In the grand scheme of things, there is a really small minority of actors who can claim to have appeared in a film about dinosaurs, yet joining that exclusive collective are young actors Matt Kane and Natasha Loring, stars of the upcoming adventure The Dinosaur Project – and we had the opportunity to speak to the pair ahead of the film’s release.
Sib Bennett’s found footage thriller is set in the Congolese jungle, where we follow a group of explorers who stumble across a colony of dinosaurs. Kane plays Luke – a troublesome youngster who sneaks himself on the trip to be alongside his father, whilst Loring undertakes the role of Dr. Liz Draper.
The pair discuss what it’s like working closely with CGI, the challenges posed by the found-footage genre, whilst Kane also tells us of his admiration for on-screen father Richard Dillane. The pair also discuss working with director Bennett, whilst telling us of the differences between The Dinosaur Project, and a little known dinosaur movie called Jurassic Park…
For both of you The Dinosaur Project is your début film – is cinema something you’ve always dreamt of getting into?
Kane: For me absolutely, I’ve been involved in screen acting at various levels for quite a while just growing up and ultimately film is absolutely where I want to be, and I’m sure a lot of actors would say the same. To get an opportunity like this with a dinosaur film, the film thing you think of when you read the title, or get the email about the audition – is excitement, it sounds very cool – like something out of your reach maybe, as it sounds like such a big project. After reading the script of course I was terribly excited about it and feeling confident and ready to go to the audition, hoping it’s eventually going to go your way. And I think that regardless of how big it is, or how well it does just as an experience and something to have done and to have under my belt, I’m just so, so happy. I had an incredible time on here and I absolutely love the film myself, I thought it was great fun and everyone involved was awesome. It was an amazing step forward.
Loring: It was such an amazing opportunity to be involved in this kind of project, and like Matt says, the second people say it’s a movie with dinosaurs, that’s something that doesn’t come around often in a career. It seems to be something that I would have thought would come around later in my career, to do an amazing CGI film with dinosaurs. Talking of the CGI, they did an incredible job.
So when you first got the call from your agent telling you there was a script coming through for a film about dinosaurs – what was your initial reaction? Were you on board straight away?
Kane: Immediately. It was the most exciting project, based on my excitement for dinosaurs growing up and being a huge fan of Jurassic Park as I’m sure everyone is, immediately I was incredibly exited about it and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the script and read it and I just loved it.
Loring: It’s just great so early on in your career to be involved in a production that is so heavy with CGI, I know a lot of film are these days but it’s a real skill to be able to learn how to act when there is nothing actually in front of you, and to use your imagination to create these creatures in front of you. So it was a great experience to work with such a brilliant team who have created these amazing creatures, who you, unfortunately, don’t get to see when filming. But they help you create them in your imagination, so it’s great early on to have that skill.
Was it difficult to feel emotionally engaged in a scene that is using CGI?
Loring: It is quite, because you’re laughing at how ridiculous it is. When Matt was doing a scene with sweets in his hand trying to have an interaction with this dinosaur and he’s working with this stunt guy who have this long blue glove on, and he’s just pretending to be this dinosaur, with just a long stick with a little claw on the end of it. And then just to make it a little scarier for you they add some material onto it, so it’s flapping around in your face, but I guess you’ve just got to remind yourself that you’re running for your life, and this is a life or death situation and you’ve just got to use your imagination and become a kid and create that world.
Kane: It’s so imagination heavy for us to just picture those things, and derive from things such as Jurassic Park and TV shows. I remember watching Walking with Dinosaurs when I was a kid and absolutely loved that, and just remembering what they looked like to me and how I imagined them and how I thought about them and bringing that into the work that we did for the feel. It took a bit of getting used to, but you do your best with nothing in front of you.
Loring: You’ve got to trust the director as well, he tells you what these things are that are chasing you or you’re interacting with or whatever, and he passes on his vision to you explaining this creature and he gauges your level of fear as well, so you can work closely with the director and trust him, because at the end of the day he knows what these creatures are going to look like.
This film seems like a real passion project for Sid, did that enthusiasm rub off on the cast?
Loring: Absolutely, he’s a dinosaur fanatic. It’s just great to work on a production where the people are so passionate and so lovely, and when you’re working with something being handled so carefully and something so precious to the director, you also want to hold the ball and not drop it because you know what a passion project it is for them and that filters through at every level of the cast and crew.
Kane: The knowledge they have too, they know exactly what they’re talking about and how to describe it and they put that passion onto us and they give us extra excitement from the excitement we bring to it anyway. It certainly rubbed off and it built up a very strong bond between everyone.
