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Sundance Futures: Paul Eenhoorn, the Unexpected ‘Martin Bonner’ Breakout, On Keeping the Passion Alive

Sundance Futures: Paul Eenhoorn, the Unexpected 'Martin Bonner' Breakout, On Keeping the Passion Alive

Why He’s On Our Radar: Seattle-based Australian actor Paul Eenhoorn has been making a name for himself in Seattle’s filmmaking industry for the better part of the a decade, after trying to make a break for it in his native country. He’s likely best known for playing the villain, Mr. Daniels, in the family comedy “Max Rules” which was voted by audiences as the top U.S. film at the 2004 Seattle International Film Festival.

Eenhoorn may also be recognized by video gamers for modeling as the face for “Half-Life 2” character Arne Magnusson. At the Sundance Film Festival, Eenhoorn has become an unexpected breakout thanks to his grounded turn in the affecting indie “This Is Martin Bonner.” In the drama (playing in the NEXT section), he plays the titular character; a man who leaves his old life behind and relocates to Reno, where he finds work helping released prisoners transition to life on the outside, while trying his hand at speed dating and passing time as a soccer referee on weekends.

What’s Next: Eenhoorn told Indiewire that he recently got cast in “The Dead Men,” a “small indie film that’s going to shoot out in the desert in California, about a journalist who gets taken hostage in Iraq.”

You’ve been acting for most of your life to get to this point. Are you excited to be in Sundance with a film you’re headlining?

People ask me if I’m excited. I want to give them a really long answer. I think the answer is “no.” I want to make sure that I leverage this opportunity as much as I possibly can, because I’ve worked really hard to get here. Someone said it takes a thousand days to reach a tipping point in a career – maybe I’m at ten thousand. It is amazing to be there under these circumstances. What more can I say?

What struck you most about your character, Martin? He seems like such an inherently good person.

When I read the script I totally knew him. I’ve done that; I have left things behind and I know what it’s like to be in that space where you’re trying to make your way in a whole new city without much support. I understood him.

It was a dark time in my life for various personal reasons, so it was difficult to do for me. So going back there and being honest and truthful in a character is not difficult for me.

Australian actor living in Seattle…explain.

I met my wife in Sydney and then three years later I came here. I always say I’m sure as hell glad she didn’t live in Minnesota or the Rocky Mountains. We’re still here, we’re still together through thick and thin — and a lot of it’s been thin.

I’ve been on television since I was about 17. I had opportunities, one major opportunity I blew in my 20s. Once I started down this pathway, it was a case of not letting anyone stop me. Not my wife, not my family. It was getting too late to give it a small percentage. I had to give it one hundred percent.

Has it been challenging to keep your passion for the craft alive over the course of your career?

I’ve had this passion since I was 19 and my first wife took it away from me. We lasted for seven years. You know, you have relationships and life takes you down pathways. I’ve tried business, but it’s always been there.

I was in a band till I was about 17 then I went to television and I spent seven years doing that. When I came to Seattle I started to audition for things. The passion’s always there and that’s what’s been the hard thing: to fit that passion into a normal life. You can’t do it. You can’t have a normal life and pursue this dream. The two have been fighting each other forever and ever.

There’s a freedom in my work now that I didn’t have. I love that feeling. That’s passion.

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