Thursday, May 14, 2009

Interview with Shane Briant, Hammer star and author of WORST NIGHTMARES

Shane Briant’s new novel WORST NIGHTMARES has just been released this week and Shane has kindly agreed to participate in a bit of Q&A for our blog.

Shane has of course featured in four of Hammer’s most interesting 1970s movies (Demons of the Mind, Straight on till Morning, Captain Kronos and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell), and has remained very active on screen, TV and stage. In actual fact if you are based in the UK/Ireland look out for the new Vauxhall ad with him in it.

I am always very curious to learn more about what happened to our favourite Hammer actors once they stopped working for the studio, so ever since I first heard about him being a writer a couple of years ago I wanted to find out more about this lesser known part of his career. Now that I know that one of his past novels features a 10-year old hitman for the Mafia you can bet I’ll be on the lookout for his earlier novels! (Incidentally a plot summary I just discovered demonstrates that the Internet/Murder angle is one that Briant seems to have been fascinated with even before Worst Nightmares.)

Shane is now based in Australia and will soon go on a whirlwind tour of American book stores to promote his new work. So check out your local listings to see if you can even meet up with him in person. (And if you do, don’t forget to take a photo and share it with us!)

Hi Shane, your new novel, Worst Nightmares, has just been released. Can you tell us a little bit about it? What was the inspiration for the plot?

I’ve always been fascinated by the amount of trust, and lack of fear, people have chatting away to the world at large on the Internet. They share their most intimate secrets, their fears and aspirations – even their sexual preferences. They appear to have no thought about any demons that might be lurking in Cyber-Space. There have been many instances of people being tracked down and raped and/or murdered by contacts on the Net, yet because they initially chat on a computer they have no fear. Nor caution. So I came up with the Dream Healer’s website. “Tell me your nightmares and I shall give you peace.” Yeah, right. Eternal peace in the most horrific way – their nightmares amped up 100 times! That was the idea. Then I used that as a secondary plot in a novel about a man that makes one error of judgment and it creates a tragic domino effect that destroys his life.

Tell us a little bit about your own dreams and nightmares?

I have VERY vivid dreams. In them everything is amped up. So a visit to Venice (Italy) is an explosion of colour and activity. As if the real thing wasn’t huge enough. My nightmares used to be about plane crashes. Now they are more like ‘the end of the world’. I can see invaders in huge space ships in the sky and people are running. I know this is it! I always ask myself, ‘Am I dreaming?’ I pinch myself and don’t wake up. Quite often I dream Wendy is fed up with me and says she’s leaving me. This is the worst one!

Given that the plot is very much featuring a menacing Internet presence I thought it was somewhat ironic that the first question you asked me when I started touching base with you was what Twitter was about as you were “just getting started when it comes to the Internet”. Given the novel’s subject matter I’d have thought you were an old Internet pro. Can it really be that you are just getting into it? How was the research like in that regard?

Twitter is odd. As a writer I find it hard to ‘Twit’. Only a few words? And who the heck am I talking to? Who’s actually reading and is interested? Mmmm. But I can easily grasp the magnitude of research on the Net. I no longer have to trawl the bars and brothels of Valetta to know what it’s like in Malta’s ‘Gut’ and what’s being served ‘de jour’. Often quite grizzy. But it’s gloriously vicarious. And getting back in touch with people I haven’t seen for ages. And never missing a good news story – just look it up. I’ve been an Internet devotee since it’s inception really but I find it difficult to wrap my head around Twitter – that’s all!

I believe a sequel to Worst Nightmares is already written. Can you tell us a bit more about this?

OOOOO! I LOVED writing this one. It gave me soooo much pleasure. It was FUN! Sometimes I worry that I am becoming one of my characters. How can one have so much fun writing about such grizzy things? Well, it’s because it’s fiction! And I can let my VERY dark houmor run amok! The sequel takes over where the first book leaves off. It’s an uber-scary ride from Malibu to Paris and back to Los Angeles. So many twists and turns I should have a contest – ‘Tell me what’s going to happen next and win a hundred bucks!’ Difficult to organize that one, but it’d be fun.

Worst Nightmares is being promoted as your debut novel, though I understand that you have previously published five novels in Australia. Were they in a similar style? What can you tell us about them?

The promotion is really to debut my breaking into the HUGE American market. That’s so exciting for me. “If you can make it here…” as the song goes. Back in Australia I’ve had five others published. First (‘The Webber Agenda’) was cold war espionage. Second (‘The Chasen Catalyst’) about drugs and the diplomatic bag. Third (‘Hitkids’) about a ten year old contract killer for the Mafia. Fourth, (‘Bite of the Lotus’) a saga about world wide money-laundering and the American Presidential campaign. The fifth (‘Graphic’) was about crime wars in Sydney.

Looking back at your life starting off as a law student in Dublin, becoming an actor on screen and stage as well as a writer, how would you summarise your career? Did you ever follow a “career plan”? What are your proudest achievements? Is there anything you wish you’d have done differently? Or anything you wanted to do but haven’t done yet?

