15th Jun2020

Interview: Actor Toby Osmond talks ‘The Ascent’

by Phil Wheat

As part of our support for the launch of Tom Paton’s new film The Ascent on VOD, here’s an interview with actor and regular Tom Paton collaborator Toby Osmond, who appears in the film as Jack Ford.

The Ascent follows a group of mercenaries, who are sent to Eastern Europe in the middle of a civil war to retrieve intel. Shortly after the mission, the unit find themselves trapped on a never-ending stairwell; forced to climb or die. To survive, they must revisit their past sins if they ever want to get off.

The Ascent reminded me of Michael Mann’s The Keep, which was sort of his lost film…

TO: I’ve heard people say that The Ascent reminds them of a cross between Ringu and Time…something, I get the Ringu reference because of the monster in our film, but I’ve not seen The Keep. I love Ringu, man…it’s one of my favourite horror films.

You’ve worked with Tom (Tom Paton, director of The Ascent) quite a bit, how did that come about?

TO: I’ve got some juicy blackmail info on him (laughs) no, no, Tom and I met on another film that I did that he edited, so we knew each other from that process, then we met at AFM (American Film Market) in LA, a few years back, now. He bought me dinner, which was lovely and since then we’ve worked together loads. The firm film we did was Black Site, which I played a minor role in. I cut my finger off last September in an accident and director Kate Shenton said, “I bet Tom Paton uses that in a film”, not long after I had a call from Tom and he said, “I want you in my next film but I have a strange request…can I use your finger in it?” (laughs) and I said, “Yeah, of course!”.

Then there was The Ascent and coming up there’s a film called G-LOC, on which I got star-struck as I had some scenes with Casper Van Dien, a legend from my childhood and the original Johnny Rico! Also, Mike Beckingham is in G-LOC who was also one of the leads in Black Site, a fantastic actor and a really lovely guy. We have a very ensemble way of working.

I was going to mention this, it’s a very old-school way of working.

TO: American Horror story did it, of course.

Back in the day you had directors that always wrote scripts for a certain cast. Do you think Tom does this out of a conscious decision or because he likes you lot?

TO: Well, I hope he likes us! I’ve done a bit of producing, so I’ve been on the other side of it, as well. I used to rail against the nepotism of the film industry but the truth is, every time you cast someone new, you take a risk. I mean, you only get an audition with them, just might not know them as a person and although there may be a base level of talent, which, as a professional actor, you should have anyway, it’s really down to, ‘do you want to work with this person for weeks or months on end? Are they professional, will they turn up on time, will they learn all their lines etc.” Basically, any time you do this, it’s a gamble.

I suppose it helps the shorthand as well, Tom knows what he’ll get from you and vice versa…

TO: Absolutely, on The Ascent, because he knows us all so well, he knows that if he writes a character there’s someone in our group who will be able to do it. For example, in The Ascent I’m the ‘class clown’ sort of idiot. I’ve never been cast as the butch hero (laughs) but Tom knows his stuff and knows if we will fit into specific characters well.

In The Ascent, you repeat the same scenes over and over, how was that to perform, as an actor?

TO: It was really interesting and I’m proud to say that, and I’ll probably get a torrent of abuse on social media after saying this, I think I was the only person at all times to know where I was in the filming process and the storyline. I’m dyslexic so I have to read the whole script several times before I start focusing on my own lines so I read the entire thing half a dozen times, minimum before I started learning my own parts, specifically. Because of that process…I knew the story. It probably took about five reads to get my head around the timeline stuff, I mean…it was nuts. I don’t think I’ll have any doubts about continuity on any film set or theatre stage ever again because it was so hard core. You had to really know your stuff, your wounds, which weapon you were holding…

Speaking of guns, what was it like to run around…

I fucking loved it! I’m a bit of a hippy because I was brought up a pacifist, my mum hates guns but I suppose it’s made me rebel a bit, I named my automatic rifle, she was called Daisy and I looked after her very well, like an actual military person would. I’m calling out Alana Wallace, she treated her gun terribly on set, she was leaving it everywhere, putting the nozzle down, which you should never do! I always had Daisy with me. Yeah, it was fun playing around on tanks and stuff. On social media there are pictures of me in gun turrets on Armoured Personnel Carriers…I don’t do any of that in the movie, it was just me playing around on the farm that we were shooting at. The farm was owned by one of the financiers of the film and he had collected all of this military ware, it was incredible, we were really lucky.

