Tag: TV

A Conversation With Actress Michelle Page

Michelle Page

Michelle Page has arrived.

An amazing young actress whose love of the art began at the early age of four following frequent family trips to the theater, Michelle has been honing and perfecting her craft ever since. And her hard work is paying off.

Having made her mark in commercials, television and film, she’s someone who’s performances you’re sure to remember.

Michelle’s already made appearances on shows like “CSI: New York”, “Castle” and “Cold Case” and starred alongside Sandra Bullock and Robert Picardo in films like “Miss Congeniality 2″ and “Sensored” respectively.

Michelle can also add “scream queen” to her resume as evidenced by one of her recent movies, the psychological-thriller “Rogue River” which will be released in the US on June 5th.

Michelle plays the role of Mara, a distraught girl whose father has recently passed away. After saying goodbye to her brother (Chris Coy) she embarks on a journey to the place where the family had spent many camping trips together to scatter her father’s remains.

In her moment of grief and reflection she encounters Jon (Bill Moseley), a seemingly nice-enough gentleman who offers her a ride back into town after her car is towed. Mara decides to take him up on the offer and it’s a decision she will forever regret.

“Rogue River”, directed by Jourdan McClure also features the talents of Lucinda Jenney (“Crazy/Beautiful”) and Michael Cudlitz (“Southland”).

In this interview with Michelle, we’ll learn all about this amazing actress and her journey to “Rogue River”. A role that not only required her to turn on the tears but also tested her physical toughness as well. We’ll also discuss what future projects she has planned as well as what she likes to do when she’s not acting.

goJimmygo (gJg): Michelle, it’s so great to speak with you!

Michelle Page (MP): You too!

gJg: “Rogue River” is going to be released in the US on June 5th is that correct?

MP: Yes, June 5th and I’m very excited about it. I’ve just recently watched it again while we were filming the DVD commentary and it was so good to see it again and remember everything about it.

gJg: Were you always a fan of the horror genre?

MP: Actually, I’m one of those people who gets scared really easily by them. But I love acting in them! <laughs>

gJg: What attracted you to the role of Mara in “Rogue River”?

MP: I had a supporting role in a film Kevin Haskin wrote and produced called “Sensored” with Robert Picardo. Kevin co-wrote “Rogue River” along with Ryan Finnerty and thought I’d be great in the role of Mara. He was right. Once I read the script I immediately called him up and said: “YES!”

gJg: What did you like about the script?

MP: I loved how unique and twisted the story was. The role was right up my alley. Of course, I was just thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Kevin and Jo Haskin (Producers) again. I was honored that they wanted me to do this project with them.

gJg: Did you know at the time that Bill (Moseley) was also going to be involved?

MP: I was actually the first person cast so I wasn’t aware. I passed the script along to Adam Targum and Zachery Ty Bryan who produced it and we got the ball rolling.

Shortly there-after Bill, Lucinda (Jenney) Michael (Cudlitz) and Chris (Coy) all came on board. We filmed for about a month in Oregon.

gJg: What was it like working with such amazing actors?

MP: It was fantastic. First, to be working alongside of Bill Moseley was fantastic. I learned so much from him. Lucinda Jenney (Lea) I remembered from “Crazy Beautiful” and absolutely loved her. She and Bill are a couple in real-life and having them together for this film just added a unique dynamic to the project.

Chris Coy (Andrew) is so talented. I just adore him. Then of course there was Michael as the cop. He is such a great actor. We really were blessed with a great cast and crew.

gJg: What was it like working with director Jourdan McClure?

MP: Jourdan was awesome! He’s just a natural. He knew exactly what he wanted and was just so laid back. “Rogue River” is actually Jourdan’s first feature-length film and there’s something so special about that. He was just so passionate and really wanted to make it the best movie it could be. He really put everything into it and it worked.

gJg: The cinematography in this movie is absolutely incredible. The Oregon scenery is breath-taking.

MP: It really is. Brian Hamm was our cinematographer. He also worked with me on “Sensored” as well and is such a genius. It looks creepy and beautiful at the same time.

gJg: One of reasons I loved you in this role was the way you could just turn on the tears. Can you do that on cue?

MP: <laughs> Yeah. It was all real. People always ask me if they’re fake tears. I’m known to be a good crier and in this role you sort of had to be. Mara was just so tortured. It called for it.

Michelle as Mara in "Rogue River"

gJg: Were there any funny stories from the set you can remember?

MP: Yes! We had these wild turkeys roaming around in the woods and every time I would scream and cry the turkeys would respond in unison. <laughs>

So, here you’d have a scene filled with all of this drama and tears and then all of a sudden you’d hear: “Gobble! Gobble! Gobble!” <laughs>

Then there was also the scene where I actually got hit in the head and got a concussion.

gJg: Really?

When we were filming the commentary for the DVD it was hard for me to watch it again. <laughs>.  My heart started racing and I suddenly remembered how badly it hurt.

gJg: What do you like most about the movie?

MP: I really love the scene where Bill and I meet down by the river. It sets the tone of the film really nicely. I love it because Bill’s just so charming and instantly connects with me. I thought it was shot beautifully.

gJg: What projects do you have coming up?

MP: I actually have another horror film project written by Todd Langseth coming into fruition called “Stingy Jack”. Bill is also attached to that project as well as Michael Berryman (“The Hills Have Eyes”). I’m really excited about it.

I also have another film I did called “The Party is Over” with Kathy Baker from “Picket Fences”. That one should be coming out soon.

gJg: What do you like to do when you’re not acting?

MP: I love traveling and photography. I’m also a bit of a book nerd. I really love escaping in books. I’ll read pretty much anything and everything. It’s even gotten to the point where I’ve told myself I have to stop going to Barnes and Noble <laughs>

gJg: Tell me about how you first got into acting.

MP: Growing up, my parents used to take my brother and me to the theater all the time. I think that’s what created this great love of the arts for me.

When I was four I went to one of the top children’s theaters in Fort Worth and sat in the front row to watch “Miracle on 34th Street”. I still remember at that moment telling my Mom that this was what I wanted to do with my life. She told I’d have to wait a few years and then she would put me into classes.

So a few years later I started taking classes at that very same theater and coincidentally, they decided to remake “Miracle on 34th Street” again only this time I was cast as the lead (Susan Walker) and got to perform for over 20,000 people!

gJg: Where did you go from there?

MP: I continued to work for years doing theater in the local area and then started getting into commercials. An agent eventually saw my work when I was 15 and I was off to LA.  I’ve been here ever since and it’s been absolutely great!

gJg: In addition to your movie roles you’ve actually done quite a bit television work as well including a recent episode of “CSI: New York”.

MP: Yes! It originally aired in October. That was a fantastic experience. And what’s interesting about that particular show is that Adam Targum, who produced “Rogue River” also wrote and produced that episode of “CSI: New York”.

I’ve worked with Adam three times now and just adore him. Gary Sinese is another amazing actor. I loved working with him too. He is the nicest guy.

gJg: What do you find are the differences between filming for a movie as opposed to television?

MP: TV works much faster. You’re on a tight schedule. A drama might take eight days of shooting. You have to get everything done and it moves very quickly.

For a film, you have the luxury of having a bit more time to work with the character and develop it. That’s the difference but I love to do both!


If her past work is any indication, the future looks extremely bright for Michelle Page!

Article first published as A Conversation With Actress Michelle Page on Technorati.

A Conversation With Actor Oliver Muirhead

Oliver Muirhead

Oliver Muirhead has a sense of familiarity about him. He’s a person you feel comfortable with when you see him on-screen. It’s almost as if you’ve known him for years and the truth of the matter is, you probably have.

Whether you’ve seen him in the dozens of movies and television shows he’s appeared in or perhaps best remember him as the face of Polaroid film or Tombstone pizza, whenever you see him it’s like seeing a good friend.

Oliver’s resume includes roles as a priest (“LOST”), a waiter (“Kenan and Kel”), and a British Colonel (“Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”).  He’s even appeared in the Academy Award winning film, “The Social Network”.

In one of his current roles he plays Bernard, the father of a young Anna (Felicity Jones) in the movie Like Crazy. A film which, among many other accolades, won two Sundance Film Festival awards and received plenty of its own Oscar buzz .

In my interview with Oliver we’ll discuss his role in “Like Crazy” along with some of his other interesting projects including his stint as a writer and his obsessive hobby as a baker.

gJg: Whenever I would see you on-screen, I’d often say to myself, “I know this man from somewhere.” But I couldn’t figure it out. Then one day it just dawned on me: “I KNOW – he’s the guy who wanted pepperoni and cheese on his Tombstone pizza!

