Interview: Brenton Thwaites of “Ride”

Posted on May 7, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Copyright Sandbar Pictures 2015
Copyright Sandbar Pictures 2015
Australian actor Brenton Thwaites (“Maleficent,” “The Giver”) stars in “Ride,” a new film written, directed, and starring Oscar-winner Helen Hunt. She plays Jackie, an overprotective mother whose son Angelo (Thwaites) is about to start college and move into a dorm a short walk from their apartment. When he decides to drop out of college and escape to California, where he can spend his days surfing, she follows him out and ends up taking surfing lessons herself, from a handsome surfer played by Luke Wilson. Thwaites, who is currently filming the next “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, told me that while he did not consider himself an expert surfer, he is better than the character he played, so he had to “down my game because the character actually is not an experienced surfer. He is a New Yorker gone to LA to kind of start the process of surfing so knowing how to surf wasn’t really key in the role but it was an advantage, I guess.”

The early scenes in the film convey a very close connection between mother and son. I asked him how he and Hunt developed a rhythm that seemed to show years of spending a lot of time together. “A lot of it was in the writing, I have to be honest with you. She wrote these very unique characters that are on the same wavelength and only on that wavelength. It’s hard for other people to really connect with and understand what they’re talking about a lot of the time. And the way we kind of got to do that was just talking to each other, was just rehearsing, talking the lines through. I had to audition a couple of times to understand her flow, her style. But once we are in there, there is no going back. It’s quite fun to relish it.

He told me that it was not easy to be tough on Hunt, who was not only his co-star, but his director. “That was one of my challenges; to find the right level of frustration and anger towards her without seeming like I, Brenton, really didn’t like her. I didn’t want to annoy her or piss her off but at the same time that was my job. I had to do it.”

He did not think his first audition went well. “I went to her house and auditioned with her and we worked a couple of scenes and I went away feeling like I just destroyed my tiny chance of getting the role. And so I was called back for second audition with some notes to take on. And in the second one we kind of worked it and I was a little more relaxed. I understood the character a little more and the cadence and the text. I guess he found our flow. I guess she learned to see Angelo through me I guess. I know she had written someone in her mind very physically opposite to me. I am the furthest thing from inner-city New York. Probably not right for the role but I guess I convinced her somehow.” He really appreciated her “understanding of actors because she is an actor. A lot of actors don’t like this but I personally love the fact that she would be in the scene with me directing me on either side of “action” and “cut.” It just created a sense of rhythm throughout the whole movie that I loved. It was quick, it was effective, she knew exactly how to step on my triggers and she know how to pull me back, how to change my thought. And I guess slowly I learned to push her buttons and I guess I had to figure out how to play with her but at the same time preserve her to direct the film. I was trying to affect her in a way that only actors can affect each other. There was nothing to hide. So if she says were not going to get this shot or we don’t have time for this close-up then you know that. It is not hidden behind the camera behind a screen somewhere. She was very open with everything that was going on set and guess in that I learned to trust her and believe in her.

The biggest challenge for him was the first scene filmed, which comes late in the story, “the resolve of the movie. That was quite difficult just because it was my first scene and I was nervous and I didn’t really know what the set was like and how she was is a director/actor but it worked out really well. I think my most challenging scene was the most rewarding so I think that was the case for this one.”

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