Having first worked with London-based actor David Lenik on "Escape From Cannibal Farm" back in 2016 (where he played teenage brat brother Toby) I wanted to write David a leading role that was totally unlike what I'd seen him play before.
Winterskin is a contained, claustrophobic horror movie set inside a log cabin in a frozen wilderness. Playing the role of Billy Cavanagh, for which David grew stubble and adopted an American accent, was a whole new challenge!
Charlie Steeds: David, let's start by explaining who you play and what Winterskin is all about.
David Lenik: I play the character of Billy, the protagonist of the film who unfortunately stumbles upon a cabin in the snowy wilderness,
that is harboring a terrifying secret.
CS: No spoilers David...
DL: Its very much a throwback to classic 1970's horror with elements of the western genre, which really elevate the uniqueness of the film. It also has strong influences from films like Misery, The Hateful Eight and even a bit of Evil Dead.
CS: The Misery influence seemed to be the selling point to get this movie funded actually, and is a perfect example of the single location/two-character suspense drama I was aiming to create. I wanted to write something that would let you and Rowena Bentley (who co-stars as 'Agnes') run riot as performers! What was you first reaction to the script, story and character?
DL: My first reaction to the script is still the same one I have now, which is sheer amazement, every time I thought I knew what was going to happen next the script completely throws you off and delivers something even more twisted and complex than you could imagine. It's safe to say I couldn't wait to get started. What I loved about the story is it takes elements of the classic horror conventions of the cabin in the woods scenario giving you a nice simple set up, but then completely turns that on its head! Reading Billy's character for the first time, I loved his intelligence yet shy and introverted personality and the real journey he takes from shy and awkward young boy to relentless strength and determination.
CS: That's exactly his journey, he finds himself lost without his father and comes up against the surrogate mother figure from hell! How was the shoot for you, what was fun and what was a challenge?
DL: The shoot was just so much fun, it was hard work and long hours into the night and very early mornings, but we were all just enjoying ourselves so much and wanted to get it right. The challenges we faced were the extreme cold temperatures (and this is before the filming in North Finland!). The set was so so cold, as it was the middle of January, the breath you can see coming from the actors in the film is 100% authentic, but we kept going, through the aid of sheer adrenaline and copious amounts of tea.
CS: Yes, for The Hateful Eight I read they built a refrigerated set, but when you're on a budget you just shoot in the coldest part of winter and save money! It was SO cold, and in every single scene your breath mists when you speak. Finland felt genuinely tropical in comparison! And when the blood came out, I imagine it got even colder... The film is pretty violent! How was it to perform all that screaming and blood drenching?
DL: The film is surprisingly very violent! After roles in Escape from Cannibal Farm and The Barge People, I am certainly no stranger to blood and screaming, and I actually really enjoy it! I felt it wasn't a proper days work unless I was drenched in blood, which in this film was frequent. I also had a lot of 'scream queen' moments in Winterskin, and feel I have now perfected my bloodcurdling scream!
CS: Upsetting the entire neighbourhood most likely...
The film is basically a two-hander, was that a challenge or could you thrive in your performance?
DL: Initially it's a nerve wracking thought of just you and one other actor carrying the film, but I felt instantly at ease on set and was just so excited and grateful to have that rare opportunity in a film. The challenge I faced as an actor, was the fact that Billy is so different to who I am as a person and different to any other character I have played, which made it a very appealing and exciting challenge.
CS: I wrote the character specifically against your type. I wanted you to grow stubble, talk with an accent, be transformed far away from your usual casting of the quirky geek, or the posh boy, Billy was rough and rugged, whilst still vulnerable. People who've seen your performances in my previous films will hopefully be surprised! We got to go to Northern Finland for the shoot, how was it filming in the snow?
DL: Getting to shoot in Finland was the absolute icing on the cake. We filmed all the interiors and the main bulk of the film for 3 weeks in the UK and got to spend a week shooting the exteriors in the amazing snowy landscape. The scenery was breathtaking with snowy forests and frozen rivers as far as the eye could see, I even had a scene where I was wading chest deep in the thick snow.
CS: Which I pretty much added in when I saw how cool it looked on camera to see you and Peter Cosgrove (who played Billy's Father in the film) chest deep battling through the snow!
DL: And we got to see the Northern Lights too, which was a real bonus.
CS: We did!
DL: I had the best time.
See David Lenik in WINTERSKIN when its out on DVD/VOD this Winter.
The film is currently in the final stages of post-production, and we're holding on to the trailer until closer to the film's official release, even though we are dying to show you!