Interview with Vernon Wells

Vernon Wells has appeared in over 98 movies as well as being a very successful voice over actor. He is probably best known for his role in the 1985 classic “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.” Movie Mikes had a chance recently to talk with Vernon about his career and upcoming projects.

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Adam Lawton: How did your role in “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior” come about?
Vernon Wells: It all came about rather strangely. I was doing a play in Melbourne and George Miller’s girlfriend was at one of the showing. She suggested to George that I would be perfect for the role of Wez. I had no idea what the “Road Warrior” was about so George came down for a meeting and after about an hour of telling dirty jokes we both went on our way. A month later I get a call saying I got the part. I still had no idea what the film or the role was even about. It wasn’t until I had to go to Sydney for my costume fittings did I start to figure it out. Originally I had thought that I couldn’t do the role and was in my own way trying to get out of the role. Once I got the whole costume on George stood me in front of the mirror and I was scared shitless. After George doing that I figured I could probably do the role.

AL: You got a chance to spoof your character from “Road Warrior” in Weird Science. What was it like working with John Hughes?
VW: John was really great to work with. He was such a kid. That film was my first film in America and its funny because I never really wanted to come to America. I was just a small down home country boy from Australia and I was content being that. They tried for quite some time to get me to come over and do this film. I was terrified to go because I saw it as this huge place with 300 million people and I was coming from a place with only 20 million. I did however enjoy it and it turned out to be a real eye opener. I liked the way I was treated and the people I got to work on that film. Doing this movie put me in contact with a lot of people and ultimately led me to getting the role in “Commando.”

AL: Have you been contacted about doing anything for the 25 year anniversary of “Weird Science”
VW: Nope not yet but I am sure they will be doing something. At one point I had heard that one of the major movie convention holders was trying to get a reunion together but I haven’t heard anything recently about that.

AL: What was it like working with Arnold Schwarzenegger on “Commando?”
VW: I had no idea who he was at first and couldn’t even pronounce his name. (laughs) Initially I had been rejected for the role because the director had thought that I was going to probably do the role like my character from “Road Warrior.” Joel Silver who had put me in “Weird Science” called me about three weeks into production after the person they had originally cast had to leave. After his call I got on a plane and flew to the states. I went directly from the airport to the studio and started working. I enjoyed that film and had a lot of fun. Doing “Commando” made me want to stay in the states and continue working.

AL: Recently you have been involved in a lot of voice over work correct?
VW: Yes. I really have a lot of fun doing that. I can go into work looking like death warmed over and no one cares. (laughs) It’s really cool. I have been getting to do a lot of video games as of late such as “Transformers” and “Spider Man”

AL: What made you get into voice work?
VW: For years people had been saying that I had a great voice and why don’t I do commercials. I really wasn’t interested in doing those at time but, I decided to join a voice over company and in three years I never got a job! I had a friend that was a booth operator for the largest voice over agency in L.A. and he was always at me to stay with it. One day he contacted me and said there was an agent he worked with that was a huge “Road Warrior” fan and that he would like to represent me. Three weeks later I was doing voice over’s for the U.S. Army and things have grown from there.

AL: Can you tell us about “Silent Night Zombie Night?”
VW: I got a call one day from my friend Sean Cain who was the director and he tells me he wants me for his film. I asked what role he was offering me and he told me I was going to get to be the hero! Sean begins to tell me that my character is going to be the one who has all the plans and is going to save everyone. The first thing my character does is he walks out the door and gets killed by zombies. (laughs) I loved the idea and agreed to do the film.

AL: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects that you are involved in?
VW: I have an internet series starting in a few weeks called “Western X.” It’s a Sci-Fi series that’s going to be Huge!  I just had a few films released in Australia the first is called “Drop Dead Gorgeous” and the second one which has won a bunch of awards is called “Charlie Valentine.” Next year I have a bunch of projects coming out one is a vampire movie titled “Dead Undead.”  I also have a movie called “The Pod” as well as “Earth Attack” and “Cheerleaders Must Die.”

