Charles Bronson Look-alike Robert Bronzi talks about new film “Cry Havoc”

If you passed Robert Bronzi on the street you would definitely do a double take thinking that you have just passed the late actor Charles Bronson. Bronzi has taken Hollywood by storm recently and has starred in films like “Death Kiss”, Once Upon a Time in Deadwood” and most recently the horror film “Cry Havoc”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with the Bronson doppelganger to discuss his films and likeness to Charles Bronson.

Mike Gencarelli: How does it feel to be called “The Hungarian Charles Bronson”?

Robert Bronzi: In my home town people know me as Robert or Bronzi because that is my stage name. Also, when I’m traveling in the country a lot of people want to take a photo with me, they congratulate me and wish me luck. I have to say it’s a very good feeling.

MG: When did you first get confronted about your likeness to Charles Bronson?

RB: As young man, pretty much  my whole life. So I cut my hair and moustache like Bronson. Many years ago in Hungary I worked as a horse breeder and horse trainer. At the horse breeding center we had a lot of   visitors every day, people told me “hey boy ! you know you look like Charles Bronson? ” I worked with my very good friend Peter, he would always say that I looked like him and he began  to call me Bronzi. So he gave me my nick name . After that everyone called me Bronzi and it became my artist name.

MG: Give us some background on your life before you started making movies in Hollywood?

RB: I’m an actor, musician and stuntman. I have done a lot of different and interesting things in my life. I worked in Hungary as a horse breeder and horse trainer. I performed at western shows in Hungary and Spain in different pieces. I’m an accordionist, I played music in bars, at festivals, weddings and private parties.

MG: Tell us what was it like filming in Western Leone, near Almeria, Spain, which was the site of much of the filming of the famous Sergio Leone/Charles Bronson western ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST?

RB: Well, I really enjoyed filming in Almeria as I worked there for quite a few years in the western village of TEXAS HOLLYWOOD TABERNAS as a stunt performer. There I met some of my acquaintances, my old colleagues, and a few of them are also featured in the film, and my acting partners are also wonderful and talented people. Every time I go to Almeria I feel like if I am going home. I really like that place and Spain too.

MG: How was it going from a revenge western to a horror movie like CRY HAVOC?

RB: My first western style movie was shot some years ago, also with Rene Perez . The name of the film was From Hell To The Wild West .This is a western movie with horror elements. CRY HAVOC is a horror and action movie without western elements. For me that was a new challenge, a new role what I tried to do with my best ability as an actor.

MG: You have worked with director Rene Perez on four films now; tell us about how this collaboration started?

RB: Rene Perez saw my photo on the Saloon wall in Spain in the western village where I worked as a stunt performer. He thought it was a photo of Charles Bronson years  ago hand asked the owner about the photo. When Rene found out it wasn’t Bronson, it was me, he told the owner, “I want to meet this guy”.

MG: I read you train in judo and Muay Thai; tell us about how you keep in shape?

RB: I work hard to keep my body in shape. In Hungary I have some good friends that help me get ready for the movies. They teach me martial arts such as judo and Thai boxing, and three times a week I visit the gym.

MG: What do you do when you are not acting?

RB: I have got some preferred hobbies. For example: Riding, archery, fishing, playing on my accordion and walking in the forest. I would also like to mention that I ‘m a member of a traditional preservation team in Hungary. When I have time I go with them to attend the traditional festivals where I use my sword, my replica firearms and of course my bow in the live show. Also I have different costumes from the very old times.

MG: What films do you have planned upcoming after CRY HAVOC?

RB: Currently I’m working on a few new projects. I can’t say much but in the near future you will see a lot of Bronzi action films .

“Empire of the B’s: The Mad Movie World of Charles Band” Book Giveaway [ENDED]

Media Mikes is teaming up with Full Moon to giveaway a copy of “Empire of the B’s: The Mad Movie World of Charles Band” book. This is a must for any true horror fan. If you would like to enter for your chance to win one of these great prizes, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite Full Moon film. This giveaway will remain open until April 18th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US and Canada only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

The ‘Pulse-pounding’ saga of the Charles Band Empire…

Charles Robert Band is one of the last great B-movie survivors–a genuine pioneer who, over four decades, forged such a unique path through the no man’s land of independent genre cinema that many thought him more than capable of seizing legendary producer Roger Corman’s long-held crown as ‘King of the B-movies’. The 1970s through to the late 1980s was the last great ‘golden age’ for the B-movie community, and with a non-stop series of grindhouse classics like Laserblast, Parasite, Re-Animator and Dolls for his own company Empire Pictures, it was the era that saw Charles Band take his rightful place in the indie hall of fame as Emperor of the ‘B’s.

