This coming Friday sees the launch of perhaps one of the least known about science-fiction movie projects of the year, and in recent weeks the movie, which is titled Skyline has been enjoying a lot of buzz and has built up quite a frenzied excitement on the internet and within the U.S. movie industry.
The movie, which is made on a budget, boasts many special FX and features an ensemble cast of actors, who many of us will know from our favorite genre shows. Most notable of the actors are Eric Balfour (24 and Haven) and Neil Hopkins, who made a big splash playing the role of Charlie’s heroine addicted brother in the hit ABC series Lost.
Late last week I got the chance to discuss Skyline with Neil Hopkins, who was more than willing to share information with us about the project, which has caused quite the stir with its VFX shots of alien invaders.
SciFiPulse: Your latest movie, which is what we’re here to talk about is Skyline, which looks like a bit of a science-fiction epic. How did you become involved with it, and what can you tell us about the movie’s story?
Neil Hopkins: I just auditioned for it like any other audition that I would go on. I went, and it was in December. I just went in and read for it, and found out a few days later that they were really interested in me.
I had actually read for the lead role, and they weren’t releasing the script or anything and I don’t think it was necessarily entirely finished, but I think they were just having everybody read the same character, which is what they do sometimes, and they sort of cast based on that.
When I got back from Christmas break, I found out that they wanted to give me this part–this character of Ray, and we were up and running. We started shooting in late January, and it was done by March, and I don’t think anybody–we we’re all kind of excited about it because it seemed like it was going to be something new and different in terms of how it was made. Not necessarily in terms of the story or genre or anything! But in terms of how they were making it, which was very low budget, independent with all the FX that a 300- or 400-million tentpole feature would have…
So there was definitely a lot of excitement and buzz about it amongst the cast and crew. We felt like it was going to be something special, but I don’t think anybody had any idea that it was going to turn into something as big as it has, and also that it would turn around so quickly because its just not heard of for a movie this special FX laden to be finished in less than a year. To finish production in March and to come out in early November is just unheard of.
There’s something–I think there’s something like 900 special FX shots in it.
SciFiPulse: You play the role of Ray in the movie. What kind of involvement does he have in the film, would you say he is one of the key players?
Neil Hopkins: There aren’t that many characters. It’s kind of a small cast. So I guess everybody’s a key player in their own way.
Ray is one of the good friends of Donald Faison’s character. He plays Terry and he–I can’t give away to much about the story, but Ray is kind of a goofball and would be womanizer, I guess. I think the role that I play is in some sense sort of the comic relief at the beginning of the film. So without giving to much away, I guess that’s how I fit into the story. It’s not like one of the major characters, but more of a supporting character, and an important character nonetheless as are all the characters in the film. I think there’s only like seven or eight main actors. So it’s a pretty small cast.
SciFiPulse: I think in a lot of movies and television productions, it is often the smaller roles that can be harder for an actor to play.
Neil Hopkins: Yeah, I’d totally agree with that. You have fewer scenes and lines with which to give your character an arc or give your character any kind of a pulse. So you definitely have more of a challenge on your hands because if your one of the leads–whether its in a series or in a feature. You just have a lot more opportunities to make your character make sense, and make the character matter to the audience. So it’s definitely very good practice cutting your teeth doing guest stars and playing supporting characters because you really have to find a way to condense the entire arc of a performance into a very few scenes sometimes. It’s a lot of fun to because if done well sometimes you can steal the show, which is always fun…
SciFiPulse: Looking at the movie, there’s an awful lot of visual effects. How did you find working on this movie from the point of view that much of the time your probably having to react to a prop on a stick in front of a green screen and sell us on the idea that its a big nasty flying saucer?
Neil Hopkins: Well what they did, which was really smart, and by “they” I mean the directors Colin and Gregg Strause was–you know they own a special effects house, which is called Hydraulics, and after they cast the movie they brought the cast into their office and they brought us up to a screening room, and they showed us this trailer that they’d shot and added visual FX to already.
They’d shot it in November over Thankgiving break, and by January they’d already completely done the trailer. So it was done with just friends of theirs and done in the same location that they were shooting it, which was Gregg Strause, one of the directors apartment building… We literally shot in his apartment building, much to the dismay of his neighbors, I’m sure, but they showed us this whole trailer with all the monsters in it and the spaceships and it wasn’t as finished as it will be… obviously when it comes out this week. But it looked pretty amazing considering how quickly they’d put it together. So we all knew what these things were going to look like and we all had a very specific idea of their scope and their scale and everything like that.
So it was a really valuable tool I think for the whole cast.
SciFiPulse: I’ve noticed that Eric Balfour of 24 and Haven fame is playing the main lead. How did you find working with him on the movie, and have you worked with him before?
Neil Hopkins: I hadn’t worked with him before. I think I screen tested for a role a few years ago that he also was at the screen test for. He was testing for the same role. I didn’t work with him very much on the film. I had a few scenes with him, but he was cool. He’s a nice guy and easy to work with.
Everybody on that movie was super nice and really excited to be there and fun to work with, so it was a unique experience in that regard.
You’ll be able to hear the full version of this interview in which Neil talks about his experiences working on Lost as well as his love for doing comedy on this weekend’s edition of SciFiPulse Radio, which returns on Sunday at its usual time of 10PM UK Time, 2PM PST, 4PM CT and 5PM EST. So don’t miss it.
Skyline will invade your cinema screens on Friday, 12 November, and looks like it could well be the adrenaline rush some will crave to start the holiday season.
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By Ian M. Cullen