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Interview with Anthony Guajardo

Anthony Guajardo appeared in this year huge television hit “The Walking Dead” on AMC.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Anthony about his role on the show and what he has planned next.

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Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with the show “The Walking Dead”?
Anthony Guajardo: I received a phone call from my agent one day and she told me that I had an audition for a project called “The Walking Dead 104.” I ended up auditioning for “Felipe,” “Jorge” and “Miguel.” When I found out later that I booked the job I totally FREAKED out. My mom started crying and I came pretty close myself.

MG: What was the coolest part of working on the show? Are you a zombie fan?
AG: The coolest part about being on the show was just being on set, I have a deep love for the job and when i am on set i feel like there isn’t anything in the world can bring me down. My parents and I are pretty good zombie fans, we have a cool mini collection of school zombie films including the original “Night of the Living Dead” and “Zombieland”.

MG: Where you a fan of the comic series prior to working on the show?
AG: Sadly I was not, but you can bet i am now! ha ha I love all of the characters and the realism of each character on the show.

MG: How long did it take to shoot your episode “Vatos”?
AG: I was in Atlanta for 10 days, but i believe i was on set for about four awesome days!

MG: Was the weather difficult to work in during the summer in Atlanta?
AG: A bit. The main problem was that it would randomly rain a few times throughout the day and we’d have dive under umbrellas to wait it out. But that wasn’t so bad as compared to the “problems” they had filming with the heat on the roof.

MG: What are you planning for next?
AG: I’m not totally sure, hopefully I’ll be back on “The Walking Dead”. I’m about to start a webisode with some acting buddies of mine, we’re going to call it “The B.A.D Revue.” We are going to do some skits, talk about world issues, and answer viewers’ questions.

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Interview with Megan Franich

Megan Franich is known for her role of Iris in “30 Days of Night”. Besides acting, Megan is also a singer/songwriter. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Megan to ask her a few questions about her career and what is coming up.

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Mike Gencarelli: How did you prepare for such an intense role in “30 Days of Night”?
Megan Franich: I went out at night and killed a few people just to see how it felt. It was fun! Then I ate my Mom. So I felt very prepared…OK now the serious answer. I made up an entire back story for Iris – one that would actually make a great movie of it’s own (just in case Columbia Pictures is reading this, wink wink). So I knew in my head and heart what was motivating her to do the things she did, where the anger came from. I think it’s really important to know your character’s past. Not that you are thinking about it when you’re filming, but if you know it, then it sits in your bones and you know where the actions are coming from. It gives you an energy that has meaning, instead of just doing something because that’s what the script is telling you to do. Also on a more immediate level, the make-up helped me to prepare every day. I could laugh and talk with the make up people for most of the process, but as soon as the contact lenses went in, something would change. There would be a shift and Iris would come out to play.

MG: What was the most difficult part for you working on that film?
MF: I think the most difficult part for me was that I had so much on at the time. I was still producing and hosting a music television show each week. Also I was preparing for my wedding. I also shot a short film in amongst it… 30 Days was shooting in the city I was living in, Auckland, New Zealand, so I still had everything going on. I much prefer to shoot on location so that I can focus only on the film. But that being said, it didn’t detract from the process at all. I loved it, and it was fun to be able to introduce my cast mates to my city.

MG: Where you familiar with the graphic novel prior to filming?
MF: Prior to filming, yes. Prior to auditioning, no. It was only after I was cast in the role that my fiance bought me the graphic novel. As soon as I saw Iris I understood why David Slade had chosen me. Such an uncanny resemblance to Ben Templesmith’s art… Now that I’ve been introduced to Steve Nile’s work though I must say I’m a fan for life. Such a sweet person and great writer.

MG: How long was the makeup process each day?
MF: It was different for each scene. On a usual day, a couple of hours. For the burn scenes much longer. Sarah Rubano and Gino Acevedo are two of the most talented make up artists I’ve ever worked with. And I think it makes a huge difference to like the people doing your make up. I consider these people friends and it made the process that much more enjoyable.

