Journeyman in Action – DAMAN catches up with Australian actor Jason Clarke and chats about his journey in one of the darkest novels by Stephen King and more
Here’s a fact that you should already now by know: Jason Clarke is no stranger to the silver screen. With over 20 years of experience under his belt, Clarke is a seasoned professional and an artistic chameleon to say the least. With a degree from the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne and burgeoning credits as both an actor and director, it’s safe to say that Clarke is unstoppable.
This year alone, he shows moviegoers just what a skilled actor he is by diving entirely into his character in the post-World War II drama, “The Aftermath,” starring alongside Keira Knightley and Alexander Skarsgård. Then, audiences can see Clarke completely transform his psyche in “Pet Sematary” as the lead role of Lewis Creed, the doctor and family man whose life turns into the kind of gruesome nightmare only Stephen King could create. Based on Stephen King’s 1983 horror novel of the same title, “Pet Sematary” is arguably one of King’s darkest and most terrorizing novels, diving into the delicate details that accompany grief and the gut-wrenching pain of losing a loved one.
We caught up with Clarke before the release of both his latest movies to discuss about “Pet Sematary,” the lessons he learned about pride and letting go of ego during the filming of “The Aftermath,” and where he goes to find solace. In short, Jason Clarke certainly has a tale to tell.
DAMAN: Hi Jason, thanks for having us! Could you kindly give us a small synopsis of where your career has taken you these last couple of years and where you find yourself today?
Jason Clarke: My passport is the best physical representation of where my career has taken me. The last two years I’ve been everywhere from Russia, Australia, France, to South America, I’ve been all over the world. My little family and me have travel around the globe several times because of my career and it has been quite an adventure. I’ve seen things and done things I never even dreamed of as an individual and to be able to take my family with me has been incredibly special.
DAMAN: Speaking about family, do you feel your approach to acting or your approach to your career, in general, has changed since you had children of your own?
Jason Clarke: Without a doubt! Sometimes it can be tough, there’s a never ending amount of work to be done. You can’t do as much as you used to without running yourself into the ground. I’m much more diligent with my time now because I need to make time to be a parent. If I get asked to shoot a film where I’ll be gone for more than a month, I like to ask my wife if she’s okay with that. It’s important to me, and honestly, I don’t like being away from my family for that long. Ten days without seeing them is my maximum. The two movies that I just finished working on are both about men who are fathers. Having children has given me so much as an actor. They’ve given me more sensitivity, more compassion, more patience, more of everything, basically.
DAMAN: Moving on to your latest movie “Pet Sematary,” the movie is an adaptation of Stephen King’s seminal horror novel from 1989. Had you read King’s novel prior to receiving the script for the film?
Jason Clarke: Yes, I read it in my early 20s. It terrified me at the time but I quite enjoyed it. To re-read it again as a father however was incredibly disturbing. It’s a really horrifying novel. In the very first pages of the book King explains to the readers that after reading this story in its entirety, he was horrified by what he wrote and didn’t think this novel should ever be released. “The scary bone is like the funny bone, it’s very particular what you find scary,” he says in the opening. For King, “Pet Sematary” was his most frightening novel.
DAMAN: That being said, what was the most challenging part for you?
Jason Clarke: In the book, my character is experiencing this full on intense drama all within a couple of days. Really, he’s losing his mind. The hardest part about playing that character for me was having to experience the mindset of that character over the span of 28 days. Experiencing the horror of burying your child, then digging your child up. Those emotions are exhausting. I don’t think I’ll watch the film to be honest.
DAMAN: Sounds really intense. Can you elaborate on that mindset you’re referring too?
Jason Clarke: Let’s put it this way, I would not play this character again. I’m really superstitious, and there were a couple lines from the book or from the script that I had to say to my daughter in the movie that I can never repeat to my own children now. I’m glad that I did it. I truly enjoyed the experience, it was hard work, but I would not go back and play Louis Creed again. Why? Because I would never want to be in Creed’s position. I never want to feel the horror of losing a child and knowing that there’s a possibility I can bring them back somehow. We’ve always heard people say that a parent’s worst nightmare is the thought of having to bury their own child instead of the other way around. So, the fact that this is the premise for the entire film really taps into people’s worst fears. When I was doing press with Keira Knightly for “The Aftermath,” they asked me about “Pet Sematary” and Knightly pointed out that there’s no word in the English language for losing a child. If you lose your partner, you’re a widower, but there’s no description for what you are if you’ve lost a child.
DAMAN: In playing Dr. Louis Creed, did you create your own version of the character? Or did you try to stay true to the version that Stephen King created?
Jason Clarke: I stayed true to the version Stephen King created. As an actor, often you take specific attributes from whatever character you’re playing, and it slowly becomes you. As terrifying as it is, I really love Stephen King’s novel. There’s such an intimacy to playing someone who’s kind of mentally f**ked up. Creed is such a particular man; he’s an everyman as well. He’s a husband and a father, and you really learn to care deeply about these people.
DAMAN: Apart from that, are there any challenging aspects during the filming process?
Jason Clarke: In show businesses, they say you should never work with animals or with children and you worked with both in this film. What was it like shooting with such a young actress in a movie like this, did you feel like you had to treat lightly at all? It’s a very delicate process, and you really need to be considerate of it. Because it can be really easy for them to get freaked out and it’s important to take your time and really make them feel comfortable in each scene. Jete, the girl who played my daughter in this movie, is a very young actress. As much as it was about protecting her and looking out for her on set, it’s also about giving her an experience as a fellow actor. It’s about making sure she’s enjoying her role and really pushing herself as an artist.
DAMAN: Aside from “Pet Sematary,” we learned that you’re also set to appear in “The Aftermath.” You’re a busy guy! Can you give us a a brief intro to “The Aftermath?” For instance, what’s the premise of this movie, exactly?
Jason Clarke: I just watched the film, actually, at the London opening and absolutely loved it. I feel like we always see “falling in love” movies or films where one partner leaves another because they are simply a bad person or they’ve
met “the one” they are supposed to be with, but the love affair in this film is a lot deeper than that. The characters show us what it means to truly love somebody and be loved in return. I think if audiences go to see this film and allow themselves to be peeled back like an onion, they’ll find it to be an enriching experience.
DAMAN: Is that what initially drew you to the film?
Jason Clarke: Definitely. I liked the fact that it wasn’t this typical love triangle. The film dives into the actual reality of love, the grey areas. “The Aftermath” reminds us that love isn’t always black and white.
DAMAN: That’s definitely a message people need to be more aware of. There’s so much grey when it comes to love and there isn’t a right or wrong way to love. How are you similar to your character in this film?
Jason Clarke: I think like Lewis. I’ve learned that as you go through life, you can’t bring your pride with you. Pride for yourself, your work, and your family, of course. But I mean ego pride. You learn to let that go somewhere along the line. You learn to see every side of the story and lead with compassion.
DAMAN: Last but not least, in your everyday life when you’re not filming or when you’re not acting, where do you find solace? where do you go to find inspiration to grow as an actor, to process your thoughts as an artist, and to just breathe a little?
Jason Clarke: That’s a brilliant question, and an important one especially in this industry. I find solace in the wild or in the countryside. I find peace in parks, mountains, near the ocean. I used to go backpacking and climbing a lot, and I’ve seen that being in touch with the great outdoors is always so humbling. Even just the act of walking can help you to get away from yourself, away from your thoughts, away from the world. Being in the wild just always helps me find peace from all the noise.
Photography Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Interview Eva Barragan
Styling Jenny Ricker
Grooming Sussy Campos
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