Dominic Monaghan has become quite well known standing out in ensembles like The Lord of the Rings and “Lost.” He gets the chance to take the lead in The Day, playing Rick, the leader of a group of post-apocalyptic survivors. The Douglas Aarnikoski film was picked up by WWE Films out of the Toronto International Film Festival last year, even better news for Monaghan who is also a producer. We got to chat with Monaghan on the LA leg of the promotional tour. The Day opens in theaters August 29.
CraveOnline: You’ve been on some of the biggest films like Lord of the Rings. How do you process the trappings of that, and the down and dirty indie mode of The Day?
Dominic Monaghan: None of it really feels that different to me to be honest. I don’t really compare notes in that regard. You take everything as an individual project. I’ve worked on films where the budgets are almost limitless and you’re in trailers that are bigger than a hotel room. You’re taken care of and the food is amazing, the quality of the job is amazing and then you work on smaller things but it never dictates my happiness or my willingness to go to work. I’m happy to be a working actor. I’ve never asked my agent, “Well, how will I be treated on that film?” I just read scripts and I like them and I meet directors, I like them and then I’ll go to work. I don’t need to have three feather pillows in my trailer. I just don’t work that way.
Were you involved with designing Rick’s costume?
We had a costume director but I designed some elements of it. I wore a key around my neck which Doug and I chatted about bringing a couple of pieces. And I said, “Well, I’d like to have a key that never gets explained.” There’s a conversation I have with Shawn about halfway through the film, where I’m just holding onto this key. In my mind, I’m revisiting that place where the key unlocks that particular portal or that door. I like those layers that don’t get explained. I also carried duct tape around my waste and that was just based on the fact that we obviously rummage through houses and we find things that are useful and I think duct tape would be very useful for patching up clothes or sealing windy windows or anything like that. So I carry around duct tape. Apart from that, the rest of it was done by the costume designer, although I did want to wear, you guys call them vests, a waistcoat. I wanted to wear a waistcoast in it.
Did you leave the key ambiguous for yourself too, or did you come up with something?
No, I had an idea as to what it was, where it would take me and what I was thinking about when I would find myself distractedly holding onto it, but I didn’t share that with other people because in my mind, we’ve all got our own separate stories and obviously if you’re carrying a key around your neck, it means something special to you. I didn’t want to expose that thing that I felt was very precious to me to the rest of the group.
Is it somewhere you’re going or somewhere you’ve been?
It’s somewhere I’ve been. It unlocks something that is important to me.
Something you’ve left locked behind?
Yeah, something I’ve intentionally thought, “I’ll come back for that one day.”
Is it true they didn’t wash the clothes?
Yeah, they didn’t wash ‘em. I think all the cast were pretty keen on them not washing them. They dried them when they got wet but they didn’t wash them. By about day four, they were not super healthy smelling.
Yeah, what did the set smell like?
It wasn’t good. We were all very dirty and sweaty and tired and exhausted. So yeah, the costumes smelt like how it felt.
What made you want to get into the producing side of things as well?
I’m curious about stuff and I want to get to know how things get made and the difference between how projects fall apart or get made or become successful or don’t. If you’re a producer, you get the chance to ask those questions about a project. They approached me a little bit about how to schedule a film and how to make actors feel comfortable, what we did and didn’t need. In whatever small way I could be helpful, I did that, and the rest of it I just wanted to learn about the filmmaking process.
Had you had other producorial projects that did not come together before The Day?
No. I’ve produced like five things now. I think in terms of the scope of films, this will be the first one coming up, but I’m now at a point where I’m asking if I can help out the producers.
So this was a script you liked and wanted to get involved as an actor and a producer. How different did the final product turn out than your initial impressions?
It was about the same as what I thought. I thought it was going to be bleak, cold, rough and ready guerilla filmmaking. It was probably a little faster than I thought. Doug is an extremely experienced, accomplished shooter so once the day starts and once we’ve rehearsed to the point where we were comfortable, which wasn’t a lot. He didn’t want us to rehearse a lot. He would just start shooting and it would go very, very quick, and I like that. I like that it went fast and the day kept you busy all the time. So apart from it just being a breakneck speed, it was pretty much what I expected.
One of my favorite movies of the last year was Detention. How did you end up in that little cameo in that?
I really like Detention as well. I know Joe Kahn, the director. Joe Kahn directed me in an Eminem video. He and I have been trying to make a film for a long time. He just called me up one day and said, “Hey, listen. I’m doing this film Detention. I’d love you to just play this tiny little cameo role just to give the audience a giggle.” He’s a friend of mine and I came down. I think I was there for probably an afternoon. We shot a little shot and then hung out on set, said hello to people and watched it. I thought Detention was great. I thought it was cut really, really well.
Did you do that shot in front of a green screen?
Yeah, I did it in front of a green screen.
Did you get to do a cameo in The Hobbit?
Some people did, so we ask.
Yeah, they’re alive. Wizards live thousands of year. Humans live thousands of year. Elves don’t die. Hobbits only live about 100 years and this takes place before we’re born.
Now that you’ve had some distance, what is your perspective on “Lost?”
It’s probably the same as any job that I’ve ever had. There’s great elements to it and great memories of it. Then bad elements and painful memories to it. It’s like life, anything you go through that has been a big part of your life, has positive and negative elements to it.
Did you have to leave before you were ready to?
No, because I think in the grand scheme of things, it was a great favor that was given to me because I’d become frustrated with not doing a lot on “Lost.” I spoke to Damon Lindelof who said, “I think we could find a way for you to do a lot more and get to play a really significant role again, and you would leave.” And I thought, well, that’s the best crack of the whip I’m going to get, because I had gotten tired of holding the baby and relapsing into drug addiction. I wanted to do something for the story and I think most people I chat to about “Lost,” the death of Charlie was one of the more significant deaths on the show. So if I could leave behind a good imprint like that, I was happy.
