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We had an opportunity to catch up with award winning Actor Dustin Ardine. Dustin won the Best Actor Award for his performance in the Best Picture Award winning film at the Nevada Short Film Festival Spring 2021. Angel of Mercy, Directed by Paul Deorio . The screening on took place on March 27, 2021 Film Festival Circuit in Reno, Nevada.
1. You’ve got an incredibly fascinating story, could you tell our readers about your story, how you trained to be an actor, and where your journey has taken you?
Thank you very much for saying that, it has been a very long road. On that, I am still climbing every single day to make my dreams a reality. I was born in Reno, Nv, and started acting when I was only 6 years old. My family and I went to Universal Studios for my birthday and I was picked out of the audience to take part in their "Star Trek Experience". We spent the day filming a live episode of Star Trek in front of an audience, after which was then fully edited and shown on the big screen later that night. I knew then and there that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I was and still am a Dreamer, however, I knew that when it came to this dream I also had to be a realist. I knew that my road was going to be a very long and difficult one, as I come from a middle-class family with no connections to the acting world. However, I wasn't going to let this stop me. I started acting in school and going after auditions anywhere and everywhere I could find them, as well as taking as many acting classes as I could from anywhere my parents could afford to send me. Both my parents did the best they could to help me but coming from a working-class family there wasn’t tons of money to send me to the best training school. We also traveled around a lot when I was younger, which made it hard to build connections anywhere, however, it did give me experiences of acting in many repertory theaters all across the USA, including the Reno Little Theatre. My drive to be the very best actor I could be led me to self-study all the greatest industry teachers including Stanislavski, Chekov, Meisner, Adler, and my personal favorite Lee Strasberg and method acting. I enrolled at Indiana University of Pennsylvania for a degree in Theatre, and also studied at the renowned Academy of Art University under the tutelage of Hollywood leading lady Diane Baker. From there I was accepted into the famed New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, and am joining the Legendary Actors Studio to attend weekly acting workshops. When I came out to Los Angeles to attend school I had to sell two cars, a business that I had built in Reno, and my motorcycle to pay for my school fees. I had no money and knew no one in the industry. I slept in my car for nearly two years while finishing acting school and worked all the side jobs I could find to eat. But I refused to give up on my dream and I will keep working as hard as possible every day to make my dreams come true.
2. As a method actor, what are some of the most intense things you’ve had to do for a role?
Method Acting is a style of acting in which a range of training and rehearsal techniques including sense memory, affective memory, moment to moment, given circumstances, etc. All of which are used to encourage sincere and emotionally expressive performances from the actor by fully inhabiting the role of the character. It is an emotion-oriented technique instead of classical acting that is primarily action-based. These techniques were built on the teachings of Stanislavski's system, developed by the Russian actor and director Constantin Stanislavski and captured in his books "An Actor Prepares", "Building a Character". And "Creating a Role". These teachers were then further developed by many other famous acting teachers including Academy Award Nominee Lee Strasberg, in his book "A Dream of Passion". As a method actor, I always go above and beyond for any role I am entrusted to bring to life. The first part that comes when you get a role is researching not only your character but the entire film in general. There is NO EXCUSE for an actor not researching their role. You want to research your character, the time period the film is set in, the different story arches within the script, themes, etc. Then start your character building. When I bring a character to life I don’t want someone to watch the film and say “god Dustin is going a great job”, I want to bring the other character to life so well that the audience forgets Dustin Ardine is there and they only see that character. Then once the film has ended have them say “That was amazing! That character that Dustin brought to life was so real and vivid, what other characters and performances has he done". I feel it is my responsibility to change myself to fit the character and to tell their story rather than changing the character to fit myself.
One memorable character for me was playing The Minotaur in the feature film “Ariadne”, based on the Greek mythology tale. I gained over 65 pounds for the role and dove extremely deep into the psyche of the character, who at his core was a prisoner trapped not only in his life(the labyrinth) with himself (whom he hates deeply but also trapped inside his love for Ariadne. When I put together the character I did loads of research about the lives of prisoners and their stories of trying to adapt to survive both in and outside of prison. We filmed that movie for over 3 months and I stayed in character the entire time both on and offset. Immediately, following that film I was cast in a horror film called "Birth" which opened at the Cannes film festival. For that film, I had to lose all of the weight I had gained for “Ariadne” extremely fast, so I starved myself completely for over 2 months and refused to eat during filming in order to get myself to the proper weight. I also did my own stunts in that film as I do in all my films. I feel it is the actors' duty to fully commit to their work.
