The talented young actor talks about his cast, the impressive Australian crew and some future projects
Jonathan Tucker has been a name to watch for several years. He's put together a string of impressive performances from his breakthrough role as the younger version of Billy Crudup in Sleepers, to The Deep End, 100 Girls, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and many more, all at the age of 26. His latest film is The Ruins, which comes to DVD and Blu-Ray on July 8. I had a chance to speak with this young talent over the phone and here's what he had to say.
So did you have a good off-camera rapport with the Vine? How was he to work with?
Jonathan Tucker: With the Vine? (Laughs) Well, it was a Chinese Vine, of course. It was made in China and they had a whole team of Chinese specialists... this is not a joke, I'm being totally serious. The whole thing was done in China. The Vine was the big headache of the show, just the light and blocking it and there was a whole team responsible just for the Vine so I think everyone felt a little jealous of all the attention the Vine was getting.
So was it like a wire team that worked that thing or was it all CGI?
Jonathan Tucker: No, well, there was a little CGI. That was something that was unique in shooting a project like this. It was explained up front that it would make it more appealing for everyone on board if most of the effects would be practical special effects. It makes it a lot easier on the actors, of course, because we don't have to imagine what's going to be there in the future, but I also think it looks better. You know, we've got all this technology, but, gosh, land-lines are a lot easier to talk on than cell phones. Practical special effects are better to look at when you film them, in every which way.
What first drove you to this project? Were you familiar with the book before signing on, or how did that whole process come about?
Jonathan Tucker: I knew that he (Scott Smith) had a new book out. A Simple Plan was one of my favorite films. I just thought it was an extraordinary film that a lot of people didn't get an opportunity to see. So, the fact that he was a part of this and you could tell he just had an incredible imagination, especially to tell a story like this. Beginning to adapt a book into a film, you have so much material to work with and there's so much backstory. You don't have to do as much work, so to speak. You have to do a lot of work but there's a lot hints.
You've had a really diverse career so far. What did you see in Jeff that appealed to you and made you want to take this on next?
Jonathan Tucker: He's got a such a great sense of leadership and a pragmatism about him that was very appealing. The way he handles a situation that would scare a lot of other people, that would change a lot of other people, or scare them into doing stuff they would later on regret. He takes the whole thing on with aplomb and a level head. I think that sense of him. He does change, but he still sticks to who he is.
Yeah, exactly. He has to change to adapt to the environment but he still sticks to his guns.
Jonathan Tucker: That's right.
Were you signed on first for this project or was anyone else attached before you came on?
Jonathan Tucker: Yeah. Laura (Ramsey) was attached and Jena (Malone) was attached. We were all the team that Dreamworks assembled and (director) Carter (Smith) put together. It was all first-rate from the cinematographer, Darius Khondji, Grant Major the production designer, make-up and wardrobe. If you look at the rest of the people there, they were all absolutely at the top of the business. It was extraordinary to work with a team like that. The team that was put together was really what attracted me to it and the high stakes of the story. These are high, high stakes and they're very real stakes in a very surreal world, in some ways.
Did you and the rest of the cast, Shawn Ashmore, Jena Malone and Laura Ramsey, all click right away on the set, and had you worked with any of them before?
Jonathan Tucker: I've done some stuff with Jena in the past. We've done some screen tests together and some staged readings, but we didn't really know each other. Laura and I had known each other but had never worked together. We were all so focused on the story and everything was shot with natural light so we were all ready to shoot. There was not a lot of joking around.
Did you have any interactions with the actors that were in the tribe at all, down below, or was it pretty much just you guys the whole shoot?
Jonathan Tucker: It was pretty much just us, but when we did have the opportunity to work with the Mayans, it was awesome. It was a great opportunity because they were all, for the most part, from this mariachi band that they hired from Sydney.
Jonathan Tucker: Yeah. It was like this Mexican, South American mariachi band that had assembled there in Australia and we got to hire them all. They were just wonderful people. They were such a great group of rowdy, fun musicians. I suggest every film hire a mariachi band to come on the set. It's a real blast every night.
So how was working in Australia? Had you worked there prior to this?
Jonathan Tucker: No, I hadn't. I hadn't worked there and I hadn't been there, so it was a great opportunity to head across to a whole other world. I don't know. I got kind of lonely over there. Even with SkyPe and cell phones and email, you are really are entirely on the other side of the world and you really feel it. But the crew over there was what most impressed me. It was beautiful but, let me tell you, the crew that's working there on the Gold Coast of Australia is first-rate, as human beings but also as technicians. I was so impressed by their talents and skills.
So have you heard anything about The Black Donnellys coming back for another season?
Jonathan Tucker: Oh, I would love that. It's kind of bittersweet walking around the city of New York because people come up and ask that... you couldn't believe it. If anybody watched that show, they were the people there in New York. I would kill to do that show again, but it's not coming back. Not enough people watched, but I really appreciate you asking about it.
No problem. Is there anything you can tell us about Veronica Decides to Die?
Jonathan Tucker:Veronica Decides to Die, I just finished up last week, that's why I'm hanging out up here in the Adirondack's, roughing it. It was a wonderful experience and I hope that the director can put together a movie as well as she shot the film because the production experience was really first-rate. Her name is Emily Young and she won a BAFTA for her first feature film (Kiss of Life) a few years ago. She's really sensitive and really talented. Sarah Michelle Gellar was lovely and David Thewlis was great. Just really great people on that film.
So is there anything that you're eyeing up right now, or are you just waiting to see what happens with the strike talk?
Jonathan Tucker: Yeah. Yeah. I really just realized how much happier I am when I'm doing projects that I'm chosen to do, and on the flip side, how much unhappier I am on projects that make me feel uncomfortable. I'd rather just do one good thing after the next, if I'm knocking on wood.
Finally, like I said before, you've been in a really diverse number of movies. Where would you say The Ruins stacks up in your career and what would you say to those who aren't that familiar with the movie to pick it up on DVD?
Jonathan Tucker: I think this is a really really fun ride. I think it's a really good movie. I think people missed it in the theaters, which is really unfortunate, but I hope that people find it on DVD. It's definitely a good rental. It's a fun ride, so if you're looking for something on a Friday or Saturday night, something a little scary but fun, I think it's something people will really appreciate.
Excellent. Well, that's about all I have for you. Thanks a lot for your time, Jonathan.
Jonathan Tucker: No, thank you, Brian. I really appreciate it.
You can bring home Jonathan Tucker and the rest of this talented cast home on DVD and Blu-Ray when The Ruins hits the shelves on July 8.