FOREWORD by Stuart Gordon

Empire of the ‘B’s written by Dave Jay
377 pages

Click here to purchase of copy of “Empire of the B’s: The Mad Movie World of Charles Band”

Charles Baker talks about playing Skinny Pete in AMC’s “Breaking Bad”

Charles Baker plays the role of Skinny Pete in the popular AMC series “Breaking Bad”. The show is now in its 5th and final season and Charles took time out of his busy schedule to talk with Media Mikes about his experiences working on the show and how he turned a background character in to a recurring role on one of televisions hottest shows.

Adam Lawton: What was it that first drew you to the role of “Skinny Pete”?
Charles Baker: “Skinny Pete” wasn’t even a role when I first started on the show. He was originally just called “Skinny Stoner” and I was hired for only one episode during season 1. It was supposed to be just a day player role and what drew me to it was I was going to get to work on television. (Laughs) It was a job and people really didn’t know a lot about the show or anything like that. I had heard some things about the show but didn’t know how phenomenal it was going to be or that I was going to be a part of it.

AL: Being the role was written originally for a one time appearance were you allowed to provide any creative input or direction?
CB: Because of how things happened so consciously in season 1 they just told me they were going to bring me back for another episode and would see how things went. My first scene was very small so I came in with how I thought the role should be played and the director who worked on that episode had his own ideas about the role so what we created for that bit part kind of dictated my role for the rest of the series. A lot of times before each scene I would have to repeat one of my lines from that first episode as a way to get myself back into character. I would always have to repeat “Yo my pops is a contractor” in order for me to fall back into that speech pattern. Each time I was on the show I was working with a different director who would have their own idea for what they thought Skinny Pete was. A couple directors thought of him as a hardcore, mean, scary guy while a few others saw him has this lovable, goofy guy. However they saw the character was how they directed us. We would have to find a balance in their in order to keep consistency while still getting what they were asking for. That is how the many layers of Skinny Pete happened.

AL: Was it hard working with different directors all of the time?
CB: It was a challenge but I think it was a great learning experience. I love things like that where I have to find it in myself to make things like that work. It was better for me in the long run I think because I didn’t get stuck in a rut. I was able to give Skinny Pete more levels and layers to play with. For me it was a lot of fun and similar to an improve exercise.

AL: What do you think has been the roles biggest progression?
CB: He has kind of grown a little bit. Pete has started to follow in Jesse’s footsteps without having to learn all the harsh lessons Jesse had to learn. I think he has seen Jesse become more responsible up until the point where we see him start to be affected by the actions of his crew. You see Jesse start to become more of a business man than a thug. At the start of season 5 you see Pete acting similar in a scene between him and Badger at a music store. That’s a new step for Skinny Pete I think. He is actually taking something serious instead of just playing around.

AL: What do you think is in store for Skinny Pete as the show concludes?
CB: I wish I could tell you. I don’t even know what’s going on. That’s all part of the brilliance in how the show is shot and how tight security is. In the past If I had a scene where I don’t speak and I am just in the background I got to see that script so I knew what’s going on. With this last season they have been using a stand-in for scenes that I may or may not be in. They just didn’t tell me anything. (Laughs) If I had dialogue then it was just me. I am not even sure of what scenes I am in or not. I am ok with that because I am a huge fan of the show and I want to be surprised just like everyone else. I know Vince and the people who work on that show will never let me down. They don’t have to tell me what I am doing. They can put a blind fold on me, tell me what lines to say and I know it will be brilliant. I will trust them on that.

AL: What was it like for you working with Brian Cranston both as an actor and director?
CB: Brian is a wonderful person. Since the beginning he has been the leader and father figure of the show. Vince keeps a very tight hand on everything that happens but he is not always around during filming so Brian is the foundation and keeps everyone together. Having him direct was very natural since he has been such a guide through everything.