I’ve been so very lucky. I started working as a pro in Dublin Ireland while still at University. Then I was in a play that was a huge hit at the Dublin Theatre Festival (‘Children of the Wolf’) and transferred to London’s West End. I was nominated for the Critic’s Award for Best Newcomer that year. Then I was contracted to Hammer Films for 4 pictures. Then I got a huge break and was cast as Dorian Gray in the re-make in Hollywood. I don’t regret much. Maybe I should have stuck around in Hollywood after Dorian Gray and made serious money. But I was young and wanted to get back to the B.B.C. and do more serious work. ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ and ‘The Naked Civil Servant’ and a theatre production of ‘Equus’ in which I played Dysart (and David Wenham played the boy) are probably my best work. It’s not always the most remembered work that makes one proud. What do I want to do from now on? See Worst Nightmares made into a movie. Then keep writing and become an established thriller writer around the world. Then travel and share any money I make around. I don’t need much and there are a million blind kids in India alone. $50 gives each one sight. (Fred Hollowes Foundation)

You appeared in four Hammer movies: Demons of the Mind, Straight on till Morning, Captain Kronos and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. How did you get involved with Hammer? What are your memories of those productions and the stars you were working with?

The writer of the West End play I was in had just written ‘Straight on till Morning’. Michael Carerras (head of Hammer Films) had just seen ‘Children of the Wolf.’ Michael C wanted me, but Michael Peacok (the writer) didn’t – he wanted someone more ‘famous’. Anyway, I got the role and Carerras thought it a good idea to sign me up for 4 pictures. So I started work at Elstree and had a ball, working with some of the best actors in England. Peter Cushing was a real pro and a lovely gentle man. A perfectionist. Gillian Hills was scrumptuous but never looked in my direction. Shame. Paul Jones was a fun guy. Rita Tushingham was a real sweetheart and we became greats pals. But you know what they say about distance? I haven't spoken to her in 20 years. Maddie Smith was adorable. Nicest person I met at Hammer. As was the lovely Virginia Wetherell, married to my best pal at the time, the late Ralphie Bates.

You probably were born to play Dorian Gray. Did you have a special affinity for The Picture of Dorian Gray, especially since you must have been very familiar with the works of Oscar Wilde from your time in Dublin. (Incidentally, do you regularly return back to Ireland?) What was it like working with Dan Curtis?

The Dorian script was splendid, if at times not the same as Wilde’s book. I had an absolute ball. The director Glenn Jordan (multi-award winner) is still my favourite director. Nigel Davenport was a wickedly marvelous friend to have there. ALL the cast went on to do great things and all, barring me, made millions of dollars. Over the years I’ve been back to Ireland, but not as often as I would have liked. I made a TV Movie of the Week called ‘The Flame is Love’ for CBS. Tim Dalton was the baddie and, for once, I was not brain-damaged. Linda Purl (daughter of Lucille Ball) was the ingenue. Appalling movie, but we had the best fun. Tim took one look at my hotel room when he arrived in Dublin and, thining it was bigger than his, had it moved into his suite. It was the same size, it goes without saying, but he was a much bigger star!

Hawk the Slayer and Lady Chatterley’s Lover are both productions that may also be of interest for readers of this blog. Any comments about those two films?

It was a real blast to play Palance’s son! Dream come true to play the cruel son of the cruelest character around in films? On the first day we broke for lunch and I casually enquired if Jack if he was going to the executive restaurant for lunch. He replied; “Why, do you want me to buy you lunch?” I didn’t know what to say, but thinking he might be lonely I replied: ‘Do you have any friends here at Pinewood?’ He drilled me with another look and replied: “Why….do you want to meet my friends?” At heart, needless to say, he was a softee. I miss the guy. I also once had the privilege of working with Newman. He was the most generous actor I ever worked with. When he died I cried buckets. The only time I felt this way when an actor passed awy. He was the best.

Thank you very much, Shane, for answering all those questions. I definitely wish you all the greatest success with your Worst Nightmares. It’s been an equally fun and disturbing read that managed to keep me up for half the night.

Whooppee! That was my aim!!!!!!!


Neil D Vokes said...

Beautiful! H2 you asked many of the questions i had thought of and more- and Shane seems such an enthusiastic interviewee-he truly loves talking about his work-passion in one's occupation is so rare-it was refreshing.

I hope to catch Shane on his book tour of the USA-assuming I'm within driving distance...;o)

hollywoodboy1963 said...

I got an advanced readers copy of
WORST NIGHTMARES and read it in 2 days the only other book I have done that with is THE is a PAGE TURNER the story GRABS you and you follow along with DERMOT and EVERYTHING HE GOES THRU YOU GO THRU...The book is one of the BEST THRILLER/HORROR BOOKS I have read....I NEVER can GET past Chapters 2 or 3 in Others..this has a HOOK that WILL KEEP YOU READING!! HANG ON FOR QUITE A RIDE!

I hope Meet Shane on his book tour as we have been E-mailing since January 2008 and I Interviwed him for Dick klemensens LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS

Mike T. AKA DocPhibes said...

Great interview! Do you have any info on where & when he'll be in the US?

Holger Haase said...

My understanding is that the US book tour will start any day now, but as for the actual touring dates and locations I am not aware sure off. Sorry.

Douglas A. Waltz said...

Great interview, sir.