“I always think to just try to make choices to do things the way that I really see it, not even always that concerned about the specific words on the page and take a risk because if you’re going to be right for it, then you’ll be right for it.” – Miles Robbins
Imagine if your imaginary friend from childhood turned out to be kinda evil? That’s the premise of the dark, fun new film, Daniel Isn’t Real, starring Miles Robbins and Patrick Schwarzenegger. Robbins plays Luke, a troubled young guy who’s forced to deal with Daniel and evil ways of manipulating him.
Robbins, the son of actors Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, chats about his role in the film, his prepartion and how he gets ready for an audition.
Let’s talk about the movie. Can you tell me a bit about your role?
Miles Robbins: Sure. Well, Luke is a troubled young man who is trying to figure out what it means to become a man, leave his home, go to college, grow up. In the process, there’s a lot of difficulty. His mother is not well. It is through a traumatic experience with her, he starts to see his childhood imaginary friend again. The imaginary friend tries to steer him towards self-confidence and manhood but ultimately is a bit of a drag. Luke is quite tortured by it. It becomes a very spooky ride.
The film was based on a novel. How do you go about preparing for this? Do you read the novel a bunch of times or you just rely on the script or is it a combination of both?
Miles Robbins: Well, there was, I think, enough difference between… The novel was, first off, from the perspective of Daniel, so it’s very different. I did not read it. I was explained the differences pretty early on and I thought that it would be a good idea to just stick with the script because it seemed to be a new version of the story.
Also the person who wrote the book was also part of the film, so I didn’t feel worried about betraying his work because he had clearly been a part of changing it into this new story. I think that if it was the kind of thing where it was a book that had been written a hundred years ago and we were trying to adapt it, I would want to be extremely familiar with the source material. But it seemed like this was the kind of thing that, because of his involvement in the process, I think that it wasn’t as necessary.
That way I think that if you try to make something out of something that already exists, it’s going to be harder to find new opportunities. It’s, I think, really great when the writer of the book is there on set helping to create this new different story and allow for changes and evolutions that work for the camera in the way that might not for the book. You know?
Like The Shining. There’s some good stuff in The Shining book that’s so scary and haunting with the hedge animals, for instance, and it probably would have looked pretty silly on camera. It’s always nice when an adaptation knows where to change things and how to do it in a way that works best. If you can not be too attached, it probably helps you as an actor that you’re able to explore new ideas and keep yourself open, on your toes.
I saw where you guys were able to rehearse before you filmed. How long did you guys rehearse for? That’s super rare for a film.
Miles Robbins: Yeah, I think that a lot of people will try to push for that because it’s really, really helpful and necessary, I think, when you do something that especially is difficult versus very, brutal subject matter. I’m really happy that we had the time to prepare. We did, I don’t know, a couple of weeks or a week and a half maybe. We figured out a lot of the most crucial scenes beforehand. We worked with [Director Adam Egypt Mortimer] in another office and figured it out.
But ultimately a lot of great stuff comes about on the day. I think that being open to improvisation and working things as they come to you is really important in making any kind of work. I think that we’re all just prisms channeling some other energy from somewhere else. If you can open yourself up to finding something, then you’ll find it rather than reading it, I guess. I don’t know. That’s very pretentious. [laughs]
No, it sounded good. I liked it. When you first got the sides for the audition, what did you do to prepare for it so you could be the best you could be in that audition room?
Miles Robbins: Well, I made sure I knew what I was supposed to do in the scene and then I remembered most of the words.
Do you try and memorize the whole scene before you go there?
Miles Robbins: Yeah, a little bit. I definitely want to know the point and then… I had been talking with him before. It wasn’t like an open call. I had already met with him and figured out a lot about the way he saw the character and stuff so I think that it’d be different than most auditions that I’ve done.
But generally, I always think to just try to make the choices to do things the way that I really see it, not even always that concerned about the specific words on the page and take a risk because if you’re going to be right for it, then you’ll be right for it. If your interpretation is wrong, then there’s a billion other people trying to get it and one of them will probably do it. So I always think to just figure out what I think the point is, do my best interpretation of that even if it means that I’m doing something crazy or forgetting a certain line or whatever and just hoping that they like my haircut and that I’m the right guy for the thing.
It’s always about the hair, right?
Miles Robbins: Oh, yeah. Acting is just like, “Say some words, have the right haircut.” Sometimes you’ll find someone who’s an artist who wants to work with you and you’re the right person to do it and then that’s just luck.
Daniel Isn’t Real is available now on Amazon and most streaming services.