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).
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.
P.J. Soles is back as Marcy Taylor in new retro-themed horror, Candy Corn, and spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about the film, her life as an actress and everything in-between.
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: There was a time in your life when you stepped away from acting. What brought you back to the horror film genre and ultimately playing Marcy Taylor in Candy Corn?
P.J. Soles: I was happy to do the fan conventions, which are wonderful, and spend time with my grandkids. I didn’t want to really work in movies anymore. I felt the conventions kept me connected to that part of my life. I was also busy doing other things, always toying with the idea of writing my autobiography… It’s just so hard to get going on a project about yourself! The first one to approach me for Candy Corn was actually Director Josh Hasty. He just made it sound so appealing and I liked him, we had a really nice conversation on the phone. But I laid it out! I said, “You know, I don’t work that great, I’m getting old, I might forget my lines!” It takes a lot of energy to pull it together. For me, making the moment real, being realistic on screen, and presenting a character that’s not you, not myself is important to me. But Josh convinced me!
What struck me first about Candy Corn was the beautiful cinematography. I always look at that, then I look at the characters and everybody was just painted amazingly. A great cast of characters! I liked the story and setting in the ’70s. I thought Director Josh Hasty was going for that retro look, which is appealing to me because it’s kind of familiar. [laughs] In terms of special effects, I thought they were beautifully done… If you can assign the word ‘beautiful’ to a ‘terrible’ special effect like someone’s spine getting ripped out. You can say they’re realistic! [laughs]
So, Candy Corn was the first ‘Yes!’ but I actually filmed it in December. I did Hanukkah first, then Killer Therapy, which is actually going to have a screening this October. There’s been no press about it, they’re keeping it on the down-low. In the horror community these days, they wanna keep things kind of quiet until the project has been fully edited, music added, and really pulled together.
When I was watching Candy Corn, there seemed to be a relationship in the air between Marcy and Sheriff Sam Bramford. Thus, I was anticipating some kind of interaction between Marcy and the Sheriff’s son, the lead antagonist as well. It felt like a natural fit. How do you feel about that?
Oh yeah, that would have been great! Well, it can’t happen in the sequel, if there is one. I live, he doesn’t! [laughs]
It’s nice to be in a horror movie and not get killed, right?
That’s actually my guiding principle now! I’m happy to play in any movie, I just don’t want to get killed. Not too many lines and no death scenes, that’s what I tell my agent! [laughs]
I recall an interview with VH1, where you mentioned wanting to ‘milk your death’ scene (as Lynda van der Klok) in Halloween for as long as possible to get screen time. Do you feel that’s what it takes as an actor to get time out there?
It’s your swan song. When you do that last scene on set, they say, “That’s a wrap on P.J. thank you,” and I don’t want that moment to come! (laughs) When I was going out of frame in Halloween, I suddenly realized I’m not going to be on screen anymore… So, I just kept doing the choked noises till John (Carpenter) yelled Cut!
Speaking of that era… You did a commercial for Pizza Hut Tacos back in 1979, how do you reflect back on that?
(laughs) Oh my God! You know what’s so funny about that? The shirt that I wear in that commercial is also the same pink-and-white stripped shirt that I wore in some of the promos we shot for Halloween. The promos were taken back at the casting offices by Kim Gottlieb and I had that very shirt on! Obviously, one of my favorite shirts. When I first saw that commercial I was like, “Oh my gosh, that’s the shirt in all the Halloween stills!”
I actually don’t eat beef and never have since I was a kid and heard beef comes from cows. Which made me sad. Every time I took a bite in the commercial I had to spit it out. There is a spit bucket for those of us who don’t eat what we’re advertising! (laughs)
That incident that happened on the set of Carrie, where you ruptured your ear drum… As an actress, did you have any regrets about doing the role at the time because of that? Obviously, it did lead you to getting a role in Halloween so things more than worked out. Do you have any permanent hearing loss from what happened on Carrie?
What? (laughs) Just kidding! It was so painful… It was unbelievably painful to rupture my ear drum which was caused by a fire hose that the fire marshal said is not a good idea to use. Especially, (Carrie Director) Brian [De Palma] wanted it to bat my head around back and forth. So, Dick Ziker, the stunt coordinator, said, “Oh man, that fire hose!” It was an accident for sure but it went full force and I literally just blacked out, went down and slid down the bleachers. The grips came running and picked me up. It was the most intense pain I’ve ever felt besides childbirth!