The Stairs in the film, was that a set or an actual location?

TO: There was no set, the green room was a disused nightclub in Romford on the top of a shopping centre or ‘mall’, as the Americans would say and the stairs were several levels in the centre. It was hilarious because it was in the middle of a heatwave and there was no air-conditioning, I do Kung-Fu as a hobby to keep fit and we train in what is essentially a greenhouse in sweltering heat so that was the best possible training for this shoot, it was like a free workout.

The other funny thing is that the ABBA movie had just come out and the cinema hadn’t sound-tested so every morning, even though it was out of hours, the shoot was disrupted by the dulcet tones of Mamma Mia (laughs), hilarious in hindsight but not when you are stressed for time!

So, will we see a kung-fu based role in your future?

TO: (Laughs) I don’t think so! I’m not that good….but I can probably ‘act’ good. Saying that we did do a bit of close combat in The Ascent, but I think I’ll leave the rest to the experts.

How long was the shoot?

TO: It was a tight shoot, I think it was two weeks on the farm and two weeks on the stairwell but it was a tight shoot, Tom will tell you. I think on Black Site he had 230 slates (takes) and on Stairs it was an outrageous amount, something like 725. We were just shooting morning to night, non-stop.

I think part of it comes back to using the same ensemble again, he knew what he could get from us fairly quickly.

You’ve worked with Tom for three films now; do you see the collaboration continuing?

TO: Absolutely! Tom always has a vision and he’s a grafter, I also consider myself a grafter. There’s talk of a fourth film already but I’m not sure what’s public knowledge so can’t say too much. I know he wants me for the lead role but there’s producers involved and a casting process etc. so we’ll see what happens.

What about your other work? You mentioned producing…

TO: Acting is the main thing, I get involved in the producing side if a shoot is falling to bits, I’ll just pick up the phone, you know. Speaking of other things, I have a semi-acting job coming up. I’m part of a Dungeons and Dragons group called ‘Adventurers Wanted’ and they do staged, streamed Dungeons and Dragons games so I have my Ranger-sub-class-monster-hunter-dual-class-fighter that I was looking at on my tablet before you came along (laughs), I’m really looking forward to that.

Work-wise, G-LOC is next, and then a film called Summer Land which I was cast in the week that Games of Thrones was released. I mean, I was so happy to get a part in Game of Thrones, especially as the Prince of Dawn as well, I loved Pedro Pascale the actor who played the Red Viper of Dawn. It was a dual-whammy, as a fan of the show it was a dream come true but as an actor it’s been great for my career so I was offered Summer Land which stars Gemma Arterton of whom I’m a big fan, a strong role model for feminism in the industry as well as being a great actor. So it stars her, two Dames and a Knight and then Toby Osmond…I mean, who the fuck is this guy? (laughs) That has just finished post-production and will probably hitting festivals this Autumn and then released next year.

So it’s been great from a career perspective, from an artistic perspective, in The Ascent I shot what I consider to be my best scene and I know that Tom considers it the best scene that he’s ever directed, it’s the scene in the tent, I won’t spoil it here but I really felt like I was in Apocalypse Now!

I’m really proud of the film and shout out to the boys 365 Flicks! Everyone should listen to 365Flicks Podcast, they were extras in The Ascent and please keep an eye out for the bit where Chris falls over (laughs) it was SO funny.

The Ascent, directed by Tom Paton, is available now on digital following it’s debut last Friday on BirdBox.Film and AltspaceVR. For more on the VR debut of the film check out this article from 365Flicks host Kevin Haldon – who was one of the lucky few to take part in such a unique event.


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