Mg: How was it like working on such a large film like “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”?
MF: Awesome, I loved it SO much. There are different reasons that I enjoy smaller independent films and huge ones like Narnia. One of the reasons I love the big ones is the scale of the sets. The Narnia sets blew my mind! You would absolutely be in Paravel the second you stepped foot into the set. And it was all encompassing. It’s hard to describe, I’m sure you get the idea from the film…
We were on location in Arthur’s Pass in the South Island of New Zealand for a lot of this shoot, and it really is a paradise. My fellow nymphs and I stayed in a ski chalet at the top of a mountain and one night there was a lightning storm which we saw from ABOVE the clouds. A truly magical experience.

MG: Besides movies you are also involved with music, tell us a little about that?
MF: I’m a singer/songwriter – my demo is on MySpace… Just solo acoustic guitar and vocals. This year I had my first LA gig at The House of Blues and look forward to more in 2011!  Also in New Zealand I had a tv show sharing beautiful musical discoveries with others. Albums and videos. I loved being able to help promote bands that otherwise seemed to slip under the radar. I have been missing my show since moving to the States and have just started up a blog – Where I’m sharing found treasures with whoever wants to know!

MG: What upcoming films do you have planned?
MF: My next appearance is in Smokewood Entertainment Group’s new film. Their last film was “Precious”, so for them, like me, it’s a huge change in genre – a kid’s movie! It’s very colorful and cute. We had an incredible director, John Schultz and great locations. It comes out in 2011 and is called “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer”.

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Interview with Tanit Phoenix

Tanit Phoenix ismodel who is crossing over into films, she is featured this years “The Lost Boys 3: The Thirst” and “Death Race 2”. Phoenix is also working on a 13 part series, “Femme Fatales” for HBO, where she has been cast as lead actress. Movie Mikes had a chance to ask Tanit a few questions about her career and the films she has worked on.

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Mike Gencarelli: Was it surreal working with such a well-known actor as Corey Feldman in “The Lost Boys 3: The Thirst”?

Tanit Phoenix: I had been watching Corey in films since I was a kid. My favorites were “The Goonies” and “Stand By Me”. So when this project presented itself in South Africa, and being a fan of those films, obviously I wanted to work with Corey and see the kind of person and actor he truly was.

MG: Were you a fan of the original Lost Boys?
TP: I was a huge fan of the film with Kiefer Sutherland. Such a cult classic.

MG: Can you tell us what it was like working with Jared Leto and Nicholas Cage on “Lord of War”?

TP: I played Jared’s love interest in this film. There was immediate on screen chemistry as we had spent some time off set getting to know each other. He was very passionate about teaching me some of what he knew in terms of acting, as it was my very first film I’d ever acted in. Nicolas Cage is a wonderful man. He was very sweet and kind. I was somewhat star struck at the time. I could not believe that my very first acting job would be with my film hero!

MG: “Death Race 2” is next. Are you driving in it? Fun movie to do?
TP: I play Katrina Banks, an ex military sniper sent to prison for killing her superior officer. I am forced, by the prison warden, to navigate the mustang with the lead actor, played by Luke Goss. So no, I could not drive myself, although my father used to race cars and I am experienced in handling fast machines. It was a great film to be a part of, I became very good friends with Danny Trejo. I also got to do some amazing stunt scenes.

MG: You’re in the TV series “Femme Fatales”, what can you tell us about it?
TP: “Femme Fatales” is a 13 part anthology series based on woman who kill men. I booked the lead role, Lilith, who narrates each episode. I play a small part in every show, like the ‘devil’ on the audiences shoulder and I lead you on a journey. I show who these woman are and what enables them to kill, and in the 13th episode the audience discovers why I have been following these woman. Very sexy, dark, mysterious and fun!

