US actor John Ruby plays the lead in the film Touch, which was written and directed by Nguyen Minh Duc and produced by Melissa Tong. The film has won numerous awards, including Best First Feature Film at the Santa Rosa International Film Festival; and Best Actress, Best Script and Best Cinematography at the Boston International Film Festival. Ruby talked with Thanh Trung
about his role as a mechanic in the film during a recent visit to Viet Nam.
Inner Sanctum: What are your first impressions of Viet Nam?
The weather is great and everybody is so friendly. I also love the food, I've tried pretty much everything people have put in front of me, but I could not finish all the dishes. I tried a little bit of each. Some of my favourites were pho (noodle served with beef or chicken), xoi (steamed sticky rice) and seafood. I found them delicious.
Inner Sanctum: Was this your first acting role?
No, I've acted before, but this is my first feature film. I've got roles in a number of television series, such as CSI: New York, Castle as well as a new role I landed in a series with Jennifer Love Hewitt. I'm also writing a script for an action movie.
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell me a bit more about how the director, Duc Minh chose you for your role in Touch?
I just auditioned. I found an annoucement for the role online. I had to audition three of four times. During the auditioning process, we went through certain scenes, like the one that takes place in the bathtub, when Tam (the main female character) confides in me what happened to her father. We also went through the scene with my wife. In the end I was selected.
Inner Sanctum: Can you explain a bit about the movie?
The film focuses on a Vietnamese manicurist named Tam, played by Porter Lynn. She works as high-end beautician, and I'm her new customer. Brendan is shy and just looking to clean some oil stains off his hands. He is hoping that this will help ease the strained relationship with his wife. As Brendan continues his daily visits to the nail salon, his relationship with Tam begins to grow. She soon starts offering him advice about how to repair his relationship. Even though her advice achieves good results, Brendan and Tam start to have feelings for each other. This leads to guilty feelings on Brendan's part.
Inner Sanctum: In my opinion, the director has managed to keep a balance between your characters. Brendan is quite cheerful, while Tam represents a certain loneliness and sadness. If either of these characters dominated the film, this balance would have been thrown off.
I think that's true. In the beginning of the movie, my character is quite easy-going, but gets more serious as the film progresses. But, as a result of their relationship, and the difference in their characters, both learn a lot from each other. A lot of people expect Brendan and Tam to end up together. I won't spoil the end of the movie. But, often things don't work that way in real life. What I can say is that this movie is about connection, and the title, Touch, could mean something physical or emotional. Brendan and Tam find a way to touch each other in a way that is more important than what they realise at the time.
Inner Sanctum: What was the most difficult scene to perform in the movie?
I think the hardest scene were those when my wife kept rejecting me. Rejection is always hard to accept, especially from someone you love. In this type of situation you can do everything possible, but there is still the possibility that it will not work. This is both sad and scary for Brendan.
Inner Sanctum: If a girl like Tam were to show up in your life, what would you do if you were already involved with another woman?
Well I've always been attracted to new relationships because of the initial infatuation. I used to enjoy going to the gym, not only to work out, but to get a look at the pretty girls who were there. But I stopped doing that when I met my girlfriend six months ago. Now I barely notice other women. When I was younger I thought that the temptation to be with other women would pass with maturity. But that's not the case. There is still temptation all around, but you need a bit of self-control to keep trust and love in a relationship.
Inner Sanctum: Do you like the movie when you watch it now? Do you think it could have been better?
Yes, I enjoy watching this film, even though I've had to see it many times. I'm quite proud about the way the project turned out. The script is unique, and the soundtrack is great. The movie was shot two years ago, and I believe I've progressed as an actor since then. Looking back, of course there are some things I might change. But I did my best at the time, as did Minh and the rest of the people involved in the film. — VNS