Garret Dillahunt

Garret Dillahunt… You may not know the name but you will know the face. Featuring in films like No Country For Old Men, The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, the remake of The Last House on the Leftand The Road, the actor has also carved out a TV career guest starring in shows such as Deadwood, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and more recently Burn Notice.

His latest film, Burning Bright, will receive it’s UK premiere at London’s Film4 FrightFest next week, before hitting DVD on September 6th 2010.

The actor took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about all things Burning Bright, working with Meatloaf,The Last House on the Left remake, and much more.

I saw Burning Bright last month (review here) and it’s one of those films, for me anyway, that is a must see film. The idea of a girl trapped in a house with a tiger – I’d consider that a high concept film.

Almost impossible right?

Yes definitely. But your character – the first time we see you, you’re buying a tiger off Meatloaf. Is that one of the strangest character introductions you ever had?

[LAUGHS] Well that scene was actually a reshoot that we did about a month after I thought I’d finished filming, because it was decided that we needed a better introduction as to how he got the tiger. So it was [shot] here in Los Angeles, the rest of the film was shot in Florida and it was a lot of fun to revisit the movie, as well as to meet Meatloaf.

It was a more bizarre experience for Garret, to be doing a scene in the desert with Meatloaf, than probably for my character.

So what was it like working, even briefly, with Meatloaf?

It was great. He’s certainly sort of an icon of my time. It was my generation that would go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the midnight showings y’know, and there was Meatloaf. It was kind of bizarre to see him middle-aged and learn that he’s quite sweet and mellow. He said something to me along the lines of “I wanna be in a hundred films before I die,” and so he’s just ticking them off… I thought he was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot about his beginnings in musical theatre – I didn’t realise that, I thought he started out in rock and roll. It was a quiet pleasant afternoon [shoot] actually.

I know they shot the scenes inside the house seperately, but in your scenes in particular, did you have much interaction with the tiger?

We had very little contact with the tigers, they were outside the studio in a special truck and they would just sort of laze about in there and I could walk outside in between takes and look at them, but we were never on set at the same time. I was all overlapped, split screen, those kinds of [effects] and I think they did it well. They did a great job.

Yeah, I think there’s only two points where you can notice the FX work, otherwise I think it’s superbly done.

Oh great. I’m excited to see it. Briana [Evigan – Garret’s co-star] is having a screening party at her place and I’m going to try to make that. Otherwise I’ve only seen selected scenes during the editing process.

So you haven’t actually seen the seen the finished final cut of Burning Bright?

No I’ve haven’t. I’m looking forward to it.

Looking at your two outings in the horror genre – Krug in the remake of The Last House on the Left, and your character in Burning Bright – you seem to be getting a reputation for playing bastards, really evil characters…

Oh yeah, absolutely! They’re bad guys that’s for sure.

Is that something you look for in a script? Or is it just how things have happened?

I like change and I’m looking to play lots of different characters and different types of characters, both good and bad. In the case of Last House [on the Left], I really wanted to do a horror film, to try a different genre than I usually do. It’s a lot different from say, the character I played in No Country For Old Men or Jesse James, or more sympathetic characters. I wanted to see if I could pull off a new interpretation of Krug, which was difficult – there’s some things I’d like to differently in that, but there’s some things I’m really proud of and I think we made a good film for the most part.

As for Burning Bright, I like the complexity of the guy, I think if he had won the lottery or something, we wouldn’t have a movie because he wouldn’t have considered killing his children for the insurance.

Just to go back to Last House… Now the furore around remaking such a classic has died down, the film seemed to have been hailed as one of the better remakes in recent years. Is that something you’ve heard from fans etc.?

I like to think [it is]. But it’s certaintly a polarising film. There’s people who will never see the film, they love the original and think it should not have been remade – they have a case. To my shame, I guess, I was not even aware of the original and didn’t even know about it until I was offered a part in the remake and started doing research. I even spoke with David Hess a bit to make sure it was alright – turns out he’s a really cool guy and liked him a lot.

But we knew that the Vietnam-related scenes in the original wouldn’t quite translate into today, but I think it’s interesting, and the audience reaction is kind of telling, in the original there’s a very thin line between the good guys and the bad guys and that had to lead you into this feeling of horror. But in the new version there’s a real glee in the vengeance – a righteous American sense of justice, the “eye for an eye” [concept] is very much alive and well in the US. It’s almost like a sense of self-realisation, as you catch yourself cheering at these people’s demise, wanting it to be even worse.

It’s a polarising fim, but all horror films are. As it stands our film seems to be one of the better reviewed horror films in a while. I could have done without the last scene persoanlly, but it had to be put in [LAUGHS]

Going back to Burning Bright, young actor Charlie Tahan pulls off a very convincing performance of being autistic, but what was he like out of character?

He reminded me of Kodi Smit-McPhee in The Road, because both he and Charlie can turn it on and off so easily, it’s kind of annoying that they can be so skilled and so young. [Charlie] was a normal, playful kid between takes and when it was time to go, he’d click right in. He and Briana got along very well, he trusted her a lot, which I think was a help. He’s got like five more movies coming out right now, he’s gonna be all over the place.

What about your future projects? I know Winters Bone is getting good reviews out festival screenings. But what else have you got lined up?

I have a couple of films at Toronto [International Film Festival] next month which I’m excited to go see. John Sayles new movie, Amigo, about the Philippine-American war; and another indie film called Oliver Sherman, about soldiers returning home from Afghanistan, that I think is really good. And I’m on a series that starts shooting Monday called Raising Hope, it’s a comedy by the people behind My Name Is Earl – I play a young grandfather, basically a not-very-skilled parent.

Talking of TV, you’ve guest starred on one of my favourite shows Burn Notice. What was it like working with that crew?

I just did my second [episode] which aired here in the States last night. Florida’s really hot, that’s the worst thing about it, but it’s a tight run ship. I just kinda ship in, do a few scenes and ship out, it’s a great job to have. I really like Matt Nix, the creator of the show, a lot, and I like that they decided to keep [my character] Simon alive so he can come back every once in a while because he’s a fun character.

So you think we’ll see you again on the show?

I know you will…

Well thanks ever so much Garret, it’s been a pleasure.

Thank you. Bye.

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