I had the opportunity to speak with Ben O’Toole, who plays Rex and The Conscience, and Meg Fraser who plays Alia from BLOODY HELL. It was a pleasure to speak with them about their process as actors and to dive into their roles in the film. They were both incredible in their roles and very kind and generous people to speak with. Meg Fraser’s work was particularly impressive since this was actually her breakthrough role as a lead actress. Ben O’Toole is a very dedicated and charismatic actor who, nonetheless, is very concerned about sharing the credit for good work and difficult feats of acting with his fellow co-stars.
For those who have not seen the film yet, there are spoilers featured in this interview. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
How did you become involved with the project?
Ben O’Toole: I got sent the script when I was over in LA shooting a pilot. My agent gave me the script and said there’s the film called BLOODY HELL and the producers are interested in meeting with you if you respond to it. I heard bloody hell and I (laughs) was like, I don’t know and I really didn’t know what to think, but I read the script and it was a real page-turner. I’m flicking through and seeing the scenes with Rex’s conscience and I thought, this is funny. This is cool.
This is a great opportunity. This is going to be challenging. It ticks all the boxes for a project. So, I went in and had a meeting with the producers and everybody liked everybody and so we moved forward.
Meg Fraser: This is my first feature film. I was sent some scenes from my agent as an audition with no script attached. I had a similar experience to Ben with the title being BLOODY HELL and some scenes where my character would speak Finnish, speak in a Finnish accent, and there’s a man with one leg (laughs), so I said okay, went through an audition, got feedback and then did another one. Then I landed in a room with Ben and it sort of just took off from there. The chemistry read was amazing and I got along really well with the director, Al. I walked out of the room thinking please give me this job and it worked out.
Tell me a little bit about your character in BLOODY HELL and how you related to her.
Meg Fraser: Reading the script it’s very humorous but I liked that in her world as an actor you’re not looking to play the humor. You’re playing her innocence and virtue. I think that aspect of her was what became funny onscreen for the audience. I just sort of loved her. I really enjoyed that there’s this young girl who hasn’t had any exposure to the rest of the world and whose only touchstone is her psychotic family. This person, this man, comes into her life suddenly and sort of flips it. I just loved her drive for a better life. That was a very inspiring thing in such a terrible world. She’s still looking for the most positive thing she can in each and every moment and she latches onto this man and says, “Please help me, Prince Charming.” So, her innocence and her positivity [were] what I related to.
Ben, you mentioned The Conscience and so it seems like that aspect was something that was very attractive to you about the character.
Ben O’Toole: So, about 20 to 30 minutes into the film, the main character loses his leg and it’s pretty amazing because you think, “Where’s this story going to go now?”. Fortunately, stepping into the psyche of Rex, we have this character of The Conscience and I think it keeps it from turning into a story about this guy slowly bleeding out and starting to fade away for the next 40 to 60 minutes. It keeps you kind of buoyant. We’re in his head and that, in and of itself, was a very cool convention. I think that for the film to just sort of step into that realm with those circumstances, but on top of that it was the challenges as well. Acting is very much, in my opinion anyway, acting is very much what happens between two people. It’s not what somebody does. Nobody is solely responsible for scenes etc, etc. Your best work will be when you’re working with a really good actor. It’s kind of like a game of tennis, I think. So, in this instance, I’m thinking, shit, it’s just gotta work because you know, I’m not doing scenes with anybody. I’m doing them with myself, but I’m gonna be recording the other half.
I really like sort of learning the lines but not religiously, not rote memorization of the lines. It’s so that if someone does something surprising, you can pick up on it and really keep it spontaneous and dynamic. The challenge was going to be seriously committing to choices that when we turn around at the end of the day and play the other part, I’d think, “Oh damn, I wish I had committed to that other choice.” So there was a little more work involved, but it was a lot of fun. I was fortunate enough to ask a very good friend of mine, Josh Brennan, to be my stand-in and play the conscience or Rex when I was playing the other half. He’s such an incredible actor. He’s such a dynamic actor that he would watch me and mirror what I was doing. He did that so when we flipped, I was effectively doing these things with the other character to the best of his and my ability. Which kept it spontaneous, kept it fun, and gave us a fighting chance. It was better than working with a pink tennis ball.
I don’t want to ask, “What is your motivation”, but was there something that either one of you was trying to say with the character or communicate with the audience? Or was it just connecting with the character and letting that’s the script speak through you?
