10th May2019

Interview: Jason Dugre talks ‘Saint Bernard’

by Phil Wheat

Amid a palette of dark themes, Saint Bernard takes its audience on a turbulent ride through Bernard’s surreal adventures as he spirals into madness. Shot on Super 16mm and 35mm film, the highly-anticipated horror jaunt fixes on a classical musical conductor who unravels into the abyss of insanity.

With the film set for release next week on Blu-ray and DVD from Severin Films we sat down with star Jason Dugre (Bosch) to talk all things Saint Bernard.

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We’re big fans of Saint Bernard, how did it come about?

Gabe had cast me in his first film, Skinned Deep. I think we formed a pretty great friendship and had a good time working together but mostly I think he saw me as someone who didn’t mind taking some risks and who didn’t back down from challenging situations. I hope maybe he liked my acting as well. Either way, I was pretty psyched when he told me about St. Bernard.

And was it a project you’d been attached to for quite some time?

I was in from the beginning, or at least what I KNEW to be the beginning. My assumption is that this idea was probably rattling around in his brain for a while but I certainly came in on the ground floor, you know, above the foundation he had already built. We had been through some craziness on Skinned Deep and I jumped at the chance to do it all again.

Was it challenging working with all those make-up effects and whatnot!? I imagine the imagination was needed at the best of times?

There were only a few times that I remember having to use my imagination. Most of the time, what you see on film was actually in the room with me. Gabe works with mostly practical effects and most of the time I was just blown away when I’d get to set. When there was a monster in the script, it was there, or wine bottles covering the floor or a burned out bus, didn’t matter what it was, it was there. So my imagination wasn’t as necessary as you might think. In terms of the make-up effects, I got out of most of that on this one. On Skinned Deep I had 4-hour make-up applications on most of my shoot days. But on this one, all I had to do was suit up in one of the tuxes. It was kind of nice.

Can you talk about working with Gabe – someone who is primarily better known for his FX work than filmmaking?

Gabe is an extremely hard worker and absolutely driven to fulfil his vision. He also has an amazingly creative mind so that vision can go off the rails in the best of ways but also in ways that would lead anyone making a low-budget Guerrilla-style film to question how in the hell all of the ideas can be realized and actually captured. The St. Bernard script would describe something so bizarre and completely outside of the realm of sanity and you would think, “Oh, he’ll change this a bit, when he realizes we can’t REALLY film a scene of me in the middle of rush hour traffic, carrying a bloody dog’s head. He has to.” And then we would go out and shoot me in the middle of rush hour traffic, carrying a bloody dog’s head. But here’s the thing about Gabe. Whatever risk you are willing to take as an actor, he is equally willing to match you. Walking through traffic was scary, but Gabe was right there with me, operating the camera and the boom. He’s like a one-man studio! He designs and creates the sets, he makes the props, he writes the script, he does the make-up, effects, he’s the sound mixer AND the boom operator, craft services! Name a job, he did it on or off the set. As an FX artist, Gabe is masterful. He has spent years perfecting his craft and he’s one of the best in the business, in my opinion. As a director, though, nothing changes. He wants to show you what he is thinking and he will do every job he needs to do to make it as perfect as he can so that when you watch, you’ll have no question as to what his intention was. You may not understand what it means but you’ll never question if he meant to do it or not. He did.

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How would you describe the tone of this?

Wow, um….St. Bernard is horror meets GG Allen meets Bryan Eno meets Salvadore Dali? I’m kind of happy to say that I don’t know what the tone is and I think that’s on purpose.

And where does the ‘Saint Bernard’ come into it? And does Charles Grodin come with it?

I feel like the title is a play on words. My character, Bernard, finds a severed St. Bernard’s head on the side of the highway and it speaks to him in some way. He wants to take care of it. He takes it with him and they go on a journey together. St. Bernards themselves are known for saving people so maybe each of the Bernards find a way to save each other? Like Saints. Or maybe Gabe had a dream about it? Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. I’m not sure it’s supposed to be explained in words. Just get in touch with how you feel when you watch it. Oh and Charles Grodin is a great actor and a lovely person. I have never met him but maybe he knows what this movie is about.
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Saint Bernard premieres on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms on May 14th from Severin Films. Look for our review of the film later today.

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