Interview with Ahmed Ahmed

Ahmed Ahmed is a standup comedian who has also appeared in several films and television shows. His newest project is titled “Just Like Us” and documents Ahmed and several other comedians’ tour across the Middle East. Ahmed took time out of his busy schedule to talk with Movie Mikes about his new project.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about your film “Just Like Us”
Ahmed Ahmed: “Just Like Us” is a documentary film that I came up with after doing comedy shows around the Middle East. Around 2007 I toured the Middle East with a group we put together called “The Axis of Evil Tour” which was filmed and shown on television over there. In 2008 we toured there again but not as a group and we didn’t film anything. In 2009 we had a tour that lined up with the International cast and that’s when we actually decided to shoot it.

AL: So the idea came about after touring over there a few different times?
AA: I had started a company with my business partner called Cross Cultural Entertainment and under that umbrella we created Cross Cultural Productions. This would be the portion that would physically produce and put on projects. After doing this my partner asked me what my next plan was. I told him I was going to go to the Middle East and he said I had to shoot it. The timing was great and the topic was relevant so that was part of it. A couple years prior I had done a comedy tour with Vince Vaughn called “The Wild West Comedy Show” which was also turned into a documentary film. From that I sort of had an idea of how to make a documentary. Another thing that kind of brought me to making this project was when I would come back from the Middle East a lot of my friends would ask what I was doing over there. I would tell them comedy shows and they would ask which military base. I would tell them we played theaters for Arabs in English and they get it. The film came out really great and I think people will enjoy it.

AL: What was it like touring and filming at the same time?
AA: I kind of bit off more than I could chew! At first I was going to just be the host for the shows however the promoters started asking me to bring comedians. I in a way started to become a talent booker as well as being relied on to do press. I didn’t have to set up the shows but I did a lot of the grass roots work in setting everything else up and promoting. When we started to shoot that’s where I started to turn into the producer/director (Laughs) It was literally 4 days prior to leaving for the tour that my partner said we should shoot it. I didn’t think we had enough time but he was very adamant about finding camera operators which we did. Once we got back to New York we started almost immediately in post production. We set up an office, purchased the editing equipment, hired two editors and began transcribing everything. We had about 200 hours of footage that we cut down to about 72 minutes. I didn’t really know what I was getting into at the beginning but the film has unfolded into this beautiful project that has taken on a life of its own.

AL: When is the film going to be released?
AA: We did a deal with Lion’s Gate Entertainment and the film is going to be available as a digital download through places like Netflix. My company is also going to release the film independently in select theaters. We hope to get the film into about 10 cities. If it catches wind in its sails we will add more cities. We want as many people as possible to see the film.

AL: Do you have any funny stories from working with Vince Vaughn?
AA: Everyday on that tour was a funny day. It went by so fast that we didn’t have a lot of time in each city but just being a part of that tour was really inspirational and eye opening. That tour really prodded me to make my own film. There were just so many funny things that happened. I can’t think of one that really sticks out.

AL: Had you known Vince previously?
AA: I have been friends with Vince for over 20 years. He had come to a lot of the comedy shows I was involved in which exposed him to the other comedians. He then just had this idea to take it on the road and film it. It was great to be a part of that and we are actually doing some follow up shows in June.

AL: Do you have any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?
AA: The film has opened up a lot of doors. I was actually invited to attend a dinner at the White House last year because of this film and that opened up some doors for us which took us to Palestine, Syria and a few other places to do some shows. During this time we accidentally shot a sequel and we will probably start going through that material in the fall. Releases for “Just Like Us” are going to be spaced out from city to city and that will probably take us through July. I travel quite regular and have had a lot of inquiries to go to a lot of different countries that have recently opened up.

Interview with Kevin McDonald

Kevin McDonald is one of the members of the cult favorite comedy troupe “The Kids in the Hall”.  Kevin is by far the most energetic member of the members.  Movie Mikes took a chance to chat with Kevin about working with the troupe and the new mini-series “Death Comes to Town”.

Mike Gencarelli: Did you have a favorite character that you played in the original “The Kids in the Hall”?
Kevin McDonald: During the sketch show, my favorite character would be the King of Empty Promises. I only did it twice during the series because we never did the same characters a lot…besides the head crusher and the chicken lady. We never did the photocopier guy every Saturday. King of Empty Promises is the guy that promises things and says “Will do” and “Slipped my mind”. I am sort of like that, “Yeah you want that…Yeah I’ll get that for you”. I always forget and never do anything. My writing partner in the show Norm (Hiscock) said you have that evil trait and he said that it should be a sketch. So we wrote it up. Instead of me playing myself again, we decided I would do it like Paul Bellini, Scott (Thompson)’s writing partner. I am lousy at doing impressions but me doing Bellini’s impression is what became of the character in ‘Empty Promises’ sketch.

