Lake Bell chats about “Man Up” along with director Ben Palmer and writer Tess Morris at Tribeca Film Festival

Man Up, the hilarious new comedy from director Ben Palmer and writer Tess Morris, made its NY debut at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival with the creators and star Lake Bell in a cheerful mood on the red carpet. They along with producers Nira Park and Rachel Prior spoke with me about working on the film.

The film focuses on the awkward Nancy (Bell) accidentally swiping some else’s blind date, Jack (Simon Pegg) and the wild night they have out in London. True to the spirit of Man Up’s main character Nancy, writer Tess Morris was unabashedly honest about how she felt about the premiere, laughing and saying, “First time I’m going to see it with a paying audience–so I’m really excited and also I feel sick!”

Lauren Damon: How did you come up with some of the phrases and strategies that Nancy throws out in this film? The tactical puke? The blowjob paradox?
Tess Morris: Because they’re all actual things in my life! Actually, The Blowjob Paradox is my friend Austin. I have to credit him. That was his theory that I stole. Never be friends with a writer because they’ll just use everything of yours. Tactical puke? Because I’m the least sporty person in the world. So the idea of me actually having to do a tactical puke is sort of like half the joke. But yeah, I just base a lot of stuff on–I have a notebook with me everywhere I go and I just nick everyone else’s…

LD: Like Nancy carrying a notebook.
Morris: Oh yeah! Yeah, she’s very much myself.

LD: Did you write Jack with Simon Pegg in mind?
Morris: No I didn’t, I actually wrote it on spec, but he came on board it quite early and just changed the whole process for me. Because obviously once he was playing Jack, I could just have even more fun with him. And he brought so much to it, obviously. As did Lake. So yeah, that was a very exciting moment when he agreed to do it.
LD: I appreciated how none of your other female characters are mean, how the other date isn’t grotesque or competitive.
Morris: Oh yeah, like she gets her–I just sort felt like it was really important that she didn’t come across as like some young shallow kind of gal. Like she’s really excited for them because she’s a good soul. And I don’t like mean movies, you know? What’s the point?

LD: Can you name some of your favorite romantic comedies?
Morris: Oh yeah! I love Moonstruck. I think it’s underrated a lot. And I obviously love When Harry Met Sally and I also, most recently, Silver Linings Playbook and Crazy, Stupid, Love and Enough Said actually. I really liked Enough Said a lot. I think there’s been a slight resurgance recently.

 

Producers Nira Park and Rachel Prior had worked with star Simon Pegg throughout his entire “Cornetto Trilogy” with Edgar Wright and even earliar than that on UK sitcom “Spaced.”

LD: Can you speak about your relationship with Simon Pegg since you’ve worked with him dating back to spaced?
Nira Park: Eighteen years, seventeen years…we met on Spaced actually so I’d done something small with Channel 4 with Edgar before Spaced, then Spaced was starting up and Channel 4 actually asked me if I’d just do a couple of days a week initially to just kind of help them get it together. And I remember being really nervous when I met Simon and Jessica [Hynes] and I’m a bit older than them and they said they were terrified of me for the whole of the first series but I was actually quite scared of them! And–cause he’s just so bright and so brilliant and so funny–so yeah, I did a couple of days a week at first and then we all got on so well that kind of within a few weeks they were like ‘will you produce it??’ So okay.

 

LD:How did you get connected to this particular script?
Park: Well this script came about, we were just saying, because Rachel [Prior]–well we were all completely obsessed with Bridesmaids because we premiered Paul at SXSW and Bridesmaids was the surprise screening at midnight after Paul’s screening and it wasn’t finished at that point and actually [producer] James [Biddle] and Rachel weren’t there but I came back to London and was like ‘Oh my god, I’ve seen this film! It’s amazing! I wanna make this film!’ and we were just like ‘Why are there no more female writers in the UK who are writing this kind of thing??’ And then literally a couple of weeks later, this script, no one in the UK really writes on spec in the same way–it’s not the same as in the States–and this script just arrived through the letter box written by Tess and she’d kind of written it for Big Talk in the hope that we’d like it. Because she liked the films, the other films. And it was like everything we’d been hoping for! So at that point, we picked it up and we developed it for like a year and a half, we attached Simon kind of six months into the development.

 

LD:When did Lake come in?
Rachel Prior: When Lake came in it was just as we got to the point where we had a script that we were happy with and we were about to sort of start putting together and actually with BBC films and StudioCanal to actually start going into production. And we saw a couple of trailers for In A World and it was like there’s this–we had knew Lake from “Children’s Hospital” but there was something in In a World where we were like ‘Oh my god, she could play Nancy’ It’s obvious she was great at accents. And then we read an interview with her where she had said she studied drama in the UK for four years so we were like ‘Can she do a British accent?’ And she can.
Park: A brilliant one.
Rachel: Some Brits when we tested the film had no idea that she was American!

 

Lake Bell’s previous film, In a World featured her playing none other than a dialect coach with a great ear for accents.

LD:Was it gratifying going from In A World where the subject matter was doing dialects to this full feature where you’re using your British accent?
Lake Bell: It definitely was. You know accents and dialects are very much an obsession of mine. That is very authentic to In a World. So this was definitely on my actor bucket list of things to do was to play a fully realized British character, so yes. It absolutely satiated a desire to play a British character.

 

LD: How familiar were you with Simon Pegg before you paired up here?
Bell: You know I had known Simon’s work and certainly upon first meeting him I noticed we had a good sort of comedic chemistry and you know was excited to kind of go down this journey with him because I thought ‘Yeah, this if is gonna work.’ Especially with Tess Morris’s words which are so brilliantly…I really do attribute the brilliant repartee to her script.

 

Finally, director Ben Palmer comes from having done the feature film of UK TV teen comedy Inbetweeners.

LD: Your previous feature was The Inbetweeners, with just this manic teenage male energy, how was it switching to having a strong female lead?
Ben Palmer: It’s how I respond to a script, to be honest. And so the Inbetweeners was a really big part of my life and when I got sent Man Up, I almost felt they probably had sent it to the wrong person. Because I never thought that I’d be doing a British romantic comedy. But there was something–within the first couple of pages of reading Tess’s script, there’s something in that dialogue that stuck with me. And in a way, it has sort of that sharpness and that speed and the naturalism, I suppose. Those characters are so well drawn that I was a sucker for it, basically. And there’s and edge and there’s a truthfulness and it’s anarchic in its own way. There’s swears, there’s all that sort of stuff that excites me, I suppose. Although it is a romantic comedy, there is a crossover to the Inbetweeners. And it’s nice just to keep shaking it up and do a different thing.

LD: The film takes place over the course of one night, but has so many locations, what was that shoot like?
Palmer
: I loved that hook, that it happened over sort of 24 hours, in one night really. So within that…the challenge is to try and liven it up and move it around and the fluidity and the speed that they’re hammering through this city. It’s trying to find locations, not the easy locations to shoot in, but to go well ‘this is where this would happen.’ And so with that, when you’re doing a low budget film, there’s problems there. Because you can’t close down whole blocks, so you’ve gotta sort of work around general public in a way. But that’s how you achieve something that feels real and honest.

LD: Bowling features heavily in Nancy and Jack’s date, was there a best bowler on the set?
Ben: (Laughs) Simon. Simon’s a pretty good bowler. I’d say he’d edged it.

Man Up opens in UK cinemas on May 29th, while Saban Entertainment has recently acquired US distribution rights. You can read my review from Tribeca here.

Snap Creative’s Bill Howard chats about “Transformers: Age of Extinction”

Bill Howard, CEO of Snap Creative, whose company has been creating “talk of the town” products for over 20 years, discusses how Snap has created innovative packaging concepts for all of the Transformers films, including the $1 billion global smash Transformers: Age of Extinction, which arrives on Blu-ray and DVD September 30, 2014.

Media Mikes: You have been creating collectible Transformers home entertainment packaging since the release of the first DVD. How did you get involved with the Transformers business
Bill Howard: Paramount challenged our team at Snap Creative to create a DVD package for the first Transformers film that could turn into OPTIMUS PRIME, but it had to be the height and width of a standard DVD to fit on a store shelf and it had to be no more than double the depth. Our solution required a design that had hidden parts that could reveal for conversion, and we used bas relief sculpture on the front so that we could have layered parts but stay within the depth. All the sculpt detail and deco was on the front side which let us maximize it. That DVD was a huge hit and we’ve continued designing for the Transformers releases ever since.

MM: How do you keep the designs fresh for each release?
BH: On each subsequent movie we have upped the ante creating 2.0, 3.0 and now 4.0 for the new Transformers: Age of Extinction Blu-ray and DVD slated for release in September 2014. They have all been awesome, but I am confident that this OPTIMUS PRIME is our best one yet. It has new features that make it cooler for sure, and we worked with Hasbro and digital assets directly from the movie that provided great sculptural marrow. I am already thinking about how we take it further for 5.0, and am glad the film is a few years off to give us enough time to really get creative.

MM: What makes your packaging designs so desirable to collectors?
BH: Our Transformers designs historically have been hugely successful because the fans appreciate our level of extreme detail and authenticity. We often design multiple packages that are available at different retailers, and real fans go out of their way to get them all because they each have something unique and collectible about them.

MM: You also did theater promotions for Transformers: Age of Extinction this year to coincide with the theatrical release. Tell us more about those.
BH: Our movie theater popcorn collectible packs are really brilliant— they have one piece of board cut once and glued in one place which provides a package that holds cup, popcorn and candy. It can be carried with one hand and the operations folks at cinemas love it because it goes from flat to built in just a few seconds.

Each year we run about 15 promotions in theater with these packs. We have partnered with many of the top Hollywood studios to do licensed versions for some of the biggest movies including Transformers: Age of Extinction. These packs (some geared towards kids, some toward adults), are usually paired with a small collectible toy which is a fun way for property owners to extend their brands to families in theaters and at home. The Transformers: Age of Extinction pack featured a transforming keychain and collectible cup. Exhibitors love it because they generally see about a 20% lift in sales with these branded collectible packs and we’ve grown the program from around 2 million pieces to 6 million pieces just in the last two years. We are also continuing to grow internationally with programs in Thailand, China, Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Canada and more.

MM: You seem to have quite the collector following for your products. Many times it seems like your products double in value or more on the after-market. Why?
BH: One word: authentic. We work on every detail to get it right not just for Transformers, but for everything we do. Enthusiasts appreciate that we “get” them because we ourselves are collectors, so we understand just what they are looking for in a product. For powerhouse franchises like Transformers, we make a point of honoring the legacy of the franchise while also moving it forward in new and different ways.

