If the DVD tagline from our friends at BestforFilm is accurate then Carl Tibbets’ new film Retreat has Murphy returning to 28 Days Later territory as a couple are terrorised by an unwated visitor in their remote country holiday destination.
We have an exclusive interview with the actor who talks about the attraction to the film, his character and the benefits of the indepent film over it’s blockbusting cousin,
How would you describe the character of Martin?
He’s in his mid-30s, he’s an architect, an upwardly-mobile, middle-class professional type who lives in a nice house in London with his beautiful wife [Thandie Newton as Kate]. But, for various different reasons, their relationship is not in a great place so they come to this retreat to try and patch things up, then this crazy thing happens with this other character and everything is turned on its head. I liked that Martin is sort of a normal guy, perhaps lacking in certain areas, and I liked seeing what this external character [Jamie Bell as Jack] does to their relationship as well as to him as an individual.
How did making Retreat compare to a big-budget Hollywood movie?
We did six-day weeks and the script was pretty intense, but I love that – you’re in it all the time, you know? For an actor it’s great.
Was it the script that hooked you?
Yes, definitely. Actors love these claustrophobic dramas because they’re very psychological, very character-driven. Retreat is all about the dynamic between the three characters, which is very appealing to any actor.
You hadn’t worked with Thandie Newton or Jamie Bell before…
No I hadn’t, and that was another attraction. I got to work with people whose work I’ve admired for a long time. It was a real thrill and they were both fantastic.
And how was it working with first-time director Carl Tibbetts?
Great. His instincts were bang-on and it’s always great to have the writer and the director as one and the same person. He knew the script so intimately and that’s always helpful when you’re discussing character stuff, background and all that because the writer has lived with it for so long. Also, it’s a very smart thing to do your first film in just a house, just the one location. Moving the unit and all that stuff is not an issue when you’re stuck in the one location and it means you can get straight into the work.
Did he panic?
Not at all. He was very calm and I think that’s a very good trait to have as a director – not to be ruffled easily, and Carl certainly wasn’t that. You could go to him with any question and he had an answer for it. He was brilliant at problem solving, which was a result of having written the script, but he also had the right temperament for directing – which is not to lose your head.
Do you prefer making small or big movies?
They’re both appealing in different ways. I have done a lot of low-budget films that are like this one, a six-day week. What happens is you get into a rhythm or you get what I call ‘movie fit’ which means it’s all ‘work, bed, work, bed’. You’re in the character the whole time and real life just kind of stops. That adds an extra dimension to the quality of the work, I think. And then there are the big films where the key is trying to keep that level of intensity during your ten-day break when you’re not on set. It’s trickier and a different type of challenge. With a small film like Retreat you’re trying to keep the energy levels up because you’re exhausted all the time. You can do it for four weeks but you couldn’t do it for 12, but the compressed nature of it does appeal to me.
Is it conscious decision to flit between the two or is about whatever you’re offered at the time?
It’s the latter. I go purely on the script and the budget is irrelevant really. I go by the quality of the script, the director and whoever else is involved, and whether it’s a big budget or a small budget doesn’t have an effect on my choices. It’s the same with different genres. I never read a script and go ‘Hmm, this is that genre so I’ll do it’. It’s purely based on what I can do with the character and what sort of challenges it offers to me as an actor. What I like about Retreat is that the first part of the movie is an adult, sophisticated relationship drama – the relationship between me and Thandie as husband and wife is very well-observed – and then it morphs into something entirely different. So as I say I don’t look at things in terms of genre, I look at the material and what it offers
When a shoot is so intense are you able to shake off the character between takes or when you go home at night?
In terms of my method, I don’t stay in character or any of that stuff. Retrospectively, when you’ve finished a job and you look back on it a month or two down the line you go ‘Right, I was behaving in such a way that was hugely influenced by the character I was playing’ or ‘The way I was interacting with people or how I was spending my spare time was influenced by the character and his situation’. It’s not a conscious thing but by osmosis you can’t help having it affect your life.
Retreat is now available on Blu-ray and DVD, courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.