Interview With Bill Oberst Jr: Painkiller

I recently had the chance to interview Bill Oberst Jr for his latest film Painkiller, which you can find a review of on site now. The film sees a man plagued by personal lose try and reclaim the tatters of his life through violent retribution. During the interview we talk about stars of silent cinema, the immortal work of Ray Bradbury and the dark truths of the human heart.

Q: Who is your biggest inspiration?

A: A man who rarely spoke – a silent cinema actor named Lon Chaney. He was dead decades before I was born, but as a lonely boy in the woods I connected with him through the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. I was so moved by, and attracted to, Chaney’s intention to portray the humanity in the monstrous that it drew me into performing. In Ray Bradbury paperbacks I found a similar sensibility, and The Wounded Monster became the serving metaphor of my life. There’s a line in a play by James Saunders: “There lies behind everything a certain quality which we may call grief.” That’s true. I think recognizing that truth is the beginning of a life’s wisdom. 

Q: How would you describe the film in a word?

A: Illuminating.

Q: Do you have funny on set stories?

A: Michael Paré, who stars, knew more about fight scenes and blood squibs than the rest of us combined. It was fun to watch Michael ask for more squibs (most actors want fewer) and to push to make the fight scenes more real. He knows action! Working with pros like Paré always reminds me who’s boss. 

Q: The film covers very real world issues; did you find a personal stake in the subject matter whilst filming?

A: Yes. Executive Producer, co-writer and co-star Tom Parnell actually lost a child to opioids (the film is dedicated to his son.) I did feel a responsibility to well represent the millions of parents who have suffered similarly. My character is also living out a revenge fantasy, murdering those he deems culpable, which forced me to morally strip down to my naked vengeful self. I believe in the redeeming power of love, but my first instinct is never love. Darkness often reigns.

Q: How did you manage to capture the loss and personal destruction the character feels?

A: Our director, Mark Savage, says that knowing what is in the dark makes it less dark. We master by knowing. And on camera you can only show what you know. I know that suffering is the core of life. I know that it is the core of my faith. Perhaps it’s just a peeling away of life’s lies that allow the showing of truth. 

Q: How would you describe your character?

A: He is hurting, and he is haunted, both by what he has done and by what he has left undone. 

Q: If you could go back in time to when you were first starting out what advice would you give yourself?

A: Go to the funeral of your importance. Forget fame – just say what your soul needs to say and let it be. 

Q: What is your favourite moment from the film? 

A: There is an interaction between my character and a dog. The dog steals the scene. I loved that dog! 

If you would like to check out Painkiller then you can find it on all good VOD platforms, and as always be sure to check out my review on site now.

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