Lucas Grabeel chats about voicing Deputy Peck in Disney Junior’s “Sheriff Callie’s Wild West”

DISNEY JUNIOR/RICK ROWELL

Lucas Grabeel is known best for his role of Ryan Evans in the “High School Musical” series. Lucas is currently voicing the character Deputy Peck in Disney Junior’s newest series “Sheriff Callie’s Wild West”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Lucas about the new show and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: What do you enjoy most about being on a show like “Sheriff Callie’s Wild West”?
Lucas Grabeel: I have done a few voice-over guest spots here and there on other TV shows but this is my first series regular position on an animated series. I was a little nervous at first since I had never done something like this on a day-to-day basis. I had all this dialogue, singing and playing multiple characters. I was worried about it at first but I ended up working with Jessica DiCicco, who is a voice-over veteran and she taught me so much. She made me comfortable. Once we got in the studio, we were having fun and laughing. Due to that it was such a great experience and was so much fun. On the flip side, once it was all done and we started watching it, I was just blown away how quite the animation is, how clever the writing is and how everything just came together. It is not only a great show for kids; I sit down with my girlfriend as well and watch it. I am a little biased being in it but we laugh and have a good time.

DISNEY JUNIOR

MG: Where did you come up with the voice for Deputy Peck?
LG: They said in the audition that he was a Barney Fife kind of deputy. It is a country western. I am originally from Missouri. So I basically did an impersonation of my dad and I put it up a couple of octaves. This gave him that high energy frantic feel.

MG: There is tons of great music in the show, what has been your favorite song?
LG: I love getting to sing on the show. Jessica and I also get to do the prairie dog trio, which is kind of my favorite part of the whole job [laughs]. They are just so adorable and funny that I always laugh. We have been recording it for the last two years but the song always pops back into my head is [singing as Peck] “Those peppers, those peppers, those peppers can’t be beat!” I do not know why but it always comes back [laughs].

MG: Tell us about the recording sessions? Are the song recordings separate?
LG: I was always recording with Jessica. So we would come in and record a couple of episodes during each session, the prairie dog songs along with probably two or three songs as well. We would do the episode first then go through and do the music. It was tons of fun. Being with Jessica and the whole group in the booth, everyone was just so nice to calm me down and allow me to get into this comfortable place. We would just laugh and have so much fun the whole time. It is such a great job.

DISNEY JUNIOR

MG: What was your biggest challenge for this role?
LG: This is my most put-on voice that I have ever done. All of the other voices I have done were closer to my natural voice. Doing a voice with the dialogue is one thing but trying to figure out how to sing, laugh, run and yell all together is the part of voice over that I didn’t understand at first. But that is what this whole experience has taught me. It was cool to approach it like acting. You become the character and then think through and put your head into that space and see how it should come together.

MG: What can you tell us about the new single “135n8”?
LG: I just released the single “135n8” on New Year’s Day. It is currently available on iTunes. It is a loungey dance track that I have been working on for a while. The video just came out February 11th on Billboard and it is also available now on my new YouTube channel. I will also be releasing some cool behind-the-scenes videos and featurettes in the coming weeks as well. It was a really cool experience to make the video because I got together some “High School Musical” people including dancers, choreographers and crew. We just came together and I said “Let’s make something exciting and push each other”. I think we did it and I am really excited about the video and I hope that people like it also.

Rankin/Bass’ Arthur Rankin Jr. chats about his timeless Christmas specials

Arthur Rankin, Jr. is part of the duo team Rankin/Bass. He is a legend and does not need any introduction. Rankin/Bass created the timeless holiday specials “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “The Year Without Santa Claus” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, just to name a few. Media Mikes had a once in a lifetime chance to chat with Arthur about his work and how it has and will continue to entertain generation after generation. This interview originally was posted March 2012 but I wanted to revisit this post for the holiday season!

Mike Gencarelli: Let’s start with “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Why do you think this special has become timeless after almost 50 years?
Arthur Rankin, Jr.: I really don’t have an answer to that. I think because it was the first special of its kind…I think that, in looking for something to watch for Christmas, parents put their children in front of the television. And the word went out that this was a nice show, etc., etc, etc. and so next year it had a bigger audience. And as the audience grew, so did the children that watched it. They grew up to become mothers. And they grew up to become grandmothers! And they also put their children and grandchildren in front of the television set. That’s been going on for all of these years. It’s a pattern. That’s why Disney keeps re-releasing it’s old pictures. Because there’s an audience. The theatre may have a child whose having his first experience with the film while his grandmother is having her fourth or fifth experience with it. And that’s what our audience consists of. It’s a memory of life. To many people, “Rudolph” means Christmas.

MG: Why did you choose to work with stop motion animation, which you refer to as “animagic,” as opposed to conventional animation?
AR: A trade delegation had come to America from Japan. There was one gentleman who represented the steel industry…another who was in textiles. And a third who represented their motion picture industry. The motion picture representative had a studio he wanted to promote. He asked a friend of his in Washington D.C. if he could be introduced to one of America’s foremost animators. And by mistake he was led to me (laughs). We got along very well. He had been born in the U.S. and after he graduated college he went back to Japan. We became close friends. He invited me to come over, look at his studios, and tell him what I thought. I did. I went over, toured the studios and saw an example of stop motion, which hadn’t been done in a long time and not in any great depth. I was very taken by it…I thought it was a new approach. Of course I got to re-design it but I used the technique. We started out making some short films and they turned out very well. I made a series that I syndicated about Pinocchio. And then Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer lit up his nose. I lived in Greenwich Village at the time and my neighbor down the block (Johnny Marks) had actually written the song. I called him up and told him that there was a character there that would make a nice Christmas show. He was reluctant to do it at the time – do you know what ASCAP is? (NOTE: ASCAP is the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. It is through this group that songwriters earn their royalties). “Rudolph” was a very successful song at Christmas time and he was afraid to jeopardize that income by doing anything with the song. I finally convinced him that the show would promote the song more. I took my idea to General Electric and they sponsored it. They put it on NBC for the first time in a spot they had used for “The College Bowl” – Sunday afternoon at 4:00. (NOTE: “The General Electric College Bowl” could best be described as the collegiate version of “Jeopardy.” It ran on NBC from 1959-1970). Now normally no one is watching television on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 but they were that day…”Rudolph” earned the highest rating of the week. And the rest is, “let’s have some more of those!”

MG: Your next Christmas project was “Frosty the Snowman,” which took a more traditional animation route. Why not stop motion?
AR: Because the subject lent itself better to the medium. Besides, by then I had several other films in production at my studio in Japan. I had no more room! We were into doing a feature in stop motion.

MG: You created so many great specials over the years. One of my favorites is “The Year without a Santa Claus.” Can you share any fun stories from that production?
AR: There’s a man who wrote a book about the motion picture industry. He said, “Remember one thing…nobody knows anything!” (NOTE: The book Mr. Rankin is referring to is “Adventures in the Screen Trade,” written by Academy Award winning screenwriter William Goldman. It is a must read for anyone curious about the inner workings of Hollywood). And it’s true. You never know when you’re going to have a hit. There was a time when you could put Barbra Streisand up against a curtain and have her sing and you’d have to lock the doors because she had so many fans. And then time goes on. It is true. In this business you take your best shot. That’s what I did. I rounded up all of the Christmas songs I thought could be made into a Christmas show…we acquired the rights to almost all of the ones that I wanted.

MG: In today’s world of television ratings are everything. Were these specials successful? Did any disappoint?
AR: All of them were successful in their original run. That’s why they’re still on the air today. Warner Brothers distributes them for me. All during the Christmas season they run my shows. And they pay for that (laughs). A penny here…a penny there.

MG: What has happened to the puppets, sets and props used in these productions?
AR: Well what happened is that after awhile those things wear out. They have wire armature inside…they have faces made out of plastic that has been carved. The clothes were made by little ladies but, just like people that work too hard, they fall apart. Of course we always had a couple of standbys waiting. I have here in my home Rudolph pulling Frosty on a sleigh.

MG: Besides time constraints, what was one of the most difficult aspects of creating these specials?
AR: When we did “Year Without a Santa Claus” we had to invent new characters. We had these two brothers, Heat Miser and Cold Miser. They just jumped off the screen and became cult figures. And we just came up with them one afternoon while designing the picture…”let’s do this…Mother Nature has two sons and they don’t get along…one’s in charge of heat…OK, put that in.” (laughs)

MG: How did creating your feature film, “Mad Monster Party,” compare versus working on the television specials?
AR: First off, it was the first time it had ever been done in a long time. Not since Abbot and Costello met Frankenstein. And I thought I would be able to take so many more liberties with the stop motion process.
I concocted the idea and then got a couple of boys from “Mad” magazine (Harvey Kurtzman, who created the magazine, and Len Korobkin) to write it with me.

MG: “Mad Monster Party” was showcased in Rick Goldschmidt’s recent book “The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass.” How did you come to work with him?
AR: He called me one day. He had gotten an introduction from some one. And he was very knowledgeable. I usually don’t encourage people to do these things. First off, I can’t figure out why the hell they’re so interested. (laughs) But Rick had an awful lot of details. He sent me an outline of what the book would be like. He lives outside Chicago and I flew up to meet him. One of the rooms in his house is like a shrine. He had everything…things I had thrown out years ago. Old storyboards….he still gives me things he’s found that I had forgotten ever existed. He was very enthusiastic and wanted to do the book. So I told him “o.k.” but told him not to do the story of Arthur and Jules (Bass). You do stories on the pictures (the various specials/films). You have photos to go along with them and you’ve got a portfolio. He did that and it worked. It’s a great record of our work over the years.

MG: Have you ever considered writing your own memoirs?
AR: I’ve considered it because it’s been suggested before. But if I did it I’d want it to be straight…a lot of my old friends are still alive and what I might say about them wouldn’t be…(laughs)

MG: I read that you attempted to re-create “Mad Monster Party” using computer generated effects. What ever happened to that?
AR: We did. We made a test and it looked good. I went around Hollywood to the studios to see if they wanted to do it. Two of the studios said yes. But I was given to secondary people to deal with and I had to leave. It was no good. A studio will take your work away from you and do it themselves. They’ll rewrite. When I acquired the rights to “The King and I,” that was a very difficult property to acquire. I had to convince the families of (Richard) Rogers and (Oscar) Hammerstein that I knew what I was talking about. And I did. I wrote a script and they liked it. I was going to make that picture with my own investment with a co-partner in Japan. We were all set to do it. Then Warner Brothers calls up. They say “you don’t have to pay for it…we’ll pay you to do it for us.” “For us” meant here comes fourteen people that think they can do it better then I do. I’m not very proud of that picture. They changed a lot of the script and I was embarrassed for the Rogers and Hammerstein estate. (NOTE: The 1999 film, which was co-produced by Mr. Rankin’s production company, was both a financial and critical failure. The estates of Rogers and Hammerstein have since refused to allow any of their shows to become animated features).

