Knuckleball revolves around 12-year-old Henry (Luca Villacis) as he is dropped off by his mom (Kathleen Munroe) and dad (Chenier Hundal) to be with his old-fashioned grandfather Jacob (Michael Ironside) during the cold wintery elements, while they getaway. Jacob suddenly passes away and Henry is left alone on an isolated farm with the disturbed neighbor, Dixon (Munro Chambers) who harbors a bitter hatred towards Jacob and Henry’s mom due to a secretive past. Henry must survive from Dixon’s psychopathic terror behaviors. Writer/director Michael Peterson talks to us about Knuckleball.
What made you want to do a movie about this topic?
Michael Peterson: It’s probably dealing with parental anxieties, that is a big part of it. Every family has the secret stuff they try to hide, sometimes it comes back, and are forced to reckon with it at some point or another.
How did you personally connect to all the characters in the film?
In general, we can all understand what can happen to someone when there is an absence of love and communication in the family. Hopefully not to the degree it is the film. We all have some connection with that through our own family to a minor degree. For Ironside’s character (Jacob), that type of man reminded me of my grandfather, someone who is not openly emotional, very stoic in a way, sort of old-fashioned, and hard. This kid was probably not unlike myself that I was reasonably smart and didn’t mind being alone as well. The Munro character (Dixon), I don’t know that I have a direct connection with that character, other than I wanted to create a character that there was at least a small amount of understanding of how that person could be broken that way. They might not be directly relatable, but at least understand how that happens.
“…I wanted to create a character that there was at least a small amount of understanding of how that person could be broken…”
How long did it take you to cast or find Henry?
I already had Ironside at the time when I was trying to find the boy. I checked out the film Channel Zero because I hadn’t watched it yet, saw his clips in it, and I thought there were actually two kids because he played the twin in the show, so it confused me for a minute. But he was that good. I didn’t make the choice immediately because it’s always scary to make the wrong choice. I kept looking but he constantly came back to my mind when I was continuing to work on the script and play around with the visualization. He’s definitely more mature than most 12-year-olds. Just felt like he had something special or unique that would fit that character in a way.
What was it like working with Michael Ironside?
Michael Ironside is experienced, knows so much, and have been on many sets. He has opinions and ideas, so you want to make sure that you’re listening to them and understand what he’s talking about, so you are collaborating with him. It was really fun to work with him, pick his brain, and go back and forth on things. He’s just very thoughtful; puts in a lot of thought, energy, and time thinking things through.
What was the chemistry between Henry and Dixon and Henry and Jacob?
Onset, Munro (Dixon) had some reservations about taking that leap into the dark side in playing that character, he looked up to Ironside because he had done so many of those roles. They had a few conversations about that, those two had previously worked together, there was a lot of comfort and trust. That carried over in terms of how the rest of the cast bought into the trust maybe quicker than they could have otherwise. Luca (Henry) was at an acting school in a way, where he could learn these tricks from two really experienced actors who just have tons of tools in their kit that they can share. We were all there for the full duration of the shoot. It really felt collaborative.
“It’s like the coldest I’ve ever been in my entire life.”
How did you pull off the dangerous stunts and bloody action sequences?
We had a stunt double for Luca (Henry), both for photo and stunt double and I believe we used them once. Every time the stunt coordinator went through it with Luca, we didn’t want Luca to be too cold or uncomfortable. Luca was so enthusiastic and into it, he was having a blast.
How did you make the action scenes believable?
The idea was to treat it as realistic as possible without going into a documentary style. If the guy gets hurt, he gets hurt.
What were some of the challenges of filming in the winter snow and in the middle of nowhere?
One of them is that the grease on zoom lenses can freeze if don’t use the right grease. We actually had to get Arctic grease, which we didn’t have on that lens at first. It’s minus thirty-five or whatever it is at night. We learned little things like that. The weather was another one. It’s like the coldest I’ve ever been in my entire life.
Knuckleball is a modern and more intense child imperil film that was influenced by the iconic Home Alone. Any fan of Home Alone or genre audience will truly appreciate the craft from Michael Peterson. Knuckleball is available On Demand.