George MacKay stars in the film "Wolf." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- George MacKay said his training for the film Wolf, in theaters Friday, led to embarrassing situations in real life. MacKay plays a man who believes he is a wolf, and he practiced his wolf walk in a park in Ireland.
"You'd get caught by a dog," MacKay told UPI in a Zoom interview. "The first alarm would be if the dog came up to you."
MacKay, 29, plays Jacob, a man in an institution full of patients diagnosed with species identity disorder. All the patients believe they are animals.
MacKay said he did not research the disorder, but he tried to play a wolf because that's what Jacob believes he is.
In March 2020, MacKay spent a week working with Terry Notary, who trained the ape actors in the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy. Notary appears in the film as a Lion Man.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic shut production in the U.K. MacKay practiced at home during the lockdown before production resumed in August..
"For months and months and months, I crawled every day," MacKay said. "I practiced in my family's garden."
That's what led MacKay to the local park to give himself space.
"I used to get up before the dog walkers, set an alarm nice and early and crawl for an hour when no one was in the park," MacKay said. "It was practice, practice, practice."
MacKay also used his phone to photograph and record himself for reference. Using the videos, MacKay determined which movements looked most wolf-like.
"That really uncomfortable angle is actually the most accurate, so that's what I need to keep practicing," MacKay said. "When I first started crawling, that was very different from the crawl that you see in the film. It took a lot of work to get comfortable in that zone."
Jacob also howls like a wolf. Practicing howling was even more conspicuous than his wolf walks, MacKay said.
Jacob's howl is "a call to one's kin that he's yet to know -- basically a call for community," said MacKay, who tried to get his howl as close to a wolf howl as he could.
In the institution, Jacob meets a young woman named Cecile (Lily Rose-Depp), who believes she is a wildcat. They share a love scene when Jacob is locked in a cage and she is on the other side of the bars.
MacKay said the love scene is ambiguous because both characters believe they are animals.
"Is he a wolf trapped in that cage?" MacKay said. "And therefore, does he understand what's happening to him, as well?"
MacKay got his first professional job when he was 10 years old in the 2003 Peter Pan film. He was a student at The Harrodian School in London, when casting director Shaheen Baig chose him for a workshop.
"The experience of working on Peter Pan was the thing that made me want to do this forever," MacKay said.
He said he hired an agent after Peter Pan and continued to work in film and television. As an adult, MacKay has appeared in the films Captain Fantastic, How I Live Now, True History of the Kelly Gang and 1917 and the TV series 11.22.63.
MacKay said his work on Wolf still harkened back to that first workshop he did as a 10-year-old.
"Just the enjoyment of playing -- that was a big part of all the animal stuff," MacKay said. "You have to be in that headspace to be up for playing because there's no other way to do it."