This is part 2 – A continuation of my interview with actor/producer Ben Loyd Holmes, you can read part 1 here
Ben talks about his future roles, and what it was like working on Spooks and with actor Peter Firth – followed by answers to your tweeted questions.
There’s a couple of projects, one which is a new Eric Bana film which I’m not allowed to say too much about just yet. That’s very exciting! I’ve met some great people on that.
Another new film that I’m acting and producing which is called MERCS, which is a kick-ass action movie about mercenaries.
Who do you play in that?
In that I play a character called Preach, he’s a mercenary from Iowa I believe. A big rough tough American mercenary and he’s one of a team who have to go and steal back this weapon/weapons that’s being hijacked and stop them falling into the hands of a rogue state. So lots of action. If people have seen The Losers or Expendables they’re the same kind of movies as this is.
I have to ask about Spooks…
Yeah, it’s actually got a lot of elements of Spooks actually in terms of length of shoot, rougher and tougher. It’s definitely got that sort of feel to it!
You’ve appeared twice in Spooks, what was your experience like of shooting, and the cast?
Its great! I think it’s definitely changed over the years. But I think Spooks is a really fun show to work on, and the director [Alrick Riley] is a very clever guy and he really shot in a very filmic way. Again its just a lot of fun, it’s a real camaraderie and a real great group to be around. And of course you’re shooting some really great action, and having fun sneaking around. It’s good fun to do it, basically like being a child again isn’t it!
I was just going to say, you’ve played a few spies and quite a few military roles. Do you secretly wish to be a spy or in the military?
[laughs] Well you know the spies and the soldiers that protect our country do an incredibly hard job and they do it very very well. I think every guy, or most guys would want to be a spy or a soldier and do something honourable. Just so happens I get to be as different spy or different soldier every now or again; and purely in storytelling. But yeah I think every guy kind of likes that.
Have you got any advice for wannabe actors trying to break through?
Yeah, I think for wannabe actors or people who are actors building their career, I would say obviously having a broader skill set is really important. The amount of times I’ve been in an audition and they’ve said: “Can you ride a horse; or can you do any fighting stuff; or have you ever done anything with weapons.” The difference between a casting director asking you, and you have this semi-confident; “yeah yeah I can do that,” to; “Yes! I can do that” and then show this footage of whatever I’ve done it in. To be able to say I’m a horse master, I’m a climbing instructor, I’m all these things, its make them all trust you a lot more. That can sometimes be the difference between getting a job, and not getting a job. Or a casting director remembering you or not remembering you; and of course having a strong show reel. There’s nothing better than a strong show reel that a casting director can say; “Ok well he can play tough, he can play comedy.”
Sometimes its hard. For many years I only had tough guy stuff on my show reel and its taken me five years before I could have enough comedy stuff to make it worthwhile putting on my show reel. Otherwise people only see you as one thing – and then of course its hard to do anything different if they only see you as one thing. But you’ve got to make the best of yourself, you’ve got to work very hard, you’ve got to not expect your agent to do all the work for you; and you’ve got to be up on having a website, an IMDB page – and all these sorts of things, because that’s what people judge you by these days. They don’t really look at anything else, so you’ve got to surrender to it. Work very hard, keep your head down and do what you’ve got to do!
Does your skill set help, in terms of they wouldn’t need so many stunt doubles, as you can do your own stunts with martial arts, climbing etc…?
Yeah I think a lot of the time they may end up using a stunt double in the end anyway! But when it comes the casting process, and they’re talking to you about it directors get excited by the thought of; “Oh actually you’ve done more martial arts than most stunt people – full stop! Or you’ve done more horse riding.” They just get excited by the thought you might be able to do it. When its comes down to the shoot day; if it’s a fight scene they’ll get really excited because they can see you really fighting, or they can see you riding. In The Hike there was a lot of rock-climbing, for a director to be able to see his cast members doing it, rather than having to cheat around it, directors quite like it, and a lot of people get excited by it. Definitely helps – definitely helps!
Any more writing or producing for yourself on the horizon?
Aside from MERCS, which is gonna take a little while, I’ve written a another film called “Into The Fire” which is a spy thriller, which every one of the Spooks fans and more will I’m sure love, because it’s very much a British movie – British spies against the world sort of movie, which I’m just in development of that. After that I’m hoping to do a co-production with a Chinese production company on an East-meets-West action fest. So there’s quite a few things coming up.
It’s an interesting time – quite scary because a lot going on, but its a real exciting time.
Dee asked – Whats the toughest role you’ve had and what’s your ideal role in theatre, TV, or film?
Wow that’s a hard question! Toughest role is definitely Ethan in The Hike. Just because it’s a role with a huge amount of character arc; a massive range in it. It demands a huge amount of energy to play that sort of role, and you have to be thinking about the whole arc throughout the entire production, because otherwise when the arc is revealed and the character change is revealed if someone was to watch it again; if you weren’t bearing that in the mind in the beginning, it wouldn’t ring true, so you must have the undercurrent of the character arc running through even when you’re doing the early stuff. I’m not going to say too much to give it away, but that’s really challenging, when you’re almost having to play two different people at the same time. It’s almost like having a split personality; where you have one personality leading a scene, and then little comments coming from the other personality and the arc of the film changes and you’re sort of swapping those two roles around, the follower becomes the leader if you see what I’m saying.
