Perth-born actor Dacre Montgomery is currently on what he describes a whirlwind journey - with his first ever major film-role as the lead in the just-released ‘Power Rangers’ film, and his first ever major television role set to debut later this year, in the upcoming second season of ‘Stranger Things’.
In ‘Power Rangers’ he stars as Jason (the Red Ranger), a multi-dimensional character - who, along with the other four rangers, embark on a journey that demands unity like never before.
We spoke to Dacre Montgomery ahead of the film’s release, about the power of film, coming-of-age, and his favourite film soundtracks…
"I think it is such a great message in this film about overcoming demons or obstacles around you, and how do you do that in such a way and navigate it in such a way that it can be extremely effective for you ongoing in the long run, not just the short-term?"
COUP DE MAIN: The idea of unity seems really important to 'Power Rangers' - and especially in 2017, when there are so many awful things happening in the world. Do you think it’s important that films offer a form of escapism from the real world?
DACRE MONTGOMERY: Yeah, I think films over all of the generations offers a portal of escapism, I think that’s why people go to the cinema and watch film and television at home, it’s to sort of escape from their daily life. Diversity is really interesting, how we explored it in this film, because we are from all different ends of the planet - my Dad is from Auckland, I’m born in Australia and my Mum is Canadian, RJ [Cyler] and Becky [G] are from Central and North America, Naomi [Scott] is from London with Indian parents, so we naturally already by our diversity sort of qualify for that. That whole idea of coming together as a team is interesting because even though it is innately written into the story of the film, we come together and become a team, we kind of became a family off-screen as well, which is really interesting and I think it does comment on what is going on in the world at the moment, that regardless of what end of the planet you’re from or what cultural background, it is possible to unite and in this case both on and off-screen, in a dramatisation and in real-life.
CDM: Films like 'Power Rangers' also leave people feeling inspired - especially in the fact that the film seems to focus on coming together, and working together with one another.
DACRE: Of course! It’s a great message and there are so many other messages under there about bullying and all kinds of things. I think, hopefully, and I can speak for the rest of the cast I’m sure, you really hope that it gives people that feeling leaving the cinema going, ‘You know what? There is so much possibility, and the state of the politics in the world isn’t just the be-all and end-all.’
CDM: Superhero movies are so successful, not only because they’re relatable through the superheroes themselves, but through the universal theme of overpowering an evil force. What do you think the ultimate purpose of superhero films are?
DACRE: Yeah! I think like in the last question, it’s about uplifting people. When I was in school, when I was younger, I looked up to superheroes, but I also looked up to people in my life that had those same qualities. I was going, 'Look, that person is admirable because they can overcome whatever difficulty that might be happening in their life,’ and I think going into the cinema and watching a regular teenage person overcome both their family obstacles in the case of this film - my character goes on a journey where he has to overcome these difficulties with his family. But also, these huge colossal, high-stakes things that they’re overcoming, when they’re overcoming huge forces of evil, and that’s just a metaphor for what we experience in real life. Those things day-to-day for us might not be, 'Oh it’s a massive space-ship flying towards Earth that is going to destroy a town!’, it might be something smaller, but it represents everything encompassing under that sort of subject. I think it is such a great message in this film about overcoming demons or obstacles around you, and how do you do that in such a way and navigate it in such a way that it can be extremely effective for you ongoing in the long run, not just the short-term?
CDM: You play Jason, the Red Ranger, the leader of the Power Rangers. What do you think makes a good leader?
DACRE: That’s an interesting question. I don’t think of myself as the leader, but I think a leader in this film maybe a little bit and in life, is somebody who listens. I always find the most effective people are the people who will listen first and listen to what people have to say and then think about it and then respond. I hope that Jason gets to this point where he can be that person that listens and that is how he’s able to make the decisions he makes for the group. Even though we are all a group and without them I wouldn’t even be the leader, do you know what I mean? It’s a hard place, it’s an in-between place for me to sort of...
CDM: We were first introduced to you via your 'Stranger Things' cast-mate Joe Keery, who was interviewing Tame Impala’s Jay Watson for us, who also went to WAAPA. What’s it been like, going immediately from acting-school into your first Hollywood film?
DACRE: That’s so cool you spoke to Joe! I actually came up to L.A. with him - and Tame Impala, they’re from Perth where I’m from! That’s cool! Coming from a small town, I think definitely cultivated an attitude where you want to go outside the town and you want to explore the bigger wider world and what it has to offer, and for me I was always interested in the film industry. It was a long pursuit before I got my first role and 'Power Rangers' kind of came up and I got it overnight, it was this crazy whirlwind journey. So for me, I think it was about getting on that rollercoaster ride, going on it for the last 14 months through 'Power Rangers' into 'Stranger Things', and kind of learning as much as I can but also remembering where I came from and those beliefs and morals that I had back in Perth when I was young and I wanted it, and still remaining hungry for it and never forgetting where I came from, whether it’s WAAPA or before WAAPA when I was in high school. I think you have to be able to encompass both worlds, your home and your family, and then also your job in another city, in such a huge international industry like this that has such a big platform, so I’m just trying to keep my feet on the ground whilst trying to fly along with it too.
CDM: In an interview, you revealed that you’re a big fan of original film soundtracks. What three songs do you think best embody ‘Power Rangers’?
DACRE: That’s a great question, let me think... That’s hard, I like so much music, over so many decades. Probably something contemporary to add something quite-- I’d have to think about this! This is an interesting one! I wanna put more thought into that, I’d need to find something! But I do love listening to soundtracks. Whenever I read scripts and 'Power Rangers' for the first time, I listened to the 'Interstellar' soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. It’s a great soundtrack, at the moment I’m also dropping some 'Nocturnal Animals' and 'Moonlight' soundtracks!
CDM: I love 'Moonlight'.
DACRE: That 'Cell Therapy' song, the rap one, SO GOOD!
CDM: You’ve also spoken about how you feel the film is like a coming-of-age film. What were your favourite coming-of-age films to watch growing up?
DACRE: I think this film resembles 'The Breakfast Club' to a certain degree, five people who don’t like each other initially then sort of form a friendship. 'Stand By Me' is an interesting one about kids coming together and going on this crazy whirlwind journey. I also watched a lot of other television when I was younger like when I was 10, 'Smallville' on The CW, or whatever network that was on! Watching these people living in small towns that sort of get superhero abilities, how they negotiate that with day-to-day high school drama, or whatever that might be. There’s some film, some TV, but that journey to adulthood, or manhood in my case. What do you discover along the way? And then you drop something so high stakes like, 'You have super abilities and you need to save the world!'
CDM: What do you want people to take away from watching 'Power Rangers'?
DACRE: I want people to take away from 'Power Rangers', a sense of belief in themselves and a sense of belief in being able to work with other people from different parts of the planet and I think for me more than anything because I didn’t have that kind of high school experience, I just want kids to know that, no matter who you are in high school that doesn’t necessarily reflect where you’ll be at after high school. When I was in high school, I didn’t have many friends, and didn’t know where I was going. I think I would just really encourage people to know that’s not a forever-thing.
‘Power Rangers’ is in NZ cinemas now - watch the trailer below…