Rory Kinnear explains the end of the series A24 Men

Spoiler alert: Don’t read if you haven’t seen The Guys now in theaters.

In the new A24 horror movie “Men,” Rory Kinnear plays the main character – or, more precisely, the characters. Kinnear depicts a show of male characters inhabiting a secluded English village – from a moderately well-behaved country house owner to a rude teenage boy to a ravenous chaplain of the “Green Man,” a figure from resurrected pagan mythology.

As Jessie Buckley’s Harper, vacationing in the country after the tragic death of her abusive husband James (Paapa Essiedu), comes across these numbers, interactions escalate, becoming more and more dangerous, until she finds herself trapped in her home and fighting for her life. It all leads to a wild final sequence full of physical horror in which Kinnear, as his various characters, gives birth to himself – and finally ends with James’ birth, still haunting Harper even after death.

Playing multiple characters on a single project is often seen as a way for actors to showcase their versatility. But when director Alex Garland first contacted Kinnear about playing the role, he was intrigued but worried it would become nothing more than a gimmick. Before signing on to the project, he wanted to make sure he’d be able to represent these characters as embodied humans in their own right, even if the audience was constantly wondering if they were actually human.

“I met Alex and said to him, ‘I think the idea of ​​that is really important in terms of the theme,'” Kinnear says. “”So I don’t want to become an exercise in acting or sort of creative. All of these characters have to be within the landscape and be integral. From this countryside you’re going to create with the same clarity in terms of the natural world as the people inside. So as long as you let me create these characters completely, even if they’ve been on screen for a very short time, I’ll be prepared for it. And that’s how it worked.”

Before the movie is shown in theaters, diverse Talk to Kinnear about getting into character(s), working with himself and Buckley and unpacking the mysterious ending of the movie.

You haven’t done a lot of horror movies. How did it feel to be working in the genre, and essentially playing a horror movie monster, for the “guys”?

He’s obviously into the genre, but he’s so much fun with the genre, and it overturns the expectations he sets. Which is why I think Alex loves working in genre, because it gives him rules that he can beat. And the separation between what the audience thinks is going to happen and what they expect, how that veers away from it, where it kind of matches their expectations and where it veers off is kind of what he finds interesting about that. So, especially the last part of the movie, it’s clearly a nod to every horror movie’s moment where the ending has to deliver what’s set. But this is presented in such an unusual, dream-like, sometimes surreal way that I felt like we were saying something about the themes that the movie was also touching on, and doing it in a really special way. And to watch, it’s a unique movie, with very unusual and unique characteristics that overlap with some horror genres, but making it, I didn’t feel like we were making a horror movie.

In this movie, you play at least eight different characters. How did you prepare for that as an actor?

I went away and wrote small biographies for each of them, and sent them to Alex, who read and loved them. I don’t remember if he made suggestions at the time, but I then sent them to the head of hair, makeup, and costumes. And we were almost able to start the process together. A lot of times, when you come in as an actor, you’re kind of led down a path that’s already, if not fully worked out, then surely the direction they expect you to go is already set. While this felt like we were all progressing from the script. But we all started the journey into each of these characters together at the same time.

The movie leaves the nature of your characters, and how they relate to some mystery. When you were playing these characters, were you interested in being a chameleon and having radically different encounters on each of them?

It’s kind of a microcosm of one’s career or understanding of acting, this movie to me. The fun thing about acting is that you can explore the emotional outback of many different people, many different people’s experiences, and many different people’s opinions and attitudes. But basically after a while, you’ll realize that they’ve all been played through your perspective, and how inescapable you are as an actor. This will always be the bedrock of the characters you create, no matter how widely they differ, or how remote they are from your own experience. There is always a part of you being created around it.

screenshot / A24

The most watched character in the movie is Jeffrey, who occupies an interesting place in the movie as the only village man to sympathize with Harper, even if that changes in the end. While you were playing him, what did you think of his motivations compared to the rest of your characters?

He’s the only character Alex has given him, or at least given to the public, a bit of their history. I understood this line about his father being a distant and cold little dad, and knew a little bit about the fact that he had a dog. These are the only aspects of some sort of history for any of the characters I played. So I had to make sure that I crystallized the history of all the same characters. The steady accumulation of all these interactions that Harper has is basically the bedrock of the film. But for each of my characters, Harper wasn’t a significant moment in their lives. So you had to focus on the important drivers of their lives behind the scenes with Harper. This is kind of the same job you would in any job, any character you’re trying to develop. But trying to jump between multiple characters in one day meant you had to maintain your wits.

