Interview with Horror Actor Lee Bane : Study Paranormal Exclusive
INTERVIEW WITH ACTOR LEE BANE
I love horror – more to the point, I love horror when it is done well. As a genre it has many styles, approaches and perspectives, and it is hard to pinpoint what exactly makes a horror film a good one. When I recently watched both Robert and A Haunting at the Rectory, I immediately knew I was watching something special, something above the norm of what horror usually offers the audience. I believe the strength of these films, in part, lies in the depth of the character-driven stories.
Horror in itself is a genre soaked in the dramatic: murder, mystery, violence and death, yet what sets Bane’s films apart from many others, is the unsettling nature of his delivery. His acting is compelling, set to a depth of authenticity that many actors cannot reach. When I watch the horror films he has performed in, I am pulled in by the creepy, unsettling nature of the character’s experience and dissent into psychological hell. This, to me, has always been where true horror lies – a person’s experience, and how they cope with the unnatural, the frightening, the unbearable. It makes the horror more relatable. Where Bane excels is taking the audience on that journey with him – not only does he manage to make the horror all too horribly real, he also allows the viewers to feel part of the world in which he finds himself.
Admiring his work and the nature of his performances, I was keen to learn more about this actor. After kindly agreeing to an interview, Bane has shown himself to not only be a talent in the film-industry, but a warm, approachable and down to earth person. I hope you enjoy the results of our interaction…
Can you tell me what inspired you to get involved in acting and the film industry?
Yes of course, but first let me take this opportunity in congratulating you on your new signing with ‘Media Bitch Literary Agency’, and wish you the very best with your novella “Nails”, and also much inspiration for your current work in progress “The Risen”. You are in yourself an inspiration!
Ultimately, my biggest inspirations have come from my family, who have always supported me emotionally with any choice that I have ever made, be it acting or otherwise. I do realise that I’m very fortunate to have that and I’m very grateful.
My initial involvement with acting wasn’t so much inspirationally led, more to do with a sequence of events unfolding that led me down that road. Towards the end of my teens and going into my 20’s I’d already had a number of job descriptions to my name; carpenter and joiner, mechanic, window sales man, furniture sales man and quite a few others too. I started acting professionally at the age of 27, much later than most professional actors.
I never had a game plan to my becoming an actor. I guess the path that led me towards this happening is the fact I’ve always had itchy feet, wanting to be somewhere else, wanting to be someone else doing something new. Growing up as a child I moved around schools quite a bit, never really staying in one place for too long, always trying my best to fit in with new people, new environments, always taking one mask off and trying another one on in order to blend in to whatever change I came across. I suppose constantly mixing it up through those early years gave me great foundation and preparation towards my unknown vocation in wanting to be an actor.
Maybe there were seeds of inspiration planted by my drama teacher ‘Mrs Smith’, whilst in my last years at comprehensive school? Mrs Smith was great in the fact that she never took upon favourites, always encouraging and creating non-judgemental atmospheres in which the less advantaged kids and the more advantaged kids could be as one and create positive results in the form of play’s and drama workshops. As soon as I stepped into drama class I forgot about the word school and just enjoyed reacting in a creative way. It was one of two classes that I only attended within those last couple of years. The other class was called ‘Enterprise’ with ‘Mr Tanner’, where by about a dozen naughty guy’s would jump on a mini bus and go to a beach or a nature reserve, somewhere peaceful and just talk about life for a couple of hours. A mild dose of psychotherapy for the unruly, I suppose. Mr Tanner was a great teacher in the fact that he really did listen and seemed to understand us, he gave us an alternative outlet to communicate positively and gain respect for each other and for him as a teacher. Even the toughest and naughtiest guys on the bus would soon drop the big ego trip and chill out. The fact is the boys on that bus, were smart, switched on and quite funny when not beating people up or causing some kind of mild mayhem, suppose they just needed a little inspiration and space to breathe.
So yeah, upon reflection these teachers were part of the jigsaw to my involvement in acting and also inspirational towards opening my mind up to alternative ways of thinking, subconsciously setting two important key principles for me to follow that could be identified as useful tools much later on whilst gliding towards the performing arts sector: The importance of listening to one another and the importance of creating a positive environment for all to potentially maximise on the best outcome.
