will say that the vision was a little bit tough to get used to. You’re talking about contacts that fill in the entire eyeball pretty much. You don’t have a huge peripheral vision. It’s pretty small, but you get used to it. You sort of have to. But the suits themselves did allow for a lot of physical freedom and movement because Stan knew that we had to do all these stunts. I did as much as I possibly could with the stunts. We had a guy named Steve Lucescu who is one of the world’s best stuntmen. He would show me something to do and I’d come back the next day and say, “Give me more. Give me more.” I felt like a big, giant kid playing every day.

Q: They allowed you to do it then?

Yeah. They did. Absolutely.

Q: No stunt double?

No. I think there were some things that they had doubles for only because of time issues, but for the most part it’s all me, it’s all wolf, it’s all fun.

Q: Did you do any fight training beforehand to get ready?

I’ve done some stage combat stuff before so I’m familiar with that. As far as the training, they really didn’t give us a whole lot of time to really fully prepare for it. They gave us a real sort of condensed gun training. We needed to be safe but as far as getting familiar with the gun — and if you’ve seen the movie, I had some pretty heavy guns — they didn’t give us a whole lot of time to adjust to that. It was fast, it was curious, and we were left to instinct which I guess is what it’s all about.

Q: You were in “Roswell,” “The Grudge,” “Dragon Wars,” and now this. Is it your personal preference to lean towards sci-fi, fantasy, and horror or is it just the project that attracts you to it?

It’s usually based on a project by project basis. I’ve tried to balance it out with a lot of independent, character-driven pieces as well which I’ve been lucky enough and fortunate enough to do. To me, it’s always been first and foremost the character and the character within the piece and the story. If anything, I’m drawn to good storytelling.

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Q: Can you talk a little bit about upcoming projects you have?

I did a movie, “D-War,” that’s coming out in September. Then, after that, I have “The Tattooist” that I did in New Zealand. It’s about this tattoo artist who finds himself immersed in the Samoan culture and tradition of tatau and all the beliefs that go with it. And then, after that, I have a movie called “Senseless” that I did that’s coming out based on the Stona Fitch novel. I just finished a movie in New York called “Frost” which is another independent like “Senseless.” It’s a very character-driven piece about a coming of age story of a man in this 30s having an existential crisis.

Q: You’re really busy.

Yeah. Thank goodness, thank goodness. I love it.

Q: This story seems almost a coming of age story with the boy at the center of it. Can you talk a little bit about that and also there seems to be a heavy drug abuse metaphor in this?

I think Matthew Knight who plays Timothy is really a talented kid and that’s a lot of pressure on somebody to really carry that discovery and that moral compass of the piece. It is a coming of age story about him finding within himself the ability to really embrace his own power and to really believe in himself. As far as the drug metaphor, yes, it’s absolutely this addicted quality to that blood lust. That was something we all talked about and discussed before we started to shoot.

Q: You do have a lot of upcoming projects and you’ve done things in the past. What is it about scripts that jump out on the page?

It’s never one specific thing. Like I said, the biggest thing is the characters and what that character’s journey is. Sometimes you’ll find a really interesting, very captivating character within a mediocre story but you don’t really want to be a part of a mediocre story so you wonder if there is any way you can possibly make that better. There’s no one specific thing. I love challenges and I love to mix it up a bit and have the variety. I’m constantly trying to challenge myself as an actor and also allow myself to explore things that I’ve never explored before.

Q: Have you considered going back to TV?

Yeah. I think there are great stories that are told on TV right now. I think that the lines between television and film have become very blurry. It’s on a project by project basis.

Q: Was there anything you had to learn to do this? Had you done wire work before?

Never. I’d never done wire work before. Steve Lucescu, our stunt guy, our stunt guru, really wanted to make this exciting and new and do things that had never been done in the stunt world. I really wanted to and I took it upon myself to do as much as I possibly could to allow that to happen. But I had never done wire work before, never shot those kinds of guns before, and I certainly, sure as shit, didn’t put on a werewolf outfit before [laughs] so it was just a lot of fun. I just had the time of my life.

Q: How hard is wire work to learn? Is it something that is just natural, that you know when you start doing it?

I was the only person who really did it. Kim Coates, who plays Zo and is like my right hand man in the piece, did a few things here and there, but I think they saved most of the wire work for Varek because he’s supposed to be, of course, the biggest badass in the world.

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