Interview: Exploring Fate & Destiny With Steve Mouzakis of the Thrilling ‘THE SUICIDE THEORY’

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IMG_0427Preston Barta // Features Editor

The most exciting aspect of being a film critic may be the chance of uncovering something special. There’s nothing like finding a film you have never heard of, from a filmmaker you also have never heard of, but wholeheartedly appreciate right off the bat. Dru Brown’s THE SUICIDE THEORY is one of those very films.

The impeccably titled THE SUICIDE THEORY centers on the story of a suicidal man (Leon Cain) who hires a hit man (Steve Mouzakis) to assist him in his death. However, for some odd and miraculous reason, the man survives at each attempt. Is this just a crazy coincidence, or is this something more?

THE SUICIDE THEORY is sly wonder of a film that is as much smart as it is thrilling. Be sure to seek it out at once and thank us later. But for the time being, check out our conversation below with the talented Steve Mouzakis, who was generous enough to give us his time to speak about his role in the film.

Actor Steve Mouzakis (WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, THE SECRET LIFE OF US).

Actor Steve Mouzakis (WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, THE SECRET LIFE OF US).

I’ve been talking about this movie for the past couple days, and it’s a really hard movie to discuss with your friends without wanting to go into spoilers, because that’s where all the fun is.

Steve Mouzakis: [Laughs]

But, it’s one of those movies you want to force your friends to watch just so you can have a discussion with them about it. You want to watch them watch it, as a form of gratification.

Mouzakis: “Right. That’s good! I’m really looking forward to seeing it with some people as well. The reaction was very strong. It’s always been very good, particularly at the Austin Film Festival and few other festivals. It was really comforting, because there are some things in that film that aren’t easy to pull of. You only really know you’ve done it when you watch it with an audience.”

Yeah, I really wish I could have watched it with an audience.

Mouzakis: “Yeah. It’s a rewarding feeling to watch it with a crowd. It’s an experience to watch an audience go, ‘Hey! I really liked that and it worked. It has me thinking about certain things that I hadn’t before.’ Just very unexpected. But, you watched it recently?”

Yes! And what I really want to do instead of doing this interview is just talk about this movie and really get into the meat of it, especially the ending. I guess we can talk about the ending by not really talking about it. I think this is great neo-noir thriller that takes you on suspenseful journey, but I feel that it also really depended on sticking a good ending, and it has a great ending. It could have so easily veered off and been really clean, but the last scene of the movie really made this movie stand out to me this year. It’s so different from anything I’ve seen. But, would you ever bail on a movie if you favored the journey but didn’t particularly like the ending?

Mouzakis: “Well, thank you very much. I had a couple thoughts about the ending myself when I first read it, which [Laughs] thankfully nobody listened to me. But the thing that impressed me the most about it, and I can only go back to my reading of the script and the feelings you have when you first experience this story, like when people watch the film for the first time, when I read it I was thinking, ‘Yeah. It’s a hit man. OK.’ But then I started thinking about movies about hit men, and then, all of a sudden while reading it, I see that he starts wearing a dress when he’s depressed. I thought that was interesting and different. The script kept surprising me all the way, and scripts don’t often do that. Sometimes you just go, ‘Wow. Yeah. I pretty much know where this is going.’ You can scan the rest of it, but you don’t really get that with this.

The truth is, I didn’t really pick that ending, which is a good thing. After thinking about the ending, I was wondering if we could really pull it off. Coincidence is not an easy thing to do on screen, you know? Because audiences can easily mistrust it. You feel the mechanisms at play, but there you go.

I’ve spoken to people who saw that ending coming, but it was still very satisfying for them, you know, watching it play out. But even if you have that experience, it can still be a fun cinematic experience. It’s all the details along the way, the character stuff– it just makes it interesting on its own. You know what I mean?”

Yes! Exactly.

Mouzakis: “Props to Michael J. Kospiah, first time screenwriter. It’s a pretty original piece of work. I certainly couldn’t compare it to another film that I’ve seen before. I’m happy that people have responded to it in the way they have. This is indie filmmaking at its core. The fact that it’s getting out there with literally no money, especially with some very talented people on board– and I just came off of a big budget film. I had just finished I, FRANKENSTEIN (2014) with Aaron Eckhart. When I read the script and talked to our director, Dru Brown, about it– it was a lead role, which I hadn’t done before on a feature. I thought, ‘Yeah. I’m going to do this film.’ I told them I would back myself if they want to back themselves.

We had a great director of photography, Dan Macarthur. He’s very good. He’s quick and has a really good eye. So all the elements seemed to have come together, which I felt very fortunate about. But maybe it was all destiny as well.”

Leon Cain and Steve Mouzakis in THE SUICIDE THEORY. Photo courtesy of Freestyle Releasing.

Leon Cain and Steve Mouzakis in THE SUICIDE THEORY. Photo courtesy of Freestyle Releasing.

You just mentioned coming off of I, FRANKENSTEIN. Would you say this, a layered and complex drama, was harder for you, or something where you have to imagine supernatural creatures around you?

Mouzakis: “They both have their challenges at hand. Something like I, FRANKENSTEIN, you have to take on all the technical challenges– that becomes your work: all the special effects and makeup. You know, things that are not there, like you said. Essentially, the experience of acting, regardless of budget or whatever is happening behind the camera – there’s a lot more people, there’s a lot more money, and more of everything – but the actual experience itself is not so much different. You are looking for truth; that’s what you are trying to find. Hopefully, you got good partners on board in terms of acting and directing, who are willing to go find that with you. That was certainly the case with Dru on THE SUICIDE THEORY. There’s a lot of trust involved there.

At first when we were shooting I was questioning whether my take was good or not, and Dru would say, ‘No. No. We got it.’ I was like, ‘Are you sure?’ And then we watched it for the first time in Los Angeles, and he was like, ‘See?’ [Laughs] You really need that director and put your trust in him/her and their vision.”

Lastly, as an actor – even though it’s a complete different aspect in the movie – that feeling of desperation, doing something and not succeeding, waiting for that right moment to come along could be something you could probably relate to. Whenever you’re struggling – obviously, you’re doing very well right now because we’re talking about this great movie – was there ever that point of desperation that you related to?

Mouzakis: “Well, I’ve related to points of desperation, not just in regards to work, but it has happened, especially when you’re starting out and trying to find your place in everything. One thing that I liked about the film and the character, when I was discussing it with Dru was we were going to try and steer away from clichés. My character is very fragile and unhinged, but also very real. He’s somebody we can relate to on some level. We all go through different things at different times in our life; I know I certainly have. I guess as an actor you sort of have to care those experiences with you to an extent. You draw upon them when you need them, but I’m never in the same thinking as I was when I was a kid. That’s not the way I do it, because it sort of takes you out of the reality of the situation that I’m in. I try to place myself as truthfully as possible– in that character, in that moment and hope to God it’s there [Laughs].

I’ve certainly been through some tough times as an actor. You spend your life getting beat up a lot. You do. As you get older, when things start to become better, you become a bit of a fighter, really [Laughs].”

THE SUICIDE THEORY opens today in select theaters and is also available on VOD.
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About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.