I recently got the chance to talk to Ben Loyd-Holmes about his new film, ‘The Hike’. Here, Ben talks about the outline of the film, what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set and what a Ben Loyd-Holmes day usually consists of….
Hey Ben. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. The Hike is in UK cinemas right now – and you’ve both written, produced and acted in it – what is the general plotline surrounding the film?
Well actually the film’s release has been delayed and the film will now be out around Halloween. We had to do two cuts as the first cut was judged a bit too much for the UK and Europe, which is kind of flattering I guess! The plotline of the film is a simple one, but the base of the story is just as important. The film sees five girls go on a hiking and camping trip when one of them returns from a tour in Afghanistan, where she has been serving as a soldier. The group head into the remote but picturesque areas and unexpectedly come across a couple of rock climbing thrill seeking guys that they form a bond with and end up hanging out and getting to know, un-aware they are not alone in the woods and everything is really not what it seems. The basis for the movie was to create something real; there are no stupid choices made by the characters and there’s nothing unbelievable in it – it’s based on very real situations.
Tell us a bit about your character in the movie…
I play Ethan, he’s one of the climbers the girls meet up with. He’s the alpha male of the group and there’s a lot of banter between them. He’s playful and up for a laugh but when things go bad, we see what he’s really capable of. He’s a great character to play and I am really lucky to have been able to portray him. Rupert saw about 25 other actors for the role and when I finally auditioned I’m very pleased it went my way.
I’ve just seen the trailer on The Hike’s own movie website. What do you think it is about ‘The Hike’ that makes it stand-out amongst other horror movies? It’s got that sorta ‘Blair Witch’ meets ‘Hostel’ aspect to it, don‘t ya think?…
I think realism is the thing that really makes it stand out. It’s really flattering to have our film compared to such great movies, I have heard those comparable’s before, as well as ‘The Descent’ and ‘Eden Lake’. Our film is about real people doing real things… real bad things, which has a commonality with a couple of those titles. I guess if the film is loved or hated for anything it’ll be because it’s a relentless and brutal film that is entirely real – there’s no get out clause, which can mean it’s harder for the audience to be able to deal with. It’s easy not to be scared when you don’t believe in Freddy of Jason, or when you can just say, I wouldn’t go there or whatever. Also there’s nothing unreal story wise… no sudden character change that doesn’t make sense, no one pulls out a cross-bow or rides a Unicorn to safety. It’s scary because it’s realistic.
The film stars Tamar Hassan (Kick Ass), Barbara Nedeliakova (Hostel) and Shauna McDonald (The Descent) – as both an actor and producer of the film, what was it like working with them?
Acting and producing are very different. You can love working with someone as an actor and hate it as a producer, but on this film I was lucky that the cast was pretty great. Tamer is a great guy, always smiling and telling a joke or a story, he’s was very supportive in what Rupert and I were trying to achieve and having him on board to play Dean really helped with developing Kate and Torri’s character, but also with some of the other elements in the film. Barbara is great too, she’s really funny and very easy to work with. The film was pretty grueling and for her to go through everything on-screen and work in the difficult environments the way she did was very commendable. As an actor working with her was great, we have quite a few scenes together both in the group and alone as she’s my love interest in the film and it’s easier doing those kinds of scenes with someone who you can have fun with. Shauna is great too. Producing wise, she was fantastic, she had a lot of ideas about her character and about how we could develop a particular scene. She had really good screen craft and performance.
As a writer, what made you to tell this story in the first place?
I’d been messing around with a few ideas in the horror genre for a while, but then I had an idea to create an ultra-realistic horror, one that people could identify with; with the characters, with the situation and with the context of the film. From there I started thinking about characters and setting: where they were going and why, and then I created the villains and their motivation. That was really the last part, I knew something about the killers, I wanted them to be more complex and interesting than the one-dimensional killer we often see. After going into all of the characters back story, history and motivating factors, the script started to develop and once I had an outline, I sent it to Rupert, who was in New York at the time, and he promptly got on a plane and we worked on the script to get it to the final draft. I should really get back to answering your question… I liked the idea of being able to create something different to the mainstream, still scary, still exciting, but that didn’t pander or give in. I wanted to take the audience on a ride of uncertainty and felt that this was a story which could achieve that.