OM: That’s correct. <Laughs>… Among many other advertisements.

gJg: What other commercials were you in?

OM: Well, for a long time I was the face of Polaroid One film. Of course, now film is pretty much obsolete but it was a very nice gig to have.

gJg: I wanted to talk to you a little bit about your role in “Like Crazy”.

OM: It’s a sweet movie and was great fun to do.

gJg: The thing I personally liked most about it (aside from the wonderful performances of course) was the ending.

OM: I think it ends on a very realistic note.

gJg: It’s very much true to life.

OM: My wife actually went to a screening shortly before the movie came out. The audience there was mostly older and their reaction to it was interesting. About 40% of the audience thought the relationship was going to fail and 60% felt it was going to succeed.

What’s really nice is that younger people seem to have resonated with it.

gJg: I think it’s because they can relate to it.

OM: I was asked to describe the movie while standing on the red carpet. It was one of those situations where they wanted an immediate sound bite and the one thing that immediately came to mind was this:

“Love destroyed by modern life.” That pretty much sums it up.

gJg: How did the role of Bernard come about for you?

OM: It was an audition process but one in which the audition itself was improvised.

gJg: I’ve actually read quite a bit about the use of improvisation being used during the filming of this movie.

OM: All of the scenes that I was in were improvised. Obviously, there were some scenes that we needed to use “official” dialogue to be realistic, like the scene with the immigration official and the marriage scene for example. But I’ve actually had a lot of experience with improvisation.

Oliver Muirhead and Alex Kingston

gJg: It came across as very realistic.

OM: It did. In fact Alex (Kingston) and I had a relationship within about three minutes. I’m not sure if it was because we were both mature English actors or the fact that we both grew up about three miles from each other. She grew up in Worcester Park and I grew up in Raynes Park.

gJg: Small world.

OM: Yeah, basically. We both felt a great connection with the roles and were able to establish who our characters were and what they did very quickly. We knew what class we were, we knew what she did, what I did, what music we had listened to. We just “got” it. We completely agreed and after that, it was simple.

gJg: Were there any interesting stories that you remember while filming the movie?

OM: Actually, yes. There’s this one scene where we’re supposed to be playing this board game and we all had sworn that we had played the game before. Of course, none of us had ever played it. We were just lying through our teeth. <laughs>

But Drake (Doremus, Director) said, “Oh good because that’s a game I grew up playing.” So he explained to us how to play the game and it’s one of those games where you have to invent a definition for a word or a phrase. There were quite a few different categories. Some were silly laws and some were silly words.

One of mine was a silly law category that said: “In the State of Tennessee, it is illegal…”

And so I wrote: “For more than forty virgins to be on a tramp steamer”… Which was not at all that funny.

Alex; however, found it so funny that she laughed hysterically for nearly two minutes which, of course made all of us weep with laughter as well. There was nothing Drake could do. He just had to run the film. <laughs>

So we had a lot of fun. The kids were great. I thought they were very well cast. Felicity (Jones) is very pretty and very sweet. It’s nice to have an on-screen daughter who’s as wonderful as my own daughter off-screen.

gJg: Are you more interested in those types of serious roles as opposed to ones in movies like Austin Powers? Which types of roles do you personally like to do more?

OM: I love acting so it doesn’t really bother me what I’m doing. I really enjoyed doing “Like Crazy” though because I could play a character that I knew so well. I’m not playing a spy for example. I’m not playing somebody who’s a long way away from who I am. Not to say that I’m a business man because that’s what Bernard was but I based it on someone I knew really well.

I also had the support of Alex so I didn’t have to worry. It wasn’t about the lines that we had to learn and then try to fit our characters into.

“Like Crazy” was sort of a Cinderella story. It was made for very little money. It went to Sundance. It won Sundance. Then got a lot of Oscar buzz.

Oliver Muirhead as Monsignor

gJg: Let’s talk a little bit about the diversity from some of your other roles. In “LOST” for example, you played a Cardinal. What was that experience like?

OM: It was a lovely experience. I got to play an Australian Cardinal and wound up flying over to Hawaii to film with two actors that I know and like very, very much.

gJg: That worked out well for you!

OM: When you go on location like that you’re pretty much on your own. It can be fun but after the first couple of days sometimes you find that there can be absolutely nothing to do. But these guys both happened to be in my scene and we just had a wonderful time.

gJg: Did you know about the premise of the show?

OM: Yes, everyone was aware of “LOST”. I actually have a lot of friends who did the show. There was this slightly surreal atmosphere with all of the weird back stories going on and no one knew exactly what was going on. I think that mystery really put an interesting quality into how people performed.

In most movies and TV shows you know the beginning, the middle and the end. There is no mystery. But in this case, you weren’t really quite sure what the ultimate outcome was going to be.

Children’s shows

gJg: You’ve had quite a bit of success with children’s shows as well.

OM: Yes. I was fortunate to actually be in a bunch of those types of movies and TV shows when my daughter was growing up. I was very lucky that I did a lot of material that she could watch. I was a mean sculptor in i-Carly and I was also in Kenan & Kel.

This next story might sound as though I’m making it up but I assure you it’s true:

Oliver on Kenan and Kel

It was my daughter’s birthday and we were getting ready to go out for the day when I was offered a job.

Now, that was very nice but unfortunately it also means that we were going to have to cancel the day. Except for the fact that it was for a part on Kenan and Kel, which was her absolute favorite show at the time.

So she came to the taping and they made a great fuss of her. It was marvelous.

On Writing


gJg: I was reading where you’ve written quite a few books too.

OM: Yes. I written under another name, George Mole, in what used to be called “humor”.

gJg: Tell me a bit more about it.

There was a revival of classic British humor books back in the early 80’s. Mostly books of drawings and written text. Myself and my illustrator Steven Appleby, who has become a very well-known cartoonist, worked on several books together.

We also wrote for Punch magazine which at the time was a bit like climbing Mount Everest. It was about as good as it gets. I like to think that writing for Punch was a bit like writing for the New Yorker. It sort of meant that you’ve “arrived” and it was very gratifying.

gJg: Do you still write?

From time to time I still write but I think the Internet has changed the whole dynamic. We’ll have to see where it goes but it was fun.

Bread:

gJg: What else do you like to do when you’re not acting or writing?

OM: I love baking bread. It’s became an obsessive hobby. Unlike my golf game, which I could tell you about and hear you’re snoring in the background. But if we’re sitting down together and I had just baked a loaf of bread you’re more inclined to say something like, “Ooh, can I have some?” <laughs>

People are much more prepared to hear me discuss the technique of baking bread. It’s a magical process. Taking a plant product and basically just adding water to it.

And thanks to a bunch of really smart people you can make brilliant bread at home. At least comparable to what’s marketed in stores. You can rival the best bread out there with just your home oven. It’s not rocket science.

What’s fascinating is that people are willing to talk about bread in a way that they wouldn’t talk about wine. Most people are intimidated by wine but they’ll talk to you freely about bread and tell you exactly what they like about it.

A friend of mine, who had just come back from Ireland once asked me if I could make him some Irish soda bread. I said, “Sure.”

I made it and afterwards he told me that it wasn’t quite right. So I asked him what wasn’t right about it and after he had told me a week or so later I made it for him again and this time he said, “THAT’S IT! That’s exactly it!”  <laughs>

I also know a French baker who has been working in the bakery since he was 14. He would make croissant and it tasted as if he had flown them in from Paris. It wasn’t something like, “Oh these are very good and here we are in America” but rather, “This.. is a French croissant.” He had manipulated the flour in such a way that it was absolutely perfect. I’ve been able to get very close to that and I can make it here in America.

So, it’s a fun hobby. It’s not very expensive and the best part of all, even your mistakes are pretty delicious. <laughs>

gJg: Is there anything else you like to do in your spare time?

OM: I love gardening. In fact, if there was a Gardening Olympics the English team would win. I have a lovely garden here in California where everything grows like a weed and even the weeds look nice. <laughs>

Current projects

gJg: Can you tell me a little bit about your role in “The Sum of 9: The Chosen Ones”?

OM: I get to play a mean headmaster. It’s in the horror genre which is a genre I haven’t done in quite a long time but was excited to do again. The thing I love about horror is that the fans are so unbelievably loyal.

gJg: They really are.

