Alex Russell in ‘Rabbit’.
Actor Alex Russell became mates with writer-director Luke Shanahan after he graduated from NIDA in 2008 and they soon decided they wanted to make a film together.
That’s taken a while as Shanahan’s debut feature Rabbit has just opened in Australian cinemas after its world premiere last year at the Melbourne International Film Festival.
Adelaide Clemens (Rectify) plays the dual roles of medical student Maude Ashton and her identical twin Cleo, with Russell as Cleo’s fiancé Ralph. Maude searches for her missing sister with help of an obsessive cop (Jonny Paslovsky), who suspects Ralph had a hand in her disappearance.
“Ralph was an enjoyable character to play with the conflict of having someone who you love go missing and then having their identical twin in front of you for a like-minded purpose,” he tells IF on the line from his home in Los Angeles.
“It’s a very interesting dilemma to explore and it was fun having these three-handers with Adelaide and Jonny. Everyone was going for the same goal with good intentions but Jonny’s character is unapologetically sceptical of my character and I blame him for being a negligent cop who let the case fall apart. It creates a good dynamic. Maude is in the middle, trying to put the boys’ fighting to rest so they can all work together.”
As for the director, Russell says: “We are like-minded creatives.” Produced by David Ngo for Projector Films, the psychological thriller will be released on October 16 in the US by The Orchard, a unit of Sony Music Entertainment, and has been sold to China and South-East Asia. Vendetta Films is the Australian distributor.
The actor was introduced to Shanahan by casting director Greg Apps, who cast Russell in his first film, Ben C. Lucas’ Wasted on the Young, which co-starred Clemens. The director wanted to cast Russell for another film, Talk Fast, which did not pan out, even before Wasted on the Young opened.
Russell’s big breakthrough was playing the lead in Josh Tranks’ Chronicle, which grossed $US126 million worldwide, followed by director Kimberly Peirce’s re-make of Carrie alongside Julianne Moore and Chloe Grace Moretz.
Happy to go wherever the work takes him, he co-starred with Sullivan Stapleton and Jessica de Gouw in Tony Ayres’ Cut Snake and with Jack O’Connell and Jai Courtney in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken.. His other credits include Greg McLean’s Jungle and Ivan Sen’s Goldstone.
He’s now playing rebellious cop Jim Street in the second season of CBS’s S.W.A.T. (the first series screened here on Fox8), his TV debut.
Later this year he will produce Under My Skin, a low-budget “fractured love story” from writer-director David O’Donnell. It will be the first US feature from Five Lip Films, a collective which includes Russell, O’Donnell and Ande Cunningham and has produced several shorts.
Check back tomorrow for more on Russell’s roles in S.W.A.T., two other US indie films and the Australian film he aims to make next year.