Interview – Hopper Jack Penn

Interview – Hopper Jack Penn

Blazing his own trail, Hopper Jack Penn is a budding young actor who is quickly turning the heads of audiences. Casted in a list of Dramas, Penn has shown to be a capable, thoughtful, and emotional actor willing to give all of himself to a role.

Most recently co-starring alongside Billy Bob Thornton in Crime Thriller Devil’s Peak, Penn takes on the new challenge and excels once again. His own man, and still looking to hone his skills and reach new heights, Hopper Jack Penn recently sat down to chat a little about his time working in film, the support his family has provided, working on Devil’s Peak, his interest in production, plus more.   

Cryptic Rock – You have been in film now for around a decade. A part of some interesting projects, how would you describe your career as an actor to this point?

Hopper Jack Penn – I can’t believe it has been around a decade. I would say my career has been pretty sporadic up until now, but very fulfilling. I have never been asked that question… it’s a hard one. I’m pretty happy with my career to this point.

Cryptic Rock – It’s a tough question to answer; because when you are working you do not stop and reflect… you just keep moving forward. Have you found a favorite genre you enjoy working in?

Hopper Jack Penn – No, I have done pretty much only Dramas I would say. The only thing I ever wanted to do acting wise was Comedy. I know that Comedy is said to be one of the hardest, but I would like to be given the chance to do it. I like Dramas though. I like Dramas because I feel like, at least in the roles I’ve been given, I can bring my own personal history and personality to it.

Cryptic Rock – Hopefully you get that opportunity in the future. Comedy is very challenging, because when you are shooting, it is difficult to know it is translating as funny. Coming from a family that has been a part of film for so long, have they been supportive of you diving into the arts?

Hopper Jack Penn – They never pushed me or forced me to do anything. Acting wasn’t what I wanted to do initially. The first movie I ever did was one my dad directed. I initially wanted to PA (Production Assist) for it. When I came back to ask him again, and refresh his memory that he said I could PA, he said, “No, you can’t. You are going to be acting in it.” I said, “No, I’m not.” He made it sound nice though and he told me, “You’ll get paid more and you will get to learn how to fly a helicopter.” I was in immediately for that. However, I still thought, I’ll do this, get a nice paycheck, learn how to fly a helicopter, but never do this again. Then on my first day of shooting I was hooked and thought this is definitely what I want to do.

My family has always been very supportive. I always told them – I would never be an actor and I never wanted to be in front of the camera. Then I did it, I loved it, and they have been supportive ever since.

Puppy Love (2020)

Flag Day / United Artists Releasing (2021)

Cryptic Rock – Wow, that is an interesting story. Sometimes you just never know what will happen. You now have this new film called Devil’s Peak. How did this film come about for you?

Hopper Jack Penn – Right in the beginning of the pandemic I was working with CORE, an organization my dad started, and we were doing COVID testing. I just remember getting a bunch of texts from my manager saying, “please pick up the phone, I have cool news.” I had my lunch break and I spoke to the director, Ben Young then. I immediately liked him, because I love Australians. I asked him, “What’s this movie about?” He told me a little about it, and he asked if I would come and meet with him.

I met with Ben, we talked about the movie, and we talked a little bit about what I’ve done before. I said, “If there is any time you are thinking about auditioning, I’d love to audition if I can.” He told me, “You don’t have to audition, you have the part if you want it.” I initially thought that was a big mistake on his part, but it turned out to be pretty good, I think. I’m really happy I took the job.

Cryptic Rock – It seems to have worked out well. Devil’s Peak is a Crime Drama and you play opposite the veteran, accomplished Billy Bob Thornton. What was it like working with him?

Hopper Jack Penn – That was awesome. I could not have asked for a better partner on screen than with him. He took me into every scene and went full out. I didn’t have to prepare to get into these scenes; right when they called ‘action’ he was Charlie McNeely, and he was scaring the hell out of me. That made it easy to get into character with him.

Cryptic Rock – Yes, there is a lot of emotion with this film. That in mind, you do a great job of bringing that emotion to life on the screen. So, it wasn’t that difficult to get into those emotions?

Hopper Jack Penn – Billy told me originally, “Just bring anything from your past emotions and history; if it’s a bad day, a bad scene, bring that feeling.” So, during the shooting it was pretty emotional because I was able to bring my own personal traumas or whatever to the set, and feel those actual feelings. Whether they were similar to what my character (Jacob) was going through or not, I was able to read the script and say, “I can feel this way when something happens to me.” That was a very helpful tip that he gave me.

Cryptic Rock – That is a very good tip; basically, channel real life experiences into your character to create a sincere emotion. The film has a really interesting cast beyond Billy Bob Thornton too, and this includes your mom, Robin Wright. What was it like working with your mom?

Hopper Jack Penn – It was like the best thing ever. My mom is still one of my best friends; I know that is a cliché thing to say, but she really is. We are so similar as people and we joke all the time with each other. I hate to say it was easy, but I’ve always found crying on camera really hard, but with her, I was able to walk in that room and I couldn’t stop. It was very natural working with her.

Cryptic Rock – It sounds like you have a very special relationship with your mother. Sometimes parents put undue pressure on their children, and you always want to make them proud.

Hopper Jack Penn – I’ve never had that with my mom. I never had to meet any expectations for her, which is why I think it was so great work with her and why we’ve always gotten along. She doesn’t set any bar for me to meet, and I don’t look for any bar to meet with her. She likes me the way I am and that made it nice.

Hopper Jack Penn & Robin Wright in Devil’s Peak / Screen Media (2023)

Cryptic Rock – That is a good thing. You mentioned you would like to work in Comedy. There are so many brands of Comedy. So, do you have one in particular that you would like to work in?

Hopper Jack Penn – I like dark, dry Comedies. I love slapstick stuff too, such as Step Brothers (2008), but it is not really my style and humor. I would say Bottle Rocket (1996) is the perfect kind of comedy I would like to do. That, or anything Wes Anderson, or Christopher Guest; I would love to have been in Best in Show (2000).

Cryptic Rock – So not straight-ahead Comedy, perhaps something a little different. Do you have any other projects you have coming up that you can talk about?

Hopper Jack Penn – I can’t really talk about the actual projects, but I just started a production company with the director (Michael Maxxis) of a movie I did titled Puppy Love (2020). We’ve been working on a few projects that I can’t bring up, but they will be happening soon.

Cryptic Rock – That is exciting. So, you will be working more behind the scenes then?

Hopper Jack Penn – Yes, I am free to act in them if I want to, but I want to see what I can do behind the camera.

Cryptic Rock – It is certainly a different dynamic, so that should be a great experience. As someone who clearly loves what you are doing, what are some of your artistic inspirations?

Hopper Jack Penn – Certain actors for sure. I think my parents are amazing actors, and some of the best. Billy Bob Thornton has also always been one of my heroes. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get to his level, but my favorite actor of all time is Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I watch his movies, and any character he plays, I think, “God, I want to do it like that.” I don’t think I will ever get there, but he just interests me in this art form. If I can get anywhere close to that, or put as much of my heart into it as he did, that is always going to be my goal.

Devil’s Peak / Screen Media (2023)

For more on Hopper Jake Penn: Instagram 

Feature image by Richard Wright 

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