Let me get this clear right off the bat: I’m a huge, huge fan of Rob Zombie’s Halloween reimagining. Love it. At the time it was announced I was super fanatical about the original franchise, and when I heard that Zombie, who’s films I was a huge fan of at the time, was remaking my favourite horror film of all time, I had a conniption. Then casting news began to pour in and when I saw at least eight names on the lineup who are all time favourites of mine, I was immediately, unconditionally sold. Good thing the guy didn’t let me down. He went his own way with this one, while at the same time still staying true to its mystical roots in Carpenter’s minimalist catalyst masterpiece. Yes, Zombie has has a certain pervasive flair for really crude dialogue and characters that would make both the Addams family and he Beverly hillbillys cringe, but that’s his style, and love it or hate it he’s brought it to Haddonfield and then some. He mostly stays true to the blueprint of the original film, yet adds a fascinating for five minute opening act that greatly expands on Michael’s early years, both his tumultuous home life and subsequent years in Smiths Grove Sanitarium under the care of Dr. Loomis. Malcolm McDowell makes a stellar replacement for Donald Pleasence, updating Loomis by bringing humour, hurt and humanity to a role previously rooted in archetypal theatricality. Newcomer Scout Taylor Compton carries herself well as Laurie Strode, and Danielle Harris, who played Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 4 and 5, plays ill fated Annie Brackett. Rob Zombie has a knack for finding underrated character actors who don’t always get the chance to show their stuff outside of the genre niches and blasts them to the forefront of the drama in career best roles. Such is the case with Brad Dourif here, a criminally underrated dude who plays kind hearted Sheriff Leigh Brackett. He’s got a down to earth jive (Thanks to Zombie’s writing once again) that liven up the film a lot. There’s an unbelievably cool roster of talent including Danny Trejo, Udo Kier, Adrienne Barbeau, Dee Wallace, Tom Towles, Bill Moseley, Daniel Roebuck, Pat Skipper, Richard Lynch, Clint Howard, Sybil Danning, Leslie Easterbrook, Ken Foree, Sheri Moon Zombie in a surprising sympathetic turn as Michael’s poor mother, and William Forsythe in an absolutely hysterical cameo as his extremely verbally abusive, endlessly vulgar stepfather. That cast though. Still in awe eight years later. People railed against this remake for being crass, bloody and brutal. Pish. Zombie boldly steered the franchise into uncharted territory and actually made an effort, which is more than I can say for any other horror remake I’ve seen. Supremely stylish, down to earth, casted so well I can’t even right now, and tough as nails in the fright department.
Here it is, kids. The third corner of the slasher triangle that’s essential viewing for any horror fan. John Carpenter made a no budget, streamlined little horror flick back in 1978, one that would start an eight film legacy of mania and legendary prolofic culture in the horror genre. The eternally relentless boogeyman Michael Myers has become an iconic movie monster, and my personal favourite of the slasher stable. From the moment that Carpenter’s nerve jangling, haunting synth score kicks in, framing a half lit jack o lantern as the main credits start, we’re lulled into a hypnotic, ambient atmosphere of sometimes unbearable tension and razor sharp sound design. The film opens as young Michael Myers snaps, grabs a kitchen knife and murders his teenage sister upstairs. Flash to fifteen years later, mute adult Mikey escapes from the sanitarium he’s spent the last decade and a half in, much to the frantic dismay of his bug eyed psychiatrist Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence). Pleasence took the role and ran with it, and is at times even crazier than Michael himself, and just as iconic. Jamie Lee Curtis plays sheltered Laurie Strode, living in Michael’s sleepy hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois and a prime target of the boogeyman. Carpenter wisely saves the chases and violence for the latter third of the film, and choosing to make Michael an almost unseen presence, lurking in shadowy corners of the unassuming suburbia he makes his playground out of, a vaguely threatening gust of unease in the fringes of the character’s awareness. When the chases and kills do come later on, we’re so wound up from the tenuous waiting, watching and wondering that the shock hits us harder at its sheer arrival. It’s that mounting tension and reverence paid to the sickening anticipation of the horror as opposed to the horror itself that makes the film so special, influential and timeless. It’s like a bad dream where something is inevitably, slowly waiting to get you. A horror classic, (hell a classic in itself), the king of slasher flicks and one of the most atmospheric movies ever crafted.