MG: This coming year there are no less than three stop motion films being released, including Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie.” Do you think this process will continue to inspire?
AR: You’d think there were a lot of people that could do stop motion but they just don’t exist. This is the tech age. Computer animation…those with a technical background find it much faster. Stop motion animation is a devilish job. I’ll tell you how we worked. We would have a figure…or a group of figures…on a stage in miniature. Each figure had a human person assigned to it. And the way you get it to work…the camera clicks off one frame…the human person goes up and changes the figure ever so slightly…microscopically. The camera clicks off another frame. The human person goes over and changes it again. If a character is lifting a glass to his lips, you may have as many as 250 “motions.” The human person didn’t have anything on a computer. He knew in his mind what he had to do. Just like as if he was an actor. And we’d have to finish the scene in one day. There was no taking a break or going home for dinner and coming back the next day. We would try to start a scene as early in the morning as possible because we knew we could be working late into the evening…all night if necessary if the scene wasn’t finished.

MG: Have you ever considered returning to the business to produce or direct again?
AR: Not this Christmas, but next, I’m going to do a play in Bermuda. Everyone asks me why I’m doing it in Bermuda. We have a wonderful theater here…the Town Hall Theater. It seats around 700 people. Much bigger then many of the off-Broadway theaters with great acoustics. And if I say I want to do a Christmas play they’ll throw open the doors for me. It’s wonderful to have such cooperation. And anybody who works on the play, both on and back stage, works for nothing. All box office proceeds go to whatever charity I choose. Everybody jumps in. It’s what keeps me kicking my heels!

MG: This interview wouldn’t be complete without asking if you have a favorite project and, if so, why?
AR: I don’t have a favorite. They’re all my children. I don’t want to sound self-serving but they have remained in the public’s hearts for decades. It’s like a great painting by van Gogh or Reubens. There work is still in the public eye…the public has recognized their work for centuries. Maybe the measure of success is longevity. Things that last must be better then things that don’t!

Ryuhei Kitamura chats about directing “No One Lives” and hints at “Versus 2”

Photo by Munetoshi Mukai

Ryuhei Kitamura has directed some of my favorite recent films like “Versus”, “The Midnight Meat Train”, “Godzilla: Final Wars” and most importantly his latest “No One Lives”. This film packs a great cast and is a hell of a fun ride. Media Mikes had a chance to ask Ryuhei a few questions about “No One Live” and also got some news about his planned sequel to the cult classic “Versus”.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you end up directing “No One Lives”?
Ryuhei Kitamura: I loved the script and this is not just about blood and guts, it’s a twisted and dark love story. I loved the main character DRIVER who does it all for love killing machine. I thought I could I create new iconic anti-hero. Also I liked the good old days 80’s Slasher movies.

MG: “No One Lives” is your second U.S. film after “Midnight Meat Train”; what was your biggest challenge on this project? How did the two productions differ for you?
RK: It’s always the same. Movie making is challenging no matter what size or where you do. You have to fight against time, money and ego. We had so many challenges, but I had strong support from my crew and cast, and my producer Harry Knapp and Elton Brand. They made me survive.

MG: What do you enjoy most about working in the horror genre?
RK: I enjoy killing tons of people in brutal ways because I can’t do that in real life even though there are tons of f*ckers I want to terminate (laughs).

MG: You are no stranger to gore; are you ever concerned about going too far?
RK: I was hired to do movies like “Midnight Meat Train” and “No One Lives”. What’s wrong with go too far? That’s what the fans want I believe. Of course I wouldn’t do the same when I do PG-13 horror movie.

MG: Being a huge Godzilla fan yourself, what was it like writing/directing the last film “Godzilla: Final Wars”?
RK: It was pure honor and fun to be the part of one of the greatest franchise of all time. Can’t wait to watch new Hollywood Godzilla.

MG: I’ve heard talk about a “Versus” sequel in the cards; what can you tell us?
RK: I can’t talk much, but I guarantee it will have same spirits, same craziness, much bigger scale and next level of action. I already have a great script and am going to make this happen in the next few years.

MG: What do you have planned next?
RK: I’m in pre-production of my new action movie to be shot in Asia. I have some projects lined up but it’s the movie business and never know what I’ll be doing in six months.

Parks and Recreation's Amy Poehler, Adam Scott and Mike Schur chat about the big wedding episode

February 21, 2013 – Tonight’s Parks and Recreation will see the wedding of Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) in a spontaneous ceremony put on by the Pawnee Parks department. The two stars spoke together, along with series Executive Producer and Writer, Mike Schur about the special occasion as well as Leslie and Ben’s relationship throughout the series.

 

Element of Surprise

Back in October, Ben Wyatt surprised viewers with his impromptu proposal to Leslie in one of Schur’s favorite moments of the series so far:

Mike Schur: “I like the proposal the most of the things that have actually aired because I’m of the belief that the most powerful weapon we have in tv these days after sixty years of sitcoms is surprise and that has been our goal with every relationship really and with every non-romantic story we tell on the show we just try to always be surprising to the audience. And that was the idea, we were not going to have the proposal come in the season premiere or in you know, November sweeps or you know, Christmas or whatever. We’re going to do it at a time where it just feels natural and right and that kind of takes people by surprise. That was the plan with the proposal and I think it worked.”

Everyone has to Chip in

Originally planned to take place in May, Ben’s sudden decision to hold the wedding instead at tonight’s Parks Department gala puts the entire cast to work:

Schur: “They basically have two hours to throw it together. So everybody kind of has a role to play. Tom Haverford becomes the officiant and has to get ordained online in like an hour and Donna plays a role in that for the first time we’re going to feature her beautiful and professionally trained singing voice…In order to pull this thing off, in classic Parks and Rec fashion, everyone has to chip in.

 

Will the wedding see Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) looking for ladies?

Schur: “The wedding is really about Leslie and Ben and everyone sort of gets that. So Tom is not—Tom has a desire to kind of shine at the wedding, as he always does in any social situation that he’s in. But it’s not about ladies. It’s about him wanting to be a star at the wedding.”

 

Did Leslie miss having a big production wedding?

Amy Poehler: “Leslie…is a modern woman. So it’s not like she has these weird fantasies about marriage or of weddings necessarily. So she’s kind of a combination of her liking to be in control. And what’s cool about that moment for both Ben and Leslie—because they tend to like to control things—is that they kind of throw things up in the air.”

 

Ben Wyatt as The One

Leslie Knope has dated an assortment of men throughout the series from Louis CK to Justin Theroux, but it became clear to everyone that Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt would be the one to wind up tying the knot with Knope.

Adam Scott: “We thought that it might be—Leslie and Ben might be a couple at some point but I think it was sort of a wait-and-see sort of thing. Because if we got together and didn’t quite click as a relationship…I sort of got the sense that they were gonna try that out and see if it works and if it didn’t maybe find something else for me to do.”

Schur: “The plan was always that this was a love interest and a long-term love interest. Our initial idea for Leslie was that she was gonna have a series of relationships with different men, different kinds of men over the course of the show and that she would sort of learn something different from each of them…She learned something from Mark Brendenowicz [Paul Schneider], she learned something from Louis CK’s character, she learned something from Justin Theroux and we were kind of like oh, Adam Scott, she’ll date him for a while and she’ll learn something from him. It was certainly the plan to have him be the love interest…The first episode—in the Master Plan episode—they have a conversation in a bar and I wrote this thing into it where Ben says to her very casually ‘You want to run for office someday, right?’ and she says ‘Yeah, how did you know?’ and he just sort of blows past it. I mean he’s just kind of got her number, he just kind of gets her. He understands her and what her goals are. And the second episode that we had which was the finale that year called Freddy Spagetti, they have a conversation and Leslie smiles at him and walks off and there’s a shot of Adam looking after Leslie with a smile on his face and as soon as I saw that I kind of realized that not only were they going to get together but they were never going to break up. It became really clear in that moment that this was it.”

Poehler: “It’s chemistry baby, you can’t fight it!”

 

Pawnee after the wedding

As always with Parks and Recreation, work goes on in Pawnee right alongside the romantic plots.

Schur:“In the second episode [tonight’s 9-9:30 half of the hour]… the cold open of that episode is Leslie and Ben coming back from their Honeymoon and just sort of talking about how much fun they had on their Honeymoon but the episode is just a regular episode of Parks and Rec and Leslie and Ben are in the same story. Ben is starting a new job and it’s the first day of work and he’s sort of thrown into this new challenge of his new job and Leslie has an event that she’s planning for which is sort of a correspondent’s type of event where the politicians roast each other and stuff.

And so I think you’ll see right away that there’s sort of a blue print going forward that yea, they’re married now but you know, they also have other aspects of their lives that are very important to them and so I hope and very much feel like that will be the thing that keeps it from feeling like the ‘magic is gone.’”

Parks and Recreation airs every Thursday at 8:30pm on NBC.

Rankin/Bass’ Arthur Rankin Jr. chats about his timeless Christmas specials

Arthur Rankin, Jr. is part of the duo team Rankin/Bass. He is a legend and does not need any introduction. Rankin/Bass created the timeless holiday specials “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “The Year Without Santa Claus” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, just to name a few. Media Mikes had a once in a lifetime chance to chat with Arthur about his work and how it has and will continue to entertain generation after generation. This interview originally was posted March 2012 but I wanted to revisit this post for the holiday season!

Mike Gencarelli: Let’s start with “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Why do you think this special has become timeless after almost 50 years?
Arthur Rankin, Jr.: I really don’t have an answer to that. I think because it was the first special of its kind…I think that, in looking for something to watch for Christmas, parents put their children in front of the television. And the word went out that this was a nice show, etc., etc, etc. and so next year it had a bigger audience. And as the audience grew, so did the children that watched it. They grew up to become mothers. And they grew up to become grandmothers! And they also put their children and grandchildren in front of the television set. That’s been going on for all of these years. It’s a pattern. That’s why Disney keeps re-releasing it’s old pictures. Because there’s an audience. The theatre may have a child whose having his first experience with the film while his grandmother is having her fourth or fifth experience with it. And that’s what our audience consists of. It’s a memory of life. To many people, “Rudolph” means Christmas.

