Last weekend, Stan Lee’s Comikaze convention hit Los Angeles. One of the films to show off footage and bring guests to the show was anime adaptation Kite, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Callan McAuliffe and India Eisley. Empire took the chance to sit down with McAuliffe to talk adaptation issues, working with Jackson and his other recent job, Jon Wright’s Our Robot Overlords.
Kite, as you may be aware, is the live-action remake of the anime known for its intensely violent action and decidedly NSFW sexuality. As McAuliffe points out, director Ralph Ziman and his team made adjustments for their version. “I suppose in an effort to make it a little more accessible, it's been toned down a tiny bit, but it is still exceedingly violent and there is a lot of the original material in there. It's definitely not something that young children should watch! It still maintains a lot of the elements that fans will be happy with. There are things it's impossible to get across with live action, such as the expressiveness of the characters, which would be overly theatrical in live action. So it has a more cinematic feel to it.”
McAuliffe plays Oburi, best friend to Sawa (Eisley), the trained young assassin who seeks her father’s killer with the help a mentor (Jackson). Oburi is essential in providing the emotional support she needs in a dark and violent world, even if it means clashing sometimes with Jackson’s character.
Working with Jackson proved to be everything McAuliffe hoped it would, even if he had to get over some initial nerves. “There is a level of intimidation that is there whether they're a nice person or not just from the get go. The sense of you knowing them already without them knowing you and you wanting to leave a good impression. He's so into it whenever they called action, but then once they called cut, he was making jokes and just being Samuel L. Jackson.”
An entirely different experience was shooting in Belfast and the Isle of Man for Our Robot Overlords, Jon Wright’s follow up to Grabbers. The tale of humanity ruled by technology run amuck, it follows Sean (McAuliffe), who finds a way to escape the house arrest forced upon mankind and heads out in search of his father. “The world is in peril, but there's always got to be comedy in things like this because if you take yourself too seriously, especially with a film like this it can show,” says McAuliffe. "My character, though, is supposed to be a semi-stoic lead, which I try not to do! I tried to make him interesting and Jon made that easy for me. We'd improvise and throw jokes around.
“It was a laugh from the beginning to the end. There is such a difference working in the UK. The only people I interacted with on the Isle of Man were the people on the crew and on set. Usually with such a big crew, you wouldn't get to know everyone so well, because you're busy. But everyone was so friendly and they couldn't give a shit who you are and talk to you.”
There was also a chance to work with Gillian Anderson and especially Sir Ben Kingsley, who took a shine to McAuliffe immediately. “He's very professional and he comes across, when you first talk to him, as sort of a god,” says McAuliffe. “You feel like you shouldn't talk to him, and that he's lived for 300 years. But he's so friendly - or he was to me. He bought me a present at the end of the shoot. We were shooting a few scenes at a castle and there was a gift shop at the back. I was admiring these little pewter knights that they had, and said I wanted to get one. He said, 'Don't worry, old chap, I've bought you one already!'” A knight from a knight? Not a bad keepsake…
Both Kite and Our Robot Overlords should arrive in 2014.