My third interview with Kevin Howarth, and the first one actually done face-to-face, was in August 2006 on the set of Summer Scars.
Julian Richards first approach you about this?
"He had spoken about it some time back. He’d mentioned the title to me and what it was vaguely about. But there was actually talk before about another film called The Long, Dark Hours and that seemed to be more prevalent. Then suddenly, it almost seemed to come out of the blue, this one, Summer Scars. When he sent me the script and I read it, I thought it was very, very interesting and very topical, very current. I just think it had the feelings of a story that doesn’t often get made, stories about things like this, that would touch a nerve a bit. I really liked the character and I really liked the interaction with the kids and I thought it had potential. I really liked that. And actually it came together extremely rapidly. It seemed to steamroller into happening. It was very, very quick when it all came about."
How would you sum up the character of Peter?
"Interesting question actually, because the first time I read the script, when Julian and I were talking, and the word paedophile kept being mentioned an awful lot. I read it and I could see where there were certain elements in the script where people could look at that and think, ‘Yes, there’s definitely something there.’ Because it’s a guy with these kids you can see where that connotation comes in and where the connection is made. But the more I read it, there was one particular scene in the film and I thought, ‘My God, this guy has got a split personality.’ Then I started talking about schizophrenia. Then it kept flipping backwards and forwards. And it was really just a case of me with the homework again, as usual. I dug deep into this guy and started to dig deep into the script. You’re always looking in the script for those little beacons of light: ‘Ah, yes, now I get it - he’s blah blah blah blah.'
"So after a little while the paedophile thing started to drift away a little bit. I just felt he was less of that really and really, at the end of the day, this guy’s a schizophrenic. I looked at certain elements of it where I initially thought, ‘Oh, split personality’ but I did a lot of homework on the schizophrenia side and in actual fact schizophrenics are extremely common. I then found out that one in a hundred people is schizophrenic and in fact even more people than that genuinely hear voices but just don’t act on them. Split personality? Very, very, very rare. And I really didn’t think that was the way this was going to go. I’m looking at this guy and Peter is a schizophrenic definitely. But the more you look into the background of schizophrenics and where it all comes from, the big thing, the trigger in a lot of their lives is the trauma and that sort of thing, to do with things like poverty, homelessness, not having a job.
"All of these things affect but crucially from an early age, definitely physical, mental, racial harassment and abuse. There are different poles of schizophrenia; there are positive and negative poles. It’s quite a deep sort of thing really and an interesting subject. They can be very, very within themselves and severely quiet and introverted and don’t fit in, to the point of quietness beyond that. Or they can be very, very edgy and moving around a lot and speaking incoherently and jumbling words. Fascinating stuff and frightening to believe that there are so many people who suffer from this sort of thing."
The interesting thing is that we’re not told any of this in the script. There’s just the odd line of dialogue.
"No, it doesn’t come out. That’s all you can go on as an actor, you’ve just got to go through the script and look at the dialogue that this man has with himself, with the children, and you get to understand the growth of him through the story. You think yes, I can see this and pinpoint certain things. Altering dialogue - there’s been an awful lot of dialogue that’s been altered in this film to suit the parameters of where we’re at and what we’re doing with it.
"Alan Wilson, the writer, lovely Welsh guy, he was here the other day. He’d based it all on a guy that he knew when he was a kid; it actually really happened. That guy was slightly middle class and fairly well groomed and had this military bearing. But he kept them hostage in this particular area at one point with this air rifle or whatever it was. And Julian himself had had a similar sort of event happen to him. It’s funny because if you go back in a lot of people’s lives, a lot of young boys I think have had experiences to some degree of something like that, even if it’s only briefly. I remember when I was a young man, there was a guy lived round the corner from us - working class, council estate areas - who used to be in the Navy. He was probably only in his mid-twenties, late twenties at that time but to us he was a big adult.
"He used to love this whole idea of fighting with us on the green, having punch-ups with us. Playful to start with but then they would end up really quiet serious. In this film there is a scene - I couldn’t believe it when I read it - this fight he has with the kids and it really brought back those images and reminiscences of that whole thing with that guy. Because it would turn quite serious at times. You’d get a clout and you’d think, wait a minute. Though whether he was like that or not, I don’t know, you just have to go with all these different pictures and images in your mind that you remember. I’ve experienced and met people like that. Funnily enough, since we’ve been on the set there have been two lads who walk around here and both of them are schizophrenics. It’s really bizarre."
How are you finding coping with a very young cast?
