I spoke with the multi-talented David An about his role as Kaplan in Dwayne Johnson’s new action flick Rampage, working with Dwayne Johnson, how Rampage registers on The Rock Meter, his work on Ryan Gosling’s magnificent film Lost River, Ben Mendelsohn’s glorious performance and flawless dance moves in Lost River, his work with Clint Eastwood, Peter Farrelly and Brad Peyton, his next projects, his charity work, and so much more. Rampage opens on April 13th and also stars: Dwayne Johnson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, Joe Manganiello, Marley Shelton, Will Yun Lee, and Naomie Harris. Lost River is available now for your viewing pleasure.
Lena Lamoray: You do a bit of everything in the film industry.
David An: Yeah. I do a little bit behind and a little bit in front of the camera. I love the film industry. In the beginning, the acting wasn’t enough so I just dove into other aspects.
It’s always good to have a stronger background in the field and be able to do more than just one thing.
David An: Yes. Actually for me, editing was really fun because I got to work with other people’s footage and other actors’ performances. It was kind of like a master class for me. I really enjoyed it and I still enjoy it.
You worked in the editorial department of one of my favorite films. I would love to get some inside info on Ryan Gosling’s Lost River.
David An: I was so proud of that movie. I didn’t think it was going to do as well in The United States because it’s not a traditional, kind of, arc with a story. I thought it was very beautiful.
Yes. I loved that film. It didn’t really get as much love as it should have gotten.
David An: I’m glad you watched it. I’ve only met a few people that have watched it. No, no it didn’t really get a lot of love. It has a lot of European sensibilities and a more reflective storyline, which will make you really appreciate it. I was watching the filming of it as much as I could.
Can we talk about Ben Mendelsohn’s performance as Dave?
David An: Oh my gosh, I’ve got to say that just working on his footage was such a joy and it made me realize how great of an actor he is. It was never a case of trying to figure out what was a good take versus a bad take—they were all great takes and interpretations. It was always a question of which of these directions do we go. Every single one was so good. He’s magnetic. That little dance that he does in the movie [laughing], I think we just looped that for days. It was just so creepy and cool. He did a bunch of different dances. It was just so good. I was really happy with that one. I’m so glad that you saw it.
It’s a really wonderful film. I’m so happy that I got to speak with you about it.
David An: I did Ender’s Game right before that and that was another journey. I was actually on that project from the inception, so we actually did that pitch for it and brought it to Cannes. We got all the stars attached and all the financing and everything. I was on that for almost two years and change for that entire project. After that I wanted to do some stories that weren’t just special effects heavy. Lost River came up and I wanted to work on it with Ryan Gosling. It was cool.
You are playing Kaplan in Rampage starring Dwayne Johnson. It’s based on a video game and is coming to theaters on April 13th.
David An: Rampage is just cool. I loved video games growing up. I used to play the arcade games all the time and I would get in trouble for playing them too much.
What can you say about the film and your character?
David An: I can’t give away too many details, but I think I can share that I’m part of the military. Basically, Dwayne Johnson’s character is always trying to save his buddy George the gorilla. When these monsters are terrorizing the city sometimes it’s the military’s job to try to protect lives. It’s a cool storyline. It’s really a question about where your loyalties lie. Sometimes it’s not always about good versus bad. Sometimes good people just have different motivations and can end up on the wrong side of the same conflict.
Dwayne Johnson posted on his Twitter account that the gorilla in the film is inspired by a real-life albino gorilla named Snowflake. Did you get to spend any time working with gorillas?
David An: I didn’t know that. I wish. That would have been so cool. The actor that played George had the same setup that they used in Planet of the Apes. He was, kind of, the on-set gorilla. It would have been cool if they had some actual gorillas on set, but I didn’t get to meet any.
Well, thank goodness Dwayne Johnson is always around to save the world. [Laughing]
David An: Right! [Laughing] He’s so much bigger than I thought. He’s a big guy. I think his bicep is larger than my head. [Laughing]
What is it like working with him?
David An: He’s unbelievable and works really, really hard. He’s incredibly charming, but man he’s a hard worker. I think while we were shooting he was still promoting Baywatch and he was starting to promote Jumanji. He had so many things pulling at him but when he got on set he was just 100% focused. I couldn’t even imagine all of the different things that he was doing at the same time. That guy takes busy to a whole new level.
Since you’ve worked with it on films before, can you talk about CGI and how it has changed over the years?
