Interview: Scoot McNairy of "Monsters"

10/01/2010 Posted by Admin

Interview: Scoot McNairy of "Monsters"

By our guest blogger, Joel Crabtree

There are some people who can only be described simply as characters. I could tell that actor Scoot McNairy was one such person when he picked up the phone and said “Crabtree!” with a near impossible combination of laid-back enthusiasm.

Somewhat eccentric with thoughtfulness for his craft and that cool West Coast vibe, yes, Scoot McNairy is a character. But those “characters” you encounter more often than not make the best artists, storytellers or actors. Such is the case with McNairy.

His role as photojournalist Andrew in “Monsters” gave the actor a chance to explore what could have become his passion had he not pursued acting. The movie takes place six years after a NASA probe carrying specimens of alien life forms crashed over Mexico, creating an “infected zone” with monsters that stand about 100 meters tall. It’s Andrew’s job to get a tourist named Samantha (Whitney Able, McNairy’s real-life wife) safely through the infected zone to the U.S. border.

In a recent phone interview with, Scoot discussed his preparation for the role, how “Monsters” created a nearly endless playground for him as an actor, and his hopes that people will go into the film with an open mind.

Joel Crabtree: Earlier, I asked your wife how your method of acting is different from hers. And she wasn’t entirely sure, so I’m asking you--how does your method of acting differ from Whitney’s?

Scoot McNairy: I don’t know, for this particular style of film -- the whole film is improvised -- you know, you have to kind of switch up your methods. We had to do an extensive amount of back-story research, you know, and be 100 percent available to anything and everything that could happen. And you couldn’t rehearse anything, you just had to be 100 percent prepared every day when you went to work.

Now, there’s a flip-side to that. Having all these people in Mexico, you could talk to anybody. It made the playground for the actor 20 times bigger. I could walk up to anybody and talk to anybody I wanted to, and they [the crew] would run up and just get a release form after them. So it helps to have a world that big and it would be like on a studio lot [if you] could just walk around and just talk to any one of the extras and just incorporate them into the movie whenever you wanted. So, as far as our styles, I think our styles were pretty similar on this particular project. I know that she and I both did an extensive amount of back-story research in order to get ready for this film, more so than I had done for any other film.

JC: And I was going to ask, you play a journalist in the film--what kind of research did you do?

SM: Well, when I met with Gareth, Gareth asked me, “What’s a role that you are interested in playing, or that you haven’t played that you’ve always wanted to do?” And I said, I’ve wanted to play a war photography journalist, or a photo journalist, just because that’s kind of what I thought I wanted to do before I moved out to California to get into the entertainment business. So, I kind of knew a little bit about it, but the solitude of it was something that was unfamiliar to me. I spent two weeks up in Big Sur [Calif.,] in the woods, just by myself, no contact with any people.

And then I just did an extensive amount of reading, I pretty much got all the textbooks for, if you went to college for photojournalism, and just took photojournalism 101. I also watched a whole bunch of documentaries on photojournalists. And at the end of the day, I kind of took what they were doing and the way they would shoot and kind of their attitudes towards things -- like a lot of the photographers didn’t give a damn about what was going on there.  The only thing they cared about was getting a good photograph. I wanted to make him more of a vagabond than a CNN journalist--this is more of a freelance journalist.

JC: How did you guys get involved in the project in the first place?

SM: I had done a film -- or, I produced a movie -- called “In Search of a Midnight Kiss,” that I sold to Vertigo films in the U.K. When we went over there for the premiere, they met my girlfriend at the time, Whitney, and they pitched both of us to the director Gareth. He came over and stayed with us for  a week, and we brainstormed and flushed out some ideas and some story plots and stuff, and it was crazy--within three months we were off and running. I couldn’t believe these producers would finance a project like this. It was a skeleton crew going all over Mexico right at the peak of the drug lords. It just happened really fast and really organically.

JC: “Monsters” isn’t just a monster movie.  In what way does it distinguish itself from previous incarnations of the genre.

SM: It’s got a monster backdrop, but it's focused more on the relationship of these two people.  It's focused more on their dynamics and their struggles and what they’re going through.

The term "monsters" has so many different meanings, we leave it up for the audience to decide [who the monsters are]. I mean, are the monsters us, are the monsters the monster inside of us, is it the people, is it the military, is it the actual monster--you know what I mean? It had so many different layers going into it, you know, but coming out of it, I didn’t know it was going to be such a relationship film, that’s just what we focused on as the actors because that’s what we were going through. And in the end, it developed into more of a relationship movie and a character piece, than it did an in-your-face CGI monster film.

JC: I was going to ask, we mentioned the small crew earlier and how it was pretty much practically nonexistent--it was a really guerrilla style filmmaking--and I was wondering what some of the advantages were of having such a small crew?

SM: I love it. I mean, “Midngiht Kiss” I worked on with an incredibly small crew.  I’ve worked on this with a small crew, I’ve worked on one other project, and I’m heading off to London to go work on another film with these U.K. guys with this same kind of crew. It lends itself for so much more creativity, so much more involvement with the actor, so much more involvement with everybody around. You’re not so rushed--you have time to sit back and let things breathe and talk about things during the day when you’re in the middle of a shoot.

I know Stanley Kubrick worked with very small crews, as well as a lot of other great directors. And it  gives you an environment to work in that’s incredibly comfortable. It leaves yourself so much room for error, as well as your so much more willing to fall flat on your face working like this, because you know you’ve got time to fix it. And you’ve got time, as well, to try new things.

JC:  I was wondering when you were filming--you were in Mexico with this guerrilla style filmmaking--did you have any idea that this would be a movie with so much hype behind it?

SM: Uh, no. I had no idea. I mean, you know, I think me--and this probably sticks for Whitney as well--we’ve been in these situations before where there’s a lot of hype behind the film, and sometimes you set yourself up for letdown when the film gets bought by somebody and they decide not to release it or give it a bad release. I think the work is what’s so interesting to me. The shooting, the research of the characters, and all the stuff that goes into it beforehand. And on this project the shooting of it actually is fun, because you’re still developing new ideas and coming up with new things for the characters and stuff.

JC: I also was curious to know what other projects you have on the horizon?

SM: I have a film coming out that I just worked on this year with Steve Agee and Matt Berry -- Matt Berry’s a U.K. comedian actor -- called “Angry White Man.” And then I did another with this girl named Jocelin Donahue, who was in “House of the Devil,” and then I’m going off to do this movie with Vertigo again called “A Night in the Woods” in London.

JC: Do you have anything else you want to add?

SM: No man, just go see the film, and don’t go into it with any expectations. You know, just go into it completely available. Don’t try to know what movie you’re going to see. It’s almost best that people don’t read about it and go see it and see what happens.

"Monsters” is currently available on demand, and hits theaters Oct. 29. Below is the trailer, what are your thoughts?

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