"Luckily I’m not too bad with kids because I come from a very big family and I think I’ve got about 18, 19 nieces and nephews. I think I’m lagging in the child department myself because my eldest niece has now got children of her own. I’m now a great uncle, it’s just ridiculous! So I’m quite good with kids and coming from a big family I think you just get used to that kind of thing. So I’m good at being around them and handling them. But they are raw, these kids. When they’re not filming, they’ve got some energy. But we were all 14, 15 once, I understand that.
"So it’s just about keeping them focussed because it is a serious topic we’re dealing with here. There are serious scenes. The build-up towards the end, there are some very serious scenes there with the kids and they have to understand that. And I think they do, and they’re good kids. They’re a really good bunch of kids, they really are, and they’re doing a cracking job because their energy’s in for it. It’s just those inbetween moments when we’re not filming. It’s just keeping them focussed, keeping them entertained, they’ve got things to do. They are all six completely different individuals, and that’s nice, that suits a gang I suppose."
What have you been up to since last we spoke in 2004?
"Well, funnily enough, not a great amount. I did some stuff for the BBC and I’ve been in touch with certain directors, obviously very closely with directors I’ve worked with, about other projects. There are a couple of much bigger things in the pipeline coming up which I’d better not say anything about them right now. Because it either puts the kibosh on them or you just end up looking stupid if it doesn’t happen. In fact I’ve had a couple of phone calls since being on this set."
Did The Last Horror Movie have an effect on your career? Do people know who you are now?
"It’s a weird one, that one. Sort of yes and no. The funny thing about The Last Horror Movie, as you said Mike, I know you can put a label of ‘cult’ on any movie but it was a particular kind of movie and we all know that. It was aimed at a certain market. Or rather, the film could only be aimed at a certain market. People either took to it or they didn’t. It's interesting to see that on all the votings that the film got that I heard about, you know when they vote for films on the video stores or IMDB or any of these kinds of places, there seemed to be this fifty-fifty split which I would say is pretty fair because it is a film that you either love or you hate. But I would rather be in a movie like that than something that people just come out of and think, ‘That was all right.’ What I would call a car park movie: by the time you’ve got to the car park you’ve forgotten about it.
"Certain people have seen it. I don’t know, it’s a funny one. Like anything else, I just think that if it had had a really big release - not knocking Tartan because they did what they did with the film that they had and they did a great job. But obviously certain distributors would have handled it differently. If it had had a really big distributor and posters and things had been plastered everywhere then obviously that has an effect on you as an actor and on your career because so many more people go and see it. What I was pleased about was that there were so many more people who saw the film who I wouldn’t have thought would have gone to see it, or who I personally would have thought wouldn’t have even liked it. So I was quite surprised by certain corners of response where there were people who went to see it and I thought, ‘You went to see that? I wouldn’t have thought that would be up your street.’ But they did.
"And an awful lot of people who I thought wouldn’t like it, really loved it, and that really surprised me. Why it surprised me, I don’t know. I guess because I always had that thing of: it’s quite brutal and it has a certain kind of unique energy about it. The Last Horror Movie, there’s a very unique energy about that film. It certainly has no formula whatever. It’s off on its own somewhere. What it did for my career though: there’s a little bit of a leap up the ladder and a lot more people notice you and they come up to you. People have come up to me and said, ‘I saw you in a film called The Last Horror Movie.’
"I’ve had an awful lot of people tell me that they’d seen the trailer because the trailer was on the front of DVDs of things like The Assassination of Richard Nixon with Sean Penn and films like that. Much bigger, starrier projects. So when that was happening I got phone calls from France, Spain, all over the Goddamn place, saying, ‘We’ve just seen your trailer! We’ve just seen your trailer!’ So never knock a trailer. I think a trailer is certainly a fantastic advertising tool for a film. If you can get a great trailer and you can get it on the right films, my God, people will queue up to see your film then, because they just suddenly see it and go, ‘Wow, let's get that!’
"But I was thrilled when Julian phoned me up one day and said, ‘Have you seen the charts?’ I said, ‘What charts?’ It was Blockbuster and we were second. For about a month we were the second most popular rented movie in the country which I thought was brilliant. And hats off to Julian because he was the one who lived with that movie from beginning to end. He trawled it through all the festival circuit and the awards we picked up. The awards I picked up and the awards he picked up. It was just fantastic. It went a lot further than we both ever even expected at all, so it did great for us. And Fangoria, hats off to them because I know Fangoria have got a huge audience in the States and that really helped as well. They did an awful lot of advertising for it."