The Coen Brother’s O Brother Where Art Thou is just a rush of pure originality, musical genius and inspired storytelling, situated outside the box of used conventions, and rooted deeply in a whimsical realm of absurd, charming characters on an epic odyssey across the American south during arguably the most eccentric time period, the 1930s Great Depression. It’s the Coen’s second best for me (it’s hard to top the Lebowski, dude), and a film that I watched so many time growing up that it’s almost now a piece of my soul. It’s loosely based on Homer’s The Odyssey. Three bumbling convicts escape from a dusty chain gang in a delightful opening romp set to Harry McClintock’s The Big Rock Candy Mountain. Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) is their silver tongued, troublemaking leader, on his way to reunite with his estranged wife (Holly Hunter, reliably stubborn and sassy) and little daughters. Along with him is short tempered Pete (Coen regular John Turturro in top form) and sweet, dimwitted Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson). Together they get in just about every kind of trouble that you can imagine three hapless convicts on the run in depression era south getting into. They briefly share paths with musician Tommy (Chris Thomas King), cross the radar of a boisterous bible salesman (John Goodman, stealing scenes as usual with his effortless, booming charm), become involved with duelling governor candidates Homer Stokes and Pappy O Daniels (Wayne Duvall and Charles Durning), and have run ins with sexy sirens led by Musetta Vander, the KKK, notorious mobster George Babyface Nelson (Michael Badalucco has to be seen to be believed as the lively, likely bi polar suffering wise guy) and more, all the while pursued by mysterious Sheriff Cooley (Daniel Von Bargen, RIP). It’s quite al lot of goings on for one film, but the Coens are masters of telling zany, eclectic stories that deviate into all sorts of unexpected subplots without ever derailing and losing us. This one flows along wondrously, a wild, funny and haunting fable that almost feels like a dust bowl Dante’s Inferno at times, albeit of much lighter subject matter. Roger Deakins spins poetry with his lens, capturing every chaff of wheat, every ray of southern sun and brown hued set design with painstaking expertise. What really holds it together though, is the absolute knockout soundtrack. There’s so many moments of now iconic musical storytelling that we feel we’re watching a strange bluegrass lullaby that just happens to take place in cinematic vision. The Coens have always known their music, but they transcend to another level of intuition here, gathering an incredibly evocative group of songs and artists together that stir the collective ancestral memory of historical Americana. Off the top of my head there’s You Are My Sunshine, Keep On The Sunny Side, I’ll Fly Away beautifully warbled by the Kossoy Sisters, Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Babe sung by the slinky sirens, In The Highways by the adorable Peasall sisters, Jimmie Rodgers’s In The Jailhouse Now, Lonesome Valley, Ralph Stanley’s two eerie pieces O Death, and Angel Band, also by the Peasall Gals, and the classic Down To The River To Pray, which sneaks up on you and leaves you in rapture from its inescapable grip. My favourite by far though is I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow, an endlessly catchy hobo tune of jangling melancholy and highway humour, sung by John Hartford but cheekily lip synced by Clooney and team, an original piece made up on the fly by the three characters that goes on to make them ridiculously famous under the pseudonym the ‘Soggy Bottom Boys’. It’s all an intoxicating wonder to take in, the period authentic screenplay and production a feast for the senses. The Coens seem to be adept at whatever they try; sly satire, period piece, stinging violence, dark humour, and even touching drama when they put their minds to it. This is a career high for them, a totally unique piece of art that demands multiple viewings and a spot in any avid movie collectors pantheon.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with actor Debra Christofferson, a super talented performer who has done work in films including Wild Wild West, Mouse Hunt, Anjelina Jolie’s The Changeling, White Oleander, My Favorite Martian, and more. She also has television appearance in shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Ally Mcbeal, American Horror Story, Crime Story, The X Files, NYPD Blue, CSI, Weeds, Bones, The Mentalist, NCIS, Southland and a legendary arc in HBO’s Carnivale as Lila. She was an absolute pleasure to speak with. Enjoy!
Nate: Since I don’t see much about your background or training on imdb, would you care to speak about that? Did you come from an artistic background, how did you know you wanted to pursue acting, where did you train etc?
