Canadian actor Aaron Poole has had a rich career working in both film and TV, but his latest role has taken him to a place he’s never entered: The Void. In The Void, Aaron plays Daniel Carter; a police officer tasked with protecting the civilians inside a hospital when a group of hooded figures surround the building. As madness starts to ensue within the building too, Daniel must tackle the physical nightmares inside and outside, plus an inner turmoil that is equally as difficult to handle.
In this interview Aaron talks about what it was like working in the wacky world created by Astron-6’s Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie, how difficult it was working with the film’s incredible practical effects and the importance of emotional depth in horror films.
CinemaChords: Do you prefer working in TV or film?
Aaron Poole: I prefer film. When being given the opportunity to do 10 episodes for 1 character I did love how extended the arc could be and how deep you could go, but, I like the statement of film. I really like that you have an hour and a half or 2 hours to decide what the theme is that you’re going to explore. It’s a great amount of time to spend with people working on something, too.
CC: Do you find it easy to move between the different genres that you’ve worked in?
AP: In Canada, the films that we make have to be a certain budget and genre films tend to be what is made now, because you can sell them internationally without any recognisable name in them. I think that has contributed to the fact that I have done a few of them and I’m really happy that I’ve done the ones that I’ve done. Last Will and Testament really divides a lot of people, but I think it’s really high concept. I love The Conspiracy; Chris McBride is a genius I think. I think I’ve only done one rom-com, and I don’t know how quickly I’d go back to that genre *laughs*.
CC: The Void is a great film and I’ve been raving about it to everyone since I saw it in October!
AP: Oh, that’s awesome! Thank you.
CC: How did you get involved with it?
AP: Casey Walker is really responsible for the film getting made. He invited me and then, at one point, there were complications with the financing and things got delayed. He was able to keep most of the cast together and then 4 or 5 months later we were up and running in Ontario. Casey introduced me to Steven (Kostanski) and Jeremy (Gillespie), so it’s his fault that I’m in it. *laughs*.
AP: Yeah I still haven’t seen every single one, but I absolutely love Manborg and Biocop. I haven’t seen Father’s Day, but I love The Editor. I loved Astron-6, so it was really exciting for me.
CC: Did you expect The Void to be so different – in terms of tone – to their films as Astron-6?
AP: You’re right to underscore that, because I think a lot of audiences will come into The Void hoping that there’s that ironic and de-constructed video art that Astron-6 does so well and it’s a little off-putting possibly when they get The Void. But, I think The Void accomplishes a lot in its own right.
CC: I think Astron-6 fans will be surprised in a good way. The pair needed to deviate themselves from Astron-6 to carve their own film-maker identities. Doing something more serious like The Void is a good way to do that.
AP: I think so, too. That happens a lot with large groups of musicians that play in a band, but then they need the solo projects to express other aspects.
CC: Do you think it’s important for audiences to know that The Void is a Canadian film and not an American one?
AP: I don’t know if it’s important, but it’s certainly something that I’m proud of. I’m really happy that all of us were Canadian and we got it financed through Canadian private investment and through the help of governmental rebates. I don’t know if this film would have easily been made in the States; it’s a different ecosystem.
CC: Do you think there’s more freedom to make bolder films like The Void in Canada?
AP: I think the market pressure is greater in the States. The buying power becomes like this board of directors that you’re constantly having to cower down to, so that’s why especially in horror you get a lot of these homogenised choices and these standard beats that we’ve come to expect. We were lucky to have something so off-putting as The Void created. The more art-centred and arts-friendly community in the Canadian industry is conducive to that.
CC: What appealed to you when you first read the script for The Void?
AP: I think because it was a nightmare and that I knew it was going to be practical effects. It made me feel like I was going to start dreaming the nightmare in the beginning and be chased all the way to the end, and that was exciting. It felt really physical and visceral, and I knew that however it was shot or lit it would be easily translated to the audience.
CC: What do you tend to look for in a character before you agree to play their role?
AP: I look for collaborators that are willing to create contradictions and complexity. I don’t mind easily discernible silhouettes of characters, but I love being able to complicate them. In this case, I loved the silent relationship between Carter and Munroe’s character. I thought that was a beautiful touch.
CC: You and Daniel Fathers’ character Vincent had a very interesting relationship, too. Did you both work on your butting-of-heads before filming?
AP: Daniel has a background in the military, so he’s much more of a macho man than I am. I kind of hate macho men personally, but I loved Daniel. It was really easy for us to find ways to push each other’s buttons and so that chemistry hopefully comes across.
CC: Your character Daniel had a lot to deal with personally and then to have to cope with the supernatural madness that is unleashed, as well as Vincent being in your face. Daniel had a lot to handle.
AP: Yeah! I was really lucky that Steven and Jeremy were open to exploring the insanity of having to deal with the reality of the situation. After the first meeting I really wanted all things to be affecting us at all times in a very realistic way. I think that a lot of visceral energy that is in the movie is because they allowed us to be emotionally authentic.
