Matt Keeslar: This Man, This Monster
the dual role of Jekyll and Hyde proved to be one of the hardest
tasks before director Scott
Zakarin. In early drafts of his script, Scott stressed
over and over the character's eyes, not just as a window to
the soul but as a window to Hyde. Whoever played Jekyll had
to be believably gentle, kind and yet capable of being a monster,
at least psychologically.
couple of surprisingly big names flirted with the production,
but Scott kept coming back around to one actor who had blown
him away in auditions: Matt Keeslar.
name should be familiar to genre fans, as the actor appeared
in SCI FI's Dune, Stephen King's Rose Red and played a mysterious
boarder in the underrated Psycho Beach Party. But he's also
established himself in the indie cinema scene with appearances
in The Last Days of Disco and the upcoming In Memory of My
the moment he was cast in Jekyll, Keeslar threw himself into
the work with an almost manic dedication. Talk to anybody
on the set of the film and you'd get the same observation
about him, that he is one of the hardest working actors they've
ever encountered. Luckily, he's also good.
Zakarin also has one other observation, though. Keeslar has
a thing for doffing his clothes. Maybe that was just a Scott
thing, but during the course of our interview, Keeslar, in
full Hyde make-up, did indeed strip down. I think
was for a costume change.
Hyde's appearance isn't nearly as monstrous as the ape-like
figure of early versions, it's still …disconcerting. While
talking to Keeslar, I found it difficult to make eye contact,
as his eyes were covered by inhuman contact lenses. Once he
got naked, I had no comfortable place to look except his guitar
any rate, this should drive search engine traffic our way.
Matt Keeslar naked. Or if you prefer, naked Matt Keeslar.
I promise to let him know if we get a lot of hits as a result.
McCaw: How difficult has it been for you to get into the
heads of these two personalities?
Keeslar: The challenge in playing both sides of the character
is how far do you stray in either direction? We wanted to
make it not be the monster movie of the thirties. We wanted
to make it a little more David Lynch, Twin Peaks-type
weird, psychological horror. And we use a lot of pseudo-science
and pseudo-psychology throughout the script to define the
being that there is a repressed dark side of Dr. Henry Jekyll
that he desperately needs to be liberated. The difficulty
ends up being what times does Edward Hyde, the dark character,
take on Jekyll's personality traits? For example, when he's
truly touched or truly emotional or truly losing his temper
about something. When he's not in complete control. And then
there are the times when Jekyll, who is normally very staid,
very in control, is out of control.
movie progresses, the two extremes come closer and closer
together, so that you have a semblance of a human being by
the end of it.
Talking with a few people here, they've raved about your dedication
and your preparation - showing up for rehearsals when you
didn't need to be there, being at auditions, all that. Can
you talk about the work you did ahead of time to prepare for
The thing is that when you're playing a character that is
complicated, any character that's complicated, it's hard to
not have an influence in every part of the filmmaking process.
As an actor, I want to, of course, have great actors surrounding
me. You know, people who can help bolster my performance.
The better the other actors are, the better my performance
ends up being.
was happy to go in for casting meetings, and help in casting
the female leads in the movie. (smiles knowingly)
How many lapdances did you have to go through?
I probably had about fifty lapdances. They were all distinct
and wonderful in their own separate ways. And I got lapdances
from about every young actress in Hollywood.
Did you get one from Scott?
Scott kept offering to give me a lapdance, but I was like,
dude, I'm already working for you. You don't have to give
me anything more. Pay will be enough.
I've watched you film a couple of transformation scenes. The
way you're playing it, even though it's technological, not
chemical, still seems very drug-like. It looked almost like
snorting cocaine. Do you see this as a story about addiction?
show you the man in the mirror.
Absolutely. This is an addiction story from a hundred and
fifty years ago. It's about a man who becomes addicted to
the dark side of his personality. Frankly, drugs are a big
part of what helps people become liberated from their social
strictures, and also to come into contact with their dark
you're doing heavy drugs is when you get into all kinds of
the crazy dark side of human nature. Any drug will do, basically.
And there's a bit of allure to it. You're having fun, giving
Hyde a hint of a British accent. Tell me about the fun.
The addiction actually comes from the fact that Hyde is every
man's fantasy. If you could be a rock star, suddenly, and
put on rock star clothing and get all of the pussy that you
wanted, and be as crazy and wild and strong, physically strong,
confident in everything that you're doing…that's what
the British accent, or hint of, whatever, mid-Atlantic accent,
is part of his dark charm and playfulness. It comes from the
fantasy of the doctor, Henry Jekyll, who would like nothing
more than to experience that dark side of human nature.
there's a scene in the strip club where Jekyll talks to one
of the strippers and is completely denied by her. But he goes
back as Edward Hyde and ends up getting her into bed.
Right. That would be Christy (Siena
Goines). Today on the set you described your character
as being two celebrities. I can't remember who you said.
