FF2011: Kevin Sorbo Picks 'Julia X'

The former Hercules slashes up 3D

"I know friends that have gone in that dating world, and I've talked about it. I've said, 'You don't know what you're going to get, man." Kevin Sorbo talks Internet dating in 'Julia X' (Image courtesy of Dixie Theatrical Corporation)

There are certain things you expect in life. Birds fly, water flows, and Kevin Sorbo is always the good guy. Yeah, not this time. For Julia X, the lantern-jawed hero of Hercules and Andromeda sloughs off the aw-shucks persona in favor of serial killer black comedy.

The film has been compared to a live-action Itchy and Scratchy Show, but there's a much richer vein of sardonic humor beneath that flesh. At its blackly comedic core, it is an oddball chamber comedy about unexpected guests, with a thick twist of blood-drenched revenge fantasy thrown in (imagine Dexter meets Hatchet 2, with an undoubted dash of Entertaining Mr. Sloan.)

Sorbo, who has just released his autobiography True Strength, and writer/director P.J. Pettiette brought their indie horror to Fantastic Fest, and talked about killing the hero in the actor, and the perils of Internet dating.

Austin Chronicle: You really had a lock on the square-jawed hero role for a long time, almost single handedly keeping that old-school hero part alive. Why make the jump to such a deeply twisted character as the Stranger?

Kevin Sorbo: It starts with the script. I just loved the script. I was looking for a bad guy role. I was looking for someone who wasn't always the hero. I didn't necessarily want to be killed, but I wanted to play something that was interesting, and this script was definitely all that and more.

AC: There's definitely a sexual element to this story.

P.J. Pettiette: The other producer [Claudie Viguerie] is from France, and I think a lot of that French stuff is there, but I think we always wanted to have kind of an attractive film. Kevin Sorbo, he's an attractive man …

KS … and the women are pretty easy to look at …

PJP: And I wanted that. We wanted to have the kind of dynamic, to have that underlying sexual quality. We were always torn, 'We're going to do nudity, we're not going to do nudity,' and if you push it too far, it becomes gratuitous. By not showing anything, it becomes more sexualized, more attractive and seductive. That's the idea: That's what these girls are, just like the men, the flip between both sides, the sexuality going on between both genders.

AC: Beneath it all, this is really a smaller chamber piece.

KS: You know, it actually reminded me of some of Hitchcock's stuff, where the cameras in the room and you just have this cast of characters. The rest of the world has been locked out and blocked out from any other activity or involvement with the characters. I like that. It's like Rope. The camera is right there, and the characters just walk by. It became a play, and it's very intimate, and very sexy, and very dark and disturbing at the same time. It's a nice blend of all these emotions that, I think, keep the audience interested and wondering what's going to happen next.

PJP: And it is a date. So there is that element of sex going on all the time in a date. You never know whether something sexual is going to happen or next, so there is that subtext.

KS: And it's such a perfect world to jump into. I know friends that have gone in that dating world, and I've talked about it. I've said, 'You don't know what you're going to get, man. People will lie their asses off, and you don't know.' Granted, it can work, too, and obviously it has too, but all you hear all the time is pedophiles.

PJP: You can have relationships on the first date and this is what they are for the rest of your life, even on the Internet.

AC: Let's talk about the design. As an actor, what's it like to see yourself in 3D?

KS: I love 3D and I love the way he used it. It wasn't gratuitous. There's a richness to it unto itself, instead of making the vomit come into the audience all of the time. It was great that you didn't do that, which I kind of liked. To me, just the definition of it, it makes you feel like you're involved.

AC: So what was behind the decision to go 3D and how did you build that into the design?

PJP: It was always part of the design. At one point, Matt Cunningham and I had written a 2D draft, as we called it, a flat draft, and then as 3D started getting some buzz, before even Avatar and these other pictures, I was like, you know what, that fills in the blanks. Every place there was a blank in the story, I have to think, do I push the violence more, do i come back, wait a minute, 3D, we can redesign everything with the locations – because I'm originally from the area, Dixie, Louisiana, where we shot most of it in Oil City – and use the Bayou, use these locations. One of the other producers, Greg Hall, he's from the Bayou as well, and he said, 'We can use this location, this location, this location.' We we were writing the script to the locations. We already had the basic framework of the story, but the 3D just filled in for me all the blanks. Yeah, there's always a gimmick effect, and I'm always like, yeah, it helps, but like Kevin was saying, I wanted it to be really a thriller, so you're immersed in it.

AC: You seem to take particular advantage of the 3D to bring out certain character aspects: Like in the first half, where Kevin is definitely in charge, he seems larger than ever. How did you design for individual actors?

PJP: With film making, there's a lot of luck involved, of putting all the right elements in the recipe and hopefully the chemistry works out right. With Kevin, Kevin is a pro, but the idea was putting Kevin and Valerie [Azlynn] together, they were matched perfectly. I think as the film went along, and I've said this but it's the truth, the film was shot at night so everybody was on an imbalanced way of thinking and feeling like their chemistry was off. So it just lent itself to the psychosis. I think, like anything, you can have a hundred million dollars or, like us, a few million dollars, and hopefully you get the right chemistry.

KS: I think, also, the last half, I'm basically sitting in a chair, tied up with barbed wire, and it puts them into such a power position. It makes me physically a victim in a sort of way, and it reverses people's perception. They're sorry for me a little bit. It starts off the other way around. I don't come across too nice.

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FF2011, Fantastic Fest, Kevin Sorbo, P.J. Pettiette, Valerie Azlynn, Greg Hall, Claudie Viguerie, Matt Cunningham, Julia X, Hercules, Andromeda, Fantastic Fest 2011

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