Luke Baines spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about drawing from broken relationships as inspiration for Alex in A Dark Place and healing from the process.
This interview contains spoilers to the film, A Dark Place.
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: A Dark Place really felt like a story grounded in revenge. What did it feel like when you read the script?
Luke Baines: I think it’s interesting because I’ve played a lot of dark characters, so I was reading it more about a guy who was trapped in an uncomfortable situation. It didn’t feel you know, classically the bad guy, that I’ve played before. He really felt like someone who was struggling to be good and to have his life on track. That’s what I found most interesting about it. I love the fact that it is so grounded in reality and really focuses on human relationships and human dynamics.
There was a key line Alex says in the film when he’s giddy about potentially getting a job and his girlfriend turns it around on him. “When did you start hating me?” It was powerful.
Thanks! That was literally the only line I came up with on the spot! (laughs)
What inspired that line out of you? Since it wasn’t in the script as you say.
I guess it’s one of those things where I just felt that at the moment. We were having this argument and she just kept coming at me and it’s something that we had worked on with Chris [Pinero]. Before we had shot that scene, Jazlyn, Chris, and me did the whole scene through just on subtext. That was something that came out. This idea that Alex was always going to be on a bad foot with her. He was never going to be able to win.
There was really nothing Alex could do that would ever be good for her because at this point he’d just caused so much damage. That’s really what I felt like he wanted to say to her. That it was never going to be good enough, is it? “When did you start hating me?” I think that’s so important to a relationship because sometimes things happen in life that are never going to change. Sometimes, in a relationship you just can’t take it back. You can do all the work but the other person is just never going to forget it. There’s really no way back once a person decides they want out of a relationship.
It feels like, especially from talking to my friends, that women really work ahead when it comes to relationships. They’re usually one step ahead of the guy. That’s kind of where that line came from.
Why do you feel Alex didn’t murder Theresa [Jazlyn Yoder] after he kidnapped her? Did Theresa tell Alex she was pregnant with his child? Since that was not shown on screen, it seems open to the viewer’s interpretation.
I just don’t think that’s who he is. Obviously, he is a murderer because he killed someone. But that seemed more like a crime of passion. I think that the reason that he killed Mike Miller’s character (Keith) is because he was so thrown by what he heard, that he acted out in that way. All the hatred was directed towards him. I think that that’s something that we do in normal life. When something happens, I think we focus on one person and take it out on them. And I think once Alex had done that, he really regretted it. That’s why nothing happened and Alex didn’t actually kill or seriously harm his girlfriend.
When Alex has that moment after he killed Keith and says, ‘I’m going to turn myself in!’ Was that just to fool Shawn into helping him with the body? Or was he really considering turning himself in?
I think in Alex’s head, he always knew that suicide was probably going to be the end game. That he had explored the idea before. It wasn’t just the relationship. It was where he was in his life, not being able to get a job, feeling like a failure. The only thing that really was keeping him going on was his girlfriend and the idea of having a child. Getting to start a new life and create something else. When those pieces started falling away, that’s when Alex made the choice. So, I don’t think that he was manipulating his friends.
That section with Alex’s mom, was she supposed to have Alzheimers? It seemed that way when she asked Alex the same question about his girlfriend twice.
Yeah, I think so. We talked about the fact that she was teetering on the edge of some kind of memory loss and some kind of disassociation.
Chris [Pinero] told me he knew you were right for the role the moment he saw your audition. How did you prepare for the audition? Anything different than usual?
You know, interestingly this was one of the first auditions that I properly trusted myself with. Really because I thought I had no chance, the character was written a lot older than I’ve ever played. I was like I don’t know if they’re even going to take me seriously. I remember reading it and just thinking well if I was given the role, this is what I would do that. I played it exactly on my instincts that I got from reading the character descriptions and the actual script itself. And I I very much played that, as opposed to going into a room and trying to give someone what they wanted.
When it comes to number of takes, do you believe in reshooting a scene until you get it right? Stanley Kubrick The Shining style. Or do you prefer the pressure of knowing you only have a certain amount of takes and that’s it?
It’s interesting and it’s something that I’ve actually been working on recently. I do a show called Shadowhunters and on that you’re doing a lot more takes. I would say on average on Shadowhunters, you’re doing about 30 takes because of the different setups. So you do about five or six takes per setup and you have about four setups. On A Dark Place, we were doing one or two takes per setup so it was very, very different.
What’s interesting about it though, was when you go from something like doing an indie film to doing a big production, a Disney show, where you get more takes… Is that when I first started doing that show, I would get all my good takes out in the first couple of shots. And then I get to two and a half hours, three hours later where we’re still doing the same thing and I have to keep doing it… Keeping up that momentum was really really difficult for me.