OM: It’s also one of the genres where you can get away with a lot of stuff. You’re allowed to do things because its “horror” that you wouldn’t get away with if it was a drama or a comedy. You have great deal of freedom. I’m looking forward to doing it.

gJg: What other projects do you have coming up?

OM: I’ve just finished playing the lead role in a movie called “Window of Opportunity” which is based on a play about corporate malfeasance. I play Roger Sizemore, the CEO, who strangles someone during a weekend of drinking and debauchery.

It’s a very dramatic movie shot in a very short period of time with a wonderful cast and crew including Phil Proctor who plays Carl Everett, my CFO financial guy.

gJg: Is there a time-table for its release?

OM: Right now it’s in post production so there’s no real-time frame for its release. John Densmore, the drummer from The Doors, is a producer of the film.  I think he’ll also be involved in the music for it as well.

gJg: You’ve really had quite a successful run of projects recently!

OM: The last few years have been great fun. Sometimes you might only do comedies or guest starring roles for a while but this has been a nice run with a little bit of everything. It’s been wonderful.

Article first published as A Conversation With Actor Oliver Muirhead on Technorati.

A Conversation With Dee Wallace

Dee Wallace is a survivor.

Over the course of her film career she’s been chased by cannibals, werewolves and rabid dogs, come face to face with a Reese’s Pieces loving alien and even the infamous serial killer Michael Meyers himself. Her life has been, shall we say, a bit hectic?

I, like many other kids that grew up in the 80’s first came to know Dee from her role as Mary, the loving matriarch of Elliott (Henry Thomas), Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and a young Drew Barrymore (as Gertie) in the movie, “E.T. : The Extra Terrestrial“.

“E.T.” is the story about a little alien who wants nothing more than to go home and recruits a bunch of kids to help him get there. It’s a classic film that celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and a movie that at the time of its release in 1982 was literally the biggest thing on the planet (yes, pun intended).

The next time Dee and I would cross paths was when she starred as Helen Brown in the 1986 movie “Critters“. OK, I’m fibbing a bit. Just please don’t tell my Mother that my cousin snuck me in to see the “R” rated “Cujo” and “The Howling“. Two more movies where Dee is absolutely awesome!

Which leads me to pose this question: Who needs Kevin Bacon and his six degrees? Within just ONE degree of Dee Wallace you have people who are absolute masters of their craft. People who’ve sold millions of books and movie tickets and have earned no less than seven Academy Awards. Men like Wes Craven, Blake Edwards, Joe Dante, Stephen King, Rob Zombie, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson to name just a few. (Oh, and just in case you’re wondering: Dee is two steps away from Kevin Bacon – Look it up!).

Dee has become an icon and fan favorite for her work in the horror genre. From her first role in the low budgeted, but now cult classic original “The Hills Have Eyes” right up to her current roles in films like “Exit Humanity” and “The Lords of Salem“. But her acting prowess is not limited to just one genre. Dee has also appeared on television shows like “The Office”, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Sons and Daughters“.

But what really may surprise you to learn is that not only is Dee an accomplished actress but she’s also a published author, radio host, public speaker and healer as well.

In fact, when not in front of the camera or interacting with her fans at various conventions, you can usually find Dee conducting monthly workshops to introduce people to the healing techniques that are outlined in her book, “Conscious Creation“. Often called “The Irreverent Healer,” Dee brings fun, energy and love to the healing journey.

Dee’s latest book, Bright Light: Spiritual Lessons From A Life in Acting is an autobiographical tale of her life and craft and how that journey can apply to everyone’s spiritual journey. The message that true success comes from following the heart’s lead and that the mind only creates form for the spirit’s creative manifestation.

Dee is also the mother of Gabrielle Stone, an amazing up and coming actress in her own right, and a daughter she shares with late husband Christopher Stone (who appeared with Dee in many of her roles in the 1980’s).

In this interview with Dee we’ll discuss some of her most memorable film roles, including “E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial“, “Cujo” and the cult classic “The Hills Have Eyes“. We’ll also talk about her upcoming movie projects including Rob Zombie’s “The Lords of Salem” and also her role as an author and healer.

The Hills Have Eyes:

goJimmygo (gJg): Dee, did you ever think that after 35 years people would still be talking about “The Hills Have Eyes“?

Dee Wallace (DW): Oh, hell no!  I thought it was a “This is a low-budget film I’m lucky to get at the beginning of my career” gig!  Just shows you how powerful the fans are!

gJg: How did the role of Lynne Wood come about for you?

DW: I auditioned.  That is, truly, about all I remember!

gJg: Do you have any interesting/funny stories from the set?

DW: I remember we all stayed in the same motor home!  Not fun when the toilet was full! It was also freezing at night (we were in the desert).

I actually spent a lot of time in the car and almost turned the film down because of the tarantula scene. Yuck!

gJg: Really?

DW: Yeah, I’m definitely not a fan. But everyone kept saying things like “Oh, they won’t hurt you!” Then later I came to find out that’s not always true.

If someone told me I’d have to be covered in roaches or snakes or something like that I wouldn’t be in the movie. Give me a fake werewolf or a rabid dog any day. <laughs>

gJg: How did you meet your husband, Christopher Stone? Was it during “The Howling”?

DW: Chris and I met during (shhh…don’t tell anyone) an episode of CHiPs.  We both came in as a favor to the director. Chris took me out that Saturday and the rest, as they say, is history.

gJg:  That scene where you are changing at the very end of “The Howling” is one of my all-time favorite horror scenes!

DW: My Bambi werewolf!  Yes, that scene was added while I was shooting “Cujo”!  I just asked if she could be more vulnerable and that’s what Rob (Bottin) created!  Love it!

 

E.T. : The Extra-Terrestrial

gJg: How did your role in E.T. come about?

DW: Steven had auditioned me for Used Cars!  Fortunately, I didn’t get it and when E.T. came along, he offered me the part.

gJg: Was the premise and title of the movie kept secret from you?

DW: No, not from the actors, but very guarded publicly.  The working title was “A Boy’s Life.”  I did have to read the script behind closed doors at the studio!

gJg: What was your experience like working with Steven Spielberg and did you ever expect the movie to become the phenomenon that it did?

DW: Steven is a master of his craft.  His vision is almost effortless.  I knew we had something special, but as Blake Edwards said to me after “10” – ‘Honey, if we knew what made a hit, we’d have a lot more of them!’

Cujo:

gJg: How demanding was that role for you to play? I read where you were locked up shooting in the Pinto for days shooting.

DW: Well, that’s a bit dramatic.  We actually shot in the car for weeks – it was half of the movie! It was also the most demanding thing – physically & emotionally – that I’ve ever done.

gJg: How many St. Bernards were actually used in the movie?

DW: There were 5 dogs.  All incredibly trained by Karl Miller.  And they did all but about 3 shots in the film.

gJg: Are there certain things that draw you to these types of roles? Howling, Hills, Halloween, Cujo?

DW: I don’t know. I love drama. I love to play an arc.  I’m a good screamer and people want to save me. I guess you would say it’s a natural fit.

Halloween:

gJg: How did you get involved with the remake of Halloween?

DW: Rob Zombie actually offered me the part. It was refreshing to be acknowledged for the talent and body of work with an offer. Just like the old days.

gJg: What was the experience like working with Rob in the remake?

DW: I adore Rob.  Sooo creative. A creative genius, really.  And yet he gives everyone so much room to be their genius creatively.  He’s fun; he’s a visionary, and just a really nice guy.

Upcoming Movies:

gJg: I had spoken to Bill Moseley and he mentioned that you are involved in a new movie with him called “Exit Humanity“. Can you tell me a little about that movie and your role?

DW: In this movie I play a witch who’s trying to help society. And this is not your typical zombie movie. These young filmmakers did an amazing job with this picture! Innovative, beautifully shot with a great script. I consider it a true genre film.  An art film. I would work with them again in a heartbeat!

gJg: “The Lords of Salem” is the next Rob Zombie project. What is your role and what is the status of the film?

DW: The film is being edited as we speak.  I am a perky blonde who is a self-help guru.  He wrote it for me. Be in for some big surprises.  It’s AWEsome.

gJg: Any other current projects you’d like to discuss?

DW: I’ve been doing a lot of TV. Just finished a nice role in a film called Solar Flight. I also have two other films being edited.

gJg: In your career – what film would you say was the hardest to make? Which one was the most fun?

DW: “Cujo” was definitely the hardest, and the film I am proudest of as far as my work goes.  “The Howling” had to be the most fun; I was engaged to Chris and being directed by Joe Dante.  It doesn’t get any more fun that!

