The talented young actor talks about his breakthrough performance, the film and working with this diverse castBostin Christopher. Watch out for that name folks. When I interviewed Tony Krantz, the director of this new horror-comedy, Otis, he said that Kevin Pollack referred to him as an "extraordinary actor" who "is going to go places," after just the first day of filming. That's a pretty high-powered referral, folks, and after seeing this marvelous film myself, I certainly would agree with Pollack. I had the chance to interview Bostin Christopher over the phone, a day after watching the film at a screening in Hollywood, and here's what he had to say.
Hey Bostin. How's it going today?
Bostin Christopher: Good, good, Brian. How are you?
Great. I loved the flick last night. It was good to talk to you for a little bit.
Bostin Christopher: Yeah, thank you. Thank you very much. It was a lot of fun to see it on the big screen. What a great theater. I've never been in the Egyptian before, so that was kind of cool.
So, after the screening last night, you said you found out about the role through an unusual channel. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Bostin Christopher: Sure. It's one of those great actor stories. In any of the big acting cities, there are breakdowns that the casting directors put together for the projects that they're working on and then they get sent out to the agents and stuff like that. It's difficult to find projects, sometimes, unless your agent or manager is submitting you for those specific projects. But, there is this thing called Actors Access, which is run by the breakdown services. What they do is they put up casting notices that are available to everyone. Because there's thousands and thousands of actors and there are student films and grad student films and, sometimes, some small independent projects that are on there. I looked at it one day last summer and there, low and behold, was this notice for Otis, and the part of Otis. I just read the description, which was a perfect fit for me and I submitted myself and the casting director, John Jackson, who also cast Sideways and various other movies, called me in. I mean, I have an agent who does submit me for stuff, but not everything, so it was a cool route to go, in that regard, so it was really a great thing. To be able to audition for that large of a role in this kind of a film and then to find out the level of talent involved, because I didn't really know from that notice that Tony (Krantz) was directing it. I didn't know who else was going to be in it. When I got cast, that's when I found out that Daniel Stern and Illeana Douglas and Kevin Pollack and Ashley Johnson were in it. It was just a really really great feeling to have, and it was just amazing in that regard.
I've got to say, your performance was just amazing. What do you do to prepare for a character that's that demented and that depraved?
Bostin Christopher: (Laughs) Well, first of all, thank you for your kind words. That's been especially gratifying to get this kind of part and to have folks come along and like it, and that's a good thing. It's better than the alternative (Laughs). Preparing for it was, I mean, obviously you don't go out and kidnap girls and have all those kinds of method things going on, but you channel, from your own life, things you might be able to recognize for a universal feeling. At the end of the day, Otis wants to be accepted and loved and that's sort of where you come from in wanting that. Obviously, the relationship with his brother and you kind of get an idea of the past history with his life and so you draw on that, you flesh that out and you come up with what might have happened in the past and how that might affect his future, how he got to where he is today. Then, you also have that, we all have that sense of wanting to belong. We all have that road-rage, you can relate to that road-rage because you're so frustrated. The sense of frustration, the sense of getting caught, doing something wrong, all those are sort of universal emotions and you just have to make it specific to yourself and you channel this, I don't know what it is, but this inner self and then try to capture the vulnerability. That's what I loved about the part, especially for something that would be my first lead role in a feature film. I've done lead roles in short films, but not in a feature-length film and I just thought it was amazing how much we got to show. We actually talked about it, about halfway through, we had seen some of the dailies at that point and Tony was sort of, 'Well, you're this way in one scene and then you're kind of vulnerable in the scenes with Kevin (Pollack). Do you feel like there is a through-line there? Do you think there's something going on there?' I said, 'Yeah, I think it's the humanity of the character,' and he agreed with me and thought we were on the right page with that. Most serial killer-type movies - and this is a dark comedy and a satire so it's not quite the norm - but a lot of times, you don't even get to meet the bad guy. He's just sort of this figment, this person who we accept as crazy and know that he's nuts and he's just doing bad deeds throughout the film until he's caught and killed at the end by the good guys. This movie, what I loved about it, is you got to see the relationship develop between the kidnappee and the kidnapper, to see how that works and you get a little more insight into his character. Not necessarily understanding why he does the things he does, but you get to meet him a little bit more. It is a comedy, too, although mine and Ashley's stuff is more of the dramatic parts, but there is some funny stuff we do. I think the prom scene is pretty funny.
I interviewed Tony (Krantz) a few hours before the screening and he said that your first day on the set, Kevin Pollack was slapping you around for the first day. How insane was that? Your first day on your first lead role getting slapped around by Kevin Pollack?
Bostin Christopher: (Laughs) Well, I have to say that was a little crazy. It was sort of surreal. We were shooting on location, here in Los Angeles, at this house, the exterior for the house and it was just one of those things where, 'OK, your first day is going to be with Kevin Pollack.' I've worked with some other stars of note in the past and everything, but this is the first big role and here's your entry into this film. You're creating this character that you're going to have to work on for the next month and then here's Kevin who's a seasoned pro, been around the business for 25 years. I hadn't met him yet so I'm meeting him on the set for the first time and we're trying to talk a little bit so we can create this relationship. You just have to have your work done and ready to go, so I had to prepare that weekend and really think about Kevin as my brother and just the history of our family, and things like that. then you just go in and do the work. It's the first day of meeting everyone, so there's a lot of pressure in general. But Kevin made it very easy. He was a pleasure to work with and we had a good time. It was automatically funny because here's this person who's shorter in stature than I, and me, who's a pretty big guy, so automatically that's just visually funny, which I thought was hysterical. It was a lot of fun and a great way to start the movie.
The rest of this cast is just filled with veteran actors. Daniel Stern and Illeana Douglas I'm a huge fan of, Jere Burns. Even Ashley Johnson. She's been working since she was like, what, 6 or something?