MG: Why did you choose to work with stop motion animation, which you refer to as “animagic,” as opposed to conventional animation?
AR: A trade delegation had come to America from Japan. There was one gentleman who represented the steel industry…another who was in textiles. And a third who represented their motion picture industry. The motion picture representative had a studio he wanted to promote. He asked a friend of his in Washington D.C. if he could be introduced to one of America’s foremost animators. And by mistake he was led to me (laughs). We got along very well. He had been born in the U.S. and after he graduated college he went back to Japan. We became close friends. He invited me to come over, look at his studios, and tell him what I thought. I did. I went over, toured the studios and saw an example of stop motion, which hadn’t been done in a long time and not in any great depth. I was very taken by it…I thought it was a new approach. Of course I got to re-design it but I used the technique. We started out making some short films and they turned out very well. I made a series that I syndicated about Pinocchio. And then Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer lit up his nose. I lived in Greenwich Village at the time and my neighbor down the block (Johnny Marks) had actually written the song. I called him up and told him that there was a character there that would make a nice Christmas show. He was reluctant to do it at the time – do you know what ASCAP is? (NOTE: ASCAP is the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. It is through this group that songwriters earn their royalties). “Rudolph” was a very successful song at Christmas time and he was afraid to jeopardize that income by doing anything with the song. I finally convinced him that the show would promote the song more. I took my idea to General Electric and they sponsored it. They put it on NBC for the first time in a spot they had used for “The College Bowl” – Sunday afternoon at 4:00. (NOTE: “The General Electric College Bowl” could best be described as the collegiate version of “Jeopardy.” It ran on NBC from 1959-1970). Now normally no one is watching television on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 but they were that day…”Rudolph” earned the highest rating of the week. And the rest is, “let’s have some more of those!”

MG: Your next Christmas project was “Frosty the Snowman,” which took a more traditional animation route. Why not stop motion?
AR: Because the subject lent itself better to the medium. Besides, by then I had several other films in production at my studio in Japan. I had no more room! We were into doing a feature in stop motion.

MG: You created so many great specials over the years. One of my favorites is “The Year without a Santa Claus.” Can you share any fun stories from that production?
AR: There’s a man who wrote a book about the motion picture industry. He said, “Remember one thing…nobody knows anything!” (NOTE: The book Mr. Rankin is referring to is “Adventures in the Screen Trade,” written by Academy Award winning screenwriter William Goldman. It is a must read for anyone curious about the inner workings of Hollywood). And it’s true. You never know when you’re going to have a hit. There was a time when you could put Barbra Streisand up against a curtain and have her sing and you’d have to lock the doors because she had so many fans. And then time goes on. It is true. In this business you take your best shot. That’s what I did. I rounded up all of the Christmas songs I thought could be made into a Christmas show…we acquired the rights to almost all of the ones that I wanted.

MG: In today’s world of television ratings are everything. Were these specials successful? Did any disappoint?
AR: All of them were successful in their original run. That’s why they’re still on the air today. Warner Brothers distributes them for me. All during the Christmas season they run my shows. And they pay for that (laughs). A penny here…a penny there.

MG: What has happened to the puppets, sets and props used in these productions?
AR: Well what happened is that after awhile those things wear out. They have wire armature inside…they have faces made out of plastic that has been carved. The clothes were made by little ladies but, just like people that work too hard, they fall apart. Of course we always had a couple of standbys waiting. I have here in my home Rudolph pulling Frosty on a sleigh.

MG: Besides time constraints, what was one of the most difficult aspects of creating these specials?
AR: When we did “Year Without a Santa Claus” we had to invent new characters. We had these two brothers, Heat Miser and Cold Miser. They just jumped off the screen and became cult figures. And we just came up with them one afternoon while designing the picture…”let’s do this…Mother Nature has two sons and they don’t get along…one’s in charge of heat…OK, put that in.” (laughs)

MG: How did creating your feature film, “Mad Monster Party,” compare versus working on the television specials?
AR: First off, it was the first time it had ever been done in a long time. Not since Abbot and Costello met Frankenstein. And I thought I would be able to take so many more liberties with the stop motion process.
I concocted the idea and then got a couple of boys from “Mad” magazine (Harvey Kurtzman, who created the magazine, and Len Korobkin) to write it with me.

MG: “Mad Monster Party” was showcased in Rick Goldschmidt’s recent book “The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass.” How did you come to work with him?
AR: He called me one day. He had gotten an introduction from some one. And he was very knowledgeable. I usually don’t encourage people to do these things. First off, I can’t figure out why the hell they’re so interested. (laughs) But Rick had an awful lot of details. He sent me an outline of what the book would be like. He lives outside Chicago and I flew up to meet him. One of the rooms in his house is like a shrine. He had everything…things I had thrown out years ago. Old storyboards….he still gives me things he’s found that I had forgotten ever existed. He was very enthusiastic and wanted to do the book. So I told him “o.k.” but told him not to do the story of Arthur and Jules (Bass). You do stories on the pictures (the various specials/films). You have photos to go along with them and you’ve got a portfolio. He did that and it worked. It’s a great record of our work over the years.

MG: Have you ever considered writing your own memoirs?
AR: I’ve considered it because it’s been suggested before. But if I did it I’d want it to be straight…a lot of my old friends are still alive and what I might say about them wouldn’t be…(laughs)

MG: I read that you attempted to re-create “Mad Monster Party” using computer generated effects. What ever happened to that?
AR: We did. We made a test and it looked good. I went around Hollywood to the studios to see if they wanted to do it. Two of the studios said yes. But I was given to secondary people to deal with and I had to leave. It was no good. A studio will take your work away from you and do it themselves. They’ll rewrite. When I acquired the rights to “The King and I,” that was a very difficult property to acquire. I had to convince the families of (Richard) Rogers and (Oscar) Hammerstein that I knew what I was talking about. And I did. I wrote a script and they liked it. I was going to make that picture with my own investment with a co-partner in Japan. We were all set to do it. Then Warner Brothers calls up. They say “you don’t have to pay for it…we’ll pay you to do it for us.” “For us” meant here comes fourteen people that think they can do it better then I do. I’m not very proud of that picture. They changed a lot of the script and I was embarrassed for the Rogers and Hammerstein estate. (NOTE: The 1999 film, which was co-produced by Mr. Rankin’s production company, was both a financial and critical failure. The estates of Rogers and Hammerstein have since refused to allow any of their shows to become animated features).

MG: This coming year there are no less than three stop motion films being released, including Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie.” Do you think this process will continue to inspire?
AR: You’d think there were a lot of people that could do stop motion but they just don’t exist. This is the tech age. Computer animation…those with a technical background find it much faster. Stop motion animation is a devilish job. I’ll tell you how we worked. We would have a figure…or a group of figures…on a stage in miniature. Each figure had a human person assigned to it. And the way you get it to work…the camera clicks off one frame…the human person goes up and changes the figure ever so slightly…microscopically. The camera clicks off another frame. The human person goes over and changes it again. If a character is lifting a glass to his lips, you may have as many as 250 “motions.” The human person didn’t have anything on a computer. He knew in his mind what he had to do. Just like as if he was an actor. And we’d have to finish the scene in one day. There was no taking a break or going home for dinner and coming back the next day. We would try to start a scene as early in the morning as possible because we knew we could be working late into the evening…all night if necessary if the scene wasn’t finished.

MG: Have you ever considered returning to the business to produce or direct again?
AR: Not this Christmas, but next, I’m going to do a play in Bermuda. Everyone asks me why I’m doing it in Bermuda. We have a wonderful theater here…the Town Hall Theater. It seats around 700 people. Much bigger then many of the off-Broadway theaters with great acoustics. And if I say I want to do a Christmas play they’ll throw open the doors for me. It’s wonderful to have such cooperation. And anybody who works on the play, both on and back stage, works for nothing. All box office proceeds go to whatever charity I choose. Everybody jumps in. It’s what keeps me kicking my heels!

MG: This interview wouldn’t be complete without asking if you have a favorite project and, if so, why?
AR: I don’t have a favorite. They’re all my children. I don’t want to sound self-serving but they have remained in the public’s hearts for decades. It’s like a great painting by van Gogh or Reubens. There work is still in the public eye…the public has recognized their work for centuries. Maybe the measure of success is longevity. Things that last must be better then things that don’t!

Jessica Lange chats about her role in “American Horror Story: Asylum”

Jessica Lange played the role of Constance in “American Horror Story” last year and ended up winning both a Emmy and a Golden Globe for her role in the show. In “American Horror Story: Asylum”, Lange is back and is playing the role of Sister Jude, with an even darker past. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Jessica Lange about the role in the show and her feelings on this season.

Mike Gencarelli: I think in the first season the scares were certainly slightly more supernatural and this one it’s more real, serial killers, and far more bloody.  What effect do you think that has on the audience for “American Horror Story: Asylum”?
Jessica Lange: I think it’s darker.  I think the whole story is darker this time.  It deals, I think, on a much darker psychological level.  You’ve got human experiments.   I think in some way last season was a ghost story, and this season it really is the darker parts of the human psyche that Ryan is exploring.  I think the affect is that it’s hard to watch, I hear that from people a lot.  “I can’t watch it, it’s too horrifying,” or whatever.  I don’t know, I think you have to strike a balance.  I think this season became darker than anybody anticipated, just because of the subject areas that they laid out in the beginning, I mean, the thing with the ex-Nazi SS doctor and human experiments, and the serial killer based on this character Ed Gein.  Yes, the warehousing of human beings in these institutions, madness, I mean, yes, there’s a lot of subjects that they’re covering, the Catholic Church, that lend themselves to great horror stories.

MG: Can you reflect on the difference between your characters from the first season, Constance very much seemed to be the puppet master, but in the second season Jude is fast becoming our very complex hero as the season develops.  How different are Jude’s intentions to Constance’s, and what did you really want to bring to Jude that you may not have been able to do with Constance?
JL: I think “puppet master” is a very good description of Constance.  The thing that I found, kind of the spine of the character of Constance, was that this was a woman who had basically lost everything and had nothing left to lose and also was extremely, what can I say, unafraid, so she just manipulated her way and put herself in situations that probably other people would not have.  With Jude she has a lot to lose because she’s holding on to something that she feels has saved her life and redeemed her, and then when it all becomes clear that everything was false, from the idea that she did not run over and kill this child, which is what sent her on this whole path, trying to find some kind of life, some redemption, some spiritual life, that when she discovers everything is false from the beginning, there’s a descent into madness that is completely different and for me much more interesting to play. I thought Constance was a wonderful character, she was kind of a throwback to the ’40s, kind of tough dame, sweet talking but with a real edge, she did not suffer fools, nothing went past her, she had a way of moving through everything and getting what she wanted.  This woman is much more vulnerable and I think in some way tragic.  She’s destroyed her life.  She’s an addict.  She’s an alcoholic.  She’s had bad luck with men, a lot of bad men in her life.  And she’s come to the end of the road with the hopes that this church, that this man, the Monsignor, is going to save her, that she’ll become something else, that she’ll make her life worth living.  And of course that all comes down, crashing, and she’s left absolutely alone, completely and totally alone, and those are two things I love playing because you also find them in Williams’ characters, the thing of aloneness, the idea of being completely alone in the world and couple that with madness, and it’s a really potent combination to play.