Healer and Author:

gJg: You do a lot of public speaking and self-help now. Please tell me a little about how you got involved with that and what you’re doing now!

DW: I am a clairaudient healer. My specialty is being able to discern the blocks within a person’s energy that are prohibiting them from being free, happy, and powerful.  I have two call-in shows weekly and do private sessions with clients worldwide.  It all happened after the death of my husband, Chris Stone.  I asked for a way to heal ourselves.

gJg: Can you tell me a little bit about your latest book: Bright Light: Spiritual Lessons From A Life in Acting?

DW: It’s a semi-autobiography of my life in movies. What I went through. Who I worked with. What I’ve learned.

If you take every challenge everyone has in their life and multiply it in severity you get what it’s like in the life of an actor.

In a regular life you might have nine or ten big changes in a lifetime (like changes in a work environment for example). Where as in an actor’s life there might be nine or ten of those in a day.

 

I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the course of my career and this book is about following the process in a dramatic, consistent way.

The best quote I’ve heard from the people who’ve read it is this one:

“I bought the book to read about your life… and I wound  up reading about my own”.

Article first published as A Conversation With Dee Wallace on Technorati.

A Conversation With Suze Lanier-Bramlett

Suze Lanier-Bramlett has a story to tell.

A story that has taken her on a journey that’s included time in the theater, television, movies, music and photography.

Chances are, if you’ve been exposed to any of these mediums you’ve most likely encountered her and may not have even known it.

Horror fans know her as Brenda Carter from the first “The Hills Have Eyes” movie. The cult classic that made her the original “Scream Queen“.

Television enthusiasts might remember her for a number of roles she’s played over the years including a stint as John Travolta’s girlfriend on “Welcome Back Kotter”.

Musicians know her for her soulful voice and being the wife of Delaney Bramlett, one of the greatest songwriters ever.

But dig a little deeper and you really get to know what makes this amazing woman tick.

Suze’s latest album, “Swamp Cabaret” is the story of her life thus far. Its also a reflection of her own one woman show in sequence. From her life as a “B Movie Star” to the day she almost made it to Woodstock. With enough blues and cabaret mixed in to appeal to a variety of music lovers.

In my interview with Suze, we’ll discuss “Swamp Cabaret”, her loving relationship and songwriting partnership with Delaney Bramlett, her love of photography and of course “The Hills Have Eyes”. She even dishes on her latest movie project: “Cut!” where she has the challenge of playing herself.

goJimmygo (gJg): It is such a pleasure to speak with you! How are you and how’s your new CD doing?

Suze Lanier-Bramlett (SLB): I’m doing really good. You know, we’re getting some very nice airplay both here and in Europe. The European enthusiasm is surprising and exciting.

gJg: When I first wanted to speak with you it was about the 35th Anniversary of “The Hills Have Eyes”.  Then I started digging a little deeper and found out that in addition to your TV, film and music careers, you’re also a successful photographer too. Tell me a little bit about your photography.

SLB: I’ve always kind of been led through the universe in a spiritual sort of way and photography was actually a blessing. My acting career had been slowing down a bit in the 80’s and I had a son to raise. So I started thinking about other things I could do besides act because I hadn’t really done anything else since I was fifteen years old.

One night I fell asleep and actually dreamt that I was a photographer. That dream reminded me of when I was a little girl and the day my Dad had bought me a Brownie camera. I would go around and shoot Girl Scout meetings, birthday parties and friends. I suddenly remembered how much I loved taking pictures.

Following the dream, the very next day I went out and bought myself a camera. I read the manual, invited a few actor friends over and started shooting. Believe it or not within about three weeks I started making a living as a photographer. It happened that fast.

gJg: It sounds like you had the knack for it right from the start.

SLB: The real trick about photography is understanding light. I think my time spent being in the theater helped me with that. I’ve also always enjoyed looking at fashion magazines. I think because of those two things I had been subconsciously studying light for years.

gJg: Amazing that it all happened for you because of a dream.

SLB: Yeah, and the thing about photography for me is that it’s a fun career. It’s like anything else though, you have to work at it. You have to promote. I think that’s the hardest part of being an artist. There are so many people I know who are fabulous in their art but they can’t make a living of it because they don’t know how to promote themselves. How you get it out there and get people to acknowledge it. That’s the hard part, whether it’s music, acting, painting, etc.

gJg: It’s not an easy road that’s for sure.

SLB: Everyone wants to be an artist, a singer, a rock star, an actor but they have no idea how challenging and difficult it can be. It looks so easy and so glamorous but it’s not. There’s an element of luck involved too. Being in the right place at the right time and finding the right people who can help you take it to the next level.

Songwriting

gJg: When did you first start writing songs?

SLB: The first song I ever wrote was when I was about 10 years old. I had a crush on a boy named Mike and I wrote a song about him called “I Like Mike”. <laughs>

You know, even though it was awful it still gave me the feeling of a creative rush and ever since then I’ve dabbled in songwriting. I found out later that my love for it went deeper than just “dabbling”.

My mother passed away last April and as I was going through some of her things I found poems that she had written all through the years that I never knew about. Her father was also a poet and was actually related to Tennessee Williams.

gJg: Really? Tennessee Williams?

SLB: My grandfather was Thomas Lanier and Tennessee Williams’ birth name was “Thomas Lanier Williams”; cousins of some kind.  I got to work with Tennessee. He was so gifted and intense.

gJg: So it runs in the family!

SLB: Yes it does. But the music didn’t really come full circle for me until I met Delaney in 1977.  He was always in the recording studio and I occasionally would toss out a lyric or two. That’s the way it started and then we eventually began working on songs together.

Later, in the mid-80’s, I formed my own band and performed regularly at The Palomino Club in LA and a bar called The Rose Tattoo, which at the time was the second most popular cabaret bar in the US. Both of those places are closed now. I had a great West Hollywood following.

Around 1991 I decided to stop performing in clubs. It’s hard keeping a band together and I was doing well as a photographer. So I put music on the back burner.

gJg: How did the “Swamp Cabaret” project come about?

SLB: After being away from music for years, Delaney and I started co-writing again. We had been working on some songs for his album.

One night I went to a salon performance party at a friend’s house who was preparing to do a cabaret show in Hollywood.

Her director recognized me from the old days and asked if I’d be interested in performing again. It was truly flattering but I politely explained to him that I thought “that ship had sailed”.  He gave me his card anyway and said: “Lets have lunch.”

I went home and told Delaney about it and, surprisingly, he said he thought I should do it. In fact, he offered to help with the music. With his encouragement, I decided to give it a go.

We had a couple of meetings and rehearsals; however, it was halted when Delaney had a gall bladder surgery and developed complications.

Over the next seven months I never left his side. He passed at the end of 2008.  After he was gone I was devastated and had no motivation to do much of anything. Then one day the director called me and said: “Come on, let’s put your show up!”

gJg: How did it go?

SLB: I was really nervous to be on stage singing again. When Delaney had been involved, he had asked me to include the song “Superstar”.  I kept it in for him.  It was tough getting through that first show. 

It’s actually still a challenge sometimes to face the day without him here. I stay busy and some of his band members play with me, so we keep his memory alive by working and writing together.

gJg: Just listening to the CD you seem so comfortable. It’s almost natural.

SLB: Thank you. I love being in the studio. I just finished recording a song that Delaney and I wrote that was never released called “Angel In The Night”. We wrote the song on Dec 8, 1980, the night John Lennon was shot. It’s a love song and was written initially with Yoko in mind.

gJg: I love your version of “Superstar” on the CD.  I actually grew up listening to The Carpenters version but the song is still one of my all time favorites. The chords and melody are just so beautiful.

SLB: I love it too. Delaney was one of the co-writers of that song. He was such an amazing songwriter. For me to have fallen in love with him and then have him ask me to help him write – you can’t go to school for that. Being married to such a great songwriter and man was a huge gift in my life.

gJg: Another one of my favorite songs on the album is “On The Way To Woodstock”.  It’s so infectious. How true is that song?

SLB: The whole thing is actually true. I was living on The Lower East Side of New York and was very pregnant at the time.

gJg: What encouraged you to put that story into a song?

SLB: ABC news did a documentary on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock in 2009 and they had asked me if they could include a segment about my own Woodstock experience. After I saw it I decided that story could make a cool song. So I sat down at the piano and I whipped it out in about a day.

gJg: Are all of your songs written that easily?

