It’s always a pleasure to be invited onto a film set, and even more so when you step into one where everybody seems to get on so well, which was the case on Mark Murphy’s The Revenger: An Unromantic Comedy.
And it’s a atmosphere which has infused the finished product too, as HeyUGuys were fortunate enough to be the very first UK outlet to watch the movie since its completion, and needless to say we’re big fans, as this congenial, very funny piece of cinema is all but set to be one of the stand-out British rom-coms of 2018.
Billed as ‘a fairy tale romance takes an unexpected turn when Mark discovers his beautiful bride-to-be, Connie, has actually been plotting against him’ – during our visit we saw a very early scene being shot, and around us were extras donning their smart, black attire – for our protagonists are at a funeral.
Mark is played by Robert Kazinsky, and Connie is Samantha Barks – and you can read our interview with the latter (from the same day on set) right here. She too is new to the comedy genre, and for Kazinsky, it was trying his hand in something completely different which drew him in to the project.
“I’ve only done two comedies but I wasn’t the funny character in them,” he said. “So here was an opportunity for me to do something I’ve never done before. It’s the premise of the movie that is interesting, we’ve all seen the lovely, funny rom-coms, but this plays against convention and goes against everything that people think they want to see. It’s depressingly funny. That’s an interesting premise and that’s an interesting project.”
“It’s very much a learning experience for me, this whole thing is an adventure. I’ve spent my whole life doing drama, and there’s a lot of prep that goes into it, it can be draining and exhausting, emotionally and physically, it can really take it out of you. But this, my usual way of working doesn’t apply here, there’s no point having a plan, we’re improvising and we’re playing and letting it all come naturally, and that makes it one of the hardest, and most satisfying acting experiences that I’ve ever had. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t like that.”
What comes with the genre, is the encouragement for improvisation – and that’s an area that Kazinsky has enjoyed, albeit difficult to know which jokes are landing, and which aren’t.
“It’s my first effort at improvisation, but there’s no noise coming from anybody. You want laughter but they’re not allowed to laugh, so you’re making these great jokes in your head and not sure if they’re landing and self-doubt creeps in. We’ll see how it all comes out in the edit, because we’ve come up with some crazy shit.”
For Murphy, who has experience in the horror genre, it’s here he feels most comfortable – and through this narrative he’s able to exercise a fair few demons from his own past.
“Basically an incident happened in my past, and I decided to exercise those demons cathartically into the form of a script and turn into a romantic comedy, or in this case, an unromantic comedy,” he said.
“Another thing that inspired me was something an ex-girlfriend said to me that always stuck with me, that in any relationship there’s always one person who likes the other person more, it’s never equal. You see all the Hollywood films when the couple get together and they always end up happy at the end in this beautiful kind of equilibrium of romance, but that’s not true, there’s never that situation.”
Our chat with Murphy took place in a church (which is fortunate, for we spoke to Kazinsky in the graveyard) – and the director was keen to show a more authentic, if overstated version of the modern relationship. No surprise the interview was somewhat candid either, we did do it right next to a confession booth.
“I wanted to focus on a story that shows that bittersweetness, of a romance that really does have some true love in it, but unfortunately it’s not enough, or it’s two one-sided to make it work.”
“The easy to sell it is as a lad’s romantic comedy. But that demeans so much about it, because girls will love this too, it’s incredibly romantic, and that’s because it’s set in truth. Whether you’re a guy or girl you’ll be able to connect and relate to this. It’s different though, that’s the thing. We’re coming at it from a different angle, and it will be really interesting to see how it plays out.”
Also in this impressive cast are the likes of Ed Speelers, Tony Way and Rachel Hurd-Wood, and Murphy was thrilled with the talent he has assembled for this endeavour.
“We really lucked out on this one,” he said. “There are six or seven people in this with massive credits to their names, often in leading roles and have that natural film bone, they can just turn onto a set, they have a natural awareness of where the camera is they just deliver something effortlessly, that looks fantastic. Plus, they’re all, within their own skill-set, tremendously funny.”
“People are going to love Rob, it’s such a weird one that he hasn’t been done leading roles before. He’s such a good actor, such a leading man.”
You can tell Kazinsky must’ve made a good impression on the director, for he represents a different take on the original character of Mark, which had to be altered to suit his sensibilities as an actor, and person.
“Originally he was written as an awkward, nerdy, weak little small man, like the old time Rick Moranis type of character,” Kazinsky said. “Then I joined the cast, I’m six foot tall, 200 pounds and I’ve won a sexiest male award or two over the course of my younger years – so it didn’t really fit, so we turned him into someone who just doesn’t quite understand social cues, he gets carried away, he gets flustered, uncomfortable and is never sure of his decisions, a real lack of confidence, and it’s very against type for me.”
When speaking to filmmakers and actors on set, you do hear similar, cliched lines, how it’s the most fun they’ve ever had, the best atmosphere, etc, etc. But in this case there was a tangible energy, a sense that everybody was just getting along – and that can make the world of difference to the finished product (which has since been proven).
“Sometimes it’s just nice to come in and play with your friends, and that’s what we’re doing here. It’s been one of the most fun projects I’ve worked on. It’s a very fun and happy set, and that’s a rare and nice thing, you don’t get that often,” Kazinsky finished.
It’s a sentiment shared by Murphy too; “It’s been an absolute joy and every one of the actors have been so much fun to work with, and I don’t know if I’ll ever have that pleasure again,” he continued, “This is a real family, and it’s actually quite boring. There’s no gossip, no egos. They’re all lovely.”
We were on set too of Murphy’s preceding feature The Comedian’s Guide to Survival, and while there was much to admire about the picture, the filmmaker believes this is the one that could take his career to the next level.
“I have a lot of excitement and faith in this one, I see it as a Four Weddings and a Funeral for the cynical generation,” he smiled. “I’ve never been on a film where I’ve had this little glow inside me where I keep thinking, we might actually have something here. There’s a general sense amongst everyone that this is going to be something, and people are excited about that.”
“If I don’t get it right with this one I don’t deserve any more chances, I’m betting it all on this one. It’s my fifth or sixth film and I’ve found my beat now. I’ve had more chances than I’ve had any right to have had, but I’m so excited about this one. That sounds like a stock answer any filmmaker gives, but I really do believe it this time. And I’m in church – so I can’t be lying.”
Well, we’ve seen it, and fair to say he’s most definitely got it right.
The Revenger: An Unromantic Comedy is set for release in 2018.