To say Julian Richings’ career is impressive is an understatement. And now he’s starring in two huge films this summer: Anything for Jackson and Spare Parts. Julian’s performances keep getting better and better.
In Anything for Jackson, after a tragic car accident that took their grandson’s life, Audrey and Henry are unable to go on without him. Following the guidance of their ancient spell book, the elderly couple decide to abduct a young pregnant woman with the intention of performing a “reverse exorcism” to channel their grandson’s spirit inside her unborn child. But when it becomes clear the ritual has called upon more than one spirit, the couple realize they have summoned more than they bargained for and must put an end to the evil entity they’ve invoked.
Spare Parts is set in a godforsaken bar in the middle of nowhere where an all-girl band – Ms. 45 – rips the stage apart with their punk spirit. But their performance impresses an enthusiastic fan who lures the girls into a trap, sedates them, and starts…customizing them. Slowly they begin to gain consciousness and, in total shock, realize their arms have all been replaced with axes and chainsaws to fight gladiator-style in a junkyard arena owned by a sadistic “emperor,” forcing them into the battle of their lives with one prize in mind – their freedom.
Check out my Q & A with Julian!
How did you get involved with Anything for Jackson?
Julian: Keith, the writer, and Justin, the director, both approached me and they sent me a copy of the script and asked if I was interested. I loved the script… and when I learned that Sheila McCarthy, who plays Audrey, was on board, I was delighted. It was very painless and very quick actually, it wasn’t fraught with all the, ‘my people will talk to your people.’ It was very quick… I loved the script, I loved the complexity, but it’s also a simple chilling story but it’s got so many layers to it. I love the fact that the main characters are two older people who have a long, loving relationship. I loved that about it. I loved the fact that they really care about each other and yet the decisions that they make are absolutely terrible decisions and the person they kidnap is a victim, and you root for the victim. She is not just a mere victim, she is a completely, fully rounded character in her own right, who has agency and starts to fade away into a three way relationship….Konstantina, she’s a fully formed, complex woman with agency, and she realizes where she is and she starts to operate in her own way and she starts to manipulate the other two, and play them off against each other. And I think that’s really cool. I like it. I like the complexity of her character, so that it’s not just, you know, old people and young people, it’s people from different generations, all in a desperate situation or fighting for their very existence… It’s just a fantastic script. And underneath it is a sense of grief and loss for the older generation, but the way that they’re dealing with it and trying to hijack the younger generation and then plant their own children into the younger generation is an appalling idea. It’s kind of a mix of wonderful ideas.
With your character and with Sheila’s character, were they Satanists from the get go, or was this kind of a last resort for them?
Julian: Oh, it was the way that we read it. Sheila and I had to sort of create our own backstory and our reasons for doing things. Sheila’s character, Audrey, is very much the leading person in relationships, the one who takes the initiative and comes up with the ideas. And She’s also probably most hit by the grief that she feels for their daughter. So, we assumed that Audrey had, as a last resort, taken to the occult and the dark arts and probably gone online and researched a few things, tried a few things, and then ended up at the local library and joined a satanic cult and dragged her husband along.
Did Henry go willingly?
Julian: I think that’s the beauty of the script, is that, yes, he does have second thoughts. But his primary motive is to appease and to enable his dear wife, even though he’s not so sure about these more eccentric choices that she’s making. Nevertheless, he goes ahead and does it, and I think that’s what gives the film it’s really interesting, complex tone. There’s no way that he should be going ahead with this, but he’s enabling somebody to do something that’s appalling and he’s doing it himself, but in a weird way he’s shelving the blame, and cutting it off himself. So the two of them are capable of the most terrible things, all done in the name of the best motives. I think it is a really interesting story.
What was it like working alongside Sheila and creating that relationship with her?
Julian: It was a lot of fun. We both come from similar backgrounds, we both know each other’s work and we trust each other. So we just jumped in, you know, we kind of collaborated, you know, and if one of us had an idea we kind of threw it by the other person and made sure that it worked and everything, every choice that we made was a choice that Audrey and Henry would have made as a couple. We never sort of went our own way of dealing with a scene or what we would have done, we realized that the couple is so important, the dynamic between them was so important that we collaborated on everything every step of the way. And that’s again why I think the film has a lot of its power, she and I trust each other’s actions.
The ending of the film is left open, what do you think happened?
Julian: My personal feeling is, you know, that maybe we’ll have to have a sequel to ascertain whether that’s the case or not. But yeah, personally, I think it’s pretty dark, but hey, stick around and maybe there’ll be a follow up.
There’s also another layer added onto all of this as well, there’s the ghosts and the spirits that come out every single day.
Julian: They were a lot of fun. The writer (Keith), the other hat that he wears in the film industry is special effects. So he’s had many years of experience in creating special effects, and the whole thing was that he wanted to go back to old school, actual real effects. Instead of the digital post-production things, he wanted to figure out ways of using the most basic things to scare you. So I don’t want to give any spoilers here, but the ghosts that you see are actually great performances from actors in creating a sense of terror. It has nothing to do with expensive special effects. Keith actually did a lot of research into the things that unsettle people most. He went into psychology, I think he looked into Freud and different psycho-analysts, and got a list of dreams and nightmares that most upset people. And each one he used, you name it, it’s there.
Which spirit scared you the most while on set?
Julian: Well, I guess, he didn’t exactly scare me, but the most extraordinary one was Troy. Troy James played the spirit who contorts himself and is in a plastic bag. I mean, all of us on set collectively gasped at seeing what he could do physically. And he introduced such an element of magic and the extraordinary into the world that we were creating. It came at a great point in our filming, and actually there’s one point when people were watching the monitor and they were shrieking at the contortions that he was putting himself in. And then he would just stop the scene, and ask, ‘want me to do that again, or would you like me to do it backwards?’ And he would do the same move that he just did, which was extraordinary, and do it in reverse. He blew us all away. Yes, he was probably the one that scared me the most. He challenges what you expect a human body to do. And he’s doing it. It’s not being changed by a computer, it’s not a superpower, it’s like that’s what his body can do, and it’s staggering.
You’re also in another whirlwind of a movie as well, Spare Parts. What can you say about that film?
Julian: I can say that it’s high energy, a lot of fun. I really enjoyed shooting it. I have a soft spot for that grind house, take no prisoners sort of splatter movie. There’s an element of camp to it too. I like the fact that it’s a little bit turned on its head because our heroes are not your traditional gladiators. They’re four women in a punk band that take on their oppressors and the people that customize them and try to change them to suit their society. I like that sort of underlying theme that they’re fighting for their freedom and they’re gonna kick ass like a punk group. It doesn’t necessarily work for them in the journey that they go on, but it’s accelerating and it’s fueled by this terrific rock punk soundtrack. It has a really great energy and a real sort of celebration of all the ghastly things that we see, you know, a godforsaken biker bar in the middle of nowhere and a junkyard king who rules people with an iron fist but it sort of turns it all on its head and turns it into a big rock opera.
Before I let you go, is there anything else you’d like to add about either one of your movies?
Julian: I’m very privileged to have been a part of both of them. They both share an energy and an immediacy. They were both filmed pretty efficiently and quickly at a time, as we all know, you know, it’s COVID and Anything for Jackson, in particular, shot on a very tight schedule. We finished on the day that COVID shut down the film industry. So, we knew that we were up against it to achieve what we achieved, but we did it, and we’re very proud of it, and I think it’s a great example of people coming together and telling the story really clearly and with great spirit.