Here is the interview I did with the two stars of Victoria Day, Mark Rendall and John Mavro, which I did last Monday at the Metropolitan Hotel in Toronto. Our reviews of the film will be coming this Friday, June 19th. Please be aware that we did discuss the film, so there are some spoilers.
How were you cast for the roles of Ben and Sammy?
John - Jeff Hustle who plays Jordon’s father was a friend of David’s, and Jeff’s daughter was in Jesus Christ Superstar which I did in grade 11, I played Judas. David came to see Jeff’s daughter, he saw me in it as well and then after that he came back to see me in a one act play festival that I did and after I finished that play, he came up to me and was like “Hey I’m doing a movie, I think you’d be really good as this character”. So I went and auditioned and didn’t hear anything from him for a while, then got a call back and didn’t hear anything again, and then he called me and said that I got the part. So yeah, that was really cool.
Mark - And I was working with a friend of David’s in New York this past summer and Brad - the director I was working with, David’s friend - put me in contact with David because he was having trouble finding a lead, and as soon as I got back to Toronto from New York we ended up talking and he cast me.
How does Victoria Day compare to your previous work?
John - This is the first thing I’ve ever done, I had never done any -I’d done theatre before and I’d done school shows and stuff - I’d never done any commercials or TV shows, so this is a wicked way to start my career.
Mark - Well for me I’ve been acting for like 9 or 10 years. It was really good the crew was very tiny, the enviroment that David set up on set was very consistent, it was light but at the same time professional. It was very good.
What was the hardest scene to film?
Mark - I think it was - well technically speaking, the fireworks.
John - Yeah. Well what happened was we did a three day nighttime shoot, so I think we shot from like nine at night until like seven in the morning, and that was pretty brutal, because it got pretty cold at night.
Mark - Everyone was exhausted.
John - And we were wearing uncomfortable shoes, and we were shooting fireworks at each other, that was probably like the hardest one. But in terms of emotionally hard I didn’t really have any strenuous scenes. But I guess maybe the scene you had with Jeff, might have been.
Mark - No I liked that scene a lot. I mean really, the emotional stuff it flowed well the enviroment was safe, David made it really nice. So it actually ended up working, it wasn’t that hard. But you know, making-out with Cayla and Melenie.
John - Yeah, that’s like the hardest part, making-out with good looking girls.
Mark - Yeah, that was tough, actually. David was there for me, so he helped me through.
(laughs) So how many takes did you need for that scene?
John - He kept screwing up.
Mark- I kept screwing up. I felt you know - I just couldn’t get that “feeling” - So you know I feel like we did, maybe 15 or 20 takes, different angles.
John - Sometimes the camera wasn’t even one, you just had to practise.
Mark - I mean, we definitely had to practise.
John - Did you?
Mark - Yeah, we definitely had to practise. Actually a weird thing was David wanted to watch us rehearse actually kissing, which I think was a bit strange.
What was your favorite scene to film?
Mark - Fireworks.
John - Yeah definitely the fireworks.
Mark - No wait! I was going to say making-out.
John - See I didn’t get to do any of that. So for me definitely the fireworks. We used real fireworks for that. We each got hit a couple of times, it didn’t hurt too much, but no, we did get hit a couple of times.
Mark - Okay, really though. This is going to be tough, because it’s like the difference between making-out and shooting fireworks at each other. But I think the fireworks were pretty great. ‘Cause making-out in front of a camera can be sometimes a bit awkward, you know getting really physical. But the fireworks were really fun.
How long was the filming process for Victoria Day?
Mark - It was 21 days.
John - Yeah, 21 days, which I mean I hadn’t done anything before that, but I’m assuming that’s really fast.
Yeah, it is
Mark - A week of rehearsals though, beforehand.
John - Yeah, a week of rehearsals beforehand. Then there was the whole casting process which took a while. But I don’t think that counts as production, but I guess that counts as pre-production. But yeah, 21 days, that’s 3 weeks, so that’s nothing.
Yeah, when did you film this?
John - October of 2008, so just at the beginning of this last school year.
Okay, what was it like working with director David Bezmozgis?
