SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Alexandre Stoupenkov: I am a 27 year old guy who lives in Richmond Hill Ontario, I’ve been working a full time job in the AudioVisual/IT Department at a College in Toronto for the last three years. Before my job in AV/IT, I attended Humber College and studied Film and TV production, even though I am not working day to day in the film industry I am doing my best to not give up my dream of making great films – I’m always writing new scripts, making new drawings, models, props, and acting and directing films when I get the time.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become an actor?
Alexandre Stoupenkov: When I was in Kindergarten I was perplexed as to whether I wanted to be a cop or an actor because of all the movies about pólice officers I was watching- mostly including Arnold Schwarzenegger. I knew every line of dialog from every Arnold film, and that’s what was amazing about his work, it got me invested in him, it was Arnold’s ability to be the selling point of every film, whether he was a cop, a special forces guy or pregnant, he was what made people want to see the film. I was lucky to have been able to see a few of his films in theatres before he became governor and he had a big influence on me, not just in terms of acting, but in terms of how to approach life. For a long time when I would play pretend, I would imagine I was Arnold, specifically the Terminator, but I would also like to pretend I was his other characters, in drama class I would enjoy acting and eventually I had a shot at playing the lead character our school play at Lillian Public School. I landed the role: King of Karnika, the villain of the play, to me that was the lead part- afterall, I was the ruler of the kingdom. Ever since then, I have been involved in dramatic peices, everything from musicals, video projects to films project and other expressive media.
SKSM: How did you become involved in Mute Dollar Baby film?
Alexandre Stoupenkov: Kyle had called me and told me he and Rebecca would be adapting a Stephen King story, a Dollar Baby, I was ecstatic for them, then he told me that they wanted me to play the HitchHiker, I was even more pumped. Kyle and I have been working together since we were in High School at King City Secondary – we met in the drama club, or the Drama Hall as we called it, and ever since we’ve been working together, it’s been about 12, going on 13 years.
SKSM: What do you think it is about the story that attracts people so much?
Alexandre Stoupenkov: It’s very campfireish, it has a nice slow burn quality to it that we have lost in our films today – today’s films seem to always be keen on showing the typcial tropes at approximately the same time stamps- this story avoids those sort of tropes and absorbs you into Monette’s life and his confession, it takes you on a trip just like the trip he had and we are very close to him- it’s very real and human. The ending is great too and they say a story or film is only as good as its ending
SKSM: Did you have to audition for the part or was it written directly for you?
Alexandre Stoupenkov: I didn’t have to audition for it, the part was more or less written for me. Kyle and I were always fans of the classic Hitckhiker story, namely the “Hitcher” starring Rutger Hauer. We had always wanted to do a Hitchhiker story, and have me as the Hitcher/Hitch Hiker and fortunately “Mute” was the story we would end up doing.
SKSM: You worked with Kyle Dunbar on this film, how was that?
Alexandre Stoupenkov: I wish I was asked that question more often for people to hear my response- Kyle is in my eyes one of the greatest directors I know, if not the greatest. I had not known anything about directing films before I met him, I listened to interviews from James Cameron and Stanley Kubrick- but those guys were very technically oriented and in a way, micro-managers. Kyle showed me an entirely different approach to directing- he showed me that the less you pollute an actor’s head, the more they are able to give you an authentic performance, he also showed me that getting stuck on something because of how perfect you want it to be is never worth it. When Kyle directs, you almost feel like he knows how easily we can get lost in the sauce and he keeps his eye on the ball- charácter motivation and story are key – he has always told me that the most important thing is to write your ideas down (because if you don’t write them, they don’t exist) and to tell your story at all costs, do not get lost in re-doing something until everyone is tired and unmotivated.
SKSM: Do you still have any contact with the crew/cast from that time? If so with who?
Alexandre Stoupenkov: Roman Lapshin the Director of Photography and I are childhood Friends, we started making short films together when we were in 8th grade, to this day we pursue our goal of making films and videos. Andrew Bee and I are Friends, we don’t hang out too often but every time I see him on a set, I feel great because he is one of those guys who does this stuff for more than just money or fame and it radiates from him. Rebecca is also a friend of mine, I was introduced through Kyle – we have worked on a few films together, and acted together in a short – “HouseKreeping” – Rebecca is also one of those actors who does it for way more than the money or fame- it’s weird how the best actors are in it to show truth and the human condition rather than to boast themselves.
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Alexandre Stoupenkov: I’m working a script for an adventure story, directing a few music videos- editing those music videos – I’m working on a few corporate videos for AV systems at the College I work at as well.
SKSM: Are you a fan of Stephen King’s work?
Alexandre Stoupenkov: I’m ashamed to say I’m another modern North American who doesn’t do as much reading as I should- I read a lot of theological and political work but novels and narratives have always been something I have enjoyed writing- I was exposed to great stories and story tellers in high school, our teachers would read us classic books like “The Lord of the Flies”, “Macbeth” and even further back in elementary we were often read stories written by Robert Munsch, who actually visited our school, Lillian PS. At our school we had been given many assignments on storytelling and writing and I fell in love with writing stories and the inspiration that comes with them. My mom and dad however have read countless amounts of Stephen King’s work and would tell me his stories in detail when we’d go on road trips and to restaurants – “The Dark Tower”, “The Stand”, “DreamCatcher” “The Mist” were some I remember. I also was exposed to the film adaptations of his work, although I heard he doesn’t like too many of them and understandably so- when something is designed for one médium and transfered into another, a lot of information and feel is lost. I feel that Mute doesn’t suffer from that as much as other Stephen King adaptations because of how similar it feels to a good book.
SKSM: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Alexandre Stoupenkov: Although I love filmmaking, I don’t like team sports – for me, physical activity is more enjoyable when not done as a collective – filmmaking however is fun for me because it is a community of people building something together, much like a team sport.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Alexandre Stoupenkov: Thank you for having me – all I can say is – the industry is growing and shrinking at the same time, all the work we see on Netflix may seem like a lot but it’s just the tip of the iceberg, films are much more than just something you should watch when you’re bored or trying to get to sleep – they are art – they are supposed to be introspective and examine the human condition – a lot of mainstream films seek to hammer in a current socio/political idea, rather than to tell a great story – As George Orwell said, “all art is propaganda”. The importance, he went on, is to distinguish between “good” and “bad” propaganda.
SKSM: Do you like to add anything else?
Alexandre Stoupenkov: I enjoyed your questions and felt honored to be interviewed, thank you. Hopefully we cross paths again!