Shutter : Joshua Jackson Interview

Gripping from start to finish, SHUTTER immediately draws the audience into the story of newly weds Ben (Joshua Jackson) and Jane (Rachael Taylor) who appear to be embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. Instead of a conventional honeymoon, we find them taking a trip to Tokyo where Ben, a successful photographer, has an exciting and prestigious fashion assignment.

However, as soon as they land, the couple are involved in a terrible accident while driving along an eerie mountain road, apparently killing a young Japanese woman. Yet they can’t find any trace of her. Was she real or just an apparition? The horrific smash sets the tone for this haunting story. Nothing goes right. They find strange, ghostly images on all their photographs and it seems as though someone or something is trying to destroy them. While Ben is familiar with Tokyo, Jane is a stranger to the city. Feeling lost and isolated, she learns about the phenomenon of spirit photography (images of the dead captured on film) and is relentlessly determined to unravel the mystery before it is too late.
Beautifully shot and stylishly directed by Masayuki Ochiai from a screenplay by Luke Dawson, the tension builds throughout as the plot takes highly unexpected twists and turns.

SHUTTER is based on the 2004 Thai film of the same name. Directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom, it became the highest grossing film in Thailand.

Joshua Jackson has been acting since he was ten years old and became famous to audiences around the world with his role in the long running television series, DAWSON’S CREEK.

He starred in the West End production of David Mamet’s play, A LIFE IN THE THEATRE, with Patrick Stewart.

Jackson will be starring in Fox’s new sci-fi TV series, FRINGE, produced by J.J. Abrams. His next film is ONE WEEK.

Looking handsome in jeans, a gray tee shirt and black jacket, the actor sat down for the following interview in a dark corner of Hollywood’s famous Pantages Theatre, once owned by billionaire Howard Hughes. The theater is a suitable location for the interview as it is reportedly haunted by the ghost of Hughes himself!

Q: Why did this movie interest you?
A: “I love the style and the story. The original SHUTTER was a Thai film but doing this version for a Japanese director and Japanese filmmakers was wonderful and exciting. There is a certain Japanese style for this genre of films which has always interested me. It is very different from films made in the West. Also, I think the idea of spirit photography is fascinating and a great hook for audiences. They don’t really know what they’re seeing because we don’t have a cultural touchstone for that kind of phenomenon. They are presented with the question: ‘Is his wife crazy or is there actually something strange going on?’ The movie draws the audience into a world they do not really know.”

Q: What kind of guy do we see when we meet Ben?
“I hope the audience will see a man who is in love and on his honeymoon with his beautiful wife as they start off their lives together. He’s a photographer and is just stepping into the place in his life where he is doing well in his career. He is his own boss with great assignments like this one in Tokyo. He is becoming successful.”

Q: There is more to Ben than meets the eye. He is quite enigmatic. Was that interesting for you?
“The various shades of his character will be surprising to everyone I hope. That is why these thrillers or horror films are fun for an actor (I have done quite a few) because generally, the characters go through more radical shifts than in other kinds of drama. Often the situations they find themselves in are more intense than usual. By necessity in this genre, characters cannot begin and end in the same place. They often reveal things about themselves that you would never imagine. In horror films there is the potential of doing something much more broad and shocking than in regular dramas. There are always red herrings and you can lead audiences down the wrong path and keep them wondering. ”

Q: How did you portray Ben?
“Without giving away too much of the plot, I can say that he may not always be telling the truth. We do not know who he really is. As an actor it was interesting to explore his character because I have found that you never know when the best liars are lying. They are clever about hiding their deception. I think there are moments where Ben flares to anger faster than people who are genuinely happy would do. We played with that idea but did it subtly so that it was not too obvious.”

Q: Did you know a lot about photography before taking the role?
“I knew a little but I had to brush up and learn to load film and look like I really knew what I was doing so I shadowed a couple of Japanese fashion photographers while I was in Tokyo. I am comfortable with film and light because that is my job but it was great to have the time to be with fashion photographers and see what that specialized environment is all about. ”

Q: There is great chemistry and tension between you and your co-star, Rachael Taylor. What was it like working with her?
“She is lovely and we had a great time. You can’t plan for that kind of relationship. It really is about chemistry. We got on well and enjoyed working together. We were both like fish out of water in Tokyo; it was the first time there for both of us. The work was intense and because we were there as a duo throughout the film, I think that enhanced our relationship on screen. I wish I could say there is a formula for working well with your leading lady but there isn’t, we just got on really well. “

Q: How did you find Japan?
‘I have never been in a country that is so foreign to me. I have spent some time in the Middle East and Africa and even in those places there seems to be a shared culture or understanding. Tokyo is so fundamentally different from anywhere else I have experienced. It is amazing and the culture is so different from Western society. It has a rich, deep, long history and there is a totally different understanding about everything; how people interact and people’s standing in society. I found it fascinating.”

Q: What was it like working with the director, Masayuki Ochiai, who cannot speak English? How did the language barrier affect you?
“I loved his direction, his style and texture. The way the Japanese directors work is so different. They bring such moodiness and creepiness to films like this and do it so well. There are certainly difficulties that go along with the language barrier, and the cultural difference was challenging when the two of us were trying to decide what my character would do in various scenes. But our translator was great. She had lived in the West and East and had a deep understanding of both and was able to meld the two cultures and sets of ideas together. She was really one the bright shining stars of the show. I loved the whole experience of making the film.”

Q: Have you ever had any spooky supernatural experiences yourself?
“I think it is hard to say absolutely that this kind of thing is impossible. I don’t work with absolutes, but I am not a man of faith. I have never had a ghostly encounter but I do not deny that it is possible. I have a hard time believing that you or I or some version of us will remain here after we die, but I have no problem believing that things outside our understanding happen all the time.”

