Norton Herrick talks about producing his latest film “2 Guns”

Since forming The Herrick Company, Norton Herrick has created a real estate and building empire currently valued at over $4 billion. This has allowed him to invest in his passions. As a part of Team Valor his horse, Animal Kingdom, won the 2011 Kentucky Derby as well as the Dubai Cup this past March. As a producer on Broadway he helped bring “Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark” to the stage and, along with co-producers Barry and Fran Weissler, took home the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical this past June for “Pippin.” He currently has produced three films awaiting release. “Very Good Girls,” starring Elizabeth Olsen and Dakota Fanning, played at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. In late December he will present “Lone Survivor,” starring Mark Wahlberg and Eric Bana. And this week sees the release of the highly anticipated “2 Guns,” which stars Wahlberg and Denzel Washington. Earlier this month I spoke to Mr. Herrick about his many projects.

Mike Smith: So, how is your year going?
Norton Herrick: (laughing) It’s going great. All is good. In all aspects. I’m involved in several industries and I’ve been pretty lucky so far.

MS: In the past two years you’ve had a horse win the Kentucky Derby and the Dubai Cup, won a Tony Award for “Pippin” and you have one of the most anticipated films of the summer coming up with “2 Guns.” When do you rest?
NH: (laughing) I don’t. I don’t know how. I’ve been going 24/7 my entire life. If I’m not doing something I’m bored.

MS: Both “2 Guns” and next year’s “Lone Survivor” are action films while “Very Good Girls” is an intimate drama. Do you have a preferred genre’ when you’re looking for a project to produce?
NH: Not really. Of course action films are fun. But I also have a horror film called “Nightlight” in post-production. Action. Coming of Age. Horror. A little bit of everything. And I’m excited because Universal is moving “Lone Survivor” up to December to qualify for the Oscars.

MS: You’ve also had great success reviving popular Broadway musicals like “Promises, Promises,” “Hair” and “Pippin,” which won the Tony this year. As a producer is it easier to go with a known property or to take a chance on something new?
NH: I like doing both. “Pippin” hadn’t been on stage since the 1970s so it was almost like bringing something new to the stage….to a generation that hadn’t had the chance to see it. The show always had a great score and a nice story line back when Ben Vereen performed it. But now it’s the 2000’s and we’ve added a new dimension to it. It’s amazing what we did to it. So yes, it is exciting to take something old and making it new. But it’s also exciting to try something new and daring like “Spider-man.”

MS: Do you have your next Broadway project lined up?
NH: Yes. Fran, Barry and I are going to produce a musical version of “Waitress.” It’s a great story and I hope we can add something to it.

MS: And, finally, do you have any future film productions coming up?
NH: Nothing I can really talk about right now. There are always a half-dozen scripts we analyze and do research on but right now there’s nothing we’re ready to pull the trigger on.

Ice-T talks about producing “Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp” and new album with Body Count

Tracey Marrow better known to the world as Ice-T first broke on to the scene in the mid 1980’s as part of a new form of rap labeled “gangster rap” which was just starting to emerge from the west coast of the United States. After releasing several successful/controversial albums Ice would evolve into a modern day renaissance man appearing in several movies and television shows such as “New Jack City” and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”. Ice-T has always noted pimp/author Iceberg Slim as an influence and is a producer on a new documentary about Slim titled “Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp”. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Ice recently about the film as well as about his heavy metal group Body Count’s new album.

Adam Lawton: Other than noting Iceberg Slim as an influence what was it that interested you in producing a film about him?
Ice-T: The film was really Jorge my manager’s idea. He and I have been working with each other for going on 30 years now. He and I wanted to get into the film business and make some films so we decided to start with documentaries. We wanted to do critically acclaimed type work and get our profit out to the film community. I started with “The Art of Rap” and Jorge chose to do one on Iceberg Slim. When he and I first got together Jorge was coming from an entirely different community than mine. He was pretty much a square so I told him that if he was going to manage me then he was going to need to read all of the Iceberg Slim books. I gave him all the books and told him that I would quiz him on them. He pretty much got turned out of course but it’s always been a big part of his life. When he came to me with the idea I thought it was perfect. I executive produced this film but Jorge pretty much did all the ground work.

AL: How much input or direction did you give throughout the filming process?
Ice-T: I would see pieces and cuts throughout the filming/editing portions of the project and give my input. I also was involved in some of the soundtrack side of things as well as some of the editing. Jorge was pretty much bringing me things in pieces and when I finally got to see it all put together I was just blown away. He did a great job.

AL: Was this sort of your first venture into producing?
Ice-T: I have been involve don some things prior to this but what being an executive producer really means is you put up the money. In this case Jorge put up all of his own money. I do this type of thing with records all the time. A lot of times people want to get projects done however they don’t know how to complete them. Having been in the game now for over 25 years I am someone that knows how to get things done. Jorge is very efficient so I didn’t have to do a lot on this project. Jorge knows what he is doing and if it got by me people were going to love because I am such a huge Iceberg Slim fan.

