We might all be stuck inside, but I was still lucky enough to interview Mike Beckingham, star of the new thriller film The Host (which you can read my review of here) – all over the social-distancing magic of email. We talk lockdown advice, Hitchcock, Waltzing With Brando, and working with his brother – Simon Pegg.
How’s lockdown treating you?
One of the hardest things right now for a lot of people is the sense of feeling trapped and having to change a routine they are very used to, which is really tough. I’m very fortunate that my ‘routine’ hasn’t changed too much, In between projects I’m usually at home alone. I’m also very fortunate to have a garden. It’s really dawned on me though the ‘little aspects’ in my life I’ve taken for granted. I’m trying to be as safe and sensible as I can. That includes not drinking and enjoying this gorgeous weather we’re having.
What drew you to the project?
How did you get involved? It came about through a good friend of mine Ashley Kingsbury I had just worked with on another movie. Ashley (our on-set photographer) recommended me to Zach Weckstein (producer of The Host who we interviewed here) who after looking at my work thought I would be a great fit for the main character of Robert. My friend Ashley messaged me while I was on a train to say Zach is sending the script and will phone me in two hours, so I read the script, really liked it. Zach then phoned me, we hit it off straight away and it went from there.
The Host has similar tones of a lot of Hitchcock’s work (the ‘house’ felt a lot like the Bates house of Amsterdam!) – were there any particular Hitchcock films aside from Psycho that influenced your performance, or did you try to take points from other directors as well?
So great that you picked up on that, and obviously I was very aware of just what a cult classic & pioneering film Psycho is. Hitchcock has such a deserved reputation in cinema and so does everyone he worked with so I actually didn’t watch anything to research. I was very aware that I didn’t want to even try to emulate what had gone before us, I felt that there was no way I could do them justice. Also, there are such differences between the films – for instance, the main character in The Host is a woman and this automatically changes the feel and direction of the film. The story style emulates a Psycho horror, but it has its own onion layers and feel. So I decided to interpret Robert in my own head and took a fresh approach trying to make it a more of a modern homage, a tip of the cap so to say.
Would you be as appealed to the project if there were more action sequences? My experience with this kind of genre has always implied Michael Bay levels of action, so I really enjoyed the somewhat more subdued tone running through this. Would more action have changed your stance on the film?
It was actually the lack of action, and more of a character driven story that appealed to me. I’m kind of old school, I love the old movies where everyone dressed well and films were based on the story and characters rather than visuals. However saying that, film has evolved fantastically well and to be able to do what they do now, creating universes in such detail is amazing and I for one, very much welcome it.
It’s a fairly dark film in terms of content – what was the atmosphere like on set during the shoot?
I know right, I’m normally not a fan of handcuffs. On any professional set every member of the cast and crew are aware that on a day there is a particularly emotional scene we all come together, respect each other’s job and try and create a scene that resonates to the audience together. Afterwards though we all have a drink and cry (joking).
You’ll be playing Bernard Judge in Waltzing with Brando soon. What’s the experience been like so far in switching genres from horror and sci-fi to more of a comedy?
My whole philosophy as an actor is to show ‘range’. WWB is again something different that I honestly can’t wait to get started. I’m not kidding myself, it will be a huge challenge for many reasons. It’s my first American speaking part for one, working alongside an acting great in Billy Zane (no one I can think of who better suits Brando surely), and who I will learn so much from will ensure I need to bring my A game. Then the responsibility massively increases again due to Bernard Judge being a living breathing person, who I’ve been fortunate enough to have a Skype chat with. It’s so important for me to encapsulate his character as best as I possibly can on screen. He’s such a wonderful man, a true pioneer of his industry. He said to me after our Skype chat…”Good luck” with a wink.
I felt like your character Sam in Black Site certainly had a comedic edge to him – is it a genre you’ve wanted to explore for a while now, or will you always come back to horror and sci-fi?
Comedy is one of the hardest performances you can take on so I’m very aware of what I wish for. What I do love about a comedic role is that there is scope to ‘play’, and I did that a little with Sam Levy and really enjoyed it. I play a character called ‘Bjorn’ in Truth Seekers (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s new TV show for Amazon Prime) and he has a comedy side to him and it was probably the best experience I’ve ever had thus far in my career. Working with my brother was more than I could have ever hoped but also because of genre, in between takes Simon would say to me “try this or try that” and we would, which you can when there is a lighter tone to the scene, just an amazing experience.
Have you got any advice for any aspiring actors or filmmakers, on keeping busy and motivated during this chaos? (Or any recommendations on what we should be watching?)
Nowadays with technology its becoming slightly easier to be creative but what I’ve found it’s not so much about keeping busy and being creative but dealing with the quiet, I call it the ‘Power of Patience’. Don’t forget to work on that. Also don’t watch social media. Nowadays people will portray they are living the perfect life on social media and unfortunately, it’s not always accurate. That element of ‘comparison’ to a young person can be destructive. Walk your own path, try to keep smiling. ‘No one said it would be easy they just said it will be worth it’ – Harvey Mackay. This goes for any industry or any aspiration.
Last modified: 28th April 2020