MG: You’re a firm fan favorite to play… well, two superheroes…. Wonder Woman and Catwoman. What is it about those roles that interests you?
TP: Any film directed by Chris Nolan I would be the first in line to audition for a role. He is an incredible director. Catwoman is a definite dichotomy. She is athletic and fearless, yet sexy and feminine…a strong female protagonist. Not only beautiful and deadly but incredibly smart. She is a daredevil with a mischievous don’t mess with me attitude. Playing this character would be so much work to give her character the justice she
deserves, and yet so much fun. Both parts are about empowered woman, but there is a very exciting mythology to the character of Wonder woman that I would love to explore. Her character is worldy, and I want to bring her to life in a way no one has seen Wonder Woman before. I feel her back story needs to be explored, where she came from, and she used to have a family and has made some difficult choices to be a superhero.. and of course you’ll learn there is something mysterious about her. Plus her wardrobe has changed, no more golden cuffs and high wasted hot pants, which is great. I feel this gives her a more serious appeal to a wider
range of people.

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Interview with Jon Chu

Jon Chu is best best best know for directing the movies “Step Up 2: The Streets” and “Step Up 3D.”  His next project is “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never”, which is done in 3D as well.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Jon about working on the “Step Up” series.

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Mike Gencarelli: The 3D dance scenes feel like a perfect fit for “Step Up 3D”, was it difficult to shoot?
Jon Chu: Yes and No.  We have some of the best dancers in the world.  So in a way we are loaded with amazing amazing talent.  Yes it is difficult because technically there is a lot of things that go along with 3D.  We are not on a green screen stage.  We are out in real locations in New York.  There are a lot of things that can go wrong.  But also what is more challenging is creativity. You have to figure out how to communicate dance and emotion in the story with the new tool of 3D and how can 3D actually enhance that story telling.  There is the choreography of not just what is in the frame but of the frame itself.  Every step of the way, whether it is costumes, lighting, choreography or acting inside these dance numbers, we have to re-configure it for how can we test the 3D in this way.  I think it just takes time and more thinking. But for me that is more fun to make a movie like that.

What was your favorite dance scene in “Step Up 3D”?
JC: I mean each one is so different and great.  Although I do love our 2 1/2 minute oner with our Gene Kelley/Fred Astaire-like dance number.  Our remix version was a little crazy but I loved it.  That was not on a backlot, that was in a real New York street.  These kids are 15 and 16 year of kid dancing like that with zero cuts for 2 1/2 minutes.  When we got the shot on the 17th take of it, the whole set exploded.  I will never forget working on tthat scene.

One of my favorite was the battle scene in the water, who came up with that idea?
JC: Our concepts for each of the battles, we wanted to do the elements of the earth.  The first one we wanted to do earth and fire.  The second we wanted water and wind.  The fire ended up gettingcut from the movie so we just had the earth in the first.  For the second, we had these huge gigantic fans and it became to much craziness, so we took out the wind.  So we only had the water part [laughs].  The final battle was suppose to be energy and light, which we were able to get both.  The water was definitely a plan.  We dealt with water on “Step Up 2”, but that was raining.  It was from the top down for that and for this it was from the bottom up.  It was a whole new experience.  We had to build that fountain in the set, which was an old bank.  We had to build in the plumbing for it as well.  We had to have clean water coming in and out of it, for sanitary purposes obviously.  Our cameras where these new 3D cameras, which did not have water protection on them.  We are going old school just wrapping them in whatever we could, like saran wrap.  The technicians are freaking out screaming “You cannot get these million dollar cameras wet”.  I was like “We have insurance right, just keep going”.  They were constantly wiping the lenses.  We figured we are doing a 3D movie, we are young, we have a fan base that is going to love this movie and we wanted to go have fun and push it for them.  We have an opportunity to plan in the sandbox, maybe more than some other movies so we wanted to go there.