I've told friends that I've been going from Michael York to
also with Hyde added in a little bit of a lot of things. A
little bit of Charles Manson, a little bit of the dark glam
rock star. There are hints of many things.
this article on Charles Manson when I was researching the
film. I was looking up interviews with serial killers. It
was just so fascinating how specific he was. He was very concise
with all of his answers. That meticulousness was what I tried
to bring to Hyde as well. That sort of precision, that he
knows exactly what he's saying and why he's saying it. Every
rule that he's breaking is done completely consciously. It's
not that he's just spazzing out and doing whatever he wants.
doing it with the full awareness that he is going against
In the script, Jekyll is very much in denial of the violence
that Hyde is capable of. How is that influencing your performance?
Yes. The reason for the denial of Hyde's violent nature is
the same reason that we all try to deny our negative sides
when we're feeling good.
the drug analogy, if you took some lines of cocaine and were
feeling really great about some things, then later everyone
was telling you, whoa, what was up with you at that party?
You were such a jerk.
be saying, no, I felt pretty good, actually. You know?
that same type of feeling. You don't want to believe that
your dark side is unattractive. You want to believe that your
dark side is as fun as it seems to be while you're living
This is the second time that you've played a major literary
genre character, as you were Feyd in SCI FI's Dune. Do you
find that daunting, since people already have their own vision
of the character in their mind?
There is a challenge to it, but I try not to worry too much
about what people's opinions of my work are going to be. The
reason that I pick characters like Feyd or Jekyll and Hyde
is because there's so much there backing it up. A whole novel
of description and experience. So much of that work, the research
that you would normally have to do on any project, has sort
of been done for you already.
a lot of times they will give the character's thoughts and
feelings as they're going through a scene. That puts you in
the right mind frame when you're playing a part.
Jekyll, there's a huge speech at the end of the novella, a
confession written as sort of a love letter to his friend,
his best friend and lawyer, Utterson. In this film, Utterson
is actually my old college girlfriend. We fooled around in
college and have become best friends. She's now best man at
my wedding. So rather than being my attorney as she was in
the novella, this is now a girl who becomes part of the love
triangle with Talia, my fiancée, Christy the stripper and
myself as both Edward Hyde and Dr. Jekyll.
I see you've got a guitar lying around here. Do you just dabble,
or are you serious about your music? Are you planning a Keanu
Reeves and having your own Dogstar?
(laughs) I don't have my own Dogstar. But I love music.
another reason I like doing parts like this. They are very
technical, and they do have a kind of a musical quality to
them. You have to use your voice in a different way. You also
have to have almost a dancer or acrobatic quality, using your
body in a different way.
using the full instrument, to take the analogy one step further,
rather than just be a talking head.
The speed with which this movie is shooting - do you find
that a help or a hindrance to just be barreling through? Scott
boasted to me this was four times faster than a normal set
Yeah. I don't like it. I wish we could have more time to work
on scenes, to get them perfect. But I think that what we've
done is taken the budget and the time that we have and cut
down to the bare bones essence of what we can realistically
accomplish. In doing that, we've made a tighter, stronger
script with more action and more conflict. Certainly more
than would be in a film being made by a studio where they'd
be spending millions of dollars and days and days to rehearse
one stunt scene.
we've been nailing them quickly, getting them out of the way,
we're spending a lot more time on the relationships between
characters. Spending more time on actually filming the scenes
that are the heart of the story.
I think we've been able to do a lot of the transformation
through acting, rather than through special effects. In that
way, it's kind of a theatrical performance. And in that way,
it's benefited from the quick shooting schedule. We've moved
directly from scene to scene, a lot of times going chronologically,
which is different from most sets.
Hyde is clearly not so much of a make-up effect. You're definitely
accomplishing it through personality. I also witnessed in
the transformation scenes shot today that you're improvising
a lot, with Scott's direction. So you must feel you know the
character pretty well.
Again, if we had months and months for preparation, I could
probably have changed Jekyll enough away from myself to make
it a much more individual character. The way that I've ended
up doing it is using a lot of myself for Henry Jekyll. And
that's helpful, because when it comes to improvising, it's
so much easier to improvise in your own voice. You're actually
coming up with your own thoughts.
taking the limitations that we have as an independent film
and a relatively fast shooting schedule, and using it to our
advantage. To make it a stronger work.
How much preparation time did you actually have?
I was cast around Christmas time. We started production in
mid-January. So I had three or four weeks. Luckily, the internet
is available. So all of the research, I could do sitting in
my office at home. I didn't have to go to a library. Anything
that I wanted to find on the classic Jekyll and Hyde story,
the Jungian idea of shadow vs. light, all the scientific stuff
that we did in a lot of the improves, that was all available
Are you ready with a mattkeeslar.com, to prepare for genre
Sure, sure. When I was a kid, I used to go to The Rocky
Horror Picture Show every Saturday. Though I never did
the dressing up…
Yeah. And then in summer stock, I was actually cast as the
monster. So I've always been a fan of fans, and a fan of cult
films. A lot of what we're doing in this has that cult flavor,
like The Rocky Horror Picture Show or A Clockwork
Orange. It's taking the classic story of Jekyll and Hyde
and making it into the post-modern tale that we are filming.
forward to it.
will Jekyll achieve cult status? A lot will depend on Matt
Keeslar's performance, which from what I've seen, is absolutely
the rock this film needs. And Scott threatens that there is,
indeed, at least one scene of Naked Matt Keeslar. Go, Google,