Note: This interview contains some spoilers.
Director Antonia Bogdanovich’s first feature film “Phantom Halo” had its world premiere on Friday, Oct. 24 at Austin Film Festival. Shuffle sat down with director Antonia Bogdanovich and actors Sebastian Roché, Luke Kleintank, and Jordan Dunn. The crime drama/thriller also starred Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Tobin Bell, Rebecca Romijn, and Gbenga Akinnagbe.
“Phantom Halo” centers on two brothers Samuel (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Beckett (Luke Kleintank) who are just scraping by, trying to support the household while their alcoholic father Warren (Sebastian Roché), a former Shakespeare actor, can’t help but gamble away their money. Beckett and his friend Little Larry (Jordan Dunn) come up with a plan to counterfeit money to pay off their respective debts. But when the plan goes awry, they must break free from the havoc.
Shuffle: Why did you decide to turn “Phantom Halo” into a feature film from a short film?
Antonia Bogdanovich: I had the idea while we were shooting the short. It would make a great feature and I wanted to expand it. One of the hardest things to have an idea that you think is worth pursuing, so I thought it was an overly great idea: the two brothers and the father and the crime aspect.
Shuffle: Why did you choose to have Sebastian’s character Warren narrate throughout the film?
Antonia: It was actually my editor’s idea. He said if you were going to do the Shakespeare, you need to commit to the Shakespeare. I wouldn’t have decided if I didn’t think it works. [Warren] becomes all-knowing when he’s doing Shakespeare. Having him narrate is kind of like he’s a patriarch, a twisted patriarch. But when he does Shakespeare, he’s speaking the truth. I picked all the passages.
Sebastian Roche: That’s what’s great with working with a director. We had a dialogue about what passages, but she integrated the Shakespeare.
Antonia: “Macbeth” is one of my favorite plays, because everyone twists it.
Jordan Dunn: The Scottish play.
Antonia: We’re not in the theater.
Sebastian: Outside the theater, you can, actually [say it].
Antonia: It didn’t bring any bad luck to the film.
Shuffle: What kind of message did you want your audience to take away from the film?
Antonia: That you can transcend your childhood, no matter how hard it is. I wanted some hope. Also, an alcoholic is never going to change for you. The younger brother Samuel understands that. Finally, the older brother Beckett does understand when he says “We are stuck in the mud.” But more importantly, it’s about transcendence. Having siblings be able to accomplish that—getting over your difficult childhood.
Shuffle: Name one of your favorite scenes to shoot and why.
Luke Kleintank: For me, we did a scene where Samuel is performing Shakespeare and I’m pickpocketing. When we were filming, I’m actually pickpocketing people. I remember—we have it on camera—I picked a wallet, I turned, some random guy grabs my hand and goes “You do not steal.” His fists were clenched. I thought he was going to punch me in the face. I looked at him and said, “Turn around, look behind you, there’s a camera.” He was so embarrassed. It was great because I was a terrible pickpocket. But it actually looked like I was actually stealing.
Jordan: I loved filming when we broke into the warehouse. My favorite part was when we were leaving the warehouse. They let me drive the truck. I don’t know why. We’re in character, we’re in a rush. The Heidelberg machine we rented from a museum—we’re going around the corner, going probably 30 or 40—the entire machine fell over in the back, because the tires started to skid around the corner and the wheels lifted off the ground.
Sebastian: Are you serious?
Jordan: I swear to god. This guy [from the museum] came out, lifted up the truck and was like… “That’s a forty thousand dollar machine!” They were like, “You’re not driving anymore.” I loved doing that scene.
Sebastian: For me, there were many scenes. This is truly one of my favorite experiences as an actor. I really loved the scenes with my children. It was a first time really playing a father—well, I [have played a father role], but I always play these psychopathic maniacs—but [Warren] is such a human character. I loved the human aspect of the relationship, even though it’s dysfunction and abusive. I truly loved the scene where I ask Samuel to sit on my lap.
Antonia: People responded well to that scene. I was surprised.
Sebastian: It’s suddenly a human moment; you feel they will have a really deep and affectionate moment. And they do, I think they do, but [Warren] can’t help himself: it has to come back to the money, to this compulsion. I really loved the connection. There were some scenes where there was so much emotion.
There’s a scene also where Jordan comes in and asks to use the loo. Even in the end scene. . We were laughing our heads off. I never felt more connected to the character. When you’re completely connected to a character, you could be in between scenes and be hopping on one leg and you can just come back to the character. There were great moments. I felt like everyone was so connected to their character. It’s a credit to Antonia. Good directing is good casting.