By: Paul Simpson
Anson Mount is playing a contract killer with a difference in his new movie, The Virtuoso. “I don’t know about you,” he says in a Zoom call from his home near the Toronto base of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, “but I feel like the storyline that is centred around a contract killer has in a way become a little tired. This was something that completely reimagined it because it’s not really about that.”
Mount’s character – simply credited as The Virtuoso (all the characters are named after their jobs) – carries out a hit, but things go wrong, and an innocent bystander is burned to death in front of her child. “It’s a very strange coming of age story about somebody who was raised to believe he was somewhere on the psychopathic spectrum but when something goes wrong, he starts to break his own rules. He doesn’t know why, but we as the audience realise he’s developing a conscience and he doesn’t know what it is. You watch this person evolve over a very short period of time.”
Throughout the film, the audience is privy to the Virtuoso’s thoughts – but rather than the standard narration, it’s as if he’s giving himself instructions. “I thought that that was a strong choice,” Mount notes. “There’s something about the character that’s almost split or removed. There’s him and then there’s his rulebook.
“There’s a lot of voiceover in this film which in any other film would completely annoy me but here it’s what fuses the whole thing together. You’re getting a sense of his journey but also his rule structure for what it is he does.”
The narration was all scripted before filming began, but recording it later did allow Mount and director Nick Stagliono to play with this element. “We even did a whole round just to tweak my tone because early on I’d adopted this very steely unfeeling tone that I carried through the whole piece and it just wasn’t working,” Mount recalls. “We were able to go back and soften that up a bit.”
The Virtuoso boasts a strong cast – including Sir Anthony Hopkins, Abbie Cornish and David Morse. “We got really lucky thanks in large part to Nick’s tenacity,” Mount says. “I told him several times when we felt like we were stuck that we just needed to move on and he said ‘No, we’re sticking to this, we’re going to get these people’ and he got it done.”
Mount and Cornish’s Waitress, in particular, have a lot of screen time together. “We did spend a fair amount of time in the bar talking about the scenes and working out the emotional blueprint that we wanted to establish for both of us and how those two things interweave,” Mount recalls. “And she’s such a great person to work with. The crew absolutely loved her. She’s just a regular Aussie person, a self-deprecating personality, there to work and no BS.”
Mount was also an executive producer on the independent film and enjoyed the challenge of not being able to fix things simply by throwing money at them. “You have to refine what you have,” he explains. “There’s a real spirit of creativity and an energy that if you’re leading your crew appropriately, you can get a real joie de vivre and an esprit de corps on the day that really does affect the heart of the film.”
The Virtuoso is available on Digital Download now and out on DVD 10th May from Lionsgate UK. Check out our Movies hub for more news and reviews.