American audiences know Ryan Kwanten best as the affable Jason Stackhouse in the hit HBO series True Blood, but this year he broke out of that lovable goofball mold with Griff the Invisible, a strange and extremely endearing Australian dramedy about a young man who survives the workaday world by entering a superhero universe of his own devising. Director Leon Ford has a deft hand in the film, which finds Kwanten struggling between “growing up” and living the life of his choosing with fellow dreamer Maeve Dermody by his side. I was a big fan of Griff the Invisible upon its release this past summer, and was very excited to get a few minutes to talk to Ryan Kwanten about the film while he was on his lunch break to promote the film’s DVD and Blu-Ray release this week.
CraveOnline: Hello, sir. How are you doing?
Ryan Kwanten: I’m doing very well. I like being called “sir.” This is nice.
No, no, I treat you right. I know you’re very busy, so I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about ‘Griff the Invisible.’
Oh, no problem. I’m very, very proud of the film.
I really loved it, but it had a small theatrical release so I have the feeling that some of our readers don’t know a lot about it. I was wondering if you could start by explaining it in your own words.
Yeah, sure! I feel like everyone knows this guy. I feel like everyone has wanted to be like him, wanted to sort of experience that kind of a life. And by “that kind of a life” I mean to explore the better version of who you are. What if I can do this, I can do that? If I can do all those things and put it into a world, what would that be like? This is a guy who’s actually done that, and is living that, and chooses to live in that world as opposed the world we all live in, and ultimately who’s to say that the world that he chooses to live in is any better or worse than how we choose to live.
I really liked the way it played with the idea that it doesn’t matter if he’s wrong or even crazy.
Yeah, me too. That was one of the most intriguing things. It didn’t feel the need to [give the] audience any answers or anything. It sort of leaves the audience in the driver’s seat. It leaves it up to you, in terms of everyone gets something different out of it.
I choose to believe it’s taking place in a parallel dimension that only cats can see.
[Laughs] Yeah, that’s the beautiful thing about it. To me, personally, there’s definitely some sort of therapeutic nature in playing it. Because I was very much a loner that was verging on sociophobic growing up. This film very much embraced some of the ideas and illusions that I had when I was a kid. It was a nice exploration into, say, as adults why we’re told to suppress our imaginations, to sort of be… more serious? I guess that’s what it means to be an adult?
We’re supposed to “put away childish things.”
Yeah! And it’s funny, because being an actor requires me to be emotionally vulnerable and wear your heart on your sleeve. I have very much chosen a profession where you have to embrace that sense of imagination every day. It’s nice to be able to feed it out into the world, I guess.
I think a lot of your ‘True Blood’ fan are going to be surprised by how mild-mannered you are in ‘Griff the Invisible.’ Were you looking for something that was so different Jason Stackhouse or was it just a great movie?
Oh, first and foremost it’s the writing. But nothing could be more uninspiring than playing another character like Jason. I love playing it, but I’m looking for challenges in life, and no great achievement was ever easy. So it’s nice for me to jump into another character’s skin and convince myself that that world exists just as much as Bon Temps, that city in Louisiana. It’s all part of acting, and I love sort of…
Were you able to do a lot of the superhero stunt work yourself?
Yeah, most of it! I’m a pretty agile sort of a guy anyway, and I kind of pride myself on doing pretty much most of it. There was one stunt that I didn’t do, but outside of that most of it was all mine. And that was in-and-of-itself a real experience, putting on the suit. The suit took a couple of hours to put on. A wardrobe girl had to help put it on, and literally sew me into it piece by piece. You really do get a sense of… You could do anything if you’re in the suit. If I heard a woman screaming off in the distance, I felt like I should there to help her.
It’s very liberating to have that kind of costume on.
I highly recommend it everyone out there. It’s funny, everyone gets so excited about Halloween, and for me that’s what I do every day at work. Imagine living like that. And for Griff, that’s every day for him too. Every day like Halloween, it’s sort of like that.
How did you get together with [‘Griff the Invisible’ director] Leon Ford. Had you worked together before?
No, I’d never worked [with him] before, but very quickly we… It was a very easy relationship. It was almost simpatico. I definitely worked my butt off trying to convince him that I was the right guy, but once I’d done that he very much let me craft the character. Fortunately we were on the same page for a lot of it, so there was really no compromise in term of where we both saw Griff going. Yeah, I would jump at the chance to work with him again.
In America, a lot of Australian movies have a reputation for being “quirky.” I think that’s actually a wonderful thing. What is it that you think makes Australian movies so unique over here?
Yeah, “quirky” is such a…
I don’t think it’s a negative word. I think it’s a wonderful word.
Yeah, as do I, but in the film world “quirky” sometimes means low-low budget, or it’s got some sort of weird sense of humor that you have to be a little left of center to understand. But I agree with you. “Quirky” is the kind of film that I would want to see. That’s fine. A Coen Bros. film has quirk.
What is it about Australian films? I don’t know… Whether its our sense of isolation down there, yet there’s still an attachment to the world, so I think we have unique and original stories and they still have a universal relevance. […] So you can connect with an audience but in an original way.