Broken Kingdom

Paste Magazine
Michael Dunaway

Broken Kingdom, the writing and directorial debut of Daniel Gillies (perhaps best known form his role in The Vampire Diaries), finally gets unveiled to the world next week, along with its companion documentary Kingdom Come.

Most of the plot of Broken Kingdom, the narrative film of the two, seems at first glance underwritten—a broken, haggard, haunted man who calls himself “80” (Gillies himself) wanders the streets of Bogota, Colombia, finally falling in with a very young prostitute. Back in the United States, a woman named Marilyn (Rachael Leigh Cook) begins a romantic relationship. That’s about it, for most of the movie.

But what you’re coming for isn’t twists and turns of plot. You’re coming for, in large part, an intriguing atmosphere of mystery and momentousness. There’s a very real, unmanufactured sense that large issues are at play in each of these lives. 80’s agonizing silence and, eventually, Marilyn’s nervous energy, underscore the gravity of the situations, whatever those situations may be.

Gillies is nearly unrecognizable for fans of his role in The Vampire Diaries; his character hides behind greasy bangs, a long bushy beard, and evasive eyes. He’s a writer who’s found it impossible to write, and his frustration and self-loathing virtually drip off the screen. Stony silence is a difficult role to pull off, and in many actors’ hands in comes across as blank and shallow. But Gillies’ soulful performance imbues his struggle with a nobility of spirit that animates what could have been a very forbidding performance. You want to get behind those eyes.

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Daniel Gillies and Rachael Leigh Cook: Class acts in “Broken Kingdom”

On & Beyond

There are actors who work mainly for the fame, the glory and the big paychecks in the motion picture industry. And then there are those who work truly for the love of the craft—the art of taking an idea, working tirelessly to bring it to the screen, and who sacrifice their blood, sweat and finances to make it happen. They become the true “stars” of the industry—the real class acts.

Daniel Gillies and Rachael Leigh Cook are two of those stars. Their passion for filmmaking goes further on display with the release on October 2 of a pair of films—“Broken Kingdom” and “Kingdom Come.” Between them, they wrote, directed, executive-produced and star in “Broken Kingdom.” The companion film, “Kingdom Come,” serves as a documentary and tribute to the challenges that these two actors, who have been married since 2004, faced in bringing their film to fruition.

Neither needed to set out on this journey. Daniel stars as Elijah Mikaelson in CW’s “Vampire Diaries” and was a lead in NBC’s “Saving Hope” last season, while Rachael will soon begin filming the second season of TNT’s popular “Perception” series opposite co-star Will McCormack.  They have long, impressive resumes in Hollywood, but they share two common passions—the work ethic as actors to never rest on their laurels, and the desire to stretch themselves in roles opposite of ones they’ve played.

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Interview: In Search of Independent Kingdoms with Daniel Gillies

Film Slate

Although you may know him from television’s “The Vampire Diaries” or “Saving Hope” or a handful of other mainstream motion pictures (“Spider-Man 2”)–Daniel Gillies’ restless talent ventures beyond dedicated, capable acting turns (see 2006’s “The Sensation of Sight” with David Strathairn). He is a passionate cinema connoisseur who dared to make an indie film (his first, hopefully not his last, 2010’s “Broken Kingdom”).

From the genesis of the idea to the physical and mental realities of actual locations and filming (in the case of “Broken Kingdom,” the varied landscape of Bogota, Colombia)–writing and directing a movie independent of studio static takes a will of granite. It demands a specific anarchic determination, a capacity for humility that both strengthens and levels the human spirit, and immeasurable hubris.

Gillies and I spoke at length on the phone (he in the Valley, sans trousers due to the heat and me in my apartment in Hollywood, sitting Indian style on my floor scribbling notes). We spoke of John Cassavetes, Wong Kar Wei, P. T. Anderson (both of us agreed we should be at a theater watching Anderson’s “The Master”) and a handful of other auteurs (Terrence Malick and Gus Van Sant) that influenced “Broken Kingdom.”

'Vampire Diaries' Star Daniel Gillies Wants You At His Movie Premiere

Hollywood Crush

We know actor Daniel Gillies best as Original vampire Elijah on "The Vampire Diaries," but it's time to meet his filmmaker side too.

I have to make movies now. I’ve realized the pleasure that comes from it, and I’ve realized that it’s one of the few sorts of instruments that I think is a really worthy one to sort of talk back to the universe about what your experience is and has been being a person your whole life.
— Daniel Gillies

Daniel decided five years ago that he wanted to fulfill his dream of directing a project of his own. He took three years off acting and invested more than $100,000 of his own money into making that dream a reality, and thus, "Broken Kingdom" was born. Along the way he decided to create a documentary chronicling his experience and turned to fellow actors Mark Ruffalo, Don Cheadle, Selma Blair and wife Rachael Leigh Cook (yes, that Rachael Leigh Cook) to help contribute their own experiences to the project.

"Broken Kingdom" has already made festival circuits and now it and its companion documentary "Kingdom Come" are ready to meet the world. The premiere for both projects is going to take place in Los Angeles on October 2, but Daniel has invited all of us to come. He is going to livestream the premiere red carpet through the films' official website for fans to watch and, once the movie starts rolling in L.A.'s Harmony Gold Theater, viewers at home will be able to watch "Kingdom Come" on their computers as well. After, both projects will be available for purchase. We had a chance to catch up with Daniel recently to talk about where he got this great idea, which really is a first in the film community.

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Window From The West

Jo Bailey
(Big thanks to Jo)

He’s a Hollywood hunk with a social conscience who just happens to be a Kiwi. Actor Daniel Gillies tells Jo Bailey how he plans to raise the awareness of poverty-stricken countries through his movies.

It’s been a few years since he left New Zealand, but there’s definitely a bit of “number eight wire” mentality behind Daniel Gillies’ latest project. The talented 31 year old Kiwi has managed to write, act, direct and produce an hour-long film ‘Wait for Me’ on an incredibly modest budget of just US$4,500.

The movie was filmed over ten “crazy” days in Panama, using one cameraman (his friend, music video director and animator Geoff Oki), a small HD (high definition) camera and one body microphone. Gillies didn’t start writing the script – about an American guy searching for his lost love – until he was on the plane to Panama, a country he had never visited before. “I wanted the whole experience to be completely foreign and difficult as I thought that would be more interesting to film.” Local people were enlisted to play bit parts, and random conversations were captured on camera. Gillies and Oki filmed at a frenetic pace in Panama City, deep in the Panamanian jungle (where they stumbled across a group of naked pygmies) and on the forgotten islands of Kuna Yala, which are only accessible by small plane. “It was so much fun, although we didn’t sleep the whole time.”

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