Harpoon is part of the official selection of the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival, running in Montreal, Quebec. I had the chance to talk with one of the stars of the film, Munro Chambers (Turbo Kid, Knuckleball) about the film, his character, and the human condition.
You can keep an eye out for a full film review, and click here to read my interview with Harpoon‘s writer/director, Rob Grant.
Kelly McNeely: From what I understand, you guys had three days of rehearsal to work on the film before you started. What was that process like and how did that help?
Munro Chambers: It was huge. Because it’s such an intimate film and such a small cast, I think those three days were crucial just to really hammer out the details of the three characters’ history, and just our chemistry of being three best friends who’ve known each other for years, and all of their dirty laundry which they get out on this boat during this crazy ride of a film.
You really need to know how to make each other tick, and it was a lot of fun to find out that with Christopher and Rob, to kind of just play around and talk about certain situations and how we think each other would be, and really identify each character’s faults.
KM: Do you feel like you really got to live in Jonah a bit, or was that a very different character for you?
MC: I’ve played characters similar to him. What I loved about the script – without giving too much away – is each character has a surface identity that is very evident as you view the film, and they kind of reveal their true colors as it goes on.
The first reveal of Jonah is the smart one, the weak one physically. Emily has all the heart and all the compassion, and Christopher Gray’s character, he has all the rage and the anger, he has all the strength. And as you see the film progress, you really see who they truly are as people. As you kind of strip away all this surface stuff that they’re putting on or that the world is projecting on them. It was really interesting to read.
KM: As you were saying, again, the characters are really fantastic and really in-depth, did you think that any of the characters were really kind of the “bad guy”? Was it all of them? They’re very complex characters who do some terrible things, right?
MC: I think they all take their turn, I think it really shows the human condition that anyone’s capable of anything, and it doesn’t matter who you are, and that’s kind of what they’re alluding to with all these characters is that throughout the film you may tag this person as the villain right off the top, and then halfway through, like “well it could be this person”, and then later “well maybe it’s THIS person!”.
It’s very, very interesting how Rob set it up, Rob and Mike Peterson, how they set it up. And that’s what made it fun for us. We each got to take turns playing multiple versions of these characters in a different storyline – they weren’t in a different film. And with how they shot it, it feels like almost four or five different genres packed into one film. And that made it really exciting for us to really play and get creative with all of our years of experience trying to flex those muscles, which was just such a joy.
KM: I know you filmed the interiors in order, it kind of ends up coming out a little bit like a stage play, doesn’t it?
MC: Well that’s exactly it. That’s why the three days were even that much more important because it’s just continuous. I think Rob really pegged it out to be some kind of Seinfeld episode because all the characters in Seinfeld are never really good people, but they somehow make it work within their friendship and it kind of blows up every once and awhile. But it really is a little bit of a stage play, and you could actually play it that way, especially because it’s so intimate a setting.
KM: It would be really interesting to see on stage, I think. It’d be a very complex one to do. I know you filmed in Calgary in the winter. As a fellow Canadian, how was that terrible weather when you’re trying to be tropical?
MC: It was alright. I’ve filmed in Alberta before, I did Knuckleball in Edmonton, so that was one of my first experiences there. We actually got lucky that it wasn’t that bad. But it was really nice, we got to brave that cold together.
Chris is from New York, and Emily lives in LA but she’s from Minnesota. So we all knew what the cold was like. We had to kind of play like we were in Florida or some sunny place until we got to Belize. But it wasn’t bad. I love that – working here in Canada – although in this film we didn’t get to showcase the amazing scenery, you know, the places here. But I love filming in Canada.
KM: I love that there’s so much going on in Canada, film-wise. It’s fantastic that they’re really expanding the industry. There’s so much happening here now, which is great.
MC: It’s huge! It’s the best. It’s great!
KM: When filming the interiors – again, filming in order – how did that kind of help with the progression of how everything goes – without saying too much?
MC: It makes it easier. You have a reference to the atmosphere and the feel for each character, where we were with the highs and lows, and just little technical things shot-wise and theme-wise as we progress. And that’s what was really really nice when we were doing, you know, part comedy, part horror, part drama, part thriller, we really had to pick our punches there.
It’s always great when you get to do shots in order because you never get to! But like you said, Rob really wanted to make sure it happened that way, that we got the sense that ok, we’re going to have this as chronologically as we can. Just in case you miss something if you go to the very end of the film and then things don’t make sense at the beginning.
KM: Those themes that you’re touching on, with friendship and betrayal, everyone’s kind of pushed to their limit. Why do you think as people we’re so fascinated by stories of this dark, depraved side of humanity?
MC: It’s been debated so much over the years, you know, good and evil. There are good people and bad people, and like “I would never do this, I would never do that, I love this person to death, I would never say anything bad about them!”. And I think it’s just showing the human condition in its rawest form.
It’s exaggerated, of course, and turned into a film, but it’s the perfect – in my mind – the perfect way to turn on your best friends in a confined area and air your dirty laundry. It’s an exaggerated version of what you’d do to them. I think it’s really great to see that, it’s almost as if anybody is capable of anything.
Even the people who seem like the villain or seem like a dark person or a mean person or an evil person, it’s not who they seem. So someone may look innocent and the hero, but they may have some dirty laundry behind them that’s actually not very good, but there’s also people that on the surface they seem one way but they’re not, and they’re the heart of their own storyline. It shows both sides, both colors of the human condition I think.
KM: And I think there’s something within these characters that we can all recognize within ourselves as well. There’s characteristics, there’s traits, like “oh yeah I’ve probably thought this” or “I’ve probably done that at some point”
MC: Yeah I hope so. There’s a couple that you hope you don’t! There’s a couple like “well, I don’t wanna be that one”. But I still think you can have it very exaggerated, but on the surface level it’s kind of a little Houdini trick we play. Which I think is nice.
KM: When you first got the script, what brought you into the project or drew your attention to it and make you really go, like, “oh I wanna do this one”?
MC: It was when Mike Peterson sent me the script and said “look at Jonah”. And when I looked at Jonah I was like “yyyeah!”. I think he’s such a complex character. I feel like a broken record, but, it’s true, I loved his switch.
All the characters have a switch, but I really liked how he seems like this very frail, hyper-intelligent kind of black sheep of his own family character, a guy who is kind of just trying to keep the peace most of the time. And as the story goes on, you really see that there’s something else stilling inside of them, and he’s got a lot of stuff going on that I can get out.
KM: For audiences, what do you hope that people get out of the movie or that they’re walking away with?
MC: Well I hope they’re shocked! For one. I hope they enjoy the ride. It’s unique and I really think that’s a very, very, very positive thing. Especially in filmmaking today.
You don’t want to do anything cookie-cutter anymore. There’s the cookie cutter recipe that you know is going to work and you put it out there and it’s very straightforward. And I think it’s so interesting when you get to take a very unique script, unique characters, and you kind of mash up genres and say “ok let’s see if this works”. Let’s put all of our talent and our years of experience and knowledge to the test and see what we can create.
We worked really hard on this, I think Rob did a phenomenal job filming it, and Emily is incredible in this, so is Christopher Gray. So you know, I hope they just enjoy the ride and are picking up what we’re putting down.