Did you feel any pressure to amp up the dance numbers in “Step Up 3D”?
JC: Oh yeah for sure. We knew if we were going to come back and do this in 3D, everything needed to be amped up.  But luckily I met so many new dancers and each of them has their own individual weapon.  So when you go from 60 dancers in “Step Up 2” to 250 dancers in “Step Up 3”, you have a whole new arsenal of weapons to go after.  We tried to build each segment around that arsenal, whomever was on the stage at the time.  Even the different battles had different dancers.  We had different people with different skills going out there.  That made it very interesting for us to play with.  It also changed the way we moved the camera.  When you have the robot guy going at it, you go not want the camera moving around a lot, you want his little movements to be telling that story.

The soundtrack is so critical in these films, do you have any pull with the songs?
JC: Yeah we worked really closely with our music department.  Music is a huge part of our movie.  It forms the dance and the dance forms the music.  We are constantly getting stuff throwing out at us, even when we were writing the script to see what inspires us.  While we are shooting they were giving music to us and we are throwing music back at them.  Ultimately our movie lies between all of that.  Especially when we are remixing things.  It is a really big part of our movies.

I hear there are plans for a fourth in the series called “Step Up 4Ever”, would you be involved?
JC: I think so yeah.  I have read and seen some things.  I am not sure what I am allowed to say.  But I think we have an opportunity to do more and to switch it up and try some new things.  Maybe stuff we haven’t been able to do in the prior movies.  At this point, I think I will be around but not directing though.  But we’ll see how that goes.

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Interview with Kelly LeBrock

1980’s sex symbol Kelly LeBrock started her modeling career at age 16, and coined the phrase “Don’t hate me because I’m Beautiful”, but Kelly LeBrock is probably best known for her role as the computer generated girlfriend “Lisa” in the 1985 John Hughes film “Weird Science”.  Kelly stepped out of the lime light a few years ago to focus on her children, but is making preparations to return in 2011. Adam Lawton of recently talked with Kelly about her career as well as her plans to return to acting.

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Adam Lawton: What made you want to branch out from modeling and get in to the acting field?
Kelly LeBrock: Well I actually never wanted to be a model, I wanted to always be a veterinarian. I always have had acting in my heart, and it was something I had done since grade school. When I moved to LA and met my first husband, we produced Woman in Red, which was my first film. I really love creating characters and getting the chance to be someone else.

AL: Which do you feel is more demanding modeling or shooting movies?
KL: When you love something it’s not demanding, but I would have to say modeling because it’s really a no brainer. At least when you are acting you are engaged and people want to hear what you have to say. When you’re a model everything is done through your eyes, but I like getting to use the whole package.

AL: How did your role in “Weird Science” come about?
KL: When I was first offered that role I turned it down because I was having way too much fun in the South of France with Sting, and I didn’t want to go back to the U.S., so they had hired someone else. After about three weeks of shooting the girl had to be fired, so they called me up and said we will give you whatever you want, so the next day I was on a plane to Chicago. My first scene was the shower scene, and I was forced to wear the previous actress’s wardrobe. She was a completely different body type than I was so a lot of the outfits had to be modified for them to work. Also they were three weeks in to production and already knew each other, and I am the new person on set. Plus it was only my second movie, so it was very stressful for me.

AL: Were the crew and other actors upset that a lot of their work was going to have to be re-shot due to the change?
KL: I think they were very happy when I showed up because they had shot all this film that was now useless and never going to be seen, so everyone was nervous. When the dailies started to be seen and everyone saw the chemistry the cast had, everyone was really happy. We saved each others asses.

AL: How was it working with John Hughes?
KL: John was the biggest kid. He was so wonderful and great to be a around. I miss him terribly, and I wish we could have done a sequel.

AL: Are there any plans for a 25th anniversary or Blu-ray release of “Weird Science”?
KL: 25 years are you serious? I’m not that old. I haven’t been told yet of any plans.

AL: Do you have any upcoming projects?
KLB: I have a few projects that are in the pilot stages, and I am still deciding if I am going to do those. I also have a couple books coming out, so I am ready to make a comeback!

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Interview with Belinda Balaski

Belinda Balaski is a classic character actor that has appeared in such classic TV shows as “Force Five, S.W.A.T, Charlie’s Angels” and many others. She also has appeared in such classic films as “Gremlins 1 & 2” and “The Howling.” MovieMikes’ recently spoke with Belinda about her extensive career and her upcoming project “Hallow Pointe”.