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.
Proud to present my interview with Marteinn Thorssen, an Icelandic filmmaker who’s responsible in part for one of my favourite indie movies ever made, Paranoia 1.0. An extremely talented guy with a lot of projects on the go, and awesome to speak with. Enjoy!
1. Care to speak a bit about your background, what lead you into film making?
I think I always wanted to do something creative. My uncle ran this cinema which was housed in a WWII army barrack in Reykjavik. Mom sold tickets and my grandpa was an usher. Place was called Hafnarbio (The Harbour Cinema). They showed b-movies and light-blue movies. Alakazam the Great had the biggest impact on me. Surreal and weird. That has stayed with me. I was also a bookworm and spent many hours in the local library. I remember owning a super-8mm camera and later I was into stills. In college I started making horror flicks with friends. Those were a great technical exercise but it’s only lately that I feel I’ve been developing my own perspective. I’m a late bloomer.
2. How was the writing process; What I spires ypu and Jeff, how did you envision script to screen, and did it eventually end up going how you thought it would?
Jeff and I had both been working in advertising and music videos and decided to create a collaborative entity we called waterfall/fjord. We wanted it to be anti-commercial and just be this experimentation hub for no-budget fun stuff. We did some music videos for an Icelandic band DIP (which was the brainchild of Siggi Baldursson of the Sugarcubes and Johann Johannson who is now scoring films for Denis Villeneuve and won a Golden Globe for Theory of Everything) and we had so much fun doing this we decided to try to write a script and make a feature. We worked on several stories but it wasn’t until we decided to something about the advertising world that a narrative formed which we were happy with. We were both very much into nanotech and sci-fi, Ray Kurzweil, Neal Stephenson and William Gibson. I can’t remember where the plot came from, I think I had written a treatment about a detective who receives an infant’s dismembered foot in his mailbox. I think that’s where the plot started. But the main theme, though, is about loneliness, it’s really a film about Toronto (where we studied and lived at the time) and loneliness. When you start something like this you never know where it will take you. We thought we were going to make a low-budget Canada/Iceland co-production but Télefilm and other funding bodies in Canada didn’t want to have anything to do with it. We got a grant from the Icelandic Film Fund early on but we had no luck in Canada. So it became a US/Iceland/Romanian production in the end. Even when we had managed to finance the film in Hollywood we tried to shoot it as an indie film in Winnipeg but there they wanted to unionize it because we had 2 American producers on the film, so, ironically Canada didn’t want us but the Americans and Romanians and Germans did (the main producer, Chris Sievernich, is a German living in L.A.) and we ended up getting the film into Sundance, main competition. I had no idea at the time what a big deal that was. Anyway, all this affected the way the film eventually came together. What was supposed to be a portrait of a crumbling capitalist society became a portrait of a crumbled communist society just about to emerge as a capitalist entity. Very interesting and Bucharest is an amazing place to shoot in. I hope to go back sometime. I’m actually working on one project which might happen next year. But we had to cut out some of the scenes we wanted as well as some of the effects. In the original script we wanted to show the Farm headquarters as well as Howard’s place where he keeps all the brains he’s been collecting and Adam’s progress as an Internet conscience was explained more. Also, Howard’s intentions were clearer but it was always about loneliness and corporate control and that stayed intact.
3. Casting: you assembled an eclectic cast of cult favourites, did you seek out these people, Udo Kier, Deborah Unger, Bruce Payne etc., or did they find their way to the projects through their agents? I did hear the story about finding Lance Henriksen at the hotel. What was it like working with the cast?