Debra: I honestly don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an actor. There’s a video of me at about a year and a half old where I come tearing around a corner and look up at my dad, who is holding the camera. I glance down at the floor like I’m looking for my mark, adjust my position, then look back up at the camera and smile like, “Okay, I’m ready for my close up!” It’s pretty funny, and kind of prescient. I was always dressing up as a kid, making up scenarios and entertaining myself, or anyone who would listen. We didn’t have a theatre department in school, but I sang solos and did plays at church, and also performed for years, as did many townspeople, as an extra in the Black Hills Passion Play, a three hour pageant about the last week of Christ’s life. The professional actors in the production were always very kind and encouraging, and made a lasting impression on me.
I attended college on a vocal scholarship, and double majored in music and theatre. I moved to Minneapolis after graduation, and took acting classes and did several plays before moving to Los Angeles to pursue tv and film.
I’ve studied with several acting coaches over the years, but the biggest influence in my process has really been studying metaphysics. The basic idea of being in present moment at all times keeps one honest as a character, and influences the choices I make as an actor.
Nate: Upon first entering the industry and auditioning, where did you expect to go, character wise? Did you have any certain genre or character style you wanted to explore? Did you get to go down the avenues you hoped for? Did it surprise you the characters you did end up portraying?
Debra: Oh, I was so very naive! Training in theatre gave me no preparation whatsoever for working in the television and film industry. I had no idea of how to put together a resume, no clue what it was like to be on a set, no concept of the enormity of it all. I started doing student films to get some footage of myself on camera, so I had something to show prospective agents; I did some extra work to find out what it was like to be on the set of a big production; and I continued to do theatre to keep myself feeling productive. Ultimately, I got an agent, joined the unions, started getting auditions, and was on my way. Very, very slowly, but on my way, nevertheless.
As for a genre, I’ve said in previous interviews how influential the movie “Star Wars” was to me. I had always thought I’d end up in New York and on Broadway, but after seeing “Star Wars,” I just wanted to make magic like that. And now that JJ Abrams is restarting the franchise, I guess there’s still hope! A new hope. LOL!
Besides making scifi movie magic, I wanted to have a variety show like Carol Burnett. I love the idea of being part of a fabulously talented ensemble, playing a myriad of characters, singing and dancing, having wonderful guest stars, etc. That genre has been out of style for awhile, but one never knows when it might make a resurgence!
I am extremely pleased, and I guess somewhat surprised, at some of the characters I’ve been privileged to play. I’ve run the gamet from a normal blue collar worker (“T.J. Hooker,” among others) to a demon (“Good vs. Evil”), to a sexy bearded lady (“Carnivale”). I’ve worked with some of the nicest and most talented people in the Industry, and have had amazing opportunities.
Nate: What would be your dream role in film? Existing or an imaginary, yet to be written character.
Debra: As a kid I wanted to play Scarlett O’Hara. Or maybe it was to just be Vivian Leigh playing Scarlett O’Hara. Dream role – are you listening, JJ Abrams? I want to be a recurring character in “Star Wars!”
Nate: Carnivale- Lila makes such a huge impression on the show, and is somewhat underestimated by others, she’s kind of a cunning, wily girl. Did you enjoy working on that, and playing her? Are you a fan of the show as a whole? It’s such a tragedy it got cancelled so early.. Did you ever have any idea where it might have gone post season 2?
I adored playing Lila! The 1930’s is my favorite time period for music, architecture, clothing, etc., and it was wonderful being able to inhabit that world. I thought the show was amazing – stunning production values, beautifully shot, brilliantly written and performed. It was before its time, and it broke my heart when we were cancelled after only two seasons. Dan Knauf, the creator of “Carnivale,” had the entire series planned out, so there was lots more to see and experience. I recall that the third season was set a few years after season two, and involved Samson gathering the carnies back together as they had all gone their separate ways.
Nate: Mousehunt- pure, delightful physical comedy. The auction scene is like the peak of the tumultuous, chaotic events throughout the film. There was a lot going on, a lot of actors present, and a wonderful screwball comic vibe. How was your experience filming that sequence?
