Actor, Tony Nixon | Teen Ink

Actor, Tony Nixon

September 1, 2011
By TheJust ELITE, Ellenton, Florida
TheJust ELITE, Ellenton, Florida
254 articles 202 photos 945 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I feel that a hero is somebody who will stand up for their values and what they believe in and that can take any form. People that have values and have thought them through rather than those who just do what they’re told."-Skandar Keynes

"When it’

Edmund and Lucy (along with their reluctant brat of a cousin, Eustace) are engulfed into a painting and thus return to their beloved kingdom of Narnia. Aboard the Dawn Treader, they set sail with the king, Caspian, and his crew of mighty sailors. One of these sailor’s name is Rynelf.

Now, as we all know, the land of Narnia, unfortunately, is not real. But to the actors who portray these characters, Narnia is very much a reality. Mr. Tony Nixon portrays the sailor, Rynelf, in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Out of all of the interviews I have conducted, Mr. Nixon has been the one with the most stories to tell. I was overwhelmed…in a good way. I loved learning more about the magical world I often find myself dreaming about; I loved learning about the actors who play my favorite characters and how the film adaptions have been brought to life.

As you read on, I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I have, and I hope you come to love Narnia in the same way that Mr. Nixon obviously does.

Rachel-How did you first become interested in acting?

Tony Nixon-I have often wondered if I chose acting, or if it chose me...and I suspect the latter. There must be easier ways to make a living, and ways that have far less risk, and far less swings from bad times to good times, from highs to lows.

It started very young. I wanted to be a tree...Yep, that's right...a tree. I was five, and had just started school. We were doing some sort of play, and I was going to be a tree. I can't remember if I was a good tree. (I didn't keep the reviews.) After that, if there was any kind of play, I was in it.

I pretty soon worked out that girls outnumbered boys in drama. I'm pretty sure this was a big influence, too.

RH- Were you a fan of the Narnia franchise (books and adaptions) before gaining the role of Rynelf?

TN- Yes I have been a fan of the books since I was a boy ... so it was amazing that very first time I stepped onto the deck of the Dawn Treader almost surreal.

RH-What was the budget for the film?

TN-Approximately 150 million dollars. This was by far the biggest budget film I have ever been involved in, I can take an educated guess on where the money is spent on a film of this size. But let's first point out where it didn't go: my pocket. As a Support actor in a film, my wages are negotiated by my Union and the production company first and foremost. This is all worked out before-hand. Then if you have a "Name" and the film wants "You" your agent can then negotiate up.

But Actors wages are a very small part of the movie budget. Anyone who saw filming on set at Cleveland would be aware of the sheer number of people working at the location on any given day. It was often between 300 and 400, not to mention everyone back in production office both at Warners-Australia and the USA office. Doug {Gresham} once told me that the film would most likely employ in the region of 2,000 people in total during its making. That's a lot of jobs!

RH- Tell us about your first day. I hear that you almost killed Reepicheep...

TN- At the first read-through, we all sat around a long conference table and quite literally read the script from end to end. This is where I met Ben, Skandar and Georgie for the first time. There was a social element to the gathering; coffee and pastries; a chance to meet the cast and get to know them a little.

So, the first day on set is a little less daunting because of all the contact I had had before hand; never the less, it is still daunting. Here I am working with a Hollywood director who has an Oscar win under his belt. I was incredibly grateful that I didn't have any dialogue on day one!

The leads had dialogue. Having walked down the boat ramp escorting my king, I simply had to cross through camera behind Skandar, and down a flight of steps to the boats. Waiting at the boats was a large stuffed swamp rat, the dummy used to indicate to us where Reep should be in the shot.

This should have been simple...Have you ever worn a sword? Swords are cumbersome and difficult to manoeuvre on a film set. On one take, as I crossed behind Skandar, he leaned on the hilt of his sword just as I was passing. This flicked the scabbard up behind him which made a perfect entry down the top of my boot. I stumbled somewhat clumsily out of frame.

On the next take, I passed Skandar with elegance and grace. (Well, I made it past without either of us getting maimed.) I strode down the steps to the waiting longboat and Reep. CUT! As I turned to survey the scene on the dock (now above me), my scabbard clipped Reep. He rocked towards the waters edge, up-righted on his stand and to my relief came to a stop.

And so that's how I came to almost kill Reepicheep on my first day on set.

RH- Did you ever become starstruck while on set?

TN-Honestly, no. I'm not easily "Starstruck."

I have to say Dawn Treader was a very friendly set. I was particularly taken by the leads. Ben, Skandar and Georgie and, of course, Will, who were incredibly generous with their time and attitude, were warm and friendly to everyone. I was a bit intimidated by Michael Apted at first, but soon got to understand his dry humor. But intimidated is different to being "starstruck."

Ben and Skandar were a delight to work with, and I would have to say I developed a special warmth for Georgie and Will. (I have kids the same age as them.) They are both quite remarkable young people, but you see the Apple doesn't fall far from the Tree. I became friends with Georgie and Will's mothers too, who spend huge amounts of time on set. And it wouldn't be fair to not mention Will's sister, Charlotte, whom I also got quite close to.

RH-What is your favorite memory from set?

TN-For me, it's always about people. I'm almost afraid to start mentioning names as I will get to the end and realize I have forgotten someone.

I have already talked about the people you all know ...But there are so many others: Singing with big Shane; with him, playing guitar. I swear this huge Maori man has a heart bigger than his chest.