AL: What do you think you will miss most about playing the character?
CB: I am going to miss a lot of things. Every episode was a new adventure for me. They opened up a lot of things for Skinny Pete and gave him a lot of responsibility. To be able to sink your teeth in to a character for as long as all of have on “Breaking Bad” is great. This was a first for me as I had never played a recurring role on a series before. It was like creating an alter ego who becomes like a friend. I will certainly miss that and having a job. (Laughs)

AL: Can you tell us about some of your other upcoming/current projects?
CB: I currently have a small recurring role on the show “The Black List” with James Spader. I play a character by the name of “Grey”. He was originally called “The man in the grey flannel suit”. Luckily they shortened that down. I like to compare the role to if James Spader was Batman I would be his Alfred. I am his go to guy. It’s definitely a switch from that of Skinny Pete. Grey combs his hair and wears a suit. (Laughs) They say he drives a Bentley but I haven’t been able to do that yet. I also shot a pilot for NBC called “Murder in the First”. We are just waiting to hear if that’s going to go through. I really think it will because it’s a great show and cast. I worked on an independent film in Texas titled “Flutter” that I just saw a rough cut of the other day. It stars Lindsay Pulsipher from “Hatfields and McCoys”. From what I have seen of the film it is beautiful. I don’t know when it is coming out but I hope it is soon as I think people will really enjoy it. Lastly “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” which stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara is out now and I have a role in that as well.

Charles Fleischer reflects on 25th Anniversary of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and talks about Moleeds

Charles Fleischer is known best as the man who gave the voice to Roger Rabbit” in the film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, which is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year. The film is also debuting on Blu-ray for the first time on March 12th. Besides voice acting, Charles is also a stand-up comedian and also has two patents including a device to measure the golden ratio He has also invented and patented a Toy Egg. Fleischer is also the author of “The Moleeds,” a book of his own mathematical theories. In 2010, Charles spoke at the TED conference and discussed about his unique theory of everything called “Moleeds”, read more on that below. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Charles to reflect about his role in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and also get to find out his love for science.

Mike Gencarelli: What do you think it is about “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” that makes it so unique and holds up over the last 25 years?
Charles Fleischer: It all goes back to good storytelling. It links to the job of the director and that was Bob Zemeckis. He is a genius director and a master storyteller. You combine that with the animation skills of Richard Williams and the script by (Peter) Seaman and (Jeffrey) Price and then on top of that your introducing a new cartoon character. Certain films are just classics and hold up through time and I will certainly say that “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is one of those.

MG: We spoke with Christopher Lloyd a few years back, read here, and he said that you voiced the role off screen, was that a difficult task?
CF: It wasn’t necessarily difficult but it was slightly different. We rehearsed face to face and I even had them make a full costume. Then I would be off-camera and I would watch exactly was (Bob) Hoskins was doing. If he reached out and grabbed Roger, I would have to reach like I was being grabbed while performing. It was a kind of performance I named “T.P.A.”, which is Trans Projectional Acting. Where you are there but you are projecting your performance from another space.

MG: Since we are going back 25 years, let’s go all the way back. What was your audition process like for this film and the creation of that wonderful voice?
CF: I was originally called in to help them find the Eddie Valiant character. They needed someone to read Roger off-camera when they did the screen-tests. After doing several of those Bob Zemeckis asked me if I wanted to do the character for the film and I said “Gladly”. So once I got it, I got to read the whole script, got to see some animation tests and I was able to find tune the voice into something that would be appropriate.

MG: How does it compare to your various other voice roles including “Rango” and “The Polar Express”?
CF: Nothing compares to “Roger Rabbit” [laughs]. That pretty much also goes for any role that I have played from “Zodiac” to “Night Shift”. The essence of Roger Rabbit is the closest to who I am. I am a stand-up comedian, I make people laugh and that is what I love to do. I felt this certain kinship with the elemental aspects of Roger Rabbit, which made it more important to me. On another note, his wife was Jessica Rabbit and my youngest daughter is named Jessica. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Roger is in the Alley sitting on a trash can and he is brokenhearted about Jessica playing patty cake. Just the fact that the name Jessica had an emotional sympathy within me that created this resonance that added to the whole projection of my acting dynamic.

