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Five Questions with Arrival Actor Mark O'Brien

Actor Mark O’Brien worked in the Canadian film and television industry for nearly a decade before being cast in the hit AMC series Halt and Catch Fire. Recently the actor had a breakout role in the Denis Villeneuve-directed hit Arrival. In the film, he plays Captain Marks, who oversees Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a language expert hired to find a method of communication with the newly arrived alien life forms. To promote the film’s Blu-Ray release we spoke to O’Brien about his work on the Oscar-nominated film.

How did you get involved with Arrival?

I auditioned. I sent a tape and then found out Denis wanted to meet me. I was in Los Angeles at the time and he was in Montreal, so we skyped. We got along very quickly and then before I knew it I was shooting for 2 months in Montreal.

What was it like working with Denis Villeneuve?

Denis is a master. He’s at the top of his game right now and one of the premiere directors in the world. So I was extremely excited to work with him. And then he somehow exceeded my expectations. He makes things very simple and direct, while also keeping the set light and fun. What most people probably don’t know is that he’s very very funny. He’s always ready to laugh and is one of the nicer people you could ever meet. I think that aids him as a filmmaker because he’s very aware of other people and when you combine that with his passion and technical skill, it makes for an exemplary combination.

Do you believe in extra-terrestrial life?

That’s a tough one. I don’t specifically believe in any tangible extra terrestrial life because I personally have no physical evidence of it. However, I think it’s very naive to believe that we’re alone in the Universe. I think there has to be some form of life somewhere, but it’s still a presumption on my behalf because I haven’t seen any green dudes walking around.

What was it like working on such a big-budget film?

Oddly, not that different from other films. It was a quiet set with a relatively small crew, all things considered. I assume Denis specifically likes it that way. It certainly pares down any possible confusion or on-set madness. Everyone was kind of just going about their business, getting the job done. That’s generally what it’s like when you work with such competent people. It becomes very practical and relaxed because there’s nothing to freak out about because everyone knows what their job is and they believe in the material.

Will you be back for the final season of Halt and Catch Fire? If so, what can fans expect?

Whoa. Now that I definitely can’t officially answer. I’ll just say this – that show is constantly going in different directions, surprising its audience. So to say anything will dampen what the creators have started. That show is a pleasure to work on and has been one of the highlights of my career.


Arrival is now available to own on Blu-Ray and DVD. 

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.