Gary telling all sorts of "Showbiz stories" many of which I can't repeat; chatting with my fellow support actors Steve, Arthur and Mirko; Mirko teaching this Englishman how to make good coffee. I had worked with Mirko in 2006 on a short film, and our time on Narnia cemented our friendship. On occasions we had to share a trailer. I don't think either of us minded one bit.

Steve Rooke, you have an old soul in a young man's body; a dear friend; and phenomenal talent. Tamiti: another Big man with a big heart. {He} plays a Minatour. Little Chris cooling off in my trailer. Howard Berger, one of the warmest humans you could want to call friend, and who was wise enough to correct me on one occasion. (Respect Howard) He also gave me my Mr. Tumnus rug that is on my office floor. A long philosophical chat with Doug in his trailer.

But my Narnia family are definitely my fondest memories.

Oh yeah! The food was pretty good, too.

RH-Tell us about working with the cast.

TN-{Laughs} I hear the fans screaming for a long elaborate answer to this one. (And it's a high-pitched, feminine scream, too.) It actually puts me on the spot, doesn't it?

Ben Barnes is as charming in real life as he is on camera. I first met Ben at the script read-through. The first person I met a the top of the stairs was Ben. He was halfway through a Croissant, I stuck out my hand and said, "Hi, I'm Tony! I play Rynelf" He shook my hand and said, "I'm Ben. I play your king."

When we shot our first scene together, his comment to the A.D. (and me) was: "This man has a better beard than me. I'm the King! Have him removed and shaved."

I know I have said this somewhere before, but the sense of camaraderie was very strong in the cast. A lot of lead actors don't have much to do with the minor cast, or extras. Ben is a very warm and generous actor, and spent time between takes talking to everyone. I found him very approachable.

Ben was always there for his lines off {-camera}, and gave as much performance to me as I did for him. It's fair to say that the entire Dawn Treader crew were very fond of Ben. And so when the time came for Caspian to make a speech to the Crew, every man was listening and responding and acting their hearts out "OFF CAMERA" to give him the feedback he needed to get a his best performance.

As for the other cast, I think I have mentioned before, Skandar, Georgie, and Will were all incredibly professional but also warm and personable. I have a very warm place in my heart for Georgie. She was and is a very pleasant young lady to be around with a slightly wicked sense of humour between takes. I got to do a scene with her and Arabella (who plays Gael). No dialogue, just action. It was a tough scene for Georgie, and I think (and hope) I was there for her.

As for Will...every adult on the set wanted to adopt him He is the complete opposite of Eustace. He is warm, sensitive, and fun. One day on set he asked if he could have a "play" with my sword. I think he was missing out on a lot of the action stuff. I, of course, let him experiment with it. Mind you, as soon as I had given it to him (like most 16 year old boys), he began to swing it around like a crazed Ninja. I suddenly realized that if he gave himself a shiner, or injured himself in any way, I would be in a heap of trouble. Lucky for both of us he came away unscathed.

I didn't have as much contact with Skandar on set as I did with the other lead cast. He was fairly quiet to begin with, but you could see he was more comfortable with the people he knew from previous shoots.

He was very focused on his work. As the shoot went on I got to know him a little better. I found he was more comfortable talking with me in a social setting. I tried to organize a fishing trip with him one weekend, but we were unable too.

When I met him again at the London Premiere he greeted me very warmly.

RH-How does your family feel about your career?

TN- I am so fortunate to come from a loving supportive family, not only my wife and children, but also my parents.

Are my children proud of me? ... I'm sure they are. But you have to remember that for them, this is just my job. It's normal. A few years ago when I was on a national TV commercial, all of my kids' friends were very excited. "You're dad's on TV!" But to my kids, that was just normal.

It's also a running joke in my house that Dad has more makeup than Mum .

When they were little, I'm sure they just thought I played dress-up for a living. It means they have had a wonderful array of strange toys and objects around the house. To their credit, they have never been ashamed or embarrassed about what I do...even when I played an ugly sister in a Panto{mime}!

My live performance work has taken me away from the family for extended periods of time. In the two years leading up to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I was touring with a live show and was away for two months then home for two, totalling almost six months of the year away. That was hard on them and very hard on my marriage. Not only was I away, but often on the other side of the world, in a different time zone.

The other side of this equation is this: I have had long periods between jobs, {and} during these periods, I am Mr. Mum. I am referred to as "The Hairy Housewife," and during these periods I have spent a huge amount of time with my kids. When I'm not working, I do the cooking, cleaning, laundry, school runs .... In spite of the tours and time away, I think I have spent more time with my kids than a lot of Dads.

I don't know if they are proud of me (I think they are), but having a Dad and husband who is an actor isn't easy ... and I am incredibly proud of them.

You know...I should mention, too, my many, many acting friends, who are always there during the self doubt, who have encouraged me, loved me, and supported me. Your belief in my abilities goes well beyond anything I have in myself...and I thank you. You too are my family.

RH- What advice do you have for aspiring actors?

TN- Mainly don't ever give up. Of course you need talent to get on in the business, but lots of people have talent. What do you have that makes you stand out from the others?

Be easy to work with, be professional, on time and willing to work with the director in a flexible way. You spend a lot of time on a film set between takes, so it's really good if you can get along with people.

And remember, whatever age you are, you will always be learning.

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