“Try and create a certain backstory to the character, and understand them on a very probably superficial level. You just have to jump in as quickly as possible.” – Daniel Webber on Preparing for Auditions
If you saw Daniel Webber as Lee Harvey Oswald in the TV series, 11.22.63, or playing Motley Crue’s lead sing Vince Neil in the film, The Dirt, you know he’s an incredibly versatile actor. He’s taking that versatility and playing another real life character in Danger Close, the true story of a band of young Australian and New Zealand men who fought in the Vietnam War.
In this interview, Webber chats about his role in the film, the huge responsibility of portraying a real person and how he prepares for an audition.
Danger Close is out in theaters and VOD now.
Can you tell me about your part?
Daniel Webber: I play Private Paul Large. He’s a young guy who grew up on a farm shooting rabbits and it’s a true story. He got pulled into the war and who gets tangled up in this big battle. He’s a bit of a rebel and there’s this through line where he sort of comes in conflict with Major Harry Smith (Travis Fimmel) and it’s in some ways them getting to know each other, and him giving it a bit of humanity back to the Major.
A couple of years ago, I was in a Civil War movie, and filming the battle scenes was just the best time ever.
Daniel Webber: Yeah, man, it was great. It was great fun. It was cold. We’d get up at 4:00 in the morning, get dressed, and then promptly get showered on by ice cold water that had been sitting out in farmland all day long. So we’re soaking wet, and then running and jumping in the mud. It’s one of the things, it just added to the experience and added to the fear and the energy of the piece. But some guys struggled with it but I just loved it. I thought it was so much fun. I was like a pig in mud.
Is there anything you do, like when you get the part, do you do research to absorb yourself into it?
Daniel Webber: Yeah, there’s not a huge amount to read up on with Paul. One of the producers gave me a bunch of his letters that he sent home to his mother or his family, and then that they’d sent back to him. And, they were really great at filling in some of the blanks. The film does a good job of explaining who he was, but these letters really gave me a very clear insight into his sense of humor. Again, he was a bit of a rebel, and that really came across in the story. He’d be quite vocal in his letters about things that happened, and what he thought about them. He’s just a very interesting guy. He was getting in trouble, punching a CO in the head and then lied about it. That was the main thing that just helped me understand who he was.
When you play real people, do you feel a huge responsibility?
Daniel Webber: Yeah, of course. Of course. This was an interesting film because, more so than most, it tips over into your own life in a very interesting way. A lot of these guys are still alive, and their family members are still alive, and so they’re living with the memory of this. So, they are living with that memory, and especially when you go to a premiere, and you see them, and you meet the family members, it has a much bigger reality. It’s not like playing Vince Neil. It’s not some other real life person who has had issues in their life. These guys’ sons went over at 19 or 20, and fought and died in battle. So, it’s a beautiful thing that spills over into your life.
I thought you were great and The Punisher. How cool is it to be part of the Marvel Universe?
Daniel Webber: That is very cool. Yeah, yeah. Thanks, man. I appreciate it. It was good. They’re a lovely bunch of people for a start, and going to work with Jon Bernthal and Ben Barnes, and all those guys every day for six months, it’s a dream. It’s fantastic. And they were more welcoming than I could’ve expected.
I read where you got your first film role without an agent?
Daniel Webber: I did. Yes, I just found it online somewhere. There was an audition, a big cattle call for a film in Sydney, Australia. I went out there and there was 20 other people in this audition, sitting around each other, and we just had a two-hour workshop and I somehow came out of the workshop with a job.
Were you looking to be an actor at that point, or it was just like, “I’m just going to go on this audition.”
Daniel Webber: Yeah. I’d been acting at school, so I knew that I loved acting. I had a passion for it. I was definitely looking at doing that.
What’s been your worst audition ever?
Daniel Webber: Worst audition. Oh, there’s a few. I don’t know. It might sound a bit corny, but it’s the little things that happen in the rooms.
I won’t say who the producer is, but it was for a very big film with a very big producer who I really wanted to impress. And I’m going to do the scene, and the girl reading is hiding behind the camera. And so I went to start the scene, and I was looking down the barrel of the lens, which I never meant to do. Breaking the fourth wall. But then I couldn’t not look down barrel of the lens because I’d already started it. It’s probably very corny for anybody else reading this, but for me at the time, it was a pretty bad audition.
When you do get an audition, what kind of things do you do to prepare yourself so you’re as good as you can be in that casting office?
Daniel Webber: It really depends on the audition. How much you love the particular audition you’re going in for, how much time you have, who the director is. If you have time, you want to try and watch their films, and get a sense of their taste, and what they’ll want. Try and create a certain backstory to the character, and understand them on a very probably superficial level. You just have to jump in as quickly as possible. If you can figure out how they speak, how they move, just all of the things to try and put together a hodgepodge of a character in a day or two.