Sam Elliott & Aidan Turner on The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot
RLJE Films will release The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot in theaters and on VOD and Digital HD on February 8. ComingSoon.net got to have an exclusive chat with stars Sam Elliott and Aidan Turner, who both portray the lead character of Calvin Barr at different stages in his life. Check out the interviews with both actors below!
Written by Robert D. Krzykowski , who is making his directorial debut, the film stars this year’s Oscar nominee Sam Elliott (A Star is Born, Tombstone, The Big Lebowski), Aidan Turner (Poldark, The Hobbit trilogy), Ron Livingston (Office Space, Tully), Caitlin FitzGerald (Masters of Sex), Larry Miller (Pretty Woman) and Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood).
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot follows the epic adventures of an American legend that no one has ever heard of. Since WWII, Calvin Barr (Elliott) has lived with the secret that he was responsible for the assassination of Adolf Hitler. Now, decades later, the US government has called on him again for a new top-secret mission. Bigfoot has been living deep in the Canadian wilderness and is carrying a deadly plague that is now threatening to spread to the general population. Relying on the same skills that he honed during the war, Calvin must set out to save the free world yet again.
ComingSoon.net: The title of the movie makes it sound like it’s going to be some kind of exploitation movie about a badass dude. But the character of Calvin himself, as he’s shown throughout the film, is a guy who knows the futility of killing. Could you talk about playing against those expectations of the title and playing to that idea of the character?
Sam Elliott: The first thing, I totally agree with you about the title, you know? On some level, the title says it all. That is what it’s about. It’s about this guy that killed Hitler and the Bigfoot. But at the same time, it’s not what it sounds like. It’s not the schlocky thing that you might expect it to be. There’s something about this character. I just felt like it was this kind of heartfelt character study. It’s got these elements of pulp adventure intertwined with it, but I just found this an intriguing character on a lot of levels. One of them, you mentioned, about being unsettled about his heroic exploits, if you want to call them that. The fact that he’d killed people, even though it’s during the war. It’s like one of the things about war, it doesn’t matter which war we’re talking about, the military tells you how to kill people, but they don’t tell you how to reckon with killing people. In the old days, they would’ve called it shellshock. Today, they call it PTSD, and that’s one of the things that Barr suffers from. Also suffers from the fact that he lost of the love of his life while he was in the military. At the same time, he’s this kind of gentle soul. He’s this humble man, humble hero, whatever you want to call it, you know? We’re kind of keeping the tradition of American mythmaking alive on some level. I think Robert is.
CS: The films it actually reminded me of most was Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven,” in the way that movie juxtaposed the myth of the old West hero versus the reality. What were some of the touchstones that you brought to the character, besides what was just on the page?
Elliott: Oh god, I don’t know. I like to think that these kind of characters speak to me, you know? It’s a fable in some levels, but it’s about the human condition. I think his words spoke to me, his characters spoke to me, his grace spoke to me. I think all of those intertwined with all these other elements of him, in terms of the action part of the film, and it was a fun piece to play out.
CS: And even though it was a first time director, it had a really good pedigree in the sense that John Sayles was involved, Douglas Trumbull was involved, and these guys are all vets.
Elliott: Yeah, not only vets, but brilliant, brilliant vets. Sayles is a brilliant director and he’s also a wonderful actor at the same time, oddly enough. And Douglas Trumbull’s an Academy Award Winning effects man. So the fact that these guys followed Robert down the road on this thing… When I heard that they were involved and I read the script and I talked to Robert, there was no doubt in my mind. I didn’t hesitate to get involved with this thing.
CS: This same level of mythmaking is similar to a project that you worked on years ago with John Milius, “The Rough Riders.” Because that was about a very storied part of American history and showing more of the reality of it. I’m wondering if you have any memories of working on that project with John?
Elliott: Oh god, I loved working with John. I saw John not long…you know, it’s been a while back, and he was not doing well when I saw him and it was heartbreaking to see him.
CS: He had a bad stroke, right?