It’s something I have to get good at and find different triggers to keep on going. Find new places to explore. So, I don’t know if there is one that is better. Maybe, an option C. Where I get a little bit more time but I’m not doing a ton of takes. (laughs)
What was it like shooting that scene in A Dark Place with the hammer?
It was intense and I really dug up some real stuff that I’ve been through. Which was interesting because I never really get a chance to do that normally. A lot of the stuff I’ve done has been very imagination based.
When you use sense memory to emotionally recall traumatizing experiences, does it become weaker over time? Or is the impact always the same for you?
Yeah, for me it does. I lean more towards imagination based acting when I do it because I find that never gets stale. For me, I think acting sometimes is like therapy and when you use those memories you heal them a little bit. This film was definitely that for me. This is the kind of relationship stuff that I healed by doing this film. I just don’t think that they have the same triggers that they used to, that they would have now.
Were you disappointed your character got killed because you can’t really be in a sequel?
(laughs) I think that from a personal perspective sure! But Alex needed to go through that. So no.
What did it mean to you to get nominated for Best TV Villain at the 2019 Teen Choice Awards?
You know it’s interesting, It’s so lovely to think that so many fans of Shadowhunters spent the time to go online and tweet, and vote like they did. I find that really, really endearing, flattering and lovely! But at the same time, it’s like you know, awards are very weird. I don’t think that just because I got the nomination, I was necessarily one of the best villains on TV last year. It just happened to be, that I was lucky enough to be on a show that had a very passionate fanbase. I’m really grateful for that!
Thank you Luke!
A Dark Place was named Best Thriller at the Manhattan Film Festival (2018), won Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor at the Hoboken International Film Festival (2018) and was the recipient of an Award of Excellence from the Accolade Global Film Competition (2018).
Katharina Kubrick was a featured speaker at the Museum of Moving Image’s ‘Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey’ Exhibit Press Presentation.
Stanley Kubrick’s daughter Katharina Kubrick took part in a Q & A with media attendees during a full fledged presentation of the MoMI’s prized exhibit. Kubrick, discussed Stanley’s legacy, the timeless nature of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a desire to open more such exhibitions around the world. Barbara Miller (MoMI Director of Curatorial Affairs), Ellen M. Harrington (Director of Deutsches FilmInstitut Filmmuseum), Tomoko Kawamoto (MoMI Director of Public Information), and Eric Hynes (MoMI Curator of Film) all introduced the esteemed new addition to the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York.
Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey will take over MoMI’s Changing Exhibitions Gallery from January 18 – July 19, 2020. A special exhibit Introductory Discussion with Katharina Kubrick takes place tonight (Jan. 17th) to lucky ticket holders at 7 pm sharp.
Katharina Kubrick answers The Natural Aristocrat’s question at 28:50 (timestamp) about Stanley Kubrick’s brave choice to drop composer Alex North’s already completed 2001 soundtrack in favor of classical pieces he’d used as temporary music. Katharina discussed Stanley’s deep connection to music as a whole, and a certain Waltz he listened in the editing room of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
“If you think about the film, everything is spinning and whirling and very slow and graceful. So a Waltz worked perfectly.”
Katharina elaborated further on just how vital the use of music is to a film, naming Spartacus‘ soundtrack as one she wasn’t highly fond of.
“Music is terribly important, and very emotional. I think a lot of people use music badly. I watched Spartacus recently and I thought the music was appalling! And completely overwhelming and in the way of the movie. Stanley’s films used music to enhance the scene or to be the scene.”
Be sure to check out The Natural Aristocrat’s tribute article to Barry Lyndon’s use of Handel’s ‘Sarabande’ as a prominent piece overlaying the film.
Japan Society presented a fresh 4K restoration of 1977 film ‘Tora-san Meets His Lordship’ last month, a picture that truly teeters on the tightrope between comedy and tragedy.
While Tora-san Meets His Lordship’s 4K restoration at Japan Society opened to roaring crowd laughter with a quaint parody right off the gate… The film soon descended into the depths of calamity and ego humiliation that could make a Greek tragedy playwright blush. If Tora-san’s Runaway pulled the band aid of Tora’s hope for love right off, Tora-san Meets His Lordship might as well have taken an arm and leg. It’s teased in the movie that Tora will finally be given a real chance at romance and marriage. That the sun gently dances with him instead of upon him for the first time.