AL: You appear very briefly in the film. Was this something that happened due to editing or was it a conscious decision on yours and Jorges part?
Ice-T: I am just a normal person and the film is not designed to be about me. Due to the fact I am a fan and am a person that was influenced by his work I appear in the film. Before reading Slims book I never thought I could tell my stories and the stories of the street in my music. I am a part of pop culture so they knew I was valid and asked me to speak on what the books did for me. I was interviewed just like Chris Rock and Snoop. That was the intention as I didn’t want to be the narrator or anything. I just wanted to blend in to the movie.

AL: Were you surprised at the people involved who spoke about Slims impact on them?
Ice-T: Henry Rollins and Rick Rubin released the Iceberg Slim soundtrack so that’s how they got involved. As we talked to more and more people they would tell us that we should talk to this person or that person. It started with one person and went from there. As far as it being difficult or people not wanting to share stories you can sometimes run in to that when you are talking to the family especially when the person you are talking about has passed. Everyone in the family wants to make sure that you are not going to be disrespectful. In this case they all knew I was a big fan and that I would handle things appropriately. They actually saw the movie before anyone else and were just blown away. They were very excited with the fact that this film gave people a better understanding of who Slim was and that he wasn’t just this guy that wrote books about pimping.

AL: For you personally what was the most rewarding part of the project and then on the other hand the most difficult part?
Ice-T: The difficult part came from more of a technical stand point more than anything. When you see some of the transitions we used there is a lot of high tech stuff going on there. That was all done in post and though it may look simple there was very little that was simple about that. We had an illustrator come in and do some animation for us as well so to get all those things to click and feel the same was definitely difficult. We had to go through a lot of licensing to get permission to use some of the things we wanted to use so that was pretty hard. Nowadays everyone has gotta get paid. (Laughs) I think the most rewarding thing for me was that I got to find out things about Iceberg Slim that I didn’t know. I mean I learned that his wife wrote the books! Nobody knew that. The quote at the end where she says that “Iceberg Slim was both of us” was great. The beauty of a documentary is that you get to tell a story a lot of times from the horse’s mouth and it goes down in history.

AL: Do you have any other projects that we can be watching for?
Ice-T: My group Body Count is recording as we speak. We are out in Vegas right now writing the new album which is going to be titled “Man Slaughter”. We have a record deal now with Sumerian Records which has artists like Lamb of God and some other big groups so be watching for that to come out soon. Jorge and I are also looking at some treatments for features as well as television shows.

Megan Thomas Bradner talks about producing “Iron Man: Rise of Technovore”

Megan Thomas Bradner is the director of development and production at Marvel Animation. She has worked on TV shows like “Iron Man: Armored Adventures”, the “Marvel Anime” series and also producing the new feature film “Iron Man: Rise of Technovore”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Megan about the film and also the Marvel Universe.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your role on the film “Iron Man: Rise of Technovore”?
Megan Thomas Bradner: I am the director of development and production at Marvel Animation. I have been with the Marvel Anime almost since the beginning. I came on after it was premiered at Comic-Con and I have worked on all of the TV series since then.

MG: Having produced “Iron Man: Armored Adventures” and the “Marvel Anime” TV series; how did this feature film differ?
MTB: I appreciate that we have a little more time with the feature than we did with the TV series shows. With the TV series, we were under the gun.  When we worked on the animes they were all around the same time as each other. “Iron Man” was done around the same time as “Wolverine” and X-Men” was done around the same
time as “Blade”. With the feature, we had time to sit down and talk about the story and which characters we wanted to use.

MG: Do you think we could expect more feature films based on the Marvel Animes?
MTB: We love the Marvel Universe. I am a big fan myself. I would love to return to the anime series. We are currently seeing what is going to happen with that. But we also would love to do another movie. We had such a great experience on “Technovore”, so I would love to do it again!

MG: I think we need more Norman Reedus as “The Punisher”?
MTB: He was great. We are all big “The Walking Dead” fans and we thought that we would never be able to get him. But luckily he is a fan himself, so that was a pretty cool opportunity. I was able to watch in the recording booth and get to see him turn into The Punisher right before our eyes. So that was super cool.

MG: What is your favorite aspect about working with the “Iron Man” franchise?
MTB: The aspect that is so attractive about Iron Man is that he is that human character that you can identity with. He is not perfect. He is this guy, who had to built this suit around him in order to protect him since he has this damaged heart. He recognized that he has done something wrong (in the beginning) and tries to change. I think we can all relate to that.

MG: In the world Marvel universe, who is your all-time favorite character?
MTB: I would have to go with Jean Grey from X-Men. In this film “Technovore”, I am a big Pepper Potts fan. I would love one day to get her in the armor…maybe in the future.

