Interview Joshua Jackson

Frank Capra’s seminal screwball comedy, which won all five major Academy Awards for 1934, is still as breezy and beguiling today. Claudette Colbert plays Ellie Andrews, a spoiled heiress who has married fortune-hunting aviator King Westley (Jameson Thomas), despite her father (Walter Connolly)’s objections. To keep Ellie from marrying this lothario, her father has been holding her prisoner aboard his yacht. But Ellie bolts from the yacht, swims ashore in her clothes, and eventually slips onto a Greyhound bus bound for New York. Aboard the bus is newspaper reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable), who has recently been fired for drinking on the job. Peter gets the last seat on the bus — but when he gets up to argue with the bus driver, Ellie takes his seat. Since it is the last seat on the bus, they have to share it. When Ellie has her purse stolen and she refuses to report it, Peter begins to suspect something. The next morning, they both miss the bus after a leisurely breakfast, and Peter reveals that he knows her identity. She makes a deal with him: if he helps her get to New York, he can write a scoop about her for his paper. Peter thinks she is a spoiled brat, however, and refuses a monetary bribe: I’m not interested in your money or your problem. You, King Westley, your father — you’re all a lot of hooey to me! But as they travel northward and engage in a series of misadventures, the gruff newspaperman and the spoiled rich girl, thrown together by circumstances, fall in love with each other. This movie set the pace for the screwball comedy, the witty and romantic clash of temperaments between a man and a woman mismatched in both personality and social position, a type of movie often associated with Katherine Hepburn in such classics as Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Philadelphia Story (1940), and, with Spencer Tracy, Adam’s Rib (1949), Pat and Mike (1952), and Desk Set (1957), among others. The only other movies to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, and Screenplay) were One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).~ Paul Brenner, All Movie Guide

Joshua Jackson is no stranger to the world of film. His credits include Crooks Hearts, Oceans 11, Scream 2, Urban Legend and Cruel Intentions.  Of course he was immortalized on the small screen as Dawson’s Creek’s Pacey and now, with the actor due to star in J.J Abrams new TV showFringe, we can only expect to see more of him. In the remake of Thai horror ‘Shutter’, Jackson plays Ben, a newly wed, who along with his new bride Jane (Rachael Taylor) appear to be embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. Instead of a conventional honeymoon, the two  take a trip to Tokyo where Ben, a successful photographer, has an exciting and prestigious fashion assignment.  However, as soon as they land, the couple are involved in a terrible accident while driving along an eerie mountain road, apparently killing a young Japanese woman. Yet they can’t find any trace of her. Was she real or just an apparition?  The horrific smash sets the tone for this haunting tale. We caught up with the actor to get the low-down

Q: Why did this movie interest you?
A: “I love the style and the story.  The original Shutter was a Thai film but doing this version for a Japanese director and Japanese   filmmakers was wonderful and exciting. There is a certain Japanese style for this genre of films which has always interested me. It is very different from films made in the West. Also, I think the idea of spirit photography is fascinating and a great hook for audiences. They don’t really know what they’re seeing because we don’t have a cultural touchstone for that kind of phenomenon. They are presented with the question: ‘Is his wife crazy or is there actually something strange going on?’ The movie draws the audience into a world they do not really know.”

Q: What kind of guy do we see when we meet Ben?
A: “I hope the audience will see a man who is in love and on his honeymoon with his beautiful wife as they start off their lives together. He’s a photographer and is just stepping into the place in his life where he is doing well in his career. He is his own boss with great assignments like this one in Tokyo. He is becoming successful.”

Q: There is more to Ben than meets the eye. He is quite enigmatic.  Was that interesting for you?
A: “The various shades of his character will be surprising to everyone I hope. That is why these thrillers or horror films are fun for an actor (I have done quite a few) because generally, the characters go through more radical shifts than in other kinds of drama. Often the situations they find themselves in are more intense than usual. By necessity in this genre, characters cannot begin and end in the same place. They often reveal things about themselves that you would never imagine. In horror films there is the potential of doing something much more broad  and shocking than in regular dramas. There are always red herrings and you can lead audiences down the wrong path and keep them wondering. ”

Q: How did you portray him?
A: “Without giving away too much of the plot, I can say that he may not always be telling the truth. We do not know who he really is.  As an actor it was interesting to explore his character because I have found that you never know when the best liars are lying.  They are clever about hiding their deception. I think there are moments where Ben flares to anger faster than people who are genuinely happy would do. We played with that idea but did it subtly so that it was not too obvious.”   

Q: Did you know a lot about photography before taking the role?

A: “I knew a little but I had to brush up and learn to load film and look like I really knew what I was doing so I shadowed a couple of Japanese fashion photographers while I was in Tokyo.  I am comfortable with film and light because that is my job but it was great to have the time to be with fashion photographers and see what that specialized environment is all about. ”

Q: There is great chemistry and tension between you and your co-star, Rachael Taylor. What was it like working with her?
A: “She is lovely and we had a great time. You can’t plan for that kind of relationship. It really is about chemistry. We got on well and enjoyed working together. We were both like fish out of water in Tokyo; it was the first time there for both of us. The work was intense and because we were there as a duo throughout the film, I think that enhanced our relationship on screen. I wish I could say there is a formula for working well with your leading lady but there isn’t, we just got on really well. “

Q: How did you find Japan?
A: ‘I have never been in a country that is so foreign to me. I have spent some time in the Middle East and Africa and even in those places there seems to be a shared culture or understanding. Tokyo is so fundamentally different from anywhere else I have experienced. It is amazing and the culture is so different from Western society. It has a rich, deep, long history and there is a totally different understanding about everything; how people interact and people’s standing in society. I found it fascinating.”