Loring: It definitely gave us all the knowledge we needed to know about these dinosaurs and Sid has really, really done his research into it, especially the fact he is basing this on a mythical creature that there have apparently been sightings of, and have been actual expeditions out to the Congo in search of this creature. Before doing this project I hadn’t heard anything about it and it’s really great to hear about a topic from someone who is so passionate about it and can explain it to you with all their enthusiasm behind it, that is bound to rub off on everyone you’re working with.
Kane: Without being ridiculous as well, I don’t think it is completely beyond the realms of possibility that things have evolved, you know crocodiles and alligators have existed since dinosaurs basically, so it’s not completely implausible that something has evolved that resembles a dinosaur or is within the same family line. So that makes it even more exciting, that potentially there is something that has not been seen, we don’t know for sure of course, and it’s not very likely, but it’s nice to address something that still has that slight element of possibility.
The film is of course using found footage – does that genre pose any new challenges to yourselves as actors?
Loring: Yeah you’re looking into the camera which is very unusual as an actor, that’s not something we’re used to at all, we’re so used to blocking out the camera and acting like it’s not there, whereas in found footage you’re dealing with the camera as though it’s actually there and you’re relating to it, but I suppose that’s a challenge you just have to get used to.
Kane: It was totally different and none of us had done anything quite like it before but it all came quite naturally to everyone and it was very free as well. What makes found footage really interesting is that it’s not from one perspective, it’s from many. Because my character Luke brings three or four cameras with him as well as the TV crew being there as well. So there are so many possibilities as this really was covered from all angles which gives it that cinematic aspect as opposed to just being from one view, or from one perspective like in most other found footage films.
Matt with your character Luke there is an interesting sub-plot between himself and his father – how important do you think that is to the film that it brings in more personal, family orientated elements?
Kane: I think it is really important to bring in some relatable aspects, relationships can be difficult with your parents and I’m sure lots of people go through problems and have difficulties, so it’s nice to have that as part of the film, bringing that personal element into it. It’s nice to see how that develops also, as Richard (Dillane) and I worked very well together and it was great for me to just learn from him and bounce off him, and it’s good that instead of completely focusing on the action and excitement you do have this underlying emotional story passing through it and it’s nice to see how their relationship develops and improves, and a connection is made. I think for the audience it gives them something else to focus on and it’s nice they have different things they can follow throughout the film. It’s important to have empathy in film. It’s primarily an exciting and fun action adventure, but it’s nice to have that element to it, and I really like that as an actor to be able to work with that as well as everything else, to concentrate on a real relationship with another person, particularly a family member as that is something very complicated. It was very nice for me and Rich to both have this opportunity to put across this relationship in all stages of development.
Loring: It’s a relationship that so many people can relate to, some kind of estranged relationship. Even for parents who spend loads of time with their children it gets to that stage where the child wants to become independent and find themselves and everyone can relate to that element of push and pull between a parent and child. Everyone can relate to that kind of absent parent aspect.
Kane: It was interesting for Richard and I on set as well when we weren’t shooting as just people to get to know each other and for our relationship to develop and I respect Richard and I was excited to be working with him, and to be earning his respect and everything as an actor was similar to Luke earning his respect as a father, so it’s nice that we had that going on both off and on set, and it worked naturally in that way.
There are inevitable comparisons to be made between The Dinosaur Project and Jurassic Park – as this is really the first live action film that comes to mind since the Jurassic Park series. Do you enjoy hearing those comparisons, or do you find it adds more pressure to this picture?
Kane: Like I said before, I am a huge fan of Jurassic Park and I always will be, it’s a film I loved as a kid and I still love now. So those comparisons are of course inevitable, but I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s a similar film, despite the fact it heavily features dinosaurs.
Loring: There is nothing else aside from that is really similar.
Kane: No, although it’s aimed at a similar audience in some ways, but it’s British firstly – and I love the fact that my first film is a British one, that’s amazing – and when people see this film there is not that much that is similar, aside from the fact dinosaurs are the main feature I would not say they are similar films.
Loring: I guess if people want to draw those conclusions then what a compliment, for people to say it’s the next Jurassic Park – if people want to say that go ahead!
Kane: To have the two titles mentioned in the same sentence is of course a compliment as it’s such a great film, but on seeing it and working on it – there is not too much you can see is comparable really.
Loring: But I guess people who would have seen and loved Jurassic Park would watch this too and love it because you know, who doesn’t love a dinosaur.
The Dinosaur Project is out on the 10th of August and you can read our review here.