Max Raphael appeared as Hargreaves in 2018’s feature film Slaughterhouse Rulez, and among his other work, will be seen in future releases School’s Out Forever and Black Beauty. As a keen photographer, Max has worked on many projects including music videos and album arts, and runs A Podcast Called Alan with co-host Angus Colwell, with their Season One finale uploaded to Spotify last week. Having written his first screenplay, Moving, a few years ago, Max is set to start work on a short film in the coming months. Chatting with Max, he tells us about filming Slaughterhouse Rulez, his upcoming productions and A Podcast Called Alan.
What was it like playing Hargreaves in Slaughterhouse Rulez and do you remember how you felt when booking the role?
Slaughterhouse was a wild ride, and a really fun shoot. It was my first real break in the industry, so I’ll admit to being a little nervous when we first got started, especially working with some personal heroes of mine: Simon (Pegg) and Michael (Sheen) are both true legends at this point, so being able to learn from them was brilliant, if daunting. I have this memory from our first week – Simon and I sat watching Star Wars on my phone in a tent at 2am waiting for the next set up… it was pretty surreal! Booking it was a bit crazy too: I went from my first meeting to signing on in less than three days – a bit of a whirlwind…
You voiced the role of Rodric in A Plague Tale: Innocence, how was this?
I’ve always loved doing voice work. My mum’s a VO artist herself so I suppose it’s in my blood! We spent a full year recording for A Plague Tale, which meant that I got very good at making ‘stealth noises’ by the end. The whole team on that project, both in London at SIDE and in France were wonderful. The game has done really well as well, and a sequel’s in the works, so I’m hoping for a return for Rodric in some way… he’s a blast to play.
How have you found your time filming for Black Beauty?
It’s unlike any project I’ve worked on before – I cut my teeth on the British indie circuit, and I think the biggest crew I’d ever worked with before Beauty was probably about 45 people, so stepping on to a set of 170 was crazy. We shot the main bulk of the film in South Africa as well, so it was all a bit overwhelming at first, but honestly everyone on the project made me feel immediately at ease once we got started. I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan, so working with Iain (Glen) was a bit of a dream come true. He’s a lovely man. Getting to spend every day with the horses was probably the highlight though – they’re really the heart of the film, and people are going to go nuts over the stuff they can do.
Are you able to say anything about your character James?
I can’t say a huge amount, as everything’s still very much under wraps, but getting to play such an iconic character from the book was a pretty big deal for me. Ashley (Avis), our director, who also wrote the film, has such a clear vision, which is always comforting as an actor, and we worked together to really flesh out James and make him a character that fits the film. He’s a real blend of emotional heart and comic relief, so I’m excited for people to meet him!
How were the auditions and how did you prepare for your role?
My initial tape I actually did from here in the States, on about six hours’ notice, but it was a while before I heard anything. I still think it was fairly dreadful, but I’m sure Ashley saw something in me! It’s always fun when you’re playing a character from a book or comic, getting to put your own spin on them. I have my own process when it comes to creating a character, and Ashley has put together a beautiful screenplay, so I was immediately excited about getting started. I’d never read the book before, and I wanted to stay true to the essence of the James that Anna Sewell created, but I also felt that there was more to be explored there. It’s a difficult balance to get, but we ended up with what felt like a natural evolution of his character. There’s always this moment where everything just clicks, and a character falls into place. It’s brilliant.
What can you tell us about School’s Out Forever?
I’m super excited for people to see it. It’s this Lord of the Flies-esque tale of a bunch of teenagers slowly going insane together; a mad blend of genres that somehow manages to work perfectly – it’s an action-thriller first and foremost, but there’s a really poignant coming of age story beneath all of the excitement. It gets super dark too, and very psychological in nature, which was part of the reason I was so initially drawn to it as a project – I feel like films that subvert the audience’s expectations of what they’re going be are some of the most interesting.
What was your character Wylie like to play?