Tim Kirk talks about producing “The Shining” documentary “Room 237”

Tim Kirk is the producer of the new documentary “Room 237: Being an Inquiry into ‘The Shining’ in 9 Parts”. The film takes a look behind the film “The Shining” and exposes some of the films deeper meanings. If you are a fan of “The Shining”, then you need to watch this film ASAP! Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Tim about the film and his thoughts on the theories.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you end up getting involved producing “Room 237”?
Tim Kirk: For several months a few years ago, my baby daughter could only sleep while being gently rocked in my arms. During this time, I completed the Internet. In the deep recesses I found a mind-blowing essay about The Shining. I sent it to my friend Rodney Ascher, knowing he would dig it and hoping that he was awake. He called 10 minutes later and Room 237 was born.

MG: Tell us how the documentary ended up being split into nine parts?
TK: When we sat down to structure the film, we had many sequences of varying lengths. We tried a number of structures and this one seemed to work the most. Numbering the parts was aimed at giving the viewer a sense of the shape going into it, and a way to keep track of where they are in the film as they are watching. It’s an unusual structure so we tried to provide clues along the way.

MG: The documentary is thought-provoking and intriguing; what was your biggest challenge with this project?
TK: I think the biggest challenge of making this film was that there is no map for making a film like this. That’s also why making it was so fun and liberating.

MG: How long did the film take to complete from conception to release?
TK: We spent a year researching. Another year interviewing and editing. Then another year in post.

MG: Some of the theories are a little bit of a stretch in my mind; which ones do you feel have the strongest case in the film?
TK: We tried to make the strongest case we could for each theory. Rodney once described the apparatus of the film as being “this persuasion machine.” I have completely believed each theory at one point or another. Right now, three some years in, I don’t know what to think any more.

MG: Are you shocked by the response that this film has generated since its release?
TK: I am blown away by the response to this film. At many times during the making of the film, Rodney wondered if he wasn’t Jack, typing away on his nonsense novel. In that scenario, I am probably Lloyd, pouring the drinks and urging him on.

MG: Is there any extra footage planned for the Blu-ray release? What other kind of extras can we expect?
TK: We have some deleted scenes, many audio, for the DVD. Some great theories and ideas that didn’t make it into the film. Let me just say “Big Dipper.” Also, some alt trailers and other goodies.

MG: Being a fan myself; what is your personal favorite scene in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”?
TK: I think my favorite scenes are when Jack is at the bar, talking to Lloyd. We get a glimpse into the sort of novel Jack would be writing if he could. He clearly fancies himself a working man’s writer, using crass and derogative language. His spells of angry eloquence here and on the stairwell are in real contrast to the phoney we meet in the interview scene.

MG:What do you have planned next after this film?
TK: Working with Rodney is great and we have a couple of documentaries in the works. There is a narrative project I’m working on. I’m also hoping to become a fierce soccer dad.

Jonathan Lipnicki talks about producing "Broken Roads"

At age seven, Jonathan Lipnicki was a bona fide star. As Ray Boyd, the precocious son of the title character’s love interest in “Jerry Maguire,” he stole more hearts from the audience then star Tom Cruise. Regular television roles on such series as “The Jeff Foxworthy Show” and “Meego” kept him in front of the camera, as did roles in films like “Stuart Little” and “The Little Vampire.” Though he’s still busy in front of the camera, Lipnicki has embarked on a new career, adding the title of Producer to his resume with the release of the film “Broken Roads.” While promoting the films upcoming NYC appearance Lipnicki spoke to Media Mikes about his new career and dealing with fame at such a young age.

Mike Smith: At age 22 you began a new career as a producer. How did this come about?
Jonathan Lipnicki: I always knew I would end up doing something behind the camera, but I didn’t know it would happen at this point in my career.

MS: How did you become involved with “Broken Roads?”
JL: I like to say I fell into it. I met the director, Justin Chambers, through a mutual friend, and we hit it off. He has this crazy charisma, which makes you want to be friends with him and support him. One day he asked me if I knew any actors who I thought would fit the roles he sent out breakdowns for. I sent him a few actors that I knew and he liked my choices. Not long after that he asked me if I wanted to get involved.

MS: You continue to act. Is this something you’re going to continue to pursue or do you see your career moving to more behind the scenes?
JL: Acting is my number one priority, but I would like to produce more in the future.

MS: You were a star at age 7 when “Jerry Maguire” was released. Does fame look different at that age as opposed to now when you can appreciate it more?
JL: Your perception changes about certain things like fame when you grow older, it definitely loses some of its innocence. That being said I look different so I live in anonymity, which is amazing.

MS: What do you have coming up next, either in front of or behind the camera?
JL: I currently have a web series from the Russo Brothers (“Arrested Development”) on YouTube, and I have two films in post production, “Edge of Salvation” and “TAG”.