MG: I always thought that you must have had no voice after shooting this film with all the screaming.
CF: Well it is a cartoon scream, so it doesn’t hurt you.
MG: Oh ok, I didn’t know that.
CF: Me neither. I just made it up [laughs].
MG: You got me man! [laughs]

MG: Word was released last month about “The Stooge” with Mickey Mouse & Roger Rabbit, have you been approached to reprise?
CF: I think that was a lot puffery. I do not think that there is any substance to that. I think that is the strategy that they were trying to use by putting it out there and see what people think and if they want it. I would suspect that any subsequent Roger Rabbit film would have some like Robert Zemeckis involved.

MG: Speaking of that, I have heard about talks of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit 2” for as long as I can remember, what do you think is the reason why this never happened?
CF: I think there are a number of reasons. I think one of the main reasons is that at the time it was co-produced by Disney and Amblin Entertainment. So to get both parties on board would be a challenge. It is all speculation. I can only say that eventually I hope they get around to making it because I believe there is a market.

MG: Off-topic, but can you talk a little about your unique theory of everything called “Moleeds”?
CF: You just touched my heart now we can talk now [laughs]. This is very important to me. Moleeds is something that I have been working on for over 30 years. It is a mathematical discovery that deals with prime numbers and creates patterns and relationships that I believe have some significance with the DNA of the universe. I did a talk on TED, check it out below. A mathematican in Vienna saw that and I started corresponding with him. He created these programs for me which allowed me to visualize moleeds on higher levels. The prior work that I had done was just on a calculator and making graphs on the computer. He was able to create these formulas based on my research that allowed you to plug in any prime number and see the symmetrical system that would be generated by moleeds.

CF: Since we are on science, I have another discovery which has to do with gamma ray bursts. I wrote a scientific paper, which was published on the Cornell University’s website. In order to be published there you need to be endorsed by a published scientist. Gamma ray bursts are the largest display of energy in the universe. I found patterns that indicate that they are not random, which if I am correct will change science!

DVD Review "Charles Band Presents: Death Comes in 3s – 9 Film Collection"

Actors: Gary Busey, Tim Thomerson, Trent Haaga, Logan Alexander, Debbie Rochon, Angeles Vargas, Jackie Beat, K-Von Moezzi, Robin Sydney, Selene Luna, Tracy Scoggins
Directors: Charles Band, Peter Manogian, Sylvia St. Croix, William Butler, Craig Ross, Tammi Sutton, John Lechago
Number of discs: 2
Rated: R / Not Rated
Studio: Echo Bridge Entertainment
DVD Release Date: March 5, 2013
Run Time: 671 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I don’t know what it is about Charles Band and his crazy movies at Full Moon but they always draw me in.  I have been a fan of these films since I was tall enough (and probably too young) to see them on the video store shelves. This collection comes with nine horror films from three different franchises: Demonic Toys, The Gingerdead Man and Killjoy series. I mean how can you say no to killer toys, cookies and demon clowns? It is really a no-brainer if you are a fan of cheesy yet fun horror films.

Includes the films “Demonic Toys”, “Demonic Toys 2”, “Dollman Vs. Demonic Toys”, “The Gingerdead Man”, “Gingerdead Man 2: Passion Of The Crust”, “Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver”, “Killjoy”, “Killjoy 2: Deliverance From Evil” and “Killjoy 3”. The main concern I have with this release is that it is technically not complete. “Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys” was released in 2004 and is not included here but that is most likely due to the fact that Echo Bridge does not own rights. Also missing is the new “Killjoy Goes to Hell”, which was just released late last year. Nonetheless, it still contains some very fun films and is a real great collection for any fan of Full Moon and Charles Band’s madness.

DEMONIC TOYS: A botched bust on a pair of arms dealers inadvertently leads to the awakening of a demon with the power to bring toys to life as his personal minions. DEMONIC TOYS 2: When an oddball group of characters gather to inspect an ancient puppet, strange things begin to happen. DOLLMAN VS. DEMONIC TOYS: Officer Judith Gray seeks the help of miniature-sized cop, Brick Bardo, and his equally small girlfriend, Nurse Ginger, when she runs into trouble with the evil Toys.

