PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — From portraying a man living with schizophrenia to being Robin “The Boy Wonder,” Australian actor Brenton Thwaites has quite the array of roles he’s played.
In an exclusive interview with WMBD’s Matt Sheehan, Thwaites walks through the roles of Devon in I Met a Girl, Paul Asher in An Interview with God, and Dick Grayson/Robin/Nightwing in Warner Bros. Titans which airs on HBO Max.
In a recently-released film based in Australia, I Met a Girl, directed by Luke Eve, produced by Adam Dolman, and written by Glen Dolman, Thwaites stars as Devon. Devon is a man living with schizophrenia who is trying to decipher what is real and what is fake. Devon hears voices and has hallucinations of both good and evil beings. He bounces in and out of a mental health clinic for treatment, and when he leaves the clinic, he’s living in the guest bedroom of his brother’s home.
“There’s a whole other level of authenticity that’s required as an actor. It requires a little more research than other roles. This movie was trying to portray people with schizophrenia in an authentic way, but at the same time, add a magical level of realism and comedy,” Thwaites said.
Adding in a travel aspect and a love story to the film, Thwaites said it makes the film for appealing to a wider audience.
“It was my job to get the schizophrenia aspect of it right. Or, at least authentic to that character. I read a few books. One of them was called “The Center Cannot Hold” by Elyn R. Saks. I really got a good understanding of the moment-to-moment struggle. It’s not something that goes away. It’s a daily grind and very irreverent and unexpected. The struggle is relentless,” Thwaites said.
Thwaites said he also met with a group in Australia called SANE. They had conversations on how he could learn the daily struggles that people with schizophrenia deal with on a daily basis.
Thwaites said he thinks meeting with the groups and reading the books helped him portray the character of Devon.
“It’s another thing to bring a touch of that and mesh it into the director’s vision, which was not realism but magical realism. The point of the film was to have this sense of magicalness to it that shined. As opposed to getting lost in the depths and the darkness of the struggle of it,” Thwaites said.
Thwaites said the hardest part of playing Devon was the extreme highs and lows he goes through in an instant.
“Emotionally, he’s 100%. Whether it’s in love, on the verge of a breakdown, seeing an imaginary character or about to jump off a building. He’s committing to every moment. To every actor, that’s a treat because it forces you to make a strong choice and go with it. Whether it’s good or bad, sensical or not, Devon is a character that demanded that from me,” Brenton said.
Thwaites said Devon was the one role he “took home with him.”
“Not in a terribly bad way, but more of a foggy exhaustive kind of way. The highs and lows and the emotion were quite difficult to manage. Second to that, the second hardest part was singing,” Thwaites laughed. “I’m not much of a singer and it took me awhile to learn a basic melody of these three or four songs we played during the movie. That was a whole new learning experience,” Thwaites said.
“I’ve played music and I’ve sung a little before, very badly, but this one was very confronting and jumping in front of an audience. Singing, performing, and playing guitar was a bit scary,” Thwaites said.
Thwaites is used to acting in America-based films. He’s the star of Warner Bros. Titans, playing Dick Grayson (Robin turned Nightwing in the DC Universe). He also portrayed Henry Turner in the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film. He acted in Oculus, Gods of Egypt, An Interview with God, and starred in two movies you can catch on Netflix right now, The Signal, and Ghosts of War.
But playing Devon in I Met a Girl had a deep meaning to Thwaites. The movie was filmed and produced in Australia, his home country.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have always come back to Australia to do films, whether they’ve been little Australian films or big American films,” Thwaites said. Ever since I left Australia I’ve always looked at movies that shoot back here. Ever since my first film, Save Your Legs.”
Thwaites said he’s always gone back and forth from the U.S. to Australia in terms of different films he’s shooting.
“This one came to me in 2015, a long time ago. The script came to me, Luke Eve came to my house. And I signed on right then and there. I loved the script, I loved Luke. He had a strong vision for the film, he was a very sweet guy,” Thwaites said. “We tried to get the movie made over a number of years, and for whatever reason, it never got over the line until it did.”
Not only is Australia his home, but Thwaites said the film industry there is booming.
“Our country is quite open, we are lucky enough to not have the restrictions other countries have. We have great crews, a great country to shoot in. Studios are going up left, right, and center. It seems like Australia is having this little moment of film and television,” Thwaites said.
Over the past year, COVID-19 has impacted the film industry dramatically. Thwaites said crews have a very strict set of rules they have to follow, and if they don’t follow them, crews don’t work.
“Warner Bros. is very stringent on their list of COVID protocols,” Thwaites said. “The willingness to work is overriding everything. But the grind of it is wearing and taxing a little bit. Our crew and our actors are just tired. Tired of wearing a mask for 14 hours a day. Our show is supposed to be a certain length of time but it’s doubled because of COVID.”
Another role Thwaites acted in during 2018 was An Interview With God, directed by Perry Lang. Brenton played Paul Asher, a Christian writer working through a struggling marriage. He went overseas to write about the war in Afghanistan, and when he came back he found out his wife was having an affair.
During the film, Paul has an interview with God.
While Thwaites said he doesn’t go to church or believe in God, the script really intrigued him.
“I’m not religious. I know a little bit about religion, not a lot,” Thwaites said.
Thwaites said in regards to the script, “It’s an anomaly. It’s mainly three acts. Three 25 minute scenes that summed up the entire film,” he said. “I saw it really as a play. I thought it was a challenge, and here’s a character who is losing his faith in God, losing his faith in himself, and losing his faith in his relationship.”
“What if it’s not real? What if my love isn’t there? What if I’m not the man I thought I was? All these what-ifs hit me. I thought it was interesting to see how he gets his faith back, how he gets his relationship back on track, and starts to love himself again,” Thwaites said.
While Thwaites was shooting An Interview With God, he said he was living in a tiny apartment in New York City. He and his partner had just had their first baby.
“We didn’t sleep for the duration of the shoot, our baby was a nightmare,” Thwaites said. “Mountains of dialogue to learn. I would have my voice, which was recorded in my ear, and I’d be holding my baby pretty much throughout the night. It came home with me in the sense that I had to learn a ton of dialogue.”
Thwaites said while oftentimes actors “take roles home with them,” he came into this role with a lot of emotion and vulnerability from the sheer exhaustion his family was facing.
“I remember one day I had a scene where I break down and I tell my boss that my wife’s been cheating on me (in the film). In the script it says I start crying, I start doubting my faith, I don’t know if it’s worth it and all this stuff,” Thwaites said. “I get to work, they’re setting up for the wide shot. Perry Lang, the director, says “just take your time, we’re gonna take the wide shot. Then once you’re ready we’ll get into the close-up and get the meat.”
“I said to Perry, mate I’m ready. I haven’t slept in 8 weeks, just roll,” Thwaites laughed. “He was sweet enough to change the day and shoot my close up 10-15 minutes later. We shot it all in one take.”
Thwaites said while this time of life was extremely difficult for him and his family, the crew was there for him and really supported them.
In another article, Sheehan talks with Thwaites about his role as Dick Grayson in Warner Bros. Titans.
They discuss what fans can expect in the upcoming season set to release this summer, what goes into the role of playing Robin & Nightwing, and his favorite parts of the show.
The Titans article will release later this summer, closer to the release date of the series, which Warner Bros. has yet to announce.
I Met a Girl can be found in the U.S. on Amazon Prime Video. It released as a Netflix Original in Australia and New Zealand.