The ideal role, for me it would always be film or TV, I do love theatre, but I think for me it’s really film, I just love the whole process of film to be honest. It’s a different sort of acting. And for me this character Preach that I’m getting to play in MERCS; Dan the director offered it to me a couple of weeks ago, – and that was only confirmed a few days ago. That’s pretty much ideal, he’s kind of a stylised, almost graphic novel sort of character, so he’s going to be huge amount of fun to play. It’s treading the line between reality and a heightened reality of a character, that will be great fun.
Peterfirthfans wants to know – What was it like having Peter Firth’s elbow in your face? Plenty of fans would love to be in contact with ANY part of Peter!
[laughs] I bet she does! Peter is actually a really nice guy, I’ve worked with Peter a couple of times and Peter’s lovely. He’s very apologetic every time he hits you in the throat [laughs] so he’s a nice guy, and obviously a very talented actor; because obviously he’s been doing it so long. He’s just like part of the furniture, you walk in and he seems to know more than anyone else of whats going on, so he makes you feel very at ease when you’re working with him; so yeah he’s a really nice guy.
I had my scenes with him in Spooks both times. I roughed him up the last time, and he got me back this time.
So there was a camaraderie there?
Yeah, in fact last time I think he gave me a black eye, or he scratched my face. We got into a fight last time, and he scratched up my face (obviously make-up wise not in reality), so this time he managed to; rather than me capture him, he managed to take me out, and then get me shot by his operative. It’s an ongoing battle between me and Peter. I’ll get him one day. [laughs]
beer_steak_life asks – You’ve played a lot of military roles, do you feel you’re typecast?
[Laughs] Yes, definitely! My dad, as I said is in the film industry, when I said to him; “I’ll get typecast,” and he said; “Well son, you know there always plenty of bad guys roles to play!” Which is one way of looking at it! As an actor it’s fantastic to be able to work, you want to work, and you want to play interesting roles. I’m lucky that although I do play a lot of military roles, some of them have been quite different. But I definitely would like to play a lot of other roles, I always seize the opportunity if there’s something a little bit different. I go out of my way to look for things that are a bit different because I want to show other casting directors, and anyone who is a fan of my work a different side to me, and tell a different story. Because no-one wants to be just one-sided. I think we all want to improve ourselves and test ourselves, and do interesting things.
Yeah, I’ve been very lucky. My agent works very hard, I’ve got a very supportive group of people around me, and I’ve actually been very lucky from having some support from some of the Spooks fans and some of the Torchwood fans, I’ve had a huge amount of support from those guys which makes all the difference. It’s psychologically very helpful when people are fans of your work, or something you have done. They do keep you going, because there are hard times when you’re an actor. When people say; “I really liked this,” or there’s something they really liked, it makes you appreciate the affect your work has, because when you’re doing theatre you get an audience reaction, and that tells you then if you’re doing a good performance or not. When you’re in film or television you don’t really get that. It’s nice when a fan of your work or a particular production gets in touch; sends you mail, or at a convention, or twitter. It’s nice to have that sort of feedback and that helps you in your drive to move forward. Obviously the success of The Hike has really helped in terms of working, in terms of opening doors on the acting side as well. Having a film like that, distributed by Lionsgate and Warner Brothers, its huge for someone like us. A bit of hard work, a bit of luck, and lots of support I think.
I think it works both ways though, fans like getting a reaction off actors, just as much!
It does. Strangely I find some actors – they seem quite ungrateful about a fans interest; or a fans loyalty. But I always think if someone has taken the time to message you, or takes an interest in what you do, you’ve got to take the time to message back. Sometimes it takes you a little while because you’re busy or whatever – just thinking about this conversation, I’ve now got some mail to reply to which has been forwarded by my agent. You just have to do it! People invest a lot of time and effort, and sometimes money in the shows that you have been apart of, or in yourself and I think it’s quite disrespectful and rude to not spend some time with the fans yourself, and spend some time actually giving something back.
You’ve got a lot of power in this industry as an actor. People invest a lot in you, and I think its rude and wrong of you not to use that for something good. Be that a polite response to people, or something for charity, I’ve been lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to do something for some charities purely because I’m an actor. They wouldn’t ask me if I was an accountant or a lawyer, or something non film industry related, and I always think; “What an amazing opportunity.” Why wouldn’t you leap at those opportunities. Some of the organisers were saying; “A lot of actors don’t do this, or they just refuse or don’t get back to you.” Why wouldn’t you commit some of your time for a worthy cause? I find it really hard to understand why people don’t do that! And whether that’s just responding to people who have an interest in your work, or like your work. Or whether that’s spending some time with some incredible worthy causes; I just don’t understand that attitude. I’m not really like that! I prefer to try and give something back – not only to the fans, but to worthy causes.
I think that’s a perfect and lovely attitude to have. There’s so many who don’t have that attitude!
I hope so!
MERCS the movie: http://www.mercsthemovie.com/
Follow Ben on twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/benloydholmes