THE MANY FACES OF HANNAJ: A Conversation With Multi Talented Actress Hannaj Bang Bendz For WRATH OF DRACULA And I AM RAGE
Hannaj Bang Bendz is a multi award-winning actress best known for her dramatic and action roles in independent British films, such as "The Man Up The Stairs'' (Best Actress, LA Film Awards) and "Glamour" (Amazon Prime, 2020).
Hannaj was born in London, England, to her English mother (Michelle) and Danish father (Henrik).
In 2008, Hannaj studied "Scriptwriting for Film and Television" at Bournemouth University, and in 2012, she graduated with a BA (Hons) in Animation Film Production from The Arts University at Bournemouth (AUB).
In 2013, she starred in her first Professional Theatre Production, "Dorian Gray" at The Lighthouse Theatre in Poole, and was cast in Docudrama "Black Ops: Operation Firemagic" directly after - which aired on both American Netflix and the History Channel.
In 2017, Hannaj's performance as Julia in 'The Man Up The Stairs' secured several Best Actress awards across various festivals, most notably the LA Film Festival. In 2018, the short film "A Still Sunrise" premiered at Cannes Film Festival, in the 'Short Film Catalogue Corner', and shortly afterwards she featured as the lead role of Keeley Jones in popular small series "Seaside Town" (Amazon Prime, 2018).
"3 Pints and a Rabbi" a dark comedy feature, playing opposite Amanda Abbington and Michael Maloney, and "God's Whisper" a Biblical Vampire short, are due for release soon. In the meantime, Hannaj has branched out into writer and producer roles. She is completing post-production on short Marvel fan-film "Salvaje", and is filming dark psychological feature "Jax", in which she stars in the lead role of Jax.
Hannaj also regularly practices Mixed Martial Arts, in the forms of Kickboxing, Kali and Muay Thai and is a Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She has had some training in Kung Fu and Bo-Staff, as well as live fire-arms - all skills she utilises as often as possible for the right projects. Her combat skills secured the lead role in action/horror feature "I Am Rage', which is due for American release/distribution in early 2023. Followed by Steve Lawson's "Wrath of Dracula" in August 2023, where she takes on the lead role of Mina Harker.
In our interview, The Fan Carpet's Marc Jason Ali welcomes Hannaj to talk about her two films released this August; Steve Lawson's WRATH OF DRACULA and David Ryan Keith's I AM RAGE. She tells us what drew her to the films, how she got started in the industry and juggling her many talents...
Hannaj Bang Bendz as Mina Harker in Wrath of Dracula
If we go back to the beginning, was there a defining moment for you to get into the Entertainment Industry?
I’m not sure there was a defining moment as such… I was always theatrically inclined, loved movies and from about the age of 7 I would re-enact scenes from favourite films with my sister, that my mum would record on her camcorder. I suppose my interest and enjoyment of acting first turned to thoughts of career because of my secondary school drama teacher Miss J. She always made you feel like anything was possible.
Still, the Entertainment industry is hard to crack (although I think social media has made it nore accessible now in some ways) and it’s taken a lot of hard work, navigating a path that feels truthful to my personal character and the stories I want to be a part of.
You have two films out this month; I Am Rage and Wrath of Dracula, What was it about them that made you want to be a part of them, and what can you tell us about the story and your characters without giving away spoilers?
I Am Rage interested me because… Well, I’ve always loved and wanted to be a part of action films, and whilst the storyline isn’t necessarily the most believable, it’s a lot of fun. I play Erin, the lead character who is a little different - flawed, battling inner demons, some definite PTSD, and sudden outbursts, and generally trying (and often failing) to control her emotions. When Erin’s boyfriend takes her to his remote family home in the countryside, alongside his brother and brother’s girlfriend, Sarah, she soon discovers his family are part of an ancient cult who torture victims for their blood. Erin soon realises she needs to accept her demons in order to escape. Cue a lot of action and rage as she and Sarah try to escape their prison. The ability to switch immediately between calm and chaos was a challenge I was eager to accept, and the proposed fight scenes were pretty insane.
Wrath of Dracula - again, was sold to me as a slower-paced action film, but set in the late 1800s and based upon the tale of Dracula - with a ‘karate kid’ style twist.
I’ve been obsessed with vampires and Dracula since forever, I wanted to do more period piece work, and also wanted to brush up on my Kung fu, so this was a no-brainer for me.
It’s a totally different vibe, a little tongue in cheek at points and was honestly so much fun to film. I’m working with the Director Steve Lawson on another project very soon so keep your eyes peeled!
What does it mean for you to be a storyteller and tell stories in this way?
I genuinely believe Storytelling is my purpose. Nothing makes me feel more alive and more connected - to life, to people. It’s how we all learn and grow. I have also been writing a fantasy book series, I studied animation and scriptwriting at university, I’ve illustrated children’s books… So acting is just one of my storytelling outlets, and I simply can’t not engage in it.
What is your preferred genre, and do you have any favourite films?
I mean… I love horror and action. Especially the more psychological horrors. I also love fantasy. My favourite genre would combine all three. Sprinkle some love interest in there and we have a corker. But I don’t think that’s a unique opinion: I think there’s a reason films like TLOTR have such a huge fan base.
Favourite films… Ooooh… Girl, Interrupted. Edward Scissorhands. The Mummy. Interview with the Vampire. Memoirs of a Geisha. Resident Evil. I’m trying to think - there are more!
It depends on my mood. It’s eclectic.
More recently I loved “Bones and All”. I’ve actually been writing a script with similar themes so that one hit me nice and hard. In tears.
Hannaj Bang Bendz as Erin in I Am Rage
WRATH OF DRACULA IS OUT ON AUGUST 28 AND I AM RAGE IS OUT NOW