MG: “Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy” was one of my favorites of the 90’s, are you a fan?
KM: I am a fan of it. I am a little disappointed with the end with came up with. We tried hard and actually had a original ending that we shot but it didn’t seem to work with audiences. It probably would have been the right way to go but not in the terms of audiences. Once we got a little more money, we re-shot the ending as a little more mainstream and it would have been better but then took away half the money. So instead of it being eight scenes, it was four scenes and some of the details were lost. Monty Python is so smart. With their first movie it was a gag fest and an excuse for sketches in the “Holy Grail”. I guess we were ambitious, good for us, we jumped right into a real movie. It probably would have taken us two or three movies to get it right. Also learning to write together in the same room is hard. We have been writing sketches like two or three at a time and all six of us were in this board room writing and it was really hard.

MG: Would you consider that the bad time for the group?
KM: The group has had a series of downfalls and up falls [laughs], like any group of creative people. There is always creative differences and arguments. When it works it makes the work better and when it doesn’t work it cripples the works for a bit. When we were a club act before our TV show, we had an argument about what kind of comedy we should do and that was resolve by just doing it over and over. During the TV show, three of us did not like the producer in charge and two of us like him. That was horrible fight we always forget about. “Brain Candy” arguments are more in our mind now but that was a really horrible one which almost split up the group. What saved us originally is that we were canceled after the first season but luckily they changed their mind and then we ended up firing the producer. But “Brain Candy” was just hard for so many reasons Dave (Foley) was becoming a TV star with “Newsradio”. Scott and I had deaths in our family. It was so ambitious…not like “Ben Hur” or “Avatar”…but it was ambitious in the way we were trying to tell a story. I think the story took over the comedy and that divided the group. Dave actually quit right before we started shooting “Brain Candy” and then was still forced to do the movie since he already signed the contract. That part was horribly tense, especially because him and I are like best friends. The movie didn’t do well but in the meantime our show was showing on repeats and that is where we really got our audience. We stopped filming the show in 1995 but from 1996-2000, Comedy Central was repeating our show to death. We were talking in a reunion tour and that is why the troupe is still a troupe. I don’t think we will every split up until the first one of dies and my money is on Dave [laughs].

MG: Tell us about the groups return to TV with “The Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town”?
KM: Before that we had the 2008 tour, which was a unique tour from our other tours since it was new material. Between 2006 and 2008, we did some shows at the Steve Allen Theater and we worked out some pretty good material. It was really exciting for us not doing the greatest hits like we had, but to do all new stuff. Led by Bruce (McCulloch), he had an idea for a movie called “Death Comes to Town”. I worked on it with him during the tour. It was so exciting that the new material was going over so well and we wanted to keep writing new stuff. We thought if we got a new TV show our tour, we will sell out every night. It sort of grew and grew and became a mini-series. We always thought mini-series, we never wanted to do a lot of seasons. The writing process was different again with Bruce in charge and I helped out with the writing, instead of all five of us. Then we all met up a couple of times in Toronto with the other three. I think the good thing about that we that we got it done quickly and easily. The bad thing was that I think we missed a lot of the troupes flavor.

MG: What else do you have planned for the future? Any more tours?
KM: The group is trying to get another tour together but it is really hard. We started planning for the Spring, now that isn’t going to happen. So maybe in the Fall now. Like the past year, I am just concentrated on coming to Winnipeg and become a good boyfriend and father figure to my girlfriends two children. But I am writing another pilot with now, which I was hired to write called “Homeland Insecurity”. I just did a TV show, which is 4-minute episode which will be online with plans for a 30 minute format later this year, it is called “Papillon”. It has nothing to do with the Steve McQueen movie but that is what it is called.

Interview with Tracey Walter

Tracey Walter is one of the great character actors of our time. He has been in filming ranging from 1989’s “Batman” to “Conan the Destroyer” to last year remake of “I Spit on Your Grave”. He is has worked with some amazing actors such as Danny DeVito, Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steve McQueen. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Tracey about his films and what he is working on currently.

