KJ: Hi Bryan. Thanks for chatting with me again. Let’s start with an easy question: what’s going on in your career right now?
BL: At this very moment I am developing a script for a feature film that I am planning to direct and act in. I say this because it depends on who gets attached further down the road. But one way or another it WILL happen. I am also in talks about a few different TV shows and films. The nature of these things is that they take a great deal of time to come to fruition and at the moment I cannot make anything official as I do not have exclusivity. I have a feature script for my short film, The Virtual Network, https://vimeo.com/82140705 that is now with a director and producer, so that might go further. London Has Fallen has been more successful than Olympus Has Fallen, and I’m still riding the wave…so we’ll see.
KJ: That’s exciting! You’ve got a lot going on! Can you tell us more about the feature film in development?
BL: It’s a suspense thriller set over a twelve-hour time period. I love the ticking clock scenario; audiences know what they are getting in for but also they don’t know what will come next. It’s like a cross between the films Taken and Collateral. The great thing is I’m developing it with the writer, which means we have nobody telling us what we can and cannot write for the time being. We’re having fun going back and forth and looking at each other asking “Can we get away with this?” We hope to have it completed in about six weeks’ time. Right now it’s just nose to the grindstone.
KJ: I want to go back to those hints about being in talks for “a few different TV shows and films.” What a tease! OK, I get it that you can’t talk about anything yet. How about this: Are there directors or filmmakers you’d really like to work with?
BL: There are many, for dozens of reasons. The obvious ones are Scorsese, Spielberg, Scott, Stone, Iñárritu, and Christopher Nolan. Also the wonderful female directors like Kathryn Bigelow, Jane Campion and Angelina Jolie. Bigelow, who directed The Hurt Locker, would be a dream to work with.
KJ: Bigelow is a favorite of mine too! Why are you drawn to her work?
BL: Hurt Locker was suspenseful, perfectly executed, and the characters were memorable—and not just because of the writing. The actors were all on point in every scene, but the trademark of a great director is the assembly of each beat and sequence. The great directors respect an actor’s craft but not onesingle element overshadows another.
KJ: And sometimes you have the luck to be given amazing characters to inhabit. Without giving too much away, are there roles you’d really like to play?
BL: I think about this regularly and ask other actors the same question. There are many roles I’d like to play, but the most interesting characters for me are anti-heroes. Personal stories with relatable characters who are undervalued but don’t recognize their own faults or limitations.
KJ: Can you give us an example?
BL: There is a film called Sling Blade, written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton (who also starred in the Fargo TV series),who plays Karl Childers. You might not agree with what Karldoes but you empathize deeply. It’s a stunning portrayal of a man who believes in right and wrong and is not limited by foresight nor the consequences of his actions. Thornton was about 40 at the time. It was his breakout role. I could go on but I’ll spare the readers.
KJ: Oh go on…we love this stuff.
BL: Okay, If I had to narrow it down it would be about three basic elements. I like a character who is conflicted as the result of an internal or external source--character who has a strong negative quality such as a fear of conflict or failure. Then my work would be to find an interesting way to convey that conflictwithout the use of words to fall back on all the time. Secondly, I appreciate a strong character. Strong doesn’t mean muscular and brave or who can stare down an army and have the enemy running for the hills. Strength can only come from a place of weakness; otherwise, there is no growth in a character. Strength is the courage to face fear, rejection, failure, death, revenge, etc. We watch what these characters put themselves through in order to bring back the balance in their lives. Lastly--and this is by no means the only thing I would like to portray in a character--is joy. Joy in what they do, why they do it. It could be anything from saving the world to leading an army to even running a pet shop. And we witness them being really good at it. Seriously, it’s such an important and interesting thing for me, to find what brings them joy and witness it. To discover the changes that occur in their body when they do what they love.
KJ: We all love watching those fully dimensional characters. I’m glad I made you spill your guts about that. Now, in terms of roles you are given to play---I’ve watched your videos and short films. You are often cast as a tough guy. Do you identify with these roles?
BL: I often don’t take what I am offered because it didn’t offer a challenge. But I never accept a role simply because the character is tough. Outpost and Battleground gave me “tough guy” roles,but I saw the characters as fundamentally resilient. They believed in something. I identify with the key component of these characters which is in all of us-- the quest to survive. The internal dialogue and characterization come from that place.
KJ: Speaking of survival--you have also played some intense video game characters. I have no experience in that realm, as an actor or even as a game player. So bring me up to speed slowly…what’s that like for an actor? How does it differ from the work you do in films and TV?
BL: It’s different, obviously, but the same as well. Motion capture can come with three different disciplines—you’d have all three together, or a combination of two, or even one. Full body motion capture is face, body and voice, and it requires a performance technique that is somewhere between TV and film and theatre. Some producers only want to use your face, some just your voice, and others just want your movement and build for their character designs. They look at you and they somehow immediately know if you have the body they want for their characters.
KJ: It must be really disorienting for an actor. That motion capture suit, green screens…
BL: Actually, the process of motion capture is fun and rewarding. The body has to move in a more exaggerated or heightened way but still be truthful, which can be a bit difficult to grasp right away. Some actors I know say it makes them feel fake or false because they are moving more than what feels natural for them, but it has to be that way so that the gamer will connect with that world. It’s about externalizing your thoughts a little more, using the body as a tool in doing so.
KJ: And sometimes, as you said, they just want your voice. That part seems more familiar to me.
BL: I have done a ton of voice work for games. Some great new titles are coming out this year for PlayStation and PC. I recently worked on Quantum Break, where I did eight different American accents, one Scottish character, a Russian, and three English accents. It was fun trying to keep track and trying NOT to do the same pitch or tone as the previous character. It is something I love to do…picking up a script and making it come alive in seconds, having never read it before.
KJ: You’re a man of many voices.
BL: I even wanted to get my Australian accent in there but there was no place for an Aussie in the game, unfortunately!
KJ: Their loss.
KJ: So in your real life, I don’t see you as a tough guy. You have established a fundraising effort to help children at risk. You sincerely care for and worry about children who are in dangerous situations. You may look tough, but you have a soft side. I think the actors I work with are generally more sensitive, emotional, and introverted than the average person. They have to be to inhabit or channel the characters they play. Does this describe you as well?
BL: Great question. I think it all comes down to understanding people. Understanding human nature. Don’t get me wrong--I have met actors who only care about themselves. But the best ones I have worked with are not easy ones to get to know; theyhave so many facets to their personality, but they are rooted in humility.
KJ: How does an actor stay humble, or at least grounded? There’s all that attention, fan worship, media glare….
BL: I have rarely met a highly successful actor who isn’t humble. They’ve made it; they have nothing to prove so they are very engaging and just normal people. In my experience they prefer not to be gushed over. To appreciate that someone actually admires what you do is one thing, but don’t let it go to your head. We are not saving lives here. We are acting. Creating the illusion of truth. Good actors who are humble acknowledge the attention but for them it’s about the work. It’s about just finding a trigger, a way to express the truth under imaginary circumstances and to focus all your attention on that. I’m not always good with crowds, and it might sound weird coming from an actor but I really don’t like any kind of attention where people expect something from you. I’m just a guy who loves to act.