Ryan Kwanten is always a fan of tales of redemption, no matter what the setting. In his latest futuristic thriller Expired, he plays Jack, a hitman who meets a mysterious woman (Jillian Nyugen) and comes down with a deadly illness. I spoke to the actor about how director Ivan Sen approached him, its unique take on futuristic sci-fi, and working with co-stars Hugo Weaving and Nguyen.
"This has been sort of eight years in the making," the True Blood star said. "I first worked with Ivan on 'Mystery Road.' I sort of had a cameo role in that, and we just sort of hit it off like a house on fire. He's just a beautiful man, and I was fortunate enough that he sort of saw something in me as well. He pitched the idea of 'Expired.' It was then called 'Love Land,' and I couldn't help but sort of think that this was a movie that needed to be made from a sort of an individual standpoint, but also from a where we headed as a species standpoint." The actor distinguished Sen's use of the future to keep it grounded enough to be plausible and not too far. "The pink and bluish hues were always intended, but this is not the sort of a world of hologram screens, high tech gadgetry, or gimmickry. This is just more of an extension of the world that we're living in. I think it's more Ivan would call it neo-fi than sci-fi. It's built more of a tangible world than like a 'Blade Runner.' It didn't feel like this was in the distant future. It felt like we could be coming up on this sooner than later."
Kwanten credited Sen's ability to create layered characters allowing his cast to channel their empathy into their roles. "Ivan's script was very sparse of dialog, and it was something that we sort of talked about so that this was a movie that sort of said so much more in the breaths between the words and in the silences," he explained. "This is two kinds of a broken heart's soul searching for something for what it wants to be human. I think that's a real deep-cutting type of search, so you can't help but go to places within yourself if you want to make it work. I think audiences these days are too smart, and they can see when someone's faking it, I guess, for lack of a better phrase. You have someone like Jillian, who brought her life experience. She's a product of a migrant family to Australia, and I know that she had a very kind of tough upbringing, and she was gracious enough to lay a lot of that onto April. It couldn't help but inspire me to dredge up many of my demons as well."
The actor broke down how Nguyen and Weaving's performances and dedication gave the film its authenticity. "I've always loved that quote that 'Presence is more than just being there,'" he said. "There's an electricity that the Jillian has that's so powerful. I loved that she could be singing the scenes in the nightclubs scenario, and you couldn't help but feel a depth. It wasn't necessarily because of the singing rather of what was going on behind the eyes. There was a real richness to her performance in this. I think I can't help but think it will kind of launch her to wonderful things. Hugo comes with his own kind of gravitas. He's Australian royalty as far as I'm concerned, and he really lived up to that benchmark and then some. He was such a generous, giving actor like the rest of us, was willing to go to the ends of the Earth, Ivan, and this movie, and we really did."
Kwanten was able to lose himself within his role. "It was a real journey of the movie because my character was a very heavy hardened guy," he said. "Ivan turned to me at the very end that when we finished shooting, he said, 'What are you most looking forward to?' I said, 'Ivan, to be honest, smiling.' It was a heavy character to deal with, and I was, for the most part, pretty sort of method the whole way through and just really wanted to stay as locked into that kind of hardened place as I could. Fortunately, we were shooting in very remote locations wherever that was possible. The level of distractions that you would normally get wasn't there, and it was possible for all of us to just kind of wedge ourselves into this pocket of artistic filmmaking, I guess." Lionsgate's Expired comes to select theaters, on-demand, and digital on March 18.