Mike Gencarelli: How was it working on the remake of “I Spit on Your Grave”?
Tracey Walter: One of the unique things about the film was…although auditions are nice the drawback with auditions is that you might not get the part…what’s better is when they call your agent and say “I want to offer Tracey the part,” which they did. When I first got involved with the film it was called “Day of the Woman.” I was not familiar with the original “I Spit on Your Grave” movie. But I got a call from my agent who said “they’ve offered you a role in this film and they’ll be sending over a script tonight.” That happens all of the time in the movie business. Not just to a “Tracey Walter” – type actor but even to a “Brad Pitt” – type. I just finished a movie…a beautiful movie called “Savannah.” That happens to actors like Jim Caviezel. You’ll get a call and they want to start shooting tomorrow….I’m going to answer your question, I promise (laughs). And that also happens on “A” type films. On “I Spit on Your Grave” I got a call. They wanted to know if I was interested in playing the role. It was really the only character, other than the sheriff’s wife, that was not a really brutal and sadistic character. In fact what lead to his death was his concern for the woman. He calls the sheriff and the sheriff come by, takes him out to the woods with a bottle of whiskey and then blows his brains out. My character was the only decent character in the picture. I’ve been acting for 40 years and I always think I’ve seen it all. But this film was a new one because not only had I not met the director prior to filming, I didn’t even know his name when I showed up on the set (NOTE: his name is Steven Monroe). That was unique. The actors in that picture were really talented and it’s always interesting to work with actors who are not big names. You haven’t seen them before and it makes you realize how many good actors there are out there. If you saw the movie you know what Sarah Butler went through on that movie. No complaints. Same with the actor who played the Sheriff (Andrew Howard). I thought “he’s got a great southern accent.” At the end of the day we finish work, get in the car and drive to the hotel. And I realize he’s English! He pulled off a “Hugh Laurie” to some extent! Whether it’s a film or a TV show, how I get hired has a slight influence on my taking the job. Did they make it a three act play? Was there someone else they wanted to hire? Or, as in this case, did they call and make an offer? They were very respectful. With the conditions while filming and being with the other actors it became really a great experience. And I hope that set experience
does good things for Steve Monroe’s career.

MG: Are you generally a fan of the horror genre?
TW: Not only am I a fan but…Danny DeVito has for the past two years had a web site where he does tributes. The name of the website is www.thebloodfactory.com. And he has created really bloody and over the top tributes to the horror genre’. I did a couple of them. They’re about four minutes long and usually shoot in one day. One had me as a psychiatrist married to Carol Kane. She decides I’m no longer listening to her so she decides to shave my ears off! A real bloody mess. Another one I did I played a doctor who gets revenge on another doctor who has done some botched abortions in the past. That’s also bloody as you can imagine. We just finished another one. DeVito directs them. I haven’t done a lot of horror. I did do some episodes of “Freddie’s Nightmares.” But I love the genre.

MG: How did you get involved with the TV series “Monsters?”
TW: There’s really not a big story behind that. They made the traditional call to the agent and they offered me a part. I’ve still got a great 8×10 photo of me transforming into the monster.

MG: How long did the make up process take for that part?
TW: About two hours.

MG: What was it like to work with Jack Nicholson on 1989’s “Batman”?
TW: I met Jack in the summer of 1977. He directed and starred in a movie called “Goin’ South.” He played a character named Henry Moon and I was a part of the ex-Moon gang. He get’s sentenced to marry Mary Steenbergen and we (the ex-gang) try to get him to come back to the old ways. So I’ve known Jack since 1977. It was great shooting “Batman.” We shot in London. I’ve done two films in London. “Batman” and another one that was based on a book by Larry McMurtry called “Buffalo Girls” with Angelica Huston and Jack Palance. Jack (Palance) also worked on “Batman” but we didn’t have any scenes together. And we also appeared in “Cyborg 2,” though again we had no scenes. I’ve worked with Jack on four pictures, the fourth one being “City Slickers.” He played the sandpaper-faced cowboy and I was “Cookie,” the authentic western cook. The “Batman” experience, on a scale of 1-10 was about a 12! Tim Burton was fantastic to work for. I haven’t worked with him since but I’m surely not ruling it out (laughs). The entire film was a great experience for me. They even made an action figure of me. I’ve really been blessed. As humbly as I can put it, I’ve really been blessed with terrific success in films.

MG: Tell us about working with Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Conan the Destroyer”?
TW: That was an incident where I replaced another actor to play Malak. It was the classic call. My agent called me and asked “can you be on a plane to Mexico TONIGHT?” I was single at the time…no dogs or cats…so I was able to pack a duffle bag, get in the car they sent for me and head to Mexico. That’s how it happens some times. You can imagine how great it was working with Schwarzenegger. We’ve remained friends since. That’s the kind of genre’ that an actor likes to try at least once. Plus I’m a big basketball fan and Wilt Chamberlain, who was in the film, loved to talk. He wasn’t the type of guy who, because he was a basketball star and basketball was his big claim to fame, didn’t want to talk about it. I was reading a book called “Giant Steps” by Kareem Abdul Jabbar and I showed Wilt some photos that he was in. He could tell me, just from looking at the photos, what was happening…where the game had taken place. You know, even with the Internet, there are places that stars can go and not be recognized. Even Schwarzenegger…there are probably places in the world where no one would know who he is. But there was no where on the face of the earth where you could go and not have Wilt Chamberlain turn heads. He was just your average 7’2 millionaire that lived next door! It was a dream come
true for me to do that picture.

