Branko Tomovic Interview
Written by Simon Bland
|Branko Tomovic in Entity|
Get ready to see more of Branko Tomovic. This European born actor stars as the suspicious Yuri in director Steve Stone's chilling supernatural thriller Entity, a role that recently prompted the British Filmmakers Alliance to honour him as Best International Actor. Chaperoning the crew of fictional British TV show Darkest Secrets deep into an abandoned Siberian government compound, Yuri lays his cards on the table just as the spirits start to rise. Fresh from his turn in Entity and with a handful of intriguing roles in the pipeline, we caught up with Branko to discuss ghosts, filming in the dark and sea vampires...
Simon Bland: Hi Branko, thanks for taking the time to chat! So you’ve had a quite a varied career playing many different roles. Does appearing in a horror movie allow you to flex a different set of acting muscles compared to appearing in a film of another genre?
Branko Tomovic: I would say you don't really prepare for such a genre film any differently than for any other film first, it always starts with the script and your character, and your acting has always to be authentic and believable. Though what I love about working on a horror film is that you usually find yourself in some sort of foreign unknown world that is based on your imagination or in very extreme situations that are not necessarily based in reality. That's a big challenge but also so much fun to do, fear is one of the strongest primal instincts and it's great to try and create these moments.
SB: Yuri is a very interesting character. How did you approach playing him?
BT: Yes, I think he almost had many personalities. That was what attracted me to it in the first place, it was a very complex character, not the usual antagonist. There were many sides to him, from this sinister stern character to his completely broken and tormented side. I had to make sure that I had access to everything that he was going through. And regarding the theoretical stuff I had to familiarise myself with the KGB and research other organisations and what they did to psychics as they were treated as help and a threat at the same time, that was very interesting.
SB: He isn’t all what he seems - how difficult was it playing someone who must hide their true intentions?
BT: Yuri is the only foreigner in that group, just because of that people will of course find him suspicious from the beginning. But he never shows his real face until he really has to and his motives are absolutely understandable. I like playing ambiguous characters a lot, people that might be suspicious yet mysterious in a way and not easy to read. He had to be unpredictable, especially in the end...
SB: Strangely, Yuri’s decisions are all made with good intentions. Was he someone you sympathised with?
BT: I never like these stereotypical one-dimensional villains. I prefer if there is actually a reason why people do bad things. And in his case, his motives are absolutely understandable to me. I think it comes from a good place though he acts completely selfishly and out of control. His loss is so great for him and being in this place is overwhelming and unbearable, so that he is almost being pushed to the edge of madness.
SB: Did director Steve Stone embrace your personal interpretations of the character?
BT: Steve was a wonderful director to work with and we were always on the same page, we had the same ideas about who he was and why he does certain things.
SB: I read that Steve wrote the character of Yuri with you in mind. Were there many re-writes happening on set?
BT: That's right, I was in a TV series called 'Whitechapel' which is about a modern Jack the Ripper copycat murder and I played one of the main suspects there. It wasn't even such a huge part, but a pretty cool one. I was this weird morgue man who sleeps in the mortuary amongst the dead. Steve saw me in that and then send me the script for 'Entity'. The first script I received was completely different, the working title was still 'Beast' and there was no Yuri in it yet. The original character was a 50 year old English professor of Paranormal Studies. So after seeing me in 'Whitechapel', Steve rewrote the part and changed the character into Yuri and since the story is set in Siberia it made sense to have that Russian character who invited the British TV crew over. But the re-writing only happened in pre-production, once you are on set there is no time for these things on such a small budget and with time and location restrictions.
SB: Entity deals with some interesting concepts. Are you a superstitious person?
BT: Well my family comes from a very remote part of Serbia, the edge of the Carpathians bordering to Romania. The land of werevolves and vampires, even the word 'vampire' originates from Serbia and people over there still believe in all sort of stuff and are very superstitious. I have lived most of my life in big cities like Berlin, New York or now London though and there is no space for these things in this world.
SB: Have you ever had any first hand experience with the paranormal?
BT: I am a very very rational and grounded person and certainly would not want any ghosts in my life. I only believe what I see or makes sense to me. But I had two creepy things happen to me that I can’t really explain. In Serbia they still have the habit over there that when a person dies they have to cover all the mirrors in the room, cover them up with black cloth right away that moment so the dead can’t reach for you. I didn’t know that before and when my grandmother died I was in another room and saw this black shadow passing in the reflection…
SB: Quite a lot of the film is shot in the dark, what challenges did this present?
