Film & TV

Dominic Monaghan on ‘The Day, ‘Manchester United, and the Appeal of Insects

Film & TV

Dominic Monaghan on ‘The Day, ‘Manchester United, and the Appeal of Insects

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The last time Dominic Monaghan found himself stranded among a group of survivors attempting to navigate their way through a mysterious landscape, his nemesis was a time-travelling polar bear and a wicked herion habit. This time however, the Lost alum squares off against some very peckish cannibals in The Day, a post-apocalyptic thriller that takes its name from the 24-hour narrative device employed by newbie director Douglas Aarniokoski, something Monaghan’s old boss, one Mr. Damon Lindelof, maybe could have benefited from. But at the risk of sounding like embittered Lost fans (we’re not, we swear), let’s talk about something else. Let’s talk about The Day and its curious ties to pro-wrestling, or how the Lord of the Rings star has yet to visit his pals from Middle Earth on the set of The Hobbit, despite pleas from Peter Jackson himself. In fact, let’s see if we can get through an entire interview with Charl—er, Dominic, without a single mention of that show. Instead, let’s talk about filmmaking, the perils of fame, soccer, Jessica Ennis, spiders, and anything but that ending.

Because the film premiered at TIFF a year ago, does this feel like the end of a long, difficult road, now the The Day is finally getting its theatrical release?
It’s always nice to see a film that you’ve been involved with come to fruition, and have the opportunity to have people see it, so yes it’s a nice feeling to have that happen. I’m really proud of the film, its a great film, so now that people can see it, I’m excited!

What was your reaction when you heard that WWE Studios had picked it up. Was there a part of you that was worried that they would mismanage its release?
I was happy that someone had the passion to get involved. It was great to have them behind it, because they’re a company that’s extremely motivated to be taken seriously in the film business, and a company that really wants to put a lot of money behind it, and a lot of their fanbase behind it. To be perfectly honest, I was completely shocked at the amount of passion and loyalty that the WWE world receives from its fanbase

You’ve done fantasy, you’ve done science fiction, and superhero films.  So as a film fan yourself, you’re pretty well covered. Did doing this post apocalyptic film feel like crossing something off your bucket list?
I try to not repeat myself in the business which is difficult, because obviously I play a role that calls for my particular look, but I’m attracted to strong material, and The Day was a really strong script, it was well written, the characters had a chance to breathe, and I always believed in the idea. I would certainly do another post-apocalyptic film, but it would have to be as good, if not better than The Day.

What do you think separates The Day from the glut of post-apocalyptic, survival films that have been released recently?
A lot of these films tend to explain what happened, and a lot of the times, the guy on the street doesn’t know what occurred, he just suddenly finds out that there’s no electricity, there’s no running water, and I think that’s what happens to real people. A lot of post-apocalyptic films deal with the bigger issue—why did this happen, how to get things back to normal—but we weren’t really attempting to get things back to normal. We were just trying to survive.

Why do you think the 24-hour, day in the life of format lends itself so well to drama?
I think it gives the audiences an arc. It starts early in the morning, and goes to late at night, and you know where you’re going. The Day would have been an extremely stressful movie to get through if you didn’t know there was a ticking clock element to it. Just the stress of continuing to see people exposed to such stressful, tough moments, would be a little hard going after a while.

What are the major differences between working on an epic blockbuster like the Lord of The Rings trilogy, and something like The Day which is much smaller in budget and scale?
Less time in your trailer, which is a lot smaller. Slept less comfortably, and we were doing night shoots, so we were cold, and tired, but those things really play into what we were trying to create on set. But like I said earlier on, I do projects based on material. Even if the film was shot for a million dollars, I still would have done it because I believe in the material. The Day just happened to be the film I made on a small budget. If it was a $400 million film, I still would have been as passionate about it.

Could you see yourself, under similar circumstances, ever resorting to cannibalism to stay alive?
Yeah! Sure! If it was to stay alive. I think people do a lot of things to stay alive, and I think if it came down to me or another person, or you know, me making sense of my existence by someone else having to die, I think you can make sense of that. I would struggle with it, but I think ultimately the need to stay alive is very very strong.

Talk a bit about the struggle independent filmmakers have to go through not only to make a movie, but to have it seen by audiences.
I was a producer on this film so I was privy to some of the challenges they go through just to get an independent film greenlit and ready to shoot, on set, and made, and then to have people see it. So I was educated, and made aware of what people have to go through, and also its about passion, and having the passion to stick it out. You’re not chasing money, you’re not chasing fame, you just have the desire to express yourself artistically.