Milo Ventimiglia talks about Executive Producing and Starring in Crackle's Newest Original Series "Chosen"

Milo Ventimiglia is the executive producer and star of Crackle’s newest original series “Chosen”. Milo is know for his work in TV with his playing Peter Petrelli on the NBC television series “Heroes”. In “Chosen”, Milo plays Ian Mitchell, a husband, father and lawyer who awakens one morning to discover a mysterious box on his doorstep containing a loaded gun and a photo of a stranger he must kill within the next three days. Ian quickly learns that if he doesn’t kill this man he will be killed himself along with his daughter who is being held hostage. A heart pounding thriller, Chosen features six 30 minute episodes which premiered on and all Crackle platforms Thursday, January 17. Media Mikes had a chace to chat with Milo about this new series and what we can expect with his character.

Mike Gencarelli: How you got involved in this project?
Milo Ventimiglia: I got a script from Ben Ketai and it was great. It was awesome. And I was a huge fan of his and I worked with Crackle before developing stuff and I was just like, these guys are great. And I kind of – into the digital space and what it affords creative types and what we get to do and play around with space and then enjoy its reach. So cool story, cool release, great character, yes, I’m in.

MG: What do you love about the viability in potential shows on the internet like Chosen and how that differs from TV or film?
MV: Man, I love the reach, you know, I’m just so excited about digital because of the reach. The actual releases sometimes some countries don’t get movies. Sometimes, they’re in and out of theaters, TV — maybe you don’t have the channel, maybe you don’t have pay cable. Maybe, you live in a remote part of the world that just doesn’t have what the network is showing or studio is putting out. Digital I kind of feel like anybody can access it, anybody can get to it. And for me being a part of projects like Chose, you know, working with Crackle and just being a guy who’s been in the digital space for kind of a long time now. I know it’s something that I’m going to continue to do and hopefully as it builds and the profile builds and people understand that, look, you’re going to get the same quality on digital as you can in a movie theater if you actually have a bandwidth for it then great, you know. So I love digital, I’m in to digital.

MG: What were some of the initial acting challenges steeping into the Ian role?”
MV: Wow. The initial challenges? I mean, first being a father. Like I’m not a dad myself yet, you know, I’ve got a lot of good friends with kids and a nephew and, you know, that’s all cool and exciting but I think that kind of real life – that weight of real life of having a daughter, having somebody you care about so much like they’re you’re blood. You and a woman created them and that fear of if they are gone, if they are taken, if they are missing. I think that was kind of the – the very first and foremost in my mind was Ian’s connection to his daughter and how strong that is and how much that propels him through the situation that – of the game of what he has to go through. As well as, you know, here’s a guy who works in a an office and he’s told to kill someone for sport, for a game. And it’s like how do you – you know, it’s a question that kind of comes up throughout the course of the show, I know Deidrch’s character asks it, Ian asks it. It’s like how can someone expect you to do that. So I think that – really connecting to that idea of the reality of it, just how much human beings really don’t have that instinct or want to do. That was something that I was trying to tap into like the reality of the situation and believe it and live it as much as I can.

MG: How Ian changes or evolves as the story progresses?
MV: Ian starts out a bit mild mannered. He’s a guy that works in a law office. He holds a pen. He wears a suit and tie and he kind of devolves and evolves into this man who has to act a little bit more on physical instinct given situations that come his way. If a guys coming at him with the silenced gun he’s got to run. If he gets shot he has to kind of fight back. As well as he still has to play that chess game with the people that are involved with the watchers — these watchers that are in control the game. I think it’s kind of a testament to who Ian is a human being where he is a rational, functioning in society man but at the same time he’s able to switch to an instinct that is maybe a little unnatural for people that are, you know, living in a world of suits and ties and writing with pens all the time and legal society. So I think for me it was an awesome arch that Ben gave me as an actor to turn into – to become this man who is really wholly trying to just protect his family by any means possible, you know. It’s like his discomfort at the contents of the box when you first meet him and then kind of throw a little comedy slant at how comfortable he is with the contents of the box, you know, a little later on in the show, so. Yes, I think for me it’s the evolution of who he becomes.

MG: How you go into the mindset of the paranoia?
MV: Wow. You know, a few years ago my mother asked me – I did this movie where I played a really, really deplorable person. The movie’s called The Divide. And afterwards my mother asked me if something happened to me as a kid that she didn’t know about. I said, “What do you mean Mom?” She said, “Well you were such an evil, horrible person, how – did something happen to you that we don’t know about?” I’m like, no, not at all Mom, I’m an actor, like that’s what we do. We just act. So I think the paranoia is it’s just kind of a like a matching your worst fears and playing to them. You know, I like to say let the wheels come off, see what happens, just go for it. I think at times actors are standing a bit naked with our emotions and we have to. We have to be able to stand there and deliver anything, you know, happiness, sadness, paranoia, fear, victory, you have to be able to allow those things to just kind of flow out of you. For me it was no different. The paranoia, I think is just like, all right, I don’t want to act paranoid. I’m just going to be paranoid, how’s that?

