Thursday, 1 May 2014

interview: Kevin Howarth (2004)

This second interview with Kevin Howarth, in April 2004, was probably done for Fangoria I suspect.
  • More Kevin Howarth interviews: 20032006
What has happened since we spoke last year?
"It’s a weird time because there’s been so much about The Last Horror Movie on the web and it’s been talked about on the IMDB and among people at festivals. I went to Fantasporto and had a really good time. All the organisers and people involved really looked after us - really friendly people. We got some press coverage down there, Julian and I, we did really well out of it - and then we picked up the Critics’ Award for best film. So that was good news. Coming on the back of winning Best UK feature at Raindance, that was great stuff."

Last time we spoke you were shooting Cold and Dark. How did that go?
"That was great. It was a very intense schedule. Timewise, it was a very short shooting schedule for a big, 35mm feature like that. It was a pretty low budget compared to American standards, but by British standards not bad. I haven’t seen too much of it apart from what I’ve seen when I went to do my ADR work. Andrew Goth is the guy who directed. He’s lovely, he did a film called Busted - that was the title in America - which I believe in England was called Everybody Loves Sunshine. A film with David Bowie and Goldie and people like that; that was his first feature and Cold and Dark’s his second feature.

"Luke Goss is the lead; the two of us have these roles that are parallel in many ways through the film. The character I play, Mortimer Shade, is Chief Inspector of the Vice Squad but he’s just so abnormal with regards to what a cop would normally be like. There’s something very quirky about him. I had this extraordinary wardrobe. You’ve got this cop who normally, if he was played on British TV, would be a hard-nosed vice cop - you can imagine who would be playing those kind of roles. But this guy is completely different and very peculiar so nobody knows too much about him. Matt Lucas is in the movie too and he’s great. Unfortunately we don’t have any scenes together but he’s a really lovely guy, very talented, and an extraordinary fellow."

Do we know when Cold and Dark might be seen?
"I heard from Andrew that it’s going to be in Toronto. I don’t know how to describe it. I know that most people who read Fangoria are real horror buffs. But it’s very strange because I love horror and I love horror films but I don’t particularly think of myself as a horror genre actor. It’s just that I seem to get these roles in these projects. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t particularly look at The Last Horror Movie as a horror movie. It’s a very quirky piece and you have to see it to understand what I mean by that. There are horrific scenes in it, really brutal, and I play this character who at times is chilling. Chillingly calm yet at the same time with this homespun philosophy on life that is just bizarre.

"But it’s very intellectual, it’s a very narrative script, there was a lot for me to say from the point of view of the narrative. That’s very unusual for a film. Most film scripts you get, there’s hardly anything being said because film on the whole is normally looked at as a visual art form, which is what it is. So it’s not often that you get a narrative-based film - and that’s exactly what The Last Horror Movie was. I was thrilled to be able to do that role and also I was really excited by the prospect, initially when I got it, of breaking the fourth wall and interacting with the audience. Which was, obviously, breaking a lot of rules of film-making and makes it very different. Like the first time anyone saw Michael Caine in Alfie. I do it but in a more horrific context."

Has anybody recognised you in the street?
"Not yet. They do when I go to festivals, after they’ve actually seen the film and when I’ve been in newspapers. As of yet, until we get released here in London, which is I gather at the end of June, but as soon as Tartan release the film and if enough people go and we get great word of mouth and they start putting it on more screens, I dare say people will start to recognise me. I dare say that will happen because I’m never off the screen! But going back to Cold and Dark, we’ve got a really good sales agent on there called Beyond, an Australian outfit. Hilary Davis - she’s been in the business a long time. They’re pushing that really hard and I’ve heard great news about the trailer that went very well at the AFM. It’s sold seven territories so far and thirteen were gagging for it. So it’s just a matter of the film coming together now. It’s still in post but very, very close to being finished, about another week to go and then it’s all done and wrapped up. They’re taking the trailer to Cannes again with some extended scenes. The first time it will be screened, apart from a cast and crew screening if they can get one inbetween, will be at the London Screenings at the end of June."

Cold and Dark features effects by Paul Hyett.
"I must say, I think Paul Hyett is an absolutely brilliant special effects make-up artist. It will be great one day to see him get an absolutely massive budget to work with so that he can do what he wants. I love to see people who are really dedicated at what they do and I can see the passion in him. An extraordinary guy. And the guys who worked with him on Cold and Dark were great guys. I’ve worked with Paul Hyett three or four times now. He did the special effects stuff on Whacked, in fact I think that’s where I met him. Then he was on The Last Horror Movie and he was on Cold and Dark. He’s always in demand but rightly so. He is fantastic, really dedicated and he works so hard. I have personally a lot to thank Paul for."

Let’s go through a few of your other films. What did you play in Razor Blade Smile?
"I played this character called Platinum who is this supercool ex-hitman who had dropped out of it all for some reason. Something had happened to him. It was never really mentioned in the script but I made up a personal history for him where possibly on a hit he had killed a kid who just got in the way. He has become slightly jaded with the whole thing but of course Eileen Daly, who played Lilith Silver, he’s been having a big affair with her, unbeknownst to him that she’s this vampire and he doesn’t know that. I’m one of the few people in the film that’s human! For what he had at his disposal, Jake West did a fantastic job."

