The young Darth Vader films in Buenos Aires...
In recent weeks, the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Villa Lugano has become the scene of an apocalyptic thriller. There, the cameras filmed night and day to tell the dark story of Kurt, a young war veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress and is convinced that soon will be the end of humanity. Among paranoid delusions, this former soldier is preparing for the worst outcome. However, how severe is your state of mind or how true can your prediction be?
This unknown is the question by Numb, an Argentine-Canadian co-production starring Hayden Christensen and Harvey Keitel, who arrived in the country last October to work with Argentine director Rodrigo H. Vila, along with the rest of the cast with actors Rafael Spregelburd, Fernán Mirás and Liz Solari.
Christensen is in charge of interpreting the young ex-combatant of the suspense thriller produced by Cinema 7 Films and that will arrive at the cinemas between August and September of 2017. With some timidity, and from the tranquility of the tenth floor of Hotel Alvear, the Canadian actor is ready to talk with LA NACION about the filming experience in Buenos Aires and his previous work as Anakin / Darth Vader in Episodes II and III of Star Wars.
You’ve been shooting for weeks. What aspects were decisive for you to be the protagonist of Numb?
“I joined the project for several reasons: an audacious script, a creative director with whom I connected very well and a location that generated much curiosity. Filming in Argentina represents an adventure that today is fulfilling all my expectations. When you go to a new place, and with a team you do not know, you never know how that work will work. It’s very gratifying when you go look at the material on the set monitor, and you’re already excited about what you see. I take my hat off to those who set up this team because they are really good at what they do.”
How did you prepare to interpret this ex- soldier with post-traumatic stress?
When Rodrigo sent me the script for the film, he asked me to see his documentary about ex-combatants El héroe del monte Dos Hermanas, given that much of Kurt’s profile is inspired by that material. Also, I had a good time with a friend who is a war veteran and who suffered post-traumatic stress. He was very direct and clear with me, in addition to sharing his war stories, which unfailingly affect you and are difficult to forget. That helped me to build this role.
Meanwhile, Harvey Keitel’s character plays a key role in the development of the plot. The actor from Street Dogs and Taxi Driver embodies the prophet who prepares Kurt for the arrival of the end of the world. “Harvey is someone I’ve admired for a long time. His performance in The Duelists absorbed me completely when I was getting ready for Star Wars,” Christensen says. “I studied his work a lot so sharing the set with him is exciting. He’s a gentleman, too.”
And what was the result of working with the local cast?
“It’s been very good. This film has very eclectic characters, but it was formed by a cast of actors where everyone stands out, including one who has a small role. It is evident that Buenos Aires has a very vibrant and active film industry. I did not know it, nor did I know this was the case.”
Did you have any contact with your fans in Argentina?
“They have been very warm and respectful to me. They found out where I’m staying and every time I get back from filming there’s a small group waiting for me. I value that relationship and I do not take it lightly. I connect and spend time with them. Sometimes we shoot at night and when I come back at 6 in the morning, they are still there, waiting for me. It is a mobilizer. It was a great privilege to be part of those films and that world. I was able to interpret one of the great characters of the cinematographic culture. That’s why I have fans waiting outside the hotel, I’m aware of that. Although it was a while ago and my life went ahead, it will always be very important and I will be very grateful for the rest of my life.”
What was it like working with George Lucas?“
"A dream come true. I was 19 when I started and it turned out to be an extraordinary experience. It was a real privilege.”
What is your opinion on the direction that Disney is taking with the Star Wars saga?
“I can not say much about that, but I think George Lucas did something phenomenal when he sold the franchise to Disney. Donating millions of dollars to charity is one of the most remarkable things an artist has done for humanity.”
Do you think there’s a possibility of a spin off, where we can see you again in the role of Anakin / Darth Vader?
“I would say it is unlikely. The character has already served that purpose. But there is always the possibility.”
Along with his work in the Star Wars saga, he also starred in the action movie Jumper, the thriller Awake and the dramas The Virgin Suicides and Life As A House. Christensen shares with LA NACION about his interest in characters that represent a new challenge: “That’s why I try to look for roles that are different from what I’ve already done, but at the same time, and for some reason that I do not know, I’m attracted to slightly obscure characters. That is why I do not do many romantic comedies, I do not feel that I can achieve much in comedy or doing roles that resemble me.”
It’s been more than 15 years from the last time you worked on TV …
“I did the Higher Ground series just before I started with the Star Wars movies. At that moment I convinced myself that cinema was the medium where I wanted to work. But now, the fiction on TV has become something great, with important investments and interesting content. It’s really a legitimate way to create great stories, so it’s something that I’m targeting. I do not have a project to talk about but I am analyzing it. In addition, today you have the possibility to see a full series that you like through platforms like Netflix. This allows us to tell a great story in 10 or 12 hours, which opens up a lot of options for actors and scriptwriters.
You are 35 years old and you already created a production company with your brother, have you considered at any time to direct a project?
"Absolutely. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, but I never felt I was ready, until now. I was always attracted to the idea of telling a story and I think I’m at a point in my life where I could try. Anyway, I’m being patient until I find the right stuff. I do not want to be one of those people who talk a lot about things before doing them.”
Prior to his trip to Argentina, the Canadian actor filmed the thriller First Kill with Bruce Willis, which will hit the screen in 2017. “I finished it literally a couple of weeks before coming here,” explains the actor. “Bruce Willis is someone I’ve always hoped to be able to work with at some point in my life. He is John McClaine! And the experiences turned out how I imagined it’d be. I’m excited to see how the film will turn out.”
Meanwhile in Buenos Aires, Christensen and Keitel will film until December 7. The Spregelburd, Mirás and Solari characters are joined by the young Canadian actor Justin Kelly and Marco Leonardo.
All the filming of the film will be in Buenos Aires. Were you able to travel part of the city?
“Unfortunately not much. No more than going and returning from the locations. I hope I can spend more time touring it, but once I finish filming, because these days even when we are not filming, we are preparing for the next day.”
You have several extreme action scenes and ruled out the possibility of a stunt double…
"I do not mind some scrapes and bruises. And my right wrist is already healing from the last scene I filmed with Keitel. To have a stunt double is to lose some of the role, so I prefer to experience everything that the character lives. I like to commit myself to what I do and try to do everything I can.”
What expectations do you have with the premiere of Numb?
“I am interested in the ambiguity he proposes, that is, whether what we are experiencing is a dysfunction of Kurt’s brain or whether it can become something real. I am very attracted to this because it is not so common in commercial cinema to tackle such ideas and explore these concepts. This context is very interesting.