Ben Winchell & Ana Villafane On ‘Max Steel’ [VIDEO EXCLUSIVE]
Ben Winchell and Ana Villafane are bringing a lesser-known superhero from the comic book world to the big screen with Max Steel, set for release next fall. Winchell plays Max Steel, a unique superhero who is actually two people (Max and Steel) joined as one. Max is a common teenager going through his everyday struggles while Steel is his alien partner. “What makes them unique and what makes it different from every other superhero I feel has been out there, is if Max didn’t have Steel, Max wouldn’t be a superhero,” said Winchell in an exclusive interview with uInterview at San Diego Comic-Con 2014. “Max is just a kid who has this energy running through him, that if he didn’t have Steel there with him he would just explode and die.”
Villafane plays Sofia, a girl from Max’s new school who befriends Max and assists him through his struggles as Max Steel. “She finds him mysterious, she thinks that there’s something more to him and she wants to find out what that might be,” Villafane told uInterview. “So she instigates this relationship to start, and this friendship which ends up benefitting him a lot as he goes through his adventure of becoming Max Steel.”
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WINCHELL: When you're first introduced to Max he's kind of just coming into the story, a lost kid like every other teenager. At some point in their life, somebody is trying to figure out who they are as a person, and that's where Max is right now. He's trying to understand about his past. He doesn't know a lot about his dad, his dad died when he was really young, and so he's trying to go looking out for these answers trying to figure out who he is. And he's just moved back to a new town, and so he's just starting school. He's going through the struggles of meeting a girl that he thinks he is pretty, you know, just going through the typical high school problems. And that's kind of where we start off with him and then over time he starts to develop this energy that starts flowing through him and then his life just becomes really crazy. But that's where we are when the movies starts with him. VILLAFANE: And as for Sophia, besides being apparently really pretty [laughing], no, she's actually quite the opposite, she's very grounded she has her feet on the ground at this point. They meet in school and she kind of befriends him, she finds him mysterious, she thinks that there's something more to him and she wants to find out what that might be. So she instigates this relationship to start and this friendship which ends up benefitting him a lot as he goes through his adventure of becoming Max Steel.
VILLAFANE: It was terrible! WINCHELL: It was awful, it was terrible! I mean it was just literally us two in Wilmington, [N.C.], and so we only had each other. We were in this little hotel for such a long time. VILLAFANE: It wasn't too little. WINCHELL: It wasn't that little, but it was little enough, and it was just really us and the crew, so when it came to cast, a lot of the time it was just me and her so we were kind of, if we hated each other it didn't matter because we were forced to hang out with each other. VILLAFANE: What are you trying to say? WINCHELL: No, I'm not saying anything. VILLAFANE: No, it actually started even before then because we met of course through the chemistry tests which apparently we passed. And then from there, before going to North Carolina to shoot the movie, we would like meet up for lunch or that kind of thing. So we were trying to get to know each other before getting on set, which I think was pretty awesome. He's alright.
WINCHELL: I think for me, I don't know if I have a specific scene, or rather scenes. The most challenging was I, Steel is completely, he's a CGI character, so I was talking to the air for about 60% of the movie. I mean we did this thing called a reference shot where they would bring in like the little green ball, and they would do a reference pass then they would take it out and I would just have to talk to air. And it was interesting because he, Steele is very jittery, so he's moving around a lot at times until he he starts to get it under control, and so you're just moving your eyes around trying to have dialogue with something and you feel like a complete idiot and everybody behind camera is cracking up at you. But I'm hoping it turned out well. But that was honestly the most challenging thing for me was not having something to physically react off of just kind of imagine and create it for yourself.
VILLAFANE: Yeah, and in terms of our scenes together, because most of my interactions are actually with Ben, who is a real person, so that helped. But there were some driving scenes that we had to do, that just like with the elements, because my character drives a really cool car, and we were exposed to the world because there were no windows, there's no top, so those were audio, those were kind of hard. But I mean that's nothing compared to what he went through because I'm pretty sure that there's not one scene in this movie that Ben was not in, so watching him work was actually more tiring than what I actually had to do. So I mean hats off to the work that he put in to this film because it's going to be insane.
WINCHELL: I think there had to be research done in order to really comprehend what we were doing. But at the same time it's not really a huge thing, Max Steel isn't a very well known thing so we didn't feel we would have fanboys that would be jumping down our throat if we wanted to try different things and that was what was so great about it. We did enough research but then we we didn't necessarily stick to certain things that we felt needed to be stuck to. We would try different things, we would be like, “Well let's do this,” because you don't have someone saying, “Oh, well, back in the 90's this is the way it was in the comic and so you can't change that,” and so that allowed a lot of freedom. In talking to Mattel and the people who created the character and created the toy and created the franchise, we got as much information as we possibly could. VILLAFANE: I mean I definitely researched the brand to familiarize myself with just like the tone of it all in the story. But my character is completely created for the movie. She was created once I was cast because originally she was going to be a character from the animated series. So once that happened it became a very creative process for me personally and beyond that, I mean having the likes of Chris Yost guide you through that is pretty insane, so I think it was pretty easy to fall into such good hands for the both of us.
From the outsider looking in, there's no limit to what Max can do when he joins forces with Steel. So that's kind of different where as a lot of superheroes have that one power that they have, and that one skill. Max, it's just a matter of controlling his natural energy which comes from within him. It didn't come from some outside source, it wasn't bought, it's not gadgets, it's not a bite, it's not whatever. It comes from inside him, within him. So I think that's pretty exciting.
WINCHELL: Yeah, it's cool because, you know because what she said, you don't really know if there's a limit to what he can do because along with him finding out in the movie, who he is as he's Max Steel. He's also discovering out what types of powers he has. And it's like every time he's in a new scenario, and he's like, “I can't use this ability,” him and Steel kind of have to come together and be like, “What else can we do,” and that's really cool. But what makes them unique and what makes it different from every other superhero I feel has been out there is, if Max didn't have Steel, Max wouldn't be a superhero. Max is just a kid who has this energy running through him, that if he didn't have Steel there with him he would just explode and die. Which is terrible. But Steel is there Max has this energy that flows through him that if Steel isn't there to basically absorb it, control it and harness it, then there would be no Max Steel. Steel and Max coming together creates that character and that's really the first time you've ever seen it not done where there's a superhero and a sidekick, neither one of them is the sidekick. They both need each other and that's what's really cool and unique about it.