Canadian sci-fi thriller Radius is one for the books

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Diego Klattenhoff and Charlotte Sullivan in Radius

Canadians Diego Klattenhoff and Charlotte Sullivan are both graduates of the grind. Living and hustling in Toronto while trying to break into the acting biz, they crossed paths and even had a mutual friend. Now, years later, both have made their mark. Klattenhoff is known most notably for his roles as Mike Faber in Homeland and Donald Ressler in The Blacklist. Sullivan portrayed Marilyn Monroe in The Kennedys and was nominated for an Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television Award for her supporting turn in Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster.

They now find themselves starring together in the latest film from married Quebec filmmakers Steeve Léonard and Caroline Labrèche. Radius tells the story of Liam (Klattenhoff), a man who wakes from a car crash with no memory of what happened or who he is. Maybe a stranger named Jane (Sullivan) can help jog his memory, and also explain why anything that comes within a 50-foot radius of Liam dies instantly.

We caught up with both stars to talk about battling bugs while shooting in Manitoba, working with a married couple and Canada’s place on the cinematic world stage.

Zac Strevens: You filmed Radius in southern Manitoba, a place with notoriously unreliable weather. How extreme did it get?

Diego Klattenhoff : It was very ambitious what we had scheduled and what we ended up shooting in the wilds of Winnipeg. Choking on bugs.

Charlotte Sullivan: Literally.

DK: I think one of our wardrobe team on the second-last day turned green and went (makes vomiting sound). Because everyone was spraying, the bugs were so intense.

CS: But it’s beautiful, it’s gorgeous.

DK: If it’s not dry there are a lot of things to overcome along the way. You’re working and one minute it’s beautiful and sunny, the next minute it’s storming.

CS: And it was always these high stakes scenes which were really exhausting to film. Diego was like my ally, we were always in it together. It was a really hard film (to shoot) because we did insane hours and then the weather was incredibly drastic, every day was always dramatically different, and I would basically cling to him with anxiety and he helped me get through it. Basically.

DK: Not quite.

CS: …(Laughs) Not in so many words. But you were my ally. You have to be a team player in those kind of circumstances, they’re very extreme.

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ZS: Any particular “wild weather” scenario stand out?

CS: We had this one day where the weather changed so dramatically. All of a sudden there was this insane electrical storm.

DK: We were shooting in a junkyard and bits of sheet metal started moving. They’re like, “We gotta shut down everything and get out of here.” And by the time you got in the van and drove not even half a mile down the road.

CS: You’re soaked. You wouldn’t believe it, seeing what we’re describing.

ZS: There’s so much coming out of Canada at the moment. Artists and art itself. How do you think Canadian film is seen on a world stage?

DK: I think it’s growing, I think it’s getting better and it’s not perceived as stereotypically Canadian – “Oot and Aboot, eh. Bunch of Hosers, eh.”

There’s infinite stories up here that don’t make people think, “Oh you guys are so nice, but nothing really happens.” You have no idea what really happens up here if that’s your interpretation, and it reflects itself in television, in movies, music. Everything that’s coming out of here these days, I think, is tapping into that and showing ourselves as well as the world that we’re much more inventive and complex than Canadians have been perceived for so many years, which is great.

ZS: How do you think Radius reinforces what you’re talking about?

DK: It’s a well told story. It’s well crafted. The characters are complex in a way that people can relate to no matter where they’re from in the world. As a Canadian, it’s just not as cut-and-dry as “you guys are so nice” and “you’ve got such a sexy Prime Minister.” Don’t mistake the kindness for stupidity. This movie has grit to it and it’s a compelling story. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from Scandinavia, or Germany, or the US, or here.

ZS: You both only signed on for Radius around four days before the shoot. What was the reason you wanted to do this project, in the end?

CS: There’s a feminist narrative that I thought was really cool. Whereby often times you have a male and a female lead and then the inevitable love scene is looming, and when I looked through the script there wasn’t any of that. Another unique thing that was a draw for me…

DK: … Other than me being cast…

CS: … (Laughs) Other than you being cast…

DK: … “Please get this movie”

CS: … (Laughs) It was a husband and wife directing team.

ZS: Were you familiar with Steeve and Caroline beforehand?

CS: No, and that’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and so when I saw that I said to my husband, “look they’re doing it.” I just love that collaboration. My most favourite part of the whole process is collaboration.

DK: I think it definitely added a big element to it, of seeing it from different sides. Whether it’s gender or just experience or whatnot, I think it was a big advantage. You don’t have one director who’s a tyrant, like, “This is the way it is.”

CS: But sometimes they would even fight and have completely opposite ideologies…

DK: … “Try it this way, try it that way.” Well, that and they were always yelling in French and you’re like, “Wha… what do you mean?” You’re like, “Is this bad? What are they saying? Arrgh my French, I knew I should have learned more.” I think the French was to keep us out.

CS: (Laughing) Yeah, don’t let Diego or Charlotte know what’s really going on.

ZS: How was it meeting the for the first time?

CS: When I first Skyped with them, I didn’t know that they were a couple. And I thought, “Do I ask them? Is that rude?” At the end I’d had a really wonderful Skype call with those guys and I just said, “Can I ask, are you guys a couple?” They just grabbed each other and started to make out, and I still didn’t know. I wasn’t sure if they were messing with me. So I was like, “Are you? Are you guys married?” And to know that they were married was sort of a unique experience. They’re such weirdos.

DK: (Points at Charlotte) Kindred spirits. ■

Radius opens in theatres on Friday, Dec. 1. Watch the trailer here:

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