Meg Fraser: From the beginning, I sort of didn’t want Alia to be too much of a victimized woman. I feel like she could have easily been lost in that idea that I think is now outdated. I think that was my main goal with her was to make sure that the audience didn’t see her as someone who was getting swept up in the crazy. I think that she was standing there in her own right as well. She was a person with her own identity outside of her family’s madness. I think that came across. She’s got a very endearing quality about her, regardless of how people might view that sort of innocent nature. I wanted to communicate that to the audience. That was my main thing about Alia, to not get her too lost in that “Woe is me”.
You both did a really good job because I’d have to say that both of you are very likable. Both of your characters are people that, no matter what happens, I don’t want to say, “You root for them,” but they are characters that you feel for. You both play leads in BLOODY HELL. Was it difficult that, while you were the lead characters, you weren’t really on screen together all that much?
Ben O’Toole: I wouldn’t say it was difficult. I would say that it was much more rewarding though for the times that we did have. It narratively comes to a point where we’re waiting for it too as an audience. It’s a new element that’s very welcome. This gorgeous, innocent girl, with these big blue eyes falling for this guy who is right in front of her. It so cleverly steps into this realm of absurdity that we’ve been living in for the past 20 minutes. I think I was very grateful for those scenes because you step out of Rex’s head for a minute and into reality and you get to see Rex interact with another human being, not interacting with his conscience. And also, selfishly, it was nice to work with someone who wasn’t me for a bit. Oh God, another human being! Bring it on!
In working with the challenges of the script, you did a really good job of adapting and making the challenges into strengths.
Ben O’Toole: Kudos go to the actors alongside me like Jack Finsterer. He had one scene where I’m screaming in his face as The Conscience and that’s typically not an obstacle that you have to navigate when you’re an actor, [that] is not reacting. Typically, your responsibility is to be present, be in the scene and if somebody drops something off camera, you can listen to it and make it work. But, in this instance, people have to ignore The Conscience. When I’m screaming in some people’s faces at times, they can’t show any reaction, so I think kudos were due to them as well. I find that extremely difficult to not react to some of that stuff.
Meg, I wanted to ask, your character Alia. She’s in a desperate situation. She’s with her family. She loves them, but she doesn’t really want to be there. She feels unsafe, I’m certain. How did that affect you? You know, playing someone who’s essentially a hostage in her own home?
Meg Fraser: That’s always a good thing to have, high stakes in a scene. I think that’s just where you sort of leave off from. She has all of these things that play in her life, in her head at all times, and I think that when she meets Rex, it’s really her last big opportunity to make a run for it. To get out of there and so she really latches on to that idea completely. Almost, in a weird way, she’s ready to the level where it’s a weird suicidal belief that “I’m ready to do this or die at this point.” Which is the highest level of stakes that you could possibly have for her. At the same time, like Ben said, having the nicest human connection in a world that is spinning too fast around her. I think it was very grounding to have those moments with Rex, but also on the back of her mind, she’s thinking this is it. This is my chance. I’m going to give it the best that I have.
Obviously, I don’t want to spoil the ending, but how did you approach it?
Ben O’Toole: Well, what can we say? Let’s go with the final confrontation. That was broken down into three days and was approached as a very physical scene. The stunt team was off working on the nuts and bolts of the fight. Ultimately, a third day was broken into the second part of the confrontation. The young man, I say the young man and also the massive man, Caleb Enoka, played Pati, one of Alia’s siblings, and he actually ended up just being strong enough to pick me up and throw me around, so a lot of time was saved. Which was phenomenal really. It saved us from having to really use all these rigs. All these wires, harnesses, and stunts that we planned and prepped, we ended up never having to use any of the equipment. As anybody who is familiar with stunt work knows, building these stunts? It takes a long time. We actually saved ourselves quite a bit of time and were afforded more footage ultimately. There were a few things that we had to lose from the final confrontation, time permitting, unfortunately. But Caleb single-handedly won us back a lot of time. So, by way of our approach, it was a blessing at that point, because we were given more time than we really thought we had thanks to Caleb.
That’s great. I really loved the movie. Thank you for speaking with me.
BLOODY HELL is a tremendously clever and well-acted film with charismatic actors who have created something special. Remember that none of the people who were playing Finnish characters were actually Finnish. You can now watch BLOODY HELL on VOD and at your favorite drive-in theatre.
BLOODY HELL will be available on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow, January 19, 2021. To learn more about the film, check out our review!