THE GINGERDEAD MAN: When the ashes of a deranged killer make their way into a secret gingerbread cookie mix, a mini-murderer is born. THE GINGERDEAD MAN 2: THE PASSION OF THE CRUST: The deranged cookie murderer “The Gingerdead Man” crashes a movie studio and leaves behind a trail of bloody murder and hilarious mayhem. THE GINGERDEAD MAN 3: SATURDAY NIGHT CLEAVER: The Gingerdead Man travels back in time to a 1976 roller-boogie contest where he causes more chaos than ever before.

KILLJOY: When an outcast is bullied to death, a killer clown exacts revenge in his honor. His name is Killjoy and he thinks murder is a laughing matter. KILLJOY 2: On a wilderness rehabilitation trip, a group of at-risk youth find themselves in the home of a voodoo woman where Killjoy’s spirit is summoned. KILLJOY 3: A group of unsuspecting college students accidentally open the portal to Killjoy’s demon realm and get trapped in a strange funhouse world with the killer clown and his friends.

When it comes to the “Demonic Toys” series, I have always enjoyed each film equally. They are all micro-budgeted but I love the use of the puppets throughout.  The first is the best in the series but I do have a special place for “Dollman vs. Demonic Toys”, even though it is barely an hour and focuses a lot of flashbacks.  The “Dollman” series has always been one of my favorites and it is fun to see him go against these killer toys! “The Gingerdead Man” is something that cannot enough be described to anyone without being looked at funny.  For this series, the best film is the first – did I mention that Gary Busey stars in this?  The second and third are both fun but very silly and over-the-top but don’t forget we are talking about a killer gingerbread man. Lastly, the “Killjoy” is a lot of fun.  Who isn’t afraid of clowns…even just a little.  Killjoy is a great character.  The first one is also the best but the second and third are a whole lot of fun as well.

Echo Bridge packed all nine of these films onto to two DVDs, which is quite a lot and I feel that the films themselves do suffer a bit.  “Demonic Toys 2” is a pretty rough copy of the film, probably the worst of the bunch.  It has a lot of transfer issues throughout. Though that is kind of expected these are not high-def films and where shot very low-budget. Besides the nine films, there are no other special features included on this release but that is expected with a massive 9-film collection like this.  Is it worth the price of less than $15? You bet you ass! Don’t miss this release for sure!


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Charles Durning Dead at 89

Charles Durning, a highly decorated World War II vetaran and Oscar nominated actor, passed away today due to natural causes. He was 89.

Born on February 28, 1923 in Highland Falls, New York, Durning knew about the military life at a young age. His mother worked in the laundry at the West Point Military Academy and his father, who was an
immigrant from Ireland, earned his American citizen by enlisting in the United States Arny, He was considering a life in the priesthood when he was drafted into the Army in 1944. In June of that year he was badly wounded during the D Day invasion on Omaha Beach, suffering injuries to both legs as well as his chest, head and hands. Durning was the only member of his unit to survive the invasion. In December 1944 he was sent back into action and, as a rifleman, took part in the Battle of the Bulge, where he was again wounded in the chest Again, fate was on his side. Of the more than 100 soldiers in his unit he was one of only twenty to survive the battle. He was finally sent back to the States where he served until his discharge in January 1946. In his two short years of service he was awarded the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts. Like fellow war hero and actor Lee Marvin, Durning very rarely liked to discuss his military service.

After his discharge he earned money as a pro boxer. When he couldn’t get a fight, and despite his multiple leg injuries, he would find work as a dance instructor, teaching at the Fred Astaire Dance Studios. In the late 1950s he began finding work on and off-Broadway before finding work on early television programs. He came to prominence in 1972 with his role in Jason Miller’s “That Championship Season.” It was during a performance that director George Roy Hill spotted him and cast him as Lieutenant Snyder, the Chicago cop constantly chasing Robert Redford in “The Sting.” Other roles followed quickly, including “The Front Page,” “Breakheart Pass” and “Dog Day Afternoon,” which earned him a Golden Globe nomination. Other roles in film like “The Choirboys,” “The Fury” and “The Muppet Movie” helped him end the 70s as a highly sought after character actor. In 1982 he co-starred as an older man smitten with Dustin Hoffman in “Tootsie” and then returned to his dancing ways as the elusive governor in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” earning him the first of two consecutive Oscar nominations as Best Supporting Actor. He was nominated again the next year for his work in the comedy “To Be or Not to Be.” He also lent his voice to the opening scene of “Scarface,” voicing over for the actor who first interrogates Al Pacino’s Tony Montana. “Whorehouse” began a long running association with Burt Reynolds, appearing alongside him in both films (“Sharky’s Machine,” “Stick”) and television (“Evening Shade,” which earned him two of his total nine Emmy Award nominations).