John - Again you can answer this probably more thoroughly, because you have people to compare him to. But, for me it’s like I didn’t judge him so much as a director, but as a person, I mean he’s like an amazing guy to work with. And like more than any other adult I’ve met, he was able to communicate with as a teenager. It wasn’t like an adult coming in like “Do this, do this”, it was more like “Yo, whats up?”, he was just really relaxed.
Mark - I don’t think he said “Yo, whats up?”
John - No, but he was like really relaxed, and that translated well to us listening to what he had to say.
Mark - He is like very relaxed, he knows what he wants, and he know how to convey it in the fewest words possible. He’s like a very good director, he gives you your space when he knows that you need it, but he’s also very adamant about what he wants, and he will convey that to you. So yeah, he’s a good director.
And also he’s an author
John - That’s the thing, like reading the script, and watching it unfold on film, he’s completely done his own writing justice. he knew exactly how to translate it.
Yeah watching the movie is almost like reading a book
John - Yeah, it’s like literary.
Yeah I know, it’s really good
John - Yeah it’s very good.
This is a question for Mark: When the actors playing your parents are speaking Russian, could you understand them?
Mark - I learnt what they were saying, and I picked up a few words here and there, but actually it was strange, because hanging around the set with them and David picked up some Russian words, so I kind of understand what they were saying. But mostly, I had it phonetically spelled out and then I had their lines in English, so before we would film I would learn both, so I had something to react to.
This is a question for Mark: So were you actually playing Hockey, or did you have a stunt double?
I did have a stunt double, I’m not a good hockey player.
Did your stunt double look like you?
Mark - A little, well not really. He was the same height.
John - Yeah he was the same height, but the way they filmed it, they made sure never to get the front of him, so it was only the back of him that you ever saw, or from far away.
Okay, well I already asked a question about stunt doubles, but did you have stunt doubles in the fireworks scene?
Mark - No stunt doubles.
John - Yeah the thing with that was no stunt doubles, well no stunt doubles when we were firing at each other, but for the fall. For the fall, originally we had had a stunt double come in and do that, but David didn’t like the way that had looked. So Mark was just like I’ll just do it. They were kind of apprehensive about Mark.
Mark - It was the last day, though!
John - So yeah, Mark ended up doing that and they really liked what he did, so we actually didn’t end up using the stunt double.
So you didn’t really break your arm, did you?
Mark - No. But even if I had it wouldn’t have mattered because it was the last day. Well, I mean it would have mattered to me.
And you're never seen again in the movie without a cast
Mark - Exactly.
This is a question for John: On IMDb your name is listed twice under the cast listing for Victoria Day. Once as John Mavro and again as John Mavrogiannis. Which is your real name and which one do you prefer to be known as?
John - John Mavrogiannis is my real name, it’s Greek, and just for the sake of - just as like a stage name I cut out - I started doing that in the last year of high school, dropping out the GIANNIS, because it’s a really long name, I’m surprised you were even able to pronounce it, congratulations for that.
John - Because like literally anytime people call my house there like “Is Mrs. Mavrogigianis, there?, so I cut that just for the sake of auditions and casting calls. So I cut it down to John Mavro, because it just has a better sound to it.
Mark - Mavro. And I can be Rend, Mark Rend.
John - Yeah, instead of John Mavrogiannis. I don’t know why I’m actually listed twice. I have no idea. But yeah, John Mavro as far as acting goes.
What is the maximum number of takes you did for a single scene, and what is the least number of takes?
John - The maximum number, what is the one we did quite a few for? Well the hackey-sack scene we did quite a few for.
Mark - We were filming on the RED camera, which is a digital camera, so it’s not like they have the restraints of having to spend money on film.
And taking time to change the reels
Mark - They had to change the hard drive. But I don’t know, we probably did, maybe 20 takes maximum.
John - Yeah, I’d say 20-25 takes was maximum.
Mark - in a particular setup.
John - Oh yeah, that’s the thing. We would do takes in one setup and then move it and do more takes.
Mark - ‘Cause you need coverage.
John - One angle we probably did 25, I’d say was our max.