3. Who are some of your biggest artistic influences as an actor?
When I was younger I borrowed a copy of the movie "Romper Stomper" from my brother. From the second I watched Russell Crowe's performance as Hando I knew I wanted to attain that level of skill. Russell has this chameleon-like ability to showcase a different character in each movie he plays. No matter what character Russell employs so many large and subtle techniques to alter each performance he does and I have strived to showcase this type of fluidity in every one of my performances. I would love to work with Russell someday. I was also named after Dustin Hoffman who is another actor who I feel has this wide array of vastly different performances under his belt. I would love to work with Dustin very much. Not only would that allow me to learn from one of the greatest actors of all time, but it would also just give me the opportunity to shake his hand and thank him for my name.
Two of my favorite actresses whom I feel have this same level of commitment to their characters and performances are Christina Ricci and Kate Winslet. Every time I see one of these amazing actresses on screen it is as if I am seeing them for the first time. This is exactly what I want when I watch an actor perform. I don’t think anyone can say exactly what makes a great actor, as this is a very subjective question. I can only tell you that in my personal opinion my favorite actors are the ones who make you see the character come to life before your eyes. I want to go see a movie, play, or performance and be completely captivated by the story and the journey that the character goes through. If I see the actor before I see the character that takes me out of my suspension of disbelief. This is what I think about giving to my audience when building a character.
4. Were there any challenges you've had to face while making Angel of Mercy?
I love everything about making films. So what others think of as challenges I truthfully don't. Just like I go the extra mile for my characters, I also go the extra mile to make the filmmaking process easier on everyone. Now of course "Angel of Mercy", just like every production had its challenges both internally and externally, but they are challenges that I love to face head-on. The film is set in the 1970's so the production team needed to make sure that everything in the film was era-appropriate. The clothes, the weapons, the sets, the houses, etc. I remember being called for the first day of filming at this house which would act like my character, Sawyer McCormick's, home for the film. I have no idea how they found this place but as soon as you walk through the front door of this house it was like traveling back in time. It was perfect for the 1970s, which is crazy considering that it was a house up in the Hollywood Hills which the production team did not change that much of. Also as far as sets are concerned, another challenge is that we shot in multiple places in a wide area of Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. The house as mentioned was up in the Hollywood Hills, the police station was in Anaheim at a studio lot very close to Disneyland, the abandoned building from the beginning of the film was an actual abandoned veterinarian shelter in Riverside California. So moving from place to place was a challenge but again one that I love as I love to travel.
Also as far as the Character is concerned I wanted to do everything I could to bring the character to life in an engaging, entertaining, and honest way. Sawyer is a very complex character and has many traits that others might not want to showcase including the fact that when he beginning his journey he is very shy, timid, unsure of himself, and cowardly. Most actors want to play the "Badass" and the hero, but not all characters are that way because not all people in life are this way. In some acting schools, I have been to they tell you that you must love the character that you play but when you love someone you forgive their faults. This is a bad thing to do when bringing a character to life in my opinion. You need to showcase their faults to give an accurate portrayal of this character. Another thing about Sawyer is his backstory which both I and the director, Paul Deorio, came up with. He was born in Boston and lived there just long enough to get a little bit of the Boston accent but moved when he was very young giving him only a slight accentual tone when he speaks. Obviously, with this film being a short film(pilot) you don't get ss much of the opportunity or the time, as you would in a feature film, to showcase much of your character's backstory but it is drastically important that they still be there to give a better performance in my opinion.
5. Do you have any fun or interesting stories about the making of this film? Maybe an experience on set or in preparation for your role?
I loved every second of creating this character, rehearsing the scenes, and shooting this film. I had so many fun experiences as well as some not-so-fun ones. First off, Sawyer McCormick is a rookie cop just out of the academy, following in his older brother's footsteps. So to prepare to bring a cop to life I enrolled in the cadet academy at the Los Angeles Police Department over the summer before we shot. I wanted to learn how a cop walks and talks. How they are trained to enter an abandoned building, the correct way to hold a gun and/or flashlight. As a committed method actor, I wanted to bring as many accurate traits to this film and this character as I could. Another great experience that worked out to give a wonderful aspect to this film was the chemistry that I had with actor Daniel O'Reilly. This film is largely centered on the bond and love that these characters have. This is what pushes my character's story forward and from the second me and Daniel meet in the auditions we knew we had the chemistry to bring these two to life. At the auditions when we read with each other you could feel something clicked and as soon as we got done the director said he didn't even need to continue auditions.
On the downside, one bad experience I had while filming (I say this was bad but honestly I wouldn’t change it because probably added even more complexity to the character and my performance) was the fact that I ended up breaking my hand very early in the filming schedule. In fact, I think it was one of the very first days of shooting, during a dramatic scene I slammed my hand down on a metal desk in anger and broke it. Of course, I did not want to risk being replaced on the film so I did not tell anyone until we finished shooting. To make matters even worse was the fact that this was not a scripted action, but the director loved it, so not only did I have to repeat this action multiple times to finish shooting that scene but I also filmed the rest of the movie with a broken hand. Then to add insult to injury this scene was cut from the final cut of the film! Lol! I couldn’t believe it but that's the nature of what we do and I love what I do, so wouldn’t change it at all.
