Dakota Shapiro gives us an absolutely stunning performance in his new horror/thriller film, Eye Without a Face. Dakota plays Henry, an agoraphobic young man and things begin to spiral.
Eye Without a Face is about Henry and his Youtuber/struggling actor (Luke Cook). Henry hacks the webcams of young women, and suspects that one of them is a serial killer. The film was written and directed by Ramin Niami.
Check out my interview with Dakota.
How’s it feel now that the film is finished and you like people are actually going to get to see it?
Dakota: It feels good. It’s so funny doing a movie. You do it and then in a couple of years, it comes out and you’re in a totally different place in your life and it feels like a bit of a surprise, but it feels good. I’m excited that people are getting to see it and that people are liking it. It was really fun to work on and I love Ramin so I’m really, really stoked and excited that people are getting to see his work.
What surprised you the most about the finished film?
Dakota: I honestly think what surprised me most was how much I laughed. I just thought that Luke Cook was so great, I was just finding myself laughing at the things that he was doing. And it was funny, while I was doing it, but I was in such a weird headspace that maybe I couldn’t fully appreciate that at the time. I definitely laughed a lot more than I expected to.
How did you become a part of this project?
Dakota: Meeting Ramin was a big part of it, to see how passionate and knowledgeable he was about film and the director is just such a huge piece of the puzzle. So that, for me, was a very important part. And I also liked the character of Henry and thought, even though he’s a morally great person, there’s something somewhat synthetic about it and somehow you kind of feel sorry for him. And I just thought it’d be interesting to be challenged to try and play a character like that, that is kind of both worlds.
What did you have to do to get into character?
Dakota: It was a lot of spending time by myself. I always make a playlist for every character I do that I like to listen to on the way to set. What was really helpful was, we were on a very claustrophobic set. It was Ramin’s house and it was all done up to for an agoraphobic, so it was really dark and I was spending extended amounts of time in that dark, claustrophobic room looking at a screen. That kind of naturally really helped me just get in that headspace. I also watched a lot of interviews with people with agoraphobia to try and understand what that experience is like for them and hopefully, put a little bit of that in the performance. As an actor, I think you just try to do whatever you can to kind of trick yourself into believing what’s going on as much as you can.
A playlist, that’s very interesting. I’ve never heard that approach before. Do you remember what songs or what genre of songs were on it?
Dakota: It was a lot of, like, sad songs like Radiohead, and there were some Muse songs and there were some Elliott Smith on there. Yeah, that was the kind of stuff that was on it mostly from what I remember. It was mostly Radiohead, Elliott Smith, a little bit of Muse and some other tracks, kind of thrown in there. I just really connect, I mean, I think everyone does, but I find that I connect with music emotionally. It helps me get there, emotionally, in that headspace.
What did you do to decompress and get back to your old self?
Dakota: Well, luckily I’m from Australia, and after the film I got to go home and see my old friends and spend time with my family. I think all that was really useful in decompressing from that. It does take a little while to wind down from something like that. But going home always makes me feel grounded and much more like myself. I find it really reinvigorating.
How long were you filming? How long did you have to stay in Henry’s headspace?
Dakota: It was a relatively short shooting period, about two and a half weeks. It felt very intense, but it was yeah it was a short filming period because we’re filming all pretty much the same location every day. I think that made it a lot easier to kind of power through it.
What was it like working with Luke while you had to be in Henry’s headspace?
Dakota: It was great because it helped to just provide some levity. We would be doing scenes and we would laugh but I think I couldn’t fully appreciate it until afterwards. And he’s so fun to work with. He’s just great at keeping light energy on the set and that kind of breaks up the grim energy of Henry.
Not to get spoilery or anything, what did you think about the ending?
Dakota: Well, I thought that Ramin did really well at hinting at what’s going on, as the movie progresses. And it kind of ties the movie together because it explains a lot of things about the main character, and you kind of get a deeper insight into who he is and what he’s done. And, it was very fun to play.
When you first read through the script, did you see that coming at all?
Dakota: I was surprised. I was very surprised.
What does the title, Eye Without a Face, mean to you?
Dakota: Well, it’s a reference to an older movie but I think it’s also a reference to a webcam. It’s an eye without a face. And that phrase seems kind of dark, creepy and monster-ish somehow. And I think that the movie deals a lot with anxieties around the digital age and privacy. It kind of sounds dark, like it has dark implications.
After being in this film and then watching it, what are your feelings toward technology?
Dakota: Well, I definitely put a piece of tape on my webcam. I’m a little bit more paranoid about that. But, you know, it’s an extremely interesting time to be alive in relation to technology. It’s getting crazier and crazier and more involved. Social media has completely changed the way that we relate to each other and that came about in the last 20 years and who knows what’s gonna happen and in the upcoming 20 years? I imagine there’s going to be similar revolutions of equal scale and impact on our lives. That’s scary and it’s exciting. That’s kind of the way that I feel about it.