MG: Do you want more challenges in your “American Horror Story” tenure? Is there ever times you feel it goes to far?
JL: Well, there are times when I’ve said, “I think this is too much,” but that’s not been too often because they tend to write for me less action and I don’t know, maybe more kind of psychological.  But that’s been better.  I wouldn’t really know how to do a lot of the really intense action scenes, so I have a few of those but not many.  I think there was a leap of faith on my part just thinking, well, if I’m going to do this I’m going to do this.  And I think as an actor you have to have trust, you have to believe that somebody is taking care of you or watching your back, because with a part like this especially and where we’re going with it, I can’t pull any punches, I can’t do it halfway, especially when you’re dealing with madness and this descent into madness, and I really felt like, okay, I’m going to embrace this 100% and hopefully somebody will look out for me and not let me completely humiliate myself. Yes, it’s combined. I’ve never worked this way before where it’s so fluid between the creators, the writers, and me.  Usually you get a script and it’s there and it’s start to finish, and this kind of evolves and morphs as we go along.  I do have more input, but then there are of course limitations within the structure of the whole story and the trajectory of where it’s going.  But it’s been interesting.  It’s been an interesting challenge.

MG: Since you have a background in photography, have you ever collaborated with the DP or ask questions or have an opinion about the visual layout of the show?
JL: Well, I’m very curious about the way it looks, yes.  I always watch cinematographers on the set because in some way I think having spent 30 years making movies, maybe it’s 35 now, I think I’ve been informed in my photography by filmmakers, by the cinematographer, so that I’m drawn always, when I take a photograph what prompts me to lift my camera and click the shutter usually has a great deal to do with setting, with lighting, with the choreography, the grouping. So I think that, in fact I’m just looking now at the wall, I’ve got all these little 8x10s of Day of the Dead, I was there in Oaxaca just a month ago, and yes, it has a very cinematic feel to it.  And I think because I’ve been doing movies as long as I have, that one lends itself to the other.  I understand, and I’m very curious, about how you light specifically for dramatic emphasis.  And I think Michael Goy in this series that we’re doing is a master at that.  He really does an amazing job lighting this show.  Yes, it’s amazing to watch him do it and to create the emotions.  And through the ambience, through the lighting, right away you have an instantaneous emotional reaction before the scene even plays out.

MG: Which actor have you enjoyed working with most this season?
JL: One of my favorite actors that I worked with in these episodes last year and this year is Frances Conroy.  There’s just something in her, I don’t know there’s something, when we’re on screen together something happens.  I think one of my favorite scenes that I’ve played this year is the scene from, I guess it was Episode 7 in the diner when she’s come for me as the Angel of Death, and I don’t know, there’s almost a connection that you can’t really describe.  But certain actors I think just find something when they’re working together, and that’s how I felt in these scenes with Frannie.  But every actor that I’ve worked with on this, I mean, James, Sarah, and Lily and Ian, it’s just a pleasure to work with them.  And even actors who come in for just a day’s work have been amazing and have really brought something and make your work better.

MG: Tell us about your plans to return for a third season?
JL: Well, we haven’t really talked about it too much, and all that stuff is still under discussion.  I think I will try it again, depending on what the story is and who the character is and all of that, so we’ll see what happens. I’m just exhausted from this whole experience.  And this season, it seems like it’s gone on forever and I really don’t have a thought about next season yet.  There’s a lot of stuff that will come up, but as of now I hate to say I haven’t given it any thought whatsoever.

Steven Seagal chats about his new film “Maximum Conviction” and rumors of “The Expendables 3”

Steven Seagal is an action movie superstar, martial artist, musician and even deputy police officer. He is teaming with with Steven Austin in his new film “Maximum Conviction”.   Media Mikes had a chance to ask Steven a few quick questions about the new film, as well as law enforcement, his music and the rumors of “The Expendables 3”.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you end up teaming with Steve Austin for “Maximum Conviction”?
Steven Seagal: My team offered it to me and I liked the story. So I decided to try it. I loved working with Steve and it would be my pleasure to do it again if the opportunity arose. He is a gentleman and a great guy.

MG: What do you think it takes to make an effective action film today and how it has changed since films like “Above the Law”?
SS: Nowadays they have millions of dollars, special effects and wires. The old style you don’t see very much anymore. It is all special photography, special effects and stuff like that.

MG: You’ve taken on the role of producer and writing on most of your projects, tell about how you ended up producing this film?
SS: I produce almost everything that I do. On this project, Steve got in on it with executive producing and that was cool with me.

MG: Loved your role in “Machete”;  tell us about your reuniting with Danny Trejo in “Forces of Execution”?
SS: Danny has been a friend of mine for 25 years. I love the guy. He is my brother and I love to work with him on whatever we can.

MG: Now that season two has completed for Reelz Channel’s “True Justice”, is there a third planned?
SS: There is no word yet but we are just waiting to see what is going to happen. So, I am waiting just like you.

MG: What ever happened to season three of “Steven Seagal: Lawman”?
SS: Well what happened is that A&E got paranoid since the Obama administration was suing a party close to the show. So in their great courage, they put everything on hold.

MG: What is the most important skill do you think that all law enforcement officers need?
SS: That is like asking what is the best gun for all purposes. You need a different gun for different situations. In terms of a police officer in general, one of the most important things is to have great people skills and understand who you are talking to. Trying to make the community understand that we are their brothers and we are there to protect them. Conversely  there are other elements for super consciousness when it comes to going into any situation that can be potentially dangerous. Also how you can have a panoramic awareness that is also extremely important.

MG: Been listening to your CD “Mojo Priest” since 2007, can we expect a new album soon?
SS: It is half finished right now. I am embarrassed to say it is not done yet. But I am hoping to get to it soon. I am just crazy right now trying to get out there and start swinging. The economy is crazy right now and everything is crazy right now. So it has taken the back burner unfortunately.

MG: Can you address any rumors of you joining the planned “The Expendables 3”?
SS: I will not be involved with that project.

Jaleel White chats about season 2 of Syfy’s “Total Blackout”

Jaleel White has been one busy man on television. He was a contestant on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and started hosting Syfy’s new game show “Total Blackout”. Jaleel took out some time to chat with Media Mikes again to discuss the season 2 of Syfy’s “Total Blackout”, which premieres October 30th, and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: So we know the idea behind “Total Blackout” – challenges played in complete darkness, how is season two going to amp it up for viewers?
Jaleel White: I don’t think we are going to disappoint people. We have definitely improved upon last year. It all boils down to money. At the end of the day the more people to like the show, the more money we will get [laughs]. This season, the exotic nature of the show has been amped with the animals. Last year, we had little dogs and stuff like that. That wouldn’t even been be allowed on the idea table this season. So, definitely the exotic nature is one. Second, I have to say the contestants themselves. We got a lot of our first choice contestants. Last year people didn’t realize what the show was since it was new and we got a lot of people backing out at the last minute. But since the show has become a hit, trending on twitter and people like it – now we have the opposite problem. We have too many people that want to be on the show. So there is definitely no any contestant shortage this season.

MG: Last time we spoke you said “contestants get smarter” and were concerned about the screening process; do you feel that was addressed and planned for this season?
JW: I definitely felt like we chose some really great contestants. I am really proud of the people we got this season. There is an episode also where we bring back people have previously lost. So we have that loser’s all-star episode and in fact, it was particularly touching for the contestant that won and their reaction.

MG: Last season was your first go at hosting a game show, what were you personally looking forward to most in this second season?
JW: I said it last year and will probably keep saying it for as long as this show is on, it is really fun to be a part of TV that I feel like the love and the landscape make it that people want to watch the show. I don’t have to beg people to watch this show. It is just awesome for me man!

MG: What is your favorite challenge this season?
JW: It has to be the mouse trap mazes. It is so creative. They also got the most physical reaction out of our contestants. That is my personal favorite this season.

MG: Have they ever considered doing a celebrity, maybe with some Syfy talent, episode of the show?
JW: Well we got some surprises for you this season. I know we are boys but sorry man my lips are sealed. Stay tuned because it is going to be cool.

MG: Have they tried to convince you to get in that dark room yet?
JW: Joe Rogan doesn’t do his show. Why does everyone want me to do my show? [laughs] I am the host, man [laughs]. Well, I don’t know what circumstances would put me in the dark room but I would welcome whatever it would be. Obviously, I would have a far greater advantage from a psychological stand point. I welcome it if it comes along though. I got it, put me in there with Joe Rogan or some other hosts [laughs].

MG: What would be your worst nightmare to encounter in there?
JW: Oh man! An alligator would be up there. Also for me if wouldn’t be a snake…it would be snakes.

Vision of Disorder’s Tim Williams chats about new album “The Cursed Remain Cursed”

Tim Williams in the lead singer in the Long Island-based hardcore band Vision of Disorder. I have been a fan of these guys since day one and were a major influence in my taste of music. The band released their latest album “The Cursed Remain Cursed”, which was the first studio recording in over a decade. The album is also one of their best to date. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Tim about the album and the how the hardcore scene has changed over the years.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about the inspiration behind “The Cursed Remain Cursed”?
Tim Williams: Long story short, it was a long process…which is fine. We took our time. A lot of the inspiration both the songs and the lyrics were based on how I was feeling during the time. Things were a little hairy in my life for a while. So I was dealing with that and then also the disbanding of Bloodsimple. I was looking forward to just getting in the studio, taking my time and not having to rush out on the road right away. Just kind of settling down a little, you know? Things were really busy for a long time and it was good just to say in one place and make some music.

MG: It’s been 11 years since your last studio album; how do you feel that the sound for VOD has evolved in that time?
TW: I think we have changed as people and musicians. We are a little wiser and know what we want and know how to get it. I think going when we went out own way for that time and made it on our own terms really helped also. I think the biggest difference this time around for VOD is that we are more mature and know how to handle the business better.

MG:The tracks on this album are just as hardcore matching the self-titled album, you have any difficulty keeping that level of anger through the lyrics?
TW: No, not at all. There is plenty to be mad about [laughs]. There are also plenty of things to talk about in the world. The things that I draw my lyrically content from are very present and have not run dry from that well. It is difficult to do well, so you need to take the time to make it what it is. Just pushing out the first thing in your head and holding it. So it is not hard to conjure it but it is hard to make it good.

MG: What was your biggest challenge heading into the studio?
TW: My biggest challenge was to try and not make the same mistakes. I wouldn’t go as far as to stay relevant but to make really good music and not fall back on the stuff that we have already achieved.

