We are glad to offer you an exclusive interview with Ian Harding. I would like to say thank you to Ian for answering these questions, and to Sarah and my really good friend Nat which maintains the official fan site for Ian IanHardingFan.com, who helped to make this all real.
In school our History teacher told us a story of his childhood. Even before the date when the world heard the word "perestroika” from our leader Gorbachev and Berlin Wall was breached, he had visited Berlin with a "friendship train” – a conducted tour of high school students to the countries of the socialist camp. The communication was difficult, as, apart from a language barrier, there were differences in sets of mind and world views. However, the youth is persistent and curious, and the possibility to understand the others is worth the efforts!
Many years have passed, the world has changed. 21-st century people are under pressure of terrorist threats, natural disasters, crisis... It makes us estranged and weak.
But then the Internet and social networks were invented. It seems, that the world got closer to everyone, but the communication problems reappear, and nowadays – in a virtual space.
But it’s still worth it, right? Today it is important to understand the others.
Let you and me try now.
It is thought that older children achieve more success in life due to ambitions. And sometimes – due to a break of family ties. As for the younger children, they seek peace of mind and cords of affection. Often younger children choose not to pursue their ambitious plans, afraid to lose these ties. Do you think that show business triggers great ambitions, and a person who does not want to remake his soul when he is required to do so, cannot achieve success? Or is it more simple? Does everyone have their own standards?
Ian: I think everyone has their own standards. There’s always an exception to the rule. Regarding some one achieving success by remaking one’s soul, I would think it’s not that deep. My personal opinion is that your are always some version of "you” because humans are always a work in process yet there essential essence is the same. What holds people back is not ambition or lack of ambition, but fear. Fear of failure, abandonment, pain, change, etc. If you can single out those fears, and see them for what they are, impediments, then success will most likely come your way. Hopefully...
World cinematography has examples of movies tailored with a specific actor in mind. Sometimes an iconic director shoots unknown actors. It is impossible to predict what the audience will accept. Which do you think is more important for success – director’s talent, interesting story, close shots of an actor, or maybe computer tricks and technical novelties?
Ian: All of that, but you’re right, it’s impossible to predict an audiences reaction to even the best production. I would always err on the side of quality though. I would much rather be a part of a film that no one saw but was created and executed with unparalleled artistry then your every day money machine blockbuster. I do think it comes down to the actor though. There’s only so much a director and writer can do, so if the actor is not up to snuff, then the whole production will suffer.
What affects you emotionally in some of your favorite movies?
Ian: Anything that turns off the critical voice in my head. Not that I sit there and judge every element of the piece, but because I’m apart of the industry, I have a better eye than most regarding production value.
I have many favorite movies, but the first one that came to mind, as well as the most recent, was "Never Let Me Go.” Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield were otherworldly. They were exposed nerves, fragile and hopeful. I cried about three times! I was more engrossed in that film than any other piece I’ve seen in years.
In early 70s of the last century, two movies with amazing visual effects were shot, both dealing with space theme, both made their directors famous and they were a new dawn for cinematography. Even nowadays they are the best movies. But…
In an interview George Lucas was asked if he thinks that due to success of Star Wars American cinematography signed its own death warrant. These words belongs to Stanley Kubrick. Lucas was surprised, but agreed that Kubrick had foreseen current horrible state of things, when studios headed essentially by clerks, are nuts about marketing. They are not interested in everything else, including the art.
But if Star Wars are considered to be a commercial film through and through, without any sense, then A Space Odyssey of 2011 is quite the opposite, it is overloaded with philosophy. Moreover, the end is ambiguous, that is rare for Hollywood happy end thing. When Kubrick was asked about the content of his movie, he said that "if the film stirs the emotions and penetrates the subconscious of the viewer, then it has succeeded”, he meant that it is important not to lose sense behind visual appeal. A viewer when watching a movie should not only enjoy the image, but also try to understand the intrigue of what’s happening.
What do you think? Many years have passed since then, new films were shot, sometimes it is impossible to tell what people are doing there due to computer graphics. Each generation has its idols, but nowadays it’s just blockbusters and soap operas with the same scenario, only the actors are different. Do you think that this sort of a dispute between Kubrick and Lucas is relevant today? Just don’t say, "if people eating it, it’s successful”.
Ian: I do think that belief is relevant. A lot of what is coming out, especially in the film world, is recycled, with low rates of critical success. The rise of independent films over the past decade speaks to, I believe, the world’s desire for film that engages, rather than merely entertain. It is a little scary isn’t it? I feel as if people want to be engrossed in a film not by its story, meaning and performances, but by being hit in the face with special effects and beautiful people.
Which would you choose: a low-budget, independent film that showcases an interesting storyline, or a blockbuster helmed by famous director, suggesting the promise of great success despite carrying a weaker story?
Ian: Again, I think it depends on a more specific situation. If the big blockbuster, though weaker in story, had a character that I thought I could have a lot of fun with, I might do it, but if I were given only the information you put forth, I’d choose the low budget.