BT: Tripping over cables, running into walls, stepping on rodents, not seeing the director - so many fun things! The darkness is all authentic, we never used 'day for night' shots. I think it helped a lot to be in that place with these conditions, it makes it look real in the film later.
SB: The creepy location is almost a character in itself. Was it a tough place to shoot in?
BT: It's so overwhelming that huge silo thing, it looks like a giant whale swallowing everything up. And once inside, it's this huge dark maze like a trap. The location was part of this abandoned deep underground mine complex, very eerie and haunted. Apart from the darkness and dust it was also freezing cold in there, but we all made it out alive, I think.
|Branko Tomovic in The Case of Mary Ford|
SB: The cast is quite small and the location is close knit. How was the shoot - did everyone gel quite seamlessly?
BT: It can be a bit chaotic to have constantly five people in the same frame, or including Mishka six. But with the constellation of our characters, I think it wasn't just one group, it's Kate and her two guys from the TV-crew, Ruth and Yuri are very much for themselves. That constellation is established right from the beginning when we are still in the woods, I thought it was important for Ruth and Yuri to be isolated from that group, for different reasons of course. And off-screen we really had a lot of fun together, I know it does not look like it on screen and it should not of course but we really had a great time doing it. It's great to do these high suspense scenes together as we all react differently to situations of fear but I also loved doing that darkly intimate scene between Yuri and Ruth and playing opposite Dervla who is truly fantastic there.
SB: This interview is for a horror website - do you remember the first horror movie that really scared you and why it made such an impact?
BT: The first horror movie I saw was 'Poltergeist' when I was 10, my older sister made me watch it. "Don't go into the light" will probably haunt me forever. I have just seen it recently again and think it's still brilliant in every way. I also grew up with all these classic monster movies like 'The Invisible Man' and 'The Creature from the Black Lagoon'. 'Invaders from Mars' also stayed with me for a long time as a kid because of those 'needle in the head' scenes. I am a huge genre fan and most recently I loved 'Maniac', and what a brilliant role for Elijah Wood.
SB: Entity will have a lot of people hiding behind the sofa - what scares you the most in movies/real life?
BT: Clowns and slugs.
SB: What can you tell us about your upcoming movie The Mad Scientist?
BT: It's a biopic about Nikola Tesla, the great Serbian-American inventor, from director Michael Anton. It follows his life upon his arrival in New York City in 1884, his battles with Thomas Edison, friendship with Mark Twain and his great inventions. Many people back then often perceived him as mad because of his eccentric behaviour and unconventional ideas and inventions for that period but I think he was just really way ahead of his time and the film will show him as the great genius and inventor he was.
SB: How have you prepared for playing a role that’s based on a real person?
BT: We are planning to shoot later this year and it's a great challenge to play a character that has really existed. There will be references and material out there already which describe him, his demeanour, his persona, his accent, his everything, so you have to stick with that and can’t leave it up to your imagination. It’s about being truthful and respectful to history, I'm very much looking forward to that.
SB: The Case of Mary Ford sounds particularly interesting. What can you tell us about your involvement in that movie?
BT: It's a historic horror film, set in 1910 in Greece and New York and tells the story of the Greek legend of the Vrykolakas, a vampire from the sea. The story is about Maria/Mary, a young Greek girl from a fishing village on the Black Sea. The village match maker betroths her to a young fisherman Adonis, who is in partnership with the true object of Maria's affection, Giorgos. One stormy night Giorgos and Adonis's boat capsizes and Adonis is lost at sea. With no source of income Giorgos sets of for America promising Maria he will return for her. She does not believe him. But instead, Adonis comes back from the dead - as a Vrykolakas. The creature claims he is not Adonis but a stranger... I play this creature. I think the film is very eery and different, and we are just about to start the film festival circuit.
SB: Entity is a horror that stays with you. Do you plan on reteaming with Steve Stone in the future?
BT: We talked already about a future collaboration, Steve is working on new ideas already, though I can't say anything else at this point. The only thing for sure though is that it will be a genre film again!
Entity is available to buy on UK DVD now. Click the cover below to order.
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