Ben O’Toole learned a lot from Chris Hemsworth and Mel Gibson but yearns for more
After graduating from WAAPA in 2011, Ben O’Toole played policeman Pete for three seasons of Love Child, had supporting roles in The Water Diviner and Hacksaw Ridge and co-starred in the US movies Detroit and 12 Strong.
The Brisbane-born actor plays the leads in Alister Grierson’s comedic thriller Bloody Hell and in Kiah Roache-Turner’s horror-comedy Nekrotronic, yet he is far from satisfied with where he is at in his career.
“I still have a lot more to learn; I have much further to go,” says O’Toole, who has bases in Sydney and Los Angeles, the latter with actor-director housemate Kick Gurry.
Working with Mel Gibson on Hacksaw Ridge and with Chris Hemsworth on 12 Strong were great learning experiences.
“Mel was incredible and very powerful in communicating what he wanted us to do, and he encouraged Vince Vaughn and me to improvise,” he says.
In Nicolai Fuglsig’s 12 Strong, a drama based on an elite special forces team deployed to Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks, he was cast as a junior medic alongside Hemsworth, Michael Shannon and Michael Peña.
“The film had its problems with rewrites and power dynamics, but Chris taught me a lot; he was great leading the cast,” he says.
He portrayed one of three Detroit cops who killed three black men in a motel in 1967 and got off due to a legal technicality, based on a true story, in Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit.
Ben O’Toole in ‘Detroit.’
Scripted by Robert Benjamin and produced by Eclectik Vision’s Brett Thornquest and Steven Matusko and Heart Sleeve Productions’ Joshua Paul and Benjamin, Bloody Hell follows Ben as Rex Coen, a US war veteran who lives in Boise, Idaho.
Trying to turn around his life after a stint in prison and serving with the special forces in Afghanistan, Coen goes to Finland on holidays and gets mixed up with a family played by Caroline Craig, Matthew Sunderland, Travis Jeffery, Jack Finsterer and newcomers Meg Fraser and David Hill.
Avoiding spoilers, he says: “It’s not the holiday he thought was going to happen.” He enjoyed the shoot on the Gold Coast and describes the tone as similar to Edgar Wright’s movies (Baby Driver, Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead), fast-paced and with sharp dialogue.
Thornquest, who hopes the thriller will be the first of a trilogy, is a huge fan, observing: “Bloody Hell needed a leading man to carry the film and Ben exceeded all our expectations. He was a dream to work with, incredibly prepared, focussed and professional, while at all times maintaining a great, fun and relaxed vibe on set. I truly believe he will become one of Australia’s next international star actors.”
Earlier this year O’Toole shot an untitled Amazon Studios pilot from writer-director Catalina Aguilar Mastretta, who made Everybody Loves Somebody, a 2017 Mexican-set comedy romance starring Karla Souza, José María Yazpik and O’Toole, which was acquired by Netflix.
In the pilot he plays Mack, an Australian soccer player who is drafted to the US and becomes the first boyfriend of Sara (Lorenza Izzo), who lives with her family and friends in a Hollywood Hills compound.
Nekrotronic follows O’Toole and Bob Epine Savea as waste disposal workers who get embroiled in the conflict between Finnegan (Monica Bellucci), CEO of the sinister Daemokon corporation, and a trio of Nekromancers, Luther (David Wenham) and his daughters Molly (Caroline Ford) and Torquel (Tess Haubrich).
O’Toole had been an admirer of Bellucci ever since he saw her in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.
“That was a blast,” says Ben, who saw the film before its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Universal Pictures is yet to set a release date, which will presumably follow the August 9 launch in the US via Momentum Pictures.