"He is the Kurt Russell of our generation"--A director on A.J. Bowen
Last year I met director Adam Wingard and the lead cast of his film A Horrible Way To Die, which premiered at TIFF 2010. Among the actors I talked to was A.J. Bowen who I had seen the day previous on the silver screen playing serial killer Garrick Turrell. As my camera operator was getting prepared the cast and I all shook hands and I noticed the camaraderie of Wingard, Bowen and fellow actors Amy Seimetz and Joe Swanberg. As I tested out the sound of the microphone with the standard "check, check," I could not help but also laugh into the microphone at Bowen's great sense of humor it was far removed from the character I had seen him playing the day before--a person on the far extreme of the human condition--a vicious killer--and it is at these kind moments when you get to see the real person aside from a character they have played, you see a great actor who takes their craft seriously.
A Horrible Way To Die is a true showcase for Bowen's acting talents. Even though he is a serial killer he loves his ex-girlfriend Sarah (Amy Seimetz) and is on a journey to try and reconnect with her. While it's the genre moments which involve Garrick killing his victims that generate an immediate reaction, it is the scenes and images of Garrick Turrell driving long stretches of the freeway and those quiet moments of introspection that have resonated and stayed with me. Which reminds me of a Micheal Chekhov quote, "An actor must burn inside with an outer ease."
One thing I have noticed with A.J. as an actor is this his characters immediately draw you in with a disarming charm and when his opposite lets their guard down bad things happen, very bad things. There is also this great sense of unease whenever the camera focuses on him, one is never really safe in his presence; yet at the same time he has this vulnerability. Take a look at Lewis Denton, his character in The Signal. Though crazed from the signal, covered in blood, he is a man adrift, looking for his wife he no longer recognizes. As I mentioned before with the character Garrick Turrell in A Horrible Way To Die, here is a man struggling with his need to kill people and his need to receive love from his ex-girlfriend the great love of his life, a man torn. Another great trait of Bowen's acting talent is his ability to say more with his eyes then five pages of dialogue can.
I first took notice of Bowen in the 2007 film The Signal. In a movie that is an ensemble piece he is one of the actors to truly stand out. Directors leading a new wave of American genre films have also taken notice, Bowen has worked with Ti West, Adam Green and is currently shooting with genre darling Danielle Harris in her second film as a director, Among Friends.
This year will mark Bowen's first appearance on the Midnight Madness screen in Wingard's latest, You're Next. This marks the third collaboration of Wingard & Bowen, as well as Amy Seimetz and Joe Swanberg. Here is my interview with them from last year.
A.J. is truly a great actor who helps lift genre films into art. I look forward to seeing his latest performance in You're Next but before forewarned, don't be drawn in with that disarming smile and that twinkle in his eyes.....
YOU'RE NEXT screening times:
Sat., Sept 10th, 11:59pm RYERSON
Mon., Sept. 12th, 6:30pm AMC 7
Fri., Sept. 16th, 4:00pm TIFF Bell Lightbox 2