I recently got the chance to talk to Ray Tiernan about his role in ‘Killer Elite’. Here, Ray talks about what it was like working with Clive Owen and which three people he would invite to a dinner…
Hey Ray. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. Of course we‘re here to talk to you about your new film ‘Killer Elite‘.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
Jason Statham is a retired soldier-for-hire trying to pick up the pieces of his life when he’s dragged back into that world to save his friend and mentor, played by Robert DeNiro. To do so, he must assassinate some ex-British SAS soldiers. This brings him into conflict with Spike (Clive Owen) who is the man on the ground for a secret organization associated with the SAS. It’s based on the non-fiction novel ‘The Feathermen’ by Ranulph Fiennes and is set in the late 70s/early 80s pre-digital world. No mobile phones, no internet, no GPS, etc.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I was asked to be a reader for the auditions here in Australia. Basically I was the guy out of shot while the other actors auditioned. Gary McKendry (the director) and I got on well and he liked my reading of the various characters in the script and so when something came up which suited my style Gary gave me the nod.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
My character is a Footman at an old establishment gentlemen’s club in London. This is where Clive Owen’s bosses in the secret organisation “hang out” – imagine a cubby house for wealthy grown men, lots of old oak chairs, billiard tables and expensive wines and spirits. Men of power are members there and this is where they unwind so my character is used to seeing and hearing the powerbrokers of society cut their deals, drink too much, etc. He keeps his job because he sees things yet turns a blind eye, he hears things but is tactfully deaf and he keeps out scruffy non-members of course.
How would you say this film is unique and different?
Two elements set it apart I think. One is the technology element (or lack thereof) as I mentioned before. All the gadgets, problem solving and tools available to the characters are from the analog era which is unique for an action film at the moment. There is very little, if any, high-tech wizardry where you just press a button and ‘voila’. Also, the quality of the cast is simply amazing. You don’t see a cast like this in your everyday action film.
The film stars Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Niro, Dominic Purcell, Aden Young and Yvonne Strahovski with Gary McKendry onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
A fantastic experience. Working with people who are at the top of their profession, regardless of what profession that is, is always amazing. The crew was focused, patient and incredibly polite. Most of my work was with Clive Owen which was a thrill, a learning experience and an honour all rolled into one. Gary was calm, specific in what he wanted, infectiously energetic and insistent that you have fun.
Let’s talk a bit about you Ray. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I never did any plays at school or anything like that. The only performing I had ever done was Irish dancing…which I wasn’t very good at. I mostly seemed to pick up fourth place in a field of four. Then one day the thought literally just struck me. I was about eighteen. I was cleaning up the kitchen at home one night with my brother and the thought just hit as I was wiping up a plate “I want to be an actor”. I then did everything but pursue acting for a number of years (including living in London for a period) before realizing this itch wasn’t going away. Like a lot of Australians I had worked some of my time in the UK in pubs. It was there I met and became friends with an actor. My Visa expired so I returned to Australia and on the advice of my friend I enrolled in an acting school where I learnt some basics and met some great people who I’m still friends with to this day. Once I finished drama school I treaded the boards for a number of years before moving to Melbourne (I’m originally from Brisbane) to seek out more film and television roles. I’ve been very lucky. As so many people say, it’s a tough gig.
You’ve been in a number of films and TV projects – who has been your favourite actor to work with so far, and which TV series has been your favourite to be a part of?
Working with Clive Owen, brief though it was, has definitely been the highlight in my film work. He is so quiet, polite and unassuming around set and then when the cameras roll he is just bursting with energy and intensity. It is truly wonderful to observe and work off him as another performer. I was quite nervous as we hadn’t met before and pretty much had to go straight into shooting our first scene. He just focused on his job, which helped me calm down and focus on mine. As far as TV goes ‘Sea Patrol’ was great fun and special as it was my first TV role. At one point in the story my character was involved in a close range gunfight scene – playing ‘shoot ‘em ups’ and getting paid, I ask you – is there a better job than acting!!??
‘City Homicide’ was a great experience as I love cop shows and murder mysteries so to get to be a part of a show of that genre which had been running for a few seasons was great. Everything just ran like clockwork and everyone made you feel at home even though as a guest performer you were essentially an outsider in their workplace.
If I was a genie and could grant you three wishes, what would they be?
- Make my lifestyle stable enough so I could get a dog. I would love a dog but there isn’t much routine in my career at the moment so I couldn’t give a pet the attention they need.
- Get me a role in ‘Zoolander 2’.
- Make me a better cook.
If you could have a dinner with three historical guests, living or dead – who would you choose and why?
- Sam Cooke, the 1960s soul singer who died young. He was an amazing singer. His studio and live albums sound amazing and he was a financially independent performer…no mean feet. I would love to talk to him about performing and all things about this business.
- Steve McQueen – he was such a great screen actor who always challenged himself to say as much as he could without words. From what I’ve read he was also an incredibly complex individual so it would be a lively dinner.
- Mae West – judging from her quotes she must have been the life of any party she attended.
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
In Australia the government just passed legislation to bring in a Carbon Tax and we’ve had years of political argument about it so it’ll be interesting to see if it has as huge effect on our lives as some say or if it will quickly be forgotten and we’ll forget what the fuss was all about.
What’s coming up for you in 2011/12?
I help to organize an ‘actor’s gym of sorts – where a group of us get together, with a director, and work through scenes – so there will be more sessions coming up next year. On top of that I’ll be doing guitar lessons, voice classes and auditions, auditions, auditions of course…
Thanks for the interview!