Recently, I was fortunate enough to check out a screening of Who’s Watching Oliver, the multi-award winning serial killer film. Now, it’s our pleasure to discuss the film with its star, Russell Geoffrey Banks.
HGL: Who’s Watching Oliver turns the crowded slasher subgenre on its head and delivers something much deeper than standard horror fare. What about the project initially drew you in, and can you describe what the film means to you, personally?
Mr. Banks: Initially, what drew me to this project was wanting to make a movie with Raimund Huber and Richie Moore. We have all known each other for a while, and decided to write a serial killer movie together. It was also great working with Sara Malakul Lane for the second time, she’s amazingly talented and so funny on set.
What does the film mean to me personally? EVERYTHING, on many different levels. When you watch a story and character unfold from a few lines on a page to a finished film, you become emotionally attached. On another other level of course, I’m an actor trying to make a career for myself, so the success of the film effects me getting hired for future roles. Yeah, honestly it means everything to me in many ways. There is a whole treasure chest of memories attached to making this film.
HGL: I can imagine! Who’s Watching Oliver has been a resounding success on the festival circuit, taking home several Best Picture wins. What’s it been like for everyone to have their effort rewarded in such a positive way?
Mr. Banks: It’s been amazing! It was totally unexpected, and every time we win an award, I’m buzzing inside. It really makes me happy when people point out different aspects they liked because of the people attached to making that happen within our tiny crew. Raimund Huber was a one man army. The guy never slept and never stopped working, and that made the rest of us raise our game. Alex Boyesen, our sound guy, was amazing. Everyone was great involved. So yeah, it means the world to all of us.
HGL: Speaking of awards and raising your game, you’ve taken home quite a few wins yourself for Best Actor! Personally, I thought you were brilliant in the role of Oliver. How did you go about preparing for the role of such a mentally tortured and reluctantly violent man? What was that headspace like?
Mr. Banks: Thank you, means so much to me to receive the compliments I’ve been getting. Well, firstly, Oliver started to take shape in the writing process. I and Richie saw Oliver as a much more calculated and cooler guy. But Raimund brought to the table the idea of “Forrest Gump meets Crispin Glover in Back To The Future“, and then that’s where the real Oliver was formed. Then we started to look at the mental issues Oliver has and what he has had to endure throughout his life. So then we had a rough direction and shell of Oliver. But then every scene means something else to me personally- a mixture of the fictional character and what we wanted to achieve. To what I would have running through my head to get myself there, being a dark film, I had to go to some hurtful or painful or angry places in my past.
HGL: It’s definitely a dark film, but I also found several moments in Who’s Watching Oliver to be quite funny in an intentionally awkward sort of way. Is that offbeat humor something that you and the filmmakers intended, or did that fun aspect of the film blossom naturally from the tone and performances?
Mr. Banks: Again, a complete mixture. Obviously, the filmmakers, Richie and Raimund, guided the performances and scenes to get the majority of these moments, but there was definitely a sense of scenes naturally going in an unexpected direction as well, depending on how myself and the crew were emotionally. For sure, the environment on the set came out on the screen. Luckily, our bad days helped the scenes form a darker spirit. As did some of our happier days with the comical aspect.
HGL: Now that you’ve commanded the screen in a horror film, you’ve definitely got to give us the scoop on your personal taste for the genre! Are there any particular horror movies or performances that you admire?
Mr. Banks: Well, first, the horror movies I love include The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the Tobe Hopper version. I love a Thai horror film called Shutter. Films I grew up on, like The Exorcist, the Freddy films, and Friday the 13th. I’d say The Conjuring and The Strangers are more recent movies that scared me. Performance wise, the standouts for me are Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and also I loved Michael Rooker in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
HGL: I’m giddy every time someone mentions The Exorcist, The Shining, or Michael Rooker in general. Great choices! Before we let you go, are there any upcoming projects you’d like everyone to know about?
Mr. Banks: Yes, later in the year I have another horror due called Ghost House, directed by the wonderful Rich Ragsdale. That film, I got to work with Scout Taylor-Compton and James Landry Hébert. Wow, those two are talented. I’m a huge fan of both. The movie is a completely different type of horror to Who’s Watching Oliver. Keep an eye out, I have a good feeling about that film. Definitely had that Conjuring creepy element going on.
HGL: Sounds like a film people don’t want to miss! Thanks so much for your time.
For our review of Who’s Watching Oliver, click here.