SLB: Not always. Sometimes I’ll get an idea for a song but I’ll need to let it stew.  I might only just have a title or a rough idea about what I want to say but then I’ll sort of just forget about it and not work on it for a while. Then one day I’ll just sit down again and the song will just come out.

gJg: You can’t rush the process.

SLB: You’re right. I, personally don’t like to force the process of songwriting. There’s a formula to it but I prefer to write when the inspiration hits me.

gJg: So a lot of your songs are about personal experiences but you also tend to write from someone else’s perspective as well?

SLB: I do. Delaney would do that too. As a matter of fact, Delaney would often laugh about how all of his wives or ex girlfriends would always think he was writing a song about them personally. He’d say: “Look, I’m not always writing about the person that I’m with. I might be writing about something that I had heard on the news or I’ll write a song from someone else’s point of view.” I feel the same way.

gJg: I love the vibe of this album. Especially with the last track, “Leave Your Hat On”.

SLB: I’ve always loved Randy Newman’s songwriting. “Leave Your Hat On” is one of my favorite songs so I put it on my CD.  I often close my show with that song.

The Hills Have Eyes (35th anniversary):

gJg; You know I’ve got to ask you about “The Hills” don’t you? <laughs>

SLB: You absolutely do! <laughs>

gJg: Do you remember when they crowned Jamie Lee Curtis the “Scream Queen” because of the movie “Halloween”? Well, I did a little research and it looks like you beat her to that title by at least a year.

SLB: I did?

gJg: If you look it up you’ll see. “Hills” came out in 1977 and that’s when you were screaming. “Halloween” didn’t come out until 1978.

SLB: So I was the first screamer?

gJg: You were the first. You have the title and should be credited with that.

SLB: That’s great. <laughs>

gJg: When you think about “The Hills Have Eyes” what’s the first thought that comes into your mind?

SLB: You know how sometimes you’ll do one thing in your life and it changes your whole life forever? That was what that movie did for me.

gJg: Really?

SLB: Yes. You see my agent didn’t want me to do it. He thought it was horrible. But I went against his wishes and did it anyway because I liked the script and I like Wes Craven. It was through that movie that I met Delaney. He had seen it at a drive-in the night before we met.

This last January, I worked on a new movie called “Cut!” because of David Rountree, the director, a fan of “The Hills Have Eyes”. In 2009 I also did another project with Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) called “Area 51”, another film of the same genre.

Some nice things have come out of me being in “The Hills Have Eyes”. Not bad for a low budget project that your agent doesn’t want you to do in the first place. I’m glad I followed my intuition on that one.

gJg: Do you have any interesting stories from being on the set?

SLB: Well, I’m not sure if I’ve ever told this story before. I remember at one point everyone was a bit on edge about filming the rape scene. Rape scenes weren’t common place back then.

Michael Berryman’s character (Pluto) was going to be the one who raped me first and Michael was a bit insecure about how I would feel about being raped by him.

I was sensing his discomfort so I said to him: “Look, when Wes calls action, let’s just be making out passionately and I’ll act like I’m really enjoying it.”

On “ACTION” they pulled back the curtain and instead of the rape, Michael and I were passionately making out like it was a love scene. It got a great laugh and broke the ice for everyone.

gJg: How was it filming the movie?

SLB: It was fun but it was a hard shoot. It was hot in the daytime and cold at night. We were stuck out in the desert but everyone got along well. It was very low-budget film and probably had more meaning for some of us then others.

I don’t consider “The Hills Have Eyes” a great work of art but its a horror classic and I’m very glad that I did it. It was important enough to make a sequel and a remake.

gJg: I agree.

SLB: Why were you such a big fan?

gJg: I was really big into the horror genre growing up. Just being scared but “safe” in my theater seat. That’s what turned me on to those types of movies.

SLB:  Not me. I don’t like to watch scary films.  It’s cool to act in the horror genre though.

gJg: Do you plan on doing any east coast dates with your band? I’d love to see you in New York.

SLB: That would be great but it’s quite expensive to take a band out. I could possible make it work playing to tracks but tracks aren’t the same as having a band on stage. Besides singing the songs, I do some stand up comedy in the show. My last gig in Hollywood I had video in the show which adds another dimension to it all. 

I want to go to New York sometime in the Spring. I want to catch up on the shows and see some friends. I’ll check out some clubs while I’m there but my focus right now is to stay in the studio until I finish a new batch of songs I’ve written and to release the next CD.

The Changes in the Musical Dynamic:

gJg: What are your thoughts on the way the music industry is changing?

SLB: I think most artists are having financial problems because of all the free downloads, resulting in fewer CD sales. I’ve even read somewhere that the physical product of a CD will probably not be in existence in a few years.

There will soon be nothing that you can hold in your hand and actually look at except your iPhone of iPad.

One of the things that I treasured the most about buying a new album was the artwork.

gJg: I could not agree more. I feel the same way. I’m really going to miss that.

SLB: All of my musician friends are very perplexed about how they’re going to manifest this new business model into income. All of the music that we’re putting out there does not guarantee that people are going to buy it. Especially if they can listen to it for free. Everybody’s trying to place songs in film or on television.

The only way an artist can make money these days is to tour but being on the road night after night is exhausting. Everybody’s trying to figure it out; how to do your art and make a living from it.

gJg: It’s hard to imagine there being any upside to this new model.

SLB: There is one thing about it that’s kind of cool. You’re not dependent on a major label to put a record out anymore. You can do it whenever and however you. The artist can have full control. That part of it is extremely cool.

It’s the same thing with movies. You can do them inexpensively if you really want to. For about $1500 you can use better equipment than Wes Craven did for “The Hills Have Eyes”. <laughs>. You can go buy a camera with a cool lens and have a better quality than he could get back in the late 70’s.

Cut! Movie:

gJg: Let’s talk about your latest movie project. Is it true that you play yourself in this one?

SLB: Yes.

gJg: How did this role come about?

SLB: It’s not a huge role and it was kind of an after thought. They already had most of the movie filmed and I think they wanted a subplot to go along with it. My manager represents David Rountree as well as Gabrielle Stone (Dee Wallace’s real-life daughter). She pitched the idea of using Gabrielle and me. So I eneded up playing the grown up horror film director: Susan Lanier,  former star of “The Hills Have Eyes” with Gabrielle playing my leading lady in the film.

Because we had such a great time on the set, I invited them out to my “Swamp Cabaret” shows and subsequently, they decided to include a scene from the bar into the plot.

The star of the movie is David Banks and he is a very talented actor. He’s also one of the writers.

gJg: This sounds like a very interesting story!

SLB: I’ve seen some of the footage and I think it’s going to be great. I’m grateful to still be working in film. The parts are not that plentiful for more “mature” actors these days.

gJg: Have you ever thought about writing a book about your life?

SLB: Yes I have. Someday I’d like to do that.

gJg: You certainly do! You have a lot to say.

SLB: It’s been a journey that’s for sure. Fame,  fortune and stardom was never the goal for me.  I just love doing the work.  Because a hundred years from now, will any of it really matter? The important thing is to enjoy the process; the ride.

Because… in the end, we’re all just stardust anyway.

For More Information on Suze Lanier-Bramlett: Click Here

Article first published as Swamp Cabaret: A Conversation with Suze Lanier-Bramlett on Technorati.

New York Groove (Part 3): The Tattoo Pre-Production

Butterflies began to fill my stomach as I ascended the elevator to the eleventh floor of the make shift studio for NY Ink. The genesis of my excitement had been building since my arrival in New York and subsequent trip downtown via the subway line, but now the reality of the whole event was starting to take shape. It was only a matter of hours now before I’d be getting tattooed in front of the camera by Megan Massacre.

As the elevator floor indicator lights reached higher and higher numbers I imagined the door opening and me being greeted by flashing cameras and paparazzi. Perhaps the catering service asking me what my lunch requirements would be or maybe some early autograph seekers.

I could picture myself wearing Ray Bans and giving half-hearted smiles to my adoring public. “Are you THE James Wood?”, one beautiful blonde female would say. “The one telling his rock and roll story and getting a killer tattoo on NY Ink?”. I’d slowly remove the Ray Bans revealing my deep blue eyes and reply, “Why YES…that’s ME!”

Reality struck fast and my celebrity euphoria got sucked out of the room like a vacuum when the elevator door opened to reveal nothing but an empty vestibule. Only a few chirping crickets would have made the moment more complete.