Durning continued to work on stage as well, playing Charley opposite Dustin Hoffman in “Death of a Salesman” (he also reprised the role in the television production). He won a Tony Award for his role as Big Daddy in Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” In 1997 I had the extreme privilege of catching him on Broadway, opposite the great George C. Scott, in “Inherit the Wind.” I had the even greater honor of meeting him after the show, where he spoke for a few minutes and graciously signed a photo for me.

Max Charles chats about playing Peter Parker in “The Amazing Spider-Man”

Max Charles is only 8-years old but is having on heck of busy year. He is co-starring in “The Three Stooges” and even playing the role of a young Peter Parker in this summer’s reboot “The Amazing Spider-Man”. He is also voicing Sherman in the upcoming animated film “My Peaboy & Sherman”. Max took our sometime to chat with Media Mikes about this busy year and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about experience on the film “The Three Stooges”, must have been a fun time?
Max Charles: “The Three Stooges” was so much fun to film. We were in Atlanta all summer and since my scenes are with Will (Sasso), Sean (Hayes) and Chris (Diamantopoulos), I got to hang out with them in the green room. They are so funny and we were always laughing even in between scenes.

MG: What did you enjoy most about playing the young orphan Peezer?
MC: Peezer is the Three Stooges little buddy so that was fun!! I really like the character because he seems like a nice and fun kid. He really cares about his friends especially his best friend Murph. Peezer also encourages the Stooges to do the right thing and try to save the orphanage.

MG: How was it working on the upcoming “The Amazing Spider-Man” and playing a young Peter Parker?
MC: Amazing!! I still can’t believe I am Peter Parker and got to work on this film! The Amazing Spider-Man was my first feature film so it will always be REALLY special to me. Whenever I saw Andrew on set he would come over and sit with me and we would talk about the movie and acting. I thought that was really cool. When we were in New York filming we saw him riding his bike when we were walking in our hotel and when he saw me he rode over to talk to me. Nice is cool!

MG: Was it exciting to play such a notable superhero?
MC: Spider-Man has ALWAYS been my favorite superhero! When I was like three years old I was even Spider-Man for Halloween! I think I wore that costume ALL YEAR! I had NO idea I would EVER get to be Spider-Man in a movie!

MG: You are set to voice Sherman in the upcoming animated film “My Peaboy & Sherman”, tell us about that?
MC: Sherman is a GREAT character and SO much fun. He has a big heart but he seems to accidentally get in a ton of trouble. Mr. Ty Burrell plays Mr Peabody who is a very smart Dog who is always getting Sherman out of the trouble he makes. It’s awesome because they get to travel in a time machine and go to fun places. Sherman would be a fun kid to be friends with!

MG: What do you like most about voice work?
MC: Voice work is great because you can get crazy with your voice and acting. I like getting into the character when we are recording a session instead of just standing there saying the words. They said they are getting some pretty funny behind the scenes footage too.

MG: What other projects do you have planned upcoming?
MC: I play Max Weaver in an ABC comedy pilot called “Down To Earth”, so we hope that gets picked up for Fall. It’s a really funny show. I’m working on “Peabody and Sherman” right now and doing several voices for other tv shows like “Family Guy”, “American Dad” and “Robot Chicken”. I have a movie called “Unstable” coming out soon that I am one of the leads in and I did a guest spot on “Scent of The Missing” for TNT and I got to play the missing. I’m also working on some music with my brothers.

DVD Review “Ray Charles: Live in France 1961”

Directed by: Jean-Christophe Averty
Starring: Ray Charles
Distributed by: Eagle Vision Entertainment
Running Time: 111 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This DVD consists of concert footage from the 1961 Antibes Jazz Festival that has been lost for the last 50 years. These newly discovery concerts add up to about an hour and 45 minutes of footage. Just to be able to watch this is considered a treat. The footage was transferred and restored from its original 16mm and really looks great for what it is. I love Ray Charles and his music is just genius. This early concert with him is a great insight into his music prior to being a legendary star.

