Interview with Actor Branko Tomovic

ED- The Eerie Digest is extremely excited to present one of the most exciting European actors of our time, Branko Tomovic. Branko, you have appeared in some of today’s most popular movies. How did you originally get started in films?

BT- It all started with David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” – I remember seeing this film as a child and was absolutely amazed by it. I was probably way too young to be seeing such a disturbing film but that is a different story. I was stunned by the actors’ performances and Lynch’s vision, and ever since I knew that I wanted to work in film. It was some sort of powerful and overwhelming feeling cause I had never seen anything like it.

When I finished school I read an article about the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in a film magazine. I applied for it and got accepted. But first I had to earn some money before I could go to New York. After a little while I arrived in NYC with my two suitcases, having never been on an airplane before. I had two weeks time before the school started to find a housing, so I spent the first three weeks in a rundown hotel in the meatpacking district with a mix of other students, hookers and Japanese tourists. The Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute is still located in the same building where Marilyn Monroe and James Dean went to in the 50’s and later Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in the 70’s. All my teachers were still personally taught by Lee Strasberg himself. Lee Strasberg is known for “The Method” which basically means that you have to take everything from your own personal life, your thoughts and your emotions, to create a certain character, only then can you achieve a lifelike and truthful performance. At the end of the day every actor has to choose for himself what technique he wants to use or how he wants to approach a character but I like The Method very much cause I want the character to come alive and feel real and authentic, that is the most important thing in a performance.

ED- Tell us about your role in the award winning film ‘Remote Control’.

BT- I was just about finishing my course at Lee Strasberg, when this project came along. It was produced by the American Film Institute and it’s a drama about the Yugoslavian war therefore set in the Balkans but it was shot entirely in Los Angeles. I remember having to audition three times for it. It was a great meaty part, a young disturbed soldier, very calm and innocent from the outside but inside very damaged and unpredictable. The film was my screen debut and it’s great that it did so well on the festival circuit – it won many awards, including a Student Academy Award nomination and an Acting Award for me.

ED- Your early roles in the Television shows ‘Bella Block’, ‘Siska’, and ‘Casualty’ opened new doors for your career. Tell us about these shows and how they affected you.

BT- ‘Casualty’ was the first thing I did in the UK. It’s a very popular saturday evening prime time medical drama on BBC. Even Kate Winslet and Orlando Bloom have been on it in their early days. I had just moved to London and been to many auditions but since I didn’t have any British credit under my belt it felt a bit as if everybody always went for the safe choice and it was very hard to get that first role in the UK. Catherine

Willis, a great casting director in the UK really opened that door for me and gave me my first little breakthrough and after I appeared on Casualty everything was much easier and I started to book work regularly.

ED- After this you returned to the silver screen and appeared in the film ‘It’s A Free World’ and also ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ . Tell our readers about your role in these films and about the films themselves.

BT- I was very fortunate to have the chance to work with Ken Loach and Paul Greengrass on these films, two of the finest British directors. They are both very innovative and original and also an absolute pleasure to work with. They have a very unique voice as a director, that is one of the most important things to have for a filmmaker. Both their films deal with social and political issues so they also remain true their roots.

Ken Loach never gives out the entire script to his actors so when I was told that I was cast I did not know what my part really was. He works a lot with improvisations as being real and authentic is the most important thing in his films. And it’s very similar with Paul, he has also a documentary background, so also in his feature films it’s about realism and authenticity.

ED- How did you find working with Matt Damon and the other cast members of ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ ?

BT – I actually ‘only’ had scenes with Matt Damon. We were shooting at Pinewood Studios in London and also in East Berlin which they transformed into Moscow with fake snow, Russian cars and everything else. All that remained of me became the opening scene of ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ with Matt as Jason Bourne and me as the Russian Policeman in the pharmacy what we shot in London. Matt is such a nice guy, very approachable and down to earth. A great colleage and even more important a brilliant actor. Between takes, he would go from chatting nicely with you to having that haunted Jason Bourne look in his eyes on camera in only one second. And I think it always helps your own performance if you have such a strong actor opposite you, it really raises the bar.

ED- Recently Moviescope Magazine labeled you as an actor that is ‘One to watch’, which is quite an honor. How has this award affected you?

