John Jarratt has a long history of work in his native Australia, with a fair helping of roles that Americans might know. His resume includes parts in Australia, Django Unchained and 100 Bloody Acres, but he's perhaps best known as Mick Taylor, the Outback serial killer in the cult hit Wolf Creek. He returns to the role this Friday in Wolf Creek 2, working under the same director Greg McLean. In an exclusive interview with Mania.com, he discussed his work on the part and how an actor can bring such monsters to life.
Question: This is a second chance to come back with this character. What was the impetus to return to him and to this kind of a story?
John Jarratt: Well the first one went so well and it's held up extremely well, especially in Australia. We had such a positive experience doing the first one -- which can seem odd when you think about how gruesome it was -- that doing the second just seemed like a no-brainer. These kinds of movies usually have sequels if they do well. Greg McLean was working on the sequel for a long time, and I knew he wouldn't start the gears turning until he was satisfied that we had the base for a good movie. Once he had that, I was thrilled to come back.
Q: This character is kind of a blend of the laid-back Australian character -- a sort of Paul Hogan type -- and a more traditional movie serial killer. Was that dual nature a part of the appeal of playing him?
JJ: I was always drawn to the opportunity to explore a wide variety of human experiences. That's what we do as actors. For Mick, it really was the allure of the dark side. How can someone be capable of something like this? How can we allow awful things to happen, like what the Nazis did in Europe or what happened in Rwanda in the 1990s? Mick is a harmless way of looking into that abyss, of trying to see how this terrible side of human nature comes out.
Q: Is it difficult to inhabit a character this horrible?
JJ: Bad guys are actually a lot of fun to play. Yes, there's the terrible things this character does and there are real acts his behavior reflects. But once you get past that, it's incredibly liberating as an actor. You try to find the justification for it, the things he tells himself when he goes to bed at night. Once you have that, it becomes a really interesting exploration.
Q: What does the character tell himself at night? How does he justify acts like this?
JJ: There's a certain territoriality to it. Everybody's a little territorial. Everybody has that suspicion when strangers show up on their front lawn. And if you're not careful, you can really let that run away from you. Suddenly outsiders aren't okay. Suddenly they're less than human, they're people who don't belong. And if you become convinced that they're not human -- as far too many people out there do -- then hunting them becomes something fun. They're smarter than pigs and they can think their way out of traps. For someone without a moral compass, hunting them can become addicting.
Q: What sort of dynamic to you and Mclean establish to make that character come to life?
JJ: Greg and I have always been on the same page with this story. He worked on the script for about four years before we shot it. He's artistic and intuitive, everything you want in a director. And he has a great sense of how to shoot in the Outback. I love shooting out there. It informs the character so much to be out in that stark, beautiful atmosphere. Greg knows the right places to shoot, places that can inform the character and the scenario wonderfully.
Q: How was it integrating a new cast into this world, since the old cast had all their characters killed off in the last film?
JJ: The other great thing about Greg is that he casts his films really well. They were all young, but they all had experience working on films before. So they knew the ropes and they fell into the slots just perfectly. It's a sink or swim environment when you're out there. You've got to get down to business and get it done, especially when you have a very intense story and you're at the mercy of the elements. These kids, these great young actors we were working with, they really rose to the challenge.