We wrote the script with Udo Kier and Deborah Unger in mind and were very lucky to get them. Udo had made a Danish film (“Besat” or “Possessed” in English) with one of our original producers (Thomas Mai of Zentropa) and he was the one we cast first. We met him at the American Film Market in L.A. and he liked the script. We became friends. I owe him some lamps he bought in Montreal but they got lost in Toronto on their way to Los Angeles. We got to Deborah through our casting director, Carmen Cuba (who is now casting for Steven Soderbergh and the Wachowskis among others). Carmen did most of the casting for us in L.A. At one point we had Gabriel Macht as Simon but he pulled out, we spoke with Gael Garcia Bernal who showed interest and then Adrian Brody signed on to be Simon just after he’d shot The Pianist but then our financing fell through and Brody got an Oscar. Jeremy Sisto was always in the mix though and he stuck with us and he did a fantastic job. I love Jeremy. For The Neighbor part we had Djimon Hounsou at one point but Bruce Payne got on board quite late when we were already in Bucharest. We did find Lance at the Marriot in Bucharest, Jeremy had done a series with him (Lincoln I think), a lot of people were there at the time shooting: Dennis Hopper, Andy Garcia, Gina Gershon, Eva Mendes. It was a busy town, still is, I think.
4. How was the shoot for everyone? How was your experience?
It was a difficult but fantastic experience. This was our first feature and we were used to doing everything ourselves so it was a bit weird having a crew of something like 100 people but the Romanian crew was amazing and I have such good memories of Bucharest. It was also weird to stay for more than 2 months in The Marriot right beside Ceausescu’s mad Palace, The Marriot is such a place of luxury and we were doing this little, low budget movie. Our producer, Chris Sievernich, said: “Enjoy this, it will probably never happen again.” We were lucky to be able to have some of the people from film school to work on the film with us like our editor Dan Sadler, cinematographer Chris Soos, Gio Sampogna who did the making-of, Eggert “Eddi” Ketilsson from Iceland who did the Production Design, Jeff’s dad showed up and helped us and more friends came from Canada, the US and Iceland. It was the first feature for so many and everyone was really excited. We storyboarded everything (although I don’t really like that practice) and were really well prepared, we got everything in the can and more, actually. When we showed the first AD (Chris Landry) our shot list he said we’d never cover it but we did, with 2 directors you can do more if you tag-team it.
5. Some films/actors/filmmakers who have inspired your work and who you really admire?
When I was younger I used to have favorite films and filmmakers but I don’t really today but I admire everyone who is a real artist and they don’t have to be filmmakers. My wife is a novelist and before I met her, I was influenced by her work, it’s amazing. I’m also influenced by music, painting, photography, performance art, literature and kind, interesting people who give me real human experiences. But, yes, in the past, Alakazam the Great influenced me a lot as did Don’t Look Now, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Brood, Red Desert, Blade Runner, Alien, Brazil and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I love the films of Hayao Miyazaki, David Cronenberg, Trần Anh Hùng, P.T. Anderson, Jonathan Glazier, Terrence Malick, Roy Anderson and others who surprise me and show me something new. When I saw Old Boy, I was giddy with delight. I’m quite fond of 70’s Hollywood. I don’t understand the popularity of some filmmakers and movies though, like Slumdog Millionaire, Argo or Wes Anderson’s work since The Royal Tenenbaums (with the exception of Fantastic Mr. Fox). Some of the new TV is great although it’s not the future of movies. I don’t like to dwell on the past and I love new things and new technologies, I’m glad to be rid of “film” although it smells nice. I hated editing on film, when non-linear came around with AVID, I was the first to sign up and it was a liberating progress and digital cinema is wonderful.
