Last Passenger - Dougray Scott interview (exclusive)
Interview by Rob Carnevale
DOUGRAY Scott talks about what attracted him to Last Passenger and why he was able to research his character, a father and doctor, who finds himself in a tense situation involving near-certain death on a train.
He also talks about working with first-time directors, what he has learned from previous filmmakers he has worked with and what he looks for in roles.
Q. I enjoyed Last Passenger. It’s a smart thriller that accomplishes a lot with a very small budget…
Dougray Scott: Thank you. I think it’s a very old fashioned thriller. It reminded me a lot of Hitchcock, which was one of the reasons I wanted to get involved. But you’re right, this was a small budget and I think they have done a fantastic job.
Q. And it’s a tribute to the persistence of director Omid Nooshin, who put up £500 of his own money to make the trailer that he could then show to financiers…
Dougray Scott: He did and if you look at that trailer, it’s terrific. It’s the kind of trailer that makes you say: “I want to see that film.” It’s a simple concept but it works incredibly well because Omid makes sure that you invest so much time in these characters early on that by the time things start to go bad, you really do care about them. And I think that’s important.
Q. How did you first get involved? Was it as a result of seeing the trailer yourself or were you approached?
Dougray Scott: He [Omid] approached me and sent me the trailer. I then met him and we talked about the script and the ideas he had for the film and then after that I committed.
Q. Were you able to bring your own ideas?
Dougray Scott: Well, we talked more about the script and we talked about how he was going to film it. So, they’re all his ideas in the film. My ideas were more about the character I was playing and how I thought he should be played and who I thought he was. But I enjoyed that aspect of it and then going off and learning about being a doctor.
Q. I think one of the great conflicts in the movie is that your character is a doctor who saves lives pretty much every day and yet in this situation he’s virtually powerless. Was that part of the appeal?
Dougray Scott: He is powerless and that did give rise to an interesting situation to explore. If he was in his environment in hospital, he would be able to save that woman but while trapped on the train, it’s out of his control. And I think that as a doctor, his whole life is about saving lives, yet in this situation he can’t and he feels incredibly guilty about that. I also think that being faced with death sobers him up psychologically. He looks at his boy and thinks that he can’t allow this to happen [the train to crash]. But I think it’s another of the film’s great strengths that all of the characters react in a realistic way. They do things that me and you would do in a similar set of circumstances. And that gives it that extra layer of authenticity, especially as it all unfolds from their perspective.
Q. There’s also room for the characters to grow because first impressions don’t always count in the film, especially with regard to the characters of David Schofield and Iddo Goldberg…
Dougray Scott: Right. You get snippets of history, especially with regard to David’s character when he says to Iddo: “You’d like my son because he doesn’t like me either.” Just in that moment, you get a sense of what he has to put up with every day of his life. And similarly, Iddo has to pretend to his family that he is a famous magician when, in fact, he works as a cleaner on London Underground. I think the script was brilliant in getting those little moments and complexities across.
Q. Did you get long to prepare with the cast, especially Joshua Kaynama, who plays your son?
Dougray Scott: Yeah, we hung out a little bit. I met him and his mum beforehand and we went bowling so that I could get to know him a little bit more. We also spent a lot of time together on set. As far as preparation for my own character went, I also got to go to a hospital in Brighton, to the A&E Department with this guy called Rob who let me work alongside him for a little while.
Q. Why was being able to research the doctor element so important?
Dougray Scott: I think it’s very important, especially when you have a scene in the film where he tries to save someone’s life. You can’t fake that, especially when you’re trying to revive someone. But it wasn’t just that aspect of it. It was knowing about the day to day of what he does in hospital… whenever you play any character, having a knowledge of what that character does in life is invaluable because it means you don’t have to act it. And that will also resonate more on screen…
Q. Your mum was a nurse…
Dougray Scott: She was a nurse…
Q. Did visiting A&E lend you a greater appreciation of what she did and also of what doctors and nurses are faced with nowadays?
Dougray Scott: Well, I haven’t spoken to her about it to be honest. And things have changed dramatically since she did it. But you’re right, seeing what doctors and nurses have to put up with in A&E is extraordinary, especially some of the abuse they are forced to take. They do an amazing job and it was fascinating to be given the chance to see what they do.
Q. You’ve obviously worked with some great directors over the course of your career, John Woo being among them on Mission: Impossible II. How does Omid rate?
Dougray Scott: Well, Omid is a director at the very start of his career and he was great. He did a terrific job and he was certainly very knowledge about the camera and what he wanted to do with it. So, I think he has a very bright future ahead of him.
Q. Some actors avoid working with first-time directors. You obviously don’t. Is it important to you to give them a chance?
Dougray Scott: I don’t have any problem working with first-time directors because all directors have to start somewhere and all great directors have had a first film. So, if you take the view that you don’t want to work with a first-timer, you might miss out on a fantastic opportunity. I had a great experience on this film.
Q. You’ve recently been a part of Hemlock Grove, the Netflix original horror series produced by Eli Roth. How was that and how was working with Eli?
Dougray Scott: It was good to be in at the beginning of something like that and Eli was terrific to work with. We had a great time during the first season. And it’s an exciting thing to be a part of because no one really knew what Netflix was when we got going. They hadn’t done much original drama – just Hemlock Grove and House of Cards. But now it’s just getting bigger and bigger.
Q. What can we expect from the second series?
Dougray Scott: Ooh, I think it’s going to get very exiting with the power struggles within the family dynasty. And Norman, my character, will find his way back into the fold having decided to give up on the family. There will also be the discovery of what’s really happening in the white tower.
Q. Is it a relief to have been given the second series so that you can develop ideas that were perhaps only hinted at during the first season?
Dougray Scott: Absolutely. The whole point of doing television is that you can explore different aspects of a character’s life and if you get three years to do it, then that’s great. It means you don’t have to reveal everything immediately.
Q. What can you tell us about your next film, The Vatican Tapes?
Dougray Scott: Well, it’s a horror film and I play a character named Roger, who is the father of the girl who gets possessed. The film really centres around the characters of the daughter, her father and the two priests – one from the Vatican and one from the local church – and how they cope with this girls’ possession. It’s got a terrific script. The film also stars Kathleen Robertson, Michael Pena and Djimon Hounsou, who were all fantastic to work with.
Q. You’ve been dabbling in horror quite a lot recently. Do you like the genre?
Dougray Scott: Well, it’s not something that I’ve done a lot of. I did Dark Water, which was supernatural, and now Hemlock Grove and The Vatican Tapes. But really, if the script is good, then that’s what’s important more than what genre it is.
Q. Is the script the first thing you look for? Or can it sometimes be the opportunity to work with a great director?
Dougray Scott: I think it’s always about the script. Just occasionally, if the script is not so good and it is a great director you’re more likely to do it. But generally speaking, my passion for a project starts or stops with the quality of the script.
Q. Will you ever direct?
Dougray Scott: I don’t know. I’m not sure. I’ve always been fascinated and intrigued by that side of things but I’m just not sure what story I’d tell. It’s about finding the time and finding the right story… the one that comes along where you think you’re absolutely the best person to direct it.
Q. Which directors would you say you’ve learned the most from?
Dougray Scott: I would say that I learned a lot from Michael Apted [on Enigma]. He’s a terrific, terrific director. Some directors are just more willing to communicate with you and tell you why they’re filming something in a particular way. Brian Kirk [Father & Son, TV series] was also terrific, as was Richard Jobson [New Town Killers]. But I’m lucky to have worked with a lot of good directors.
Last Passenger is released in UK cinemas on Friday, October 18, 2013.