Watch Rory Culkin in his best role yet as mentally ill Gabriel, a serial runaway obsessed with his first love
Rory Culkin, the youngest of the Culkin set and brother of Macauley, let it all out in 2014’s Gabriel – a harrowing, body-aching portrayal of a volatile young man with mental illness. Gabriel is potent nightmare fuel that speaks to what it’s like living and loving as someone who is mentally disparate. However, in what is surely the crime of the century, the film has never been seen by a UK audience. It never secured a theatrical release. The Guardian reached out of its own accord to review the film – despite it not coming to theatres – calling Culkin’s performance terrific and decrying Gabriel as a “low-budget gem”. The AV Club said “Gabriel could be Rory Culkin’s breakout role, if enough people see it”.
Gabriel follows its titular character as he moves back in with his mum after release from rehab. He’s only got one thing on his mind: getting in contact with his first love, and he’ll stop at nothing to get it. His visceral effort to hunt her down leads him to make some bold moves that inevitably hurt those around him.
For the first time, Oscilloscope is allowing UK audiences to exclusively watch the film in its entirety until Friday, September 25 at midnight GMT. Here, Rory Culkin talks how he broke into tears after wrapping the film and feeling a responsibility to those who suffer from mental illness.
Weren’t you meant be in a Larry Clark movie?
Rory Culkin: I was, yeah.
Whatever happened there?
Rory Culkin: That is a good question. I sort of thought about this the other day. It was called Wild Child – really good script. I don’t know what happened actually. I should reach out to Mr Clark.
So what is it about?
Rory Culkin: Wild Child was about this kid that comes out of nowhere and this family falls in love with him and they take him in and they also abuse him for their own selfish reasons. It is really good; man, such a shame it hasn't gone yet.Larry definitely did rewrites, but I don't think he actually conceived it.
In Gabriel, your character Gabriel suffers from some type of mental illness, but we are never told what it is. What is he suffering from?
Rory Culkin: It is kept open (to interpretation) for a reason; you don’t really want to have a checklist of symptoms because (director Lou Howe) didn’t want to bog it down with any of that. I definitely studied certain mental illnesses for the role.
What ones did you look at?
Rory Culkin: Gabriel didn’t have all of these, but there were a few. I talked to people with schizophrenia, people who were bipolar – it was really helpful talking to them. We went to a place called The Fountain House in Manhattan and it was young people with various mental illnesses, they really opened up to me.
“They would tell me about the voices that they heard in their head sometimes. I would ask them about the voices and what their names were and, ‘When you take your medication, do you miss him as he is not talking to you anymore?’” – Rory Culkin
Did they share their personal stories or what did they tell you?
Rory Culkin: Yeah, it was all personal stories, it was all how they had episodes and if we felt comfortable enough they would tell me about the voices that they heard in their head sometimes. I would ask them about the voices and what their names were and, “When you take your medication, do you miss him as he is not talking to you anymore?” Interesting people man.
Did you ever feel like you are were exploiting people by mining their experiences?
Rory Culkin: I mean, I am using them, but they are totally aware of it. They are helping me and I think they want to see a movie about them done right. Even though if it is hard to watch, I think they are totally aware of who they are talking to and what reasons.
Was depression a facet of the character at all?
Rory Culkin: I suppose, yeah. But Gabriel is so back and forth, he is a man one minute and a child the next.
Did playing this perturbed character affect you in real life?
Rory Culkin: Yeah, I was definitely very sensitive after shooting for a long time. After shooting I was just very, very sensitive and I was never that sensitive. A day or two after I just saw my parents and I started crying and I didn’t know why. I was like, “Uh, I just need to get it together and forget about what I did and just relax.” I don’t know, it was weird, I was made out of glass for a while afterwards. Anything that anyone said to me really affected me feeling negatively or positively and I am still protective of Gabriel. If I go to a screening of it, I am embarrassed for people watching it and embarrassed for Gabriel’s behaviour. It is weird. When I was shooting, Gabriel could do no wrong and it wasn’t until I saw it that I could see the looks that David Call. It wasn’t until I saw it I could see the looks between the brother and mother that were sort of devastating and because when we were shooting I thought that they were evil, you know? So, yeah, it is weird.
“I have had people break down and cry on me. It made me realise that there is a responsibility in playing someone with a mental illness” – Rory Culkin
Were there any stories that completely floored you?
Rory Culkin: Yeah, there has been some screenings that have been on the more serious side where it is closer to home for some people. I have had people break down and cry on me. It made me realise that there is a responsibility in playing someone with a mental illness.
Would you say that you are a dark person?
Rory Culkin: Sure. I mean, I guess my tastes in movies is sort of on the darker side I suppose. Oh, here is a good one, The Babadook. I thought was a great depiction of mental illness. It starts with a room full of people and when it ended it was as if we all saw a different movie. I think The Babadook was the deepest, darkest part of this woman’s mind and it was cool to it see it in such a way, to see it from her perspective, you know? We see Gabriel through his perspective, but we don't get glued in on the voices and The Babadook was just such a strong presence that the voice was, but I was really into it.
Does it kind of fuck with your head a bit?
Rory Culkin: Oh God, yeah. I am so into it.
People have said that Gabriel could be a breakout role for you if enough people see it, does that matter to you?
Rory Culkin: I suppose, if all people saw it that would be good. I think people who are suppose to see it will and the people want to see it seek it out and that is all that matters.
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