David An: I think that the technology has gotten much better with motion capture but it’s also paced by the director. Like you mentioned, I had worked on CGI and I was actually quite prepared to have to do a lot of acting to tennis balls and acting to green screens. I was actually very shocked because when I got on set Brad Peyton and his team actually built a lot more than I thought they were going to. It was so much easier to work as a performer because everything was really presented to us as very real. For example, on most movies you had a green screen, but he actually shot footage that we could work off of. I give Brad Peyton a lot of credit for just being such a great actor’s director on such a large scale movie. I think he took that all the way across on the rest of the production.
What would you say is the main lesson in Rampage?
David An: Maybe not so much of a lesson, but a question of, how far you would go for your friends?
How would you rate Rampage on The Rock meter? Is it as funny as Central Intelligence with a pinch of the complexity of Ballers?
David An: [Laughing] I think it’s tonally what San Andreas was because it’s the same director. The stakes are high. It’s a roller coaster adventure. I don’t think it’s as funny as Jumanji. Jumanji was laugh out loud pretty funny.
You’ve worked with some wonderful and very different directors throughout your career. What have been some of the highlights for you?
David An: I worked with Clint Eastwood and that was definitely a bucket list. His style of directing, and lots of people have said it, he’s very loose. I wasn’t really prepared for how easy he was. He doesn’t even say action. He’ll just be rolling the camera and will be talking to you. He’ll say something like how’s the weather and whenever you are ready we are rolling. [Laughing] Wait, what? I think it was amazing because it felt like a very small indie movie, and yet it was a rather large production. It’s funny because the scale can match the director and the director can match the scale. I worked on Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Michael Bay is built for those type of movies. He’s the best equipped to deal with that type of scale—that type of chaos. I can imagine an indie director, or a much more smaller scale director, not enjoying that process very much. I just try to soak in every experience and try to learn from every single one of those directors. You realize that they all have their own style and it’s really cool to see how that translates on film.
You’re also working with one of the Farrlley brothers.
David An: Yes. I got to shoot pretty recently with Peter Farrlley down in New Orleans. It’s a little bit different because it’s a drama from Peter. It’s not a complete comedy. They are total veterans. They know exactly what they want. Viggo Mortensen was one of my heroes growing up, so just seeing him work with Peter, and working with Peter myself, it’s one of those weird moments where you just catch yourself pinching yourself. You ask yourself, what is happening? How did I find myself here? Then you remember that you really have work to do and have to get over it. [Laughing] You get about a minute of that what’s happening and then the rest of the time you just get to it. It’s been an amazing year. I’ve been very blessed.
It has to be a great experience to work with so many different and extraordinary directors.
David An: Completely! Also an editor, I’ve always had a lot of reverence for directors because it takes so much work to create a world and just to have such a specific voice. I see why they have such great careers.
What are some of the other projects that you are working on?
David An: The Green Book comes out in December. I’m really focusing this year on going through the circuit and having talks with different productions—nothing is set in stone yet. I’m really focusing this year on pushing harder to develop scripts of my own. I’m going to seek out some of the networks that I’ve worked with in the past. There is a lot of call for new perspectives in indie film. I’d like to be able to see if I can contribute in that fashion. We’ll see how that goes.
You also keep yourself busy working with charities.
David An: Yeah. I have a heart for a few major charities and I wish I could do more. I work with the Alzheimer’s Society because my grandfather had Alzheimer’s and I really saw how that can affect a family. I think they do such great work. I work with Havasole. They are located in Los Angeles and they gather shoes from Foot Locker, and other places. We go to skid row, and other homeless areas, and give shoes to everyone. I just try to help out in any way that I can.
You also work with animals.
David An: Yes, with Animal Hope and Wellness. Mark is an amazing guy. He actually goes over to Asia and he rescues entire groups of dogs that were branded for dog meat festivals. There is a lot of misconception in Asia about populations eating dogs. Over there, there are just so many wild dogs that they don’t have the same policies that we have in America. Impoverished areas that can’t afford chicken, or other things, they will use dog meat because dogs are running rampant. He goes there and tries to shut down the market and brings back hundreds of dogs and puppies from Asia at a time. I volunteer and try to bring more awareness to the cause. I know he has a lot of big supporters. I love dogs, so I’m really proud of all the work that they do over there.
Featured photo by Leslie Alejandro
Rampage opens in theaters on April 13th.