I recently got the chance to talk to Sean Patrick Leonard about his role in Gerard Butler’s new film, ‘Machine Gun Preacher’. Here, Sean talks about what it was like working with Gerard Butler and how he got into acting in the first place…
Hey Sean. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film ‘Machine Gun Preacher’.
It’s my pleasure. Thanks so much for your interest in the film and taking the time to talk to me.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film? I understand it’s based on a true story…
It is indeed a true story of Sam Childers, who was on a downward spiral in his life as a drug user and part-time hooligan until one day he heads to Africa to find work and discovers that the children of the Sudan are being used as slaves, murderers and soldiers in this small militia that is set out to take down the Sudanese government. Sam cannot bear to see these atrocities and becomes saved by God, becomes a preacher and builds his own orphanage in the Sudan to help save these children. A true hero tale.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play the Crackhead back in Pennsylvania where the Childers live. I have a confrontation with Sam over his best friend Donnie who has come to me to get his fix on.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I auditioned for the film in Chicago through my agent’s office. I then was asked to come up to Detroit where they would be filming the Pennsylvania scenes. That is where I met Marc Forster. I was originally up for the Customs Agent but Marc wanted me to read for two other roles. I was in the room for about 20 minutes. It was amazing and surreal. I then came back to Chicago where my agent told me they wanted to see me for a fourth role that was to be improvised – the crackhead. I went into my agent’s office with some red make-up under my eyes and a sloppy crackhead wardrobe and nailed it, I got the role a few days later and went up to Detroit in the summer of 2010 to shoot.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
You couldn’t make up this guy’s story if you tried. He is a remarkable man who went through remarkable transformation and dedicated his life to these children. Also on a technical note, the editing style and whole makeup of the film really had a different flavour that I have never seen before.
The film stars Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Kathy Baker, Michael Shannon, Madeline Carroll and Souleymane Sy Savane – with Marc Forster onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
Well in one word – amazing! I only got to work with Gerard and Michael on-set. Though I did not get the chance to meet Kathy Baker I will forever have high respect for her as an artist and more importantly as a wonderful human being. She found out that the assistant make-up designer had a thing for pineapple, so she had one sent to her as I was being made up. Though it was a small gesture I thought it was very telling of her. When it come to Gerard, he is so kick-ass to work with. A real stand up guy who not only worked with me on this improvised scene but when it was time to head to the new location he went out of his way to meet with his fans and sign autographs, even though he could have dived into a limo and took off. Gerry is a really hard-working actor that definitely takes his craft very seriously. Michael Shannon – what can I say but he is a genius! Great actor, a total pleasure to work with and a really cool guy to hang out with. I saw Michael afterwards at a restaurant, walked up to him to say “Hi” and he turns to me and says “Hey crackhead – how are ya?”. I was only on-set for one day and he remembered who I was – a really class act. Marc is amazing – so generous and so friendly and warm and giving. I just felt really at home making this movie. I was very lucky!
Let’s talk a bit about you Sean. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
Actually a girl in high school got me into acting. I had a big crush on her, joined the Drama Club to get to know her and fell in love with acting and not the girl – unfortunately. I went on to college to pursue radio and took an acting class, my teacher at the time Suzanne Thompson told me I had some skill and suggested I go into this full-time. I have never looked back.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in acting?
If you are serious about getting into acting I would say that you MUST have a thick skin – you will be turned down A LOT! Have a short memory when it comes to rejection and never ever give up.
What is your favourite holiday destination and why?
My favourite destination is Hawaii. That is where my wife and I celebrated our honeymoon. I would love to own a home there someday.
If you could invite three people to dinner (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Three people I would invite to dinner would be my amazing wife – Mercedes, my comedic hero Bill Murray and my acting hero – Paul Newman. I respect all three way to much and would love to be a part of those exhilarating conversations. I think it would be a blast!
If you were stranded on a desert island – what three things could you not live without?
I could not live without my wife and kids. They are the reason I get up in the morning. They are the reason I can get through the highs and lows of my career. They are my foundation. I love you Mercedes, Ruby and Jack!
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
Well in 2011, I finished three independent features – (‘The United States’, ‘The Drunk’ and ‘F%ckload of Scotchtape’) and two shorts. I was also in a web series that should be out by January. ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ got a standing ovation at the Toronto Film Festival and just made its way overseas. In 2012, the second season of ‘Guys Book Club’ – a great web series I am a series regular in goes into production and hopefully I’ll be doing more auditions and there will be more amazing opportunities around the corner. Thank you so much for this interview Matt and keep up all the hard work.
Thanks for the interview!