MG: How was it working with producer Will Putney on this album?
TW: It was great. I have done work with Will before back on Bloodsimple. He engineered their second record. VOD recorded about 3-4 demos for this record to see how they sounded. We did a demo with Will and that one just destroyed every other demo we did. It just captured what VOD should be. We went back and forth with a couple different producers. Long story short, based on the connection I had with him, I just kept pushing for Will over and over. Finally, it all worked out. It couldn’t have been a better choice because the proof is in the pudding and Will was a very intricate part of that record. He really just let us be VOD and that is why it worked. Will knows how the band is supposed to sound and I feel that we did it right.

MG: Any B-sides that didn’t make it onto this album?
TW:We wrote a lot of songs for this record. There was a lot that we didn’t even bring to the pre-production. There was one song that actually was tracked but  there was so much shit I had to get done and I didn’t even listen to it. Everything was going so good and I didn’t want to waste 2-3 days on a new song, when the other shit was so great. That might come out some day…you never know.

MG: How does you feel that the hardcore scene has changed since you started?
TW: It has definitely changed. How do I feel? It doesn’t really matter…it changes, you know? It will change with or without me. I feel fortunate that VOD was around when it began – or I would say was morphing into a different thing, like from the 80’s into the 90’s. We were very fortunate to have been involved with the scene in the 90’s with bands like Madball, Dark Side, the original Life of Agony, Sub-Zero and all those bands that were really hardcore. To be a part of that and actually succeed was a cool thing. Seeing VOD be able to come back is even better. It has really been a crazy ride.

MG: We going to have to wait another decade before we get more material again?
TW: This album is still new, obviously. But yes, we will like to do more records down the line. We are just going to continue on and probably crank out another one and just keep going. Why will we stop right?

Ron Perlman talks about “3,2,1…Frankie Goes Boom”, “Sons of Anarchy” and Guillermo del Toro

Ron Perlman is known for his many unique roles like Hellboy or Vincent in “Beauty and the Beast”. He also plays bad-ass biker, Clay Morrow, in “Sons of Anarchy”, which just started it’s fifth season on FX. Ron tackles a completely different role in the new comedy “3,2,1…Frankie Goes Boom”.  He is playing the role of the transsexual ex-con, Phyllis. This film is a absolute riot and Perlman really steals the show. Media Mikes had the honor to chat with Ron about this new role, his recently “reset” character on “Sons of Anarchy” and his continuously growing resume working with  Guillermo del Toro.

Mike Gencarelli: What drew you to the role of Phyllis, the transsexual ex-con in “3,2,1…Frankie Goes Boom”?
Ron Perlman: It was not a childhood aspiration let me tell you [laughs]. However life its strange way of taking twists and turns that you never see coming. It turns out that Charlie Hunnam, my co-star on “Sons of Anarchy”, was going to to this film as his summer school pet-project. I get a call from him that the filmmaker would consider reading this script and play the role of Jack (this ended up being played by Chris Noth). I started reading it and I got to page 2 or 3 and I just said “Holy shit, this is really funny and I need to be in this movie. I started reading Jack’s part and I really loved Jack…but then I got to Phyllis. I get this mental image

of Jax Teller from “SOA” coming in and seeing Clay Morrow in a house dress, red nail polish, lipstick and being asked to kiss his hand. I said “Well, if that doesn’t get these fuckers nothing will” [laughs]. The more I read of Phyllis, the most I realized that this will be a really fun character to explore and unlike anything I have ever done before. I really admired the comedy in the writing. I called up and told them what I wanted to do and they said “It just so happens that you are the only person with the balls enough to ask to play Phyllis and by default you got the part”.

MG: Where did you get inspiration for the character?
RP: There was really no real inspiration from her that came from my life personally. Everything I used as a jumping off point as with what Jordon (Roberts) wrote. I just love the notion that Phyllis starts off as Phil, a guy who is an outlaw and is this computer hacker. He has this amazing ability to rip off Bank of America for $2 million bucks and that is how he ends up being Bruce’s (Chris O’Dowd) cellmate. He always had this notion of being a woman born in a man’s body and feels compelled to fix that. I said to myself “Jesus, if I can’t figure some interesting idiosyncrasies for the planning of this guy, then I should really turn in my Screen Actor’s Guild card.” [laughs]

MG: How was it going from working with Charlie Hunnam on “Sons of Anarchy” to this film?
RP: Some of the scenes that could have been very uncomfortable, and if fact where very uncomfortable, it helps that I had a bro on the set. I could say “Dude, it behooves us both to never get into the press as to how the filming of this actually looked and smelled like”. That fact that it was my bro that I was doing this with really helped a lot.

MG: Do you find that comedy comes natural for you?
Comedy was what started me off as an actor. I did some stand-up when I was really young, growing up in New York. Then I joined a troupe with a group of friends doing sketch comedy. So that was my first love. Hollywood does afford me to do a lot of comedy. So in order to find these opportunities, I have to go underground and find projects like “Frankie Goes Boom”. But when I am able to do it, it is a real pleasure.

MG: After five seasons, do you feel that that Clay Morrow has changed within your portrayal?
RP: In the first four years, he has this station in life and this stability and marriage with Gemme (played by Katey Sagal). Now in season five he has lost everything. He is on a reset now. No one knows where he ends up at the end of season five, including yours truly. But he is definitely on a journey where the sand is shifting under his feet and he is re-adapting himself. What an amazing opportunity that is

for me as an actor. You sign on to do a TV show, the conditions of which are highly well articulated and then all of the sudden five seasons in you are almost playing a new character. It is the same character but under completely new circumstances. Yeah, it is awesome and you don’t get to do that often on television. We all feel very blessed that this show is such an un-obvious exercise in storytelling. It sets a completely unpredictable set of circumstances and also while continuing to be very dynamic and violital. It is flood with very explosive violence and it is like a bad car accident…you can’t take your eyes off it.

MG: Are you and Charlie planning to work together on every project, after this you have “Pacific Rim” coming out?
RP: Yeah, for life man. This is it. Charlie Hunnam and I. We are the new Laurel and Hardy or Martin and Lewis or Abbott and Costello or probably Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen. But I am not sure which one is the dummy.

MG: How was it working with Guillermo del Toro yet again on this film?
RP: Oh my God, this is number five for me and GDT! We felt like family members from the very first project, “Cronos” and on. We became really good friends. So to get to go through life together celebrating this friendship and doing it in such a way that we add-in these wonderful creative opportunities into the mix is great. I am watching him evolve as a filmmaker and he is watching me grow old as an actor. We are getting to do it in each other’s presence. That is in a category that I can only label as “Undescribable”. There are no words to describe how phenomenal that reality is. Now that we hit the number five [laughs], it is pretty clear to me that it is not a fluke. It is probably something we will continue to do until one of us drops, and I got a really good feeling I am going first.

MG: You got to get him to do another “Hellboy” film man!
RP: I am working on it. Trust me I am working on it.

MG: You’ve been successful in both film and television, do you have a preference?
RP: I really love working for the camera. I really love working on interesting material. I would have to say the opportunity I have on this particular television show is probably 500 percent better than any other television exercise that one could hope to be on. There are some really great TV shows out there now like “Newsroom”, “Breaking Bad” and “Boardwalk Empire”. There is a lot of great stuff now being done on television. But for the most part those are the exceptions to the rule. And I am on one of the most exciting shows to be a part of. It is almost like doing a movie since it is such a charged and intelligent setting. So yeah, I don’t have a preference as long as it answers to those edicts.

Drea de Matteo chats about her role on FX’s “Sons of Anarchy”

Drea de Matteo is best known for her role of Angie Bolen on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and of course Adriana La Cerva on HBO’s “The Sopranos”. She is a special guest star on FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” playing Wendy Case, Jax’s ex-wife and ex-junkie who recently cleaned up her act and is looking to be part of Abel’s life. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Drea about this role and what we can expect.

Adam Lawton: Tell us how you originally got involved with the show in getting cast for the role of Wendy.
Drea de Matteo: Originally, I came with John Linson before the show was even–I don’t know if it was written or if it was–I don’t know what was going on. I know that I came with John and he introduced me to Kurt. Originally, the character was going to die in the pilot. Then when I decided to do it they kept her alive and I’ve been there ever since but back and forth because I couldn’t fully commit to being on the show at the time. So I was off the show for a while and became a huge fan of the show while I was off of it. Then I just started writing Kurt and Katey [Sagal] and thinking, oh my God, I can’t believe what’s going on. When does the next season air? I was like, and I want to come back. You guys have to figure out Wendy’s turn. So I came originally with John. Then, once it became Kurt’s show they wove me in and out when possible.

AL: Okay. Now, being that you’ve been back and forth, on and off the show, what’s been the most difficult part of playing the Wendy character because when we do see her it’s always a dramatic change from the last time we saw her.
DDM: Well she’s been in recovery. So it’s like it’s watching a child grow up to a certain degree. I think in the very beginning of the series she was extremely, extremely vulnerable. At first she was a mess. Then she was sober and a raw nerve. Now she comes back with her confidence intact and not wanting to stir any … up except for being a responsible party. It seems that the whole entire world has imploded and she’s going to have a hard time maneuvering within it because nobody’s stable over there. She’s now become the face of stability, which is kind of funny.

AL:Who do you think is the more powerful couple; Christopher and Adriana or Jax and Wendy?
DDM: Oh boy. Jax and Wendy? I would probably compare Adriana and Christopher to Jax and Tara maybe, because Wendy is not around enough. Oh boy, the more powerful couple? I’m going to have to go with Jax and Tara only because, I mean, after all Christopher had Adriana killed, you know. It doesn’t get worse than that. Adriana was very weak. Tara; she’s a force to be reckoned with.

AL: You have said before they were originally going to kill the Wendy character off in a pilot. With them deciding to keep the character were you allowed to kind of develop it from that point, or were the scripts just given to you and you kind of went on what they told you?
DDM: Well, Kurt’s a great writer, so they don’t need me. They didn’t me to say, “Well, this is what I want to happen to ‘Wendy.’” When you go into a series like this I’m sure Kurt had the entire season, the first season, outlined for himself and where it was going to go. My character was never a part of where it was going. It was all about Tara and Jax. So, I guess, once they kept me alive the goal was to just sort of have me there as like this thorn
on everybody’s side. Then I couldn’t stay on. So they just put that story to rest which was perfect because I went away to treatment anyway. So, yes, I didn’t really develop. The writer’s tend to write around the actor and their style to a certain degree as long as it’s keeping with what they’re writing about. So I know with Adriana, when I did Adriana, David Chase would do that with me a lot. I don’t know that Kurt did that with Wendy, but I think bringing her back as a strong character and it’s also very much who I am in real life. I wouldn’t say that I was involved in development. I mean, TV is a writer’s medium 100%, and the writer’s king. We all just need to understand that. It’s not a director’s place. It’s not for the actors. It’s really all about those writers.