My involvement within the film industry has so far primarily been through collaborations within independent organisations such as ‘North Bank Entertainment’. Over the past four years I’ve been fortunate enough to have had nine leading roles throughout my working with the company. It’s through these wonderful opportunities that I have had the chance to continually learn about the dynamics of working within film. The owner of ‘North Bank Entertainment’, ‘Andrew Jones’ who has directed, produced and written these films, has inspired me to be the best that I can possibly be, it’s as simple as that. I like working with do’ers and I like people who seek to improve and embrace their passions, Andrew Jones is one of those people. I like working and meeting people who make you feel like you want to be a better person. I’m all for that these days. When you work and collaborate with people that have these energies/qualities it reinvigorates and I find it very inspiring. My involvement with North Bank Entertainment has not only allowed me to grow as an actor but has also given me major insight to what it’s like to work within a highly collaborative and positive unit. Each project has been both refreshing and exciting whilst working with the non-egotistical approach that Andrew brings to the table, it’s an approach that serves well and encourages an actor I think.
Andrew creates a good vibe within his choice of crew and cast, I admire his professionalism, commitment, drive and process within all elements of production and directorial duties. I also trust him to deliver a film within the tight schedule that a micro budget demands, whilst at the same making sure the ship runs as smooth as possible. This for me as an actor is again inspiring and ensuring. It’s also quite remarkable that five of my most recent collaborations with Andrew Jones’s company ‘North Bank Entertainment’ have been released throughout the Uk within the space of six months: “Haunting at the Rectory”, “The Last House On Cemetery Lane”, “Poltergeist Activity”, “Conjuring The Dead” and “Robert”, the last two of which were released in the same month. I’m deeply inspired by these actions and results and also very proud to be a part of them… All of which are available to order on line 😉
Which films/actors inspired you the most, growing up?
The first film that I can remember seeing was E.T. I was around 5 or 6 and at the time I lived in a high rise block of flats and most of its occupants gathered in one of the flats to watch it. That moment in the film where Elliot and E.T. are both laying adjacent on the examination/quarantine beds hit me like a lightning bolt, Job done Mr Spielberg. Through the medium of film I cried big time, I laughed big time and I connected big time. To have these emotions running through me felt like little activator switches going off in my body, I’ll never forget that feeling of looking around the room and everybody seemed to be going through the same ordeal as me, even the adults, it was a unique feeling, a brilliant feeling. The next unbelievable film experience was watching ‘Star Man’. I was 6 maybe or just about 7 and it was my first Cinematic experience. The darkness of the room the smell of sweet popcorn, another alien to experience but on a larger screen, more people to enjoy the vibe with was also unforgettable! Experiencing the special effects, the music and the amazing story, my sensory awareness hit the roof and ‘Jeff Bridges’ who plays the alien ‘Scott’, has since remained one of my all-time favourite actors. The “Rocky” films, have also been fav’s of mine through the years also! Growing up watching films I’ve always cheered for the outside horse, the underachiever, the vulnerable outsider, who through all adversity manages to overcome their fears and weaknesses to better themselves for the greater good. That includes Superman, Spiderman and The Incredible Hulk. All these characters have inspired me in one way or another.
There are many, many films that I can draw inspiration from just as there are many actors, but three which stand out right now and in no particular order are #1“My Left Foot”, Directed by Jim Sheridan, based on the real life of an Irish man called “Christie Brown”, played by ‘Daniel Day Lewis’ another actor who I admire and respect. If you haven’t seen it I guarantee that Christie Brown’s story will blow you away just as Daniel Day Lewis’s acting will too. #2 “12 Years a Slave” Directed by ‘Steve McQueen’ tells an extraordinary story about a man called ‘Solomon Northup’, who’s bravery and determination is beyond inspiration. That film gives me new definition to the word courage #3 “The life of David Gale” is up there purely because ‘Kevin Spacey’ has in this film, like all his films, the ability to make you think that his character is based on a ‘real’ person, sometimes when I watch his films, I forget that I’m watching a film! For me, every film that I’ve seen Kevin Spacey act in inspires me as an actor.
You’ve starred in several horror films, including Robert, Last House on Cemetery Lane and Haunting at the Rectory. Can you tell me what draws you to such dark, unsettling roles?
I’ve starred in 9 horror films that have been released including my latest one “The Exorcism of Anna Ecklund” due out early next year. Overall I feel more drawn to characters who are on the outside of social spectrums. Characters that have a complex nature often tend to be on the darker side of life which make them more interesting and challenging to play.
Robert was released just recently – can you tell me more about your experience of working on this film.
