Shannon Chats With OUTLAWS AND ANGELS Star Ben Browder!!
This past Friday, JT Mollner’s western/thriller OUTLAWS AND ANGELS came out in select theaters and VOD, after previously garnering love from the festival circuits. In anticipation of the films release, Icons of Fright’s Shannon McGrew, sat down with actor Ben Browder to discuss his role of George Tildon in OUTLAWS AND ANGELS, the danger of wild chickens on set, and his experience working with the up-and-coming director.
Hi Ben, thank you so much for speaking with Icons of Fright today! For those not familiar with your newest film, OUTLAWS AND ANGELS, would you mind giving us some background?
Sure! OUTLAWS AND ANGELS is a home invasion western/thriller set in the 1880’s on an isolated farm. Some bad people show up at this family’s home and as luck would have it, bad things happen. At the end of the day, this is a really strong feminist piece.
Having just watched it, I would agree 100%! What was it about the role of George Tildon that interested you?
The part that I played, when I read it on paper, scared the hell out of me. I though “Oh, I don’t know if I want to do this” but then I thought, “well nobody will want to do this” and I thought to myself that’s a good reason to do it! This role was outside of the box and outside of the normal role that someone would think of me for. [Director] JT Mollner took a huge risk in hiring me because I wasn’t what he had in mind when he was writing the character and I probably wasn’t what he had in mind when I showed up for hair and makeup either. He was probably like “Oh no, I just destroyed my film! I just took a critical character and cast the exact wrong person” [laughs]. In fact, I know he thought that when I showed up because [JT Mollner] told me, he was kind of in a panic when he saw me [laughs]. I don’t blame him as this was something I normally wouldn’t be cast in; however, I was very pleased to do it, and though it was difficult, it was artistically rewarding if not somewhat disgusting to play the character that I played.
What do you think makes OUTLAWS AND ANGELS different from other action/horror genre films out there?
There are a couple of things that stick out to me. For starters, it is an independent film that was actually shot on film, shot on celluloid, which gives the film a different feeling. It was shot on TechniScope which is the traditional aspect ratio for a Western film from the 60’s and 70’s. So the film has that look about it. We also did a lot of long takes which you see less and less of in film. The more digitized the industry becomes the faster the cutting patterns become. When you watch older films and you watch them on high speeds you can almost tell what films you are watching due to the long takes from the older films. The closer we get to the modern day, cuts and images are coming so rapidly that you can’t even tell what film you are watching. JT loves the Western genre and loves old films, as I do as well – I love the spaghetti Westerns like JEREMIAH JOHNSON and such. OUTLAWS AND ANGELS has a retro style with a very good cast that is able to work together for very long takes. From a practical standpoint it’s very enjoyable to do a long take, to play a scene from beginning to end, it allows the film to have a different quality about it. Though this movie is a home invasion piece it’s not schlock or over engineered.
Prior to hearing about OUTLAWS AND ANGELS, I was familiar with director JT Mollner because of his haunt, Freakling Bros. What was it like working with him on the set of his debut feature film?
JT is a really really nice guy. I think the haunted attraction side of his personality are things that he really wouldn’t want to go through. He’s actually just a really nice gentle soul and it’s hard to put all that together in terms of his haunt because he’s not a blood-thirsty kind of guy [laughs]. He’s really just a nice gentle soul and he really loves filmmaking. I’ll tell you, he loves celluloid and he has the soul of an artist.
During filming were there any challenges you faced or any hurdles you had to go through?
Well, the material was challenging. The greatest danger was making sure you didn’t have your eye removed from a chicken, an unusual danger, but the chicken wranglers warned me not to have the chicken anywhere near my eyes. We had to remain calm in the face of the chicken danger [laughs]. It’s not often you are on set and you find out that the chickens rule the set, I’ve never been in that situation before. I mean, I’ve dealt with farmyard animals, my Uncle had a farm, but I’ve never been warned by a chicken wrangler that I could lose my eye. So you know, that’s added pressure on your acting [laughs].
I think that’s a first for me, to hear that the chickens could be a danger. Last but not least, would you like to continue in the thriller/horror genre?
I like working, I like being on set, I love film and television and the storytelling potentials, so as an actor I don’t think about “Oh I want to play this character” in the abstract sense. Am I ever going to play HAMLET? Not likely, but people will say, “What role do you want to play” and I’ll say “I don’t know!” [laughs]. I’ll just ask what’s next, what is the experience, and what will be the enjoyment. Sometimes you are in things that are great, that can touch people, and sometimes you are in things that really only touches a handful of people – they really get the story and they are able to relate to it. From my standpoint, I love working, I love my job, and I have a great time, even when it’s hard. I’ve been doing this for a fairly long time so it’s kind of a great place to be at where you want to get up and go to work in the morning. It’s great to be on a set where they have spent $200 million dollars and it is great to be on set where they are only spending a mere fraction of that. The process is enjoyable at both ends of the spectrum, at least for me.
Thank you so much Ben for talking with Icons of Fright about OUTLAWS AND ANGELS. Your performance in the film was terrific and I know myself and the Icons team will be looking forward to seeing what you have in store for us in the future.