Ace Ventura, Fear & Loathing and mourning Laura Palmer: A chat with actor Troy Evans

Very excited to bring you my recent interview with actor Troy Evans, who has appeared many films including Ace Ventura as Roger Podactor, Twin Peaks as Principal Wolchezk, Kathryin Bigelow’s Near Dark, Halloween 5, Terry Gilliam’s Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, Article 99, Planes Trains & Automobiles, The Frighteners, The Black Dahlia,  Demolition Man, Phenomenon, My Favourite Martian, The Book Of Life and more. He’s also appeared in television shows including Hannah Montana, Without A Trace, CSI Miami, The Practice, Amazon’s Bosch and ER in a legendary hundred plus episode arc as Frank Martin. He’s an awesome guy who has actually given me some of the most in depth, thought out answers I’ve received thus far in my work, and I’m so grateful to him for that. Please enjoy!
Nate: How did you get into acting? Was it something you always wanted to do, or did you fall into it by chance?

Troy: I grew up as a political Junky. In the 1950’s there was a Montana Governor named Don Nutter who was considered Presidential material. He died in a plane crash but that planted the idea in my head that a Montana lad could become President. I was about 8 at the time and set a plan to do just that. I intended to become a lawyer, a legislator, Governor of Montana, US Senator from Mt., and then President in that order. I was a page in the Legislature when I was 14, was giving speeches at political dinners at 16, and President of the Flathead High School student body at 17. Many classmates signed my Senior yearbook asking that I remember them when I was President of the US. I started college at the University of Montana in 1966 and was paying for school with a Rock and Roll Band called GANG GRIEN. I was having way to much fun to go to class, my grades were awful, and in the spring I lost my student deferment and was drafted. I shipped to Viet Nam in the Spring of 1968. I spent 16 months with the 25th Infantry Division and came home in July of 1969. At this point I didn’t realize it, but I was completely out of my mind. Instead of returning to school I opened a Rock and Roll bar in Kalispell, Montana called THE POWDER KEG. It was. I developed an acute case of the bartenders disease. alcohol, insanity, and anger are not a recipe for a peaceful existence and I had a plethora of legal problems (mostly from drunken bar fights) which eventually landed me in “The Rancho Deluxe”. That has been cowboy slang for Montana State Prison for over 100 years. I had been drunk enough for long enough that it took me about 6 months in stir to suddenly realize that I was not going to be Governor. You have to do those things in the opposite order. 

       I started to try to form a new plan, but soon realized that many doors were now closed to me. I couldn’t return to the Military. Couldn’t be a teacher, a Police officer, a lawyer, or an accountant. I couldn’t own a bar. One day I thought, “ I’ll bet no one ever asks an actor if he has a felony conviction.” That day I sent the warden a request for a copy of Hamlet. That was the day my life changed. Troy.
Nate: Twin Peaks: you have a brief but very memorable appearance as Principal Wolcszheck. How was your experience filming that, and doing the iconic intercom broadcast about Laura Palmer’s death? Are you a fan of the show?

Troy: When I got the job on TWIN PEAKS I was very intimidated. I had so much respect for David Lynch that I decided the best thing for me to do was to learn the material cold and make no choices about it. I was sure that he would have something specific that he pictured. We shot that scene at the High School in Snoqualmie, Wa. I was first shot up at about 6:30 AM. They had already lit and set the camera when I got there. You are probably aware that a simple scene like this can take hours to film with many camera angles, and lens changes,etc. so I was prepared for that. David asked if I minded if he shot the rehearsal and, of course, I said, “fine”. I assumed he was just working out some technical kinks. I started the scene doing what I planned, just “verbal typing” really. I was consciously trying to just say the words with no mustard on them. About halfway through the horror of what I was saying started to roll over me and I found myself being overwhelmed by emotion. I fought to get through the rehearsal without breaking down in tears. The High School PA system had a wall of switches so you could turn off the sound to each room separately. As I finished the speech, purely by instinct, I reached up and started batting at the switches. They cut and David said, “Are you happy with that?”. I thought he meant the general approach and said “yes, if you are.” David said, “Moving on”, and my moment on Twin Peaks was in the can. I am still amazed at the whole thing. 

