Interview with Ben Hollingsworth about his forthcoming film The Joneses:
Consumerism is the dominant theme in The Joneses. It seems that so-called stealth advertising is on the rise. Is this frightening to you?
I don’t find it “frightening” as much as I think it’s important that we be aware of it. Stealth marketing is on the rise and it’s probably in more places than we realise. The more aware of it the general public are that its happening and how it’s happening to them the more it becomes less scary and more transparent and more easy to recognise what it is.
Does the current wave of economic woes make The Joneses more resonant to audiences?
I think the film is a bit of a zeitgeist of what’s going on in our society. It’s a script that’s been around for a number of years and actually had trouble getting financing until the market collapsed and all of a sudden there was money to make this film about it all and it finally got the greenlight to get made. So yeah, I think its very current and very relevant.
This film could be seen as a sort of crossover film for you from TV into cinema. Did you learn a lot from the cast of seasoned pros you worked with on The Joneses?
Absolutely. Both Demi Moore and David Duchovny are people who have been in this business a very long time and in order to have longevity in this crazy world of entertainment you have to be skilled and you have to be very professional and I learned these things from having worked with both of them. In particular, David really took me under his wing and we would talk a lot about acting and a bunch of different things. He’s a really intellectual guy. He’s got a great education and always has his nose in a book of some kind and always has something interesting to say. So we shared a lot of thoughts about acting because I went to an acting conservatory in Canada called the National Theatre School so I’m interested in a lot of theories about acting. I’m a really big fan of Californication and its one of the best shows on TV. I was watching it in my trailer in between scenes with David so I got to watch him on screen and then I got to watch how he works in person so a lot of my acting style today I can attribute to Duchovny.
Was it challenging working on such a comedic film? Or are you a natural comic?
I don’t know that I’m a natural comic. I feel a challenge in it but I think the comedy is in the story and it’s in the script and in the situation the character is in. But I definitely learned a lot timing-wise from David. It’s a tough muscle to have, dramatic comedy, because it’s a hard to know when to go for the laugh and it’s a difficult transition to take someone from a laugh then to a heartfelt moment but for me it’s my favourite genre. You laugh a bit, you cry a bit, you go home happy.
I heard you had some work visa issues that almost meant you couldn’t be in the movie at all?
Just about! I had issues about getting my visa in time because I’m Canadian and the film is American so I actually had to go to the Fed Ex station right next to the airport on my way out. I had the towncar drop me off there to pick up my visa on the way, got on a flight and three, four hours later I was doing a read-through with David Duchovny and Demi Moore. It happened very quickly and there’s not a lot of time to spare. I had some very talented guys working on my side otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to do the movie...some really great lawyers.
Your character, Mick, is the emotional core of the film. Is that a lot of weight to carry?
Yeah, I think it’s a big weight to carry because you’re the moral standpoint and that’s the place that the audience relates to so the audience really needs to be able to connect to the character in order to relate to him. I think the concerns that Mick has and the struggles and conflicts that he plays with are something that a lot of people would feel in a situation like that. He sees through the superficiality of the materialistic things that surround him in his world. He’s almost drowning in all these gifts and all these toys that his family is given because there’s nothing real in it all. I think he’s striving for a real connection or something that’s not a 50 inch plasma screen TV but beyond what that can bring you, which is a real true-life relationship.
Both The Joneses and your TV series The Beautiful Life deal fundamentally with how easily the veneer of perfection can be peeled away. Is this something that interests you particularly, or is it merely co-incidence?
Great observation! I think you’re absolutely right. The human condition is what interests me and that is the layers of perfection being stripped away and seeing that to every beautiful thing there’s an ugly side and without that it not real, not human. And that’s what draws me to any character is the imperfection and it’s the things that are not quite perfect that allow you to get into the character and find depth and there really isn’t such thing as a perfect person because they don’t exist. Whenever I see a character that has a bit of a struggle and they appear to be perfect but there’s something about them that makes you think they don’t really have it all, that really attracts me to a character.
The Beautiful Life was tragically cut short after only two episodes. That must have been a devastating blow for you?
Absolutely! You become really close with the people you work with and when you jump in on a project you go full out. You really dedicate yourself. I moved myself to New York for it, so did all of my castmates. That’s a transition in itself and the lifestyle that comes with that. It was very, very sudden the way it happened. We were filming the seventh episode in the middle of a scene, in the middle of the day and they came in and said we had an hour to get out of the studio. It was very, very, very quick. That’s the entertainment business. That’s just how it functions, how it works. Often it has nothing to do with a show’s quality; it has to do with the show’s public response. That’s why I think I like film. Because it allow you to fully go through a story and craft your performance to fit it. You know where the character begins and ends. You know where it begins, where the conflict is, where it resolves and where it ends. As an actor that gives you more power to craft your performance.
So you plan to stick with cinema for a while?
Yeah, I would love to! There are some great television projects out there but I pride myself in my ability to switch my roles and change them so they don’t seem the same and they’re very distinct from each other. I love that about film. You get to step into someone else’s shoes for a few months then put your own shoes back on, then step into someone else’s shoes again for a few months and that’s great because it keeps that fresh feeling instead of having to play the same character year in, year out.
So, what’s next for you?
I just had a great meeting with a director yesterday about a film that Timbaland is producing. It’s in the works with some great cast members attached. There’s a couple of things but we’re being very selective because we want to follow The Joneses up with something equally as intriguing, current and challenging and not just jump into whatever comes up. I’ve had a couple of great meetings with directors and it’s all just about finding the right project and the right role.
I saw a very excited Tweet from you about St. Patrick’s Day. Did you have a wild one?
Oh yeah! Well, I’m three parts Irish. My mom’s maiden name is Hickey and my father’s name is McPhee so there’s a lot of Irish in me. A lot of Irish heritage in Canada, actually. I’m from a town called Peterborough, Ontario and it’s got a really healthy Irish population.
- Charlene Lydon 26/3/10