What were your thoughts on the ending when it finally arrived?
I didn’t see it.
Have you still never seen the ending of “Lost?”
Weren’t you in it?
Did you have any impressions while you were there?
Yeah, I read the script. I was working. I was making a film in New York at the time and the film was immersive and different from the character that I was playing and I didn’t want to go back to Charlie and watch while I was in this different headspace. Then subsequently I’ve just not had time to see it.
We hear about how fast TV goes, was The Day even faster than a TV schedule?
You’d have to ask Doug that but I think we probably shot a little bit more on a daily basis than we would do on a TV show. On “Lost,” I think a good day would be about 8-10 pages. We were probably doing about that and maybe even a little bit more on The Day. We really rocketed through but once we were prepared, once we were in our costumes, once we were covered in dirt and blood, there wasn’t a huge amount more to do. We’re all in this self-contained house and we just keep shooting.
Was that the same on “Flash Forward” too?
“Flash Forward” might have been a little slower. Maybe we did about 8 pages a day, 6-8 pages a day because we were just getting going on that thing. I really like “Flash Forward.” I really enjoyed doing it. I played a role that I was into. I thought my character was really fun and dark. I don't know, I had a real sympathy and affection for Simon, the character that I play. And also, the reaction on the street was just so different. I’m used to people being extremely positive towards me in terms of the roles that I’m known for, Merry in Lord of the Rings or Charlie. They’re very sympathetic, innocent almost characters. Simon was a villain. I loved the reaction on the street, people going, “Oh, you’re bad, you’re bad.” I was like, “Yeah, yeah, I’m bad.”
Would you have continued as Simon in future seasons if they’d gone on?
I think the idea with Simon was that he was going to go on the run. They would’ve found out that he was instrumental in the blackouts and he would’ve gone on the run, so he would’ve been a more intellectual Jason Bourne, which to me was like “bring it.” But, you know, it just didn’t work out.
What are we going to see you in next?
I created this show called “Wild Things” for BBC America which would be on in the spring of next year which is my attempt to change people’s ideas about animals that most people are scared of: snakes, spiders, ants, bees, wasps, beetles. So it’s the first time that I’m actually going to be me as opposed to being insulated by characters, and I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world and look for some of these very charismatic animals.
Where did your interest in animals and nature come from?
I’m fascinated by the natural world. I’ve always been fascinated by it because there’s an endless amount to learn from really. As soon as we think we know something about an animal, they show us something new. I was always in my garden, lifting up stones and seeing what was living under there. I’m fascinated by trees and plants and how they grow and the sea. It’s just amazing to me. I kept snakes and lizards when I was a kid and I had to go find the food myself in the garden and I found that my snakes liked certain food but didn’t like others and I was wondering why they were attracted to certain insects and not others. That got me interested in insects and then I started to study entomology a little bit.
I’m okay with snakes and spiders because I figure I’ll leave them alone, they’ll leave me alone, but I know I’m allergic to beestings and wasps. So if I start to get freaked out around one, what would be the best course of action?
A good thing to keep in mind is that we’re all allergic to beestings. We all have a reaction to beestings whether it’s drastic or not. The thing that I always say to people that have a slightly unnerved feeling around those animals is that they don’t really know that you exist. They’re not coming after you and secondly, they’re probably more confused than anything else. You might be wearing a strong aftershave or maybe you’ve just eaten something they found attractive or maybe you’re wearing a color like that green or that pink would certainly be something that a bee would come and investigate. Staying calm as is the case with all animals, including humans, is a great way to stop people from getting extremely excited around you. If you just gradually just introduce the bee to a new place in space, or the wasp. None of this flailing around because you’re going to annoy them. Just gently push them away. I pick up bees out of my swimming pool all the time. I pick them off plants. I pick them off the trees and off the ground. I haven’t been stung by a bee since I was a kid and I probably pick up bees five or six times a week.
I definitely remember the “Stay calm, don’t make a scene” rule.
Yeah, yeah, as soon as you flap around… You imagine if a giant comes over to you and starts to pick you up and does this, you’re going to be like, “Oh, what’s your deal?” Whereas if they just let you explore, let them work out that you’re not a flower, they’ll probably just leave you alone.
It’s been 12 years since you wrapped on Lord of the Rings. How often do you remember those experiences and think about that?
I remember them all the time. It’s part of your life and something that you reminisce about. Billy Boyd’s going to come and stay with me at my house for a couple weeks. Elijah and I hung out just before he went to Barcelona. He hung out with Viggo the night before last. I talk to Orlando all the time because he was in New Zealand back with Pete and Fran. We’re all very friendly. I worked with Sean Bean in a film a couple years ago. We’re all very friendly, we all love each other, we all went through this crazy experience together but you just have to put that into perspective. It’s a job that you’re probably never going to have again and something that you just need to remember how special it was.
You have the Fellowship tattoo, right?
I do, yeah. The nine guys have it.
Have you seen the Blu-rays of the trilogy?
Yeah, I’ve seen the Blu-rays, yeah.
Is that what it really looked like when you were there in person?
Yeah, New Zealand’s absolutely stunning. It’s a beautiful part of the world. I think Pete is such an extraordinary filmmaker that he should be allowed to present his work in whatever format he wants to. Blu-ray is the best way because you see what his vision was specifically and the extended versions of the film are the only way to watch that trilogy. The things at the theater were nice but it’s expurgated. You should be watching the complete versions.
I think they’ve shown the extended cuts in theaters since then.
That’s good, they should.