CHRIS MCKENNA: “ANTS” EXTERMINATOR

Is this your first major film role?
This is definitely my first foray into genre films. I did soap operas for a few years on television, and a couple of series pilots. I’ve done large roles in small films, and vice versa. As a big horror fan, I was cast in a horror movie called “Witchcraft” a couple of years back, but it didn’t work out. I’ve been acting since I was seven. I’ve been working, but haven’t had the opportunity to get a role like this – I’ve never seen a role like this!

Would it be fair to say that King of the Ants is more realistic than Stuart Gordon’s previous movies?
Yeah. That’s the key difference, I think. It’s still very violent and gory. The thing that makes this movie so chilling and haunting is the realism, and that it’s so grounded in reality. It’s one of those rare movies that actually tells the truth about the violence, in that the characters react appropriately. Granted, things that happen could be characterized as far-fetched and over the top – but people react accordingly, and in character. That’s what’s so compelling about it, and what made it difficult to get produced. It’s really gripping.

How was the film financed?
I wasn’t involved in the process until the thirteenth hour. However, I do know that Stuart loved the book, and was trying to get it made for years. Finally, Asylum Films was willing to take a chance on it, thank God. George Wendt had been trying to get the film made for years.

Tell us a bit about Sean Crawley, your character in the film.
I’m a normal, average, everyday guy – a housepainter who does odd jobs. I’m hired to kill Ron Livingston’s character, Gatley, who works for Town Hall. In that scene – and this is what made me fall in love with the script – I hit him and he asks me, “What are you doing?” I’m terrified of what I’m doing, but can’t stop now. I have to hit him again, and again. The scene is powerful because there’s so much emotion. It’s not just blood for the sake of blood. I can’t help but make faces when I’m watching it. You feel bad for this guy, and so does Sean Crawley, but he can’t stop once he has started. The rest of the movie is a downward spiral – he can’t sleep at night, he’s not getting paid for the work, and he’s having nightmares. The rest of the movie kind of takes off from there, as far as explaining what happens to him, and how a person can degrade, and go into the dark side once they allow themselves to do something like this.

The revenge theme sounds somewhat like Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 film “Straw Dogs,” with Dustin Hoffman.
Yeah. Stuart’s a big fan of that film. Eventually, it gets to the point where Crawley wants to enact revenge. There are scenes of him being beaten in the head with a golf club, every day and every night. And again, it’s a difficult scene to watch. He’s begging them to stop, and they just keep doing it to him, until he’ll give up a file. He’s blackmailing them for the money. He has a file that proves he’s been hired for a murder. He starts losing his grip on reality. Eventually, he decides he’s had enough, and that he’s now “King of the Ants,” and goes out for revenge.

As for the film’s violence, I think of the moment in Saving Private Ryan, with Adam Goldberg, when he’s getting stabbed by the German soldier, and fighting him. He’s trying to talk to him, and can’t understand him. You wanna look away, but can’t. Not one speck of blood, but the most violent, horrible thing to watch – the violence is more like that. It’s difficult because it’s so human. Ron Livingston is on the screen rarely, but does such a marvelous job of being so pathetic and sad and confused over what’s happening, the way I think a person would react if a total stranger tried to kill them.

Had you been familiar with Charles Higson’s book before shooting started on the film?
I was not familiar with the book. Stuart told me about it a few hours before filming. I was cast at the last minute. It was like, “OK, great. Congratulations. Get down here right now.” He gave me a copy of the book right then, which I read, trying to keep up the best I could as we filmed it. The book is very funny in a dark way. The movie is different than the book – it had to be simplified. Fans of the book will probably find discrepancies. Charles Higson did the film’s screenplay, too.

The choice of blunt objects as murder weapons was unique. No one uses a gun in King of the Ants.
I think we tried to show that no one’s professional in this. I’m completely out of my element. Same thing with the other characters. The construction workers are put in a position of having to erase a guy, who has information that can destroy them. Sledgehammers, axes, refrigerators, flowerpots, and even a dinosaur tooth are used. We’re breaking new ground!

Why did Stuart Gordon choose you for the lead role?
I was up against people with far more impressive resumes. He said I understood the character and was likeable. No matter how many horrible things he does, you still root for him. This makes the film darker, because you identify with him. While reading the breakdown, I felt that I was wrong for the role. In the book, Crawley is small, while I’m six foot three and two hundred pounds. I’m not what Higson pictured. But Stuart said this never occurred to him.

Get the rest of the interview in part three of CHRIS MCKENNA: “ANTS” EXTERMINATOR>>>




Posted on July 10, 2003 in Interviews by
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