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Deon Lotz interview

The star of controversial film Beauty chats to us.

Deon Lotz

In, Francois lives a skillfully controlled, well managed life, in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Father of two daughters and a devoted husband, he is wholly unprepared when a chance encounter unravels his clean and ordered existence.

23-year-old Christian is the son of a long lost friend. By all accounts he is the personification of a handsome young man in the prime of his life. Francois is so disarmed by the young man that it instantly ignites within him an all consuming infatuation and misplaced lust.

Despite his careful concealed disgust for himself, Francois pours out the lost emotions he has despised all his life in what becomes a desperate attempt at taking from the world that which he has always secretly wanted: Happiness.

We spoke to Deon to talk about the movie, find out how he got into character for the controversial role and to discuss his chemistry with co-star Charlie Keegan.

How are you today? Where does this Q&A find you?

Hi I am fine thank you. Currently at a Theatre Arts festival in Potchefstroom near Johannesburg , performing in a play with the well known SA actress Sandra Prinsloo who recently returned from the Edinburgh festival .

Beauty is being released on DVD in the UK. Tell us about the movie.

Firstly I am very happy that the film has been distributed in 25 regions world wide. It proves that it is a universal subject matter. The film deals with a white South African man who has been raised in a conservative home, married but denying himself to be and feel what he really experience in his hart and sole. He lives a secret life and the audience follows his journey as he makes decisions that could change and influence so many lives.

You play Francois in the movie. What do we need to know about the character?

Brought up in a conservative home en the early sixties, he did national service in the defence force which he did not enjoy as he had no choice in being their and his type would be jailed for being different and “abnormal” He is married to a woman and has two daughters because that is what is expected of a man . He runs his own business, but is he happy in life…….

What attracted you to the project in the first place?

As an actor I need a challenge and telling this story really exited me as I think it is so relevant. I also wanted to work with Oliver Hermanus after his success with Shirley Adams. I was motivated by Sean Penn in Milk, as I thought if he can do such a fine job in milk I certainly can tell the story in Beauty!

Did you have any reservations about Beauty? Were you worried about some of the more disturbing elements of the movie?

It was clear that Oliver and I had to trust one another and as I was out of my comfort zone during some of the scenes I relied on his guidance and my abilty as an actor to play the character . I never had any reservations and knew that I must take on the challenge and not hold back. I was never worried about disturbing elements as I think it is important that the audience must see the truth and if it means making them feel uncomfortable then so be it. As an actor I tell stories and real life stories are not always pretty and nice!

The movie’s pivotal scene with Charlie Keegan is difficult to watch. What preparation did you and Charlie do before filming that scene?

We did some stunt work during the rehearsal period prior to the start of filming. On the day we were kept apart in separate rooms, had as little contact and after 11 takes and different camera angles we have a successfully disturbing scene. Charlie could not speak to me for next two days after filming that scene . I on the other hand was also quite disturbed whilst driving home, as I realised that during filming, me as the character Francois had no remorse or sympathy with what I did. I realised, It is a fine line of choices we are confronted by on a daily basis.

Having watched the movie back is there anything you would change?

I am very critical of my work but feel satisfied with what has been achieved.

What working with writer/director Oliver Hermanus like during the filming of the movie?

We had a rehearsal period prior to filming. This was wonderful and not always done before starting with a South African Film. We connected and understood what was needed. He is a great writer and as director very sensitive and knows what he wants from a scene . He has a firm hand and I was well prepared but still he challenged me with thought provoking questions about the character ‘s feelings and in justifying his actions. I enjoyed working with him.

Are you happy with the reaction the film has received?

I have just returned from TIFF (the Toronto Film Festival) where Sleeper’s Wake screened. I was invited to TIFF last year for Beauty but could not attend as I was busy filming Sleeper’s Wake. So many people still commented on Beauty, public that came to see my new film as well as producers and industry professionals. They all speak highly of Beauty and how it was one of the best films they saw. Even here in South Africa, it is rated as one of the best films. I was honoured to win the SAFTA South African Film and Television Award, Best film actor 2012 for my performance. Besides the accolades I am happy that a debate was sparked on facebook and in the media about the subject. I think that is healthy if it makes people think about the film and society.

What else do you have coming up in 2012?

Sleeper’s Wake will be at the London film festival in October. I do not know if I will be attending, they have not invited me yet? Black South Easter is in post production. Verraaiers (Traitors) about the boor war will be released early next year. It was screened at a festival in Cape Town earlier this month. Long Walk to Freedom , the Nelson Mandela movie with Idris Elba is in post production. I played the minister of Justice Kobie Coetzee who did all the negotiations with Mr Mandela. I have just finished a film, “Four Corners” I have been offered a script at TIFF so will be looking into that for next year.

Beauty is out now on DVD through Peccadillo Pictures.

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