Interview: Luke Baines

From the interview archives.

VULKAN caught up with actor Luke Baines to talk about his new film Fright Fest. We got Luke’s insight on what it was like to film in a real asylum, how he’d handle being stranded in one, and his experiences filming in Canada for The Girl In The Photographs

You’ll be appearing in the film Under the Silver Lake alongside Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough and Topher Grace. Can you tell us a little about the film and your role in it?

I am, yes. And between you, me and the Internet, I still can’t believe I got to be apart of such an epic project. The script is one of the best I’ve read, and from what I saw on set, Andrew is going to be brilliant in it. He also happens to be as nice as he is talented, so it was a dream to work opposite him.

You’ll also be appearing as Mason in the film Fright Fest. Did you film in a real asylum?

We did – a place called Pennhurst State School and Hospital in Pennsylvania, which was an institution for the mentally and physically disabled that opened in 1908 and was closed in the 80s for patient abuse. During research for the film, I came across a ton of stories that are horrifying and truly heartbreaking – babies left in cribs for so long that they didn’t develop the muscles required to walk, eugenics, sexual abuse, the list goes on. It was built to house up to 500 patients, but became so overcrowded that by the time is was closed there were up to 3,000 people institutionalized there.

I feel like filming in an asylum is a recipe for pranks. Did you or your cast members ever get spooked on set?

You know, on almost every set I’ve been on there’s some kind of pranking going on, but no, on Fright Fest there wasn’t. I guess it’s because the place itself was so bleak, we all kind of stuck together and had a level of respect for what went on there. To say it was eerie is an understatement. It’s considered one of America’s most haunted places, and I can completely understand why. If you ever get a chance to visit, don’t.

You’ve appeared in a few different horror/thrillers now. Would you call yourself an adrenaline junkie?

I’d probably consider myself more of a calm junkie, so actually, I have no idea what I’m doing with all these horror films. I clearly have no business in them. That said, when you’re the bad guy it’s really not that scary… until you catch a glimpse of yourself in costume.

Are you more likely to be someone trying to scare someone, or the one getting scared?

Oh, the scarer for sure. I used to have a Scream mask that I’d take with me wherever I went so I could scare people when they least expected it. I once took it on a vacation to Thailand and waited a week before sneaking off into the jungle and jumping out at my friends. I still don’t think they’ve forgiven me. 

What are you personally most afraid of? 

Death, complacency, drowning under ice, confined spaces, WebMD, my thoughts. What aren’t I afraid of?

Do you channel your fears for the roles you play?

I don’t know if fear is the right word, but I definitely try and find a common ground with the characters I play so that whatever I do is based in some kind of reality. For instance, for The Girl In The Photographs, I didn’t know how it felt to stalk someone, but I did know what unrequited love felt like (Hi Kylie from 6th grade), so I played on that. Whenever I would find myself getting sidetracked with the fictional elements of the story, I’d try and ground the character in what was real to me.

How does the atmosphere of a horror film compare to acting in a production like Footloose the Musical?

From my experience, film compared to theatre couldn’t be more different. Film is fast paced and stop-start at the same time. You sit around for hours waiting for cameras to be set up, and then it’s a mad rush to film a scene before you lose light. Theatre has more of a slow build, gradual momentum because you rehearse for weeks before shows begin. But if you’re talking horror versus musicals, it’s pretty much the same thing; lots of running, screaming and backstabbing.

If you’re home alone on Halloween with nothing to do, what’s your go-to movie to watch?

Scream. It’s my favourite scary movie Sidney.

If you found yourself in an asylum/haunted house by yourself for a night with no communication to anyone, how would you keep yourself calm?

Oh God. The thought alone gives me anxiety… especially after spending a month of night shoots at Pennhurst. I think the answer is, I wouldn’t be calm. I’d be a f**king wreck. I try real hard at meditating to trick my mind into thinking I was on a tropical island, but within about 7 minutes I’d be hyperventilating and crying for my mother.

What was your favourite part about shooting The Girl in the Photographs in Canada? Did you learn anything surprising about the country while you were here?

You mean beside the fact that it’s one of the best countries in the world?! Really though, I bloody love Canada… the people, the environment, the universal healthcare, the English chocolate shops. You really have it all. My favourite part of shooting was the wonderful Canadian friends I made while I was there – two in particular, our script supervisor Pat and props master Donna – who are the kindest, most supportive ladies. They joke that they’re the co-presidents of my Canadian fan club and constantly send me news articles about TV shows or films that are shooting in Vancouver because they want me “to come home.”

People often mention how you have such a great look for modeling. Do you ever want to explore that a little bit? Who would you walk a runway for?

Yeah, look. For every person that might say that, there’s another who says the opposite. When I first arrived in LA, I signed with a modeling agent and went on a few castings. I was in one when a client was looking through my portfolio and said: “Hmm you’ve got that ugly pretty thing going on. But is it more ugly than pretty? I can’t decide. No, I don’t like it. It’s definitely ugly.” She closed the book and handed it back to me without saying a word. I left the agency not long after that because I’m just not the sort of thick-skinned person who can hear that sort of thing and not make it a part of the things I believe about myself. I genuinely respect models who can. That said, I do love doing shoots and wearing rad clothes and acting out my fantasies of being a cool kid. As for runway, McQueen or Prada would be lovely thanks… or anyone who really appreciates that washed-out, ugly pretty look.

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