By CHRIS TRONDSEN and PETERSON GONZAGA
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—For years, Australian actor Ryan Kwanten and writer/director Ivan Sen toiled to make the sci-fi thriller “Expired.” It finally has come to fruition, co-starring new actress Jillian Nguyen and iconic actor Hugo Weaving.
Jack (Kwanten) is an assassin who by chance has become mysteriously infected by a deadly disease. One day, he meets a nightclub singer named April (Nguyen) whom he falls in love with. However, the longer he stays with April the quicker his body deteriorates. Desperate to figure out how to stop the disease before he expires, he reaches out to a reclusive scientist, Doctor Bergman (Weaving).
During a recent exclusive online interview, Kwanten revealed why he decided come on board the film project and what it was like working alongside Weaving.
The film is currently streaming on HBO Max and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD April 26.
Front Row Features: You have been talking to Ivan for a while about this film. What drew you to this project?
Ryan Kwanten: There was something that needed to be said from a micro and macro level. The micro level is from an individual standpoint on how we’ve lost touch with ourselves and the macro bigger picture world viewpoint, it was a cautionary tale that we’re (expletive) this planet up. We best better get some kind of perspective now before it’s too late.
FRF: They’re so many different layers in the storyline. How do you tackle that as an actor and how does it affect the overall picture of the film?
Kwanten: I forget a lot about that, to be honest. When I’m working, it’s the last thing I’m thinking about and the effect it’s going to have. It sounds cliché, but I’m focusing on the truth (and) throwing all my preparations out the window and just being there. In a movie like this with a visionary filmmaker like Ivan, you can truly do that.
We were fortunate enough to shoot on the streets of Mong Kok which is in Hong Kong. It’s one of the more densely populated parts of the world and we didn’t have the budget to shut down the streets. So, Ivan drew our small crew together on the first day of shooting as we were about to go on these busy streets and he said, “We work within the chi of this city. It will give it back to us and it won’t even know that we’re there. We’ll just meld into it.” Sure enough, we opened the door and Ivan starts shooting and I start doing my thing and the people just moved and breathed along with us. It wasn’t a kind of us-versus-them mentality. We were in it together.
FRF: The city was more than just a backdrop. Did you shoot during the pandemic? What was it like and what did it bring out in you as an actor?
Kwanten: It was pretty (expletive) powerful. About eight months before the pandemic, it was pre- a lot of that stuff but, as you know, the movie foretells a lot of the things that we’re kind of dealing with. One the things that Jack says to the guy who hires him as an assassin is, “Ah, you got the cough.” That sort of says that everyone gets the cough. You can’t help being drawn to the energy of a big city. You haven’t really been to a big city until you’ve been to Hong Kong where we’re so used to our distance of private space, but there you’re living shoulder-to-shoulder with people and trying to have a sci-fi movie in the middle of that sort of madness really added to that sense of foreboding.
Then there’s the additional level of a love story in that madness, which was a really brave feat that I think really works because you don’t highlight that there is hope for us. This movie can come out as a little sullen, but it’s quite the opposite. It leaves us with a sense of hope.
FRF: Let’s dive into the love story. You originally can see the loneliness of your character, but when he sees April, he goes on this other path. How did you build that chemistry as actors, especially with Jillian being a relatively new actress?
Kwanten: It took Ivan over a year to find the right one. If he hadn’t found the right one, the movie may have not been made. This love story can only be told from the female and the male perspective. To get an actress that was willing to go to some pretty dark places here since she’s a hardened soul and Jillian comes from a migrant upbringing and she really brings a lot of the existence of her early tough childhood into this was a lucky break. You can’t fake that kind of stuff; the audience is too smart. They’ll see through it in a heartbeat and there’s so much said in-between the words. There’s an old quote, “Presence is so much more than being there.” She was present in every which way. For me as a fellow actor, it was inspiring to work with.
FRF: You also have another acting titan in the film. How was it working with Hugo Weaving?
Kwanten: You know how that is. We both are in those fortunate positions to sometimes meet our idols and more often than not I would say, they don’t live up to the pedestals we put them on. Hugo Weaving is one of those rarities that seems to levitate above his pedestal. He is honestly a true enigma— (he’s) so curious, so inspired by life, in general. To give you an example, he wasn’t supposed to be working on the day we had to travel from Hong Kong on a ferry to somewhere else and he turned up at the area where we buy tickets for the ferry and he’s in full dress. He says to Ivan, “I’m not supposed to be working today but if you get five minutes,” and Ivan stops him and says, “Great, no worries.” Hugo even said, “I’ll swing a boom for you. I don’t care. I just want to be there.” That’s what you hoped he would be. I was like a weird voyeur working with him. To just see him on the ferry with the amazing cityscape around him—he just lives with a lust for life. It’s so incredibly inspiring and he couldn’t be more giving as an actor as well.