6. Any upcoming projects you are excited for and would like to mention?
I have so many projects in development and none of them might come to fruition, I’m actually shooting two no-budget projects that I might never finish. I think I have to move back into making films in English, preferably genre, because as an Icelandic filmmaker I need to supplement my income by working nights as a concierge in a hotel and that takes time away from my writing and shooting the micro budget stuff. But what might be my next film is a genre film, a supernatural thriller or horror film called UNA, we’re in the financing stages for that, that means we have applied for the big production grant at The Icelandic Film Centre and if we get that grant, we’ll be able to go for the rest of the money. UNA is produced by Gudrun Edda Thorhannesdottir of Duo Productions in Reykjavik. It’s based on a novel by Ottar M. Nordfjord and is about a young woman who’s lost her 5 year old son but his body has not been found a year after his disappearance. She starts suspecting he might still be alive when she becomes haunted by an “outcast”, a shapeshifting monster which may or may not want to do her harm. It’s dark, fun stuff, intense and has roots in Icelandic mythology and violence against women. Needs extensive special effects work which I mostly want to do in camera but it will benefit from CGI enhancement. I’m also working on a TV series based on the novel YOSOY by Gudrun Eva Minervudottir (yes, my wife), I’m developing it with two other writers, Lilja Sigurdardottir and Michael Sillery and we’re aiming it at the US market for now, if HBO/Netflix/AMC/ETC don’t want it then we’ll try the Scandinavia/Nordic version. Yosoy is wonderful and intense stuff, like Carnivále, Twin Peaks and True Detective rolled into one. I have a big budget Hollywood type sci-fi in the works. It’s called PROTOS and is loosely inspired by Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, it’s a bit like BLADE RUNNER meets APOCALYPSE NOW. I have oodles of micro-budget ideas, one is ERASERHEAD-like horror called DARKNESS KNOWS, another the drama I want to shoot in Reykjavik and Bucharest, GOD’S HEART, I actually have this God trilogy I want to do: GOD’S HEART, THE PATH OF GOD, and TOMORROW, WE BECOME ONE. Another adaptation from my wife’s novel ANGEL DUST. An English language adaptation from a novel by Arni Thorarinsson, WE, a very dramatic love story. There’s a thriller called EXIT I’m working on with writer Ottar Nordfjord and producer Snorri Thorisson. Inspired by true events, it tells the story of two French sisters whose hiking trip around Iceland turns into a nightmare when they hitch a ride with a charming but sinister stranger. I have another English language horror script ready called FROM THE DEEP which I wrote with this wonderful horror writer, Thorsteinn Mar (co-writer of DARKNESS KNOWS) and we have quite a few ideas milling about. So, plenty to work on but an agent and a production company would be nice. And some cash, please. But life is good. I’m trying to be a good husband and father. Life is such an interesting trip, you never know where it will take you.
I recently had the chance to speak with actor Holt McCallany, who has appeared in diverse films such as Fight Club, Alien 3, Gangster Squad, Brian De Palma’s Casualties Of War, Michael Mann’s Blackhat, Below, Run All Night, Bullet To The Head, A Perfect Getaway, Vantage Point, Alpha Dog, Men Of Honour, Three Kings, The Peacemaker and more. He’s also appeared in TV shows including CSI, Law & Order, Burn Notice, Criminal Minds, Blue Bloods, and starred in Lights Out for FX, playing boxer Lights Leary. He’s one of my favourites and a great talent. Enjoy!
Nate: You gained some pretty high profile credits very early on in your career. Alien 3, Creepshow etc. How did you initially break into the industry? Any stories about the early days?
My parents were both Broadway actors so I grew up in the theater. I never really considered any other profession. They were very supportive and helped me get started, but you find out quickly that no matter who your parents are if you don’t have talent you won’t last long in show business. One funny story I remember from the early days is auditioning for my first film Creepshow 2. It was a horror film by Stephen King that was a sequel to a successful film that had starred Ed Harris and E.G. Marshall and a number of very fine actors I admired. I auditioned to play a college frat boy but the producer offered me the role of an American Indian. I said “I can’t play an Indian, I’m a white Irish guy who was born in New York.” He said “You have good bone structure, we’ll give you make-up and a wig. Burt Lancaster did it.” I replied “But I have blue eyes!” The producer took a beat, looked at the director, then looked back at me and said “We’ll make you a half-breed.” I’ve never forgotten that. “We’ll make you a half-breed.”
Holt: Theatre vs. Film: How do the two compare for you, does one hold a higher spot or do you enjoy both equally?
Holt: For me working on stage is a more satisfying experience. In the film world you can give a good performance but everything will come down to what they choose in the editing room. That’s the crucial stage in the process, and actors are usually excluded. I don’t think there’s one actor in the world who’s worked extensively the movie business and not had the experience of seeing a performance ruined in editing. It happens all the time and it’s very frustrating.
Nate: Blackhat: What was your experience working on a Michael Mann film ?
Holt: Blackhat is a very good example of what I’m talking about. I worked hard for Michael Mann and gave him a good performance but in the cut he cut almost all of my stuff out of the film. I was so disgusted I didn’t even attend the premiere. The film was a commercial and critical disaster but that didn’t change the way I felt.
