GVK: You have been cast in may films as an athlete why do you think this is
OE: I don’t know, as I am 5’10 170 and not the biggest person. Each experience has offered me something new and prior to this film, I had spoken to my agent about not doing any more sports films. This film came along, and I could not pass this up and I hope this will turn out to be a gift rather than a curse.
GVK: With that in mind, what attracted you to the part since you were trying to get away from athletic roles?
OE: The first thing was the script and what jumped out to me was the fact that the cliché of the young urban guy was not there as his point of view was different. He did not have a chip on his shoulder and was responsible for himself and I found it refreshing from a character standpoint. I am also a huge boxing fan and the attraction to work with Meg, and Charles Dutton as well as to be a part of the great story was all I needed.
GVK: Why do you think that the majority of the backstory is fictional rather than going with the actual story?
OE: That was because we could not get everyone onboard and if we were to add actual boxers, then they all have to sign off and be in the story and before you know it, you have a Lord of the Rings trilogy going as each boxer would want their story told.
We decided to keep it linear and use the inspired by approach.
GVK: What sort of preparation and training did you do for the role?
OE: It was crazy, I had about 6 weeks to get ready and had to do five hours a day of Boxing 101. I am a huge fan of the sport so my eagerness and desire were there but I had never had to work out that hard. I studied a lot, watched a lot of tapes and worked to be as prepared as I could. Charles Dutton is a huge Boxing fan as well and he told me that while “Rocky” is the king of boxing films, from a technical standpoint the technique shown is not authentic. The guys in the gym know this, and we wanted to up the ante and create the realism. I had to take some shots and give some in order to make it work..
GVK: You must have taken some good shots?
OE: I did, it was hard as on the day you are filming, technical issues and camera angles make you have to be real in order for it to look real. The final scene in the film took two-weeks to film. If I was to poke you in your knee for a few minutes you would want to toss me out the window, now imagine getting hit in the same rib for two weeks. There is no preparation for that. And as you said, you cant tape them down either.
GVK: You have worked with Charles Dutton before, how was that?
OE: He is amazing, it is great to see him grow from the technical and artistic aspect and he blossomed. He was in the film as well and it was funny as two weeks in he pulled me aside and mentioned that he should have cast someone for his part and just focused on directing.
GVK: What input did you get to your role?
OE: Pretty much everything as he was a composite character. Charles had a vision that he wanted and we worked to create a character that was inline with the part and it was refreshing to create this character without the usual stereotypes.
GVK: You have worked hard to do diverse characters and avoid the typical gangster roles. Was this by design?
OE: Yes, I tried to stay away from this and stick to my guns but it is tough when you have a family to support. There was a time when the roles I was being offered were not what I wanted and I was grateful to the HBO films as they provided me work when the offers were not there or not what I wanted to play. I think what we need to do is create or own vehicles and as artists, you and me alike, we are all crazy. We work with that side of our brain that others cant. There is a lot of give and take and you need to show by example and push people to think out of the box. I believe you work with what you got to get to somewhere else.
GVK: Some of your early work had you always cast as the cocky guy now they show you as a more intelligent person with a lot going on, how did that happen.
OE: Mostly is was a lot of networking as you never know, you work on a set, and a person who would never have thought of you hears about you and wants you in his film based on set reports. Hollywood has always had a narrow focus and that is why independent films have taken off as people responded to the anti-Hollywood approach to stories and film. I got into acting from writing and I have had the good fortune of meeting some talented and artistic people and I am in the process of having my own production company to make vehicles.
GVK: Where was the film shot and roughly how long was the shoot?
OE: Toronto and Cleveland and about three months. I loved Toronto it was a great city, a clean New York.
GVK: Why did the film take so long to come out?
OE: It was mainly due to the war as we finished filming two years ago, but they held the release until now which I see as a blessing as it is coming out at a time when people can pay attention to the film.
GVK: When you look back what were your most memorable experiences from the film?
OE: Getting hit, the first time I was hit with a jab, I shook from the top of my spine to my tendons and my trainer thought I was kidding him, and I was serious. It was fun to work with Meg as she wanted to challenge herself and do something outside of her comfort zone and when you are around that, you cant help but be refreshed.
GVK: What is next for you?
OE: I have a remake of Alfie with Jude Law and a script out called “Serenity Falls” and some projects I am co-producing and www.bknycrecords.com is coming in a month so people can see my artists as well as some of my music.
GVK: Which do you find harder, acting or writing?
OE: Writing for certain. When I start, I want to get to the end yet it gives me depth as an actor as I understand the world around me. When you get your technique down, the sky is the limit and you can put your own touch. It is hard to get to a place where you are confident as you never feel done. I love watching writers on the set as they are often the most stressed people in the world and you have to assure them that you will do their story justice.
GVK: You had mentioned that when acting you leave the work behind when you are done. Is it hard in this age of DVDs where some directors shoot scenes knowing they will not be in the film but are to be included as bonus scenes for the DVD release?
OE: They do not even tell you the whats and when as then you see the film on DVD and you think that is where all of the heart and soul I put into that scene went.
GVK: Since you act, write and do music, and you have mentioned how Hollywood is nervous about stepping outside the box, has this been an issue and which area is the easiest for you to take criticism in?
OE: None of them, (Laughs). I would say acting as it is the Mothership of my creative universe and I am confident in this. I can say, I did not have the write look or whatever. As an actor becoming a writer, I need to make vehicles for myself I learned as Producers want you to include parts for me, and you need to swallow your pride and start anew. The musician part is hard as people have seen me a certain way and until recently did not see me in this way. People are surprised when I do music, and the response has started to be good of late.