CC: Were you and the rest of the cast free to let your characters develop organically, or did Steven and Jeremy have a clear idea of what they wanted you guys to feel and react in every scene?
AP: Interestingly, the script builds this maze and they chose their rats very carefully when casting the actors, but they just let us at it. They had the parameters of the scenes very clear in the script. So they knew that this monster would be here and this hospital hallway would be this long, this door is locked and there are psychos on the other side. We were allowed to behave how we wanted to in the circumstances, as long as we said their words. In a way a lot of the direction emotionally was done by the time we showed up on set.
CC: Did you find it to be challenging working with the practical effects?
AP: I loved it. I don’t have a ton of green screen experience, but the little that I have done is challenging, because you’re not dealing with the reality of the things right in front of you. The practical effects were actually horrific to look at and exciting, too. That energy then translated to the energy of the film. I enjoyed the process, I prefer practical effects to green screen.
CC: Do you have a favourite scene from The Void?
AP: I really like the scene when Daniel’s character first appears in the hospital and things really start to go crazy in the hospital room off-screen. So we’re dealing with a gun-touting and axe-wielding psychotic, there’s a growing group of cult members outside the hospital and there’s something growing in the other room. *laughs* The mortal terror in about 15 minutes grows exponentially. I think that’s my favourite sequence.
CC: I think the whole film builds and builds, and you don’t expect it to go as far as it goes. Without spoiling, I will say that the some of the final imagery is just crazy.
AP: It’s transcendent. That’s what I loved about the whole movie; it got hallucinogenic in its insanity. I keep saying that the film is like John Carpenter and Frank Zappa and that’s the attraction for me. I love the dread and horror that gets into an existential threat.
CC: There are some very real and physical horrors in The Void, but your character has to deal with a lot of inner turmoil. How did you prepare for this?
AP: It was a combination of real life and imagined circumstances, because of the visceral quality of the film and because of just how much I naturally love Kathleen [Munroe]. I think it was easy for me to take that admiration for her and goose it with some of the things that I’ve experienced in the past.
CC: Do you think it’s important for horror films to have this emotionality at their core?
AP: I prefer it. I think it’s important, because violence without any emotional context is either pornographic or it’s propaganda. It’s like super refined sugar. I think there is an ill-effect on our culture with violence without emotional consequences. Artistically, I prefer any kind of extremity with emotional authenticity. On a simple level, I think it makes for a better story. It’s scarier, too. If the point is to face fears and shine a lights into dark corners, it’s scarier if it’s more human. What moments from The Void stuck out for you?
CC: I loved one scene where the lights are flashing crazily and the music is extremely intense, then there’s a monster growing in the middle of it all. I remember a lot of great shots showing the hooded figures outside looking very foreboding. They’re all over the marketing, so I was excited to see what they’d be like in the film itself.
AP: I think they’ve done a really great job cutting trailers and making those figures iconic in the marketing. I’m really happy with the number of people that are seeing the trailer and I hope this translates to people seeing Jeremy and Steve’s work.
CC: When I spoke to Steven and Jeremy about the significance of the triangles in The Void, they were very vague. What do you think they represent?
AP: I haven’t read into it personally. I think that the way that I interacted with it in the film is just as one would to a religious or spiritual icon. It clearly had significance to a scary group of people, like the swastika or the crucifix. For some people the Om/Aum symbol in Yoga is terrifying *laughs*. I just took it for what it was. The triangle is used in a lot of ceremonies, so it can be ominous or beautiful, and in The Void it’s definitely ominous.
CC: What scares you? What are some of the horror films that really frightened you?
AP: The ones that I watched most memorably on VHS were the original Poltergeist and Halloween. But for me, the black void of space and the threat of other-nothingness in 2001: A Space Odyssey has a sense of dread that permeates the experience. The original Alien also worked with the nothingness of space in a similar way. Being out of the element, like in deep sea or deep space are pretty terrifying.
CC: Are you excited for Alien: Covenant?
AP: I’m cautious. I’m cautious for all the remakes that are happening. I’m happy that it’s happening, but I don’t think I’m excited. But, I’ll definitely be there opening weekend. I’m not one of those people that are enjoying the trailers they’ve been putting out and those extended scenes of camaraderie. It didn’t pique my interest, but we’ll see. It’s such an iconic franchise.
CC: Would you ever direct a film?
AP: Yeah, I’m actually currently working on a story. I’ve been invited to help develop some stuff, but nothing has really gelled, because I’ve been busy performing.
CC: What are you working on next?
AP: I’ve just started working on my first networked TV show and there are a couple of films I’m working on that are a bit too early to talk about, but hopefully you’ll be seeing one before the end of the year.
CC: The Void 2?
AP: *laughs* Yes, can you imagine?
CinemaChords would like to thank Aaron for his time. The Void is out now in the UK and will be released on Digital HD on 7th April, before arriving on Blu-ray and DVD on 24th April.