What was it like working with director Rupert Bryan?
Rupert is a good friend of mine. I’ve known him for a long time and while I had focused on acting initially he had gone into producing and directing. It was about 2006 when we started producing together and working on ideas, its important to have trust in someone you write and produce with. I have a huge amount of respect for his vision – “think big”… it’s also what makes me wanna strangle him sometimes, but we never fall out over ideas or concepts. We both push hard for what we believe in but always support our ideas with reason and context, which helps us understand where the other is coming from and understand the idea in its entirety. ‘The Hike’ was as brutal a film to make as it is to watch and Rupert and I were the willing victims of the killer that was our movie. I couldn’t have done it without him and I’m sure he’d say that same. We often did 22 or 23 hour days, it was pretty crazy.
If you could hike anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I have spent quite a bit of time in various parts of Africa and Asia, Sri Lanka, Iceland. I pretty much wish I had been an explorer! If I could go anywhere to hike or explore it would either be Gabon or Madagascar. Amazing places with diverse and unique wildlife, that’s what interests me and what makes me want to travel.
Let’s talk a bit about you Ben. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
My Dad is in the industry and so I was a child actor. Wasn’t much of a choice at first. When I got older, I decided to step away from it and didn’t go back till I was in my 20’s. I needed time to go out and experience other things and explore life and the world a bit. It was then that I decided it was time to go back and after a few calls and meetings I was back in the industry again. It was as exciting as it was daunting, you know, “small fish in a big pond”, but I’m glad I didn’t let nerves get the better of me, I’m glad I hung in there when it was hard. I really believe acting is something that’s hard to suppress if it is a passion of yours. We get the opportunity to tell amazing stories and take people on a journey with or against a character. It’s a lot of fun.
What does a Ben Loyd-Holmes day usually consist of?
At the moment, I am producing and writing as much as I am acting. It’s a really exciting time. I get up, head to the gym to for a quick session, then head home to work on ideas or I go to the office to go over the projects with Rupert, nip to a casting round town, (most of them are in W1) before heading back to walk my husky and spend the evening with my girlfriend, which sadly for her means I’m more often than not, still working on ideas. She’s very tolerant, but understands it more than most as she’s in the industry too.
You’ve been in many TV series, such as ‘Band Of Brothers’, ‘Dead Ringers’, ‘Lewis’ and ‘Bones’ – would you say you go for a particular sort of character or role?
I go for any role that has some depth to it. I often get cast in tough guy or baddy roles. I’ve been a soldier several times, a hitman a few times, mercenaries, loan shark, all kinds of ‘that guy’ – so when a role comes up that’s a bit different, I jump at it. I love playing a character that’s allowed some comedy range or something a bit more interesting. I think like most actors I just love the idea of being able to get into a character and build something entertaining that does the story justice.
We should point out that you played an Operative in ‘Torchwood’ during the ‘Children Of Earth’ saga – what was it like working on-set with the cast and crew?
‘The Operative’ was such an odd character name… yeah it was great. I was in four of the five episodes but was really only ever on-screen with Liz May Bryce who’s great. I have spent more time with the rest of the cast at the autograph signings and events that we get invited to. Kai and Gareth are great, as is Colin and of course John. The fans are great too. They love the show and know so much about it.
You’ve just finished production on a short called ‘Straggler of ‘45’ – what can you tell us about this project?
James Adkin approached me through a friend that was on the project and the film had a strong message which I felt needed to be told so I accepted the role of Macdonald. I got roped into producing a little bit too. I wasn’t that hands on, more advising really as I was busy with ‘The Hike’s additional version and with the Berlin Film Festival. It was tough to balance it.
What else is coming up for you in 2011?
It looks like 2011 will be an exciting year, with huge amounts going on already. I’ve just finished ‘Spooks’ which was very enjoyable to work on again and I have a couple of feature films coming up, where I’m playing some great characters and of course I’ll be producing too. I will also be going to Diff Con this year and a couple of other signing and work related events so I think it’s going to be pretty busy. I like it that way. The more opportunities I can get the better. I love the industry and am thankful for the opportunities I’ve had and I’ll keep grabbing them while they are still being offered to me!
Thanks for the interview!