The Actor/Director/Overall Awesome Person sits down with Alistair (Vanessa) to talk about his Genie-nominated film, Son of the Sunshine, and a romance is born.
Set in low-income Ontario, Canada, Ryan Ward's Son of the Sunshine tells the story of Sonny Johnns, a young man suffering from Tourette's Syndrome, who decides to pursue a controversial cure for his condition. Both beautiful and tortured, this unique film made its debut in Denver in 2009 at the Starz Film Fest. Ward's not only been racking up awards for his script and direction, but also for his stellar performance in the lead role. Check out our review here, and let's hope Ryan can make it through this interview without me blatantly hitting on him. (Spoiler alert: He can't.)
AA: First things first, I have to give you not one, but two huge congrats on your recent successes -- not only is Son of the Sunshine getting released in the US in an On Demand format on Feb 10, you also just nabbed a Genie nomination [Canadian Academy Awards for all you untraveled heathens] for Best Original Screenplay. As someone who's been working hard on the stage and screen, are you blown away by all the accolades or do you totally feel redeemed and think anyone who ever doubted you can suck it?
RW: Option B.
Kidding, I am very honored to be nominated for our Canadian version of the Academy Awards. It's strange, when my producer Paul and I were sitting at a restaurant after the Genies were announced, we were reflecting how we actually had all these huge goals for our little indy film, it was funny to us that it is actually achieving them. It was nice.
Okay, let's get the elephant out of the room. Or at least the elephant out of my head (and pants, just saying) -- you're an incredibly attractive guy -- you could've easily done a movie about the trials and tribulations of underwear models -- what made you decide to play such a tortured character?
I wanted a real challenge as an actor and have always liked transformative roles, I wanted to prove to myself and everyone that I could do it. Beyond that there had never been a movie that I thought was any good about a character with Tourette's and so I saw an opportunity there to do something very original, I jumped on it.
FYI you do get to see Sonny in his underwear, and even less at a few points in the movie, Alistair so you may want to pause it, haha, oh my god.
Getting serious for a second, (but only for a second) I actually have two people in my life who were diagnosed with Tourette's at young ages, so your subject matter hits very close to home for me -- what inspired you to make a film with a protagonist who suffers from this syndrome?
Um, the character of Sonny sorta came to me like an angel from heaven (if you believe in that sort of thing, I don't but just for symbolism's sake, and he does take on that type of persona in the film). I was writing a story about the way that I felt at that time and it was going nowhere, until I saw an older gent on the subway in Toronto and I thought wow, Tourette's what a perfect metaphor for an angry young man searching for his place in society -- and that was me, still is largely. So from that encounter the character was born.
Sonny gets the chance to cure himself of his affliction, which was a pretty ballsy move on your part, creatively. Many people with disabilities have probably struggled with the same desires -- a wish to rid themselves of what sets them apart from others -- but one element of your message is that it's our uniqueness which makes us special. Was there a part of you that hesitated with approaching such a touchy subject?
Absolutely, it was daunting. In making the film and especially in portraying Sonny myself I felt I had a great responsibility to people with Tourette's Syndrome to portray him accurately and in a way that they felt was realistic. With my choice to present such a character I was representing a whole host of people, and I wanted him to be someone they could identify with, who could even inspire. I hope I succeeded.
Let's get away from the heavier stuff and get into my total nerdling stuff... I'm sitting here talking to Ash. Fucking ASH!!! I know we're supposed to be artsy and talk about your latest project but throw me a fan-girl bone here -- are you ever going to reprise your role as the coolest guy in horror? [For those of you not in the total know, and how could you be, you're not the totally horror-show-obsessed geek I am, Ward is the original Ash from the first incarnation of Evil Dead: The Musical and my crush is about to reach epic schoolgirl proportions in three... two... one...]
Haha, um, yeah, there has been some talk of picking up the chainsaw and shotgun again for another run of shows in Toronto and beyond. If the creators actually want to do it again, I'll be there. Though the character may not be able to be a college student anymore, may have to be a college grad on his way to a successful career as manager of S-Mart or something.
I'll get back on track, I promise -- now that you're getting more exposure for your first feature film, what's next? Any plans to return to the stage? Or do you want to continue to focus on directing and starring in your own creations?
Truly I would like to focus on my film acting / directing career, film is where my real passion lies. But who knows you might catch me back on the stage, maybe even this year (hint, hint) haha.
Thank you for taking some time out to speak with me, I can only imagine how busy your schedule is right now with everything going on -- any last words? Parting regrets? Rallying cries? Dinner dates with Alistair? Awkward silences?
Alistair dinner dates any and every time we are in the same city. Thanks so much.
And I think I've been in a state of perma-blush ever since. Ha!
Son of the Sunshine premieres through distributor Film Movement on VOD in the USA Feb 10th! You can check it out on Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and a dozen smaller networks -- Go to 'On Demand' and look in the Film Movement, Indies or Dramas folders.
Images courtesy of Ryan Ward.
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