Love might be the emotion that kills Ryan Kwanten's character in the sci-fi thriller Expired. Opening in select theaters, on digital, and On Demand beginning March 18, the film takes place in a future where machines run the world and skyscrapers tower over the cities as neon lights pulsate. Kwanten portrays Jack, a cold and emotionless gun-for-hire that fills his joyless life with robotic lovers and assassinations.
That all changes when he encounters nightclub karaoke geisha April (Jillian Nguyen). The two connect and eventually fall for each other. As Jack's heart begins to melt, he is struck by a mysterious illness. Desperate for answers, Jack seeks out Dr. Bergman (Hugo Weaving), a reclusive scientist who might be able to shed some light on whether love will conqueror all or lead to Jack's death. CBR recently spoke with Kwanten about the state of humanity, damaged characters, performing opposite Hugo Weaving, and True Blood.CBR VIDEO OF THE DAY
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CBR: What excited you about the project when you signed on to Expired?
Ryan Kwanten: I've been on this for close to eight or nine years now. I worked with director Ivan Sen on Mystery Road. He pitched the idea of Expired to me then. I couldn't help but be drawn in not just to the character from an individual standpoint but knowing, once I had read the script, that this had something deeper to say about where we are heading as a species. That's what we all love about sci-fi, is that you can take your imagination to those places where it's, "Oh shit. That's not too far in the distant future." So much so [that] I think this could be considered near-fi as opposed to sci-fi. This feels like somewhat of a tangible kind of a world from where we are right now. Look, I think it was a little bit of a wake-up call [that] maybe we should start investing a little bit more in the human condition as opposed to just machines and technology.
Your resume contains plenty of damaged characters. WhatseparatesJack from the rest of the pack that you have played?
His ability to live without those deeper feelings of emotion. He's the epitome of a hardened soul. Then to see this hardened unemotional man who gets paid to kill people for a living and [has] no remorse about it, seeing the way he gets broken down by love and opened up by love was really powerful.
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When the audience first meets Jack, he's this closed-off, reclusive hitman. What does April awaken in him?
I think brokenness recognizes brokenness. There's a true sense of looking into someone's eyes and knowing that they have been through hell and recognizing that in the other person. There doesn't need [to be] a lot said in that circumstance. Ivan was pretty adamant that this movie says more when we aren't saying anything, in the breaths between the words. That sense of recognition was the most powerful stuff for us, just to recognize that there was a common humanity but also a vulnerability to both of us.
Speaking to that, there are times in this film where there isn't a lot of dialogue. How challenging was it to convey so much emotion through your eyes or your body language or gestures?
It was a real study, to be honest. It's the less-is-more technique, where you are almost letting the audience feel for you at that point. The audience will literally put their emotions onto what Jack is thinking. You want to leave it a little bit open-ended. Some people might think he is this way. Someone else might think he is that way. It was important for me to play a line that was hard to read.
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If damaged finds damaged, in what ways did these two characters make each other better, if at all?
It goes back to one of the bigger questions that Ivan wants us to look at, which is, "Would you want to live forever if you had to live without love?" That is the question that they ask each other. For Jack, I am trying to put myself back in his skin, the man that he was at the beginning compared to the man that he was at the end. You can't help but think that this guy has changed, and for the better.
Again, I can't help but think about people we both know. It may not be the same story, but what I love about the way that Ivan posed this story is it feels very connected to all of us. As much as my character is an assassin, you start to realize there are missing pieces to all of us as individuals. We are gearing ourselves more to machines than to our fellow humans. That level of connection... We are losing the battle against machines right now. Ivan's wonderful take on us as a species is a bit of a call-to-arms. We better wake the fuck up. We are taking ourselves and this planet to some pretty inhumane places right now.
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What was it like to share some screen time with Hugo Weaving?
I had the pleasure of working on a movie with Hugo before, but never with him. He is obviously Australian royalty. I've heard nothing but amazing reports, but you and me are both lucky enough to be in the business where we do get to meet our idols. More often than not, they don't always live up to the pedestal that we keep them on. For me, Hugo levitated above his pedestal. He was such an absolute blessing to work with. I will share with you an example. He wasn't working on one of the days. He turned up in full Dr. Bergman wardrobe and said to Ivan, "Listen, I know I'm not working. Just in case you want to shoot something with me, I am here for you." Ivan, being a smart filmmaker, obviously used shots of Hugo. He's [got] that level of dedication and curiosity. I couldn't have been more impressed.
Let's get philosophical. What does the title Expired mean to you?
I feel like, from a macro standpoint, that we are choking ourselves as a species. It's a wake-up call to say, "Get in contact, get a connection to who you are and then move forward with your fellow species." There's that great [Ralph Waldo] Emerson quote, "What lies behind us, and what lies before us, are small matters compared to what lies within us." I think there is a lot of that in this movie. We are looking to be satiated by external factors when we have the power inside of us.
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As you mentioned, sci-fi fare often puts humanity under a microscope. We are often depicted as a dystopian society rather than a utopian society. It seems we are going down the wrong path.
Yeah, this feels like a very tangible type of world. It feels more like near-fi than sci-fi. That was something we all worked at. We didn't want it to feel like this was the land that time forgot or something that was going to happen in the distant future. This was very much at our doorstep. As much as it felt relevant eight years ago when Ivan pitched it to me, it feels even more poignant and powerful now.
There's a good chance you might always be known for your role as Jason Stackhouse on True Blood. What do you recall about that time in your life?
It changed me and changed my career. I have nothing but incredible memories from that time. That was seven seasons. In this day and age, for a series to have that kind of staying power... There's just too much noise around for shows to last that long. There are a couple that wedge themselves through, but gone are the days when you would wait a week for the next episode. There was such a romantic nature. It would build up the pressure throughout the week. With everyone involved on that show, it's one of those "We will always have Paris"-type of things. We will always have that between us. I have nothing but love for that time.
Expired premieres in select theaters and On Demand March 18.
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Torontonian who loves comic books and everything genre.