Nate: Besides acting what other hobbies/interests do you have?
Holt: I enjoy boxing and martial arts. I love to read and to travel. I like jazz. I’ll be the president of the jury at the International Film Festival in Brussels, Belgium this year and I’m looking forward to that.
Nate: You mentioned before on twitter that Lights Leary is your favourite role that you’ve played. Can you elaborate? Is there any hopes of ever seeing a movie/continuation of it?
Holt: Lights Leary was a very well-written and complex character. It was unfortunate he didn’t get a second season because the people who watched the show seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. As far as a film version down the road I’d love todo it but it’s a long shot.
Nate:Criminal Minds: Your portrayal of a veteran suffering PTSD was harrowing and very convincing. Did you do any research, and what kind of prep did that involve for you before you filmed?
Holt: Yes I had the opportunity to speak to a number of vets about their experiences in Iraq. They were very open and I was grateful for their isights. I also got some hand-to-hand training for the action sequences from Amir Peretz, an expert in Krav Maga.
Nate: Who are some of your favourite films/actors/filmmakers?
Holt: As a boy growing up my favorite actors were Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum, and Steve McQueen, of course Marlon Brando, and I was a big fan of Gene Hackman. I remember being fascinated by A Clockwork Orange when I was very young. I watched it so many times I could repeat all the lines. I would have loved to work with Stanley Kubrick, but I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with great directors like David Fincher, Clint Eastwood, David O. Russell, Walter Hill, David Twohy and many others.
Nate: Do you have any upcoming projects you are excited for and want to mention?
Holt: Yes I’ll be appearing in several films next year including Shot Caller opposite Nikolaj Coster-Waldau for director Ric Roman Waugh, Sully with Tom Hanks for director Clint Eastwood, Jack Reacher 2 with Tom Cruise for Ed Zwick, and a big action film called Monster Trucks. I have high hopes for all of them.
I am pleased to bring you my recent chat with actor Richard Fancy, an immensely gifted man you may recognize as Mr. Lippmann from Seinfeld. He’s also appeared in shows like Mad Men, Ray Donovan, Carnivale, General Hospital, The Mentalist, Crossing Jordan, 3rd Rock From The Sun, Friends, Star Trek: Voyager, Numb3rs, Gilmore Girls and more. His film credits include Being John Malkovich, The Girl Next Door, Species, Oliver Stone’s Nixon, Hollywoodland, Shopgirl, Rob Zombie’s horror films Halloween and The Lords Of Salem, and more. Take a look:)
Nate: I don’t see much of your background or training on imdb. Care to share how you got into acting, what about the craft that appeals to you, and where you trained?
Richard: I knew I wanted to be an actor when I was fifteen. Like falling in love with someone, it’s really impossible to say “Why.” I began studying at fifteen (I was living in LA then) and, when I was twenty two, I moved to New York where I studied for a year with Uta Hagen. I spent a year studying in England, came back to New York and studied with Peter Kass, Uta Hagen (some more), George Morrison, John Lehne, Kristin Linklater, Lee Strasberg, Sharron Shayne and I recently became a professional observer with full working privileges at the Actors Studio here in Los Angeles.
Nate: You have a very mischievous aura to your work, a gleeful vibe that is very memorable (the moment in Ray Donovan when you realize they’re pulling a fast one on you is a perfect example of this, and one of my favourite character beats of your work) ). Is this quality something you consciously developed in your work, or just organically happened out of your personality?
Richard: Thank you for the compliment about my gleeful vibe. I think what you are seeing is just my response to creating a particular character; that response will unavoidably reflect my own personality and whatever glee that gives off:-)
Nate: The Lords Of Salem: what was it like for you working on a Rob Zombie film, especially such an intense one? Fun experience?
Richard: I loved working for him. The films are intense; the set is the most relaxed, supportive atmosphere you can imagine. Rob (I’m sure you heard this before) is a great guy.
Nate: Carnivle: One of my favourite shows of all time. Your role, although brief, was very memorable for me. Did you have a sense of the story when filming that, were you given a lot to go on in terms of that psychiatrist and who he was dealing with? Have you seen the show and do you enjoy it?
