As the London Film Festival looms ever closer, it’s a hit from last year’s event that is soon to hit our screens – and ahead of the release of Kieran Evans’ Kelly + Victor, we spoke to Victor himself, Julian Morris.
Starring alongside actress Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Kelly + Victor tells the story of two young lover, who come together after meeting in a nightclub, and when discovering they both share a passion for aggressive, submissive sex, they embark on an intense relationship that neither of them could have foreseen. Morris discusses the more graphic side to the film and whether he’s shown this picture to his friends and family, while also telling us why he feels this project is the one he is most proud of in his career so far.
Kelly + Victor is a full on film, and certainly a brave move to have taken yourself. Did you have any apprehensions before getting involved, or were you keen from the start?
It was one of those things where the script was just brilliant, so I read that and thought it was something that I really, really wanted to do. I’ve been doing a lot of commercial, mainstream stuff in America and I was looking forward to have the opportunity to work in Britain, and then of course this script came and I loved it. Also, Kieran Evans is brilliant and he had a really confident idea and vision for the script, so any of my fears of it being graphic or the scenes being quite savaged, were put at ease by his confidence in the beauty in the film that we were making. I think that despite some of those scenes, it is a very beautiful movie.
Even though there are disturbing elements to the narrative – it’s effectively about two lost souls meeting in a nightclub and falling for one another. Was that side of the story relatable to you?
Yeah totally, absolutely it is. Victor sort of comes to nothing, there isn’t much hope for him in the film and his escape is nature, he longs to be a game ranger, wondering through the Northern countryside, and that’s his escape. Then he meets Kelly and it’s the sex, and the type of sex that’s almost like a drug to him. So for me playing the character, I wanted to treat the sexuality like a drug, and it was something he needed, and needed more of.
Do you think this is something you can see yourself doing throughout your career – mixing mainstream cinema, with lower budget, passion projects such as this?
This movie feels like one I’ve been waiting to make my whole career. It’s much more in line with the films I enjoy and watch in my own time. In terms of what I want in the future, it is to tackle more mature roles, more challenging characters.
Do you feel after this role it’s opened up your inhibitions, and you’ll be comfortable doing anything? Because in this, you really do bare quite a lot.
[Laughs] Yeah, again it depends on the nature of the project and who the director is. Donkey Punch was a film I did and that was even more graphic in terms of what was shown, but in terms of what I’d do in the future, it depends on the script.
Kelly + Victor is of course based on a novel – did you get the chance to read that beforehand?
Yeah, and the author Niall Griffiths is someone I consider a close friend now. He came around when we were shooting and we went out for drinks, spending time together in London when I got back, so he’s someone that I have huge admiration and respect for, not only for his writing but as a person he’s really quite wonderful.
Was it quite handy having the creator of the character you played around on set as a reference point?
That’s an interesting question, yes and no… The first thing when you do a film based on text, I to separate them somewhat. The film needs to exist on its own as its own entity, and while the novel is written by Niall, Kelly + Victor the film is very much Kieran’s baby, based on the book. Ultimately that vision and Kieran’s vision applied to my approach as Victor, but in terms to how I approached the scenes, I just try and understand the point of view of the character as deeply as I can. For the sex scenes, I spoke to people into BDSM and have addictions, because I was interested in the roles and the power play, and tried to understand where the enjoyment came from for Victor, and on what level he was feeling it.
When playing a character based on a literary figure – do you find that helpful? Or can it be an overload of information, and disallow you the chance to be as unique as may have wanted to be?
It depends on the project and the character. You can never have too information, in fact you can never have enough information. Everything you learn about the character helps you build him up, and you’re always going to make him unique on your own because no one else is you. Nobody else is Julian Morris, the actor, so my approach to the character would be totally different to somebody else’s approach, even with us having the same information. Look at Shakespeare and how many times Richard III has been played, and yet each actor’s interpretation of the character is quite different.
There are some really intense scenes shot with Antonia – when Kieran would shout “ cut”, how was it to go from shooting such scenes, and then slip back into normality and see her in the canteen and stuff?
I won’t lie to you, when we were shooting those scenes, they were challenging emotionally because we both went all out. And yet Antonia is one of my best friends now, we had an incredible experience working together and we’ve maintained that friendship, she’s come and visited to me and when I’m in London we always spend time together – so it didn’t get in the way of us forming this wonderful friendship. At the end of the day, we leave the work in the workplace and we’d go back and spend time together in the hotel and it was fine.
Given the nature of the film, how are you when showing it to friends and family?
[Laughs] Listen, I am so proud of this movie. Honestly, it’s the thing I’m most proud of that I’ve ever done, so it really is a joy for me to show it to both friends, which I have quite a few times, and to my family. For the most part they’ve all really enjoyed the film, or at least appreciated it for what the message is and what it has to say.
It’s a very striking piece of cinema and memorable too – did you get a sense for how special this project would be to you when shooting, or has this developed since?
I knew that Kieran was someone special and I knew we were working on a script that was special. Of course so much of the film comes together in the edit so all my expectations of its quality and knowing what we filmed and how the scenes went, when I saw Kelly + Victor as a finished movie, it was a surprise, it was much more gentle than I had anticipated, it was far more beautiful and tender than I thought it would be, and a much better film than I thought we were making. Obviously I knew we were making a great film, but it’s really unique and a very special, British movie, and that’s a testament to Kieran’s ability as a director.
So what else can we see you in soon?
I’m doing my first Funny or Die sketch with Sarah Solemani from Him & Her. It’s my first ever comedy so I’m looking forward to that. I’ve got more Once Upon a Time coming out too.
Kelly + Victor couldn’t be further away from a Funny or Die sketch – is it important for you at this stage in your career to show off to people your versatility?
It’s not important to me, but what is important is that I continue to do what I want to do and what I get a challenge from, and what I find fun. For me I did Kelly + Victor because it’s really in line with the sort of movies I want to make, and very close to my heart. I enjoy comedy though and wanted to take a stab at it, so suggested to Sarah that we do a sketch and I don’t know if we’ll do it again in the future, but at the time it seemed like a good idea, and now we wait to see if other people enjoy it.
Kelly + Victor hits cinemas across the UK on September 20th.