When people know their life is predetermined, it’s often hard for them to care about their choices and their subsequent consequences. That’s certainly the case for actor Adrian Glynn McMorran’s struggling protagonist, James Odin, in the new thriller, ‘Volition.’ The social and cerebral sci-fi tale forces the struggling character to reconsider his beliefs and future as he truly ponders the existential debate of fate versus free-will. The actor brings his character on a powerful journey of self-discovery, in order to uncover whether the visions he has of his future are just a part of his imagination, or are a pre-determined fate that he can’t change.
Tony Dean Smith made his feature film directorial debut with the drama, which he also produced and co-wrote with his brother, Ryan W. Smith. ‘Volition‘ is now available On Digital, including Apple TV and Prime Video, courtesy of Giant Pictures, after it was named best feature at the Philip K. Dick Film Festival.
‘Volition’ shows the lasting effects of a rain-soaked night in 1991, when two cars collide, which leaves the drivers dead on the scene, including the mother of the lone survivor—James. But what’s more tragic is that seven-year-old James foresaw the accident two months before it happened. He tried to prevent it, but no one believed a child who claims to see the future.
Over 20 years later, James is a product of the failed foster care system. Knowing that the events of his future are predestined, he’s barely getting by, but uses his clairvoyant ability for petty crime and cheap thrills. But when a vision reveals to him his own imminent murder, James must go on the run. Together with a woman he recently saved during a mugging, Angela (Magda Apanowicz), he tries change the fate he knows is fixed.
McMorran generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘Volition’ during an exclusive interview over the phone. Among other things, the actor discussed that he became involved in starring in the thriller in part because he knew the Smith brothers before production on the feature began, and they approached him with the opportunity to play James, as they envisioned him bring the role to life. He also mentioned that he enjoyed the process of creating the physicality for the role during the movie’s production, which included doing all of his own stunts and fight sequences.
The conversation began with McMorran discussing why he was drawn to play James in ‘Volition.’ “Well, I’ve known the Smith brothers, including Tony, who’s the director, since high school. We’ve done a few things together over the years, and I also went to university with Ryan, the younger Smith brother. Tony and I also did some student films together back in the day. He also directed a music video for one of my solo songs a few years back. The music actually had links to ‘Volition,” the performer revealed.
The Smith brothers “had various versions of the script around for almost a decade. They’d always say, we’re still working on this, and still have you in mind! But I didn’t know if it was ever going to happen, to be honest,” McMorran also divulged. “Then the timing and funding lined up, and it happened, and I’m so glad it did.”
Further speaking of Tony, the performer followed up on his experience collaborating with the co-scribe-helmer-producer on the set. “This was his firs feature (as a helmer), but Tony was already a pretty experienced director. This wasn’t your typical film shoot; we were working longer days and longer weeks than you would normally would. For the amount of material that we shot, the shoot probably should have been twice the length,” he divulged with a laugh.
“So it was very intense. It’s also a very complex script with some sci-fi elements, and a lot of mind-bending stuff. So Tony not only had to be the captain of this ship that had to get a lot done, but he also had to be aware of everything that was going on between between the characters, even though that was super confusing,” McMorran noted.
“Tony did a great job. He has a dry sense of humor and a very calm guy. I think that served the feeling on the set very well,” the actor shared. “I honestly don’t think we could have made the movie in the time frame we had if Tony wasn’t such a cool guy.”
McMorran didn’t want to go into too much detail about the story the Smith brothers created in the screenplay, but ‘Volition’ reveals that James is living in a time loop half-way through its storyline. But he briefly delved into what the preparation process of creating that time loop, and showcasing several scenes from different perspectives, was like.
“The first few times I read the script, I knew the basic concept of what it was about, but I still had to re-read things and ask, what’s going on here?,” the performer revealed. “So what I ultimately ended up doing in my preparation in the weeks leading up to the shoot was create a table chart, which is a very nerdy actor thing to do,” he admitted with a hint of a laugh. “I actually had never heard of anyone doing that.
“But I had an actual chart, and I would figure out, on a scale of one to five, what James’ psychological and physical level of stress was, as well as what happened before, and during, the scene,” McMorran continued. “You never film in sequence, so I knew it was going to be very confusing to figure out exactly where in the script James was, in an emotional way. So I could look at my chart and know exactly where I needed to be in each scene.
“That saved me, to be honest. I think if I hadn’t plotted things out that way, I would have been much more lost in each scene,” the actor added.
Besides enjoying his experience working with Tony on the drama, McMorran also embraced the process of collaborating with his co-stars, particularly in building their characters’ relationships. “We were lucky to have a lot of opportunities (to work together) in the two years leading up to the actual shoot. We had big table reads, and Tony pretty much knew who he was going to have in the cast. So most of the people who are in the film were on board pretty early on in the process,” he shared.
“During the table reads, we would talk about character development. That was a real luxury, as you don’t get to do that on a lot of films,” the performer admitted. “Sometimes you just meet people on the first day you start working together.
“So on this film, it was great to hear people’s takes on characters and their relationships. I remember the character John Cassini plays (Ray), who’s the bad guy in the film, was originally written as a stock bad guy. But John wanted to humanize the character a bit. He also had ideas about how to round out the character, as well as the relationship between my character of James and his character,” McMorran also divulged.
“So it was great to work with people who were so passionate about the project and its development. So when it came time to shoot, everyone was really committed to these long, crazy days, and making the best movie that we could,” the actor added.
‘Volition’ features several sci-fi-driven action sequences, as James tries to change his fate when a series of events leads to a vision of his own imminent murder. McMorran enjoyed the process of creating the physicality for the role during the production.
“Well, I’m proud to say that I did all my own stunts, as we didn’t have stunt people. It was fun for me; I’ve always liked throwing myself around. So it was pretty fun to get thrown across hotel beds and stuff like that,” the performer revealed.
“Everyone did their own stunts. Magda did some pretty crazy fight stuff, but she had a lot of fight training, and the same was true for Aleks Paunovic, who’s done a lot of fight work on TV shows before. I’ve done a bit of fighting on TV shows before, too, but nothing like Magda or Aleks, who have done a lot of physical stuff before. So they gave me tips on how to make things look better, and do things properly. That stuff was really fun,” McMorran concluded.