The concerts from the 1961 Antibes Jazz Festival are split over two days July 18th and July 22nd, 1961. Some of the tracks included are “Let the Good Times Roll”, “Georgia on My Mind”, “Sticks and Stones” and “Hallelujah, I Love Her So”. Since it is two different concerts over two days there are some duplicate songs from each day. There are also some bonus tracks includes on this disc from July 19th and July 21st, 1961, including “The Story”, “Yes Indeed”, “I Believe My Soul”, “What’d I Say”, “Wonder”. Also notable included on this disc is Nat King Cole track “With You On My Mind”, which is a song that Ray never recorded.

It is amazing getting to watch Ray Charles perform especially on the old black and white 16mm transferred film. His band is also really great to listen to especially the Raeletts. These concerts in France are the first time that Ray Charles has performed in Europe. The DVD case and inserts are very impressive as well. Lately these days little goes into the sleeve-art and pamphlet. The pamphlet is an informational and colorful 15 pages.  This is definitely worth the purchase and I recommend it for sure.

Interview with Charles Martin Smith

Charles Martin Smith is probably best known to film fans for his role as Terry “the Toad” Fields, everybody’s favorite tag along in “American Graffiti.” The son of animator Frank Smith (“Mr. Magoo,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas”), Smith began his acting career appearing in school productions. His early work includes “The Culpepper Cattle Company,” starring Gary Grimes and his soon to be “Graffiti” co-star Bo Hopkins as well as an appearance as the young man who sells Greg Brady a lemon of a car on “The Brady Bunch.” But it was “American Graffiti” that made him an actor to remember. He spent the majority of the 1970s making guest appearances in most of the popular television series of the time. He also returned to the role of Terry the Toad in “More American Graffiti” and co-starred with Gary Busey and Don Stroud in the Oscar winning bio “The Buddy Holly Story.” In 1983 he starred in director Carroll Ballard’s acclaimed film “Never Cry Wolf.” It was on this film that Mr. Smith tried his hand at writing, composing his own narration for the film. He closed the decade with co-starring roles in “The Untouchables” and the under-rated John Travolta comedy “The Experts.”

In 1986 he entered the next phase of his career when he went behind the camera, directing Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne in the horror-comedy “Trick or Treat.” He continued to direct episodic television programs, including “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Space: Above and Beyond” and “DaVinci’s Inquest” while still feeding the acting bug. In 2003 he wrote and directed the film “Snow Walker,” which starred Barry Pepper and James Cromwell. The film was a film festival success, earning Mr. Smith numerous nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay. His follow up, “Stone of Destiny,” was equally acclaimed, earning Mr. Smith the Best Director award at the Palm Beach International Film Festival as well as a BAFTA Scotland Award nomination. His current project, “Dolphin Tale,” is set for release this fall.

It was while doing post-production work on “Dolphin Tale” that Mr. Smith spared a few minutes to talk with MovieMikes about his career.

Mike Smith: Your father was a very successful animator. Did his work inspire you to seek an acting career?
Charles Martin Smith: My father was a successful animator, so growing up in Los Angeles I was around films as a child. But not around live action films, so that world still seemed mysterious and inaccessible to me. It was a great benefit, though, to live in LA, and to go to University here, as I did, at CSUN. I had great acting and directing teachers and had access to an agent, etc. My father, more than anything, taught me about art, and his amazing creativity and perfectionism as an artist…he was a sculptor and designer, and did many things besides cartoons…he taught me a lot.

MS: Your first television role was as the young man who sold Greg Brady a junk car on “The Brady Bunch.” Have you ever thought about buying something and then thought “caveat emptor?”
CMS: Caveat emptor? Ha, no not really. That was technically my second TV role. My first was a special also involving the Brady Bunch. It was made by ABC to advertise their new season of Saturday morning cartoons. I got those roles right after my first professional acting job, “The Culpepper Cattle Company”, a western for 20th Century Fox.