MG: Which projects really stick out as most challenging among the ones that you have worked on to date?
TW: Again, humbly, there have been many. “Batman” and “Goin’ South” with Jack Nicholson….”The Two Jakes,” which was a sequel to “Chinatown” that Nicholson directed. “Erin Brockovich” was another great film. Steven Soderberg is another great director. Edward Lachman (the film’s cinematographer) made me look good in that one. Another favorite is a western television series I did called “Best of the West.” I was in “At Close Range” with Sean Penn, Christopher Walken and a talented group of character actors. It’s hard to say what’s challenging. A smart man once said “if you like what you do you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Again, I’ve been very blessed. This last project I was involved in…”Savannah” with Jim Caviezel…has a wonderful director named Annette Haywood-Carter. She did a real rarity. When I got hired she called me at home to say “welcome aboard.” That’s beyond nice! Directors don’t usually call Tracey Walter – like character actors who appear in the middle of the film. When someone does that you’re ready to not only jump through hoops for them but make a complete fool of yourself. Another film that was a treat to work on was “Raggedy Man” with Sissy Spacek. I also appeared with Steve McQueen in his last film, “The Hunter.” Steve Monroe is a huge fan of McQueen so when I showed up for work that was the first thing he wanted to talk about. “How was he?” “Did he look good?” He died right after making the film but he looked fantastic. I was shocked that he passed away so quickly.

MG: Besides “Savannah,” what other projects do you have coming up?
TW: I just did something with director William Dear. I started working with him in 1981 on the movie “Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann.” It was a sci-fi western. We filmed in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We’ve worked together several times since then. He just took over a picture called “Love Obama: The Election of Barack Obama.” It’s a humorous look at the campaign…especially campaign headquarters. I play an aging hippie…it’s really a dream come true.

www.thebloodfactory.com

Interview with Sung Kang

Sung Kang stars in the upcoming “Fast and the Furious” sequel “Fast Five”. Movie Mikes had chance to speak with Sung about how he got into acting as well as how he became involved with the “Fast and Furious” franchise.

Adam Lawton: Had acting been something you had always wanted to?
Sung Kang: I had really wanted to be a mime. When I was in school every once in awhile they brought in a mime to perform for the students. I found it amazing that another human being could make me laugh or sad and take my mind out of the small town that I lived in growing up. I was always attracted to that idea of performance. I had started performing in plays in high school but I never really told anyone because all the cool kids were athletes. It wasn’t until after I finished college that I really went for it.

AL: Can you tell us about your work in “Mystery Men”?
SK: It was a real treat for me. That was the first time I was ever allowed into the big studio. It was really great getting to see people like William H. Macy and Geoffrey Rush work and interact with the crew. That was my first introduction as to what an actual working actor does and how they should treat their peers. It was a really great because Geoffrey Rush is one of those guys that would come and eat lunch with the other cast and ask us how we were doing. He really understood what it was for us being actors that were just starting out. It was very inspiring.

AL: How was your experience working with Bruce Willis and Justin Long on “Live Free or Die Hard”?
SK: Bruce acted very similar in the way Geoffrey Rush did. The first day I was on set he came over and welcomed me to the team. It was really nice to be around that type of person and crew. Justin really brought a lot of enthusiasm and energy to that set. Those guys as well as my other cast mates really exemplified for me what a movie should be and that’s fun.

AL: How did you get involved with “The Fast and the Furious” franchise?
SK: That evolution came about with the director Justin Lin. He and I did an independent film together called “Better Luck Tomorrow.” That movie is why he and I are in the business today. Justin had paid for that film with his credit card. We really had no money at the time and it was a passion project. That is really where the character I play in “Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift”, Han was born. In that first film Justin and I did I played an over achieving high school kid in Orange county. After “Better Luck Tomorrow” had its success at Sundance, Justin got courted by a lot of the big agents which led him to do the Disney picture “Annapolis.” Once he was done with that film the “Tokyo Drift” project came along. There originally wasn’t a part for me. Justin convinced me to come in and read for the lead even though he told me I wasn’t going to get it. However it was a chance for me to meet the casting directors. There was a small part which was being developed which originally was going to be for an African-American actor and Justin had the idea of why not make it an Asian-American role. I went in and the casting people remembered me from my previous audition so after that it was a little bit of an easier fight for that role.

AL: Can you tell us about “Fast Five”
SK: All the characters from the previous movies come back together for one final heist. Dom and his family are in need of help as they are being chased by a bounty hunter played by Dwayne Johnson. This movie I think will give the fans everything they want while really elevating the game. Each character definitely gets there due. I think the fans are really going to enjoy it.

