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He Never Died interview with Jason Krawczyk

Jack is in a rut. Depression and severe anti-social behavior has whittled down his existence to sleeping and watching television. Seeing the human race as little more than meat with a pulse, Jack has no interest to bond with anyone. There's little purpose for him to make friends with someone he'd eventually eat or outlive by more than a millennia. The fuse is lit when Jack's past comes back to rattle him. Jack must now walk a tight rope of sobriety and try to eat as few people as possible in this violent tale of personal responsibility." Director Jason Krawczyk on his film HE NEVER DIED which screens in the Midnighters section of the 2015 South By Southwest Film Festival.

Rollins has been a lot of things over the course of his career, and he’s done a lot of them well. Acting has usually seemed like more of a side project than a real career move, however. From appearances in a spate of ’90s films like Johnny Mnemonic, Heat and Lost Highway to roles in Wrong Turn 2 and Sons of Anarchy and voice work for The Legend of Korra, Rollins has been all over the map.

I had the chance to chat with Jason just a few hours before the world premier of He Never Died at this years SXSW film festival. This was intended to be used for the Following Films podcast but the audio recording just wasn't listenable. I spent a couple hours trying to clean it up but I was only able to get it to a point where I could transcribe it.

Chris Maynard You're about nine hours away from your world premier, what's that feel like?

Jason Krawczyk Its this weird combination of jubilation and high anxiety. I don't know if I should cry or scream with joy, but yeah, its going well.

CM Have you had the chance to play the film for an audience yet?

JK No not at all. The only people who have seen the film are some cast an crew. This is the first time I'll be watching the film with an audience.

CM Is this the hardest part of the film making process this moment before the film is released on the world?

JK Yeah, its just the letting go. That its left up to everyone else now. I had another movie called The Briefcase but it never really took off and this time has been totally different. Everything from casting Henry Rollins to being here (SXSW) its just so humbling because everyone is being so cordial.  Its just great.

CM Speaking of Henry Rollins, its my understanding that you had him in mind when you were writing the role. What was it about Rollins that made him the right choice for this role? How did he inspire you?

JK Its several things but mainly the combination of mind, body and soul. His physical presence and strength. I wanted somebody that was in shape but not somebody who was suave and confident. He needed to look like he could tear your head off. Plus I was just a huge fan in more was than a thousand. He inspired me and in turn he was inspired by the film so it was this great big circle of inspiration

CM How did you become familiar with his work? Was it the spoken word, the music or the acting?

JK It was the spoken word. There was a Comedy Central special that he was a part of and I remember thinking "who is this weird muscular comedian" and then I had to kind of reverse engineer who he was. I discovered the music and the acting through the comedy. 

CM This film is a more grounded take on the material that you're dealing with and that feels like something of a trend with the whole horror genre right now. Is that accurate and if so what's causing it?

JK Its just a shift in the paradigm right now. Its because its something different and its something we are all craving right now. The more ironic or self aware stuff like The Evil Dead is great and I think all the film makers working in horror grew up on that stuff and we felt the need to make our films slightly more grounded. But the more out there, less grounded stuff won't be too far off as a reaction to what's going on right now.

CM Do you feel your films need to work as character driven pieces first and have the horrific elements work second?

JK Yeah I think this just so happens to be a horrorish comedy thing. Its always character and story first. I think with the way technology is today, if you want to make a zombie movie, good luck making it better the The Walking Dead and that's just a TV show. We as film makers have to rise above that somehow and I think that the way we do that is by telling a really strong character driven piece.

CM What made you want to do a cannibal film?

JK I wanted to do a film that got into the nature VS nurture debate. The whole question of is this guy born terrible or was he just a victim of his circumstance. I wanted to make a film about the worst person who has ever existed and give him a slice of empathy. So we would look at him and question if he was a victim of his surroundings.

CM Is that something you wrestle with when you think about yourself? Are you a product of your surroundings or are you innately who you are?

JK I think I'm innately a terrible person. I just need to thank my parents for being altruistic and guiding me in the right way

In He Never Died, Henry Rollins plays a recluse who almost never interacts with anyone, and rarely even leaves his apartment. He’s also basically immortal. Oh, and a cannibal. With a determined, deadpan performance, Rollins takes the lead for the first time in his occasional acting career, and this first He Never Died clip makes the outcome look like it might be strange and potentially good.

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