Q: What was it like working with the director, Masayuki Ochiai, who cannot speak English? How did the language barrier affect you?
A: “I loved his direction, his style and texture. The way the Japanese directors work is so different. They bring such moodiness and creepiness to films like this and do it so well. There are certainly difficulties that go along with the language barrier, and the cultural difference was challenging when the two of us were trying to decide what my character would do in various scenes. But our translator was great. She had lived in the West and East and had a deep understanding of both and was able to meld the two cultures and sets of ideas together.   She was really one the bright shining stars of the show. I loved the whole experience of making the film.”  

Q: Have you ever had any spooky supernatural experiences yourself?
A:  “I think it is hard to say absolutely that this kind of thing is impossible. I don’t work with absolutes, but I am not a man of faith. I have never had a ghostly encounter but I do not deny that it is possible. I have a hard time believing that you or I or some version of us will remain here after we die, but I have no problem believing that things outside our understanding happen all the time.”

Q: Why do you enjoy this genre so much?

A: “I have been in four horror films and I like the genre because they are great, fun, popcorn movies. You can just go and watch them and you don’t have to think about them too hard if you don’t want to. If they work, they scare you and if you take a date, you cuddle up together. On the other hand, they allow for big, deep, philosophical stories to be told in accessible ways.  They are stories about how people treat each other. In our story, we examine the true cost of a person’s actions in life and the consequences of what a person does. That is a large philosophical idea dropped into an accessible film and I think that is great.”

Q: What are your favorites?

A: “The first one that I really enjoyed was the first FRIDAY THE 13TH. I saw it when I was 13 years old and it terrified me. I could not sleep at night. I was completely freaked out and thought the jacket on the hook in my room was trying to kill me. That was my introduction to really scary films. The first ALIEN movie scared me a lot. I loved SE7EN and then I recently I saw a film called AUDITION which was unbelievably terrifying.”

Q:  How do you view your career at the moment?
A: “I am pretty happy. I turn 30 in a couple of months. I have been working professionally for 20 years which seems crazy and I am still able to do diverse work.  I am learning a lot all the time. My career (like everyone’s) has gone through ebbs and flows. Sometimes it is more interesting and sometimes it is less interesting. Right now I am enjoying my work so much. I hope to be back on television next year doing a show called FRINGE from J.J. Abrams. It is a science fiction show which is great fun and challenging. In every episode we will be stepping into a different world.”

Q: Dawon’s Creek was so popular and I wonder how that has affected you and your career. You became a heartthrob with millions of female admirers who loved the show. What was that experience like?  

A: “I do not wake up in the morning and say ‘Wow I look really handsome today. Am I able to go outside (laugh)?’ It is certainly complimentary and nicer than the opposite would be, but if at the end of the day the best I could say about who I am as a man and an actor is that I am handsome, I would not feel a great sense of achievement!  I do not spend a lot of time thinking about the way I look. ”

Q:Do you have cherished memories from the show?
A: “Absolutely. We were in a tiny community in Wilmington North Carolina while making the show. It is a lovely little town, but we were never considered heartthrobs, by any stretch of the imagination, when we went work every day. We were just working. The connection that people have to the show and their view of the actors is completely different to the experience we had filming it. I had a great time and I am very proud of the show.  I have a strong attachment to the group of people I was with, because we spent six years together.  One of the difficult things about working in film and television is that you transit through people very quickly. You are together for three months and can’t possibly stay in touch with more than two or three people from every show.   On DAWSON’S CREEK we had essentially the same crew from Day 1    to the final episode, so it really was special.”

Q:  You are Canadian but have Irish roots – how important is that cultural connection?
A: “It is very important to me. My whole family is Irish. My mother is from Dublin. We are now scattered in different countries, but a lot of my Irish family have moved back to Ireland, to Dublin and Galway and Bray, that is where they all end up. I love going to Ireland, it is really part of me. It drives my mother crazy when she hears Americans say they are Irish so I would never say that I am Irish, but I do feel very connected to the culture. It is not that far removed for me. It is my mother’s culture and I   lived there for a short time as a child.”    

Q: What are your goals and dreams?

A: “After DAWSON’S CREEK, I didn’t want to think about ambition, I wanted time to myself. Then when I did the West End Play, it reminded me that I am an actor, I love this job, there is no getting away from it. So now, at 30, my ambitions are becoming more clear and focused. I want to work on challenging projects that are uncomfortable and I want to do work that I haven’t done before, like this film: playing a character who seems to be one thing but is completely the opposite. I just want to challenge myself and confront things that I haven’t done.   I want to be open to experiencing new things all the time.”        

Shutter’ is in Irish cinemas now.