AL: Do you think this will be the final chapter in the series?
SK: I think it depends. It’s show business so if at the end of the day if it makes money we could see “Fast and the Furious 12”!

AL: Is there one role you have played that sticks out as a favorite?
SK: I did a movie with Justin Lin called “Finishing the Game.” It takes place in 1973 right after the death of Bruce Lee. It focuses on the studio attempting to finish Bruce’s last movie “Game of Death” by using a stand in with a paper cut out of Bruce’s face. Justin had this great idea of making a film about them finding the guy who would play the stand in. That was a really great time.

AL: Do you have any other upcoming projects?
SK: I have a few independent projects that will be coming out soon. I am always looking for the opportunity to do good work. Maybe “Fast and the Furious 12” will come along. (Laughs)

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Interview with Gary Daniels

When you think of actions movies, you should be thinking about Gary Daniels.  He recently co-starred along side Sylvester Stallone in “The Expendables” and Wesley Snipes in “Game of Death”.  Gary took a few minutes to chat with Movie Mikes about working on his films and what he has planned upcoming.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how it working with Sylvester Stallone both acting and directing in “The Expendables”?
Gary Daniels: As you can imagine I was kinda excited at the prospect of working with the writer/creator of “Rocky” and the star of “Rambo” and I have to say working with Stallone didn’t disappoint . The man has an incredible energy, whether working out in the gym with him or working on set…the man is full of energy. He is constantly in motion but is very focused.  He knows what he wants, has a clear vision and knows how to get it. As an actor it instills confidence in you when your director is clear about what h e wants and how to go about achieving that result. He is a very intense director but I found him to be very open minded when I had any kind of suggestions about the blocking or the character. I found him to be very inspirational.

MG: What was the most difficult task of working on “The Expendables”?
GD: There wasn’t too much that was difficult about working on “The Expendables”, I have done quite a few action movies now. For me, as someone that has done leads and is used to having a lot of say in the choreography and direction of my fights, I would say the most difficult thing was not having any input in those areas.

MG: Tell us about working on the film “Game of Death”, does Wesley Snipes still have game?
GD: I was hired on “Game of Death” kinda last minute and the script was being re-written as we were shooting…which presented its own challenges. I wasn’t about to turn down the opportunity to work with Wesley Snipes, but I didn’t get to play the character of Zander the way I would have liked to.  But part of being an actor is being mailable and being able to accept direction, so I always give 100% regardless. It’s always fun playing the bad guy, especially one as ruthless as Zander. Plus its always educational when you have a chance to work with such experienced actors as Robert Davi and Wesley Snipes. Wesley was obviously going through turmoil in his life at the time we were shooting, so whether he bought his A game to the film or not I will let the viewers judge for themselves. He is obviously a talented individual or he wouldn’t have reached such heights in his career.

MG: You reunited with “Expendables” cast Eric Roberts and Steve Austin, in “Hunt to Kill”, tell us about working working on that film and with them again?
GD: Most of my scenes in “The Expendables” were with Steve and Eric, so we spent a lot of time together.  They are both very down to earth and funny guys, so we had a blast together. It was Steve that called me and asked me to work on “Hunt to Kill”, so it was an easy choice to say “Yes”. I didn’t have any scenes with Eric in “Hunt to Kill” but was with Steve most of the time. For a bloke that looks so big and intimidating he is one of the nicest guys you can hope to work with on and off the set. On this film I got to choreograph and shoot a fight between us. It is always a challenge to choreograph for the different kinds of athletes, actors, martial artists that you work with in films and this was no different trying to highlight both of our strengths as we are obviously from very different backgrounds.

MG: How was it working with Steven Seagal in “Submerged”, any cool set stories?
GD: ‘Submerged’ was not one of my favourite experiences, my character was originally very pivotal , but Mr Seagal had other ideas and in the end.  They might as well of hired a stuntman to play the role as all the dialogue and relationship between his and my character was cut. Well every actor has their own vision for their films and being the star of the film you will usually get your way so for me I just get on with it and do the best I can under the given circumstances. Actually most of the cast and crew were from England,  so we all had a blast on and off the set. Nuff said!

