Aleks Paunovic talks ‘Blackway’ & ‘Planet of the Apes’
By Adam Tatelman, Arts Editor
At 6 feet 5 inches, Winnipeg-born actor Aleks Paunovic has no trouble towering over the competition here in Hollywood North. Some would even call him intimidating. But his easygoing demeanour and love for his work show him for what he is—a performer dedicated to his craft, and a man with nothing to prove to anyone.
Recently, Paunovic worked on a film called Blackway, which premiered on June 2 at the Enderby Cliffs in the North Okanagan. “The town was nothing but loving and giving to the people who want to shoot there,” Paunovic said of his experience shooting the film. “It was a really fun time.”
During the shoot, Paunovic worked with acting legends Anthony Hopkins, Ray Liotta, and Julia Stiles. “My character had a couple scenes with Anthony Hopkins,” Paunovic said, “I’ve developed a great friendship with Anthony, not just during the shoot but after as well. Julia Stiles—who is a phenomenal actress—sadly I didn’t have any scenes with her, but we did become friends.”
Even those who haven’t heard of Paunovic have likely seen his work without knowing it. He has worked as a motion capture performer for high-profile game developers such as Epic Games, best known for the mega-hit shooter franchise Gears of War. So if you’ve ever indulged in the soothing, therapeutic act of chainsawing some locust grubs in a round of Horde Mode, you can bet that Paunovic provided you with the animations to do so, likely saving a nation’s worth of anger management bills in the process.
“People don’t really know there’s a significant amount of acting in motion capture,” Paunovic said of his work in the mo-cap studio. “I just finished War for the Planet of the Apes, we had a good month of rehearsal, just getting the emotionality and the physicality down.”
Paunovic regards his work on Planet of the Apes as an exploration of the physical aspects of acting, in addition to a rare opportunity to share the screen with mo-cap icon Andy Serkis. “Sometimes when you don’t know exactly what you’re doing you kind of put yourself in a box,” he said. “It was challenging but very rewarding. I think it made me a better actor in general.”
Paunovic is set to take on the Syfy channel with his next project, a TV series called Van Helsing. For contractual reasons he wasn’t able to give much away, but what he did share sounds interesting. “It’s gotta stay zipped for now, but what I can say is, I play a vampire named Julius. He’s quite brutal and extremely fun to play.”
Though some have already written the show off as vampire shlock, the pedigree of the writers attached to the project is eyebrow-raising—not just for viewers, but for Paunovic himself. “The best part was working with Neil LaBute. He’s one of the most reputable playwrights out of New York,” Paunovic said. “It was such a blessing to go to work every day and know that that’s who you’re going to be creating with. I can’t wait for people to see it.”