Richard: I had a clear idea when I got to the set the way this psychiatrist would walk, talk; I wanted a moustache and spectacles. He should start out in too much control. I wanted there to be a contrast between the very obsessively organized person he is when we first see him and the nut he becomes. Scott Winant who was the director on the first episode I did was wonderfully supportive and collaborative. A splendid director.
Nate: You have a tremendous gift for comedy, as can been seen with your work on Seinfeld. Do you enjoy working in lighthearted, funny stuff like that? How was working laying Mr. Lippmann for you?
Richard: Everything depends on the script and the people you are doing it with. I loved doing Seinfeld; it was unique. But I enjoyed working with Scott Winant on creating the character I played in Carnivale every bit as much. And, I see something funny in almost everything. I guess it’s built into the way I perceive reality.
Nate: If you had to pick a few roles that you’ve played that have been your favourites, what would you say?
Richard: The roles that have been my favorites have been in intimate theater in Los Angeles. . Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, Mr. Prince in Rocket to the Moon, Moe Axelrod in Awake and Sing and–now I’m doing Awake and Sing again, playing Uncle Morty. The intimate theater movement in Los Angeles has been producing extraordinary productions for thirty years now; Spring Awakening, a brilliant Los Angeles intimate theater production, just opened on Broadway to a huge rave in The NY Times. Intimate theater has unfolded here because LA is a place where there are a lot of excellent actors who work in film and TV and, itch to work onstage. If you play your cards right, you can see five brilliant intimate theater productions in this town for the price of a Broadway ticket.
Nate: Any upcoming projects, film or otherwise, you are excited for and would like to mention?
Richard: Right now I’m doing a play in Los Angeles. It’s Awake and Sing at the Odyssey Theatre (odysseytheater.com) and it is really worth seeing. It’s a great American play by Clifford Odets in an extraordinary production. It just got a critics choice in the Los Angeles Times.
I’m proud to present my recent interview with accomplished actor Keith Szarabajka, who has many wonderful appearance in films including The Dark Knight as Detective Stephens, Argo, Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World, We Were Soldiers, Staying Together, Billy Galvin, Missing and many more. He’s shown in up in television shows including Sons Of Anarchy, Prison Break, Charmed, 24, CSI, Archer, and more. A huge portion of his prolific career consists of an absolutely staggering amount of voice work, including video games and animated shows such as Halo 4, Bioshock, Fallout, Call Of Duty: Black Ops, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, L.A. Noire, Dead Space, Mass Effect, Darksiders, Metal Gear Solid, Batman: Arkham Knight, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Spider Man, Batman Beyond, and so many more. He is currently directing a play entitled Watching OJ the Ensemble Studio Theatre in Los Angeles. He’s a great guy with a storied career. Enjoy!
Nate: How did you get into acting, did you always know it was something you wanted to do, or did you stumble into it?
Keith: I was an altar boy for six years in grade school and high school, plus I was an officer in military school so I became accustomed to performing ritual in public. Then when I was 14, I discovered that being small left you out of a lot of school varsity sports, sports in which I participated vigorously prior to high school. I drifted into acting, as I had a knack for reading things well aloud. My first performance in public was at four when my mother made my cousin, Joyce, and I sing a duet of “I’ve Been Working on The Railroad “ in a talent night at the Bedford Park Community center near Chicago, Illinois. I’ve been hooked on applause and laughter ever since.
Nate: A Perfect World: Your character was extremely intense, and leaves a vivid impression despite only appearing in the first half. How was experience creating that character, and working with Clint Eastwood?
Keith: Terry was very intense. I just reached into my inner self and pulled out my rage demons. It was fun, but as I said, very intense. I loved working with Clint. He’s one of my favorite directors ever. No B.S. with Clint. Two, maybe three takes at most. He knew what he wanted and he knew how to get it (and when he got it). I hope that I someday get the chance to work with him again. Though probably not, because he’s not big on working with people with whom he worked previously, especially villains (and who aren’t stars like Morgan Freeman or Gene Hackman.)