Since this movie has such a small acting, and two of the actors aren’t really part of the main story, your only partners in the scene are yourself and Jesse Buckley. What was it like working with her?

Upon taking the job, you knew you were going to have to deal with who was playing Harper. And we had this rehearsal before we started shooting which was two weeks, basically, where we were shooting, but it was actually at Alex’s dad’s house. We’d kind of sit in the sitting room every day just discussing her and discussing the topics that were brought up before her. But it was so immediate, that feeling that we did so well with the three of us, Alex, and Jesse and I, and that we all had a reasonably different approach, but they worked so well together. And we immediately felt comfortable texting, teasing each other, and challenging each other in a really creative and supportive way. By the time we started setting up, we spent so much time with each other, we were so open with each other, and also, we had so much fun with each other that the limits of our creativity didn’t feel like they were there.

How did you handle it during the most disturbing scenes? I think especially of the scene with the priest in the bathroom where he assaulted her. How do you deal with that as an actor?

We worked in sequence, and the fact that Alex chose to shoot this way meant that as the movie got more intense, the movie got more intimate, the movie got more diverse, and weirder, we knew each other really well by then, we did many other scenes together, So that we had a really healthy approach to the thrust of the piece. If you treat someone like Jesse and you go up and do a scene where you bring a lobster claw around their neck, you’ll find it funny the first time you do it, but no problem. Because we were both committed to making it as impressive as we hoped it would be. And we basically had a full night shoot to do this scene, so we had time to really explore it. We all felt so comfortable with each other, and with each other’s support, we were so happy to tread each other’s toes.

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Jesse Buckley and Rory Kinnear in “Men”
screenshot / A24

Let’s talk about that ending. In a board I saw, I said that the sequence in the original script I received was a bit different than the one depicted. What has changed?

It was not a birth sequence. They were just spikes. So he became the next one and it was like walking through this little house of mirrors where I turned into these different characters. So it made it more primitive and urgent and very formative for all of these characters. Alex wanted to challenge himself and I think the stakes are higher with that. It is definitely distinctive and bold.

What was the actual experience of shooting that ending? Were you totally put in prosthetics for it? What influences did you have to work with?

For the green guy, the first character to go into labor, that was real makeup. And so that was kind of a seven-hour workday to get ready for that before you started your days shooting, or night photography. I’ve had a self-contained prosthetic belly. And then once we really got into the birth stuff, it was cold and covered in goop. And you do it for several nights on the trot, always realizing that when you at least gave birth to Jeffrey, you could be inside and you might be a little warmer. So there was always this promise to keep going, and finally, you might be able to warm up a bit.

During the birth of each of your characters, how did you act in this sequence, changing roles in quick succession?

Each one is born, I wanted to sum up what I consider to be a basic primal instinct. When you meet a newborn, you realize that he really has his own personality, very different from the other newborn baby next door. We all come with some kind of inbuilt basics, and I think that kind of doesn’t change in everything one does as an actor, no matter how hard they try. I feel like this sequence at the end sort of sums it up.

I really don’t know what to think at the end. And I enjoy not knowing in a way. But is there a definitive answer about what’s going on, one that Garland might not want to tell the public outright? Or do you have your own understanding of what exactly happens at the end, and what your personalities are at the end?

Well, it is clear that Alex prefers his films to be understood individually and not give any hard and fast explanations and rules. They’re all really rich, too. And this film in particular is very dense, both in terms of image and in terms of subject matter, and the response of each individual audience to the film will be based on the experiences they have had about these events, whether it is a personal trauma, whether it is a gender policy, whether it is simply an attempt to escape from your past or yourself. [At a press screening]It was cool being in a room with people watching it for the first time. And it’s probably one of the only times that a large number of people are going to watch the movie without any preconceived notion of what it’s about, or definitely the ending, you know, I imagine that coming out soon. But I mean, talking to people afterward, talking to those who’ve seen it, everyone has a completely different point of view. Obviously some of the themes overlap, but what goes with people says as much about them as it does about Alex and the rest of us.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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