New York - Aaron Paul isn't a dad, yet, but he loves playing one, however flawed that dad might be.
"I love working with kids. I have lots of nieces and nephews. I can't wait to have children of my own," he said during a recent round of interviews for The 9th Life of Louis Drax, in theatres 2 September.
Even if that kid's in a coma?
That's the frame for Louis, based on a Liz Jensen's best-seller of the same name. Paul plays two parts — sort of — and one came with a monster suit.
"It was a huge process, a four-hour process," he said of his transformation from ex-boxer, violent dad-with-a-drinking problem Peter Drax, to a dark, cave-dwelling thing.
"It was a big suit that I put on. A latex head. I kind of suppressed the memory. It was a nightmare of an experience. But I actually really enjoyed it," Paul said.
The psychological thriller stars Jamie Dornan as a coma specialist tasked with taking care of a 9-year-old, seemingly accident-prone boy named Louis whom Dornan's Dr. Allan Pascal mind melds with. There's also some romance, on Dornan's part, I mean, with Louis' mom.
The story is right in Paul's off-kilter wheelhouse, a la his award-winning role as Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad. It's a more challenging stretch for Dornan, of Fifty Shades fame, despite being the son of a doctor who once had acting aspirations of his own.
"My dad is a doctor. My mother was a nurse. My stepmother is a doctor. My uncle's a doctor. It's funny, my dad tried to give me advice for pretty much every character I've played, except on this occasion when I was playing a medical professional," Dornan laughed.
Dornan, who has two young daughters, enjoyed working with a child actor as much as Paul. Louis is played by Aiden Longworth,who was 10 during filming and is now nearly 12.
Yes, Louis is in a coma, though he has more to do than just lie still.
"Aiden, he's brilliant," Dornan said. "You know the famous thing, never work with kids and animals? One of the early scenes I did was with a hamster and a child, so there's two in one. He talks non-stop, so actually the coma aspect, for him, was very, very difficult."
The script was a labor of love for Max Minghella, whose famous father, Oscar-winning director and screenwriter Anthony Minghella, had been developing it before he died in 2008. Minghella said French director Alexander Aja, known for slasher horror and fantasy, was true to the page, though the two didn't always get along.
"We butted heads a lot. I... but it was absolutely coming from a place of love and excitement," Minghella said.
Aja said he got carried away by "this crazy, amazing mysterious world of Louis Drax," a world where "you have no idea of who is who. Even if everything seems to be clear in the beginning, everything turns."
Of the vibe with Minghella on set, Aja would say only that the two had never worked together behind the camera. Minghella is an actor, director, producer, but "Louis Drax" is his debut as a screenwriter.
"It was an interesting thing to also be of service to the beautiful script that he'd done but also to try to bring a level up to the legacy," Aja said of Minghella's father, who directed The English Patient and wrote and directed Truly Madly Deeply.
"Of course, every day going on set, I was thinking about his father, ... and what he would have done with the movie," Aja said.
Much of the action in Louis Drax takes place inside Louis' mind, which was among the elements that appealed to Aja. He said it was a difficult deciding on just the right boy to play Louis.
"We saw a lot of kids and at the end we had a couple that were really, really good, but I couldn't stop myself from thinking about Aiden, the first time he came to read. He did a scene inside of this supernatural, fantasy world. By the end of the scene we were all teary eyes, we were all almost crying," Aja said.
Dornan said it was refreshing to have a child on set.
"Adults, you know, you're trying to make this art and everyone's being very serious, and 'I need a minute,' and a kid just breaks all of that," he said. "They see it in the purest form, which is like we're basically playing dress-up and it's really fun. That is what making a film is. Whatever way we package it, we're playing dress-up and it should be frivolous. It should be fun, regardless of the context."
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