For six months, I went to the doctor and I got workman’s comp, they put drops in my ear. I can hear better than ever! I do have a little scar tissue there and I have go to my ENT from time to time but it didn’t leave any lasting problem. I’m definitely totally happy that I did the movie! Probably, would have rethought the firehose in retrospect. But it all worked out okay.
It’s a good effect and talking about the last time you see me on the screen now, that was actually my swan scene on the film. I didn’t come back to the set after that. When you see me wince in that scene, that’s actually the pain, the initial pain of the ear drum. So, it’s kind of strange but these things happen.
Are you surprised how things work out, that John Carpenter noticed you for the way you said “Totally” in Carrie? I was even half expecting you to say it in Candy Corn!
Yeah, we talked about it but that would have been too much! (laughs) People expect me to say, “Merry Christmas, Totally!” now! It’s become my trademark! I wear the red hat in Carrie, I say “Totally!” in Halloween, and I have that awesome wardrobe in Rock‘n’ Roll High School. #1 fan of The Ramones.
I told John [Carpenter] and Debra [Hill] that I was going to push it and try to say it every time I spoke, and if it gets annoying to let me know. But they never did. I’ve never made an accurate count actually. But a group of college boys told me at a convention that they have a drinking game where they take a shot every time I say “Totally” and they’ve never seen the end of the movie! I said, “I didn’t say it that many times!” (laughs) I think the real number is eleven someone told me but it seems like more than that.
Would you consider a role in a reboot of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School?
Reboot? When is that happening?! (laughs) I don’t know, depends who’s making it. Years ago, Howard Stern wanted to do it. But I think that was 30 years ago. (laughs) Maybe a sequel? What happened to all of us. Can you even find another band these days like The Ramones? I don’t think so! God, I wish! Don’t you wish? Where are the new Rolling Stones and The Eagles, where is this generation’s music? Come on guys! I’m waiting for it!
In the VH1 interview above, you mention not being a fan of The Ramones’ music until you met them. How come?
Well, no because I’d never heard them.
How did that happen?!
Well it was 1979, and I was listening to The Eagles, Jackson Browne, and Joni Mitchell all those people at the time. The Ramones weren’t on the radar yet in California. Maybe in New York which is probably why Allan Arkush, the Director, knew about them. But they were just starting, they were just coming aboard the scene, definitely well known in the CBGBs and all that in New York but not in Los Angeles. So, when Allan gave me a cassette and I put it in, I just really didn’t relate to it and I didn’t know what it was… But I said, “Alright, I’m their #1 fan!” (laughs)
It took me I would say, probably ten weeks to two years to really hear their music and understand what it was. Now, it’s just so commonplace and amazing! I really love The Ramones!
What happened at that Star Wars audition for Princess Leia with George Lucas?
We weren’t told what movies they were casting, we were just told there would be two directors at that time. This was back around in 1975. They weren’t really that known yet. I mean I think Brian De Palma had done a couple of movies but he wasn’t really an established director yet, at least not in the mainstream. Probably, again in New York City. So, I walked in, I had my red hat on! I had just moved to L.A. two weeks prior from Manhattan, where I had lived for five years and wanted to get into movies. I was living at the Magic Hotel in Hollywood, and my modeling agency sent me up on this audition.
Brian just looked at me and then looked at George and said I’ll put it on my list. Then he said, “Next audition bring your hat!” Then there were three subsequent auditions after that with the whole cast that actually ended up being in the movie. I don’t think he picked one person in all those three subsequent casting sessions and screen tests that didn’t end up in the movie. So, he had a very good eye I think for casting. A year later, we found out it was for Star Wars. But even then, it wasn’t what it was today. Star Wars took a while to catch on too at the time.
Was that the one role you wish you got?
No! Oh my gosh, I love my Norma! She wasn’t even in Stephen King’s book, there was no Norma in the Carrie book. But Brian De Palma had put the one line in, ‘Thanks a lot Carrie, ‘ when she blew the volleyball game in the beginning. I really was only on for a week. But after he saw the dailies for that… I had rainbow pins on my hat and I hit Sissy [Spacek] over the head with my hat.
