'SPY' CONTACT: A Word With Actor Julian Miller

The last few years are probably the longest I've spent with my eye on any particular project by any filmmaker or actor. It's certainly the case for University Of York graduate, student filmmaker Andrew Kueh's newly released sci-fi action short, Prime Contact, which finally released online last week more than a year after its completion with its subsequent pursuit through festivals, and further correspondence with its producer, Harry Woodman, was also pretty insightful.

The centerpiece of this particular project, however, is the steady career ascension of actor Julian Miller who plays the lead role in the shortfilm. Now living and working in the U.K. in a new life far from his roots in the Netherlands, the actor can also be seen in director Paul Feig's latest action comedy hit, Spy opposite actress Melissa McCarthy, and he's got his hands on other things as well aside from acting. Bearing Prime Contact in mind, of course, I managed to snag the past week with for email Q&A about his career and his current hopes... as well as troubleshooting noisy traffic amid one's own New York City slumber. This was a really fun conversation.

Film Combat Syndicate: Thanks for taking the time to chat Julian! How have things been for you this year?
Julian Miller: Things have been pretty good over the last year. I've fronted a campaign for GoCompare, did Spy which has just been released and have been working with Dave McGTV on a series of sketches for Quipstar (AOL).
FCSyndicate: How long have you been acting? And what inspired you to get into film?
JM: I sounds a bit...well, actory? [laughs] But can't really remember not wanting to be an actor. I drove my family and school friends mad with impromptu plays‎, and I've always had an obsession with how things were done, especially practical effects and animatronics. So these, combined with my excessive need for attention, made me drawn to film.
FCSyndicate: How did you get the call for Spy?
JM: I saw a casting breakdown and my agent pushed for me to be seen. The character was initially Italian which is not really a natural fit for me, due to my blond hair and blue eyes, but Paul Feig liked my audition and I landed the part.
Julian Miller with Paul Feig
on the set of SPY (2015)
FCSyndicate: How did you enjoy working on your first film with Feig? What's he like in person?
JM: To be honest, I'm a massive fan of his work so I was slightly intimidated on the first day. ‎My biggest set piece got covered that day so there was no opportunity to let that get to me. Plus, he just puts everyone at ease. 
After that first day it was just brilliant. He's really funny in person - he got me to do some crazy stuff and you just go with it.
FCSyndicate: Have you managed to see the film yet?
JM: ‎Yes, I wanted to see it before it came out so I went to a preview screening. After that, I saw it at the London and New York premiere, and the first viewing of something is always a bit surreal so the last two I could really enjoy.
FCSyndicate: It would have been nice to meet you if we knew each other then, because I live here in New York! [laughs]
JM: Oh shit [laughs]! Yeah that would have been great! Love New York, less so the passion for folks honking their horns through the night, but nothing a pair of earplugs can't fix.
FCSyndicate: Ah! Earplugs. And here I've been doing it all wrong and sleeping through it! [laughs]
JM: [laughs] I live in a very quiet part of London.. so I might be too delicate for NY. ‎
FCSyndicate: Did you like it here? Did you do anything specific aside from the premiere?
JM: ‎It was mainly the premiere but did manage to squeeze in a few sights before I flew to Los Angeles.
FCSyndicate: Before Spy, your name crossed me when when I saw it attached to Andrew Kueh's shortfilm project, Prime Contact. How did you get on board?
JM: The guys approached me through a casting website. I really liked their ideas and passion, auditioned and then spend a week in York filming.
FCSyndicate: What did you enjoy most about portraying the Sam LeBrant character? Was it similar to anything you've done before?
JM: It's been a while since we filmed it but what I enjoyed most was the fact that there was quite a bit to explore about the character before we started filming. I'd never really played a heroic lead while I usually play conflicted characters, so it was a nice change. 
FCSyndicate: Is that something you could see yourself doing more of?
JM: Yes, I'd like to, although on the whole, the parts I'm getting seen for are less heroic and more questionable. ‎Not that I mind as they are usually more fun.
FCSyndicate: Well I certanly hope to see your career progress in that regard. And how did you enjoy working with the stunt teams on hand, with respect to Spy and Prime Contact?
JM: The stunt team for Spy was brilliant. There were some amazing people that had done some great projects so I was in safe hands. Although it had been a while since I had done a forward roll, I rose to the occasion. Melissa McCarthy is great to work with and really keen to make things as slick as possible, and I think it really payed off. If there was an award for most epic and disgusting death scene we would have a good chance of winning! 
On Prime Contact while working with SG Action, those guys were brilliant. They were all over it. Martin Wan and his team had choreographed a brilliant piece and it really helped to sell ‎the concept of my character jumping from body to body in the film. They did all the hard work and I was lucky enough to walk away with some of the glory. They are going places.
FCSyndicate: I agree. Did you do any particular training before filming?
JM: Not much, just your general stage combat and some dance training which helps. I knew I could trust Martin on Prime Contact and someome as hugely experienced on Spy as our stunt coordinator, J.J. Perry, and in the end its going to be me on the screen which makes me a very attentive student.‎ I'd really like to do a lot more of it as it really helps with the performance in general.
FCSyndicate: Do you have any favorite action films you enjoy on your spare time? What titles come to mind, in general?
JM: I'm a child of the eighties so I grew up with the best action movies imaginable - Terminator, Aliens and Mad Max to name a few, and the Matrix also firmly belongs in that list as I remember leaving the cinema in a complete altered state of mind - Good action should elevate your perception of things for a bit, so long as it doesn't make you jump of buildings [laughs]. 
My taste is pretty much all over the place but things that come to mind are Dog Day Afternoon‎, Double Indemnity, All About Eve and more recently Two Days One Night and definitely Mad Max: Fury Road!
FCSyndicate: I also noticed on your IMDb page that you share multiple facets in film other than acting and you also direct as well. Is there one particular field you enjoy more?
JM: There are aspects I enjoy of each discipline which I don't always get from the other. I love creating stories and worlds which probably means I have some sort of god complex! [laughs] The great thing with acting is that you really get the chance to focus on a smaller aspect and really explore that. Right now acting is taking up most of my time and I’m directing sketches for online series Dave McGTV which is being produced for Quipstar (AOL).
FCSyndicate: I think that's awesome, and I hope your career continues to flourish in as many ways as you wish. With this, I am also aware and able to report in our interview that your director on Prime Contact, Andrew Kueh is currently working on a feature-length expansion and is also seeking investors. How did you enjoy working with Andrew on this project? And would you like to return to play the lead with Zara back as well?

