With the release of the upcoming horror film, CLOWN, right around the corner, we were lucky enough to sit with actor Andy Powers and pick his brain about the film, what it's like to portray a demonic clown and what it was like to work with director Jon Watts.
Andy Powers: Hi Abigail, how are you?
Abigail Braman: I'm good! How are you?
AP: I'm doing great, thank you.
AB: So, for the people who are not too familiar with your newest film, CLOWN, would you mind telling us a little bit about the premise of the movie and your character?
AP: The premise of this film is about the father of a 7-year-old boy who has to fill in at the last second for his son's birthday party because the clown they hired cancelled. He happens to find an abandoned trunk in a basement with a left over clown suit in it, which he then puts on for the son's party. He later falls asleep and can't get the suit off, and slowly the suit shrinks and he realizes that it's actually the skin and hair of a demon that takes over his mind, body and spirit in order to consume children. My character's name is Kent, who's an all-American good guy. The film becomes about his struggle with the emerging want and desire of this creature that's growing inside of him. Like, a duality of struggle, essentially.
AB: As an actor, I know many people have to do research or find ways to prepare for a specific role. What steps did you have to take to prepare for a particular role such as this one?
AP: I had a really good coach named Kate McGregor Stewart. What we decided was, we broke down each scene into its most incremental moments - as the clown demon rises, the father diminishes. These metaphysical moments begin happening whether it's the stomach churning, the suit getting tighter and tighter, or the sudden awareness of how he relates to different sounds; the voice of the children and this insatiable hunger emerging. We had to decide how much that influences his behavior at each moment and in what strength or capacity. Some moments in the beginning are not quite as overwhelming to Kent as they are towards the middle and then the end of the film. So we had to decide - does he really want to eat the kid, or he is just sort of curious in what that kid is saying, or why is the character eating five or ten plates of food at a time. There's physical abnormalities that are happening; the hands that are changing, he can't get the wig off... basically you're watching yourself become something, and you have no power to stop it.
AB: Yeah, I definitely liked some of those juxtaposing elements. Was it really challenging to have to channel two separate personalities for one role? Going from, like you said, the all-American family man who loves his wife and child to turning into this demonic creature that basically eats children?
AP: Yeah, like you said, they are two different characters and the journey of Kent is a tragedy. He's not really a monster - he's a human being with these monstrous instincts that begin to take over until there's a certain moment in the film (I don't want to give away any spoilers) where he's no longer Kent and its Clown that's present. He's channeled the creature, and Kent is gone.
AB: Have you ever played a character that required special FX makeup like this before, and what was it like working on set that way?
AP: Yeah, a few. One that comes to mind - I did a mini-series a long time ago for the Sci-Fi channel that Steven Spielberg was behind called Taken. It was about the conspiracy to hide the presence of aliens on the planet and it spanned over the course of 60 years. My character started as a young man and aged all the way into his 60s and they showed that transformation with makeup. Each episode was 2 hours, so there were 2 episodes I was in with this prosthetic makeup and everyday you were in the chair at 5am getting prosthetics pasted on your face and air brushed. You would go to set at 7am to work 18 hours so they can get all they need from that particular stage of makeup. I knew what I was in for when I signed up for Clown, and I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but it was definitely worth it!
AB: For sure. I definitely love the scene when you're driving in the car and you start to change. Was that traditional special effects when your foot started to grow? I've only ever watched this movie through a computer screen, so it's kind of hard to see sometimes - did they use traditional special effects or was it digital?
AP: (Laughs) No, that was all traditional! Those were all prosthetics and physical effects that we had on set. They would say, "Ok Andy, sit on your own hand" and they would put the fake hand on the steering wheel, and there was a guy pushing a lever, stretching those fingers up and down. It's interesting: for the foot, Jon couldn't get the shot he wanted so after awhile he gets in the car and does it himself! He wanted it to look a certain way, so he's actually the one pushing the foot through the shoe himself. He couldn't put it into words exactly how he wanted it to go, so he got in the back seat and was laying upside down and his feet were on the rear windshield as that shot was being taken.
AB: (Laughs) That's awesome! So, what was your overall experience working on this film, and what was it like working with director Jon Watts?
AP: The overall experience was challenging, I mean it goes without saying, it was dream to get the lead in the film and be the center of all that energy, but it was really grueling. Everybody from the actors, directors, producers, and crew members had to really show up on game day. We had long hours, because we didn't have a huge budget, so we had to maximize the time we had. And we would start a traditional shooting day, let's say, at 7am when everyone would get called to set. So we would start at 7am on Monday, and by the time the 5th day in the week rolled around, our call to set was like midnight on Saturday or 1am Saturday morning, because we had to get that turn around with unions, but we needed to shoot the movie. By the 5th day you had 18-hour days starting at midnight. Everyone kind of went a little crazy because no one knew when day or night was happening because we're inside shooting 18-hours here or there. It was crazy.
With Jon, it was really impressive. I didn't know much about him when the film started. The thing about being an actor is that you're the last edition to these projects. So much work has gone into it before you get there - I met him in New York during the casting process and by the time I got to set, he was in full-on director mode. He ran it well and he moved quickly, but he would also not move on until he got what he wanted for a shot. He's such a great combination of a creative vision and a technician you know? Sometimes you work with a director that "kind of" knows what he wants, but doesn't have a great vision...but this guy knew exactly what he wanted, and he knew how to get it. He was wonderful, and really excited at moments: there was one night when we shot the scene in the hotel with the Clown during the "saw blade incident" (I don't want to give too much away), but there's a really, really nasty scene with a little boy and a circular saw - we were done shooting that night, and Jon comes into the makeup trailer and he has this really somber, but really gleeful look on his face, and he says, "That's why we did this. That scene is why we're here." And he was really proud, and it was funny because we just did this REALLY gruesome scene, and he's talking like "this is what we play for!" He was gleeful throughout the whole project. He was enjoying himself, despite the lack of sleep.
AB: Well thank you so much Andy for taking time out of your day to speak with me. We are so excited about the release of CLOWN and we look forward to seeing more of your work and your continued success!
AP: Thanks, Abigail, it was my pleasure!
CLOWN is scheduled to hit select theaters and On Demand June 17.