Who’s Watching Oliver was a very unique take on the life of a serial killer. One of the most memorable aspects in this film is the main character, Oliver, who is wonderfully performed by Russell Geoffrey Banks. Fortunately for us, Russell has taken the time to talk to PopHorror about himself and the film that’s making him so popular.
PopHorror – What inspired you to begin a career in acting?
Russell Geoffrey Banks – Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated with movies so it was always a dream to be on movies full stop, let alone being an actor. But stage fright and lack of self-belief kept it a dream for too long. At school I was very dyslexic, terrible at reading or maths. I left school at 15 after being expelled and decided to go out and work. Only after doing a lot of different low paid jobs from market seller to door to door sales to laboring on a building site the list goes on and on did I really realize that I had to follow my passion and commit to acting. So, yeah, what truly inspired me was not liking the way my life was going and just to say “fuck it. If I’m gonna be poor I might as well be poor doing something I love.”
PopHorror – What actors/actresses inspire you?
Russell Geoffrey Banks – I’d guess the first two that pop in my head are Phillip Seymour Hoffman and James Gandolfini both sadly passed. I Love how they carried so much sadness and emotion to their characters. For instance, with James Gandolfini what he did with the Tony Soprano character was unbelievable to me. I find characters that carry that type of sadness or anger on the screen are far more interesting to watch. Also then when they finally have a scene where they are happy, it means so much more than it would otherwise. But the list could go on all day Vincent Cassell, Tom Hardy, Pacino, mads Mickelson. Judi Dench, Julie Delpy, etc etc…
PopHorror – What intrigued you about Oliver that made you want to play him?
Russell Geoffrey Banks – Well to kill someone in real life is so unimaginable to me. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself after. That’s why I find the mindset of a serial killer so fascinating how they deal with the terrible acts they have committed. Originally myself and Richie Moore [director] envisioned Oliver a lot more calm and calculated. But Raimund Huber had the idea of Forrest Gump, Crispin Glover mixed with a Patrick Bateman and then that really turned the film on its head. It also then made Oliver so appealing to play as an actor because each scene has so many internal obstacles to deal with.
PopHorror – How did you prepare for the role of Oliver?
Russell Geoffrey Banks -Well firstly, me, Richie and Raimund really broke down who Oliver was and what he was going through. We then discussed the mental issues and past and present abuse that he would have been through or still was. Then we could really work on his characteristics from his walk and talk to even how much eye contact he would make. So that was the main shell. And then the other part was putting different personal emotions and stuff that hurts me or makes me sad and choosing when and where to use it to get some truth in my performance.
PopHorror – Was Oliver the hardest role you’ve played so far?
Russell Geoffrey Banks – Definitely my hardest role and definitely my favorite role to date. Firstly, I was playing the lead, so that in itself means a lot. I started out doing extras and then stand ins and student short films. Gradually, the parts got bigger and better, but to know money was invested into me playing the lead means the world. But also as an actor, the character of Oliver has everything you could want. That said, after the filming, it took a few months to shake the character off and get back into my own headspace.
PopHorror – What was the most difficult scene to shoot for you?
Russell Geoffrey Banks – The most difficult would probably be the first real dark scene of the film with Kelly Woodcock that involved rape and torture. That scene just felt uncomfortable and wrong on so many different levels. But it also shows how much Oliver hates what he is doing and that he is also trapped in a situation he cannot escape.
PopHorror – What was your favorite scene to shoot?
Russell Geoffrey Banks – My favorite scene to shoot… I would say the scene with Cecilia Belletti was probably my favorite as an actor. It was a scene where Oliver reaches his breaking point and I just felt in the moment. Cecilia was also great in that scene. By the end, we felt that we had given everything physically and emotionally. Also, any scene with Sara Malakull Lane was fun. She is hilarious in person and hugely talented.
PopHorror – IMDb also listed you as one of the film’s writers in Who’s Watching Oliver. What were you in charge of writing?
Russell Geoffrey Banks – Well, a lot of the script we wrote – the three of us – with some beers at Richie’s house. For sure, we had areas where one took over more so. Like Raimund would channel Momma’s voice and come up with her scenes. Richie had a lot of the visual ideas and I’d say Sara and her dream references were more so my influence. I am fascinated with dreams. I also remember a lot of mine so I’m constantly reading into their meanings. So in a way, the dream references are little clues into her psyche.
PopHorror – Are there any actors or directors you’d love to work with in the future?
Russell Geoffrey Banks – So many! Shane Meadows would be a dream to work with, I love his work and style. Also Paddy Constintine. I’d love to act with Vincent Vassell or Mads Mickleson. They’re both on another level. Vicky McClue is also great to watch. Judi Dench would also be another one on the dream list. But to be fair, they’re the ones that popped in my head. The list could go on all day.
PopHorror – Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to talk about?
Russell Geoffrey Banks – Yes, a movie called Ghost House directed by the wonderful Rich Ragsdale starring Scout Taylor Compton and James Landry Hebert. It will be out around August, and it is a really creepy, Conjuring-style horror. The whole cast and crew were really great. That movie was shot before Who’s Watching Oliver. I feel I learned so much from this one. James is so talented! I’d be in a scene with him and I would be saying to myself, “Bloody hell, he’s nailing it.” Rich Ragsdale was a great director to work with. Yeah, I’m looking forward to this one to release.
Russell, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions and we can’t wait till your next project is released! To our readers, Who’s Watching Oliver is highly recommended! You can check out our review of the film below.