JM: I think Andrew and the team are brilliant. It’s pretty amazing how much they achieved with the short and they will no doubt get the feature made. And yes, of course I’d love to be involved and should Zara come back as well, I'd be delighted!
FCSyndicate: I look forward to seeing that happen myself, and I think that this shortfilm may advance those efforts as often as it is nowadays that proof-of-concepts are more likely what will help get a film made. Do you see these challenges yourself?
JM: Yes, funding always seems to be the biggest hurdle which can get frustrating. But then, a lot of things I'm working on aren't ready for funding yet. It takes a while for me to be happy and I'm guilty of rushing into producing my own shorts in the past before they were ready. No regrets though as I wouldn't have learned any of that if I hadn't done it.
FCSyndicate: It's nice to gain wisdom from such things. On this note, what advice do you have to offer for anyone based on your own experience in film, be it acting, directing and/or other?
JM: I think for all of them counts that you really need to want to do it as there is going to be quite a few moments where you'll struggle and doubt yourself. Follow your gut, a lot of people might not like what you do but if you are passionate about it,  it will find an audience and long as the sacrifices dont't seem like sacrifices you'll be fine.
FCSyndicate: I can dig that. Is there anyone you look forward to working with in the near or not-too-distant future?
JM: I'd really like to work with Paul Feig again, and even J.J. Abrams and Gareth Edwards as I'd like to be in any of their sci-fi projects and fulfill some childhood fantasies plus they seem to be great to work with. The late Sidney Lumet is high up my list as well, but sadly that's a bit unrealistic.
FCSyndicate: Well I certainly hope you get to include Feig in your resume again, as well as Melissa if all things pan out that way, and all the best on further prospects for Prime Contact. It's a lovely shortfilm and I am glad to have made your acquaintance through it. Thanks for sharing this portion of your life with my readers Julian, and by all means, stay busy!
JM: It's been a pleasure! Thank you for asking the questions and thanks for your patience with my replies. All the best to you and I'm looking forward to discussing lots more in ‎the future, and it would be great if that includes Prime Contact.
You can catch Prime Contact right here among other videos listed in this week's Hit List, and don't forget to catch Spy in theaters, or purchase it on DVD, Blu-Ray or VoD once it's available. Yes, it's that good, and our recent review of the film says so.

Julian Miller as "Nicola" in SPY (2015) from Twentieth Century Fox
*All images used courtesy of Julian Miller and Martin Wan


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