         One additional thing. David Lynch was born in Missoula, Mt. in Jan. of 1946. I was born in Missoula in Feb. of 1948. It was a small town with one hospital. That means that if David was born in the hospital, it is likely that we were born in the same room. I can’t prove it, but I like the idea. Troy.
Nate: Near Dark: another brief but awesome appearance, as the stern but sympathetic Detective. How was the experience working with Kathryn Bigelow?

Troy: I have a lot of jobs like NEAR DARK on my resume. By “like NEAR DARK” i mean one day’s work, 30 years ago. I have never been drawn to the horror genre, maybe because I am a Viet Nam vet, and I remember being really grossed out by the polaroids the makeup people had up by the mirrors for reference. Just too much gore for me (though I do like Al Gore). As for Kathryn Bigelow I just barely remember her being competent, and nice. Of course she was years from being the powerhouse she is now. I really liked the role, and enjoy when people mention it now because I have always thought of it as my Ben Johnson scene. The guy is just there. And just a little nicer than he has to be. Sweet. Troy.
PS: When I do a nice little scene like that I always hope that the director will remember it and use me again but I have never seen K. Bigelow since that day. Not a knock on her, just the way things work now.  
Nate: Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas- Your experience working with Terry Gilliam on such a unique project? I read that you ad libbed your tirade at the hotel clerk. Is improvisation something you enjoy? Do you you use it a lot in your work?

Troy: If it had been anyone but Gilliam I would not have auditioned for FEAR AND LOATHING. The part wasn’t really scripted, just a scenario of a Mid-west Police chief being denied a hotel room because they were oversold, and then Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson shows up and gets the royal treatment right in front of me. Gilliam asked me to add-lib the scene with him and at the end I had a shit-hemichal and said, “Wait a fucking minute— This asshole gets a room and I don’t???? What are having—— Some kind of Dick Suckers convention here.?” Gilliam loved it, but some time passed and I forgot all about it. About 3 months later I had my right knee replaced and when I woke up after the surgery my agent called and said, “Congrats, you got that movie!” I said, “What Movie?” He said FEAR AND LOATHING and I asked when it shot. “Next week”. I said, “you know you I’m in ICU, right?”

He said, “oh, yeah, what should we do?” I said I had to turn it down and that would have been that except Terry Gilliam would not take No for an answer. He said he wanted me even if I had to be in a wheel chair, so about a week later I flew to Vegas to do the scene. Terry came to my dressing room to see how I was and saw that I had an epic 26inch incision on my leg that was really raw (stapled, not stitched) and oozing a lot of colorful stuff. He immediately called wardrobe and had them cut off my pants. He said if anybody in his movie had a leg like that he wanted to see it. Unfortunately, I don’t think you see the leg in the movie, but I still like the idea.  

       The shooting it self was amusing because of the subject matter of the film, and the fact that I was loaded of Vicodin so I could stand on the leg during takes. After each take there was a guy there who would run and get my crutches and get me sodas, etc. His name was Jonny Depp. I will always remember how terrific he was to a guy doing a really small part in his movie. Ellen Barkin was not working that day but was on the set, I guess just because she liked it. She was also the epitome of class. She felt like old Hollywood to me. And she actually looks better in real life than on film, if that is possible.  

       Just in case you think I am the biggest Pollyanna in History I might add that Chris Meloni was playing the desk clerk, and apparently felt that I was beneath him. He and his wife declined to speak to me, or Heather, either in the vans from the Hotel, or on the set. What a dick.