6. What would you like audiences to take away from this film after seeing it?
Overall the most important part to me is that I hope the audience has an enjoyable time watching the film. I hope it takes them on an engaging journey that moves them in some
way, whether that is enjoying the action scenes, the dramatic performances, the beautiful cinematography, the idea and premise of the story and the characters, etc. Just as long as they experience some type of connection with the film I will be happy. I hope the audience watches my performance in the film and instead of seeing an actor on the screen they Sawyer McCormick's journey through adversity. I hope that my character's journey to find his inner strength through adversity might give inspiration for anyone out there going through a rough time to find their inner strength to continue to move forward no matter the challenge.
7. What was your favorite part of the process of making this film?
My favorite part of making this film is the exact thing that I love about acting in general. No matter if it is play, film, commercial, voice-over, or whatever. My favorite part about what I do is being able to live someone else’s life, to become someone else. When I am on set my goal is to be on set fully as the character I am playing. I don’t want to be Dustin Ardine anymore, Dustin Ardine should not be there. I want to have done so much research and work building my character that I should be able to live and breathe as the character I am playing. The world is full of so many amazing people with so many amazing lives and no matter if I am playing the part of a regular everyday normal guy or I am playing a mythological being, good guy or bad guy, I want to tell their story. I think for me, becoming someone else and seeing the world through someone else’s eyes and figuring out who that person is on the inside, figuring out their backstory from the evidence presented in the script, and experiencing the world as someone different from myself is what I love about what I do.
In the beginning, I think acting was an escape for me. An escape from the world, from my home life, even from myself. To be honest, I have never been very comfortable in my own shoes. Being on set is home to me, it's where I feel I belong. That's the true magic of this industry, of acting, and movies in general. They have the power to take us away from reality, even for a short time. To help us forget about our troubles or the negative impacts of our lives, just enough to give us a breather so we can recharge and be ready to take on another day. We can witness the journey of hero’s and their trials and tribulations. We watch them fall and rise up stronger which has the power to give us strength and motivation. We can time travel to destinations that happened long before we were born, or see time periods in the future that haven’t happened yet. We can see the triumph of good over evil, even knowing that sometimes this isn't always the case in real life, although it should be. The power of imagination can take us on countless journeys to unique worlds. We can witness historic moments in time and meet history's most influential and important people up close. We can create beautiful memories with our loved ones that can last a lifetime.
8. Do you have any projects currently in the works that you’re preparing for?
Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic tragically put everything in Hollywood on hold, as it did to so many things in the world but we are just starting to come out of it but currently, I just auditioned for a Netflix series (can't say which one though) that I am really hoping to get, as I would love to be part of that series. Also, I have just gotten word that I have been cast in an upcoming feature film called "Time Girl and the World of Element", which is a Sci-Fi film that explores the concepts of alternative earths, portal jumping through time and space, and alternative versions of some of folklore and histories most beloved figures. I have been cast as one of the leading characters and will be playing an alternative version of King Arthur. I am very excited about that project and can't wait to start shooting. The other project coming up soon is called “Proving Ground” which is a psychological thriller being directed by Joel Bender. I am slated to star opposite Hollywood starlet Dominique Swain, as well as “The Walking Dead" star Vincent Ward. We all have very high hopes for this production and I can't wait to start filming that either.
9. I'm really excited to see what you do next! Is there anything you'd like to promote or anyone you'd like to give a shout-out to?
Thank you for saying that as it truly means a lot to me. I can't wait to see what the future has in store as well. I know that I will continue to push myself every single day to attain my dreams and will not stop until I have. I know I will continue to practice and study my craft so I can continue to become the greatest actor I can possible be to give the audience absolutely everything I have on each and every performance I do. As far as promoting anything or giving a shout-out. I would be honored to have as many people follow me on my journey, as I would truly appreciate the support. I have a long way to still go to accomplish all of my goals and could use as much help as I can get. Lol. You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter @dustinardine. I hope that everyone enjoys "Angel of Mercy" and my performance in it. You can look up the rest of my work on IMDb or at my official website www.dustinardine.com.
Lastly, as far as giving any shout-outs to anyone. The people who have helped me along my journey I thank almost daily and they know who they are and how grateful I am. However, something that I would like to say to anyone out there who is going through a rough time or who has been impacted by this horrible pandemic going on across the globe, please don’t give up! You can make it through this. We all can and we all will. Right now in this great nation and all over the world so many of us are struggling. We are all in this together and no matter what you are going through just know that you are NOT alone! Help is always there for those of us brave enough to seek it when we need it. As the old saying goes the night is always darkest just before the dawn and I truly believe that dawn is coming right around the corner. Remember to always be thankful for the positives in our lives instead of focusing only on the negative. We will all make it through this together and we will become a thousand times stronger!
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