Bostin Christopher: Something like that, yeah.
What sorts of things did you learn from this veteran cast?
Bostin Christopher: I really learned this idea of professionalism. They've all been there, they've all done it and they were just seasoned pros at what they were doing. I went on my days off, because I'm big fan of all these guys as well. I've been watching Daniel Stern since Breaking Away and Diner, movies that I loved when I was in high-school and college. Illeana Douglas has been around and I've watched her work and loved it and Kevin Pollack with The Usual Suspects and all these other great movies. Jere Burns I'd watched in a couple of films but also in a television show called Good Morning, Miami, which I thought he was hysterically funny on. So I went on my days off to watch these people work just to see how they would handle working in a quick environment, because it was a quick shoot, and just for a mentorship, really. I usually hung out with them since filming. I sort of see Daniel Stern as, he's a tall guy like me, he's a character actor like me and he's been around the business for many many years. I would be remiss not to look at that and say, 'Wow. What can I learn from him?' I've talked with him and I've hung out with Kevin a little bit and these guys are all great in terms of learning that side of the business from them. They've been very helpful. If I have a question, I've emailed them and Illeana has gotten back to me about certain questions I've had about things. One of her responses was, 'Well, welcome to show business.' They've been very very kind and welcoming to me and I have to cover my mouth so many times because I was so ready to laugh out loud on the set. Ashley, I don't even have words to describe her. I think she is amazing in this film. I've seen a lot of her work, especially after I found out I'd be working with her, I watched a bunch of her movies and I really do think this is some of her best work. She is just the dramatic center of this film and being able to work opposite her, was such a great help to me because she was so present. That's the great thing about movies, you're trying to capture that moment-to-moment connection and she is really easy, so that was really great. There are phone calls in the movie, where Otis calls the parents and stuff, and I went on those days as well, to be sure. I said my lines into their scenes, but it was also for me, I could hear what their responses were, because I wasn't sure how that would work when we reversed it, because we were doing most of the phone call stuff in the later part of the shoot, when they had moved on to other projects, so it was very important for me to be there and hear that and to see what was going on.
On the DVD there's a full version of that little movie that Otis makes, the victims. I don't really know what to call it, but how long is that? Can you describe that a little? How many "Kim's" are there?
Bostin Christopher: Sure. On the Otis DVD there are some great extras, one of them is Sweet 16, which is the movie that in the film Otis, you get to see me and Riley, they start to watch this movie and it's a narcissistic version of what Otis believes about these girls, and forces them to do. It's actually darker than the film itself. The film is sort of a black comedy and sort of light and funny. It's got its moments of heaviness as well, but there's something about the Sweet 16 movie that really gives you an insight that you don't get to see in the film, as where Otis might be coming from, his sort of wackiness and his really off-putting need to be loved. You get to see the various other "Kim's" that come through and it's his badly-cut, badly-lit, video-recorder version of his world. He edits them together to make this little short. There's some other fun stuff too. You get to see the alternate ending, which I think was sort of the original ending, a different way to end the film, where Otis gets to extract a little bit more... he's a little more involved, let's put it that way, in the resolution of the film. It's a very dark, twisted ending. There's also a behind-the-scenes vignette thing that has all the cast talking, called The World of Otis and then Tony Krantz and Eric Jendersen, one of the writers on the film, they do a DVD commentary as well. That's the DVD and for the Blu-Ray, which will come out in October, they're actually, I think, going to put more stuff on, for the Blu-Ray, so that's going to be kind of cool too.
Are you getting a bunch of offers now, since this has been getting some buzz from the festivals and things like that?
Bostin Christopher: The buzz has been really good, the reviews have been really good. I have been very grateful and thankful that I have been getting really good notices for this. It's been a lot of fun and a great ride, this spring, to go to South by Southwest and go to Nashville and it's been playing at some other festivals as well in Boston and Cleveland and I think it's playing next week in London. It's been great to get that exposure and I have been able to meet some new filmmakers, to me. Some of the people that make films but I haven't met them, so I've met some different directors, so yeah. There are things in the works. Nothing is final but I've been reading some various things and it takes awhile to get these things done, from script to screen can take a little while, but people are like, 'When we're ready, we want you to read for this,' and things like that have been happening. I'm sure that once the movie comes out and it's more readily available to everyone, I'll probably, or hopefully, knock on wood, I'll get some calls and get some more work. I do love the theater, and that's where I come from. That's where I've been pretty much my whole adult life, but it's great to be working on film and I definitely want to do more of it.
Finally, this movie just really seems like it haves "cult classic" written all over it. Do you think this will just take off when it hits the shelves on Tuesday?
Bostin Christopher: Let's hope so. I think it is one of those movies that is perfect for DVD and this straight-to-DVD market, which is a whole new world, which Tony was talking about last night as well. It's a different kind of thing and you're able to take chances and make things that maybe wouldn't have been greenlit and done as it required a big studio budget behind it. It's really fun to see this and Warner Bros. has been fantastic in their marketing. The word is definitely out and, I gues s it's not really for me to decide whether it's a cult classic. I just hope that it provides people some entertainment in their living rooms and they gather some friends together. It's the perfect movie to rent on a Friday night, gather some friends together, have a little party, get some popcorn, get some booze if you're over 21, of course (Laughs) and just enjoy this fun ride and have a few laughs. That's really what it's designed for and I really do hope that people enjoy it and get a few laughs and come back for more, absolutely.
Excellent. Well, that's about all I have, Bostin. Thanks a lot for your time and I wish you the best of luck.
Bostin Christopher: OK, thanks Brian. I really appreciate it.
You can see Bostin Christopher's remarkable performance as the title character, Otis, when the DVD hits the shelves on June 10.