Is there really much of a difference between being a writer and an actor? Of course there is, but perhaps not as apparent as one would think on paper. How big of a line is there to cross, ethical or otherwise, and how does one succeed in the face of the obstacles that come with both crafts?
Luke Albright is a shining example of one screenwriter who has been able to do both acting and writing. This “daywalker” has been able to parlay his close writing relationship with Renny Harlin into a successful acting career, much of which has been spent with Harlin, as seen in 12 Rounds, 5 Days of War and now, Devil’s Pass. In an exclusive interview with Diabolique Magazine, Albright talks a little about this relationship and his role in Devil’s Pass, which hits select theaters and VOD this Friday, August 23rd, 2013.
DIABOLIQUE: You’ve worked with Renny Harlin on quite a number of his films. How has your relationship with him changed throughout the years?
LUKE ALBRIGHT: It’s changed quite a bit. Renny and I originally met because he optioned my first screenplay, so at the onset, he knew me primarily as a writer. Throughout the process of working on that first script with Renny, he found out that the buddy I wrote it with and I were both actors, so he let us audition for small roles in 12 Rounds. We got the roles and after I was done shooting, I stayed on as part of the crew. During the two months we were all down in New Orleans, I became good friends with Renny and his amazing assistant at the time, Nikki Stanghetti. After that experience, Renny brought me in to audition for roles in most of his projects. Each time, I booked a slightly bigger role, and I think Renny began to trust me more and more as an actor. So, basically, he’s gone from seeing me as a writer who might be able to deliver a line or two to trusting me to play one of the leads in Devil’s Pass.
DIABOLIQUE: That sounds like a real dream come true. Given your past history working with Renny, what was it like working with him on this project?
LUKE ALBRIGHT: It was terrific. I’ve always enjoyed working with Renny because I think he’s an extremely talented director, but this one was especially fun for me because he really gave the actors the chance to make the characters their own. If a scene didn’t feel right, we’d work with Renny to correct it, and he was extremely open to our input and suggestions. That’s huge for an actor because it becomes a true collaboration, and you become even more invested in the project. The trust all the actors had with each other and with Renny on set was really special.
DIABOLIQUE: How does your experience on Devil’s Pass differ specifically from those projects you’ve previously worked on with Renny?
LUKE ALBRIGHT: As we touched on before, this is the biggest role I’ve had in one of Renny’s projects, so instead of coming in for a few days or a week for shooting, I was with the cast and crew for two and half months. That was incredible for me because I got to really immerse myself in the adventure and help create an entire story with Renny and the other actors.
DIABOLIQUE: Two and a half months in the cold is a huge commitment, especially with a role as physical as this one. What was it about Devil’s Pass did you find especially captivating?
LUKE ALBRIGHT: The first thing that attracted me to the project was the mystery surrounding the original real-life Dyatlov Pass incident. If you go online and read all the stories and look at the photos of the actual corpses, it’s terrifying. Plus, I love conspiracy theories so I was extremely excited to see which way the screenwriter would take the story. One of my favorite things about the way [Devil’s Pass writer] Vikram Weet’s story unfolds is that as the viewer, you’re kept guessing for most of the movie.
DIABOLIQUE: In the film, you play JP, an experienced traveler who is almost like a modern, granola-eating mountain man. He’s very resourceful throughout in the film and has a very interesting arc in the film. What was it like playing this character?
LUKE ALBRIGHT: I had a blast playing JP because Renny and the rest of the cast really let me put my own spin on him. JP was written as a very well-traveled, very philosophical guy; someone that always had everyone’s best interests in mind, but was very content to stay to himself and just enjoy the journey. I thought it was a really nice character, but Renny and I also wanted to add some humor and make him more of an everyman, i.e. inject some Han Solo into him. He was also a really fun character to play because he tries desperately to save the day and, well… you’ll see how that turns out.
DIABOLIQUE: How was this role different from other roles you have played in the past?
LUKE ALBRIGHT: A lot of the characters I’m used to playing are either a bit psychotic or really, really goofy and over-the-top. JP was exciting for me because he was somewhere in the middle. I think the audience will identify with him. Hopefully, he’s the kind of guy you’d like to go grab a beer with and then maybe go explore some terrifying mystery with in the Russian wilderness.
DIABOLIQUE: As this is your first theatrical horror role, how do you like working within the horror genre?
LUKE ALBRIGHT: I loved it. I’m not sure what other horror films are like to work on, but when you get to work with actors and a director of this caliber, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself.
DIABOLIQUE: What did you like most after seeing the completed film?
LUKE ALBRIGHT: On the big screen, I’ve only seen the bits and pieces that were played for me during ADR, so I’m really excited to see how it all came together. From what I’ve seen, I’m really pleased with how remote and creepy our locations look. It’s really nice to see that the audiences can feel how helpless you would be in those desolate mountains.
DIABOLIQUE: How would you say Devil’s Pass differs from other horror films that use the ‘found footage’ genre convention?
LUKE ALBRIGHT: I think this one’s different just because of the massive scope of our locations. Most films that I’ve seen that use the found footage device try to keep their locations very limited. Whether it be a small patch of forest or a single house, I think a lot of those films are constrained by their budgets to shoot in as few locations as possible. We were lucky enough to film most of our movie above the Arctic Circle in Russia. Plus, since two of our characters are shooting a documentary about our trip and investigation, they have a really nice camera, not just a small handi-cam or a camera phone. This really opened up the possibilities for us to shoot some epic looking shots in the mountains. It also didn’t hurt that our cinematographer, Denis Alarkon-Ramires, is a bad-ass.
DIABOLIQUE: What do you think audiences should look for in the Devil’s Pass?
LUKE ALBRIGHT: I think they should just come in ready to enjoy a beautifully shot and really creepy movie. They should also be ready to enjoy some really strong acting by the cast- Matt [Stokoe], Gemma [Atkinson], Ryan [Hawley] and Holly [Goss] are all fantastic in this film. I don’t think they should come in looking for proof of what really happened to the original group that perished at Dyatlov’s Pass because this is just one possible version of what might have happened mixed with a terrifying story of what happens to our group. If anyone wants to know what happened to those hikers back in 1959, they’ll have to wait until the Russian government releases all the information they have locked away in their archives. Good luck with that.
Devil’s Pass, starring Albright, Ryan Hawley, Gemma Atkinson, Holly Goss, Richard Reid and Matt Stokoe, scares select theaters from IFC this Friday, August 23rd, and will simultaneously be available on VOD, iTunes and Amazon. For more information on Devil’s Pass, you can visit its official website, visit IFC Midnight’s Facebook or follow IFC Films on Twitter: @IFCFilms. For more from Luke Albright, you can follow him on Twitter: @thelukealbright. Check back later this week for Diabolique’s exclusive interviews with the inimitable director of Devil’s Pass, Renny Harlin. To check out our previous interview with co-stars Holly Goss, Gemma Atkinson and Ryan Hawley, you can find it here.
For more on Luke Albright, Renny Harlin and Devil’s Pass, keep checking back here at DiaboliqueMagazine.com! Don’t forget to pick up Diabolique #17, available now for iPad/iPhone at the App Store, and will be on shelves and for other digital platforms VERY soon!
– By Josef Luciano