A simple table with a telephone sat in between two leather chairs against the wall and I chuckled a bit thinking that there would be no h’orderves or goody bag containing high-end skin-care products for me. Sadly, the only thing that rested upon the table was a single clip board containing a sign-in sheet along with a note informing clients for “NY Ink” to dial an extension upon arrival to alert the associate producer.

After signing the sheet and leaving a message with the operator as to my arrival I settled down on the nice comfy chair and noticed that a few more clients were already starting to arrive. More people to tell their story and get tattoos.

During the next few hours I met two really cool people, each with multiple tattoos already and having their own stories to tell as to why they had chosen a particular piece for the show.

Now me, being a virgin of skin-art, eagerly listened to their tales of family, hard luck, and the needle and ink process. The butterflies that I had originally felt quickly subsided as I now found myself more concerned what the threshold of pain would be like for me when needle met skin.

“It feels like an annoying scrape”, one would say. “Nah, it’s more like a stab”, said the other. Looking back, it was hard to tell if they were being honest or just trying to scare me.

Me and Jessica Gahring

It wasn’t long before the associate producer sat us all down and explained the details of what was going to happen during the course of the day.

She would escort us over to the Wooster Street Social Club and upon our arrival we would each do a pre-interview.

Afterwards, crews would begin the process of filming us getting tattooed and telling our stories. The entire process was going to be an all day affair and there would include a lot of waiting.

Bring it on.

“Is everyone ready?” she asked and the three of us all quickly rose in unison. “Onward to Wooster Street”.

As we made our way down the elevator and out onto 6th Avenue the excitement of memorializing everything music has meant to me really started to build. Deep inside though I couldn’t stop thinking about the needle.

If anything, there definitely was no turning back now.

Next: Megan Massacre

A Conversation With Erika Eleniak

It’s been thirty years since E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial changed the way Americans looked at Reese’s Pieces. In 1982 you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing the little guy with the lit-up finger munching on those chocolate and peanut butter candies.

E.T. was everywhere. From Pizza Hut glasses to Atari video games and even lunch boxes. His stickers adorned everyone’s beloved Trapper Keeper (mine included) and I still recall all of the kids in 7th grade talking about him for months.

But even thirty years after its release the one thing I remember most about the movie, aside from wanting one of those cool flying bicycles, is the scene where Henry Thomas’ character Elliott saves the frogs in his science class from certain death and kisses his female classmate.

Quite fittingly, she was credited as the “Pretty Girl” in the movie and it was one of those moments during my own adolescence where I would have given anything to be able to change places with some other guy. That other guy being Henry Thomas.

E.T. : The Extra-Terrestrial introduced the movie world to Erika Eleniak. Since then, she’s been a Playboy Playmate, a Baywatch babe and a Beverly Hillbilly just to name a few of her accomplishments.

She’s fought off terrorists in “Under Siege” and even hunted vampires in “Dracula 3000: Infinite Darkness”. Most recently, she’s appeared in episodes of “Desperate Housewives” and “CSI: Miami”.

In this interview, Erika talks about her time working on “E.T. :The Extra-Terrestrial“,  “Baywatch” and “Under Siege“. She also discusses her newest movie, “Meant To Be” which deals with a very controversial subject.

goJimmygo (gJg):  When did you first start acting and how did your role in E.T. come about?

Erika Eleniak (EE):  I first started acting when I was ten-years old. My earliest appearances included a play, some commercials and on a TV show.

Although E.T. was not my first acting role it was my first film role. I was twelve-years old and in the 7th Grade performing in an audition showcase when I was spotted by a talent scout for Steven Spielberg, who was seated in the audience.

I later went to meet with Mr. Spielberg and he asked me if I wanted to be in his movie.

I said, “Yes.” <laughs>

gJg: What was the experience like working with Steven Spielberg?

EE: Working with Steven was wonderful. He was very playful with all of the kids and caring as well.

I remember when it was time for our on-screen kiss. He cleared the set and had private conversations with both Henry Thomas (Elliott) and myself to reassure us that it would be handled with care.

gJg: Did you ever expect the movie to become the phenomenon that it did?

EE: When I was cast for E.T. great care was taken with everyone to make sure that “E.T.” stayed a secret until it was time for its release. This was done to avoid the possibility of the film being ripped off before it’s release.

I was told that the name of the film was “A Boys Life” and that it was going to be about a boy and an alien. That’s all. I had no idea what to expect.

I still remember sitting with my Mom, Grandma and Sister in the Hollywood Dome Theater for the premiere and just being wide-eyed the whole time!

gJg: Are there any funny stories from being on the set that you’d like to share?

EE: I think the funniest memory I have is that Henry had told everyone that he was in a “Girl Hater’s Club”. 

The other thing was that he was 10 years old and I was 12 so we were both pretty freaked out about having to do that kiss!

gJg: Did being part of such a big movie bring lots of offers for future films?

EE: I was very fortunate in that my Mom was the complete opposite of what a typical “stage mother” is. She made sure that I had a normal childhood and stayed in school. I had worked a couple of jobs a year on average but as far as getting roles based on E.T: there were none that I am aware of.

gJg: A few years later you were cast as Shauni McClain on “Baywatch”.

EE: Yes, I was cast in Baywatch right out of high school. I was 18 or 19 years old and one of the original cast members of the show when it was first aired on NBC.

This was the most conservative network at the time by the way.

gJg: I loved your role as Jordan Tate in “Under Siege”. Was there a reason why you didn’t appear in the sequel?

EE: “Under Siege” was a great film and a fantastic project to be a part of. The role of Jordan Tate was pure FUN to play. I am often asked why I was not cast in the sequel.

From what I understand, they wanted to make a completely different theme and therefore a new cast.

gJg: What was it like working with Tommy Lee Jones in that movie?

EE: Working with Tommy Lee Jones was an honor for me. He is one of my favorite actors of all time. Watching him work with Gary Busey was also inspiring. They wrote, re-wrote, created, improvised. It was amazing to watch.

gJg: Have you made any lasting relationships with any of the cast from those movies?

EE: I have run into various actors I’ve worked with over the years and that is always cool but it’s very difficult to maintain relationships with us gypsies sometimes! We move around from town to town, working and traveling.

I’m kidding though, we are not gypsies. We all just have our own very different and busy lives.

Erika on CSI:Miami

gJg: What is the biggest question fans ask you the most?

EE: Most fans ask me what it was like working on Baywatch or what it was like to work with certain actors.

That is the biggest question really: “What was it like working with…..”

gJg: And I’ve asked a few of those too…. <laughs>

gJg: Out of all of the people you’ve worked with over the course of your career thus far, who would you say is the one person you’ve enjoyed working with the most and why?

EE: I have been fortunate in my career to meet and work with many fascinating and interesting people but, if I have to choose a favorite, it would have to be Cloris Leachman. She is a wild, wonderful woman! So full of Joy-for-Life and her spirit is as contagious as her laughter. (Ms. Leachman co-starred with Erika in The Beverly Hillbillies)

gJg:  Finally, what can you tell me about your new film “Meant To Be”?

EE: My new film, “Meant To Be” looks at the very controversial topic of abortion and what happens to those involved in the process. It is a very interesting point of view of a “possibility” of what the consequences of having one “may be”.

I play a woman who previously had an abortion and later on goes on to have a child. After her child goes off to college she finds herself “mentoring” a young girl in the very same situation that she was faced with many years ago.

There’s also a young man in this story in search of his birth mother as well which takes on a very interesting twist.

For more information on Erika check out the links below:

Erika Eleniak’s Official Website * Erika’s Latest Show-Reel


Article first published as A Conversation With Erika Eleniak on Technorati.

New York Groove (Part 2): The Thing About Subways

The MTA system of New York City can be a bit daunting for the amateur subway commuter. It’s easy to find yourself lost somewhere in Gotham City if you happen to choose the wrong letter of the alphabet when boarding a train. Maybe it’s the small town boy in me but no matter how confident I am that I have chosen wisely I always find myself second guessing the decision I made the second the doors close.

I suppose that even the most seasoned of riders does a double-check every now and again just to make sure they’re heading in the right direction. For someone like me, a person who rarely visits the big city or rides a subway for that matter, it’s even more distressing. The thing is when you’re trying to make it to an appointment at the casting offices for Wooster Street Social Club (or anywhere else downtown for that matter) you definitely don’t want to wind up going uptown to Central Park. And this was no ordinary visit to the Big Apple to sight see either. My promptness was even more necessary because in this case producers and film crews were involved.