MG: Tell us about playing Kenshirô in “Fist of the North Star” and working with Tony Randel?
GD: I was a fan of the anime before I was asked to do the film. So I knew it was gonna be very difficult to translate the anime to live action, especially back in 94 before CGI had been so developed. But I loved the character that I wasn’t about to turn it down. The first challenge for me was the physical one, Kenshiro (like most anime characters) has an awsome, huge physique. So I began a regime of training lifting heavier weights than I had worked with before and went from 180 to 192 lbs. Trouble is we were working such long hours during the summer in a sweltering sound stage with no air conditioning, that as the shoot progressed I slowly lost all that weight as I couldnt get in the gym to maintain. I think Tony had a good vision for the film but he certainly wasn’t into martial arts and didn’t like to shoot the fights. He felt the heart of the story was the love triangle between Kenshiro, Shin and Julia and that by focusing on that it would elevate the film above being a mere ‘martial arts’ film. Personally I think the fans wanted to see Kenshiro kicking ass. Again different visions, but overall I like the film and the way it turned out. The trouble when making an adaptation of an anime or video game is that you have to try to make a film that appeases the hardcore fans but also makes sense to viewers that have no idea about the original source material…not easy.

MG: What has been the most difficult film that you have work on to date?
GD: Every film presents its own challenges. Coming from a martial arts background my hardest challenge is trying to convince producers/directors to take me seriously as an actor so sometimes I end up trying too hard. Then when I choreograph action its tough getting the powers that be to let me control how it is shot and edited. When I do the lead in smaller films, I  wish I could work on bigger films that get more exposure. When you get on bigger films but playing smaller roles,  I miss being involved in the film making process.  The grass is always greener on the other side. Some films you get along with everybody but some there is a clash with other cast members, as I say every film presents their own challenges.

MG: Tell us about some of your upcoming projects?
GD: I just spent three months in Thailand working on the 1st two parts of a trilogy , “The Mark – Light 777” and “The Mark – Bangkok Rising” with Craig Scheffer and Eric Roberts…yes Eric again. The 3rd part will be shot in Europe this summer. Next up will be the lead in a MMA project called “Forced to Fight”. I am also waiting to hear on a bigger project that goes this summer but its not locked so I don’t wanna say too much right now. I am training hard and reading scripts ,so as always in this business the future is never easy to plan.

Interview with Robot Chicken’s Matthew Senreich & Zeb Wells

Matthew Senreich & Zeb Wells are the co-creator and writers of “Robot Chicken” (respectively).  Matt created the show with Seth Green back in 2005 and has since been writing for the show.  Zeb joined the show for season three and since then has been writing for the show as well.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Matt & Zeb at the 2011 MegaCon in Orlando, FL and had a chance to chat about the show and get some cool stories from the guys.

Mike Gencarelli: Matt, in the beginning for the series you directed a bunch of episodes, why did you stop?
Matthew Senreich: [laughs] It was a lot of work.  We realized very quickly to write, direct and produce all aspects of the show was self-destructive. We ended up in our third season bringing Chris McKay on board to direct, so that way he could focus on making it look pretty on screen at all possible times.

MG: Zeb, you joined the show beginning in season three, how did you that come to be and what was your biggest challenge coming in?
Zeb Wells: Well it came to be because Matt used to work at Wizard magazine.  They used to have a video making contest there and I won that contest a bunch of times with making superhero parody videos.  So he brought me in to do a test drive on season three…
MS: To see if he was still funny [laughs].
ZW: [laughs] Yeah.  I think the biggest challenge was your first day you come in and have all these questions you used to have about your toys.  “What if G.I. Joe’s did this?” and so on… At the end of the first day you used up all of those and have to keep coming up with ideas every day one after another. It gets hard. After my first five week cycle, I realized these guys were going to go back and start again next week and I have no idea how anyone could do that.  There is always another idea.
MS: [laughs] There is always something.

MG: What is the timeline for an episode of “Robot Chicken” from idea to finished product?
MS: Oh my God, I always like to use “Star Wars” as an example because it is kind of self-contained. It is usually two to three weeks of writing for a half hour episode.  From start to finish it is like fourteen weeks.  You go from writing it…to doing the storyboards and voices at sametime…and then putting together what is called an animatic…from the animatic it is handed over to animation…through animation to post production…and then sound…and visual effects.  It is a wirlwind process.

MG: Is there an episode or skit that stands out as your favorite?
MS: Everyone always asks that question [laughs].  It is like choosing your baby. I mean it depends on the day and what your feeling on what sketch you like.  If someone says a sketch that you remember and your like “Oh yeah, I love that one”.
ZW: I do like Fumbles.  I think it is my favorite.
MS: [speaking to Zeb] Of all time?…All time?
ZW: I don’t know it has a lot of good lines in it [Laughs]. I might be but yeah on a different day it might be another one.
MS: It always shifts for me.

MG: Matt, how do you feel that the show has changed since it started over 5 years ago?
MS: I think it has gotten a lot better.  when we first started it was just us not knowing what we were doing.  As we got into this fifth season, the production value is really higher. The writing is as sharp as ever. For the first season, I don’t think we realized that it was going to go further that one season.  But now we look at it as we are a family that is just goofing around and having fun.