Debra: I made life-long friends on that shoot. We started out near Yosemite, shooting the flooding sequence. The first week there were several minor mishaps on the dangerously muddy terrain, but we all made it through and production held a “whew!” party for us at a local bowling alley. And I fractured my wrist bowling. Yeah, slipped in very slippery bowling shoes and fell throwing a ball down the alley. I had to be flown back to L.A. to get it set, and then we managed to cover the cast adequately for it not to show in the mud and water sequences. It worked out kind of miraculously, and by the time the auction scene was shot, my wrist had healed.
I remember having a blast shooting that sequence. It took several days, and between the mice and the fire, we were kept on our toes. And when you’re working with really fun, talented friends, it’s a joy!
The hardest thing to shoot was a scene involving the main actors floating and swimming through the floodwater. Production built a huge water tank on the Universal backlot near the “Psycho” house, and we were drilled on safety measures with the divers who were under water with air tanks if we needed them. Camilla Soeberg, who played my sister, and I got into the water and tried to dive under to get to the proper depth for the camera, but we kept floating to the top. Our wigs had been built on styrofoam bases, which wouldn’t let us stay under the water. It was hilarious, but an expensive mistake. Ultimately, the whole scene ended up on the cutting room floor.
Nate: Wild Wild West- The scene with you and Will Smith. One of the funniest bits. Were you two given lots of room for playing and improvisation, or was it mostly to script? Did you have fun with that project?
Debra: I loved working on “Wild Wild West.” I had originally read for the role of the bartender early in the movie when Kevin Kline was dressed in drag. They cast someone else, but liked me enough at the audition to still want me in the film, so asked me to dance with Will. That evolved into a couple of other scenes as well. My first day on set involved the dance. We rehearsed it twice and the timing just wasn’t working. I knew musically how to fix it, but was hesitant to say anything to this rapper guy, because I figured he knew rhythm, and I didn’t want to overstep. But when the third try didn’t work, I spoke up. Will nodded and said to Barry Sonnenfeld, the director, “Debra has an idea I think might work.” We tried it and it worked perfectly. After that, I was “in.” I was invited to sit with Barry, Will and the other leads in “video village,” which was surrounded by Will’s bodyguards (there were hundreds of extras on the set), and I kept getting more bits to do. One of my fondest memories is of when the set was cleared for rehearsal and I found myself alone with Barry, Will, Kevin Kline, Ted Levine, and one of my all-time favorites, Kenneth Branaugh. We spent a good 15 minutes working on a scene, and I suggested a line about being “back in the saddle” which ended up in the film. The best part of all, however, was every morning when I got to sit next to Ken in the make-up trailer and chat. It was heaven!
Nate: You made an appearance in the video game L.A. Noire. How was your experience with recording in a sound studio? I ask because in my work I absolutely love doing VO stuff, it’s such a rush, and so wildly different from on camera acting. Did you find this as well?
Debra: When I first moved to L.A. I did a lot of voiceover work for cartoons and dubbed several foreign films. L.A. Noire was a unique experience however, unlike anything I’d done before. The dressing up in the neoprine suit with little ping pong balls all over, working in a black box with yellow gridlines and imagining everything, sitting in a round white room being photographed by hundreds of cameras – crazy! The motion capture included the vocal performance, so there wasn’t separate voiceover work for that. However, when I went in to have my face photographed from a gazillion angles, they asked me to do a bunch of additional lines as various characters, so I got to use different voices and accents to play as many parts as possible.
Nate: Do you haven my upcoming projects, film or otherwise, that you are excited for and would like to speak about?
Debra: Yes, I do. I’m thrilled to be working on an exciting new project, but can’t talk about it! It seems to be de rigueur anymore that one is required to sign a non-disclosure agreement so nothing leaks out about high-profile projects. Thanks, Internet! LOL!
I can say that the powers that be and the lead actors on this particular project were at ComiCon last summer promoting it and that it will be out sometime in early 2016. So maybe check back with me next year!
Nate: I look forward to this mystery project! Keep up the awesome work Debra and thanks for chatting!
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.