I have no evidence, but I'm fairly certain I woke Rossif Sutherland up for our interview. That or the young actor has a permanently half-awake, bedroom tone to his voice. Either works for me.
Sutherland is, of course, one of those Sutherlands - son of Donald, brother to Kiefer. But it would be a mistake to write the actor off as another Hollywood brat who got a quick hand up the ladder. Since taking up the family business, Rossif Sutherland has done solid work in a wide array of projects, from a season on the acting factory ER to a handful of comic short films to the acclaimed boxing drama Poor Boy's Game , wherein he held his own with the great Danny Glover.
In his latest film, the grim bank robber comedy High Life , Sutherland plays Billy, a lanky, floppy-haired junkie who lives for two things: women and drugs. Joining up with a loose gang of similarly substance-enhanced criminals, Billy is propelled into a violent whirlwind that his character appears both completely unready for and yet thrilled by - he's a paper bag caught in a breeze, both helpless and hapless.
The wonderful thing about Sutherland's performance is that he makes Billy, a character dumb as dirt and likely a sociopath, cuddly and cute, a giant Labrador retriever with a gun. Just think what he could do with a romantic lead.
Crime films are always popular, but at the same time the public is constantly asking for more security and tougher laws. Is there disconnect between what we seek for entertainment and what we say we want from society?
I would imagine that we like to live vicariously through those stories, to be able to watch something that you're not allowed to do. I guess for some people, that's the point of going to the movies, it's not something they get to experience in their day-to-day life. Think of The Godfather , how they were able to make such a subject entertaining and to actually make these people you'd look for and like, you know? As an actor, although, you know, obviously you chose not to do those things with your life, to be a criminal, you still have to find the soul, the truth, at the basis of it all. You have to find the heart of it, the beauty of it, the honesty of it, and you can't really place judgment - we all have reasons for the things we do, criminal or not.
And who hasn't wanted to rob a bank?
Yeah, yeah, we all play cowboy when we're kids, we play with those toy guns. Sure, they're harmless, but they sure look like guns. Yeah, there's something very primal about it.
That's what's so much fun about this film - you know these losers are probably not going to succeed, but they're so likeable, you want them to pull it off.
Well, that's good! We did our job! We were very lucky - they say directing a movie, a lot of it is casting, and Gary Yates [ High Life's director] put together a bunch of guys who'd never met before but got along famously. We just loved to work together. I think that comes across, there's a sense of camaraderie. We shot it in Winnipeg, and we had absolutely nothing else to do other than our days of shooting. And at nights we would hang out in the hotel lobby and get to know each other. We were in a bubble. And shooting a movie is a bubble anyways, because the days are so long, you don't have time to do anything afterwards, and there is an immediate sense of a family being created, because you're spending every waking moment with these people. I'm lucky, I've been very fortunate. I've never had a bad experience. I've always enjoyed the people I've worked with. Movies become like relationships, good or bad, the only difference is that either way, there's an end date to it. And when you're having so much fun, it's a little bit like my life is right now - Christmas is past, and I'm still in this house, and I'm going a little stir crazy.
I like your stoner face in this movie. You grin even when you get shot.
My stoner face? When you say "stoner face"- you mean somebody who smokes weed? Yes. Your performance reminded me of Keanu Reeves in his Bill and Ted years.
Yeah, well, I dunno … I was definitely acting high. But to me, Billy [his character]had a grin on his face all the time because he was, to me, just like those kids who play cowboys. The character gets a chance to live a dream. Sure, he's a drug addict, but it's not as if he's trying to manipulate his way through life - that's not the way I played him, not the way I understood him. For me, Billy was somebody who loved life so much he wanted to live it to the fullest. And he's an innocent, I feel, a bit like me, I feel like an innocent inside. I keep getting cast in these criminal parts, I guess, because I look like a nice guy, and I am a nice guy, and there's a certain perversity to having me play those parts.
This is the most "guy film" film I've seen in a long time. Will women come to this movie?
Oh, I don't know. I wish I could understand women and answer that question! But, I sure hope so. You know, it's certainly not a chick flick, but maybe a few guys will be able to drag their girlfriends to it. Actually, why not? A bunch of guys who are goofs? I guess they're easy to make fun of, and women like to make fun of men sometimes, so why not?