Timon Šturbej is one of the acting gems to be unearthed at this year’s BFI London Film Festival.
In Darko Štante’s drama Consequences, the young Slovenian actor brilliantly inhabits the body of Žele, an aggressive and manipulative alpha male who sits atop the social hierarchy in a youth correctional facility. As Žele, Timon brings an unnerving intensity to the screen that keeps a razor-sharp edge to this tale of misguided and youthful machismo.
Timon spoke to Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge about his role in the film, including the remarkable physical and mental transformation he had to undergo.
Q: Can you tell us about getting cast as Žele and what attracted you to the role?
A: Well, to be honest, I never really auditioned for the role of Žele. Darko did a general audition for the movie – it was just him with a camera in his hands, asking questions. I didn’t envisage playing Žele until Darko handed out the roles later on during rehearsals and improvisations.
I was a little scared at first – even though I didn’t say it. I just didn’t know if I was going to be able to portray the alpha, muscular energy of Žele. But, at the same time, that was also what I found challenging and intriguing about the character.
Q: So how did you prepare yourself to get into the dark and aggressive mental space that Žele inhabits?
A: I tried to follow my impulses and never think about the consequences (smiles). I had to turn my brain off, so that I never doubted my actions during rehearsals. Darko was very helpful with this. He has seen a lot of troubled kids and knew right away when there was only a glimpse of doubt in my mind or when I started questioning myself.
I also put on 7kg of muscle and shaved my head, which I think helped me to feel and be more intimidating.
Q: Did you base Žele off anyone you know or have interacted with in the past?
A: Most certainly! I was fortunate enough to have met a few people with a similar persona. So in my head, I kind of knew what I was going for. The troubling part was turning this into reality – or in this case fiction.
Q: Obviously the relationships between the young men in the film is rather destructive. Were things less tense on set?
A: The time on set was a lot of fun! We had a beautiful team that got on almost perfectly. It was interesting because almost everybody was rather young or inexperienced.
We had a really nice time. I tried to connect the most to Gašper (who plays Žele’s friend Niko) because I thought it was very important. But besides a few jokes with some of the other actors, I did not engage in method acting relations with anyone else.
Q: Any fun stories from the shoot that you can share?
A: There are so many fun stories, I don’t know which one to tell. For me, the scene where Matej Zemljič (who plays lead character Andrej) punches me in the face was a lot of fun. One take, I put two halves of a chewing gum in my mouth and when he hit me I spat them out with some fake blood. And Dare (director Darko Štante) wasn’t sure if I got hit for real or not. On camera it looked like I lost two teeth, but I also spat almost all of the blood in Matej’s face so the take was useless.
We also liked to joke around with Dare because he fell for them almost every time. You could see his job got him used to all sorts of unimaginable crazy stuff and that paranoia stayed with him a bit.
Q: Your character gets sexually intimate with both Svetlana (Lea Cok) and Andrej. How did you approach these scenes?
A: I didn’t approach these scenes differently to any other. I just wanted to make them look believable and the crew was pretty supportive in that.
Q: This seems like a very demanding role and one that you clearly rise to the challenge of. What was the most challenging scene for you to film?
A: Thank you very much. I’m not sure what was the hardest thing to do. After the first day, almost everything went smoothly. Maybe the mad driving after the fight scene, or doing what felt like one-thousand pull-ups during the gym scene. There were different shots and some scenes had to be repeated multiple times, so I ended up lifting myself like crazy. I didn’t feel it until the next day when I could barely move.
We also had a bad day somewhere in the middle of filming. We were filming my introduction scene first thing in the morning and I was just very tired, I needed quite sometime to get something out of me.
Q: I believe you come from a theatre background. Can you tell us more about it?
A: My father is an actor, so I watched a lot of performances from an early age. My mother, however, does something completely different but she is still always my biggest supporter. I didn’t plan on following my dad’s path until I was 18 and I joined a theatre group in our high school. I immediately fell in love with acting.
Then I went to the Theatre Academy in Ljubljana and had some smaller roles in different theatres across Slovenia while I was still studying. After I graduated, I worked in The Slovene National Theatre in Maribor for about a year, but this year I’m starting in The National theatre in Ljubljana.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to make a living with just film acting in Slovenia. But I am very happy to be able to do both because, for me, even though the two types of media have a lot in common, they are also very different in a way. I wouldn’t want to give either up anyway.
Q: These are breakout roles for yourself and Matej. What are your hopes for the future of your career?
A: My hopes are to be able to do this sort of work for a long time and to have a lot of amazing experiences with people who also love this work. Also, to finally be represented by an agency and hopefully start working abroad.