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INTERVIEW: ED OXENBOULD, star of new movie The Visit

| 7 October 2015 | Reply

INTERVIEW: ED OXENBOULD, star of new movie The Visit
By Shane Pinnegar

Ed Oxenbould The Visit 02

Fast becoming one of the pre-eminent actors of his generation, Ed Oxenbould can be seen on the big screen in M Night Shyalaman’s return-to-form thriller-cum-horror film The Visit. Not bad for a fourteen-year-old kid from Melbourne.

Shyalaman cranks the terror up to eleven before revealing a shocking twist to the story – one which Oxenbould agrees was a mind-blower.

“Yeah, it really plays with your mind,” he said, before revealing that he got the part in the film before reading the script. “It was kind of interesting because I only got the full script after I got the film, so when I initially got approached and got the audition for it, I had no idea about what anything was. I knew that it was M Night Shyamalan, but that was it. I didn’t know anything about my character. I didn’t know anything about the story. Not one little bit. I knew nothing.

“That was kind of weird,” he continues, “being in kind of this element of mystery, but then after I got it, I still felt confused, because after I got [the part] I’d think, ‘I don’t know what to think. I don’t know what it’s like. I don’t know what it’s going to be.’ I could only assume it’s a weird, scary, horror film, but then when I read it I just loved the script. I just fell in love with it. I just was like, ‘wow.’ I was amazed by it.”

The Visit movie

“It was one of the shorter [audition processes],” the young actor declares. “I know that in some cases they had to do multiple auditions, but it was pretty straightforward. I did my first audition, and then one call back, and then I got it. I was very surprised, and I just felt so incredibly lucky, but I still – as I said before – I felt really confused at that, because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know really what I had gotten into.”

The Visit is Oxenbould’s third big film in quick succession, and after the near-slapstick of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and the heartwarming drama of Paper Planes. It’s apparent he’s not going to allow himself to be typecast.

“That’s what I loved about it, because I did those two, which were kind of similar in the way that they’re both [about] family, and then Paper Planes had a bit more drama. I loved doing it, because it was great, and I did them all back-to-back. I started with Alexander – that was incredible. I did Paper Planes – that was a little bit more challenging because it had a little bit of drama in it, and then I went straight to this. It was just great to do three completely different films one after another.

“It was crazy,” he said of getting the job not even knowing The Visit was a horror movie. “I just knew that it was M. Night Shyamalan. I didn’t know one ounce about the story. I just knew that my character’s name was Tyler, and that was it.”

Working with the director was obviously a big drawcard for Oxenbould, despite Shyalaman’s reputation taking a bit of a beating of late after a few flops.

“Oh, yeah, very keen. When you get the chance to work with an Academy Award nominated director you don’t really say, ‘well, I think I’ll pass!’”

Ed Oxenbould receiving direction from M Night Shyalaman

Ed Oxenbould receiving direction from M Night Shyalaman

A highlight of the film is the obvious bond between Oxenbould and his on-screen sister, played by fellow Australian Olivia DeJonge. The actor says that bond came naturally.

“It was kind of an instant bond. We’re both very similar. We have exactly the same taste in music and movies, so it was really an instant bond. Also, it helped, the fact that we’re both Australian, so we were both in a new city that we didn’t know. We were experiencing the Philadelphia culture together. I think it was a new experience for both of us, so that added to the bond which was already there, because virtually, we are like brother and sister.”

Filming in Philadelphia had its own challenges for the pair, not least of which was the bitterly cold winter.

“It was, it was the worst winter they’ve had in thirty years,” he laughs, “so that was a bit challenging, but a lot of fun. Also, I think it added a kind of element to the film, because when you look out the windows, when you’re shooting out the windows you can see … It just looks beautiful. It’s all covered in snow and when the snow’s falling, and all the dead trees, I think it makes the film even more spooky.”

With three movies under his belt and a lot of attention from the international media and fans, Oxenbould remains completely down to earth. On the phone he’s quietly confident, chatty, and devoid of airs & graces, which he attributes to those close to him.

“I guess it’s just family and friends,” he says, almost audibly shrugging. “I just go to a regular public school, so all my friends just keep me grounded and my family does as well. Most of them are actors except for my brother, so they all understand it, and they all keep me grounded, I guess. Yeah, I have family and friends to thank for that.”