It is clear that there is no point asking about third season of Pretty Little Liars as a non-disclosure contract is a serious thing. But many people have heard a lot about Ezra’s brother that we'll be seeing. Do you know how they will present us with this part of Ezra’s life? Can you tell us how much screen time is dedicated to your character in first episodes?
Ian: I’m pretty in heavy in the first few episodes, and that’s all I can really say! Regarding the family storyline, all I know is that I know nothing. Truly. The cast and I figure out what’s happening in the next episode about a week in advance.
And now we can talk about second season and secrets revealed. I remember all these mini interviews, in which you all were so excited about who this mysterious A was. Were you really surprised that it was Mona? Frankly speaking, I hoped to the last that it wasn’t her. As one of my friends said watching the 20-th episode of second season, "Listen, there is a red sign above this Mona girl – it’s A!”
Ian: I was a tiny bit. I think the writers did a solid job in bringing the focus away from Mona and putting others forward as possible suspects, yet I wasn’t surprised that there were multiple people involved. I would think it impossible that one girl could pull of so many perfectly timed and dangerous acts.
Now a question for detail lovers. Many people asked why have you chosen these childhood photos for the last episode?
And one more question. There are always some interesting things on Ezra’s table in his office… In one of the episodes there was a toy from Star Wars, then iPod or nice dog, globe or Ray-Ban case… Were all these details planned or someone just left them on the table when passing by?
Ian: HA! Your attention to detail is incredible. I rarely notice these things and I interact with the objects in a daily basis! The pictures were photos taken of me by either my Dad or my sister. The prop master asked for any digital photos of me from childhood, so my family sent me anything they had. Those three just happened to be the ones he decided on!
The twenty first century has sped up the time - there is not enough time. And, as they say, "if you didn’t learn to play the violin at four, you won’t be famous violinist." I understand it’s kind of trite to ask an actor, who, as his profession requires, may play a famous violinist without knowing the notes, but I would like to ask: is there any kind of activity that you’d like to learn?
Ian: Yes. Languages. I wish I could speak at least five of them. I was in Germany years ago and I watched a man have a conversation with three people from different countries all in their native tongues, simultaneously. That is a talent I wish I had.
And I would like to ask about traveling. Probably, you’ve seen a lot of amazing places of our planet, but let’s imagine that you are not known to a wide audience, nor bound by contracts. Are there any places that you’d like to spend a couple years of your life? Without cinema and theater? What would you like to do?
Ian: I would love to farm, and or write. If you took performing away from me I would have to create something, so either one of those professions would take hold.
The traveling question always makes me a little anxious, because there are so many places I want to see, both abroad and in my own country. I would love to Russia, that’s for certain! I’ve always wanted to live in New York City, if only for a few months, simply so I could truly experience the energy of the city long term. I’d follow that with some place Prague or Vienna, though I’ve been to the latter. Venice might be a nice place to live, apart from the fact that it will be underwater within my life time, but also because the pace and meaning of life is so different there. Any place I’d live I want to be very different, tempo-wise, then where I live now.
What was the last song that you listened to?
Ian: "Thin Blue Flame” by Josh Ritter. One of my all time favorites. Top 10.
Is there any song that is motivating for you?
Ian: Either "Timshel” by Mumford and Sons, or "Not Angry Anymore” by Ani Difranco
Which book would you bring on a desert island with you (only one)?
Ian: If I didn’t mind starving to death, then "East of Eden,” but for practical purposes, I bring a tropical survival guide.
Some quote from the last read book?
Ian: From the Bhagavad Gita "To action alone hast thou a right, never at all to it’s fruits”
Who or what makes you smile no matter what?
Ian: Animals. Even ones I know are dangerous. I’ve always loved them. I saw a 4 foot snake while hiking the other day, and squealed with delight. The other hikers seemed more scared of me because of that reaction than they did the snake!
Favorite cartoon character?
Ian: Does Family Guy count? If not, then Calvin and Hobbes.
Three rules that you’ll never break?
Ian: Wow, this is tough, I suppose all rules have an appropriate time to break. Honestly, I don’t know. I suppose there are values that I hope to compromise as little as possible, such as always trying, always having a choice, honesty, etc. Murder seems like the biggest one, but I suppose if some one were to threaten a family member of mine, I wouldn’t hesitate to drop them.
You know, Hollywood has propagated the image of Russia: all Russians drink vodka instead of water, men wear trapper hats even in summer, and there are bears walking down the streets. What do you know about the real Russia?
Ian: HA! That’s hilarious. I know the Vodka stereotype, but never have I heard of bears walking down the street. That wouldn’t inspire much tourism...
When I think of Russia, I think of Russian thinkers and artists, like Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, and the like. I think of Forests and snow, and yes, Vodka. Mostly, I think of a place I have yet to know, and would truly love to visit.
Thank you for your attention and time! I wish you good luck and really interesting projects!