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Bront Palarae: ‘Folklore’ and ‘The Bridge’ Star at the Top of His Game


We’ve known Bront Palarae now for quite a while but 2014 would mark the year that August Man truly got to know the man better. A name that needs no introduction in the entertainment circle, Bront’s extensive body of work, such as his roles in films like Bunohan, speaks volumes of his talent. That is pretty much why it was an easy choice for us to award him as one of our Men of the Year in 2014.

Over the years, we’ve kept apprised of his movements in film, and just last year, caught up with the man again for a fashion shoot in October. At the time, Bront admitted keeping a busy schedule with roles in films such as Headshot and Satan’s Slave (Pengabdi Setan). In the past one year though since we last caught up, Bront is still at it, this time with starring roles in VIU’s The Bridge – the Asian adaptation of hit Scandinavian noir crime series of the same name; and HBO Asia’s first horror anthology original series, Folklore – a six-episode hour-long series that takes place across six Asian countries with each episode based on the deeply-rooted myths and folklore of one of the countries.

The extensive roles he’s tasked to bring to life and the diversity of the projects only solidifies the fact that Bront is one of today’s best on screen talents – someone who brings with him the expected range of emotions to display in front of the camera along with an incomparable work ethic. Proof of that came to light when the actor showed up at two promotional events for The Bridge and Folklore with his leg wrapped in a cast, proving to the world that even a leg injury will not keep this man down.

First up, let’s talk about your leg. What happened there?
It was a mishap, just an incident that happened on the set of The Bridge. It was totally unexpected but that’s what accidents are all about, aren’t they? So I’ll do the promo tours and all, wait to heal up and then get back to finish the show.

We thought you went full method…
(laughs) Yeah, that’s what everybody thinks! Funny story too, after I wrap the final scenes for The Bridge, I’ll head off to Indonesia to shoot Gundala with [director] Joko Anwar. It’s a superhero movie and I’m playing a cripple and he’s sending me texts telling me that I don’t need to go method for his show.

So basically what you’re telling us is that you never stopped working since we last spoke?
Yes, it has been an eventful year. It was pretty much back-to-back after Satan’s Slave. I was happy with that one as it became one of the highest grossing films of the year and it was sold to 46 countries. It won numerous awards in Indonesia and also internationally.

That success was overwhelming and it was hard for me to stay grounded. But with success also comes another question – what’s next? Because if this is it, then it looks it’s going downhill from here on end. For most it’s about pushing the envelope and for me it was about searching for better projects. So then came Folklore, then a few months later, The Bridge and in between I also filmed Daddy’s Home in the Philippines.

With Folkore airing on HBO followed by The Bridge, which also incidentally will air on HBO as well as VIU, aren’t you worried people may think you’re HBO’s ‘boy’?
I think it’s all fortuitous for me personally. Obviously being in good projects and getting to work with talented directors and a great cast will certainly help open doors. But you know how it is, they see the same actor on the same channel in different shows and they think I’ve got shares with the company (laughs).

So how do you keep it all together?
Personally for me it’s about variety – having a nice mix of projects. This is especially important when you portray a character with a tortured soul. And when you begin to play that character often, it starts to affect your psyche in a way. You need to understand his issues, dig deep, and own his problems and sooner or later you actually begin accumulating those feelings. So I tend to take a break or a sabbatical in between these projects or do something fun and less serious just to flush out the character.

What convinces you to sign on for a movie?
I have to be shit scared about it, not from a horror standpoint but more from a creative aspect, whether it pushes the right buttons. It has to be something I can sink my teeth into and challenge myself. I’ll look at it from an audience point of view, if they would enjoy it, and also how I feel about the script. Honestly, I don’t seek perfection but the right ingredients have to come together like the right director and the cast, and then I’ll do it. Following that, that’s where those sleepless nights and regrets will start coming in. Like why did I take this! (laughs). But sometimes it’s too good to turn down, you know?

So you don’t say no then.
Actually, most of the time I say no. I said no for Satan’s Slave.

Bront Palarae in HBO Asia’s ‘Folklore’, as a Member of Parliament of a fishing town, who turns to a mysterious woman with shamanistic powers in order to salvage his town’s dire economic situation

So what changed your mind?
It was a favour (laughs). We have a running joke between me and Joko [Anwar] – it started as a favour but it’s really a gift that keeps on giving. It opened a wealth of opportunities and now I get to be in regional projects a lot easier because of that film.

You’ve also transitioned to behind the scenes roles as well. Are you enjoying that particular aspect of film?
It’s different, that’s more about control, not me personally controlling the project, but providing my input to make sure the project is done and finished in the right way. As an actor, your involvement is at a certain capacity- you shoot your scenes and you’re done. As a producer you need to look at the big picture and try to get the best out of everyone. To be able to do that now gives me a fresh perspective on the overall process of filmmaking.

And what of that Entrepreneurship program that you did in San Francisco recently.
Well, I’ve applied that knowledge into the movie business and into my film projects. I’ve begun financing of VC (venture capitalist) start-ups. I have my own VC Company right now; it’s under Pixel Play Ventures and I’m pretty excited about it. We already have our first product – Innovation Digitale du Halal, which is a Halal-focused accelerator program designed to cater for start-ups that develop Innovative Digital solutions for the Halal industry and Shariah Compliant Products.

Bront Palarae and Rebecca Lim in the VIU original series ‘The Bridge’, which centres around the investigation of a double homicide that happened over the second link bridge between Malaysia and Singapore

But acting is still your main passion, so do you have a dream role you’d like to play one day?
I don’t have one. It’s been a while since I’ve come to accept the fact that the success of an actor is not determined by the role, but by the project and the story. For example, you only remember Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro for their roles in great films but they’ve also played great characters in shitty films as well – it’s just that no one really spoke about it. The same applies here as well; there are a lot of decent characters – not extraordinary ones – in a lot of great films. I just want to be in a great project, I don’t need great roles.

But what about from a producer/business standpoint?
Oh, there are a couple of those that’s for sure. At the moment, I feel like I’m going through a maturing process. I look up to George Clooney and he’s done an amazing transition with producing films and directing and also nation building with films like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Good Night and Good Luck and Suburbicon. He’s also produced Argo. It really doesn’t matter which genre the films are about but more importantly, they always tell a particularly unique story of his country. We have a lot of those too that we never tell anyone or even heard off for that matter. I would love to dig those up and share them with the world.

‘The Bridge’ premieres today, November 26, on HBO on Astro (Channel 411) and HBO On Demand (via Astro Go), as well as on VIU. While ‘Folklore’ enjoyed its premiere on November 4, it’s still available to watch on HBO On Demand

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