I recently got the chance to talk to Neil D’Monte about his role in ‘Bunraku’. Here, Neil talks about what it was like working with Josh Hartnett and Guy Moshe and which three things would keep him sane on a desert island…
Hey Neil. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film ‘Bunraku’…
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
Hi Matt! Thank you for taking the time to interview me. The general plotline for ‘Bunraku’ involves two men who arrive in town simultaneously: The Drifter (Josh Hartnett) and a samurai named Yoshi (Gackt Camui). Both men encounter and befriend a local Bartender (Woody Harrelson) who sees that the Drifter is great at hand-to-hand combat and that the samurai excels in the use of weapons. The Bartender orchestrates a teaming of the two to train an army of working class men in banding together to defeat a common evil: the woodcutter Nicola (Ron Perlman) and his band of Nine Killers – all of whom specialize in different forms of martial arts.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play ‘The Pianist’ who works at Woody Harrelson’s bar, The Horseless Horseman. My character is essentially the comic relief of a tense fight scene between Josh’s Drifter and a band of five bikers.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
Originally I was hired as the storyboard artist after being referred to Guy Moshe by our mutual friend, Oren Senderman. Oren and I previously worked closely together on Nu-Image/Millenium Pictures’ ‘Day Of The Dead’. During casting, Guy and producer Nava Levin offered me the part of ‘The Pianist’ once they had learned that I also work as a professional musician as well.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
Visually speaking, the world of ‘Bunraku’ is honestly like nothing I have ever seen before. The characters all exist in an “origami”- styled universe, one in which all of the elements (buildings, vehicles, inanimate objects and even the sky) look as if they were fabricated out of folded paper. The film was influenced by live theatre and Japanese puppetry as well as the art direction of Robert Wilson. Guy [Moshe] wanted the fight scenes to be choreographed more like a dance along the lines of Gene Kelly’s films rather than the standard “beat ‘em up” type works we are used to seeing nowadays. The costumes were also created with bright and vivid colors synonymous to the boldness which comes with theatre.
The film stars Josh Hartnett, Demi Moore, Woody Harrelson, Ron Perlman, Kevin McKidd and Gackt – with Guy Moshe onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
It was VERY humbling (to say the least) getting to work with such top-notch talent! As an artist, I worked with Guy on setting up the camera shots which was amazing in and of itself. As an actor, I had such an amazing experience having scenes with Woody and Josh. Between takes, we all had fun joking around. But once the cameras were set to roll, everyone brought on their A-game and worked hard to bring Guy’s vision to life. The crew were a talented and dedicated staff of men and women whose attention to the smallest details were seen throughout the production. Casino chips, cigarette boxes, flyers, propaganda posters, playing cards and even the furnishings were all hand-made and designed by some amazing artists. It was a pretty unique experience!
Let’s talk a bit about you Neil. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?…
I had a passion for acting after watching Peter Sellers in the film ‘Being There’. I saw it when I was a kid and wanted to be like Peter Sellers when I grew up. I loved how he could essentially become a different person with every performance he gave. I also admired all of the little idiosyncrasies he brought to each character. My parents always supported my decision to pursue the arts even at an early age. They enrolled me in theatre classes where I continued to study and perform throughout school. Plus, I love making people laugh so theatre gave me the opportunity to do just that.
You’ve been in a number of different films – who has been your favourite actor/actress to work with so far, and which project has been your favourite to be a part of?
Wow, that is a tough question to answer as each film has made an impact on my life in different ways. I really enjoyed working with Johnny Depp in ‘Dead Man’s Chest’ as I am such a huge fan of his body of work. He was very friendly and personable on set and liked cracking jokes and playing with his son Jack off set. I also had a lot of fun with Woody, Josh and Kevin [McKidd] on ‘Bunraku’ and we all stayed in touch well after the production wrapped. I would say ‘Bunraku’ would be my favourite thus far. I was one of the first people to be hired and one of the last people to have worked on the film to its end stages. I also made a lot of long-lasting friendships on this film, especially with the gang at Picturesque and Snoot as well as with my adorable co-star Emily Kaiho (who played “Momoko”). It really was a family type of environment.
If you were stuck on a desert island – what three things could you not live out?
A set of drums, art supplies and a good supply of fresh fruits and veggies are always welcome. As long as I can create art and music, I would be happy. Actually, an I-Pod with a life-long battery would be nice too! Hahahaha!
Funnily enough, the next questions centres around I-Pods. What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
I have a wide selection of music on my I-Pod – all of which I use as an inspiration for art. I have a lot of songs from The Verve, Rush, Metallica, early Siouxsie And The Banshees, Beth Orton, Explosions In The Sky, Death From Above 1979 and Paul Westerberg in heavy rotation. I also have tunes from electronic acts The Chemical Bros., Massive Attack, FSOL and John Digweed. There is also a lot of punk rock from The Sex Pistols, Lords Of The New Church, X, Murphy’s Law and Dag Nasty. Other artists on my playlist include Sonic Youth, Cheap Trick (always a must), The Cult (one of my all-time favorites), Silversun Pickups, Scissor Sisters, Peter Murphy, Black Mountain and of course…Jane’s Addiction.
What’s the most interesting/funniest piece of news you’ve heard in the last month or so?
That is a good question. Honestly, I have been drawn to the World Grid Theory after seeing a recent special of it on The History Channel’s ‘Ancient Aliens’ series. I found it interesting that a mathematician discovered most of the recorded events pertaining to U.F.O. sightings and primitive sites like Easter Island and Stonehenge all sit on a grid similar to the latitude and longitudinal grids which we are currently accustomed. I have always had a deep fascination with the paranormal and the supernatural so reading up on this has been a pretty cool experience!
What’s coming up for you in 2011/12? I hear you’ve got a number of your own different projects coming up…
Thanks Matt! On the acting front, I have two features coming out next year: ‘TBK2: The Toolbox Murders 2’ (written and directed by my good friend/FX guru Dean Jones) and ‘Night Of The Living Dead 3D: Re-Animation’ (with genre favourites Andrew Divoff and Jeffrey Combs). I am also attached to a fantasy-film project called ‘Of Light And Darkness’ (with Michael Welch of The‘Twilight’ Series and Cassie Scerbo of ‘Make It Or Break It’). On the art side of things, I just finished pencils on the graphic novel ‘Templar’ written by Jon Simon which is now available on the website: http://graphicly.com/big-dog-night-entertainment/templar.
My friend/writing partner Neo Edmund and I are also busy working on our supernatural/thriller, graphic novel and film property ‘Clan Of The Vein’. We are also co-writing and co-directing our first feature film together called ‘Body Parts’. I am also involved in a film/graphic novel project with Lena Headey (‘300’, ‘Game of Thrones’) but I can’t really give out any information on that just yet. And you just might be able to catch me on the drums playing somewhere soon.
Thanks for the interview!