BT- Well, yes, it’s a great film magazine, their tagline is “By Filmmakers. For Filmmakers”. I think it is always great getting recognition in that way. It feels great to know that your work has not only been seen but also acknowledged by your peers. Than again, awards are never a guarantee for anything. It’s more like a momentum where your star shines just a little bit brighter but you always have to continue to do good work of course.

ED-Afterwards You played in the films ‘Taximan’, ‘Into the Woods’, and ‘Inbetween’ before returning to a principal role in televisions Jack the Ripper film ‘Whitechapel’ . How did you once again adjust to this change? Tell us how acting in film and television differed for you.

BT- I have done many independent and short films in the UK and I really enjoy working on these. They have all been great ambitious projects with very talented directors. The parts I have played are very versatile but then again it’s still mostly tormented characters and tortured souls that I play in these films. I love gritty independent films and I am always more drawn to darker roles. In ‘Into the Woods’ I played a guy who just digged his own grave and is running from his persecutors. ‘Inbetween’ was a great and ambitious project as well, it’s just doing the festival circuit now and I just won ‘Best Actor’ at the San Francisco Short Film Festival for it. It was directed by Bernard Wright and produced by David Barron who also produces the ‘Harry Potter’ films. I play a Serbian soldier who is tormented by grief and guilt, a witness of war crimes. And I recently did a great short with a young talented director called David Anderson – “The Crossmaker”. It’s set in Jerusalem, 1st century and I am playing this Jewish carpenter who makes crosses for the Roman army where his fellow Jews will be crucified on later, hence the crossmaker.

‘Whitechapel’ was a great TV show, an intelligent and well done crime thriller so no light part for me again. I play this morgue man, one of the main suspects. In fact, they were looking for an older actor but changed the script and made him younger after my audition which was really great. For me there is really no difference in acting for film or TV – as long as it’s good TV. I enjoy doing both as long as there is strong script, a great director and an interesting part.

ED- You appeared in film again in ‘Pope Joan’ (2009) and ‘The Wolf Man’ (2010) showing your versatility and acting strengths to their maximum once again. What would you say is the film genre that you most enjoy working in?

BT- Both these films are set in another time period so it really felt like being in another world when I was on set. ‘The Wolf Man’ is set in 1891, the Victorian era and ‘Pope Joan’ plays in Rome in the 9th century. It’s a fantastic experience and lot of fun to do these kind of films, especially on big budget productions like these where they can rebuilt everything. You are surrounded by everything they had back then and everything seems so real. It’s a very weird feeling, like stepping back in time. For ‘Pope Joan’ they rebuilt a part of ancient Rome in the desert of Morocco, where we were filming for a month. They shaved me a tonsure for my part and I had to wear it for the entire period.

I don’t really have a particular genre. I am pretty open as long as there is a great script and a great director behind the project. Although I feel they like to put me in these darker intense projects and parts which I am absolutely happy with. I will probably never play the romantic lead which is absolutely fine with me – I have always preferred ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ over ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

ED- Once again your acting versatility steered you towards television again in 2010 in the films ‘A Touch of Frost’ and ‘The Forgotten Few’. Tell us about these productions and the roles that you played.

BT- I had a great time working on these and it was also an honour to be involved here. Those were the final two episodes ever of ‘A Touch of Frost’ and I played a pyromaniac Junky-Henchman to Adrian Dunbar’s character who makes life just a little bit harder to Inspector Frost and his love interest. It’s good to be bad and be allowed to do things you

could never do in real life! ‘The Forgotten Few’ aka ‘The Untold Battle of Britain’ is about a group of Eastern European pilots who with their advanced experience and ability help the allies win the Battle of Britain during the Second World War. I play Polish fighter pilot Miroslaw Feric who also existed in real life.

Most recently, I just finished shooting a British feature film called ‘Will’ a road-movie with Damian Lewis and Bob Hoskins directed by American filmmaker Ellen Perry and also a German-Romanian film called ‘Silent River’ directed by Anca Lazarescu.

ED- Branko, it has been an honor, and a pleasure, to introduce you to our legions of readers. I know that I speak for them, and our magazine, in saying that we will be following your career in earnest and hope that you will keep us informed with all your acing roles in the future. Many thanks again for your time and contribution to The Eerie Digest magazine.