The pins got stuck in her hair and I just yanked it out. So, it just looked so nasty! I apologized to Sissy but she said, “No, this is going to look great!” Brian laughed and thought it was so funny. He said she’s on for the rest of the shoot. I’m going to pair her up with Nancy Allen, the two of them are going to be my my little bad girls. [laughs] So, that was awesome!
You mentioned wanting to work on your autobiography earlier. What are some parts of your past that you’d like to be part of it?
I went overseas for all of my childhood. My father was from Holland and my mother was from Englewood, New Jersey and they met in Germany after the war. Her first husband was killed and she went over there to help with the rebuilding as a secretary. My dad was helping Jews escape Holland and he was captured and put in a Nazi work camp. He was released by the American army and brought to the same base as my mother and so they met.
It took a whole lot of circumstance for me to be brought into the world! I was born in Germany and then my dad got a job with a company where he had to open up branch offices for around the world. We moved to Morocco, Venezuela (Maracaibo) where I spent six years, and then Brussels in Belgium.
I went to a high school in the International School of Brussels and learned French and Spanish. I was really on a writing and language track rather than an acting thing. Although, I had always acted in a lot of the school productions but it wasn’t something I thought was even possible. I hadn’t watched a lot of movies growing up. I went to Briarcliffe College in New York state in the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore year, where I was going to transfer to Georgetown University in Washington.
My roommate was from the city and I stayed with her for the summer because my parents had transferred to Istanbul, Turkey. I happened to come across The Actors Studio and there was a sign, ‘We’ll trade running spotlight for auditing classes,’ so I ran a spotlight on Joanna Miles and Scott Glenn that whole summer. I met a guy who happened to be Joshua White of The Joshua Light Show.
He told me, “Girls, on the catwalk probably shouldn’t be wearing short dresses!” [laughs] He convinced me to quit college and get serious about acting, and start acting, so he got me an agent. I did commercials, I was on a soap opera and it got everything Rolling. But when I think of my autobiography, I’d start with my life as a child because I think that was enough of a life… Without anything else afterwards. But then on top of that there was this wonderful acting career!
New sci-fi short film ‘Thanks for the Memories’ debuts on DUST today with a mind-bending plot seemingly inspired by Total Recall.
This article contains spoilers for film Thanks for the Memories.
Thanks for the Memories loosely explores the concept of trading in memories for experiences in a dystopian manner. The individual’s memories are sold to collectors the same way an art piece would sell at an auction. Mere commodities for the upper class to indulge in at the expense and exploitation of the proletariat. The company which provides the service compares the experiences to the same ones before the age of three. Meaning, the experiences make a life long impact though you don’t remember them in any tangible way.
The twist arrives when the protagonist Joel Fink played by Will Merrick, realizes he’d done the experience countless times before.
Ironically, Fink is steadfast in his naive initial belief that, “I don’t usually do this sort of thing.” It’s only when he catches a glance of eye contact with a girl [Thea Collings] exiting the premises that a flood of romantic memories awaken him.
As he signs on the dotted line, distortion takes over and viewers see an elder Fink signing once again… Presumably, for the first time in Fink’s eyes. Thus, the reasoning for his travel agent’s impatience at explaining the program. Quite Memento-ish.
It’s a shame the short is not a full feature as there’s so much territory one can cover with such an intriguing concept. Just as Total Recall’s Douglas Quaid once opened minds in his journey to Mars and left you wondering past the credits.
Thanks for the Memories stars Will Merrick (Skins), Jolyon Coy (Beauty and the Beast), Thea Collings (The Cake Maker), and Ed Jones in his film debut. The film is written by Felix Morgan and directed by Louis Norton-Selzer.
Thanks for the Memories Synopsis:
Joel Fink finds himself in a travel agent being offered the trip of a lifetime – anything he could ever want at whatever cost. It won’t cost him a penny but there is one catch: he won’t remember any of it when he gets back.
Why would anyone do that? The agent’s reply: it all depends on what you value more, memories or experiences? Joel decides experiences. It’s only when the agent opens Joel’s large file that we see it’s not the first trip he’s been on…not by a long stretch.
Visit the official DUST website to watch other intriguing, curated, independent Sci-Fi films (no subscription needed).
Be sure to check out The Natural Aristocrat’s interview with On/Off star Carole Brana which premiered on DUST this May.