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'True Blood' true believers will no doubt find it challenging to accept Ryan Kwanten playing anyone other than the headstrong, oddly lovable if slightly dimwitted Jason Stackhouse. Especially if the role he's playing happens to be Stackhouse's polar opposite: introverted, nerdy and very, very Australian.
In 'Griff the Invisible' (opening Friday in limited release), Kwanten plays the title character, a shy loner who, at night, patrols his neighborhood dressed in tight spandex and looking for criminals to thwart. But is all this action really taking place in Griff's head? Is he a danger to himself?
Moviefone spoke to the Aussie native about his role in 'Griff'; his feelings toward the seminal Australian movie, 'Crocodile Dundee'; and his take on the absurd fourth season of 'True Blood.'
I watched this movie with my girlfriend, who is a fan of yours, and halfway through she commented how this movie did a good job making you less attractive. Was that a conscious choice?
Well, it fits who the character is. I get no inspiration whatsoever in playing characters that are just like characters that I've already played. Life is sweetened by risk, and this was a risky choice. But I feel like this was a story that needed to be told and it was one that affected me profoundly. And in terms of the physical kind of stuff, no, I have no ego in terms of if I'm being sexy or being scene as this or that –- it's just more about being true to the piece.
Why did it affect you profoundly?
I grew up as very much an outcast and I used my imagination. And not the same way as Griff: I think mine was more with my two brothers and myself, when we were kicked out into the backyard -- and we were always happier out there, too. We would just revert to our imaginations and play with what started as toy soldiers and then it would be some sort of armies against each other. You know, you could go anywhere in that backyard. I could be on the moon, I could be in another country -- I could be anyone I wanted to be. That was just a really appealing thing: Why and where does that imagination go? Why do we, as adults, subvert it? Because that's what it means to be an adult and that, to me, was a really funny point.
Griff's boss at one point says, "Look at me, I'm doing an American accent. So now I'm American." Do you ever feel this way, being a guy mostly known for doing a Louisiana accent?
Yeah, there is probably not a day that goes by where I don't get, you know, a fan stopping me on the street and asking for an autograph. And then they hear my natural Australian accent. Not only are they confused, but some of them are even convinced that I'm putting the accent on in preparation for another role. I take it as a compliment that I could have fooled them into thinking that I am from the South or I am that character. That is sort of what you hope for.
For Australian actors and filmmakers, was 'Crocodile Dundee' a good thing or a bad thing?
Oh, wow. I never thought of it. I think, in a way, it kind of was good. I mean, Paul Hogan, the star of those 'Crocodile Dundee' movies, he's very much an Australian icon -- and still is and revered as that. And that was what some would call they heyday of Australian cinema, too. In the '80s, we had a huge influx of really good, quality Australian stuff, and there were a bunch of American films that were shooting down there, too, because the dollar was good and all sorts of things. Sure, early on, that was stuff that we'd already done, but that got people to open their eyes to us. So, no, I certainly don't have anything against any kind of Australian story that crosses boundaries -- that travels. It can only expose people to Australians and I think we're a damn good race down here -- a good country.
And with your next movie, 'Knights of Badassdom,' you're going from superhero to a movie about LARP enthusiasts. Are you going too far over to the nerdy side?
[Laughs] I don't thing you can really go too far. To me, personally, it's just another chance to work with Peter Dinklage and Steve Zahn. That was a huge factor for me, because they had already signed on when I signed on. That was a nice chip that the producers had over me -- and I was really desperate to work with those two. And it's a story powerful enough for me to want to get off my seat and go to the movies. If I can envision that while I'm reading it, that's a pretty good sign that I should do it.
Are you still playing Charles Manson in the Brad Anderson biopic? Is that still happening?
It's still in the works. It was supposed to get going this year, but it may be put off until next year now.
How much do you try to keep up with the plot of 'True Blood'? Even compared to the first season, it's on a new level of absurdity this season.
Yeah, that's an interesting observation. If you would have started 'True Blood' with this season -- say this season was the first one -- I don't know if it would have impacted in the same way. I fell like they're doing what they're doing with 'True Blood' right now because you are absorbed in that world. You know that world and you know the characters. You can go with it, however wacky, wild and madcap those journeys are. You can suspend disbelief. But it's been a great season. I love seeing Jason broken down almost to the point where he is fighting for his life. I think it's in those little moments of pressure where you really see who a person is. And I think this was Jason's chance to really man up and to sort of grow up. He started so low on the evolutionary totem pole that it was time that he did man up.
Is this your favorite Jason Stackhouse storyline?
I honestly could not pinpoint one. I know that's a safe answer, but the amount of things that the writers have given me to play with -- it's like looking at an all-you-can-eat buffet. I just wouldn't be able to know which one to pick.
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