PHOTO CREDIT: Sony Pictures Television

Zachery Bryan talks about producing horror film “Rogue River”

Zachery Bryan is known best for his role in the TV series “Home Improvement”.  He is currently spending his time working on his production company, Vision Entertainment Group. Their latest film is titled “Rogue River” and is a excellent entry to the horror genre.  Media Mikes had a chance to discuss the film with Zachery and find out what Vision has planned next.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you become involved with producing “Rogue River”?
Zachery Bryan: I was a child actor for quite a few years and then made the transition into adult acting. My producing partner, Adam Targum, and I were at a Dodgers game talking back and forth about what we wanted to be doing and we were a little frustrated with the creative side of our business. We decided to start Vision Entertainment Group. Right off the bat, we found a script that we attached a director to and sold that project to Lionsgate. We were not very involved on the physical side of that project. For the next project, we raised the money and produced it ourselves. We found a phenomenal investor and we started looking for scripts. “Rogue River” was one that came very quickly to us. We liked this script for a few different reasons. The price point of the film was pretty reasonable as we didn’t want to start with a large budgeted film. We actually filmed it in the Rogue River area of Oregon. We also liked it because it was a script that wasn’t reinventing the wheel from a plot stand point. There were some original set pieces however. This had all the “it’s” that we needed. We are really excited for the film to be coming out.

MG: How would you categorize the film?
ZB: It is definitely horror genre. Our log line would be that the lead character has lost her father and takes his ashes to spread at the Rogue River. Things ultimately go wrong and she ends up being held captive. The film has quite a few twists and turns.

MG: What do you like most about working in the horror genre?
ZB: It’s good from a business sense as there is a great demographic out there. Horror has an extremely strong and dedicated fan base. The film will make its way out there and people will hopefully see it.

MG: What was the biggest challenge of working on the film?
ZB: From a production stand point, I would have to say the weather. We filmed from November in to December in Southern Oregon…and it was freezing. We had things breaking all the time due to the weather. Other than that things went really smooth.

MG: Having grown up in the TV business with “Home Improvement”, how do you compare from producing?
ZB: They are both so different. Acting is much more emotional. Producing is long hours and you are with the project from start to finish and sometimes even longer. I like producing because I like making decisions. I look at it as you are the painter not just the paintbrush. You get to work on every aspect of the project not just one specific part.

MG: What do you have planned next to produce?
ZB: Our next film titled “The Grief Tourist” is not horror at all. This film is a very art house type film about a guy obsessed with following serial killers. The film stars Michael Cudlitz and Melanie Griffith.

Elizabeth Yoffe talks about producing “My Big Break”

Elizabeth Yoffe is the producer on the recent documentary “My Big Break”, directed by Tony Zierra and follows the early careers of Wes Bentley, Chad Lindberg, Brad Rowe and Gregory Fawcett.  Elizabeth took out some time to chat with Media Mikes about producing a documentary like “My Big Break”.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your involvement with documentary “My Big Break”?
Elizabeth Yoffe: Years ago, I was involved in a much smaller capacity with Tony’s documentary, “Carving Out Our Name”. When I saw that completed film in Toronto, I was completely taken with his abilities as a director and felt grateful to be part of it. Although there was a painful outcome for “Carving”, I believed that if Tony decided to start over and create a new project from his original footage it would result in something powerful and unique. I’ve been part of the process of making “My Big Break” from the beginning. My goal has been to be a partner in all aspects of it and to support the filmmaker’s creative vision in every way that’s needed. That covers a broad range of tasks and activities, from paperwork to marketing, creative input – when called upon, hiring additional crew, finding composers around the world, dealing with releases, research, financing, distribution decisions, marketing. It’s extremely hands- on and exhilerating because we’re completely independent.

MG: What is the most difficult task of producing a documentary?
EY: Raising its profile. It’s an interesting time for documentaries. There’s more and more interest in them and far more platforms and outlets to have the work seen than ever before – which is great. But, because there is so much content out there you’re also competing for audience interest, so marketing and raising awareness of an independent project can be challenging – as is monetization. But, all in all, I’d say this is one of the best times for indie docs-if you’re willing to put in the hands-on, intensive work.

MG: Where can everyone view or purchase this film today?
EY: Thanks for asking! The best way to view and purchase “My Big Break” is through our site, you’ll have the option of streaming or downloading the movie or you can purchase the DVD through us or through

MG: The special features are located on the website, tell us about this decision?
EY: We have so much footage that we want to include in the special features and making them part of a DVD limits the ability to change and add different features from time to time. This way, we have complete control over keeping the special features fresh.