AL:Now, ultimately, we know Wendy’s goal is to be in Abel’s life. Do you think there are any ulterior motives there now that she is clean, sober and seeing for the first time really with clear eyes a vision how the club’s working. Does she still want to be a part of that, or is she just looking to get scott free with her son?

DDM: I don’t think she’s looking to be a part of a club or to be part of that community. I definitely think that she’s looking to be a part of his life and to do it in a way where she’s not causing drama. I think she’d like to just get along with everybody. I think that–and anybody in the program would… I think she’d like to able to make amends to all of them, mostly to her son, and to be in his life. Even if it meant she couldn’t say, “I’m your mom,” but to just be in his life. Eventually, when he’s older he’s going to want to know who his real mom is. More than anything, I think that she’s looking for stability, not drama. I don’t think she has ulterior motives. I do think that if she’s pushed and manipulated and blocked out that you will see a side of her that…it’s not even so much that it’s an unstable, unsavory side. It’s she’s a mama and that’s her baby. She went and took care of herself in order to be able to come back and reclaim what was hers. So you can’t keep a mom away from their baby for too long.

AL:Do you find that there’s a big difference in shooting between what’s done on FX being a cable channel than your HBO, your Pay-Per-View channel, do you see that there’s a difference? Obviously, you can do a little bit more on HBO but shooting-wise, is there any difference or anything like that?
DDM: Yes. You can’t say f… That’s difficult for me. It’s difficult for a biker show, I would imagine. When you say, “Get the hell out of here.” But you really just want to say, “Get the f… out of here.”

AL: There’s so many similar elements between the Sopranos and Sons of Anarchy being one’s a gang and one’s mob. They’re all tight knit families and trying to cover that on a regular television channel.
DDM: The shooting is very similar. Sopranos, look, it was a whole different ball game. It was the first of its kind. We set the structure for it. Long shooting weeks, tons of money going into a show. That was brand new, man. Nobody knew what that was on cable yet. So all of these shows, Breaking Bad, you’ve got Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, Rescue Me, like all of these are great shows. No one ever knew a TV show would be treated like a small film every week, big budgets and whatnot. Sopranos we shot 16-day weeks. Here we shoot 7-day weeks, 8-day weeks. I think that’s what they do. I don’t know.

AL: A lot of people really love the Wendy character and how she’s evolved. So I’ve had a few fans wanting me to ask, would it be possible for Wendy to be around a little bit more, maybe have a different love interest? Or do you just not see the role…?
DDM: Well, I’m going to have to say that’s totally 100% up to Kurt. I’m back now. I’m open and willing and ready to do whatever they want me to do. I took off for a long time there but I did a couple of episodes this season. I’m open to doing as many as Kurt thinks would benefit his story, the story he wants to tell, for sure.

Robert Englund chats about new film “Lake Placid: The Final Chapter” and reflects on playing Freddy Krueger

Robert Englund is known best for his iconic role of Freddy Krueger in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series.  Robert is such a legend in the horror genre.  He is co-starring in Syfy’s “Lake Placid: The Final Chapter”, which airs on September 29th.  Robert took out some time to chat about the film and reflect on his career and his alter ego Freddy Krueger.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with “Lake Placid: The Final Chapter”?
Robert Englund: Well, I’ve been involved with the SyFy channel several times over the years. I’ve pitched projects to them and recently I just pitched a reality show to them, and I’ve done TV movies for them. Every boy has to fight his giant snake, his killer bees, and when they called me to fight giant alligators, I signed up. I was at a premiere for a film in Barcelona with my wife and all I had was a tuxedo, and a dress suit, and a couple of shirts, and a couple of pairs of underwear when I got the call for Lake Placid. So I went directly from Barcelona, with hardly any luggage, to Sofia, Bulgaria. And there is a lake just outside the capital of Bulgaria, that’s exactly like, it’s the exact same kind of geological features as Maine. It’s got that rocky shoreline and the exact same kind of pine trees. It’s amazing, I thought I was – I was looking around for lobster rolls it looked so much like Maine. I showed up and there was the lovely Elisabeth Rohm, who I had a crush on since the first time I saw her, you know, in court on Law and Order. And Yancy Butler, who I’ve known – not known, but I’ve run into over the years at Comic-Con and things because she had such a huge fan boy following with Witchblade, and we just all got to work. We worked real hard, real long days, because we were losing Indian Summer. We had a little bit of Indian Summer in the beginning, and it started getting pretty cold. We were all on the water all the time. Because that’s where the gators are, but yeah, it was really fun, you know, and the coincidence was when I got there and got picked up at the airport. It was guys I’d worked for years ago, you know, in a giant snake movie. So now they have a big huge studio, over there in Eastern Europe, and they’re doing real well. In fact they shooting, Expendables right when we were wrapping, Expendables 2 came in and used a lot of our crew towards the end. So things are hopping in Romania.

MG: Tell us about shooting this film, was it difficult on a low budget?
RE: Well, yes and no. What you have to understand is, if you’re shooting in Detroit or you’re shooting in Louisiana. Or you’re shooting in New Mexico, you know, you get these great tax rebates. And the same thing happens in Europe. Sometimes it’s just because it’s so beautiful there and you get this enhanced production value. And even though we had to pay to fly everybody over there, there’s already a huge studio and production company in Sofia, Bulgaria. They’d been shooting a couple of Lake Placids there. So you get a big bang for your buck, which is nice. So you work hard and there is that problem of language with the foreign crew that you’re dealing with. And also just explaining yourself, or your taste, or trying to describe what you might require in terms of wardrobe or something. Because sometimes idioms can get convoluted. And so you’re always dealing with that, but I’ve done a lot of movies in Europe now. So I’m kind of an old hand at that. I did a giant snake movie with these guys years ago. And even they had realized that Anaconda had a huge fan base, you know, the J-Lo film. And they already, a low budget version that we’re doing, they had a better snake effect than the movie Anaconda. Because that’s how fast and how quickly the technology grows in CGI and animation right now. If you watch a movie like Starship Troopers now, with my friend Casper Van Diem, you know, it looks old fashioned now. You can actually see the same bug getting shot, that they’ve used over and over again. Because CGI was so expensive back then. It’s kind of like the old cowboy movies where you see the same Indian getting shot off a horse as he circles the wagon train. And they show it like maybe 2 minutes later in the sequence as if we haven’t seen that before. Because they only had that stunt twice, and they use it again later in the movie. And it’s like, “Wait a minute, I saw that Indian get shot. I saw that fall, I saw him get his ankle caught in the stirrup and get dragged. I remember that.” And it’s the same thing with old CGI now, you see the repetition shots where they used them. Or you can kind of see where the mat just flips and continues the same foreground action in the background, slightly out of focus. Because they didn’t have enough soldiers in Troy that day. And so when I do these new movies, if I’m doing a SyFy channel movie with killer bees or giant alligators. It looks better than the last giant alligator in a feature film, you know, because that’s one of the reasons they do it. Because they figured out a better way to do it. And even though the movie may be less expensive, and a little exploitative, many times you’re actually getting a better effect.

MG: If Jim Bickerman crossed paths with Freddy, what would his first words be to him? And if Freddy crossed paths with Jim, what would he think of him?
RE: Well, Jim Bickerman is a pretty ornery guy. And he obviously would have to meet Freddy in his dreams, and I think Jim Bickerman’s dreams are probably pretty strange. He’s a dirty old man that Jim Bickerman, as you saw in the film. So there’s probably some point where Jim Bickerman like of, they both like them teenage girls. They’re bad boys. So I’m sure that Jim Bickerman, before Freddy killed him would want to join forces with Freddy. Maybe Freddy could turn Jim Bickerman and the two of them could work together. I don’t know if it would be Bickerman versus Krueger. Freddy is always going to win, and once you fall asleep Freddy gets the drop on you.

MG: Throughout your career has there been anything that has given you nightmares or maybe something that you are scared of?
RE: Nothing really scares me. When I did the first Nightmare film, I mean there’s films that scare me, I just even got a jolt the other night watching Cabin in the Woods. And I remember the original Alien got me several times, and I was a grown up when I saw that, and I dragged my poor father to see it. But now, when I was in the makeup for the original Freddy, I fell asleep, we were shooting nights. And I fell asleep trying to get a nap and the AD banged on the door and said, “Mr. Englund hurry up we’re going to try and get this shot before the sun comes up.” And I sat up, and I forgot, this was during the first film, forgetting I was in this make-up. I sat up with, you know, that kind of bad breath you have after a little nap, and I rolled off of my cot in my little tiny, you know, honey wagon dressing room. And there in the recesses, in the forced perspective of my make-up mirror, opposite my bunk, surrounded by dim light bulbs – make-up light bulbs, that had been cranked down on the dimmer. I saw this old bald man with scars and burns all over him looking back at me. I kind of went, “Oh geez.” And I put my hand on my head and so did he. So it became this sort of nightmarish Marx brothers routine. And it literally took me about the count of 5 or 6 to kind of come out of that semi-conscious state you’re in when you wake up real fast. And, you know, when you’re fighting for the alarm clock. That kind of moment of time. I was very disoriented. The point of this story is that moment, looking into the mirror, which I recovered from in 5 to 6 seconds, but that moment, I can remember it like it was yesterday. And occasionally, and I don’t want to like guilt the lily here, but occasionally that does enter into my subconscious and it does get into a dream, or it comes in as a random image that’s still stored in my brain somewhere. Because it was so disorienting. There’s that funny distancing of where I was sitting, and then the mirror 2 or 3 feet from me. And then in an equally far back and deep in the mirror Freddy, looking back at Robert. Because I was Robert obviously. But that really was a strange moment, and it was so early in the film experience for me, of horror films. I had been doing a lot of very normal fair up until then, except for science fiction. That really did disorient me, and it did stay with me, and do a little kind of a – I think there’s a definite crease in my gray matter that makes a home for that image.

