I sit down with Eric James Gravolin, Hafedh Dakhlaoui and Kristy Wordsworth to Talk About Their Upcoming Film, They Called Me Keith, and How Much of a Mind F*** It Is
“Life, death, hippy stuff, wtf moments, and a couple of infamous serial killers,” is how actor-director, Eric James Gravolin (The Legend of the Five) describes the themes of his upcoming short film They Called Me Keith. Adapted from the short story of the same name by Hungarian-Australian author S.E. Bullen, the film follows Ryan Brinis (played by Hafedh Dakhlaoui), as he navigates loss and grief following a personal tragedy surrounding his partner Simone (played by Kristy Wordsworth). A bit of background for you.
This is Gravolin’s third short in the director’s seat (following The Getaway Plan and The Hunt), but his list of acting credits is long and varied and includes parts in The Commons, Between Two Worlds, Total Control and a double part in the recently released Australian feature The Legend of the Five. Dakhlaoui, meanwhile, has had standout parts in Hollywood features such as Maximum Impact, Black Rose, Wild League, and the upcoming films Octopus Pot and The Spy Who Never Dies. It was on the set of the Spy Who Never Dies where Dakhlaoui first met the Australian actress Wordsworth, before they both discovered they had been cast for They Called Me Keith.
Recently I sat down with the three to talk about the upcoming film.
Tell me about “They Called Me Keith”
Eric Gravolin: It’s a movie (laughs). Have you seen it?
Hafedh Dakhlaoui: I hope he’s seen some of it.
No, I’m actually waiting for its release. When is that?
Eric: We’re hoping to have post-production wrapped up by October. Obviously, we want it in festivals this year.
Kristy Wordsworth: Not having seen it must make it hard to come up with good questions.
It does. But I was fortunate enough to read the short story, so there you go.
Eric: You read it?
Yes. It’s a bit of a mind f***, isn’t it?
Hafedh: I’m still not sure I fully follow it!
Did that play into you wanting to turn it into a film? How did you get the script?
Eric: Hafedh knows Stefan (S.E Bullen) and read They Called Me Keith. He asked if he would adapt it for film and the rest is history.
For those who don’t know, give us a brief overview without too many spoilers. What makes “They Called Me Keith” special?
Eric: Most short films only deal with a couple of scenes, a couple of emotional states. They Called Me Keith deals with a whole lot more. The final edit isn’t read yet so I can’t give a precise time but in under 20 minutes you get love, despair, delusion—or maybe clarity depending on how you see it—fear and rage. Oh, and a dash of horror. It could be a feature, really, if someone wanted to flesh out the story and come up with a script, but at the moment Stefan is busy with a bunch of novels he’s been working on for what he tells me is forever.
Kristy: Can I actually answer your question? Eric fluffs a lot.
Kristy: It’s about an actor named Ryan, he’s on the verge of a Hollywood breakthrough, who goes through some trauma and decides a dead British war poet is talking to him. It gets weirder after that and ends up in a really dark place. I actually had nightmares after I read the script. Not because it’s graphic or anything. The whole concept is just creepy.
Hafedh: It’s really creepy. F****** Myra just creeps me out.
She’s played by Clara Helms?
Eric: Right. And Ryan’s manager, Oliver, is played by Jamie Treselyan. They both did a fantastic job on Keith. Clara’s depiction of Myra is actually terrifying. As soon as we saw her casting tape we knew it had to be her.
So, for those who can’t see just how imposing he is in the picture that’s inevitably going to end up with this article, I’m just going to say that Hafedh Dakhlaoui is 6’6” and built like the Hulk. Hafedh, after browsing your filmography I’ve noticed you generally play the villain. What was it like playing Ryan Brinis? He’s not a bad guy, is he? He’s actually pretty nice.
Kristy: I don’t know if I would say he’s nice. He doesn’t know how to be in a long-term relationship, that’s for damn sure.
Hafedh: (laughs) playing Ryan definitely took me out of my comfort zone. Usually I’m taking names and kicking ass. With Ryan I had to show my tender side. I also had to get in touch with my sense of spiritualism, but that wasn’t too hard. I spend a lot of time in Bali, and I am already really interested in a lot of the stuff Ryan explores in the film.
Reincarnation? Past lives?
Hafedh: Yeah, that stuff. I believe in energy and karma, so reincarnation and past lives aren’t far off for me. I’m a spiritual guy.
Spiritual but imposing.
Hafedh: I might be showing my tender side but there’s a reason I’m usually taking names and kicking ass (at this point Hafedh briefly stood up to get water, making me feel infinitesimally small).
How about you, Kristy? Where are you with spirituality? Where do you think Simone was?
Kristy: I’m a believer in yogic teachings, which emphasise the fact that the soul continues to exist after the body is gone. I don’t know how far that would go in terms of carrying personality and memories, but something definitely carries on. And as for Simone? She was troubled, loving but scorned. I guess Simone was a nihilist. Actually, I’m positive Simone was a nihilist.
So, guys… And girl. Is there anything else you’d like to say about They Called Me Keith?
Kristy: Being a part of a project like this really challenges your range as an actor. It’s so different to anything else I’ve ever done. I’d love to be involved in more of this kind of project – creative, abstract, deep. Bring them on!
Eric: Watch this space and look out for it on the festival circuit later this year. It’s going to be a great film, really something special for a short, and we’re already talking about ways to cajole Stefan into writing a feature length version of the script.