Having worked with famed stars across multiple British films, from the likes of Stephen Graham to Timothy Spall, rising actor Brad Moore is certainly making a name for himself. Recently, The Edge had the chance to catch up Brad about his career to date and his role in the exciting new “urban action” film Montana. Here’s what he had to say.
So you’ve been working with the director Mo Ali on this new movie Montana, can you tell the readers a little bit about what the movie’s about and how your character fits into everything?
It’s always a little complex to explain the story, but basically you have a fourteen year-old boy named Montana who’s been orphaned and brought up by a drug dealing cartel in the East End of London. But what he doesn’t know is that the head of the cartel, a Serbian gangster called Lazarus actually orphaned him by killing his father and taking over his business. At the same time you have an ex-Serbian commando played by Lars Mikkelsen, who’s looking for this Serbian drug lord because he also killed his family: his wife and his child. Then in the middle of the East End of London their paths cross, the Serbian commando saves Montana and they shortly realize they’ve been wronged by the same man. The two then join forces to seek revenge. Lars Mikkelsen’s character Dimitrije trains Montana to be a ninja-style commando through martial arts and gun-play, so that they can embark on this revenge mission and end up killing about 77 guys. Which is not bad for a low budget. [laughs]
My character is this very cynical, kind of miserable, slightly degenerate bent copper who’s using drugs and he’s a bit of a gambler. He basically uses his badge to extort money from the street. After Dimitrije saves Montana and they start taking down the bad guys this really upsets the whole eco-system that my character has in place. He’s bending the law on both sides and has a good thing going on. So with this upset, my character has to up the stakes. He’s a racist, misogynistic, violent nasty piece of work to be honest.
He sounds like quite a difficult character to play?
Yeah, I mean he’s a great character to play too, and it’s my biggest part to date. What I found when I was preparing for the role was that it was very difficult to find anyone from the Met[ropolitan Police]that would admit to being similar to my character, so I couldn’t really anchor the character with any real life examples. So instead, I looked more towards villains because really, his core nature is that he is a villain.
So, with your character being deemed a ‘villain’, how did you get into that darker mindset? Was it quite difficult and did it lead to a more method approach?
This has come up quite a lot recently with a horror film I’m shooting at the moment, and a film I did just before this one, which is that I think all actors have a ‘method’. I wouldn’t call myself a ‘method actor’, I don’t stay in character all the time, but we all have some kind of authentication system that enables you to try and portray the character as authentically as you can. So what we did is, Mo Ali and I went onto the streets of where we shot the film, around the estates, and I’d try to spend 10 or 20 minutes in character and we would just try and improvise. We’d do something that Mo called ‘hot-seating’ where he would just ask me questions about my character and I would improvise and answer. So when it came to shooting, I already had a lot of the energy from the surroundings and I had already spent time in character so it was kind of a method.
Actually some of the most interesting things happened when we were practicing on the estates. It’s a fairly rough area, not too far from where I grew up and it’s in fact where Mo grew up. Basically we were offered drugs within 5 minutes of being on the estate. Another time a guy robbed a butchers right in front of us and some undercover coppers took him down and arrested him. Mo and I were very much aware that we were living this reality, and so he put pen to paper and both of these scenes are actually in the film.
So would you say there’s quite a lot of that realism in the film as a whole?
Well it’s what we call ‘heightened-reality’. I mean, a fourteen year-old isn’t really going to be able to take down 77 guys with just 3 weeks of training, so there’s that fantastical element, but it’s set against a very realistic backdrop. So if you think of it as The Karate Kid and Leon then sort of marry it with Harry Brown somehow and stick it on a council estate in the East End, then you’ve got Montana.
So it sounds like a really great mixture of genre and realism?
Yeah, I mean other journalists have called it an “urban action film” and I don’t think there is one like it. You have urban films like Adulthood and then you mix that with something that’s a little bit more like a Luc Besson-style action film, Montana has a bit of both. But of course it’s quite low budget, I mean the film was shot for something like £1.8 million, and it’s very ambitious with an enormous amount of stunts and action all crammed into this little film.