Elliott: Yeah, yeah. I always thought John Milius was a brilliant filmmaker and an incredible man to work for. You talk about a guy that knows what he wants and knows how to go about getting it. He’s a man’s man and he was a lot of fun to work with. And getting to play out the tale of Bucky O’Neill with that bunch, that was a great moment for me. It was also a time where I was on the set of that film when the Coen Brothers sent me a script, “The Big Lebowski.” And I remember being excited to go read that script back at the room after we got off work that night, and I thought, “Wow, a Coen Brothers movie.” Maybe I was going to shake this Western thing that I’d been doing for years? And little did I know, I open it up and my name was in the script and it talked about this voiceover with a southwest accent, sounding not unlike Sam Elliott. And when he shows up in the bowling alley dressed like a drugstore cowboy looking not unlike Sam. I went from thinking about shaking that image to fully embracing it after that, I think.
CS: That movie etched with lightning the iconography of you as America’s cowboy. I wanted to ask you about another film that I don’t think a lot of people remember, but I know is probably very memorable for you because you met your wife on it, which is “The Legacy.” And I came to that film because I’m a big fan of gothic horror and Richard Marquand, the director. Aside from obviously the good fortune of meeting your wife, what do you remember about working with Richard and working on that production?
Elliott: Well, I tell you, I got over there and I think that that was not long after “Lifeguard.” Because I remember being at a premiere down in Hollywood and somebody asking me on the red carpet, “Oh, I hear you’re going to go and work on that film and work with Katharine Ross.” Anyway, I just remember it fondly. I got over there, excited to do it. I wasn’t a huge gothic horror fan, but the fact that I was going to London to work with Katharine Ross, I was very excited about it. And I was totally smitten when I met Katharine and never got over it apparently, right?
CS: Understandably, yeah, sure. And you shot that in Roger Daltrey’s house?
Elliott: I don’t remember that place being Roger’s house. But that makes a good story. And maybe he bought it after we filmed there, I mean, that’s quite possible. As far as I know, that wasn’t his home.
CS: Okay, then. Myth debunked!
Elliott: Well, don’t let me debunk that myth, because I don’t know for sure. I worked in one scene with Roger, and that’s when he was choking on the chicken bone.
CS: You mentioned how you live with this brand of being a Western guy. Do you have one Western star that you feel is always in the back of your mind when you’re playing those roles, or when you’re trying to channel that?
Elliott: Yeah, Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart are the two guys that I’ve most focused on in terms of what to be like when doing the kind of work that they’ve done.
CS: What is it about those two guys that really hits you?
Elliott: Their goodness, and the characters that they played. I never saw either one of those guys play a character that didn’t have a certain amount of grace in him, didn’t have a certain amount of goodness in him, always trying to do the right thing.
CS: Wow. Well, that makes a lot of sense, especially when you think about the character in this movie, too, you can see a lot of that. There’s a lot of that sincerity to him.
Elliott: You know, Barr was trapped by the military. What he says is, he was always doing what they told him to do. He was always going to do what they asked him to do. That’s where he came in and went after Bigfoot in that sequence at the end. It came to him. He answered the call.
ComingSoon.net: Have you seen the movie yet completed?
Aidan Turner: I have, yeah. We went to a screening. We saw Bob and some of the team came over to, I think Horror Con in London, a couple of months ago. I loved it. It was actually in the summer because I was doing a play. So it was around August time, I saw the film. And yeah, yeah, I loved it. I was really pleasantly surprised and it’s strange. Sometimes you do a project and you don’t know how it’s going to look and how it’s going to feel to you when you see it, because it’s been so long since you were over there shooting it. But it’s everything I hoped it would be, you know? It’s everything I wanted it to be. And I think that was the same for everyone who worked on the film, which is a lot for a movie that just didn’t really cost that much money. I mean, I think the budget was under a million dollars, which is kind of unheard of, to even have a screening for a movie like this, and with the caliber of actors who are involved in it. And the way the movie has traveled so well and been reviewed so well all around, it’s a remarkable achievement for Bob and the team that were involved in it. So yeah, we’re incredibly proud of this film and to be in Hollywood now to celebrate it is fantastic.
CS: That’s amazing. I actually didn’t know it cost that little because it has a really big scope. I guess Douglass Trumbull and the team did a lot of little touches to create a vaster look to the film than it had. Were you privy to some of that special effects trickery on the set? Were you on a bare field and they’re like, “Yeah, there’s going to be a bridge there and there’s going to be a Nazi encampment there”?
