Severance - Danny Dyer interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
DANNY Dyer talks about appearing in British comedy horror Severance and working with director, Chris Smith…
Q. How did you become involved with Severance?
A. I just had to audition. I got sent the script and read it – I’d been reading a lot of crap before and there was nothing really about. But when I read this I thought: “Wow, wow, wow, why aint they offering me this? Please give me the job.”
It was one of those auditions you go into and think: “I’ve got to get this job”. You get those rarely.
Q. What did you like about it in particular?
A. Well, it was an opportunity for me as an actor to show a nice bit of range. A bit of comedy, a bit of ‘off my nut trippy acting’, but at the same time playing straight and being scared. Putting all of them in the same film as an actor is a very rare thing. You either do drama, where it’s all played straight and it can be upsetting and you get to show that side of what you can do, or it’s a comedy and you’re playing for gags. You never get the chance to do it in one movie. But [my character] Steve’s got everything – funny lines, he comes to the front, he saves the girl and he’s got absolutely everything. It’s a dream role – any actor in the world would have loved to play Steve.
Q. How difficult was it to make Steve likeable – because we’re not sure from the start…
A. We were always a bit worried about the opening stuff, particularly as you first see him ordering hookers. We didn’t want to make him seedy because that’s not very endearing. Audiences might then start to think: “Well, if he goes, he goes.” I’m also tripping out of my nut for the first 10 minutes, so you don’t really know Steve. It’s not until they’re all sitting round the table for the pie scene that you get to know what Steve is about. You find out that I’m the comedy character and I’m the one that’s going to break it up a bit. It’s then that you start to warm to me.
We also needed an element of toughness about him because when I start kicking off with the villains it’s got to be believable. I’ve got to be the type of character that when he gets punched in the mouth I’m not going to be on my toes. I say: “Ok, let’s have it off. If I’m going down, I’d rather go out with a fight.” So we always had to have that little element of it there.
Q. How physically demanding was it?
A. Very. Chris made me go to a gym first. Not because I had eight chins but the part needed it. I was so glad I did that. I did six weeks with a personal trainer, three days a week, cut down on my food. He basically wanted definition. The terrorists in this film are horrible – they’re big men so for me to turn round and fight them, I had to make it look believable.
But it was knackering as well. That fighting scene was two days, 12 hours a day. I like a smoke and I like a booze but I was in shape for this because I did the gym thing first. You’re drained after you’ve done it but it is very rewarding. Now that I’ve seen the finished film, I sit back and think I can’t knock my performance at all. That’s not me being arrogant – that’s me doing exactly what I wanted to do with the character. I caught the right beats at the right moments and we all worked together on it and we got it right. I’m so proud of it that I get a bit choked up.
Q. How was working with Chris Smith?
A. Well, Chris dealt with us all in very different ways. But whereas most directors will say something in front of everyone, Chris will pull you aside and say, “no, that’s wrong, or you gave it too much and were over the top”. We were all very different actors on that set and we were all bringing something different to the film. But we all needed to be dealt with in different ways.
You only really find out how actors are when you’re on the set and you’re under pressure. That’s when you can see the little chinks. Sometimes you just need a pat on the bum, others need to be bollocked. What Chris did with me was to wind me up. He’d get me to a point where I’d do a take and he’d say: “That’s perfect now I want you to do it like this.” I’d feel like he couldn’t do that to me and ask what he meant but he’d get me to a point where, to spite him, I’d be like: “Come on then, you’re wrong but let’s do it!” But he’d get the right performance out of me. I didn’t realise at the time but that was his way of dealing with me and it helped me.
Q. What’s next for you?
A. Well, I’m now getting offers. I don’t know if it’s because of Severance, or whether after Severance comes out I’ll get loads of horror films. But I’ve been offered a film called The Lesbian Vampire Killers but I’m in two minds over what I want to do next. I have a film I’m going to be doing with Richard E Grant called Junk Mail, where I play a stalker, this weird little postman that opens people’s mail. It’s very different from Severance – he’s a weird little character.
I’m actually at a stage at the moment where I don’t have to audition and it’s freaking me out a little bit, to be honest. I love it but I’m not used to it. But I don’t want to make any rash decisions. I want to see how Severance goes because if this goes “boom”, then I think it could be another Trainspotting. So I’m just going to take each day as it comes and not believe in my own hype. At the moment I’m flavour of the month, but next month it could be Dean Gaffney – you never know.