In the film “Robert” the challenge I had with my character “Paul” was to try and get the balance right between a husband that was scared to confront the realities of his wife’s illness and a man who was sick and tired of bearing the weight of his wife’s illness. I thought that in dealing with family life under those difficult circumstances Paul would feel totally disconnected with not just his wife but his son also, which was again an interesting challenge towards getting a realistic feel for the family triangle.
Some men when faced with circumstances like this have options, be they morally correct or not, they have options. Paul could either have an affair to keep that flame of the male ego alive or he could walk away, like many men/women do, or he could stick it out and grow to learn and love his wife for who she is and adapt. So there were all these things to consider and more. The male ego has enormous potential to really mess things up sometimes and when certain things start evaporating from a relationship i.e. making love or having a laugh together. In real life it’s far from uncommon for a man or indeed a woman to stray away when there’s a lack of connection. Although this was not my ultimate choice or indeed the direction to take Pauls mind, it was useful to have bubbling away in the back of my mind whilst adding the layers of the character together.
Experimenting with these different layers and figuring out what layers to utilise was a nice challenge when looking at how this man might react/act. Because of the way Andrew encourages improvisation and also often likes to have at least one rehearsal on the space before a take in turn allows for instinctual thing’s to come to the surface too, which is nice because there’s no prediction or analysis on character at work then, only being. I find this process brings more ingredients and flavour to the scene or the film on the whole, it’s also another interesting way to develop the character. It’s all dependent on what the Director wants to do at the end of the day, after all it’s his vision that we’re trying to bring to life. Taking stock of ‘Pauls’ ego and personality was interesting in the fact that it sort of forced me to have a look at my own… I love all that stuff!
I particularly enjoyed working with ‘Suzie Frances Garton’ again who Play’s my wife ‘Jenny’. I thought she done a fantastic job in reaching many fragile and complex emotions whilst playing a person who has a mental illness, primarily in this case it was ‘Schizoaffective Disorder’ which a cross section of Bipolar and Schizophrenia. It’s a real disorder with serious implications that effects not just the individual but also those who are closest to the individual. In this case the husband ‘Paul’ and ‘Gene’, wonderfully played by ‘Flynn Allen’, are the one’s closest and I feel that together with Andrew’s subtle and clear direction we all worked very well together whilst trying to mesh the story of “Robert” the doll and the family’s journey together.
With that in mind I hope it reaches an audience with an interesting introspect towards both the horror within the history of the doll and the horrors that a person with such mental issues will regrettably experience. As actors we all had contrasting thoughts/objectives with regards to what was real and what was wasn’t within their world, which I hope will give the audience plenty of ambiguity to make up their own minds to any conclusion, if indeed there is a conclusion.
Looking at mental illness and researching the impact it has on family life has opened my eyes to the pain and torment that mental illness creates in real life situations and I have a new found respect for people dealing with such issues.
I particularly love Haunting at the Rectory. I found the deeply character-driven aspect of the film really refreshing. Were you pleased with the finished result, and do you find it difficult playing dark/complicated characters?
Great that you enjoyed “A Haunting at the Rectory” and also found the story between the characters refreshing. As with most of Andrew’s films there’s so much more beyond the surface of the stereo typical horror expectance. This for me as an actor is a massive draw as there are real life issues to explore within the narrative. In this film you have a chance to look at the tensions that surround adultery and betrayal and the heavy consequences of going down such avenues. You get to see each characters self-driven motive for what they desire in regards to trust, love, lust, denial and greed. My character ‘Frank Peerless’ was lots of fun to play, we had lots of fun heightening and experimenting with character tensions and perspective towards finding the right atmospheres to work with and enhance the story’s narrative.
I also enjoyed the 1930’s vibe from which we worked towards creating by use of period costume and wonderful set design. I particularly enjoyed working with ‘Tom Bonington’ who play’s Reverend Lionel Foyster and also ‘Suzie Frances Garton’ who plays the Reverends wife Marianne, I spent a lot of the time laughing at Tom’s ingenious timing and I thought his overall take on the temperature on the delicate and naive ‘Lionel’ was great. It was the first time that I had worked with Suzie and I was blown away by her commitment and the level of trust she instilled in me. It was essentially a three hander performance and a 100% team effort between cast and crew. I thought Andrew’s script was clever, witty and very well executed in ways of twisting and weaving character plot and objective.
I’m extremely happy with the end result and I thought all elements of collaboration between crew and cast were of the highest calibre, especially whilst taking in account the overall limited time frame for shooting within the low budget aspect. Again testament to Andrew’s directing style and overall approach to sensitivity in getting the job done in the most proficient and positive way.
Are you a fan of the horror genre yourself? What scares YOU?
