We’ve got Casey Hudecki in today to talk about stunt work, acting and her latest film Devil’s Mile! This new movie is a crime/horror hybrid which is directed by Jospeh O’ Brien (Fresh Meat) and stars David Hayter (X-Men 2, Watchmen) and Maria del Mar (Price of Glory, Hannibal) alongside Casey. Read on for our interview!
Hello and thank you for taking the time out to do this interview with me. How are you?
Of course! I’m absolutely fabulous!
Could you first tell us a little about Devils Mile and your role within it? About what drew you to it?
Well first of all, to be perfectly honest, I think I would have been excited to work on anything that Mark and Joe pitched to me. I was a starving artist – and by that I mean starving to challenge myself as an actor. When I read the script, however, I realized that it is so much more than it appeared to be at first glance – and I love stories like that. Devil’s Mile is two stories in one. The movie starts out as a crime thriller gone wrong, with a trio of lost, bickering criminals who almost immediately find out they’ve kidnapped the wrong people. (This may expose me as not being a very good person, but as soon as I got to the part in the script when two Japanese school girls are revealed in the trunk I was sold!). From there things only get worse. The relationship between the criminals is already extremely volatile, so with car trouble and the hostages acting up, things completely unravel. It is probably the worst day of their pretty rocky lives, when their kidnapping flick meets the Horror movie. From there it is a non-stop desperate attempt to survive. It got very interesting for me when a character that has been unconscious reawakens and, not realizing he is now deep in a horror movie, is still pursuing his crime drama objectives – leaving my character to fight on two fronts.
By the end we discover yet another level to the script, shedding all new light on the action. If I didn’t love the script and Jacinta already, the end clinched it. I remember sitting down with Joe and talking out the end and just getting more and more excited about it. At that point, he didn’t know it, but there was no way he was choosing someone else to play Jacinta, he would have to pry that part from my cold dead hands… to overstate it only slightly! This movie has absolutely everything. Jacinta has a very juicy character arc; it’s a very physical part, which is great, and I love her journey as she takes on more and more responsibility, until by the end her psychological fortitude is both honourable and sadistic.
I must also add that Jacinta is not the two-dimensional ‘strong female character’ that we see too often in movies these days. I’m all for women kicking-ass, but they have to have some depth to them. The Devil’s Mile is rich with a great female cast that are each soft and strong in different ways. I congratulate Joe on that and am so proud to be a part his movie.
The mixture between gritty crime drama and Lovecraftian horror sounds pretty interesting, can you shed light on how those two elements interact?
Hmm, I may have gotten excited and answered all the questions in the first question. I will add that I am a fan of the psychological, Lovecraftian horror genre because, to me, there is nothing scarier than losing your grip on your own sanity. I love how this movie takes a known crime thriller plot and wraps it up in another genre – the more twists and turns the better! There is nothing so terrifying as the horror of the mind, and the triumph of the story is in Jacinta’s ability to comprehend the bad cosmic joke being played on them in the horror movie, and use it to accomplish her original goal of ‘getting the bad guy’ from the crime plot. That’s what I meant by psychological fortitude – especially considering she has the strength to not only do this once, but to do it every. Single. Time.
How does this Lovecraftian horror manifest itself?
As with most horror movies, the horror reveals itself in stages with the characters not catching on at first because they’re too involved in blaming each other for the botched kidnapping. Eventually it is very clear that the characters cannot escape the road and the vengeful demon version of a dead, kidnapped, Japanese schoolgirl is out for their blood. Apart from the basic desperate struggle to survive, each character’s hell is quite personal as they are faced with their own past choices. The characters are forced to question whether or not everything happens for a reason, and if so, are they getting the punishment they deserve?
The Devil’s Mile is rich with a great female cast that are each soft and strong in different ways. I congratulate Joe on that…
– Casey Hudecki
Talking about horror, you’re in David Hayter’s Wolves aren’t you? How did that come about?
Ha ha ha – speaking of how my acting and stunt worlds collide – they had to cast someone who was both a strong actor and a stunt performer for the “Truck Stop Girl” and it turned out both the stunt coordinator (Paul Rapovski, who I work with on Lost Girl) and David thought of me for this part! It was probably the most hilarious audition of my life. I hooker’d myself up, and when I got in the room David said “I’m going to read with her!” In the Devil’s Mile David and I had quite an epic fight and so when it came to the part of the audition when the Truck Stop Girl gets beaten, David walked up to me, ‘punched’ me in the stomach and threw me against the wall. Needless to say it shocked the audition panel, and I can’t imagine what the other actresses thought, waiting outside to audition! I was proud to be a part of David’s movie – and I think Paul did a great job with the stunts!
Before I ask you about your work as a stunt actress I would just like to congratulate you on the blog that you run. You write a lot about teaching stunts and about the process of performing stunts themselves and I admit that I spent quite a lot of time really interested in the approaches and techniques that you describe. Do you enjoy the writing and blogging side of your career? How come you chose to do that?