Mark - And minimum was like, I’m trying to think of what scene it was, I don’t know.
John - There were a few scenes were we did like maybe 7 or 8 and we were done.
Mark - We also did quite a few shots.
John - That’s the thing, yeah.
This is a question for Mark: In the scene where Ben is eating the banana and sticks half of it down did you just do that because it was the third or fourth take and you were tired of eating bananas?
Mark - (laughs) I am so glad you asked that. I don’t know how that worked. I would literally take little bites, so did probably only a good 3 takes of that actually, and that’s your point. I was like David, f--- it, I’m not going to eat like 5 f---ing 12 bananas, this isn’t going to happen, this isn’t going to fly. He was like “Just eat the whole thing”. So basically after that shot, when I lie down on the bed, I would only take a small bite of the banana.
Mark - That was a bit weird, there are three shots - it transitions into three shots - and I’m always chewing on this banana and then you see me swallow it, it was just weird. I didn’t want to do that.
What are your thoughts on the finished film?
John - I loved it. I mean me and Mark don’t particularlly like seeing ourselves act. It’s like uncomfortable for me. I thought the film was amazing, but I’m really critical of my performance, so that part was like whatever, but I loved the movie it was really nice.
Mark - I think tonally, aesthetically the pacing, everything David got really - like I said, everything just translated really well from page to screen, and he really did his script justice.
I’ve seen the film and I loved it, but how have audiences been reacting to the film?
Mark - I mean the only people I’ve really talked to are at film festivals.
Mark - Yeah at Sundance. They’re really moved by it or when they didn’t understand something they’d really get up and say they were confused or you know “I really want to know why she was crying” or like why did this happen or what happened at the end. I think people do relate to it on many levels and it’s a very human story.
John - When we showed some of it at Newtonbrook, where we filmed some of the scenes at the high school, and when the teenagers saw it we got a lot more laughs from the teenagers, than from the older audiences. So I think it’s teenage movie for teenagers.
And what do you think happens at the end of the movie?
John - I mean the thing is, it was originally written that he walks into the water and drowned, but that was really similar to incident that happened in ‘88. Then they were thinking about changing it to him walking into a construction site and dying there and eventually they cut it. I really think that he died.
Mark - Yeah, it’s implyed basically. I mean even in the last hockey scene they going to have the players all on one team wearing black armbands, too symbolize that they were mourning, but they ended not even doing that and allowing it up to debate, but yeah he’s gone.
Yeah, I know. So there’s not going to be a sequel where he comes back?
John - Yeah, they should call it.
Mark - Boxing Day?
John - Or Memorial Day.
Mark - Yeah, Memorial Day.
How do you think it’s going to reach audiences outside of Canada?
John - I don’t think it will.
Mark - Well I don’t know, it’s a human story so even if it takes place in Toronto, in a specific area, I don’t know, I think if people connect to it. If it gets released in the States, then I think they will.
John - When you think of American audiences, you think of them wanting car chases, gun battles and scantily clad women.
Mark - It’s the same with Canadian audiences.
John - He was down at Sundance, and people received it well there, I guess, eh?
Mark - Yeah.
John - So if that’s any indication to what the States are going to think, than it should go over well.
‘Cause it takes place around the same time as a film like Adventureland
John - Yeah exactly.
Mark - Or like the Squid and the Whale or something like that.
Did you see Adventureland?
Mark - No.
John - No but I heard that it takes place in, is it ‘88 as well?
‘87, I think
John - You saw that, too?
Yeah, I mean it’s more of a comedy in some parts and more of a drama in other parts, and it’s centred around working at a crappy amusement park, so obviously it’s different in that sense, but the time period is the same
John - Yeah, I heard it was pretty good.
And it’s also the same director as Superbad
John - Yeah, oh yeah really? Who was that?
John - Oh yeah, cool.
Is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up?
John - I just want to say it was an amazing experience for my first time to do any professional work, I had an amazing time. The crew was just amazing, they were hilarious. in between takes, we’d all be joking. Yeah, it was definitely a good time.
Mark - Yeah, I’m the same.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today.
John - Thank you, thanks so much for coming in.