I recently got the chance to talk to Zak Knutson about his role in ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’. Here, Zak talks about what it was like working with Mel Gibson and how he got into acting in the first place…
Hey Zak. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’, (also known as ‘Get The Gringo’).
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
Mel Gibson plays a character named Driver. He stole some money from the wrong people and is hiding out in a Mexican prison. I play one of two hitmen sent to find Mel and get the money back.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
If there were such a game as ‘good crook – bad crook’, my character would always be the bad crook. He doesn’t really have any redeeming qualities that can be applied to everyday life. Not many people need to know how to cut toes off or crash cars.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I got called in and auditioned for Vicki Thomas. She liked what I did and she sent my tape to Mel, who was already shooting in Mexico City and he and Adrian, the director, cast me on the spot and 24 hours later I was on a plane to Mexico City.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
The film isn’t so much different as it is similar to other genre movies. If you are a fan of film noir or Lee Marvin flicks, you are gonna love ‘Get The Gringo’. It reminds me of the movies made by Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin, and Robert Mitchum.
The film stars Mel Gibson, Peter Stormare, Dean Norris, Bob Gunton, Stephanie Lemelin, Kevin Hernandez and Scott Cohen – with Adrian Grunberg onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
Mel couldn’t have been nicer on set. He was really a pleasure to work with. As a fan of the ‘Lethal Weapon’ movies when I was a kid, I tried not to geek-out too hard. I had to be the tough guy after all. Peter was awesome. He plays our boss in the film and the guy is constantly doing things, playing with the scene, and bringing something different to every take. I don’t have too many stories that are funny from shooting. It was a pretty straight forward shoot.
Let’s talk a bit about you Zak. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
I would watch TV shows as a kid and want to be what I saw on television. If I saw ‘Emergency’ – I wanted to be a fireman or an EMT. If I watched ‘The Bionic Man’ – I wanted to be a test pilot. ‘Chips’ a cop. Then one day I realized if I was an actor I could be all of those things. My true love is behind the camera now. I dig being able to tell my own stories as well.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
Make sure that you have no problem with being broke and poor for the first 10 years of your career. Make sure that you will be fine living with yourself if it never works out for you. Don’t get into it for the fame. Get into it for the love of the craft, and respect the people who have done it before you.
You’ve worked with director Kevin Smith on a number of different projects – in your opinion, why do you think his films are so popular? What makes him such a good director?
Kevin’s unique because of the stories that he tells. He is able to connect with an audience that has followed him through the last 20 years. He now has fans that know him more for his podcasts and live DVDs than they do for his movies. He is a personality you can relate to. You can reach out to him and he will respond through Twitter, Facebook, live shows…not many filmmakers do that for the fans.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose?
John Milius, Sam Peckinpah, and George Carlin.
What is your favourite word?
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I’ve got a documentary that Joey Figueroa and I have been working on for some time now. We will announce it in September when its done. It’s an epic about a Hollywood legend. 55 interviews and counting. We can’t wait for people to see it. I’m helping to produce/direct a show with Joey for Kevin at the moment. That will be announced soon. Like, within the next two weeks. We start shooting in June. I continue to act and do voice over work. I try to stay as busy as possible.
Thanks for the interview!