MG: Have you ever considered this type of film with another group of actors, perhaps a series?
EY: No, because what makes “My Big Break” really one-of-a -kind is that fate had such a big part in bringing together that specific group of people and what they experienced – the struggles, the success, the spiral into frustration can’t possibly be duplicated. There’s plenty of fake reality out there now – too much – but the reality in “My Big Break” makes it unique and that much more interesting. If Tony wanted to do it, I know that he’d bring his unique creative eye to it, so that’s the only thing that would make me interested but without that – no. Although, I should add, it might intrigue me is to see how a group of young women handled a similar situation because the pressures on females in Hollywood is that much more intense and unsettling.

MG: What are currently working on next?
EY: I’m working in partnership with Tony on a fascinating documentary about Stanley Kubrick- I’m very excited about that, and also offering a certain level of technical support on his book, which tells a truly epic life story – talk about a film project! That’s the one story I’d consider going back to Hollywood to get done – if it could be done the way it should be. Who knows.

Interview with Cris D’Annunzio

Cris D’Annunzio recently starred in the acclaimed short film “Clemency”, which showed at the 2010 Sundance Festival and won several awards from other film festivals. He wrote and co-starred in the Ray Liotta and Rory Culkin film “Chasing 3000”, which follows the real-life story of two brothers driving across country to see Baseball Hall-of-Famer Roberto Clemente get his 3,000 hit with the Pittsburgh Pirates. While the film was made in 2008, it will get its official release in Summer 2010. Movie Mikes had the chance to talk to Cris to discuss “Chasing 3000” and his flourishing career.

Click here to purchase “Chasing 3000” DVD

Mike Gencarelli: It has not been an easy road for “Chasing 3000.” How do you feel now that it is finally hitting the big screen?
Cris D’Annunzio: It’s interesting. Obviously I’m very excited that it’s finally coming out and hitting the big screen. And yet there’s also…I don’t know how to describe it, it’s not disappointing…I just feel a little bad that it’s taken the film so long to get out there because it’s a really sweet film. I mean, it premiered three years ago at the Tribeca Film Festival. I judge certain things by my wife and my kids’ reaction and they just loved it. I think it’s a nice family, kid oriented film. It’s too bad that it had to take the route it took to get here but, with that being said, I’m really thrilled that it’s going to get a release. Hopefully it will pick up some steam after people see it and it should do real well on home video.

Mike Gencarelli: You co-wrote the screenplay with Bill Mikita. How was that experience?
Cris D’Annunzio: Any creative/artistic endeavor has it’s challenges. Ultimately the story really came to me through Bill. It’s loosely based on his life and growing up with his brother, who is the oldest surviving person IN THE WORLD with MS. The story really touched me when he first told it to me and my experiences with my own sister who, unfortunately, passed away a year and a half ago…she had a disease called Lupus…the experiences that I had growing up. My parents divorced and my mom basically took my sister and I and left. It’s a lot like the story in “Chasing 3000.” Oddly enough, what brought my sister and I closer together was baseball. We both shared a fondness for baseball. The Mets were our favorite team. The experience of writing it with Bill…with both of us bringing our personal situations and our personal histories into it…it’s interesting that we’re talking about this over the 4th of July weekend. It was nine years ago, over the 4th of July weekend, that we locked ourselves in an office at Warner Brothers and wrote the script over a long three day weekend. It’s kind of interesting when you have two grown men sitting in a room crying a lot and writing. It was a good experience.

Mike Gencarelli: You play Principal Motley in the film. Tell us about your character?
Cris D’Annunzio: What happens in the film is that the two boys, played by Trevor Morgan and Rory Culkin, move with their mom to California. They grew up in Pittsburgh and moved to California primarily because the younger brother has this disease and the warmer weather is better for his lungs. Of course the older brother becomes despondent and misses his friends and has a lot of teen angst. He starts to not do well in school and get in trouble and I’m kind of the principal who…not necessarily sets him on the right course but…disciplines him, puts an ultimatum to him. He kind of makes him realize that California is not the place he needs to be in at this moment. So he and his brother “borrow” their mother’s car and head across the country to see Roberto Clemente get his 3000th hit. Hopefully you’ll see it…hopefully a lot of people will see it. The casting director did a fantastic job of assembling a pretty well known cast. It has Ray Liotta and Lauren Holly and Ricardo Chivara from “Desperate Housewives.” The story, I think, touched a lot of people and that really touches me. I think that’s why a lot of people got involved in this project.

MG: Tell us about your one man play “Digging Up Dad”? Any plans to return to the stage?
CD: I just completed the run about a month ago…we ran for about three months. The play was an autobiographical solo show about my relationship with my father and his mysterious death at an early age…he died when he was 48 under very mysterious circumstances. The story is really about me trying to come to terms with that and also the fact that my mother left him when I was 12. At that age I was still developing my knowledge and my opinions about my father and it wasn’t until after he passed
that a lot of his life and what he did and was involved with…it wasn’t until then that I became aware of them. I grew up with it and I was aware of it. And I’ll use the word “mafia” but today I can’t whole heartedly tell you or anybody with any certainty that there is such a thing as the mafia, at least not in the way we think it should be based on what we see on television and in the movies. Maybe that was what my father was involved in but my father certainly wasn’t John Gotti. If anything he was…I would liken him to Paulie Walnuts from “The Sopranos” which was about the level of involvement that he was at.

