Stephen Rea: interview
Stephen Rea discusses his new film, low-budget thriller 'Stuck'
Stephen Rea typifies the committed jobbing character actor: talented, dependable, and always employed. His appearances have ranged from unlikely leads (‘The Crying Game’, ‘Bad Behaviour’) to memorable supporting roles (‘Interview with the Vampire’, ‘Pret a Porter’, ‘V for Vendetta’). He has five films currently in production, including one, ‘Ondine’, with regular collaborator Neil Jordan.
Rea’s latest film is ‘Stuck’, a low-budget thriller loosely based on a true story, and directed by horror legend Stuart Gordon. Rea plays Thomas Bardo, a man on the lowest rung of the economic ladder whose life turns even worse when he’s the victim of a hit-and-run driver. However, working nurse Brandi (Mena Suvari) not only doesn’t stop, she drives homes with Bardo wedged through her windscreen, where he remains, bleeding and helpless, for the next 48 hours.
How did you first react when confronted with the script of ‘Stuck’?
'Well it was a very good script. It had real structure, it knew what it was doing. There was no fiddling around. It was an epic in a very small space.'
Did you do much research into homelessness before taking the role?
'I went around a few shelters. This character is just about functioning, and then everything falls apart. I think that’s the unsettling thing about that kind of research because you sort of feel how close you are, how close everyone is to it all falling apart.'
Did you look into the incident that inspired the movie?
'I actually met the son of the man the story was about. It was a homeless guy, he was hit and he was driven to a garage. He didn’t escape, he died. But I think it was a good choice to have him escape. Because at least the movie is kind of uplifting. This guy has nothing, but he suddenly finds resources of strength. I suppose that’s a very American thing, too, isn’t it? You can make it through.'
'But the boy whose father died didn’t find it uplifting. I think he wanted to see his father’s life represented accurately. But of course it isn’t really about his father.'
How did you feel about playing a character that spends most of his time trapped in a car windscreen?
'When you read the script you don’t see the discomfort. Then it becomes clear quite quickly that you’re going to spend a very uncomfortable few weeks. But sometimes its great to do a bit of acting that’s purely physical. You can’t intellectualise it. You’re just suffering.'
There are some moments of cringe-inducing horror in the film.
'But you see, he’s so clever, Stuart Gordon. There’s a scene at the very beginning when a guy has shit himself in bed, and Brandi has to wash him and everything. And the audience is completely repulsed, they have a big physical reaction to it. And this sets them up for the car crash, and everything that goes after that. It’s very clever filmmaking.'
'I love Stuart. He has a very straightforward way of doing movies. Even the special effects were terribly simple. Like when I stab the guy in the eye with the pen. It wasn’t major computer graphics or anything. They just fixed a special eye with a pen coming out of it. It was pretty old-fashioned, but effective.'
Do you think the movie has become more relevant in the past few months?
'You know, it probably has. Particularly here in Ireland. We were coasting along, this wonderful Celtic tiger. And now it’s all gone. I guess Tom Bardo is no longer just one isolated guy. You can become homeless very quickly. Homes are being repossessed. It’s pretty frightening.'
Do you see the film as being part of a tradition of politically astute horror, like those made in the ’70s and ’80s?
'Well, that’s the smart thing about Stuart Gordon. He’s really socially aware, and yet he just loves horror movies. I think it’s a real modern horror movie, in that it’s hard to find where the horror is anymore. It’s not necessarily about fantastical creatures. It’s just this ordinary guy.'
Do you think ‘Stuck’ has some fairly dark things to say about human nature?
'Yeah. It’s terrible. Even down to the Latino immigrants next door, who want to help but are too scared of getting into trouble. And that’s an indication of the kind of pressure they live their entire lives under. All their decent feelings are just pushed away. It depicts a society where increasingly only the top 10 per cent, maybe even less, have anything, and everybody else is just grubbing around.'
How do you feel when a low-budget film, like this one, doesn’t get the chance it deserves?
'You do small movies because the script is good, and because you believe in the director. You don’t care about the money. And when they disappear it’s a pity. This one, in particular, I thought had a chance in America. But after a couple of weeks in the theatre they decided it was going to DVD. And it just seems a shame. This is a great audience film. They scream, you know? The audience scream. It’s great. When I stab the guy in the eye, people are screaming "Now get the bitch!" It’s brilliant!'
What would you say is the film that you get recognised most for?
' "The Crying Game"’, obviously. ‘"V for Vendetta" recently. That’s a whole new audience, 18-year-old kids who are mad into it. Boys, including my own sons, who envy me for being in scenes with Natalie Portman. Can’t blame them really, can you?'
'Stuck' is out now.
Author: Tom Huddleston
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