IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Kevin McKidd talks 'Bunraku'

Friday, 30 September 2011 13:03 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Kevin McKidd talks 'Bunraku'

To television audiences, actor Kevin McKidd is best known for his performance as Dr. Owen Hunt on ABC’s hit medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, as well as his work on the short-lived but fan-favorite shows Journeyman, and Rome. However, McKidd also has a long and impressive resume of film work to his credit including roles in Trainspotting, Topsy-Turvy, Nicholas Nickleby, Dog Soldiers, De-Lovely, Kingdom of Heaven, Hannibal Rising, Made of Honor, and Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. The actor will also be heard (but not seen) next summer voicing a role in Pixar’s upcoming computer-animated fantasy The Brave. But first, you can catch McKidd playing a dangerous, psychopathic assassin in the new sci-fi action film Bunraku, which opens in theaters on September 30th.

Bunraku, which combines elements of both the samurai and Western genres, is set in the aftermath of a global war where guns have been outlawed but people still fight using knives and fists. McKidd plays Killer No. 2, a psychotic and deranged assassin that works for the current crime boss, Nicola the Woodcutter. One day, a mysterious drifter (Josh Hartnett) seeking revenge against Nicola comes to town and teams up with a samurai named Yoshi (Japanese musician Gackt). Together the two warriors unite to take down the crime boss and recover a family heirloom that he has stolen from Yoshi’s clan. Now, it is up to Killer No. 2 and Nicola’s other assassins to stop the two anti-heroes from reaching their ultimate goal. The movie was directed by Guy Moshe, and also stars Woody Harrelson (Zombieland), and Demi Moore (Ghost).


I recently had a chance to speak with actor Kevin Mckidd about Bunraku; its complicated fight sequences, his character, working with Josh Hartnett, and director Guy Moshe’s unique vision for the film. Here is what he had to say:

To begin with, Bunraku is a hybrid of several different genres including Western, martial arts and sci-fi, were you a fan of those types of movies before you began shooting this film?

McKidd: I'm a huge fan of genre movies. I started wanting to be an actor because I loved science fiction movies and so I've always been a fan of genre pictures. One of my favorite films that I've done in the past few years was Dog Soldiers. I usually play in very straight stuff, which is great, but it's nice to let off the hand brake occasionally and enter a strange, crazy world. I have a huge affection for the genre. I want to do more science fiction and genre movies because I think you get to have more fun in those types of movies.

The movie is extremely stylized with a very ambitious production design; did you have any trouble adjusting to that world on screen or understanding director Guy Moshe’s vision for the film?

Kevin McKidd: I think everybody in the cast really stepped into Guy's vision and sort of put their trust in him. I think that is a real testament to this cast that we kind of just went with it. But that's the fun of being an actor, that you get to walk in different shoes and be led into a strange new world. Guy certainly did that and he did an amazing job.


In the film your character, Killer No. 2 is really at odds with Josh Hartnett’s Drifter, and the two go toe-to-toe with each other in some fantastic fight sequences. What was it like collaborating with Josh on those scenes and working with him on the movie?

McKidd: It was great and Josh is great. We've become good friends, as I have with Ron (Perlman) and everybody in the film, we all stay in touch. He's great in that role as the Drifter and I think he really shows a great side to him. He's fleshed out the character into this real kind of American leading man and I think he plays the role great. I think the dynamic between Killer No. 2 and Josh’s character is interesting because they're both quite dark characters. Killer No. 2 is such a sociopath individual that I think it rubs up against his character in a cool way; the confrontation between those two guys. It's almost like two animals just kind of smelling each other so they can just instinctively hate each other's guts.

The combat scenes in the film are quite intricate; did you have to go through a lot of training to learn all of the fight choreography?

McKidd: Yes, and it took a long time. We trained to get all the choreography down. Guy actually wanted most of the actors to do 95% of all the fights. So we hit the training for probably up to about a month to two months before the movie even rolled camera. I had to go to dance classes to get that tap dance kind of Fred Astaire thing going on. The guys taught us martial arts training everyday. That whole team was amazing and very patient because none of us were born martial artists. So they had the patience of saints. I think we were turned it into pretty convincing street-hybrid-warriors in this movie. I enjoyed that part more than anything. I’ve continued training with these guys afterwards because I really responded to all that physical exertion and learning those new skills, which normally never get a chance to do when you're an adult.


Did you have sword work experience prior to shooting this movie or did you have to learn that skill for this film as well?

McKidd: I've done sword work in movies and in theater school on stage. I’ve done a lot with swords, but this is a very specific and very stylized sort of martial arts work in that tradition. So you have to get it right or it sticks out like a sore thumb.

When you first read the script, what was it about the character that really resonated with you and indicated that this could be a unique film project that you really wanted to be involved in?

McKidd: I had just come off the show called Journeyman, which is kind of a science fiction show that I'm very proud of. The character was a heroic family man character. As an actor over the years, one of the only things I've ever had a plan to do is to keep changing and not be a sitting duck. This seemed like an ideal thing straight off the back of Journeyman to go one hundred and eighty degrees in the opposite direction and play a sociopath psychopath, a sort of killing machine with no mercy and no remorse. To me that was the bigger attraction, getting the chance to sort of completely flex a different muscle as an actor.


I understand that you were one of the first few actors to sign on to the project, so when you hear that accomplished performers like Woody Harrelson, Ron Perlman, and Demi Moore are signing on to the film, does that validate your choice to do the movie in a sense and assure you that you will be in good company on the set?

McKidd: Totally. I remember when I signed on, the only person who had signed on already was Josh and then I signed on. Then Guy told me that he met with Woody and Woody said, “Wait a minute, that guy Kevin McKidd's doing it, and Josh's doing it? Okay I'm doing it.” Then Ron came as well. So it's kind of cool when a cast has respect for each other as actors and that was very much the case on this. It's exciting to too start hearing those names come down the pipe once you've become attached to it.

Finally, now that you’ve had a chance to work with Guy Moshe and learn his process as a filmmaker, did you enjoy the experience and would you want to work with him again in the future on another project?

McKidd: I'd love to do it again. In fact, Guy and I are trying to build a project now. We’re trying to find a project to do together. Probably in a completely different genre, probably a much smaller, more intimate film, which we haven't quite landed on yet. But we do have the intention to work together again. Guy has a very particular way of working and a very particular vision. But he's very anxious and drags everybody along with him. He's got the energy of a bull. He was very high up in the military in Israel so I think that sort of grit that you get when you reach a proper place in the military environment; I think that is a good spirit for making movies. So yeah, I'd love to work with him again.


To read my exclusive interview with Josh Hartnett about Bunraku, please click here.

To read my exclusive interview with Ron Perlman about Bunraku, please click here

Bunraku opens in theaters today!


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