MG: Did you ever think you had an Emmy winning show on your hands?
MS: [laughs] Yeah it is crazy! It is still weird that we won an Emmy, it has been a crazy year!

MG: Do you have any notable rejected ideas that never made it?
MS: I think there is a lot of stuff that we reject. I always say 99% of what is pitched in the room probably falls by the waist side.  It is a brutal writers room.  People hate each other in that writers room [laughs].
ZW: My favorite sketch that didn’t get in is a Zune getting hit by the Allspark…realizing it is a Zune and then shooting itself in its head.  I tried to get in a few times.
MS: [speaking to Zeb] You are pitching that sketch left and right.
ZW: I got to get it in there [laughs].

MG: Zeb, besides Robot Chicken, you also work/have worked on various comic books, how do you find it differs for you?
ZW: Writing comics is such a soliterary experience, which has its pros and cons. You are more in control of what goes in, but you are also able to get hung up on certain things. But when you are in a room with a bunch of dudes, if you get stuck on something you can all just attack it together.

MG: Do you find that the writing for “Robot Chicken- Star Wars” differs from the TV series?
MS: It is a little more focused which I like better.  You can tell a little more of story and get more into character development. I always find that more interesting to do rather than just being more sketch based. As far as process goes it is just working with the people you like and that is what I love.
ZW: Everytime a “Star Wars” starts I think it is going to be easier. Then I think by the end of the “Star Wars” the regular “Robot Chicken” will be easier”.  It is all hard. [laughs]

MG: When can we expect the next installment of “Robot Chicken- Star Wars”?
MS: We are working on the DVD for “Star Wars: Epsiode III” right now and then after that still to be determined.

MG: What can you tell us about the new episodes set to air in October?
MS: Yes, it is the last ten episodes from season five.  We are going to go have episode 100, so it is going to be epic. So the chicken will be loose [laughs].

Interview with GWAR’s Don Drakulich

If you don’t recognize the name Don Drakulich, you might know him better as Sleazy P. Martini, the leisure suit wearing manager of GWAR. Not only is Don one of the founding members of the horror themed rock group, but Don also is a special effects artist and owns his own special effects production company, Hyper Real Productions. Moviemikes.com recently had the chance to speak with Don about his career in the effects business as well as his time with GWAR.

Click here to purchase GWAR’s music

Adam Lawton: What made you want to get involved in the FX business?
Don Drakulich: I had always been playing around with stuff.  My dad had bought me a super 8 camera when I was in high school.  Like a lot of kids from the 70’s, I had been wowed by “Star Wars”.  So in my mind I wanted to do the same sort of thing. My friends and I would take models and black backgrounds with pin holes for stars in them and try and duplicate the things from “Star Wars.” After high school, I went to college to originally double major in film and illustration.  But when I got there I found illustration wasn’t what I had expected, and there was no actual proper film degree. They had film classes, but not an actual program. I ended up following through with painting and print making and gave up the idea of being Frank Frizetta. It wasn’t until after my first year out of school that I started hanging out at the dairy which was a spot in Richmond, Virginia where everyone would come together and hang out. That’s when I got back into the FX sort of stuff. It was kind of a return for me to my early interests and from there it was pretty much all self-taught.

AL: Was this around the same time that you met up with Dave Brockie?
DD: Yeah it was about 1985/86 that I started hanging around those guys, and we started doing FX stuff. We didn’t have money at the time to do effects the way they are normally done, so we figured out a bunch of low budget ways to do things. We were using things like cloth re-enforced with glue, which was how we made some of the early costumes. Within about a year we were dabbling in latex, but we were along ways a way from being Rick Baker.

AL: How did you guys come up with what GWAR was going to be?
DD: Initially the GWAR costumes were going to be for a low budget movie that Hunter Jackson wanted to make called “Scum Dogs of the Universe.” Hunter approached Dave about using some of his band Death Piggy’s music in the movie, and Dave saw the costumes and said why don’t you let us open a show or perform in the costumes.  Hunter did and the whole thing snowballed from there. The idea started to run away from Hunter at that time, and it began to be more about the band than the movie.

AL: Did the movie ever get made?
DD: No, not even close. There were aspects of the movie that were eventually shot for shorts but the epic which he had planned which was set to take place on a space ship that gets attacked by space pirates never got off the ground. The closest thing to it would probably be the video for “Cardinal Sin” as it kind of has some of the elements that were going to be for the film. The basic idea was “Road Warrior” in space. That’s kind of how the whole GWAR thing started out. We were heavily inspired by “Road Warriors.”