MS: You and Ron Howard were the only two actors in “American Graffiti” that were actually close to high school age when it was filmed. Did you have any idea that this little film would strike such a chord with the public?
CMS: “Graffiti” was a low budget film but it had a good pedigree. Francis (Ford Coppola) was the producer, and Universal was behind the film, at least to a limited extent. And George Lucas had a lot of buzz and hype about him. After “THX-1138” he was considered a hot young director. All of the actors in the film (and you’re right, Ron and I were both 18), believed in the movie, and in George. We were thrilled to be part of such a good project, as the script was excellent, and, as I say, George was so talented. We thought the movie would be very good, we just weren’t sure it would get noticed as it was so low budget.

MS: Did you already know how to play bass when you took the role of Ray Bob in “The Buddy Holly Story?” And did you ever meet or speak with Joe B. Maudlin (NOTE: Maudlin was Buddy Holly’s bass player in the Crickets), on who the character was based?
CMS: Yes. I had been a musician since age 8 when I began learning piano, then guitar, and all during my teenage years I was in rock and roll bands, joining my older brother Dan’s band while in high school. We played gigs all around LA. I played guitar mostly in the band. Dan is a bass player, and a very good one, although his career since he got his Doctorate in Public Health has been as a research scientist for the California Health Department. I gave up thoughts of a music career when I began getting acting gigs, but “Buddy Holly” was a natural for me. I had played around with my brother’s bass many times, and as a guitar player, it wasn’t too hard to learn it. I got the stand up bass 2 months before we began filming and taught myself to play. I played all the music in the film live, and sang backup vocals live as well. Great fun. I did meet Joe B at the film’s premier in Dallas. He was very nice…shy, and it was a bit awkward as they had mixed feelings about the movie. They meaning himself and Jerry Allison (NOTE: Allison was the drummer for the Crickets). But it was great to meet him, and I even got his autograph!

MS: In my opinion, “More American Graffiti” is very under appreciated. Do you have any ideas why it wasn’t as well received as “American Graffiti?”
CMS: Well, I think it didn’t strike a chord with people the way “American Graffiti” did. I think George had a better story and grasp of the 50s than he did of the 60s. I loved my role in it and the Vietnam story in the sequel was the best written part of the script, I think. I’m very proud of that movie.

MS: You were critically acclaimed (and deservedly so) for your performance in “Never Cry Wolf.” What are your memories about that production?
CMS: “Never Cry Wolf” was an amazing experience. I spent three years on the film. I could write a book about the experience. We filmed for one and a half years, largely without a script. Carroll Ballard is a very gifted artist, and it’s probably the most wonderful experience I’ve ever had in a film. He invited me to write the narration as well, and I was on the film all the way through post production. I could not have ever directed a film without having had that experience with him. He taught me so much, and I’m extremely proud of that film.

MS: You gave another acclaimed performance in “The Untouchables.” Was your character based on a real member of Elliot Ness’ team?
CMS: My character in “The Untouchables” was a sort of amalgam of a few people in the US Government who went after Al Capone, so no, it was not really based on a real person. It was a fun character though, and the shoot was a great experience. I learned an enormous amount from (director Brian) De Palma, and from Sean Connery. I saw Sean two years ago in Scotland as my film “Stone of Destiny” premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival. Sean was the host of the evening, so it was a great reunion.

MS: You’ve grown into a successful writer/director. Do you have a preference of being in front of or behind the camera?
CMS: I enjoy both acting and writing/directing. I do love writing, and although it may be a surprise to people, I have actually done quite a bit of work as a writer, without acting or directing. I love making films, writing and directing them, but must confess that it’s much more stressful and challenging. Sometimes it’s nice to be an actor, without having to carry the burden of the whole film, and just to be able to focus on that job. I love being able to trade off.

MS: Can you tell us about your latest project, “Dolphin Tale?”
CMS: “Dolphin Tale” is based on a true story about Winter, a dolphin who was rescued in Florida. She was so badly injured that she eventually lost her tail. This is how dolphins swim of course, so her rescuers finally hit upon the idea of making a prosthetic tail for her. It’s a very heartwarming and emotional story, and in writing it, and directing it, I tried to tell a good story, with humor and heart. I was very honored to be able to shoot it with Winter playing herself! It’s a sweet film, and we will be in the theatres Sept 23, released by Warner Brothers.