Nate: At a certain point in your career, voice over work became a huge component of your work. How did you get into VO work? Do you enjoy it as much as in front of th camera in live action? How are they comparable?
Keith: It was a natural segue while I lived and worked in New York. People in New York come to the theater, including ad execs and other creatives, so it just happened naturally. Of course I had a wonderful agent in New York for VO, Carole Ingber, who still represents me there. I have a long time VO agent in L.A. too, Tom Lawless @ VOX, Inc. , through whom I do most of my video game work.The great thing about VO work is you don’t have to learn lines or wear makeup. But don’t get me wrong, I like doing both acting and VO work. I like movies because you get to go on location and travel. I often confused my theatrical agent and my travel agent.
Nate: You mentioned that you have a play in the works that you are directing, when we spoke online. Care to speak about that? And any projects coming up that you are excited for.
Keith: I just directed a new play at Ensemble Studio Theatre- L.A. Project, called WATCHING O.J. by David Mc Millan (where I am also interim co-artistic director). It’s a wonderful worms’ eye view of the O.J. verdict set in a small white-owned dry cleaners and its environs in a mixed urban neighborhood in L.A. on the day O.J. Simpson murder verdict came out, October 3, 1995. It was avery polarizing subject both in L.A. and the while US. It still is. We opened on the 20th anniversary of the verdict. (At this writing, last Saturday night. Still waiting on the reviews.)
Nate: You have a very distinct voice that stands out in the best possible way. It sure lends itself to voice over, and I can see why that has been a major factor in your work. Have you done voice work, as in theatre classes or training? Or did the video game/animation work just kind of happen?
Keith: As I said previously, it just kind of happened. I haven’t taken many VO classes. The one time I did, a promo and trailer class, I ceased working in that sector of the VO world. I guess it’s bad luck. I had the good fortune to live in the same building as the man, Isaiah Sheffer, who ran the Selected Shorts program at Symphony Space in NYC which aired on NPR here(our BBC Radio). We read short stories before live audiences at Symphony Space in NYC and at the Getty Center in L.A. That was in 1987, and I did Selected Shorts for as long as it ran until Isaiah died two years ago. The first time I did it, it was a cold February evening. I lived two blocks from Symphony Space, so after I did a sound check at 6pm there, I went back home and ate dinner. I expected very little from the show. When I returned for half hour at 730pm, people were lined up around the block to see it! I swear they were hanging from the rafters when we did the show! The atmosphere was electric. A lot of people in the industry in NYC came to see it and/or listened to Selected Shorts on the radio, so that’s a lot of the reason I made it into VO work.
Nate: The Dark Knight: you have an iconic exchange of dialogue with The Joker; how was your experience filming that with Heath Ledger, working with Chris Nolan, and portraying a Detective in the Gotham universe? Nolan has a reputation for seeking out actors. Did he come to you/your agent or were you submitted?
Keith: I was submitted by my agent and auditioned. I didn’t hear from them right away, as initially they were trying for another actor, but ended up not making a deal with him. I received a call on Tuesday six weeks or so later, asking if I had a valid passport. I said yes, and by that Friday i was on a plane to London for a month. Heath was a complete pleasure to work with. Very friendly , very hard-working, very creative. It’s a loss for the industry and the world that he’s gone. Chris Nolan is … a very intelligent, very creative man as well. I would love to work with him again.
Nate: Some of your work is in some iconic games and franchises. Have you ever been asked to attend any conventions, or comic con type things? Would you if asked?
Keith: Sean Harry of Star Fury brought me to various UK venues twelve different times between 2003 and 2013, mainly for my work as Holtz in Angel. I loved meeting the fans and doing talks, and I got to see a lot of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland on those trips. I have never been invited to a com for video games. I would go if invited, but I don’t attend these things on my own dime. I once went to Dusseldorf, Germany on a Star Trek convention invitation in 2013.
Nate: from film work, what else do you like to do in life? Hobbies, interests?
Keith: I love to cook. I used to parachute and rock climb, but have given those hobbies up for tamer interests, like mountain biking and scuba diving (Advanced Open Water certification). I also coached baseball and soccer for 16 years, but my sons are now aged out of my league.
Nate: Thanks so much for chatting, Keith!