June 1st, 2018

Picture a world not too unlike our own – it’s the near future, and the world’s militaries are run by private organizations. Corruption within these private military businesses is spreading like wild fire, and thousands of innocent lives will be caught in the crossfire of these dangerous and underhanded dealings unless something is done.

Pretty dark, isn’t it? In 2013, BLACK EAGLE: PHANTASM introduced the world to the shady dealings of this fictional universe, and writer Daniel Stefanovich understands the gravitas that is these harsh themes of dishonesty, exploitation, and shadowy government figures in the film. “There was nothing to laugh about and nothing to smile about,” Daniel admits. “BLACK EAGLE: PHANTASM was a bleak film and there was really no way around it.”

While not much could be done about Phantasm, a shift in tone could be exactly what the studio needed especially considering their latest endeavour – WAR GAME, a short film meant to be fun and action packed focusing on a fan favourite character from Phantasm: Shorty, portrayed by Wade Ouellette.

“Daniel kept coming to me with these scripts that centered directly on Shorty. When it started, it was dark stuff and we honestly almost went down that road,” says WAR GAME’s producer Kelly Stefanovich. Early drafts of the film were originally written out as sequels to BLACK EAGLE: PHANTASM where an old and washed up Viper has hallucinations of his now dead former ally, Shorty.

“This was before we figured out that we wanted to bring Shorty back from the dead, so we had Viper going in to this ethereal state of purgatory and reminiscing with Shorty about all of the great memories they have with one another,” Daniel divulges. “The action would come from those memories as we flashed back, but the tone would be kept very sombre.”

A deleted scene with an off-duty Rebound (Rob Gaunt)
confronting Viper (Daniel Stefanovich) in WAR GAME.

It’s not a route that Kelly minded, but it’s not exactly what she wanted. “I told him to keep working at it,” admits Kelly. “We were making this movie for Wade, for the fans. We wanted to have fun with it.” Slowly, Daniel began to chip away at a military simulation staged in the form of a prequel in a time before Shorty knew Viper. But what was before Viper? More importantly, who was before Viper?”

The answer to that is Stunt Rebound.

“Stunt, later changed to Rebound, came out of a want to introduce a complete contrast to Shorty, but one he’d have to work with on a daily basis instead of an adversary,” says Daniel. “We created a contrast and then some with Rebound, and Rob was just the man for the job.”

Like Wade, Rob Gaunt had already been on set with Goodnight Red. In fact, he was actually featured as two separate (and un-credited) thugs that Jester kills in the opening of BLACK EAGLE: PHANTASM. The key to it all is that the audience never actually gets a good look at his face.

“We talked about that for a while,” Kelly reveals. Unsure if the audience would make a connection between Rebound and the bad guys in BLACK EAGLE: PHANTASM, Kelly took a chance. According to her, Rob just had too much charisma to turn down. “It’s hard enough to find people who want to give up their free time to come and act in your movie, never mind someone who is as naturally talented as Rob.”

Not to mention his natural kinship with co-star Wade Ouellette. “We’re basically married at this point,” chuckles Rob. “I’m living the dream baby. He’s Ellen Ripley and I’m Jonesy. Wade – like Shorty – always has a plan when I fuck up. I – like Rebound – like to scream obscenities at my enemies. It’s a match made in heaven. Weirdly enough, we’re also an exceptional team when it comes to Weyland M-Class star freighter reactor detonation.”

There’s no doubt about it – Rob Gaunt is Rebound. A fast talking, quick witted, vapour blowing, and ever-so-slightly obnoxious (in a good way) friend, Rob agreed to take on the role of Rebound to get a chance to hang out with his friends more often and as a creative outlet.

Rebound (Rob Gaunt) questions his orders

“Rob is so quick on set to understand what we’re trying to do, and he’s never shy to throw in a suggestion or improvise,” Daniel says. “Which is good, because he is Rebound. Whatever Rob would do, Rebound would do. We want that feedback and those ideas.”

Rob injected a creative energy and a carefree aura to his character and to the film which is exactly what the studio was looking for.

“Rebound is an ‘act now, ask questions never’ kind of guy on the battlefield. I just have this blatant disregard for my own wellbeing if it means Rebound will have a super badass story to tell afterwards. He’s the kind of guy that’s saving his skrill for another new toy to make his next job even more enjoyable than the last,” says Rob. And just like Rebound, Rob is an enormous morale boost on set, always managing to keep his energy up no matter how tired he is. “Sometimes when you’re at the end of your rope and things are looking grim, the best thing you can do is crack a joke.” The same goes for Rebound.

Just as Shorty’s popularity exploded out of the gate after BLACK EAGLE: PHANTASM, Rob Gaunt’s enthusiasm towards the role began to spill out to the marketing of WAR GAME. Direct searches of “Rob Gaunt” on YouTube make up 5% of total views on the film – that’s over 1900 searches explicitly for Rob. So, like Shorty, does that popularity warrant his own solo film? Rob thinks so.

“Rebound is a sweet heart. Trust me. We’re the same person. This guy has been through a lot, but you’ll just have to wait for those stories to come out in “Rebound: The Movie,” coming in late 2021!”

“No comment,” he laughs. “Could be fun, though.”