Jason Behr is one of Hollywood’s busiest young actors but in Skinwalkers he gets to play dress up as a werewolf in a unique, fresh take on the classic horror genre. But it was tough going as Behr explsined to Paul Fischer in this exclusive interview.
Question: So let me just start off by asking you what the particular attraction of this movie was for you.
Behr: When I read the script I thought it was a story that I had never heard before. And I thought it was a completely original take on werewolf mythology. And I figure if you’re into a werewolf movie, Stan Winston is the guy to make it.I think he is a legend. He’s been wanting to do a werewolf movie since he was a teenager and it’s what got him into this business in the first place and he’s never done one before.
Question: How different a take on werewolf mythology is Skinwalkers?
Behr: The werewolf stories that we’re used to seeing are very Eastern European mythology. This has a Native American spin – it’s a new take that revolves around the Navaho Skinwalkers who were said to be able to put the skin of an animal on an become that animal, whether it be a bear or a hawk or a deer or a wolf. I think the writers used that as a starting point for their own mythology, and asked the question, ‘What if it were to consume them and take them over?’ So that’s the starting point for our story.
Question: Tell me about your character and your best take on him.
Behr: I play Varek, who is a leader of the naturalist tribe I suppose you’d call it. Over time we became two very distinct groups of Skinwalkers – one group who embraced their power and that freedom, the primal instinct and saw it as a gift, were addicted to that power. The other thought it was a curse and suppressed that prima urge within them. My group, the Big Bad Wolf Squad, will do whatever they can to make sure that doesn’t become true.
Question: The Big Bad Wolf Squad?
Behr: Yeah the Big Bad Wolf Squad. Basically Varek is a big badass wolf.
Question: How fun is it getting into a character like that?
Behr: Well it’s something that I’ve never done before. It’s the first time that I was able to play the bad guy. It’s a real departure from my work in the past. I’ve been able to do things that I’ve never done before for a character.
Question: Is it fun being bad?
Behr: Absofuckenlutely. I mean it’s always fun to be free. I got a chance to shoot guns and ride motorcycles and do all this insane wire work and stunt work that I’ve never done before. And on top of all that I got to put on a suit that really allow myself permission to just play full on.
Question: How much physical preparation did you have to undergo for this movie?
Behr: We really didn’t get a whole lot of time to prepare as much as I would have liked to. So we were sort of thrown to the wolves, so to speak. They did give us some gun training and they did give us a little bit of stunt training. We had Steve Lucescu His group were our stunt team and Steve is one of the best stunt men in the world. And he would show me how to do a specific move and I would come back the next day and be like ‘Give me more. Give me more. What else? What else? What else?’ So it was pretty intense training for all the stunt work. It was fast, it was furious
Question: Was it physically tough? I mean was it a very gruelling experience as well?
Behr: Incredibly physically challenging. I mean not only is the stunt work and wire work extraordinarily physical, and I have the utmost respect for stuntmen who do that, it’s incredibly hard to do. And not only that, to do it with the wolf suit on was a little bit tough to get used to. But it was incredibly taxing. We had a trainer who was trying to get us into wolf shape, you know. Kim Coates who plays Zo was my brother in arms in that. We basically pushed each other to get better and bigger and badder as fast as we possibly could.
Question: How constrictive is the wolf suit? I mean was it very tough to get in and out of that thing?
Behr: The biggest limitation was probably the vision when the contacts were in. Because you’re wearing a contact that covers the entire eyeball and you just had a little bit of a peephole for you to see through. That was the biggest limiting factor. Surprisingly the outfit itself, the wolf suit itself, was pretty free in movement. So that was no problem whatsoever.
Question: When you see yourself in that getup what goes through your mind?
Behr: It’s really bizarre because you do see exactly what Stan Winston was going for in the first place which was to bring the character back to the actor. It’s not a big CGI, digital effect werewolf. It’s like a throwback to the 1930s along with Wolfman and those types of movies. This guy was always inspired by those and always wanted to make that kind of film and that’s what I think he did here was really give us as the actors the ability to show emotion to do this makeup …
Question: You’re incredibly busy. Are you kind of surprised at how your career is shaping up at this point?
Behr: Yeah I’m just really grateful and very excited to have all these opportunities to really have a sort of diverse variety of work so far, to really mix it up a bit with some of the bigger budgeted movies and some of these smaller independents I’ve been really fortunate to work on.
Question: You’ve done odd TV. I mean that’s – I guess that’s where you’re best know prior to this movie career. Do you want to go back to television or do you think movies are really what you want to focus on?
Behr: You know for me it’s always about a good story and it doesn’t matter where that story is. If it’s on TV or if it’s on film, if it’s on stage, wherever that takes place.