You see I was a man on a mission to get my first tattoo filmed for the second season of NY Ink and could hardly afford to be late for such a surreal and unique experience. So I took comfort in the fact that every street name I read on the subterranean wall at every stop matched the one I had on my pre-printed schedule.

Before too long the train came to a stop at the Canal Street station and I hurriedly departed. After quickly readjusting the backpack I was carrying over my shoulder I made the walk up the concrete staircase and into the bright morning sunshine on the Avenue of The Americas. The hustle and bustle of traffic and people mindlessly walking in step to get to their destinations reminded me that I was not in the small town of Easton, Pennsylvania anymore. This was the big time.

Me and Tommy Montoya

I pulled out my phone to check the time and was relieved to see that I still had an hour before I needed to be at the studio. It’s times like these, the in between arrival and actual appointment times, when nothing but coffee will suffice and I quickly spotted a Starbucks and made my way inside.

A contented smile came across my face as I sat down with my Venti bold. My biggest challenge upon arriving in NYC was to take the A-Train (or 8th Avenue Express) down to Canal and into the heart of SOHO with time to spare.

Mission accomplished.

Next: The Tattoo Pre-Production

A Conversation With Michael Berryman

When I was first introduced to Michael Berryman it was most likely the same way many other metal head purists from my era had first met him: by seeing his performance as the mean principal in the Mötley Crüe video for the song: “Smokin’ in The Boys Room”.

He was the ideal fit for the foreboding and intimidating figure that roamed the school halls and scared any would be malcontent. Someone you’d never want to meet in a dark alley let alone a principal’s office because a dog ran off with your homework.

Mr. Berryman has built quite an extensive resume of portraying these frightening and intimidating characters. From a mutant biker in “Weird Science” to even the devil himself in an episode of the 1980’s television show “Highway to Heaven“.

He’s been a part of the Star Trek franchise and is also a favorite of director Rob Zombie, having appeared in his films “The Devil’s Rejects” (2005) and the soon to be released “The Lords of Salem”.

But Michael is quite the opposite of the types of characters he portrays on-screen. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that he’s a strong advocate for the environment and leaving something behind for future generations to enjoy.

And here’s something else you might not know: the second film Michael was cast in just happened to be “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, the 1975 film starring Jack Nicholson that went on to win five Academy Awards including Best Picture.

But the role Michael is probably best known for is his portrayal of Pluto in the 1977 Wes Craven Film “The Hills Have Eyes”. Considered a cult favorite among horror enthusiasts the film has spawned two sequels (one in 1985 and the other in 1995) and two separate remakes (2006/2007). The original film also ranks #41 on Bravo’s list of 100 Scariest Movie Moments.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Michael and get his thoughts on the Hills as it turns 35. We also discuss the Mötley video, the importance of preserving the environment, his thoughts on working with film legend Jack Nicholson and his newest thriller,
Below Zero“.

goJimmygo (gJg): Hi Michael, this is James Wood, how are you?

Michael Berryman (MB): Pretty good James!

gJg: It’s good to talk with you.

MB: You too!

gJg: Did you ever think that after 35 years people would still be talking about “The Hills Have Eyes“?

MB: Oh gosh, has it been that long? <laughs>

gJg: Isn’t that crazy?

MB: That really is. <laughs>

gJg: How did the role of Pluto come about for you?

MB: Well, I had just gotten home from my second gig which was Cuckoo’s Nest. We had worked 127 days on it and I had really learned a lot. So I came home to Santa Monica and actually had no idea what was going to happen next.

Then one day my agent called me and said he had a part for me to look at for a movie called “Blood Relations”. That was the name of the company but was also originally going to be the title. He said there was a producer named Peter Locke and some director named Wes Craven he wanted me to meet with. So he set up a meeting and I went and met everyone and was handed the script.

They told me it was going to be about a three-week shoot out in the desert north of Los Angeles. I told them that I was already familiar with the area. The temperatures there were always hot in the daytime and cool at night.

So a few days went by and they called my agent and offered me the role.

gJg: Any interesting stories from the set?

MB: I remember the day I went into wardrobe. I met a gal there who was also working on a degree in anthropology at UCLA. I guess you’d say she had some knowledge of the kinds of things a cannibal family might wear.

The necklace she gave me had some cool things on it: a pair of dentures, some bullets. My bracelet was actually comprised of real human teeth that she had gotten from a friend of hers who was a dentist.

We were going for realism and I guess they just figured I had the look for it. <laughs>. They discussed the premise and I said “Ok, let’s have some fun with it.”

gJg: Were there any accidents on the set? I look at the rocky terrain it was filmed on and I could just imagine people twisting their ankles on it.

MB: I was familiar with that area so that wasn’t really a problem. The worst part though was climbing those mountains. No one got hurt but it was very precarious.

One of the biggest issues though as far as people almost being hurt was probably the day we had the rattlesnake on the set. It wasn’t just your typical diamond back, it was a Desert Mojave Green and they are as deadly as a cobra. I mean really, really dangerous.

I remember we were all sitting in the ravine one day having lunch and I noticed that people were jumping out-of-the-way of something. I looked over and saw that the snake had some how gotten out of the cloth while the animal handler was getting something to eat.

Now here’s the scary part: one of the actresses actually picked it up and handed it back to him and he almost fainted. Wes and Peter were freaking out.

Fortunately, what the handler had done was taken some thin line and looped it through the jaw of the snake over the bone so it couldn’t get its jaws open far enough for fangs. But still…

gJg: Still scary!

MB: Yes it was. So he took care of that and then I asked him: “Why a Mojave Green?” and he said, “Well, its actually my pet.”

So I knew right then that he was a whack job. <laughs>

gJg: Do you see anyone from the movie anymore?

MB: Well, I actually have. I ran into Janus (Blythe who portrayed Ruby) a few years ago. Once in a blue moon I’ll run into some others.

I saw Peter Locke (producer) a few years ago in LA when they were getting ready for the first remake of The Hills Have Eyes (2006). Peter told me he’d see me in Morocco. The only problem with that was the director didn’t want me. So I’m not sure why they even bothered to call me in.

gJg: Anyone else?

MB:  I’ve run into Dee (Wallace, who portrayed Lynne Wood) at a few conventions over the years. Ken Horn (make-up artist) is the curator of the Hollywood Wax Museum. I bump into him every once in a while.

gJg: Now your character, Pluto, supposedly dies in the original film when the dog attacks him. Was that the way it was supposed to be or did they leave it open-ended for a sequel?

MB: No, originally we didn’t think there was going to be a sequel so I was pretty much dead. But in part two I explain how I managed to get patched up after the dog attack.

The one thing I really liked about Part 2 was the fact that we used a different type of film so it has a real vintage look to it.

About the only thing I wasn’t too thrilled about was the “Reaper” character. I just didn’t feel that he was a very complete character.

gJg: And then that damn dog got you again (the same dog that supposedly killed Pluto in the first Hills movie pushes him off a cliff in this one).

MB: <Laughs>… Yeah well, what can you do?

***

Michael on the Mötley Crüe Video:

gJg: What was the story behind the video for Smokin’ in the Boys Room?

MB: My first agent was still with me when I got the video. He called me up and he says, “Hey, there’s this band called Mutley…uh, Motley Crew and they want you for their video.” So I said, “Sure, I’ll go do it”.

So we went into this high school auditorium and all hung out in a make shift green room they had set up behind the curtain. They were all super nice guys, very down to Earth.

As we were sitting there making small talk we started bouncing around ideas on how to make my character silly. That’s when we came up with the idea for the wig, the bow tie and eventually, the ear wiggle.

gJg: Ah yes, the ear wiggle!

MB:  You know, there’s actually an interesting story with that. I told Mick (Mars, guitarist for Mötley Crüe) that I could independently wiggle my ears. Well once he and everyone else in the band saw me do it they loved it and wanted to use it. So the ear wiggle was put in at the very end of the video right after they snatch off my wig. It must have worked because the video was number one on MTV for quite a long time.

Well one day people started calling me up and telling me that they had noticed that the ear wiggle scene had been taken out of the video. Apparently, “someone” didn’t care for it and had an editor go into work one day and remove it.

But I guess over time enough people complained about it so they went back in and put my ear wiggle back into the end of the video..

So you know, it’s a cute rumor.

Years later I’m working on a voice over for Penny Dreadful, and low and behold the guy who was doing the editing for the film comes up to me and says, “Hey, a long time ago I used to work for MTV as an editor and one day I had to put your ear wiggle back into the Mötley Crüe video”.