I have a lot friends who have really struggled to get their films made, so I realize how difficult it is and how special it is when it does happen.
It is, it’s great. I’m very attracted to filmmakers because they’re as obsessed with film as I am and they are passionate about the genre. They have something to say. It is nice to see those filmmakers get the opportunity to express themselves, and hopefully films like this, with small budgets, will be successful, and more small films will get made, and we’ll find the next Peter Jackson or David Lynch in some of these processes.

Actors have a tendency of not wanting to dwell on past roles or be defined by them. But you’ve been in two such iconic pieces, both with rabid fanbases. How do you deal with that?
I appreciate and am aware that they’ve given me opportunities, but it comes at a cost. I never go out drinking in bars, I never chase after women at night time, and it’s just not something I do, nor would I want to do. I can do my misbehaving and my partying behind closed doors, and you have to protect yourself a little bit. But I always wanted to be an actor, and I made that decision when I was about 17 years old, that regardless of what sacrifices I was going to endure, I was going to try and see this job out. If you’re 100 meters from it, you don’t quit after 85 meters. I’ve already made my decision to see this out.

I recently had the chance to spend some time with your friend Elijah Wood, and just seeing the constant fanfare that surrounds him, you think ‘Wow that must be difficult.” But when you look at it through the lens of just something that comes with doing what you love, it makes sense.
Yeah it’s part of it. You do the job that you do, and that’s the reaction to the work you’re doing. Everyone hopes to work on projects that people get to see, and I’ve been lucky enough, alongside Elijah, to have those opportunities. Sometimes you have to watch the way you behave, but that’s a small sacrifice to make to do the job that you love.

How intently have you been following production of The Hobbit. Have you paid a visit to the set?
I’ve been working all this year so I haven’t had the opportunity to go to New Zealand. I’ve been invited a few times by Pete to go down and come on set, to be there for the first day and the last day on set, but unfortunately I was working so I couldn’t do it. But Pete is a fantastic guy and almost like a surrogate father to me in my life, and I’ll be there supporting his film and avidly watching with all the other fans.

So your country just had quite the moment. Prior to the olympics, were you part of the pro or anti-Olympic camp?
I’m pro olympics. I’ve watched the olympics since I was a little kid. I’ve always loved any major world sporting event, they’re fantastic. It brings together people, it raises awareness about certain causes, and it shines a light onto the sporting world, and hopefully changes people’s ideas about things. So I’m really pro-Olympics. Not only that, but getting to see Jessica Ennis run around in sexy shorts and a sports bra, that alone is worth it.

Were you happy with the way London portrayed itself to the rest of the world?
I thought we did it well. I thought we didn’t try and compete with the opening ceremony of Beijing which was iconic. We did our own thing. British people have many idiosyncrasies and our own sense of humour that can be a little peculiar. They’re on their own, they do their own thing, they don’t make apologies for who they are, so we as a nation did extremely well. There were some beautiful moments, you know, the South African gentleman with his prosthetic legs, and seeing Usain Bolt do his thing, and Jessica Ennis, and all the gymnastics and the swimmers. I kind of miss it, but the Premier League’s about to start.

And Manchester United, your team, just landed a huge player in Robin Van Persie.
We made three signings this year, and each signing was the player of their league. Van Persie scored 39 goals last year. If he scores 39 goals this year alongside Wayne Rooney, we’ll win the league.

How do you think Manchester City will respond?
They’re a big team with a lot of money, but it’s whether you want to play on a team that has galvanized itself on money, or a team that’s galvanized itself on history. Man U has a fantastic history built around players and passion, and Manchester City is built around the fact that they have a large bank account.

But even you must have been a fan of the way last season ended, even if your team was on the losing end.
It was some of the greatest drama, if not the greatest drama I’ve ever seen in football, and even though I’m a Manchester United fan, you couldn’t have written that ending. It was iconic, it was an iconic moment. Anyone who wins the Premier League deserves to be a champion, because it’s the hardest league in the world to win.

I read that you love insects and even have a pet spider. As a severe arachnophobe, can you please tell me what the appeal is?
Insects are the most accessible animal on the planet. They are ultimate survivors, and they can live anywhere and adapt to everything, and I admire their capabilities. I’m doing a show called  Wild Things where I’m going to attempt to change people’s ideas about those animals, whether it be spiders, scorpions, bees, wasps. I just think that they’re the underdog, and they’re very much misunderstood. People think that they’re out to get them, and people assume they’re extremely dangerous, and they’re not. They have senses that we can’t even dream about. Most spiders have the ability jump incredible distances, create webbing, they have fantastic eyesight, feel vibrations in their legs, they’re just an incredible beast.

Can you admit that spiders look gross?
I can see how they’re very different from humans and people can feel strange about them but that’s why you should watch my show. Maybe my interactions with the animals can make you feel different about them.