Behind The Scenes
On the eve of the release of his latest film, the Aussie actor dishes on his scheming character
Playing charismatic and manipulative cult leader Billy Lee in thriller Bad
Times At The El Royale is like nothing he’s ever experienced. Chris tells Woman’s Day about the challenges, the dark side of human nature and why he loved working with Jeff Bridges.
What initially interested you in doing this film?
My agent said he’d read a script that was one of the best he’d ever read, a Drew Goddard film. I’d worked with Drew before and I’m a huge fan of his work. I read it and loved it.
It sounds as though it was a particularly challenging role
It was challenging. I spoke more in this film than I’ve ever spoken in any film before! I had a scene that was about 14 pages long where I had to drive everything and I spoke for 90 per cent of the time. I tried to stay “in it” as much as I could. I drank a ton of coffee. I wasn’t eating a whole lot, so I didn’t have that usual post-meal slump. I was very jittery and wired, which was what I wanted the character to be.
Billy finds people’s bad side – do we all have a dark side?
I do think so and part of the talent of this character was that he would locate that dark side [laughs] in other people; he would prey upon it – whether it’s your darkest secret or your biggest vulnerability or your fears. I think we all have many sides and uncertainties that we discover at different moments in our lives that we didn’t know we had. We can all be pushed in the wrong direction or the right direction and influenced in right or wrong ways.
What was it like working with Jeff Bridges?
Well, you know, he’s Jeff Bridges and it was very intimidating to walk onto a set with someone who’s that talented, who is such a great actor. You’re instantly absorbed into the scene because of what he’s doing and how present he is. It was a pretty special experience.
How do you choose roles and find balance?
That’s the biggest challenge. I told Drew this was the best script I’d read in probably 10 years. I also told him time with my family is very important. He said, “I have a family,” and the producer said the same thing. They said, “We understand that, so let’s make it work,” and I’m so thankful for that.
IN CINEMAS Thursday
Chris plays cult leader Billy Lee.