Here is the problem with add libs: All actors think they are really clever, and some actors are not. Once you open that door you get a lot of drivel and often a well crafted scene is diminished. It is really hard to say, “well, Bob can add lib, but the rest of you stay on script.” Often this is just decided by $$$. The actors who are making the big money are assumed to be better so they are allowed to do whatever they want and the “role players” (to borrow a sports term) just have to scramble. Many big actors have the luxury of just saying whatever they want and the poor sucker in the scene with them has to try to make some sense out of it although you never get a cue. One of the reasons ER was so good was that the script was sacred. If Noah Wylie wanted to change a line they would consider it, of course, but if the writer said “No, I like it the way it was.” it stayed as written . That is why ER didn’t sound like a bunch of bozos bullshitting at Starbucks. Having said all that, like all other actors, I think i’m pretty fucking clever and if they want to fuck around I’ll be fine. 

        One more thought on this. If a line is difficult, or doesn’t seem to make sense, I like the challenge of finding a way to make it work as written. I like to remind myself that lots of times people say some pretty random shit. Make it work. 
Nate: Bosch- How are you enjoying your experience on that show right now?

Troy: BOSCH is the perfect job for me right now. I love Connelly’s novels and the television adaptation is being handled by Eric Overmeyer. He is just a sensational writer/producer. He was a producer on TREME, HOMICIDE, and THE WIRE. Pretty impressive. I also love the rest of the cast. Jamie Hector stands out as an actor who I think will have a huge career, but the whole cast is stellar. I really like the characters of Crate and Barrel, but the show is called BOSCH and you are either Harry Bosch, or you aren’t, so we will never have a lot to do. I am really comfortable with a nice little taste here and there. As the saying goes, “Take it easy, but take it.” I’ll take it.  

Nate: Ace Ventura: your experience working with Jim Carrey in the comedic atmosphere? Amy stories from set?

Troy: ACE VENTURA was a boffo job all the way. For starters we were in Miami. We had a great cast Noble Willingham, Raynor Scheine, John Capodice, Randall “Tex” Cob for instance, plus Jim Carrey, and Courtney Cox (they were both sweethearts, by the by). Then you add a really funny script, and Tom Shadyac directing——— Gold. Having said all that I have to admit that I didn’t have any idea the movie would blow up like it did. Jim, who was not really a star yet, kept saying, “this movie is going to do $200 million.” and I would say to myself, “I want some of whatever he’s smoking”. Well, fortunately for all concerned, Jim was right. 

     I have one little story about how great the crew was. We were on, I think the third floor of the Miami Beach city hall set up to shoot the scene where N. Willingham rants about how superstitious football players are. We were all in place and about 1 minute from shooting when it occurred to me that it would be funny if I had a rabbit’s foot and tried to hide it in that moment. It was obviously too late, but I asked the prop guy if he had a rabbit’s foot on the truck. He took off at a dead run, and when the camera’s rolled 60 seconds later I had a rabbit’s foot. THAT is a prop-master.
Nate: What are some of your favourite roles you have played in your career?

Troy: My favorite role ever was JOE KELLER in Arthur Miller’s ALL MY SON’S at a place called Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts in about 1979, when I was still doing theatre. Just a really good role, in a really good play, with a really good director (Michael Winters, who was on the Gilmore Girls). In film and TV I would have to go with SGT.PEPPER on CHINA BEACH, and PAT TRAVIS in ARTICLE 99. The role of ARTIE MAC DONALD on LIFE GOES ON was a good one too. When I get to a set I almost always have a good time. I get a lot of satisfaction out of being the guy that just gets it done. Generally, if things are not going well and the production is hours behind for the day, the director knows he can do my scene in one take and make up a lot of time. I like that.  
Nate: Do you have any upcoming projects you are excited and would like to talk about?

Troy: Other than BOSCH I really don’t have much going on now, which suits me. There are 20 BOSCH novels, and each season is loosely based on one of the books, so if they do all 20 I will be doing the last 10 from Forest Lawn. Fine with me. Troy.

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