Oh, thank you so much! You always wonder if anyone reads those! I have been a Fight Directors Canada Certified Instructor for seven years, and I’ve been teaching stage combat for almost 20. I also have a stage combat company that teaches youth classes. I am passionate about the art of physical storytelling, and helping actors embody their characters’ power. For kids, I think it’s a great way to stay active, learn discipline and partnership and connect physically with theatre. I blog because I like to try to spread awareness about stage and screen combat as an art, but also as the sneaky lie that it is. There’s a thrill seeking element, for sure, but every risk is very calculated, and you will never be so safe as you are fighting a properly trained fighter. I might have liked to be a dancer – because it’s the same thing – learning a choreography and performing it with abandon. But in another life I would also love to be a writer. When I first started teaching I got a glimpse of the joy of finding a way to articulate an idea to each different mind, and it took me deeper into what I teach. I would love to blog more.
I started acting as kid, and my first experience with a Fight Director came when I was 16 when I had to perform a sword fight in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). I fell instantly in love with it and three months later I certified my first stage combat level. It has been a part of my life ever since, and once you get to a certain level as a performer, teaching is the obvious next step. I resisted it for quite a while, but I found I really love teaching. I believe that actors and stunt performers all need to know how to keep themselves and their scene partners safe on set or on stage. I hear too many stories of people getting injured due to ignorance, or the arrogance of ‘not needing a stunt coordinator’ (another reason I blog). Actors can only commit fully to the performance of a fight if they understand the safety of the technique, and since there’s such little time to rehearse in film and tv, they should come equipped with a physical vocabulary. Since I understand the acting side as well as the stunt side, I think I can translate the skill requirement easily one way or the other.
You’ve had a lot of deserved success as a stunt performer, I came to Wanted when researching and I was pretty impressed. I’m curious, did that short come about primarily as an opportunity to demonstrate skills? Or was it perhaps driven by story first?
When we started Riot A.C.T. We met every week just to throw choreography together – some fights turned into short films. Wanted started with Simon Fon and I messing around with knives. I think we changed the choreography a million times, and the story evolved from the fight and also the location. We definitely shot the shorts as marketing tools, but also to play around with how we liked to shoot action, and to try out some choreography concepts (like how some of the fight is improvised – an idea stolen from some sequences of Donnie Yen’s knife fight from Kill Zone). I am generally a strong proponent for evolving fights from story, but in this case Wanted started as more of a choreography study.
I’m really interested in the relationship between your stunt work and acting. I would assume, perhaps incorrectly, that the two disciplines are very different but do they cross over at all?
I believe stunts and acting cross over quite a bit – certainly for me. Just to be clear: there are all kinds of stunt performers, and many specialize in specific areas like gymnastics, horse back riding, car stunts, fire, the list is endless. Stunt people are quite a varied group. My specialty is fight choreography, especially swords, and for that I believe you need to act. They say that ‘acting is re-acting’, and for stunt people that’s even more true. You need to be able to sell pain reactions or the fight looks robotic. I also believe that you need to have a sense to synergy and rhythm with your fight partner, and that is more of an art than anything. On the other side, the more actors understand the physical side of things the more competent they look holding a sword or a gun, and the more fully they can embody their character. That said, there are some stunts actors should not and cannot do, for so many reasons. I have gone on at length about this in blogs, but simply put there are areas where they cross over, and there are areas were they do not. I love doing both. As a stunt performer I get to be part of the crew, and solve problems and get rough, but I don’t get to delve into the character’s journey. As an actor I get to be the one to go on that emotional ride, but often you’re not allowed to get your hands dirty. Luckily for me on the Devil’s Mile I got the best of both worlds, and that’s how I like it!
You need to have a sense to synergy and rhythm with your fight partner…
How involved in the plot and characters of a project are you? Are these large concerns when performing stunts or are they background details which do not particularly concern you?
As a stunt performer my job is to do the risky action and mimic the actor’s physicality; generally they don’t want me involved in the plot or the characters (though I am always interested). I have been lucky enough to start stunt coordinating, and the plot and the character’s are very important to that job. The fight should be sourced from the character’s impulses and intentions so you have to understand their physicality and their motivations in the story. Every scene is built around a conflict, in fight scenes these conflicts play out physically, but they’re still stories. It is possible to just put flashy moves together without knowing the story, but that is not the way I like to work.
How much of a relationship do you have with the actress you are doubling for? Have you used your relationship with actresses in order to help inform your own acting work on other projects? Have you learnt from them?
I try to learn from everyone on set, and I have learned so much from the actresses I’ve doubled for, especially Anna Silk. What I value most from watching her work is her professionalism. She has an incredible workload on the show, but she is always prepared and always kind to everyone on set. This is so important for the lead of a show, because she helps set the tone of the production as friendly and efficient. I have immense respect for her.
And finally; having talked about your blog writing, acting and stunt work, both your own and as a teacher, is there any other artistic area that you would like to explore? And also is there a particular new direction within those that I mentioned which you would like to take?
I wear a lot of different hats in this industry, but they all feed each other. At this point I am simply looking to do more of each of them! As with the Devil’s Mile I’m always happiest when my worlds collide, so I’m always eager for the next character that gets to throw down!
Fantastic, thank you very much for chatting with me today!
Thanks so much for your very well informed and interesting questions! I’m very excited for audiences to finally get to see this movie!
I hope you enjoyed the interview, Casey definitely made for a great guest!
I’ll leave you with the trailer for Devil’s Mile here: http://youtu.be/2r5iru-rJ0Q
And the IMDb page here!: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2018136/