You did another film with Jake.
"Yes, I did a film called Whacked which was a short film that Jake was hired to do. It was actually a monologue from a play that had been performed at the Edinburgh Festival. This girl called Sarah McGinnis who produced it and starred in it alongside me, it was her monologue, which had gone down quite well in a theatrical context. She decided, along with a writer and a few other people, to do it as a short film. The character that I played in it, called Karl Ryan, he doesn’t appear in the theatrical version. But in the film he’s there because he has to be this other protagonist that she bounces off. That was fun to do and Jake did a fantastic job with that. It was a quite punchy short film that definitely had a good look to it and definitely had a lot of Jake’s hallmark little things in it.

"Because Jake’s an extraordinarily good editor, that’s what he’s really good at. And when he directs, he directs like an editor. You’d be halfway through a scene and he’ll just stop you: “Okay, fine, got that, because I’m going to come out there and I’m going to movie in there…” He’s one of those directors that’s already got it all sorted out visually in his head before he starts, then he just goes for it. He has all these visual effects and cutaways and tracking shots and slo-mo and so on. All these little tricks of the trade that he uses; he knows exactly when he's going to do it and how he’s going to use it. I’ve known Jake for a while now and we really get on."

Where did you train?
"I got a distinction from the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. Minnie Driver was there, just a term above me. Emily Joyce from My Hero was there."

You were also in a much more gentle film called The Ghost of Greville Lodge.
"George Cole, Prunella Scales. Now this is really weird. Of all the films I’ve done, that is the one that most people come up to me and say, ‘You were in Ghost of Greville Lodge, weren’t you?’ Because it’s been running on Sky a lot. Every time I turn the TV on, it’s on. It runs through the daytime and they just keep playing it over and over again. I know for a fact that I've walked into Tesco and I’ve had checkout women say, ‘I saw you on TV the other day’! That’s really bizarre. We made that quite a while ago. That was a very good director friend of mine, Niall Johnson, who I did The Big Swap with, which was actually my very first feature film. He wrote me that part specifically."

What was your role?
"I played this ghost called Billy Boy. I made him Scottish and he was this mysterious character who worked at the church a a grave-digger. In actual fact I was the catalyst for making the young lad in it see what was going to happen and guiding him in the right direction. He was actually a gentle ghost, a good guy not a bad guy, and it was nice to play that sort of role, to play something not so intense. It was still sort of intense in a mysterious way but it wasn’t violent or full-on nastiness."

Your first film was The Big Swap.
"The first feature film I did, which was made ages ago. We shot it in 1996, so eight years ago now. It was a film about all these thirtysomething couples that end up swapping partners and thinking they can get away with it, but in actual fact what happens is all the bad side of that: the jealousies and the way it changes people’s perceptions of their relationships with their partners. So that was a very interesting thirtysomething drama with a lot of sexual edge in it. Niall Johnson did that. Then the next film I did was Razor Blade Smile. And at the same time virtually, or just when I finished Razor Blade Smile, I went off to do this film called Cash in Hand. It was originally called The Find then the title changed to Cash in Hand. Charley Boorman was in it and Richard E Grant in a very tiny role. This guy called Justin Baldwin directed it. I play this IRA killer in it and did my usual thing, I was really Irish looking. It was good fun what I was doing, but the film as a whole I believe was just in a state.

"After Cash in Hand, that’s when Niall called me back for The Ghost of Greville Lodge. Then I did a film with Nick Sherard called Don’t Look Back!. That’s more of a mysterious horror film. It’s all set in an American off-road diner. The amazing thing was that it actually started as a short film and was then developed into a feature film. It was a project that went on for years. I was originally in the short film; I played a character called ‘The Stranger’ who was this guy who just turns up at this off-road diner in the Southern United States of America. It’s never mentioned where this place is. There’s no mention of any particular state but you do know you’re in the Southern States.

"Interestingly enough this whole film was shot just outside Farnham. A place called Alice Holt Forest. There’s a guy called Colin who runs this place down there, he’s a fantastic bloke. Loads of massive movies have been shot down there. Ridley Scott shot the whole Germanic tribe bit of Gladiator there. When you see the beginning of Gladiator and that big battle scene, that was all shot in Farnham. It’s a huge forestry area and because of the vegetation it can double for Germany, France, anywhere. They’ve got these really long roads and lanes there and there was this shack that the set decorators on Don’t Look Back! turned into this diner. And it really does look like you’re in the Southern USA, you really wouldn’t know. Shot on 35mm. But I just think the story got mixed a bit when it got turned into a feature film. It lost its way a little bit and you’re not quite sure whose story it is. Is it my story? Is it the waitress’ story? But it has some great moments in it,some really good moments that are almost verging on film noir, some brilliant stuff."

What’s lined up nest?
"Nothing concrete at the moment. Julian’s got a couple of projects on the boil. One is called Love Bites which is a sort of dark romantic comedy! But he’s also got another film which is a really good thriller called The Long Dark Hours and that’s a possibility too. He would like me in both of them, I think. Long Dark Hours is a little bit like The Hitcher but the other way round; instead of the hitchhiker, it’s the driver who’s this crazed one. The script’s not bad. It needs a bit of work but I think it will be a really hard, fast, punchy British thriller. Get a good cast, it’ll be great.

"Then there’s a guy called Rod Woodruff who’s not only a brilliant stunt guy that I’ve worked with about three time snow but also a brilliant writer. Do you remember, many years ago, a film called Clockwork Mice, set in a school with kids from broken homes? Well, Rod actually wrote that. He has written a project that he’s very keen for me to be in because he worked closely with me on Cold and Dark. He wants me to play the cop in this thriller about child abduction - which is unusual because I normally get the child abductor! Again, very early days."


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