I’m a fan of film, period. No particular genre. If I come away from a film and feel that it has connected with me in some way, either through story, score or visual effect then I feel I’ve had my money’s worth. Pretty much like jumping on a roller coaster, one dip or twist may not be as thrilling or as memorable as the next but as long as you have something to talk about afterwards then the ride was worth the experience. It’s hard to try and pick one of my favourites from a Horror genre as there I have many, but towards the top of the heap would have to be “The Shinning” and “The Fly”. Another two distinctive actors in ‘Jack Nicholson’ and ‘Jeff Goldblum’ that I admire and respect for their acting abilities.
Hmm… what scares me? Alfred Hitchcock’s imagination! He had a wonderful talent for digging into and messing with the psychology of the viewer. Anything that twists and manipulates my psychology normally scares me.
Do you feel like online streaming sites has a negative effect on the film industry – or do you think it will open doors for the future of film-making?
Well, it’s an online world at the moment and just as everything evolves and changes I think that with new technology and new ways of communicating it can be seen as both positive and negative for the film industry. The entertainment business has always been renowned for its competitiveness and now with the advancement of technology the time to evolve and grow with change, is not only a choice but it’s also the difference between getting or not getting your work out there, I think that can be said from a film makers perspective and also and actors perspective, especially when you look at it from an independent point of view. Less money, less choice, less appeal, less choice. So what I’m saying is maybe if you’re not in a position to be precious about it, don’t be precious. Just do want it takes to advance and adapt within these technological changes and get your film out there and learn by doing.
At one end of the spectrum online mediums have opened doors and increased the chance for micro budget/low budget film makers to get their work out there which can be artistically and creatively rewarding but on the business side of the fence you have to have good knowledge of how these new outlets work in order to swim efficiently in the murky unknown waters that filter between film maker, finance and distribution. I think that unless you’re the distributor of your own film, then financially (saying your work has succeeded in finding and connecting to a broad market) it’s going to be difficult to see a true reflection with the returns on your investment, due to the fact that there are potentially more players involved whilst filtering through the digital spectrum. It could be easier for sharks to take bites out of your return, but if you have good business sense and you are mixing with the right people then all this change could very well be a positive thing too. For I’m sure just as there are sharks there are angels also, as is in all businesses and industry affiliations. If you have good business sense or can learn more about the changes that are apparent towards how it will affect you as a film maker then I’m sure you can have healthy relationships with independent distribution and finance company’s alike.
With Regards to the film industry when thinking about mega Budget/Big Budget elements of film making, of course they must feel more of an impact financially primarily because of the evolution of piracy and the fact that bigger budgets are more likely to create a bigger draw of appeal. But of course the major establishments have the knowledge to rise above and enjoy the fruits of their labours, which is all fair game in my eyes. When considering a large chunk of revenue come from box office sales, it reflects on the choice of the viewer here also and it seems that on that score the big boys and girls are managing just fine with the changes.
With the viewer in mind I think it’s all very positive whilst going through the legal avenues online. Netflix for example, you depart with your 6.99 a month which gives you access to loads and loads of titles, which I think is great value!
Different outlooks, different ways of thinking I guess. Change at times can be daunting and difficult to comprehend and adjust too, but in this industry, if you’re wanting to make money from it being a film maker or otherwise, I think that it would serve you well to look at thing’s realistically with an attitude that embraces change and new trends. I am not saying by any means that I’m at all an expert on these changes or indeed right about the negative/positive aspects of online streaming because I’m not. I like many am simply learning about these changes too.
What films are you working on at the moment?
I have a couple of things in the pipe line but at this point in time nothing is set in stone. If and when it is I would be very glad to keep you in the loop.
Any tips/advice for people who want to get involved in the film industry?
Be passionate about what you do and be confident and realistic in your abilities. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes as long as you’re prepared to learn from them and go forward. And to quote ‘Constantin Stanislavski’ “Love the art in yourself and not yourself in the art”.
Where can people find out more about you and your work?
My work can be seen via IMDB and hopefully this interview has given you some info about me. There’s a new film due for release next year, whereby I play Vatican Investigator ‘Father Richard Lamont’. It’s probably my most favourite ‘North Bank Entertainment’ collaboration to date and it’s called “The Exorcism of Anna Ecklund”.
Thank you so much for your questions Fiona, I’ve really enjoyed answering them and I thank you also for taking an interest in my work.
A big thank you to Lee Bane for taking the time to answer these questions, and
for allowing us more understanding of himself and his work.