Interviews

Nicholas Saputra takes on the supernatural

Writer: Arivintiran Ponnan


Nicholas Saputra at the red carpet of the recent Tokyo International Film Festival 2016.

One of the cast in Dain Iskandar Said's unique blend of detective thriller and Southeast Asian folklore, "Interchange" is well-known Indonesian actor, Nicholas Saputra.

He was one of those who contributed to the huge initial hype of the movie by playing a spirit animal named Belian, who takes on the shape of a human to help a woman named Iva to retrieve her tribe's lost souls.

In case you didn't know, Nicholas aged 32, rose to fame when he played the role of Rangga in the 2002 cult classic, "Ada Apa Dengan Cinta?" The actor has also won several accolades with some of the major ones being the Best Leading Role Actor in an Indonesian Movie for "Janji Joni" and the Citra Award for Best Leading Actor at the Indonesian Film Festival 2005 for his role in "Gie".

The actor who is also equally famous in Malaysia is well known for his pro-environmentalist work around Asia such as his notable documentary on the illegal Elephant hunting in east Sumatra back in 2005 and also his voluntary works with the Indonesian Coral Triangle Centre (CTC) to educate the public on the importance of healthy seas and environment.

"Interchange" tells the story of a man named Adam, a forensics photographer who is dragged by his best friend, Detective Man, into an investigation of a series of macabre ritual murders in the city. Adam soon befriends Iva, a woman who is on a mission to rescue the souls of the people in her tribe that have been trapped inside a glass plate negative. The tribe's spirit animal, played by Nicholas, takes on the form of a human in order to help Iva.


The cast and the crew of "Interchange" during the gala premiere here in Malaysia.

Cinema Online: What are the elements that had attracted you to join "Interchange?"

Nicholas: The very first thing that attracted me would be the story and screenplay of the film. I don't think I've ever heard it anywhere prior to this.

Especially the idea behind it all seemed so new and yet captivating. It also involves Southeast Asian folklore which resonated with me and I felt that it's something that I've experienced and so I decided to accept the project.

In "Interchange", you play a character with a supernatural power named 'Belian'. Compared to your past roles, can you tell us what did you base your role upon and what was your inspiration behind it?

Nicholas: To be honest, there is more than one inspiration behind it, but mainly it was all due to me traveling to a few countries around Southeast Asia as I am big fan of hornbills. So I get on these trips to witness their beauty and I've also visited number of indigenous communities around Brunei and so all this prepped me up for the role.

Another major thing would be the insight given to me by director Dain Iskandar and also the producer, Nandita Solomon. They knew very well on how to prepare an actor for their role and that propelled me to get into the character.

Occasionally, I also had to seek advice from the choreographers and other technicians to represent the role better, but ultimately I feel that the character himself represents a lot of things that the director and the film itself wants to say.


Dain Iskandar Said speaking on the stage during the 69th Locarno Film Festival.

What was the hardest part of playing 'Belian' and how was it like going through the make-up and CGI effects process?

Nicholas: Well, I can't tell you how much VFX effect they used, but I can certainly talk about the intensity of the make-up and the process.

It takes from 4 to 8 hours depending on the skin exposure required for the scene, but the hardest part is not applying the make-up, but to remove it. It takes around 3 hours to remove it fully from my skin.

I also had to arrive earlier to set than the crew members and leave the latest due to the meticulous make-up process.

What was it like working with Dain and the rest of the cast that come from Malaysia and Indonesia?

Nicholas: I don't see many differences between them, as culturally we are more or less the same but the difference for me was in terms of location, as I've never done a feature film in Malaysia but it's amazing how we are actually the same.

Working with Dain, apart from being Malaysian and all, made things easy as he is someone who loves to work with different actors and discuss in detail about acting and I like that in him.

As for myself, I love to explore, to learn new things, to take in new things, so it was a great experience for me as I got to work with different actors from different nationalities.


Cinnamon Lion trying to sneak in a photo of him and Nicholas Saputra

Do you think the regional audience would appreciate the film?

Nicholas: Yes, I personally feel they would because the movie communicates with its Southeast Asian viewers. It resonates with the way we live our lives here in the region.

With that being said, I believe and hope that the regional audience would love something that they can relate to.

"Interchange" is now showing in cinemas.


Nicholas Saputra as 'Belian' in "Interchange".
Cinema Online, 11 December 2016

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