From comparing Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) notes with Sir Anthony Hopkins to headlining the latest film NFT GenZeroes, Canadian actor and producer Aleks Paunovic is proving to be always on the cutting edge of performance and more.
The Vancouver-based Paunovic has his eye on the future. Perhaps this explains his stranglehold on the science fiction genre.
Over the Christmas holidays his latest acting work was released to the world.
Hawkeye is an extended mini-series look at the Avengers character in which Paunovic plays Ivan, leader of the Track Suit Mafia, alongside antogonist Wilson Fisk (Kingpin) played by Vincent D’Onofrio.
While the show is already a Christmas caper comedy, Marvel's newest criminal organization, Tracksuit Mafia/Trust A Bro! moving company, brings some light comic relief to the plot. Hawkeye ties together the summer blockbuster Black Widow as well as the former Daredevil and Defenders, with Endgame, and Thanos.
Meanwhile, Paunovic has been rocking and rolling the north Hollywood lifestyle for more than a decade – longer than MCU.
Bouncing between film and television, he has worked with Hopkins, Michelle Pfeiffer. He's also worked in the Planet of the Apes film series. Paunovic has been in Hell on Wheels, Arctic Air, Republic of Doyle, and Supernatural, Battlestar Galactica, The 100, Arrow, and Snowpiercer. He wrapped up five seasons as a lead actor on Van Helsing last year before Hawkeye hit the bullseye on Christmas 2021.
During lockdown, he filmed Zero Contact — a pandemic related film with Anthony Hopkins that has spawned a sequel which is currently in production. While Zero Contact was the first Hollywood film to exist on the blockchain, and its sequel is the first Hollywood film to shoot in Antarctica.
"When everything was locked down, I was quite fortunate to be involved and it has turned into a trilogy," said Paunovic.
How much does shooting a movie on a laptop change his acting approach?
"The whole aspect is the same work and prep that you would do – same context but stakes are higher. [It was] interesting in my own house [with] the set decorator asking to make sure a light is on, or that I’m recording before a take,” he said.
“It is something new to do, something brand new. I like being in a position to create differently each time. Now we are travelling the world.”
However, these days Paunovic is firmly entrenched in GenZeroes – a cutting edge episodic, multi-platform NFT series.
“We’re filming ten, 5/6 minute episodes, then into comic book panels. It is so new. Viewers are able to own part of the show and artists are involved at every level. It is crazy. It is a new medium. The NFT world is exploding. My whole role is the creative aspect, but what I love is that it is artist-driven,” he said.
“When they dropped the NFT, they received a good response. House of Kibaa (an NFT hub) needed more than just a 2D drop. Then I got some Van Helsing boys to show run the project.”
The series is set in 2200 years after an alien invasion, and the ten factions fight to control the future of the world. Van Helsing writers Matt Venables and Jeremy Smith will serve as showrunners and are executive-producing with Neil Stevenson-Moore. Kimani Ray Smith is the director.
"We have a phenomenal cast in place.”
The GenZeroes Universe includes live-action series, comics, and collectibles.
“We could also drop NFTs within the show, or practical things – props we are making for the shooting – could drop a piece from the series. It is an exciting space to be a part of. We go from a talky-talky scene and right into a motion comic book that may show a big fight scene – have the viewer through the pages – then back into live action.”
The hope is that the last episode of the series drops in San Diego at Comic Con come March 2022.
“I’ve never had an office gig before. Being able to create something from scratch is great," he said.
"We work hard to get in front of a camera to make a living, to have a community that is artist driven, supporting each other. It is such a brand new space: NFTs and filmmaking. All we can do is try it. I’m having a blast seeing what can happen and where we can go with it.”
By the end of February – Paunovic said four episodes are expected to have been shot. When it comes to action figures – while GenZeroes could have some – it is old hat for Paunovic who has seen action figures for a handful of his characters out there.
“Being part of that Universe has been a special treat. If they have a track suit Ivan figure of course, I’ll buy some."
GenZeroes could be a new way of producing film – and art as a whole.
Whether a building fell on Paunovic at the end of Hawkeye, or if he was miniaturized, he can’t speak to. Marvel’s NDAs, or non-disclosure agreements, are legendary. When he first auditioned, it was also under a cone of silence and mystery.
“When I auditioned – I did a reading, sent in a video. Then I was told after I had booked some Marvel work,” he said.
His lips are sealed as to what is happening next beyond GenZeroes.
“There are a few other projects that I can’t talk about. We’ll go to end of March with Zero Contact trilogy, still shooting GenZeroes all over the globe,” he said.
“Then some really cool things are happening April into the summer.”
From being born and raised in the north end of Winnipeg, to Vancouver, to Hollywood and the future with Marvel Cinematic Universe, to Antarctica, and beyond with NFTs, the actor said it's "so crazy."