MG: Your short film, “Clemency” has been hitting the festival circuit. Tell us about it?
CD: It’s a little project that I’m very excited about. It’s an interesting piece. It’s been playing the festival circuit but it’s kind of been categorized as a horror film but it’s really more of a mystery/suspense thriller. The way it’s shot and edited is a lot like the film “Se7en.” It’s about a sociopath in the mountains of West Virginia that abducts and murders some girls. One sister actually escapes and comes back many years later. The guy has spent many years in prison on death row and right before he’s scheduled to be executed he receives clemency from the governor who rules him insane. The sister who survived comes back and poses as a reporter. She gets in to interview him and ends up killing him. I play the murderer, which is a 180 degree turn from the character I play in “Chasing 3000.”

MG: Tell us about your upcoming web series, “Vampire Mob”?
CD: The first episode aired this past week and it runs six episodes. It’s done by some people I got involved with when I did my one man show, the Ruskin Group Theater. Every month they do what they call a “cafe” play. Five writers come in on Friday morning and they’re given a theme and two head shots and are told to write a ten minute play based on the theme and based on the two actors they’ve been given the pictures of. They write the play in the morning, give the play to the actors at noon. They rehearse it from noon until six and then they have the opening night performance at seven and the closing night performance at nine that evening. One of the writers, Joe Wilson, had written a play loosely based on a vampire hit man for the mob and that gave him the idea to do the web series. It’s about a mob hit man who gets shot and makes a deal with the devil not to die. But in choosing to live forever he also has to choose to be a vampire. He figures that since most of the work he does is at night anyway this would be perfect for him!

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Interview with Paris Themmen

Paris Themmen played Mike TeeVee in 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. Paris took time out on his birthday to talk to OnlineCasinosSpelen and discuss how it was working on the film, what he has done since and how he is hoping for a 40th anniversary cast reunion.

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Mike Gencarelli: How did you originally get the role of Mike TeeVee in “Willy Wonka”?
Paris Themmen: I started acting when I was six.  My mother brought me into an agent and I went up for a commercial.  The first commercial I ever went up for was for Jiff Peanut Butter where I had to sit on top of a mountain of peanuts.  Of course it was just an angled chicken wire creation.  I hooked the first commercial I went up for and then the second commercial was for a product called “Crazy Bubbles.”  I was the only six year old who could say “Crazy Bubbles Bubble Blowing Bubble Bath.”  I could say it three times fast so they hired me.  In those days there weren’t many child actors in New York.  So I kept doing commercials.  Eventually I booked a Broadway show called “Mame” with Ann Miller as Auntie Mame.  So I was doing a lot of commercials and theater in New York…I did Circle in the Square…and when I was around eleven years old I auditioned for the film.  As I recall there was at least one call back…not a lot.  As I said, there weren’t really a million child actors in New York…maybe me and a few others.  I had a call back and I remember being in a phone booth with my mother and getting the news and both of us being very excited that we were both going to go to Munich, Germany to film the movie.

Mike Gencarelli: What was your most memorable moment on the set of “Willy Wonka”
Paris Themmen: My most fondest memory was the chocolate room.  Unlike Julie who didn’t like it because, strangely, she doesn’t like chocolate, I loved the Pure Imagination room.  As you may have heard elsewhere, the reaction shot that they took of us from the top of the stairs was a true reaction shot.  It was a closed set and we had never seen the room before.  So when they opened the doors…unlike today where they digitize things or build them in portions…it was all laid out for us.  We were probably 30 or 40 feet above it looking down at the whole room…the river flowing, the waterfall flowing, the boat moving.  I think that was the first day we saw the Oompa Loompas.  It was such an amazing feeling to be looking down at what the crew had been laboring on.  To see the fruits of their labors was amazing.  That was probably my favorite moment on shooting the film.