One of Oxenbould’s strongest traits is the maturity and natural feel he brings to his performances, something unusual in one so young. At the risk of spilling a spoiler, at the denouement of the story, Oxenbould’s character snaps and finally fights back at his aggressor with an explosive act of violence. I suggest he must have had to dig pretty deep to pull that performance out of himself.

“Yeah, without giving too much away, definitely some of things towards the end, they were very intense. There was a lot of tension building up to them, and filming them was really quite a big thing for both me and Olivia. It definitely required us to… we had to be pushed a lot to get to where we needed to be, to feel the drama and the tension in the final scenes. It was very hard, and it was a very scary experience, because you really felt like you were in a different world, where you think you’re in danger, where you think something bad is about to happen. You really got transported into another realm of this weird, scary, fantasy world, which was really, really frightening.”

Ed Oxenbould with co-stars Olivia DeJonge and [on screen]  Kathryn Hahn

Ed Oxenbould with co-stars Olivia DeJonge and [on screen] Kathryn Hahn

With DeJonge’s character an amateur filmmaker, the movie features a lot of handheld footage. Oxenbould says for the most part professional cameramen shot over the actor’s shoulders for these scenes, but one extended sequence was shot by the young actors themselves.

“There was one scene where we filmed it, and that was when we’re playing hide and seek under the house, just because it was such a small set. That was actually a set built specifically just for that. Yeah, it was really interesting. It was a lot of fun to film, because they tried to put a camera rig down there, but it was just way too small, and grown men couldn’t fit. Those huge cameras couldn’t fit, so at the end of the day they just gave us cameras and told us where to sit, where to point the camera, where to pull the focus. It was really cool. We got to be behind the camera and in front of the camera.”

At an age where most kids are at school Monday to Friday and not on a film set in Philadelphia, Oxenbould says there are plenty of rules in place to make sure they aren’t exploited in the industry.

“There’s very strict rules, especially in America. I have to do three hours of school a day. Always have to have a parent on set, and I think I can only work nine and a half hours, so there are regulations. You have to have a ten minute break every one hour. There are a lot of rules, yeah.”

Ed Oxenbould The Visit 01

That school work would often actually happen between takes, which must make it hard for an actor to go in and out of character so rapidly.

“It really does,” the actor exclaims, “and especially towards some of the final scenes where they require a lot of intensity or drama, some days our parents would say, ‘no school for today.’ It’s interesting because the adults obviously don’t have to do school, so they have to time to go to their trailer, to look over the script and fall back into character, but we didn’t have that luxury. As soon as there’s a tiny break it’s straight off to school, so on those tough days where we really needed everything we had, we would just say, ‘no school,’ and the teacher was completely fine with that.

“The teacher was a great teacher who I’ve worked with before and hope to work with again. It really helped us when we had a break. We’d go to our trailer, just read over the lines. We’d talk to Night, and just go through the characters again, and just see what we’re feeling in the scene. That really helped.”

It’s almost a fairytale life, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t miss his mates when he’s away working.

“Yeah, I definitely do,” he says. “Definitely sometimes you go on social media and you see what other people are doing and there’s that fear of missing out thing, but at the end of the day, I just look at it like, ‘I’ve got this amazing experience, and I’m doing what I love,’ and as much as I’d like to be home playing video games, hanging out and stuff with my friends, at the end of the day, I’m doing what I love and it’s really helping my career. I’m enjoying every single minute of it, so I look at it that way.”

With three big movies out in the past two years, there must be a lot more scripts hitting Oxenbould’s desk now.

“I get a couple of things come through every so often. I’m still doing press for The Visit – I’m very excited for everyone to see it, see the buzz it gets. Aside from that, I’m not doing anything. I really would love to do a TV show, or a movie. I’d love to do something soon. I’m going to have a little bit of school and then I have school holidays, so that’ll be a good, nice little break.”

Again, Oxenbould shows that he has a level head on his shoulders, and isn’t about to make any old drivel for the cash.

“Yeah, that’s my theory,” he laughs, “me and my parents, because I do like being in school, and I don’t want do anything too bad for my career or anything.”

Category: Interviews

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