More interesting than any role I’d taken on before – I have to thank our unfairly talented writer/director Ollie Milburn for that. Wylie suffers from very severe ADHD, and possibly high-functioning autism, which led to him having a very difficult childhood. I’ve struggled with mental health in the past, so it was important to me that I could portray all that authentically. I spent a lot of time researching and talking to people who deal with similar mental health issues to Wylie on a daily basis. It was intriguing to see how within the script, things like mental health and sexuality weren’t treated as cheap plot devices, but as normal parts of life. It’s not something that happens often in film and personally I think it’s really encouraging to see.
How was life on set?
I think I can confidently say it was the most fun I’ve ever had on a film set. We were a really small crew so by the end everyone knew each other well. Every single one of us is still in touch. There was a constant ‘prank war’ going on between some of us actors (I won’t name any names but they know who they are…) which just made it all even more fun. I’ve never been more sad to wrap a project.
What are you looking forward to for the releases of both films?
I’m excited for people to get to experience these stories. They’re incredibly different, but both are special in their own way. I just hope everyone enjoys watching them as much as I enjoyed making them…
Can you tell us how your acting career began?
It’s been a while, so forgive me if my memory’s a bit rusty! I don’t think anyone ever really sets out in life to be an actor, it’s something we find – I remember that for a good thirteen years I was set on being a pilot… I did a couple of things when I was really young, eight or nine, but I didn’t truly realise it was what my life was going to be until I was thirteen or fourteen. I had always done school plays, and a friend of mine, the actress Bebe Cave, put me in touch with her agent. I started auditioning, and the rest is history.
Do you have plans for your short film Moving and how did this production come about?
Moving is something that feels like it’s been around forever, that I keep wanting to come back to. I met Kit Connor while we were working together on Slaughterhouse, and we quickly realised that we both had a passion for directing. Kit came to me with the original idea, and very quickly we got Asa (Butterfield) involved and fleshed it out into a script. I’d love to make it one day, and I’m sure we will, but so far we’ve both had so much on our plates that it’s been impossible to get it into production. It was the first screenplay I ever wrote though, so it’s always in the back of my mind.
Can you tell us about A Podcast Called Alan?
My co-host Angus and I have been friends for over ten years at this point, and people had been telling us for a while that we should do a podcast, so we inevitably decided to just take the plunge and do it. We both get a lot of questions about the name – it’s weird, I know. We honestly spent about two weeks trying and failing to come up with a name that worked, and since it’s a podcast about essentially everything, that was difficult. Eventually the name ‘Alan’ just came out of nowhere and it stuck. Nearly a full season later, here we are. We’ve got guests on the way in Season Two too, so that should be good fun…
You’re currently spending time in America, how is this going?
I came out here mainly to get away from life back in the UK… that sounds very dramatic, I know, but after shooting two films on the trot towards the tail end of last year I wanted to get away for a while. The industry here is very different to how it is back home – much bigger, and quite unfamiliar to me. It’s been good fun though, and very productive. I’ve got some exciting stuff on the way.
We understand you are also a photographer, can you tell us about this side of your work?
Photography is less of a career and more of a passion for me. Because acting is what I do for a living, I find it helps to have a creative outlet removed from it. I’ve always loved fashion and photography, and I picked it up as a hobby a couple of years ago. I spent about a year taking terrible photographs, and I like to think I’ve got my eye in by this point… By now, I’ve shot music videos and fashion films, album art for musician friends of mine, and have a really exciting collaboration with a fashion designer coming up this year.
What upcoming career plans do you have?
I’m actually really enjoying life behind the camera. I’m in pre-production on a short film I’m directing at the moment – that’ll start shooting in May of this year. I’m also in the midst of writing my first feature. It’s a black comedy, in the style of a classic American road movie – think Thelma and Louise meets The End of the F***ing World. I’m excited to see how it turns out. Acting-wise, I’m taking my time to find my next project, but have a couple things I can’t talk about right now potentially in the pipeline for the next few months…
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