A24‘s latest horror offering, Men, releases in theaters on Friday, May 20.

The brand-new movie from Ex Machina and Annihilation director Alex Garland stars Oscar nominee Jessie Buckley as Harper, a recent widow. She retreats to the countryside for a fresh start. However, strange encounters turn into a shape-shifting nightmare when someone or something from the surrounding woods appears to be stalking her.

Most of Harper’s unsettling encounters stem from various locals, all played by Rory Kinnear (“Penny Dreadful”). It begins with Geoffrey, Harper’s primary contact for her new cottage. 

In a recent chat with Bloody Disgusting ahead of the film’s release, Kinnear explained why Geoffrey is peculiar straightaway. “If I was just playing Geoffrey in a film, I think they’d cast somebody a bit older and maybe a bit different,” Kinnear notes. “There’s something odd about me playing Geoffrey, but you can buy it. There is something off and something about the teeth that is a bit off, but equally, you get to like him, and he’s quite funny. He shows us around the house; he introduces us to the village. There are just a few little things that make you think there’s something off about this. Which starts you off on this sense of shifting sands as an audience.”

Rory Kinnear Men A24

Geoffrey is only the tip of the iceberg, with Rory Kinnear portraying a large handful of characters ranging in age and distinct personalities. Kinnear broke down his approach.

I knew that Alex was creating these characters emblematically in some way, but I couldn’t play an emblem. I couldn’t play a theme. I had to make sure that they all existed incredibly within this village and everything that Alex uses in that 12-minute sequence, which has no dialogue towards the beginning of the film, which is all about the natural world and Harper’s place within that, and the ancientness of the natural world. I wanted the characters to exist within that sense of timelessness and place as much as each other. So, I felt like it was my job not to let people think about the chameleonic nature of it, that each one had to exist entirely credibly, and almost unremarkably the fact that it was all played by the same person.

That entailed the actor sometimes playing multiple characters within a single day, an impressive task.

Kinnear shared what one particular scene entailed, “I think there was one other day when I played the little boy and the victim on the same day. But most of the time, it was just playing one character per day. During the pub scene, I think we did it over two days. On one day, I would play two of them, and the next day I played three of them. You have to keep your wits about you just to make sure that they don’t bleed into each other, but that was why I’d made sure I’d been on top of creating each character before we’d even got into production. Because I knew that there would be days like that of jumping in and out, it was like a theatrical quick change.               

“In some ways, you had 45 minutes to get out of one and into character. Certainly, for the landlord, that was the only day I got to play him. And you realized, ‘Oh, I did just as much work on him as I did, for say Geoffrey.’ I made that vow that I wanted to treat each character just as wholly as everyone else, but some of them fled and died pretty quickly.”

One of those fully developed characters is deeply entrenched within myth and symbolism. Rory Kinnear explained how he unlocked this otherworldly performance.

I was given permission to create with the characters I did. Alex was incredibly prescriptive about the Green Man and how he saw the various iterations of it. That was a look thing and something that I wasn’t necessarily in charge of, but he was quite happy for me to bring the physicality of that character. I had to root it in a different world and landscape as the character progressed its different looks. He represents the primal element of man and nature. So, there was a sense of having to be completely connected to the earth. Obviously, not wearing anything also means that you are fully grounded within your environment. I just let the countryside lead me in terms of how he moved and behave.”

Rory Kinnear Men

Read more on Men and Alex Garland drawing inspiration for his folk horror from anime “Attack on Titan.”



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