Ryan Kwanten on why ‘Expired’ stands out as a film

Ryan Kwanten
Ryan Kwanten as Jack in ‘Expired.’

We see in most forms of art that love drives a lot of emotions, and it can also act as a pillar of hope. In director Ivan Sen’s latest film ‘Expired’ however, it’s the one thing that can kill his main character, Jack (Ryan Kwanten.)

Kwanten’s character is introduced as a hardened assassin, one who spends his life relying on himself. Then he falls in love. April (Jillian Nguyen) is a singer, and after being hired by Jack, the two become intertwined emotionally—but that begins the demise of Jack physically. As the film goes on, and with the help of a reclusive scientist (Hugo Weaving), the hitman begins to figure out why his body begins to shut down as he heart comes alive for the first time.

To talk more about working on ‘Expired’, Kwanten sat down to discuss his role and the deeper meaning of the film, and also why it ultimately stands out in its genre.

Ryan Kwanten
Jillian Nguyen and Ryan Kwanten in ‘Expired.’Provided

What initially interested you in this project?

From a smaller standpoint, from a micro-standpoint I guess, it was a character that was very far away from anything I’ve ever played before. It was a very heavy, very hardened kind of a guy. But then, towards the end of act I, you see where you think it’s going…You think it’s gong to be your typical sort of assassin story, but then it takes a very distinctive gear shift and heads into a more romantic thriller of sorts. It’s still under the guise of a sci-fi backdrop, but it takes sort of a turn. From a macro stand-point, I thought it had something to say as well. This is a movie from the visionary mind of Ivan Sen—this is man who has predominately made movies based around indigenous stories in the desert, and I think this was very much a call to arms for humans as a species to sort of say listen, we’re getting further away from who we are, from what makes us happy and from evolving. I couldn’t help but connect to that bigger picture as well.

Having a story incorporate symbolism and a message, does that make it easier for you then to explore a character in a well-rounded way as an actor?

Yeah, you hit the nail on the head exactly. That investment in the human condition is something that I’m always looking for in my work. I think it’s something that we all as humans should be looking for as well. To start investing in the connections between us all as opposed to just the latest iPhone or whatever it may be.

So, how would some of those ideas correlate into Jack’s story? What does he go through?

He’s a hired assassin—and a very kind of ruthless, unemotional one. He meets a nightclub singer who, from that very moment, sort of changes his life. It’s one of those situations where the one thing that makes him feel alive—being loved—is also the only thing that can kill him. It sort of poses a question: Would you want to live forever if you had to live without love? I kind of like that notion to dig in deep within one’s self, what does it really mean to you this life that we’re living? And these deeper emotions that are supposed to make us charged as humans, are we numbing ourselves with the way that we’re living right now? How can we get those deeper feelings of love? Are we trying to kind of steer away from that because we don’t want to be hurt? There’s all sorts of deeper ramifications there that I love delving into.

Ryan Kwanten
Ryan Kwanten in ‘Expired.’Provided

Throughout the film, we see your character deteriorate physically. How do you try to make that come across on screen?

Just being very aware of where I’ve come from and where I’m going, too. Obviously, you don’t shoot this in chronological order, you kind of take little snippets from here and there…So it’s very, very important that I understand the deterioration meter as to where Jack is at in that particular moment. Ivan and I had somewhat of a scale where he was supposed to land, and pretty much [with] each particular moment. Then there’s a certain amount of leeway on the day to kind of give yourself—maybe because of that factor we can take this feeling this way, [or] maybe a little deeper, or maybe not so much now. It was definitely something we thought about, and just the physicality of it as well. As much as the words were there, we were very cognizant that this is a character that spoke as much was without saying anything.

It must have been a juggling act trying to show that on screen out of chronological order.

It’s what we do… I kind of do love that notion about it too. As much as your juggling your props and what sets and all that kind of stuff, you’re juggling emotions and you really have to have a pretty good handle on your vessel of emotions to know how much to give and when.

Has working with Ivan before on ‘Mystery Road’ proved to be helpful when teaming up again for ‘Expired’? 

Absolutely. We worked together on ‘Mystery Road’ close to 10 years from now. I was a small cameo role, but Ivan and I hit it off like a house on fire. He sort of pitched the idea of ‘Expired’ to me..It was right in my wheelhouse of stuff that I wanted to do, and seven years later, he got the film up and approached me again with Hugo [Weaving] attached. I thought Jillian [Nguyen] was also just a wonderful addition to it. That was such a tough casting call too, because Ivan looked high and low for April and he was willing to walk away from the movie if he didn’t get the right person. I thought Jillian did such an exquisite job with her part of it. This film is a love story at the end of the day, you can only tell a love story from two sides. It takes two to tango, so it’s very much told from Jack and April’s perspective. So, it inspired me to see how much she brought to the table. She actually had a lot in common with her character, there was a darker past that she had had, [and] she was really graceful in bringing it to life. It helped me drudge up some of my demons as well.

What can you tell me about April? Who is she, and who is she to Jack?

It starts off as what would seem like a very transactional setup where he hires her to sing at a nightclub. She’s singing behind a one-way mirror, so he can see her, but she can’t see him. That’s pretty much the moment where he falls in love. I guess there’s a brokenness to her that he also definitely senses within himself…There’s a camaraderie or understanding in that brokenness when you meet someone that also has that level of  a hardened soul. You can’t help but relate. So, that forges them onto this journey where the one thing that makes him feel most alive is also the one thing that’s killing him—the only thing that can kill him.

Ryan Kwanten
Jillian Nguyen in ‘Expired.’Provided

What makes ‘Expired’ stand out from other sci-fi, action films?

I think you’re going to realize that you actually relate to these characters more than you [would expect.] It’s a real opportunity to realize our common humanity, and our vulnerability. We’re at a very tenuous time in our evolvement as a species, and I think this is kind of a call to arms from an artistic standpoint, I know Ivan definitely had deeper ramifications of that [with] his indigenous viewpoint on where we’re headed as a species. As much as it’s a beautiful art piece, I think there’s something to be said…When was the last time you saw a movie where you’re still thinking of it long after the credits have rolled?

Expired‘ will be available in select theaters, on digital, and on demand March 18.


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