Interview: Brenton Thwaites on ‘Ghosts of War’

written by Jasper XVIII.VII

Ghosts of War is out now on digital platforms! got to chat with Brenton to discuss the movie and his role.

In looking back on how he came to be a part of the film, the 30-year-old Australian star credits writer/director Eric Bress as the biggest reason for his desire to star in the film, looking back fondly at his 2004 directorial debut as a source of reference for why he trusted Bress with this story.

“He just created such a cool movie in The Butterfly Effect that I thought, ‘Wow this is going to be littered with nuanced elements, hints, to the keen eye’ and I read it and I thought these characters are so-developed on page one,” Thwaites recalled. “Thrown in, this is such a realistic world in the World War II drama aspect of the movie, I just was in right from the get-go, I wanted to know where these men would go. I love the idea that we start the movie in such a way that carries such a weight with these guys and it allows us to really understand each character and kind of where they are and emotionally where they’re sitting and how they feel about the war and that was it. The rest of the film, the horror aspect and the multi-genreness, was great, that’s something that I’ve never done before. But really it was the first few pages of opening up on this tired group of men who have been fighting in World War II for months.”

Thwaites described the bridge Bress built between the horror and World War II drama genres as “effortless,” praising the fact that in the first act of the film there are “no real massive horror hints” of a “terrible, supernatural force” set to appear later on in the film.

“We think that it’s gonna be an art piece and we assume the setup is that these guys are in Nazi territory, we know what’s coming, we’ve seen this movie before, we know from all the weapons we have and from talking that we have the capability of lighting up this house and having a great gun show,” Thwaites described. “But he kind of pulls that rug out from under us and turns the movie in a whole other direction quite effortlessly and that was one of the things that I thought was 1) really unique, but 2) was a great opportunity for these characters to only develop further and to sink further into their tiredness and their stress and kind of mental fog.”

Tapping into the exhaustion of his character and how it would spill over into the “level of power” he would have as a lieutenant was “something that I was questioning” and proved to be one of the biggest creative challenges for the Titans star.

“I obviously didn’t want to be yelling at them to drop and give me 20, but I obviously didn’t want to carry the air of someone who couldn’t control them or lead them, but it was finding that middle ground of being compassionate, of being believable as a leader and also creating that tone to where the boys look to me for guidance and direction,” Thwaites explained. “When I don’t know what to do, that’s kind of the last straw, if I don’t know what to do or where to go, that’s the end of the power and there’s confusion and little bit more anxiety of what’s going to happen because their leader doesn’t know. Working with Eric, he was leaning more towards the compassionate, more vulnerable and tired line and so was I, so that kind of worked.”

Looking at the rest of his cast members, which includes Alan Ritchson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Skyler Astin (Zooey’s Extraordinary Playlist), Kyle Gallner (Interrogation) and Theo Rossi (Luke Cage), he found the “guys were just wonderful to work with,” looking back fondly at their time in Bulgaria on set and off.

“We all stayed in the same hotel, most of us were at a stage where we just had kids and we’re kind of entering that stage of being dads and the next stage of our careers, so we had built a rapport subconsciously already,” Thwaites related. “Then on top of that with the preparation involved of boot camps, which involved different movie-watching sessions with Eric Bress, we watched Saving Private Ryan to get an understanding of where Eric wanted to open the movie and how he wanted us to feel like and try and emulate that kind of scene of these guys traveling across the country and how tired they would be and how big a fuck up it is to the leader of the crew to say they’d gone in the wrong direction and the consequences that could have. Eating together and spending time together is some of the best preparation you can have and we did a ton of it.”

Though just now hitting digital platforms after its DirecTV debut in June, Ghosts of War was actually shot over two years ago and marked the first time Thwaites and Ritchson worked together before going on to reunite on DC Universe’s Titans.

“Alan is such a wonderful actor, his comedic timing is some of the best I’ve ever seen and his drama chops, he commits to the moment like no one I’d ever seen,” Thwaites noted. “This is a tough movie for him, because he has all the heightened moments of this crew, a large part of the bad shit happens to him in a sense and without him committing to his moments, it would soften the moment in these scenes, so he brought a great physicality and commitment to the crew.”

July 18 2020 Ghosts of War Interview

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