Mike Gencarelli: Do you still keep in touch with the cast and crew?
Paris Themmen: Mostly by email, but yes.  Here are the people I’ve seen in the last 20 years:  I’ve seen each of the four other kids, I’ve seen Diana Sole, who played Charlie’s mom. I’ve seen Rusty Goff, who played the lead Oompa Loompa.  I’ve seen Mel Stuart, who directed the film.  I’ve seen Frawley Becker, who was the script consultant.  I think for people that were directly associated with the movie…that’s it.  No wait!  I saw Leonard Stone one day.  I was doing commercial counseling sessions and he came in as a commercial actor for me.  And that’s it.  I know a lot of them have passed…like Jack Albertson.   Oh, and I did see Gene (Wilder) once.  I saw him about a year ago at a Barnes and Noble signing for his book.  And the thing about being Gene is…I was eleven, the other kids were thirteen.  People ask me who was nice and who was mean.  Julie, surprisingly, was a very well mannered, well behaved British young woman.  Peter, true to form, was a very gentle and well behaved young man.  Michael didn’t speak a lot of English and Denise was a lot like me…sort of a hardened child actor.  But I was two years younger…and I was trouble.  I was rambunctious and precocious everywhere on the set and Gene remembered this.  He tells a story about being asked about a part in the additional footage on the DVD when someone asks “what about me” and he replies “oh, he was definitely a brat.”  Then he pauses, looks into the camera and says, “But Paris…You know I love you now,” in a very Gene Wilder sort of way.  And another one that I love…Gene was asked what he thought about working with the kids and he said, “four of them are great and one of them I’m going to kill tomorrow!”  Wait a minute, my girlfriend is correcting me.  He says “Four of them are fantastic, one of them I’m going to shoot in the head tomorrow!”  (laughs).  So years later I go to this book signing and I say, “Hi Gene, I’m Paris, I played Mike TeeVee” and he says, sure as rain, “Oh…you grew a brat.”  So that’s his recollection of me. And I told him that I’d like to think I’ve had time to change and he said, “yes, of course…I’m sure you have.”  But like I say I was sorta precocious…much like my character.

MG: After “Willy Wonka”,  you didn’t do a lot of other films.  Why?
PT: The real question is, “Paris, what have you done since?”  There are a couple of answers.  One:  After the film I went back to Broadway in a play called “The Rothchilds.”  I also did the first national tour of the show.  I did a couple more commercials.  I basically worked from six to sixteen.  Then I got my degree in theater at NYU and they didn’t want you to work at that time.  They wanted you to be process oriented, not results oriented.  So they really didn’t want you to work.  Then I got out of college, got distracted and discovered other things.  I did a few commercials in my thirties and I was in the background of some films, mostly because I was working in film production.  The other side of that question is what have I done NOT as an actor and…that is a lot.  I’ve travelled all over the world…I backpacked through sixty different countries on six continents.  Particularly in some very exotic locations like Borneo, the Sahara Desert, the Amazon, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal.  Just try to imagine the cool adventurous things you’d want to do in your life…I’ve done many of them.  Swimming with sharks…piranhas.  I’ve done some sky diving.  I’ve also had some great business experiences…managing money with Smith-Barney…being a real estate broker…film production, like I said.  I worked in casting for awhile.  I was what they call a Walt Disney Imagineer, during when they were building Euro Disney.  I’ve started two or three businesses.  So I haven’t been just sitting in my room contemplating my navel.  I’ve been out doing things.  In terms of major motion pictures that people will remember…that’s it…one film, “Willy Wonka”.  One good film.

MG: With next year being the 40th anniversary of the film, how do you feel about its impact over the years?
PT: I agree with you that the film has had a life of its own.  And it’s been passed down from parents to children throughout the years.  The script that Roald Dahl wrote appeals not only to children but also to adults, with many adult references, so the parents don’t mind watching it with the kids.  And they are in fact excited about bestowing it upon their children.  And as the film has grown there are very old Wonka fans now and there are very young Wonka fans now.  So in terms of my reaction to that I think it’s great.  I think it deserves to be where it is.  Obviously at the time none of us expected that it would be that way.  But watching the film I understand its enduring popularity.

MG: Ok, the dreaded question, have you seen the remake from 2005? Your feelings?
PT: Here’s my experience with the new film…there was a time right after it came out when people would ask me “what do you think of the new film” and I would say, “Oh, I think it’s great!”  I don’t remember exactly what I said but I know I was positive.  But as the years go by and I speak to fans who tell me that they prefer the old one I feel more and more comfortable expressing my opinion which is that the new one had some things about it that I liked…things like the squirrels.  And by that I mean Veruca getting eaten by squirrels, which was true to the book.  I liked the pink Seahorse boat.  I thought the chocolate looked more authentic in the river then ours.  But I thought that there were many ways that they missed in the new one.  Chief among them is the relationship between Wonka and Charlie.  I felt that, although the new movie is called “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the focus in fact was more on Willy Wonka, while the old movie was called “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” but the emphasis was more on Charlie.  In terms of the relationship with Wonka, I think that one of the key moments in the old film was in the end when Gene says “My boy you’ve won,” and there’s this great moment that happens between him and Charlie.  To me that’s the heart of the problem in the center of the film.  The choices Johnny Depp made, and far be it from me to judge Johnny Depp…he’s one of our finest actors…created such a neurotic persona so that there was no relationship between Wonka and Charlie.  I thought that was the biggest problem.

MG: Do you ever think we will see another cast reunion any time soon? Perhaps for the 40th anniversary?
PT: There is some talk of doing something but I really can’t give specifics until things are nailed down.  But, yes, we’re definitely talking about doing that, either at the end of this year, which technically be 40 years since we shot the film or in 2011.

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