MG: With you being a horror icon and legend; Do you ever kind of feel pressured to hold up that title? How would you feel that the genre has changed over the years for you?
RE: Well I get a lot of scripts, in fact, as I’m talking to you right now I’m behind one script at least. And there is one that I have to download and print out. But, I don’t like feel a pressure. The back of my mind, I’m always looking. I’m trying to help out right now with a project, I did a cult film a couple of years ago called Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. That’s really a great, smart film. And so I – the sequel script to that is just phenomenal. It’s the second best sequel script of something I’ve done I’ve seen in a long, long time. There was a great one years ago for a great contemporary spinoff of Phantom of the Opera. I had done a Phantom of the Opera over in Europe and the follow-up script – the reason I did the original was because the follow-up script was so strong and interesting and really great contemporary version of an extension of the Phantom of the Opera legend and myth. But this one, you know, so I’m always kind of looking Mike. I’ve always got one eye peeking or one ear open for something that I want to do in horror. That’s different, or that I just think – even if it’s derivative is really strong. And also because I get – to be honest with you, when I do a genre piece I get a bigger pay day. Than if I’m just guest starring on, you know, Criminal Minds or Hawaii Five-0, or Bones or something. Then I’m just Robert Englund, character actor again. And when I do my little horror movies like Inkubus, that I brought out last Halloween on DVD, when I do my little down and dirty horror movies I’m getting more money. Or when I got over to Europe to play a Prince in some strange cult film in Spain or something, it’s a nice payday for me. So I do make an effort to do one or two a year, just on an economic level let alone. But I’m always looking, I’m always looking for that new one. I spent a year and a half in Italy scouting locations, and casting, and talking to Christopher Lee, and Donald Sutherland, for a project back in 2006/2007 that did not come to fruition. And that was very disappointing for me, you know, that takes a lot out of you when you get to be my age, spending a year of your life. I’m obviously turning down other projects if I’m trying to develop something. So, you kind of have to be careful. So I just now see the stuff that’s sent to me. I’m not really developing it on my own. But I am always checking the stuff that’s sent to me and trying to keep current on that.

MG: Looking back at your iconic role of Freddy Krueger, have you ever regretting taking this role?
RE: No, I’ve never regretted taking the role or my association with the great Wes Craven, and the success it brought me. You know, both economic and career success. Now, am I somewhat funneled into genre films, yes I am. I’ve done, I’ve done, I think I’m about to do, I’m about to start my 77th movie. Feature length film. And I think literally if you added up all my horror movies I think it’s less than 20. So horror movies less than 20, there’s another 55 films that I’ve done. Now, a couple of those are sci-fi, some of them are thrillers, you know, some of them are a little bit fantasy. But most of them are just other movies that I’ve done. And, or TV movies. I’ve done a lot of quality TV movies as well. So they’re not really out and out horror. So, but the thing that I’ve been telling people that this happy accident for me is the fact that after I got out of the make-up and I got enough baggage and enough reputation that I’ve sort of become like a surrogate Vincent Price, a surrogate Klaus Kinski. A go to guy for those roles, and somebody has to do that and you know, we don’t really have a Cary Grant, or a Steve McQueen anymore. But if I can kind of fit into Vincent Price’s loafers, or Klaus Kinski’s boots a little bit. Even if it’s a low budget genre film, which both of those gentlemen did a lot of. I can remember seeing Dr. Phibes, you know, (unintelligible) the day it came out. I’m happy to be that guy. I do a lot of other things. Tomorrow I go to work on a little send-up spoof on workaholics for comedy central. And I’ve been guest starring on all of the top 10 shows in the last year. You know, I’ve been on Criminal Minds, and Bones, and Hawaii Five-0 doing just guest starring on those, doing normal roles. So, it’s fun for me to do these. And I’ll be honest with you guys, I get paid better. If I do a horror movie or a science fiction movie, I get paid more because I fill the seats. Especially in certain countries, I can still open a movie, for instance, in Spain and Italy, and even in Germany to a degree. So that, there’s enough genre fans there, and they’ve been fans long enough. And as long as our sort of early Comic-Con fans, that that’s just another benefit that I bring to the table.

MG: With people being so desensitized in films and horror. What would you say it takes to make a good scary movie these days?
RE: Well scary is subjective. I think there is room now for all different splits. Just like there is in music. You know, Lake Placid has some real jumps in it. Lake Placid 4, we’ve got some real jumps in it. And there’s something really primal. That’s about a part of the brain that goes back to when we were reptiles. It’s an instinct that we have. And there’s also a little something in us that makes us afraid of snakes, and afraid of spiders, and afraid of alligators, and crocodiles. And so those thrills come easy in ours. But there’s also room for the fun. There’s a certain amount of fun, I think, a little bit of undercurrent fun in a Lake Placid movie. I mean, we kill our teenagers, but there’s a little bit of fun in it too. I think there has to be room for all of these. I just saw a very clever movie last week on demand, with a cocktail in one hand and a cold pizza slice in the other, and my wife with her head in my lap. We watched The Cabin in the Woods and I really thought it was clever, and smart, and well-acted, and sexy. And it scared me, at least three or four times. It really got me, and I’m hard to get. Some things can be creepy though, there’s creepy scary. The great director Lucky McKee, very underrated. A film called May, he did a film called May that really is a creepy, creepy great film. So I like that too, you know, and sometimes I’m a little more distanced from films and I just love them for the actual film-making in them. And they may not scare me as much, but they may have a creepy factor too. The Brian DePalma film Sisters. That movie really kind of works on me. There’s something hypnotic about that film. Plus the split screen and the use of microfiche flashbacks in a dream sequence that was induced by drugs. There’s a really great, primal, primitive, early, kind of hallucinogenic hypnotizing quality to that. You know, you see that in old George Steven’s movies, and you see it even in classic films like Black Narcissus. Sometimes those movies become hypnotic. There’s something kind of hypnotic even in the recent Kirsten Dunst film Melancholia. But I like that, when that starts to happen to me in horror and science fiction, you know, I think Cameron can get into that. I’ve seen Cameron get into that before. I think especially in the Alien movies, there’s a point where there’s no dialogue for so long and time is suspended. And we hear the breathing. And I love that, that really, I love that disorienting, hypnotic quality of films. And that’s just as effective to me as horror or the cheap thrills scare. The William Castle lunge into frame, you know?

MG: I’m actually a huge fan of “Behind the Mask”. I’m actually a backer on the sequel. So I can’t wait for that to come out…
RE: Well I’m telling you, the script is phenomenal. Because it plays with the great pun that fans love of doppelgangers. So there’s actually actors playing us, the actors who played the parts in the original. Making a movie, about the story of the original. About Leslie Vernon and his tale. And we’ve been hired as technical advisors. And the whole project is being filmed by a Making of crew of a cable channel. So it’s a movie, within a movie, within a movie. And it’s all during the making of a movie, on the location of the movie. In the motel with all of the cast and the crew. And they start going down like ten little Indians. It’s really layered, and rich, and fun. And there’s a great gimmick with the actor they’re going to get to play, the actor, the Hollywood actor who will be playing Leslie Vernon. He gets to finally have a showdown with the real Leslie Vernon, which I think is fun. And you won’t know who he is, because he’s a method actor. He wears the mask for the whole movie, it’s really fun.

MG: What else do you have planned next?
RE: Tell people to look for me in Sanitarium with Malcolm McDowell, and John Glover, and Lou Diamond Phillips, and I’m off to shoot this, which is very kind of M. Night Shyamalan-ian. I’m going to be doing that next month, and yeah, and everybody tune in and check out. It’s really fun. Lake Placid 4, yeah. Freddy versus Yancy Butler. Thanks a lot.

Matt Lanter chats about voicing Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”

Matt Lanter is currently the voice of Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”. The show is entering its fifth season starting on September 29, 2012. He also co-stars as Liam on The CW’s “90210”. Media Mikes had a chance to meet up with Matt during the recent Star Wars Celebration VI and got to chat “Star Wars” with him.

Mike Gencarelli: When you are preparing to voice Anakin, what do you use as your inspiration to get into character?
Matt Lanter: Well we’ve been doing it for seven years now. We have been living with the character for a lot of time. So there is no ritual that I do to actually get into character. When I read the script, I just let my imagination take off into that world. The movies and the prior episodes are always in my head. When we go to record an episode, Dave (Filoni) is also there to give me notes. With Anakin, we always have an on-going discussing of where is he at right now. Has he changed as far as his awareness to manipulation. Is he losing patience for Obi-Wan or the counsel? Also how much do we want to show of them each season? There is a lot of that kind of prep prior to recording.

MG: Any new characters that you will be voicing this season?
ML: In the premiere episode this season, I get to also voice Hondo’s right hand man, a pirate called Jiro. He actually has a substantial role in the episode. He speaks with this Australian accent. I also have done a bunch of other stuff but you probably can’t tell since I really try to change it up. You just know Anakin’s voice so well. Dave is really letting me get in there and do more and more, which I love. It is great to be one of the James Arnold Taylor’s or Dee Bradley Baker’s on the show.

MG: Did you realize you had such range when voicing other characters?
ML: I think I learned more with going to different places and being around these guys. They talk about being elevate due to the acting part of it. But I am really elevated by them with the range of voicing that they can do. Like how to place with a pitch or tone for a voice, I have really learned a lot from them. I think if you look back through the series, I think you will be surprised that I have played numerous characters throughout. Bounty Hunters, Pirates and all sorts of cool things.

MG: You said you’ve watched the Star Wars Saga, Have you ever met Hayden Christiansen?
ML: No I have never met Hayden, no. He is about the only one I have met.

MG: Do you have a favorite character and can’t say Anakin?
ML: [Laughs] I love Han Solo. He is the man. He get’s the girl. He is witty. Han Solo has a big influence voicing Anakin for me. So I’ll go with Han Solo…and R2-D2.

MG: Do you feel that as Anakin gets closer to his role in “Revenge of the Sith” that it is becoming more challenging for you?
ML: Yeah, it will be a challenge. It is always a challenge though, but a fun challenge to accept to take him to that place. What is going to be challenging is how to show that in a natural way and not just go all the way out. we need to find the moments to show that stuff. Cause even in “Revenge of the Sith”, he is not a monster or anything. So we have to naturally segue that in. But with Dave and the great writing team with have, they have it under control.

MG: With fellow “Clone Wars”, Catherine Taber, Dee Bradley Baker and Anthony Daniels having voice roles in “Star Wars: Detours”, any chance you’ll appear as well?
ML: I would love to. I saw some of the stuff from the trailer and it looks like they are really having a blast with it. I am not sure what they would use me for but I would definitely love to.

MG: Do you own any of your own merchandise?
ML: Yeah, I do actually. I own a bit of Anakin stuff. I try not to get crazy with it. I got some really cool figurines form Gentle Giant. After a few seasons with the show, they gave us all a “Clone Wars” head thanking us for three years of service. That was really cool, especially since that was a cast/crew only thing.

MG: How is it for you going from such an intense role in “Star Wars The Clone Wars” to “90210”?
ML: Like I said, I have been doing both for a while now. It is just a different head space, when I am driving to work to “Clone Wars”, I am usually thinking about something that happened on a previous episode or a cool image or just being in a “Star Wars” state-of-mind. With “90210”, I have a long drive to that show. So I have a lot of time to think about that show and my character.

MG: If Liam from “90210” and Anakin from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” met, what would they talk about?
ML: [laughs] Probably about fixing a car or a speed-bike. Cause that is Anakin and Liam in the first season was all about his car. So I think they would find some common ground there [laughs].