<laughs>

So it’s a full circle kind of thing.

***

Michael on his newest thriller, “Below Zero”:

gJg: I see that you have a new movie out now, Below Zero.

MB: You betcha.. Below Zero.

gJg: What’s the premise of this film?

MB: It’s a thriller. Eddie Furlong plays a screenwriter who can’t meet a deadline. So he arranges to be shipped out into the middle of nowhere, locked inside of a freezer at a slaughterhouse. He’s got everything in there he needs to work. He just can’t come out until he has a finished script. And all during the process you don’t know if what you see is something he is writing or if it’s real.

I play the part of Gunnar who is the guy who runs the slaughter-house.

gJg: Oh, so Gunnar is a real character. He’s not part of his imagination. He’s real?

MB: Well, no he’s not….but then again….(pause)…maybe he is….. <laughs>

gJg: How did I know you were going to say that? <laughs>

MB: The movie leads in three directions and the cinematography is exquisite.


gJg: The trailer for it looks great!

MB: We’re all very proud of it. We filmed it two years ago in Canada. People can go check out the Facebook page or the official website to learn more about it. I know they’ve been playing the trailer most recently. It’s got a great musical score and is doing very well at festivals all over the world.

I’m saying that probably by summer it should be out for sale. I think its going to do really, really well.

gJg: Just from what I’ve seen of it so far I’d have to agree.

MB: It’s really, really good. I actually have a DVD copy of it and I’ll watch it every once in a while. The cool thing about it is that every time you watch it you enjoy it again, freshly. It’s not something you watch once and then put away. It doesn’t lose any impact over subsequent viewings. It’s really strong and I’m proud of it.

In fact, if you want to know the truth, I think it’s my best work yet.

And why?

Because it was my last work. And every time I work I do a little bit better.<laughs>

gJg: Yeah, that’s a good way to look at it.

MB: Well, you try. <laughs>.

***

Michael on giving back:

gJg: I noticed the tattoos they gave you for this role as well.

MB: Oh those aren’t fake, those are real.

gJg: Really? Wow, those are really colorful.

MB: Yes, they are. The one on my right arm is the sunset with the moon rising and mountains in the background. The one on my left arm is of a mother wolf and a pup. I actually lived at a wolf sanctuary for ten years.

gJg: Oh really?

MB: Wolf Mountain Sanctuary.in Lucerne Valley, CA. It’s run by my good friend Tonya Carloni. She rescues wolves and gives them a descent place to live. What she does is a very noble cause.

We also teach people about habitat preservation and the importance of preserving what we have before it turns into something like Joni Mitchell said: “Paradise turned into a parking lot.” We really need to leave something for our children to enjoy.

***

Michael on working with Jack Nicholson in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest“:

gJg: Michael, I just can’t end our interview without asking you about what it was like working on Cuckoo’s Nest with Jack Nicholson.

MB: I get asked quite a bit about Jack and I tell everyone that I found him to be such a down to Earth regular guy.

He told me one day, “Michael, if I was as tall as you I’d be an NBA star right now.” (Michael is 6′ 2″). Jack was very athletic but just didn’t have the height for it.

He was just a real, honest, wonderful guy and a terrific talent and I was just tickled that he won an Oscar for it because he just threw himself into that role.

gJg: Well Michael it’s been so great talking with you. Is there anything else you’d like to say in closing?

MB: I just want to wish the very best to all of my fans. May you all have a peaceful, wonderful life and when you wake up tomorrow, make it a great day.

gJg: Couldn’t ask for anything more than that.

MB: That’s the plan I’m keeping.


Article first published as A Conversation With Michael Berryman on Technorati

New York Groove (Part 1)

“Back in the New York Groove” was a song written by Russ Ballard that first appeared on the 1975 album “Keep Us Off The Streets” by the British glam band Hello. As a musician I know this because well, I looked it up.

Who would have thought that three years after it first appeared on vinyl that song would indirectly become part of my life?

It was 1978. The year the members of KISS, the biggest band in the world at the time and with enough glitz, makeup and pyrotechnic prowess to make even the great Liberace and his golden candelabra melt, all simultaneously released their own solo albums as a gimmick. “New York Groove” was a song covered by guitarist Ace Frehley on his solo album of the same name.

As a nine-year old boy, KISS was the world to me and Ace was always my favorite member of the band. Not just because he had the coolest face makeup but also for the way his sunburst Les Paul guitars would literally catch fire during his solos. Ace’s antics were one of the main reasons I picked up a guitar with the dream to “Shout it Out Loud” and “Rock and Roll All Nite”. As far as I was concerned Ace Frehley was synonymous with rock and roll and suffice to say, his solo album quickly wore out on my turn table.

So it’s kind of ironic how thirty-three years later that particular song, New York Groove, was selected to be the theme for NY Ink, the reality-based television series on TLC. For those who may not be aware, NY Ink follows the trials and tribulations of famed tattoo artist Ami James as he attempts to make a go of a tattoo studio in the SOHO district of New York City.

What’s even more surprising is the notion that the melody for “New York Groove” kept running through my head as I looked out the window of the bus that was carrying me to New York City to get my first tattoo from Megan Massacre, tell my own musical “story” and have the segment recorded for the second season of NY Ink.

In my family being of age and still a tattoo virgin is frowned upon. The inside joke being: “You can’t consider yourself a “Wood” if you don’t have at least a little ink”. Most of my relatives have been tattooed at some point or another but I never was. Quite frankly, I would have been perfectly content with being the only black sheep in the family.

It wasn’t until I stumbled upon NY Ink that I began to give being tattooed serious consideration. The artwork and stories I had heard really had a profound impact on me. More so than any “cool” factor would in me getting needled. And my own story would sure be one for the books.

From an early age I was a guitarist with a dream to be a rock star. You know, right up there in the same league as KISS, Survivor, and Bon Jovi. Yeah, that was going to be me.

I even remember writing  journal entries about “making it” while in high school. At one point I’d pretend my journal was a Rolling Stone magazine interview. I’d write questions that I’d want the interviewer to ask me and then answer them in full ‘rock and roll’ mode. I’d muse about who I’d be collaborating with, the up coming summer tour I was about to embark upon and what I did when throngs of female fans sought my attention. Little did I know at the time that one day the dream was going to come true but in a most unusual way. I couldn’t wait to tell the story and have it memorialized.

Me and Ami James

As the bus slowly rolled into the Port Authority Station a feeling of excitement and anticipation filled me. I slowly departed and made my way into Manhattan not really sure if I was more excited to tell the story, get my first tattoo from an artist I greatly admire or the fact that my experience was going to be filmed and possibly air on a television show.

In any case all I did know was that Ace would have been pleased. Today was going to be an interesting day.

Next: The Thing About Subways

The NY Ink Announcement

I’ve waited six long months to be able to tell you this story. No seriously, I’m not kidding its been that long. I’ve had a five-part blog that’s been in the works since last September and at last I’m finally able to reveal it.

I’ve got good news, bad news and great news! I’ll explain them all to you in that order:

Good News: Last summer, I submitted a request to be a candidate for Season 2 of  the TLC television show NY Ink and was actually chosen to have my segment filmed for the show!!  I got to travel to New York City, go on set for the show, tell my story and get my first tattoo done by none other than Megan Massacre.

After it was all over, I started to write a blog about my experience. And that blog got so large that it led to another blog. Which led to another. And another…. Before I knew it, I had written five parts.

Bad News: Season 2 episodes began airing in December of last year and my segment never made it to air. (Although they did show a glimpse of my session in a transition from one scene to the next). It’s too bad because I already had my IMDB application ready and several agents and publicists on stand-by. Sadly, I had to tell them the bad news. (Hope you all realize those last two sentences were a joke).

Anyway, through out the season I was already pretty much aware that my segment wasn’t going to make the final cut but I was contractually obligated not to say anything about my time on the show until the last episode aired.

Which was last night.

So…..

Great News: Starting Monday I will begin posting the blogs from my experiences on NY Ink. From the ride in to the city, to being on the set, getting tattooed by Megan and meeting most everyone from the show. You’ll also get to hear my “rock and roll” story and see the final work of art.

Although obviously a bit bummed that my segment didn’t air I have absolutely no regrets about it. It definitely wasn’t your typical tattoo experience.

If you’re already a fan of the show and are sad that its over here’s one last NY Ink story you didn’t hear.

One that I’m excited to finally be able to tell you about.

See  you then.