It’s all an elaborate ruse to trick both Tora and the audience as the picture soon pulls the rug out from under its plucky hero and its followers… Then kicks them out the door to a desolate, unforgiving cold world. Their only possession? A non-refundable bouquet of roses with no one to give it to. Though Torajiro ‘Tora’ Kuruma played by actor Kiyoshi Atsumi is happy go-lucky in nature, the ‘loss of face’ in this picture is astronomical.
From his family not so secretly naming a stray dog after Tora, to being made to feel he will never be good enough to win a wife’s hand at the film’s conclusion. That any figurative ring will forever stay in its box, gathering dust… As yet another suitor is forever picked over him. All the while Tora has to pin a smile on his face out of polite civility. A mental torture of an exercise seemingly drawn up in the depths of an imagined Hades. Tora, the perennial vagabond has to eternally watch others enjoy dinner and courtship together through a window.
Tora-san Meets His Lordship’s strategic ploy to game the audienceTora-san Meets His Lordship (1977) – Kyōko Maya as Mariko Tsutsumi – Screenshot/Photo Credit: © Shochiku Co., Ltd.
Mariko Tsutsumi [Kyôko Maya], a widow, is at the heart of Tora’s affections in Tora-san Meets His Lordship. Initially, Tora is asked by a local daimyō (Feudal style Lord) named Tonosama [Kanjûrô Arashi] to help him located his recently deceased son’s widow. At first, Tora takes the search in stride, deciding on a youthful plan to literally visit every residence, house, or store until a ‘Mariko’ is discovered. Just when Tora’s resolve begins to waver after hours of searching the first night, Mariko happens to show up on her own. Tonosama is called upon to meet Mariko while Tora is slowly but surely falling love with her.
Tonosama sheds tears, commenting that Mariko must have taken great care of his son before his passing. In a letter penned later in the film, he invites Mariko to live with him at his mansion-like residency. Even requesting she marry a new husband, with an exceptional specific recommendation. At first Tora’s rage is brewing inside of him, worrying at who this ‘chosen one’ would be… Until a sparkling revelation that the Lord’s recommendation for Mariko’s new husband is Tora himself!
Tora’s sister Sakura [Chieko Baishô] decides to personally deliver the request to Mariko’s work place, sans mention of marriage but with a hint of an additional request. Mariko arrives to Tora’s household to politely decline the request to move to the Lord’s house as she’s recently fallen in love with another worker. Shattering Tora’s heart into a million pieces to be swept off the floor casually, broom in tow, out of civility. Tora and his sister Sakura never mention the Lord’s request of Tora as her new husband. He simply sits smiling out of necessity, nothing left inside.
Tora-san Meets His Lordship ends on a comedic high-note of the Lord Tonosama wanting Tora to live with him anyway even without Mariko… And Tora wanting to leave as soon as possible as he’s chased by Tonosama’s assistant to stay. The real meat and potatoes of Tora’s struggle however, somebody to love him back, remains unresolved. A distant hope, that becomes more dream than reality everyday.
Be sure to read The Natural Aristocrat’s impressions of Tora-san’s Runaway 4K Film Restoration at Japan Society!
NYC locals! Follow along Japan Society’s busy Film Schedule and attend a future film screening.
Tora-san’s Runaway returned to the silver screen 49 years later after its 1970’s debut in crisp 4K at New York City’s Japan Society last Friday. The dark overtone message of the comedy film? Hard work doesn’t necessarily pay off at all. Romantic, fairy tale style endings are for the imagination. Tora-san’s imagination that is…
This article contains spoilers for Tora-san’s Runaway.
Tora-san’s Runaway is an exhibit of fallacy in the promise of hard work always paying off. Throughout the film, lead character Torajirō Kuruma is pushed by his sister Sakura Suwa to make an honest living. That a man is meant to toil under the sweat of his brow. She urges Tora-San to stop living day-to-day, lackadaisically wandering through life, with no true planning for the future.
Tora-san takes his sister’s words to heart, knowing she wants the best for him… In fact, Tora-san takes the words so literally, he desires a job where he ‘can sweat and become oily’ over the course of the work day. Thus, Tora-san played by star Kiyoshi Atsumi, decides to reform his street life ways, first superficially through wearing a sharp suit and hat. Then eventually by taking a job selling fried Tofu. More on that later!
Initially, he consults with his uncle Tatsuzō, aunt Tsune, and sister Sakura on the most fitting job for him over dinner. His uncle suggests tempura if he wants to get “oily working” but Tora-san waves the idea off. Making it clear he dislikes tempura. Tora-san’s uncle is already skeptical of Tora-san’s grand, seemingly overnight promise to change…
Lack of uncle Tatsuzō’s blessings for Tora-san
Tatsuzō, played by Shin Morikawa, is not exactly the biggest supporter of Torajirō, outside of getting him out of the house. At the onset of the film, Tora-san’s aunt plays a relatively cruel practical joke on him… Informing Tora his uncle was about to pass on over a phone call.
