Tag Archives: Perth Actor

Nakatomi Profile: Jeremy Levi, Actor

18 May

Nakatomi Profile is a section featuring interviews with collaborators and artists we have worked with.

Who are you? What is your background?

My name is Jeremy Levi.  I began my performing career as a singer/songwriter in the mid to late 80’s.  Whilst studying English literature at UWA I sang with The Paranoids as part of the Perth Indie music scene.  After my English degree I completed another three years study at WAAPA doing the musical theatre course.  Weird, I’m not into musicals at all.  But the training was excellent.  After graduation I moved to Melbourne where I was lucky enough to find work in theatre, musical theatre, television but mainly short film projects.  I returned to Perth in 2004 where I have continued to work in all areas of performance and most recently resumed my songwriting career.

What attracted you to Esoterica?

The script, the script and nothing but the script.  I didn’t meet any of the other players until after I’d read the screenplay.  In this line of work I get to read a lot of scripts.  As a film buff, I also read a lot of famous screenplays of well known films.  Esoterica was one of only a few I’ve read that I was compelled to finish in the one sitting.  It just held me from page one.  Sam Fuller once said about reading scripts that; “…if I don’t have a hard-on by page 10, I don’t bother reading the rest.”

Tell us about the role you played?

Y’know…I don’t think I will.

Do you have a process?

Collaborate, collude and conspire.  Theatre is the domain of the actor but film is a director’s medium.  Most of the people working on a feature film have been doing so for months or even years before the actors sign on.  When I’m lucky enough to find a director who respects actors as creative artists (as with Sam on this project) then I try to first, understand their vision for the film and secondly, embellish and/or plunder the depths of that vision in collaboration with them.  My job as an actor is to elicit an empathetic or emotional response from the audience that takes them inside the story.  Because film is works on such a microscopic level, compared to theatre, I always try to get as much information from the director as possible to channel my performance along the desired path.  Knowing the size of the shot, the planned editing around the shot, the pace of the scene and its place in the flow of the film are some of the areas that are invaluable to a screen actor’s performance.  These are amongst a multitude of factors that I like to know about so I can be on the same page as the director.  It’s his baby and I’m privileged to be invited.

What was the shooting like?

This was a very difficult shoot overall.  But the question is “What was the shooting like?”  The shooting of the film was one of the best film experiences I’ve had.  Even with the shot/take ratio in place, I felt I had enormous freedom to refine the character from take to take.  Half of my performance comes from collaborating with the director and working off the other actors.  I was fortunate to be working with some of the best in the business on this film.

What have you done since the shooting of ‘Esoterica’?

I followed Esoterica with a role on Stormworld which is a 24 part children’s television series.  I performed in a play Three On, One Off at the Subiaco Arts Centre, and I took the lead role in Meaning-Maker Productions short film Trigger. Trigger was selected to screen at the Cannes International Film Festival, which is an enormous triumph.  I am currently writing songs for a new CD which I hope to record and release this year.

Give us your top ten film performances and why.

I came up with about 50 top film performances which I’ve struggled to narrow down to 10.  My criterion for a “great” screen performance is generally one that makes my subconscious curse very loudly, or one that makes me want to quit acting.

1.  Christian Bale – Empire of the Sun.  I was on holiday and about to begin my final year at WAAPA when I saw this.  This was the first time I’d been so intimidated by another performer that I felt I should just quit.  This little 11 year old kid was so disciplined, so focused and able to access such reserves of emotion, that no 11 year old should even know, I felt I was watching a master.

2.  James Stewart – Vertigo.  As much as I love pre-war Jimmy, post-war Jimmy is as good as it gets.  Hard to pick a favourite with Jimmy Stewart but that scene where Kim Novak is showing off her new hair colour and wardrobe, while Jimmy can’t hide his disappointment is a lesson in understated acting.

3.  Heath Ledger – Brokeback Mountain. So much has been said about this already.  I waited over a year before watching this film so as to view it without being influenced by the extraordinary hype it carried with it.  I think this performance will stand the test of time.  That said, I didn’t sleep after I saw his Joker in The Dark Knight.

4. Viggo Mortensen – The Indian Runner. This is an example of how the actor’s subsequent performances only serve to highlight how powerful he was in this role.  This is almost a dictionary definition of “intensity.”

5. Brion James – Blade Runner. More than any other actor who has ever played a replicant or variation on that theme, Brion was, for me, the most brilliant.  The interview that opens this film is spellbinding.

6. Toshiro Mifune – Seven Samurai. I’m a huge fan of Mifune and Kurosawa.  I started watching Kurosawa films long before I ever entertained thoughts of becoming an actor.  Mifune plays completely against type in this masterpiece and is totally amped throughout the entire film.

7. Lee J. Cobb – 12 Angry Men. Love The Cobb in anything, but this one was my introduction to his work.  Jack Klugman also puts in an excellent performance in this one which I was unprepared for having only ever seen him on television in Quincy M.D.  Cobb is one of those rare actors who like Crowe and Penn, can portray such frightening, raw masculinity and yet reveal, in the same character, an incredible vulnerability.

8.  Robin Wright-Penn – Unbreakable.  Not on this list because it’s so male dominated.  For one amazing scene in a fairly average film she had to be included.  That moment when she questions Bruce Willis about his possible infidelities is so heartbreaking.  One shot, one take of pure, raw emotion.

9. Tony Curtis – The Boston Strangler.  I grew up in Bunbury watching Tony Curtis in films like The Purple Mask , The Prince Who was a Thief, Son of Ali Baba and Houdini (which I must have seen nearly 10 times – before VHS was invented!)  His performance in this film is as good as acting gets and it is still a mystery to many why this film didn’t revitalize his career.

10. Naomi Watts – Mullholland Drive. This was like that moment watching Ed Norton for the first time in Primal Fear.  The carpet is pulled out from under your feet and you fall flat on your back with your subconscious yelling WTF?  Where did that come from?

Honourable mention to John Cazale.  Five films, all nominated for Best Picture.