Turner: Right. There is some of that sure. Or you know, what are you shooting, this is where the bullet’s going to come out and this is what it’s going to look like. There’s all these kind of things. There was some of it with my character because most of what I did was sort of set around the 50’s,so there was less CGI. Saying that there could’ve been more CGI, I mean, I just didn’t notice actually having seen the film. But I know they did quite a lot of post-production. I think it was at Skywalker Ranch for quite a few months after the film had wrapped. So I wasn’t necessarily privy to a lot of that, you know, which was quite cool. It felt like we were very much doing something that felt real to us at the time. Yeah, there was little involvement, I suppose, now that I think back of CGI, where different things had to come into play. But all around, it felt very real. Sometimes you go work in a film where you’re looking at a tennis ball for somebody’s face for six or seven months. You’re surrounded by green screen and that becomes your world. You adapt and you get on with it, but you can’t forget every day that you’re in a film, where something like this, you can really immerse yourselves in it. It was a small crew and we shot a lot on locations where it wasn’t film sets or studios. They were real places. So with a small crew it almost felt slightly voyeuristic, like they were looking into our world. So that made it more real and made it feel more indie and just allowed us as actors, as performers, to immerse ourselves in it in an easier way. That’s the advantage, I suppose, about having somebody that has tons and tons of money behind it, you know, because all these trucks start pulling up and all these different crews and everything just grows and gets much bigger. And we didn’t have any of that, so it just felt very much like a little family for about a 10-week shoot, if I’m not mistaken. It was an incredible experience.
CS: And obviously, Sam Elliott, he has one of the most distinctive looks and voices of any actor alive. It seemed like you weren’t trying to do a Sam Elliott impression, but you guys do have a certain similarity in your features. To what extent did you look at Sam Elliott films? Did you talk to Sam? Did you look at Sam’s dailies, any of that stuff?
Turner: I don’t think I’ve seen any dailies. It was something that Bob had presented to me. It was a possibility. I don’t think any of us need reminding what Sam Elliott sounds like. We all just have to close our eyes for one minute, and all of us in the room can think of his voice straight away. So that was never the issue. When you asked the question, too, was it an impersonation? What I sort of discovered is I had to steer clear of that. We can all sit around in a bar and have a drink and do different impersonations of different actors or different historic people or famous people, and that’s one thing. But if you’re trying to embody a character, and share a character, which is what me and Sam were doing, you fall into tricky ground, where it starts to sound like an impersonation as opposed to you’re playing this character. So it’s a delicate balance between you want to lower the vocal tones, you want to get the accent right, you want to get the rhythm of the tone of Sam’s vocal qualities, and you want to stay in that world. But you also want it to sound organic and you don’t want it to sound like you’re just portraying somebody, you know? It can be quite difficult. If you’re playing somebody famous that we know of, you want to get those tones correct. But then you have free range to do what you want with that character. I’m sort of following Sam, so I just wanted to make sure that my character was believable and it wasn’t just an impersonation. So I wanted to make it real, but I also wanted it to seem like there was somewhere to grow with the character. I play a much younger version of Sam’s character by over 30 years, so I felt like there was room to grow there with the vocal quality and the sounds of where I would’ve taken him.
But above everything, I wanted it to seem like a real character, as something I was giving to the character as opposed to just, “Here’s an actor who studied his voice and he’s trying really hard to make it sound like Sam.” Because Sam, let’s be honest, has one of the most famous voices in Hollywood and has been for a very long time, you know? It’s hard to get that vocal quality. To try to make that character seem real you have to find all those moments yourself, too. You need to connect with those moments as an actor and as that character. And if you’re just a slave to somebody else’s sound, it could be quite difficult. So it was just finding a balance, you know? It’s a bit of everything that’s involved in it, and then just speaking to Sam. Just talking to Sam on set. We crossed over only by a day, so we had very little time to really swap notes and stuff. But I got to talk to Sam a lot, and he really reassured me. I think what he said was, “Don’t worry about the resonance.” That was his first line, when he met me. He said, “Don’t worry about the resonance.” I said, “Oh god, give me some of that, though. I won’t worry about it, but I want it.” But yeah, it was an incredible experience, and just to be reassured by Sam and by Bob and by everyone on the first day that what we’re going for is first and foremost his character as opposed to an impersonation was helpful.