STACK caught up with actor Dan Ewing to discuss the latest chapter in the homegrown sci-fi saga, Occupation: Rainfall.
In the space of only five years, director Luke Sparke has churned out three unique Australian genre films, from the humble bunyip-themed Red Billabong to the incredibly ambitious sci-fi adventure Occupation, and now its spectacular follow-up, Occupation: Rainfall.
Picking up two years after the events of Occupation, which told of a cataclysmic alien invasion, Sparke’s new film tells of mankind’s retaliation. It’s a high-concept and larger than life war movie which, indeed, rivals most of its Hollywood contemporaries. Thoughts of Star Wars and Starship Troopers come to mind as the action unfolds, and the potential for Sparke’s talent is only too obvious to the star of all three of his films, Dan Ewing.
“To see what he has done with Occupation: Rainfall, just taking things to a whole new level, I think the man needs a Star Wars movie to be honest,” Ewing tells STACK. “No bias at all. I just think he needs to be given the reins to one of those things.”
Reflecting on the pitch for Occupation, Ewing recalls dining with Sparke when the concept was first mentioned.
“Like all magic that happens at Hog’s Breath Cafe,” he laughs, “he kind of pitched this idea at me and it was for a slightly different character. But I read it and I wanted the lead character. I could see myself in the lead. I would have been very happy with the character I was offered, but I am very grateful to Luke for entrusting me to play Matt Simmons.”
In the first film, Ewing’s character is a disgraced footballer in a rural town, who becomes the unlikely hero and rallies the community, guiding them to safety. In Rainfall, we find him caught in a rebellion. His persona is different, serious and militant, and he struggles to keep balance between those who want to destroy the aliens, and those who wish to assimilate.
Given how heroic and integral his character is to the Occupation saga, we couldn’t resist asking Ewing whether or not his time spent as the Black Power Ranger in Power Rangers RPM (2009) helped prepare him for the role.
“That’s a great question. No one’s ever asked me that,” he admits, adding with a sudden burst of enthusiasm, “From that series, from the experience and from the training and doing what is called Koichi Camp – Koichi Sakamoto [producer, director and stuntman] is an icon of that series – and from doing all that and a lot of the driving stuff I had to do, I haven’t really needed a stunt double for my whole career. And it’s not because I’m a great martial artist, or an action star or whatever, it’s about performing stunts safely and keeping the people around you safe. That’s not a silly question at all.”
In describing the difference in his character’s physique in each film, Ewing says, “[Before Occupation] I had just done a rugby movie, and I found it really fascinating with the amount of ex-athletes that really struggle with addiction issues and that fall from grace. Plus, you know, the pain killers and the alcohol. So he wasn’t just Captain America straight away, and I didn’t want him to look ripped, so I actually put on weight for that role.
“But for this one, two years down the track, people will notice a much leaner Matt Simmons. Purely because they’ve been living off Spam,” he laughs, “or whatever else they can get their hands on. I didn’t think he needed to be big and muscular and strong, so I certainly leaned down a lot”
As for the future of Occupation and whether or not Sparke will further expand his saga, Ewing is unable to offer any teasers.
“The honest answer is that I don’t know anything about the third one. I’ve been quite busy with Love and Monsters and other stuff, so I haven’t been on the phone to him, and he’s been busy getting married. I think where we left it, without giving too much away, there’s lots of story there to tell – especially with Matt and the Gary character.
“So, I hope that everyone gets out and really supports Rainfall because I know Luke wants to make a third one. But we are in Australia and these aren’t guaranteed home runs. If everyone just gets out there and grabs the Blu-ray and international audiences love it, then I’m sure the third one won’t be too far away.”
Occupation: Rainfall is out on June 16 – PRE-ORDER your copy now