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Adam Lawton: You have quite a career in the way of television appearances, is there one that sticks out in your mind as a favorite?
Belinda Balaski: Yes, actually, but no one has ever asked me that question (laughs). “Are You My Mother”, which was an ABC after school special I did with Michael York. I was actually nominated for an Emmy for that role. I played a woman who after giving birth, ends up on the streets due to the hormonal imbalance of physical and psychological changes in her body. Years later, the daughter, who was told originally that her mother had died, discovers her while working for her father during summer vacation. I thought it was a really incredible after school special and I got to play a character that had true emotional depth, along with suffering from the controversial postpartum condition many women go through after childbirth.

AL: What was it like working with Michael York?
BB: He’s so wonderful. I have such respect for him as an actor. The thing about Michael is that he has a very thick English accent, and he made it his goal to sound as American as possible for this character.

AL: You also were nominated for an Emmy for your work on “Proud Men” with Charleton Heston?
BB: Yes, my part on that one kept increasing as we worked. The first day after I worked, a bunch of new pages appeared right after that. It seemed as I worked, more and more pages were added. They were very happy with me. I have been very fortunate to work with some really great people. Working with Charleton Heston and Peter Strauss was a joy.

AL: You have appeared in a few horror classics, such as “Piranha” and “The Howling” to name a couple. Are you a fan of the horror genre?
BB: I am a fan of Joe Dante, who is a genre unto himself. He’s not like the other horror film directors as far as I am concerned. He separates himself with his political views, film buff antics, and his humor. I’m a great fan of Joe Dante films, but not necessarily of horror films; my personal faves being psychological thrillers….

AL: You got a chance to be in “Gremlins 1 and 2” correct?
BB: That was really fun. I remember the night before I was supposed to shoot my scenes for “Gremlins”, I hadn’t gotten a script. So I called Joe and said it’s like 8:30pm and I’m supposed to work tomorrow morning and no one has delivered a script. Joe said “What script? I haven’t gotten one either. We’re just going to ad lib and I was like “Oh my God” I had no idea what a gremlin was or what one looked like! I don’t even think the people shooting the film knew either, so it was a lot of guess work. It was the same when we shot “The Howling” no one knew what the werewolves were going to look like until after we were done. For “Gremlins 2” I played a totally different character. Joe’s idea from the start was to have a small company where he would use the same group of actors in each of his films. I was lucky enough to be cast in his first film as he was editing “Hollywood Boulevard” while Tina Hirsch was editing “Bobby Jo and the Outlaw” sitting next to each other at New World. He saw me in that film and brought me in for Piranha, and then The Howling, Gremlins, Amazon Women on the Moon, Voice of female alien in Explorers, etc. The rest is I guess as they say~ history!

AL: You have a movie coming out soon entitled “Hallow Pointe” can you tell us a little about that?
BB: It’s going to be done by Bobby Ray Akers Jr., and I am very excited about it. But I can’t tell you to much more than that, as I signed a confidentiality contract. But I can tell you that by going to conventions and meeting with young film makers and fans, I have had the opportunity to be approached by a few young directors who have asked me to be in their movies. That is what happened with Bobby Ray and “Hallow Pointe”

AL: Do you have any other projects in the works that you can tell us about?
BB: I have about seven scripts sitting in front of me right now. To name a few, there’s a movie in the works with Parish Randall titled “Untold in West Texas” that I’m very excited about, an awesome project in Australia with Kerri Hill-Grisham called “The Dark Things”, and “The Underground Railroad” with David Boorboor which is wonderfully brilliant! There is a lot of quiet activity going on, which is seriously exciting. I am also wrapping up a novel that I’ve been working on for the past 3 1/2 years with my writing partner, Bahram Rabii, which is quite political and hopefully a bridge to Iran through the eyes of a young coming of age teen, named “Shadooneh.”

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