Did you see many of the restraints of making a low-budget film during the production then?
The restraints really come down to time. With a low budget film its how much time you’ve got to prep scenes, rehearse scenes, design and dress the set, so it was really about everyone having to just muck-in. Solving problems everyday and coming up with different solutions to try and get the best out of each scene and the best out of each shot. So what you see on a low budget is that there’s no Winnebagos, people aren’t put up in big posh hotel rooms and because it was all in London, lots of people were staying at home too. Generally speaking people were just all mucking-in.
The stunt-man really is the star of this film to me. He’s a guy called Peter Pedrero and he really helped with Mo’s vision. Mo knew exactly how he wanted to tell the story and has this enormous imagination. As a kid he was always imagining being a ninja on his estate and low and behold, some of his fantasies have ended up on the big screen. Pete Pedrero directed all the stunts and action In Montana. We were lucky, as he’s considered one of the best stunt guys in the country and he worked very closely with Mo, also directing the second unit. Pete was obviously an enormous help, and talking about budget, he just knew that there was a set amount of money for the film and he had to make it work for that money.
Well it sounds like this has all amounted to something pretty great, as the film’s been selected to show at a number of different rather prestigious film festivals around the world. From Sitges to the Urban World Film Festival in New York, how’s that been as an experience?
I didn’t get to New York because I was filming for another project unfortunately, but Mo and I went to Sitges and it was just the most amazing film festival. It was like a mini-Cannes because the weather’s so beautiful and you’re on the beach all the time [laughs]. The people up there are just so welcoming and the audiences are so generous. We were in a screening of Montana which had a full house and they were whooping and screaming everytime a bad guy gets killed, which you don’t get in a lot of places. They’re fanatical themselves, it’s like a mini-Comic-Con. When they know you’re in town, your name comes up at the start of the film and they give you a big cheer, then at the end they give the film a standing ovation after which they turned to Mo and I in the wings and gave us a standing ovation too. So I guess I walked out of there with a giant head, but also feeling very humbled by them all. It was really wonderful, I’d recommend Sitges to anyone.
So based on that reaction, would you say Montana’s quite a ‘crowd-pleasing’ film, that it’s something that really involves audiences and gets them cheering?
Well in terms of the screaming, I think that’s a bit more of a Spanish thing. [laughs]With British audiences I haven’t seen so much shouting and such. What happens with them is that they go in to see what they think is an urban action film, but are touched by the father and son story. It’s very much like Leon at its core. I mean, Lars Mikkelsen, who is obviously famous for The Killing and Sherlock, and McKell David who plays Montana both deliver brilliant performances and they’re really quite emotional. They’ve obviously both lost their families and it pretty much tugs at the heart strings in ways that I didn’t expect it to when I read the script, and a lot of that is in their performances. They really click and find each other.
So there’s quite a lot of drama to the story as well?
Yeah. It’s an action film, but it has its drama too.
How did you first get involved in the project?
Mo had seen me in a short film and had worked with an associate of mine, so he called me up and sent me the script, then we met up we just clicked immediately. He’s a passionate and compelling character, I mean he’s got a heart of gold but a mind of steel, that’s how I’d describe Mo. So we clicked, and started working on the improvisations, developing the script with all the writers and I guess that’s really how it came about. We’re good friends now.
So can you imagine yourself working with Mo again in the future?
Yeah of course, I’d love to do something with him again. It’s very difficult to get projects funded in Britain and even if you’re a prolific director like Mike Leigh or Shane Meadows, there’s still a struggle to get the money to film. There’s not enough money to go around basically. Obviously we don’t have that sustainable industry that Hollywood has, so it makes it difficult, but if we could work together again it would be my pleasure.
Montana (2014), directed by Mo Ali, is released in UK cinemas on 12th December.