In Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones, up-and-coming Australian actor Xavier Samuel plays Brent, a high schooler suffering from depression who finds his will to live challenged when Lola (Robin McLeavy) doesn’t take to kindly to him declining her invitation to the prom.
Since Lola always gets what Lola wants, she has her daddy (John Brumpton) kidnap Brent and hold him hostage during her own special dance, and as someone who wasn’t sure he wanted to live to begin with, Brent has to find the fortitude to survive before “the last dance” with Lola and her power drill.
Already being hailed as a modern horror classic overseas, The Loved Ones is finally making its debut stateside on Friday, June 1, 2012, as part of a new interactive screening experience from Tugg and Paramount Pictures where fans can vote to have the flick play in their area.
Recently Dread Central had the opportunity to chat with Samuel about the challenges and the appeal of playing a complex character like Brent as well as his experiences working with writer/director Byrne and much more, including a little bit about Bait 3D.
Read on for the highlights of our exclusive interview with Samuel below, and make sure to check out The Loved Ones when it hits limited cities this weekend!
Dread Central: Considering the very unusual story Sean created in The Loved Ones, what was your first impression of the script when you were approached to come on board the project?
Xavier Samuel: When I first read it, I wondered what kind of sicko would write this thing? (laughs) And then I thought, ‘Where’s all the dialogue?’ so I was thinking that maybe there was a reason Sean didn’t want me to talk much. (laughs again)
No, but seriously- I read it and it was pretty intense but really clever, too. I had seen his short film before, and I found it absolutely exhilarating and unusual so I knew I wanted to work with Sean. I could see that he had a passion for terrifying people; his approach to both of those stories was kind of intoxicating.
Dread Central: I’m sure it was pretty challenging to bring Brent to life without being able to speak at all.
Xavier Samuel: Oh definitely, but I really loved that challenge of trying to bring Brent to life without relying on words; it was incredibly hard, but I enjoyed pushing myself like that. Plus Robyn and I worked together to really work on the ebb and flow of our scenes because we couldn’t always be going at 11; that’s not momentum, that’s just chaos. So we really worked hard on making sure that each scene would continue to elevate the terror in Sean’s script; and it’s not an ‘easy’ story to get through emotionally, but thankfully Robyn and I laughed a lot during rehearsals. That helped a lot.
Dread Central: Was that difficulty the biggest appeal of playing this role then? Or was there something else?
Xavier Samuel: You know, the fact that Brent was a different kind of role for me to play was definitely what attracted me the most to The Loved Ones. There was a complexity to him, especially because he does some destructive things like cutting himself. We needed to treat that aspect of his character very delicately because it is a real affliction that so many kids out there face; that was really important.
Brent’s also dealing with a lot of other issues, too, including what’s happening with his family and feeling some guilt so there’s a lot of dark material there. The key, though, was to keep a realistic approach to it so he was just kind of grumpy but not like a caricature; Sean was always great about helping me find that balance.
Dread Central: How was it collaborating with Sean then?
Xavier Samuel: Sean was amazing to work with; he’s so smart and passionate about filmmaking that he’s really the only guy that could have ever made this story work in such a quirky way. He worked with me before we were shooting and even gave me a bunch of heavy metal music to listen to just to get inside Brent’s head.
Dread Central: I know that this has been quite the journey- getting The Loved Onesreleased Stateside. How great does it feel to finally see the movie get released and in such a creative way?
Xavier Samuel: I think this release is really exciting, to personalize the theater-going experience like this. The business overall is changing, and what Tugg and Paramount are doing for The Loved Ones is definitely great because it gets the fans involved; it’s almost like making a community out of an audience, which is how it should be- especially with a horror movie like this. It’s great with a bunch of friends, for sure.
Dread Central: So what’s coming up for you next then?
Xavier Samuel: I have a couple of things in the pipeline actually; there’s a surfing movie I did called Drift that’s about a couple of guys in the 70’s that changed the face of surfing, and then I did a movie called Bait, which is pretty much just ‘sharks in a supermarket.’ It was so much fun to make, and I think it’s pretty hilarious.