Canadian actor Stephen McHattie is nothing short of legendary. Known for playing characters that are often rough around the edges and intimidating, McHattie has had a long career in the genre space with notable roles in films such as Pontypool (2008), Watchmen (2009), and most recently, 2019’s Come to Daddy. In Bruce McDonald’s latest film, DREAMLAND, McHattie gives a superb dual performance as both a drug-addicted jazz legend and a stone-cold hitman.
Prior to the release of the film, I had the immense pleasure of chatting with Stephen. During the interview, we discussed everything from embodying both these characters as well as reuniting with director Bruce McDonald.
Hi Stephen, thank you so much for speaking with me today! In DREAMLAND, you get to play dual characters: Johnny Deadeyes and Trumpet Player. What was it like portraying these characters?
Stephen McHattie: Well, the trumpet player has his problems, you know, and they are written all over him. He’s lived a high life and developed an attitude of self-preservation that carries him along in his own little bubble. The other guy, Johnny, is much more of a working-class guy. He grew up rough and found his way to making a living doing things that you shouldn’t do. Everything has a consequence.
Were you familiar with playing the trumpet prior? Was there any other research you did to better familiarize yourself with the characters?
Stephen McHattie: Yeah, I played it as a kid in bands but it’s not something that I do regularly. I had to kind of spend a while getting refamiliarized with it. The rest [of the research] was just living life (laughs).
Not only have you worked with Director Bruce McDonald in the past, most notably on Pontypool, but you also got to work with your wife, Lisa Houle, in this film. What was that experience like?
Stephen McHattie: It was kind of like the highlight of everything for me, getting to work with Lisa and Bruce. It’s kind of like going away on a nice vacation with people who are interested in the things I’m interested in and we get to share a lot of that. I’ve worked with Bruce McDonald a lot and I’ve always had a great time and the results haven’t been that bad, so it’s great!
The film also features performances from Henry Rollins and Juliette Lewis – both of which have also found homes within the horror genre. What was it like working with the cast and were you all encouraged to do improv?
Stephen McHattie: It was pretty much scripted but there’s always those things that you have to fudge with, ya know? We had a pretty strict, hard schedule so everybody had to pitch in and not bring everything to a halt. I kind of like to do one take, I don’t like to do it over and over and over again. But yeah, everybody’s great and I think they all liked Bruce and were pleased to be working with him, so we all got on great.
This film is so fantastical featuring vampires, duality, drug runners, child sex trafficking, etc. I would love to know, was there a particular scene that you found more challenging or one that really resonated with you?
Stephen McHattie: Well, the most challenging thing was [in the film] marrying that beautiful young woman who was running around Luxembourg for three days, that was fun (laughs). We’re in the middle of, whatever this is, and we’ve been staring at the signs of it coming for about 10 years now with Epstein and Weinstein. All the things that are right in front of our face, we’re living with vampires and we have to deal with them somehow. It’s going to be a long hot summer.
DREAMLAND is now available on VOD and Digital HD. For more on the film, check out our review here.
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