Q: Why do you enjoy this genre so much?
“I have been in four horror films and I like the genre because they are great, fun, popcorn movies. You can just go and watch them and you don’t have to think about them too hard if you don’t want to. If they work, they scare you and if you take a date, you cuddle up together. On the other hand, they allow for big, deep, philosophical stories to be told in accessible ways. They are stories about how people treat each other. In our story, we examine the true cost of a person’s actions in life and the consequences of what a person does. That is a large philosophical idea dropped into an accessible film and I think that is great.”

Q: What are your favorites?
“The first one that I really enjoyed was the first FRIDAY THE 13TH. I saw it when I was 13 years old and it terrified me. I could not sleep at night. I was completely freaked out and thought the jacket on the hook in my room was trying to kill me. That was my introduction to really scary films. The first ALIEN movie scared me a lot. I loved SE7EN and then I recently I saw a film called AUDITION which was unbelievably terrifying.”

Q: What are your interests outside acting?
“A couple of years ago I decided that a man should know how to ride a motorcycle, so I bought a 2004 Triumph Speedmaster. I like the experience of being on my motorcycle because it is liberating and thrilling. You get outside the city and explore and riding in LA is great because you don’t have to deal with traffic. Also, you can go camping, travel on smaller roads, get lost and travel freely. It is the same thing that I love about rock climbing. When you are climbing, that is the only thing you can think about, nothing else can cross your mind or you will fall. When you are on a motorcycle, it is you and the road and you can’t answer your cell phone and you don’t have to engage in conversation. I don’t listen to music and I’m just there on the road. I love road trips anyway, but being inside the cocoon of a car doesn’t give you that tactile experience. When you are on a motorcycle you are subject to the elements. It feels immediate.”

I recently had the chance to make a film called ONE WEEK, in which I ride a motorcycle across Canada. That was amazing. I have done a couple of road trips from L.A. To Vancouver and I am planning a Mexico trip later this year. What I like to do most for work and in my free time is to travel and to continually do new things, which is probably why I am an actor.

Q: You have already achieved a great deal. How do you view your career at the moment?
“I am pretty happy. I turn 30 in a couple of months. I have been working professionally for 20 years which seems crazy and I am still able to do diverse work. I am learning a lot all the time. My career (like everyone’s) has gone through ebbs and flows. Sometimes it is more interesting and sometimes it is less interesting. Right now I am enjoying my work so much. I hope to be back on television next year doing a show called FRINGE from J.J. Abrams. It is a science fiction show which is great fun and challenging. In every episode we will be stepping into a different world.”

Q: DAWSON’S CREEK was so popular and I wonder how that has affected you and your career. You became a heartthrob with millions of female admirers who loved the show. What was that experience like?
“I do not wake up in the morning and say ‘Wow I look really handsome today. Am I able to go outside (laugh)?’ It is certainly complimentary and nicer than the opposite would be, but if at the end of the day the best I could say about who I am as a man and an actor is that I am handsome, I would not feel a great sense of achievement! I do not spend a lot of time thinking about the way I look. ”

Q: So many people around the world enjoyed DAWSON’S CREEK. Do you have cherished memories of it?
“Absolutely. We were in a tiny community in Wilmington North Carolina while making the show. It is a lovely little town, but we were never considered heartthrobs, by any stretch of the imagination, when we went work every day. We were just working. The connection that people have to the show and their view of the actors is completely different to the experience we had filming it. I had a great time and I am very proud of the show. I have a strong attachment to the group of people I was with, because we spent six years together. One of the difficult things about working in film and television is that you transit through people very quickly. You are together for three months and can’t possibly stay in touch with more than two or three people from every show. On DAWSON’S CREEK we had essentially the same crew from Day 1 to the final episode, so it really was special.”

Q: What was it like appearing in a big West End production with Patrick Stewart? Was that a high point for you?
“That was wonderful. I really found a great sense of joy doing the play, A LIFE IN THE THEATRE. I became reinvigorated with acting and performing. Working with Patrick Stewart was amazing. He is such a lovely man and a truly brilliant actor. It was so good to work under the shadow of that man on stage, just the two of us. That opportunity was a great learning experience and was probably the best three-month stretch of my career. “

Q: Would you work in the theater again?
“In a heartbeat.”

Q: You are Canadian but have Irish roots - how important is that cultural connection?
“It is very important to me. My whole family is Irish. My mother is from Dublin. We are now scattered in different countries, but a lot of my Irish family have moved back to Ireland, to Dublin and Galway and Bray, that is where they all end up. I love going to Ireland, it is really part of me. It drives my mother crazy when she hears Americans say they are Irish so I would never say that I am Irish, but I do feel very connected to the culture. It is not that far removed for me. It is my mother’s culture and I lived there for a short time as a child.”

Q: Has your mother been a big inspiration in your career?
“She has. She worked as a casting director but also worked as a locations manager and an assistant director. At the beginning of my career, as an eight year old, I told her I wanted to act and she made it possible for me to audition, but she also taught me about acting. Beyond the discipline, she taught me about the actual work. She taught me how important it is to come to work prepared, so that the crew and everyone else on set will respect you.”

Q: What are your goals and dreams?
“After DAWSON’S CREEK, I didn’t want to think about ambition, I wanted time to myself. Then when I did the West End Play, it reminded me that I am an actor, I love this job, there is no getting away from it. So now, at 30, my ambitions are becoming more clear and focused. I want to work on challenging projects that are uncomfortable and I want to do work that I haven’t done before, like this film: playing a character who seems to be one thing but is completely the opposite. I just want to challenge myself and confront things that I haven’t done. I want to be open to experiencing new things all the time.”