Interview with Thomas Ian Nicholas

Thomas Ian Nicholas started his career with “Rookie of the Year” and Disney’s “A Kid in King Arthur’s Court”.  Shortly after he joined the cast of “American Pie” as Kevin Myers and co-stared in all three films.  Thomas recently released a new CD with his band, The Thomas Nicholas Band, on June 1st and they are currently on tour.  Movie Mikes had a chance to talk with Thomas about his movie career so far as well as his band’s current tour.

Click here to purchase Thomas’ movies

Mike Gencarelli: My sisters and my favorite film growing up was “Rookie of the Year”, tell us about working on that film?
Thomas Ian Nicholas: That was my first feature film that got released in theaters so I was stoked. I believe there is still video of me somewhere when I got the news and I was jumping up and down for joy. It was a great time. We got to spend three months in Chicago. We shot on Wrigley’s Field. Just this year when we were playing shows in Chicago with my band, I went back and threw out the first pitch and sang the 7-inning stretch. So that was cool to return back there.

Mike Gencarelli: You worked on “A Kid in King Arthur’s Court”, with then little known Kate Winslet and Daniel Craig, How was it working on that film?
Thomas Ian Nicholas: It was cool. Kate had done “Heavenly Creatures” but that was pretty much the only film under her belt. She was 18 at the time. I was 14. She was cool. I am very excited for her success that she has achieved in her career. It is well-deserved. Daniel Craig was cool too. I spent a lot of time with both of them. When Daniel did James Bond, I was so stoked for him. I love seeing my friends succeed.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell how it was playing Kevin Myers for the “American Pie” Trilogy?
Thomas Ian Nicholas: At the time I was just happy to have a job. I never knew it would turn into a franchise film trilogy and DVD sequels to boot. It was good time and a great group of people. Working with the Weitz Brothers was amazing. I look back and I can’t believe it was over ten years ago. It is kind of crazy. I am grateful for the doors that it has opened for me, both in the acting and the music side. It has been an amazing blessing.

MG: You must have some crazy stories from the set of “American Pie” films?
TN: Probably in the last twelve years, I have told every crazy story. If you would have told me twelve years ago that I would be interviewing with you, I would have saved one crazy story for you. So let’s set a date for a future project I will make sure that I save you one [laughs].

MG: There is word there might be another installment, any chance you will return?
TN: I’ve heard the same things you heard. I was on my twitter page and someone posted an article that was linked to the LA Times. The article said that they hired writers to write the sequel. My reaction was basically “Oh really…Ok cool!”. So I have been following the press the same as everyone else. I think it would be fun if we all got back together. I look forward to it hopefully coming together.

MG: What has been your favorite film that you have worked on to date?
TN: That is a tough one to choose. There are two performances that are my favorite. One is recent and one is from ten years ago. I would like to include both of them. The most recent which is currently in theaters, called “Please Give” with Amanda Peet, Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt. I really believe that Nicole Holofcener directed one of the most honest performances out of my career to date. Hopefully I will continue with that kind of work going forward. The other project was “Rules of Attraction” by Roger Avery. That was the first time I felt that I really stepped outside of myself and became a character that was completely different. My own mother didn’t even recognize me for the first half of the scene I was in. She was like “Wait a second, is that you?”. That is a pretty cool complement.

MG: Tell us about your band and your new album?
TN: My band is called The Thomas Nicholas Band or better known as TNB. We just released our latest album, called ‘Heroes Are Human’ on June 1st 2010. We have been touring across half the country. We started on June 20th and went up through the Northwest into Chicago and down through the Southwest, which is where we are right now. We are playing 19 shows over 21 days, it is just a small little tour to celebrate and promote the release of the album.

MG: Do you have any upcoming films in the works?
TN: There are a few things. I play Abbie Hoffman in “The Chicago 8”, which I just recently finished. It will hopefully be out later this year or beginning of next year. It focuses on the famous trial of 1969. I also just finished filming a movie called “InSight” which stars Sean Patrick Flanery and Christopher Lloyd. It is a thriller and I play the main murder suspect.

Click here to purchase Thomas’ movies
Click here to visit Thomas’ website and purchase The Thomas Nicholas Band’s CDs

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!

Click here to purchase “Chasing 3000” DVD

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 Movie Mikes 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.

Click here to purchase “Willy Wonka” merchandise

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.

Click here to purchase “Willy Wonka” merchandise