Tora-san wants to do right by his uncle, and actually sets up all funeral arrangements… Only to discover his uncle is completely fine and well, just sleeping. As a result, his uncle is embarrassed by local town residents arriving to grieve and pay their respects.Though Tora-san’s uncle is mad at his wife for leading the practical joke in the first place, he is furious at Tora-san. Stating he’d rather be dead that have to see him. Even getting a full blown makeshift rope noose around his neck to make a statement. A vulnerable, weakened Tora-san decides to leave but more than hints he’d like someone to stop him, and sister Sakura [Chieko Baisho] obliges.
Why Tora-san really decides to change his life
Tatsuzō later goes to see his old boss, who’s actually dying… And has a railroad conductor son who refuses to see him. At first, Torajiro pushes and pushes for the railroad conductor to go with him and his vagabond street pal to see his dying boss. However, after the railroad conductor speaks of how he went to see his father once in his youth, only to see his dark side, beating on someone… Tora-san gives up silently. This moment changes Tora-san’s life. His boss passes on and never sees his flesh and blood to apologize, which his son called a selfish demand.
Tora-san tells his fellow vagabond street pal to leave, go back home to his father. In fact, hitting him when he wants to stay with Tora-san. From this point forward, Tora-san returns to his sister’s words and wants to be the type of person she spoke of. Instead of drifting through life and ending up like his boss.
Reality Hits for Torajirō Kuruma
After being rejected for several local jobs post-reform, Tora-san leaves in shame to the next town over. There the people don’t know of his reputation, and he gets a job as a bicycle-riding fried tofu salesman. The true apple of his eye, however? His new boss’ peer-aged daughter, Setsuko [Aiko Nagayama] who seems to take a liking to Tora-san. She laughs at all his jokes and visits him each night. Tora-san works harder than ever, and proudly tells his sister he might settle there over the phone.Tora-san’s Runaway – Pictured from left to right: Aiko Nagayama as Setsuko and Kiyoshi Atsumi as Torajiro Kuruma – Photo Credit: © 1970 Shochiku Co., Ltd.
Everything seems to be going in storybook fashion for Tora-san, his sister was right all along… Or was she?
A local tofu costumer arrives for dinner one night when Torajirō is at his most happiest… Torajirō had been asked the prior night if he’d be willing to stay on with the family’s Tofu business on permanent basis instead of as a replacement. When he said yes, Setsuko was grinning from ear to ear, telling Tora-san how happy he’d made her.
Tora-san comments at his most confident that the tofu costumer reminds him a lot of his sister Sakura’s husband Hiroshi [Gin Maeda]. A smiling Setsuko then explains how she and the ‘customer’ (a railroad conductor) had actually been meaning to get married for a while now. However, they needed a replacement at her mother’s tofu shop. Setsuko’s mother Tomiko [Tokuko Sugiyama] tells Torajirō they need to find a nice girl for him too, what type does he like? He replies, “someone like you” joking but crushed.
Moonlight Devastation and a Broken HeartTora-san’s Runaway – Pictured from left to right: Aiko Nagayama as Setsuko and Tokuko Sugiyama as Tomiko – Photo Credit: © 1970 Shochiku Co., Ltd.
The next day, a devastated Tora-san heads back home. His sister chases him down as he leaves his uncle’s residence for a moonlight aimless walk. Tora-san earnestly tells her how he tried so hard but the honest life is not for him, holding back tears. He reunites with his younger vagabond pal the next day on the beach.
The more Tora-san attempted to escape his fate, the more life pulled him right back on track to his destiny. No happy ending to be found. In fact, Setsuko seems partially oblivious why Tora-san left in the middle of the night. Only starting to comprehend the feelings Torajirō held for her… But she does not go searching for him in some kind of audience warming epiphany. Rather, the credits roll just as Tora returns to the comfort of his old life. Hard work failing him.
The 4K Restoration Film Screening of Tora-San’s Runaway occurred on November 1, 2019 in New York City’s Japan Society. A new 4k screening of film, Tora-san Meets His Lordship, will be playing at Japan Society on December 6, 2019 at 7 p.m. EST. Purchase tickets to the event at this link.
Follow along Japan Society’s busy Film Schedule as part of their Tokyo Stories: Japan in the Global Imagination series.