AL: In GWAR’s first movie “Phallus in Wonderland” aside from your role as Sleazy P. Martini, did you have a hand in any of the production?
DD: I did some of the editing, as well as being the special FX coordinator for the movie. I went out and basically put together the crew that was actually going to do the film. I linked up with Blaire Dobson after meeting him at a show in Canada.  We decided to use his production crew. Unfortunately Blaire was let go about mid way through the process, however some of his crew stayed on to finish.  I guess you could say I was Executive Producer even though I didn’t pull the money strings. I did put together the crew that made that film happen.

AL: Your character, Sleazy P. Martini, made his first appearance as this time correct?
DD: No, it actually started right at the very beginning. Originally, we had two Martini type characters/managers, and after a show or two, we decided to try myself out as the character. I then took the characters and evolved them both into one greasy 70’s Elvis type leisure suit wearing pimp.

AL: You toured with the band in 2008 which was your first time since 1996 correct?
DD: Yep I hadn’t done much touring since 1996. I did a three week stint in 2000 w/ the Misfits which was loads of fun, but I have been staying away from touring since then.

AL: Any particular reason?
DD: As an artist you find it very frustrating. You need to create new things and doing new stuff, and when you are on the road, you are at a kind of always doing the same thing night after night. I had also gotten married at the time.  But personally it was dislike of being on the road. People are always asking me why I walked away.

AL: Recently the Sleazy character did make an appearance on Jimmy Fallon recently, correct?
DD: Yeah that was me. I got to be a face in the crowd. That was interesting.  They always make jokes about how cheap the late night sets are, and not until you get there do you realize they really are cheap (laughs). The production is very small as well as the audience. This was, I think, the first time GWAR had ever performed properly on National TV.

AL: Can you tell us what you have going on lately?
DD: Right now my main efforts are going towards putting together a documentary about the very early years of GWAR. It’s being produced by me and Bob Gorman. Right now I am going through the reams of footage I have. I am kind of looking at it as finding a needle in a hay stack, but the entire haystack is full of needles.  So it’s hard to pick a spot to start. There is about 24-25 hours of interview footage alone, as well as a lot of old performance footage and pictures. I want to show the inception of GWAR when the band first started out at the Richmond Dairy. But overall, what I really would love to do is an FX based project, so put the word out.

Go to Hyperealproductions.com to check out photos of some of Don’s work and to purchase limited edition GWAR sculptures and DVD’s

Click here to purchase GWAR’s music

Sleazy P. Martini

Interview with Scott Bakula

Scott Bakula is one of the stars of TNT’s hit show “Men of a Certain Age” which returns this Fall for its second season. Scott is no stranger to television after starring in classic hit television series, “Quantum Leap”, “Star Trek: Enterprise” and “Chuck”. In “Men of a Certain Age”, Scott really shines in his role of Terry. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Scott about his work on the show and whats to come in season two.

Click here to purchase “Men of a Certain Age” Season One on DVD and Scott’s other films

Mike Gencarelli: What drew you to star in “Men of a Certain Age?”
Scott Bakula: They sent me a script and told me it was for the new Ray Romano TV show. I was interested, as I’m sure everyone was, to say what Ray was going to do after “Everybody Loves Raymond.” I was really just taken by these three guys and their relationship. I thought it was unusual television…I thought it was unique television. And risky because…in the world we live in today is anybody going to tune in to watch three old guys talking about “stuff?” And happily it’s worked out. I think at the time that I came in to audition Andre’ (Braugher) was pretty close to being a done deal. I didn’t know he or Ray so I said, “let’s go see if I can get along with these guys!” We hit it off and then I went back a couple of days later and did some scenes on video, which they sent over to the network. Ray jumped in and we talked about the material. And I got the part.

MG: What has been the best part, for you, in working on this show?
SB: When the three of us are doing something together…that’s when I think the show works great. Ray came from stand up and has a unique sense of humor. He has a lot of character. And a lot of his life’s views are in the middle of this piece…in all three characters. We have a really good time working together. It’s very easy…very natural. We laugh a lot and have a really good time. That’s very unusual I think.

MG: That’s what I like about the show. The three of you guys…it’s so natural. It’s like you’re not even acting.
SB: I agree with you. And that was the hope…that’s why we all went through the audition process. I mean, you have three guys who once had their own t.v. shows. A few t.v. shows. And to put the three of us together could have been a disaster. One guy might want more of this or more of that or more attention. But we just don’t have any of that. It’s very easy and simple. And I think that shows on screen. And that’s lucky.

MG: We recently interviewed Melinda McGraw, who co-stars with you. How is it to work with her?
SB: We’ve had a really great time. You know it’s funny…we worked together 20 years ago on “Quantum Leap.” Her first t.v. show was “Quantum Leap.” And I remembered her well from that show…it was a very distinctive episode. It’s funny, because I hadn’t seen her in 20 years and the way her character is introduced is that she and I had done a commercial 20 years ago. And that commercial is now on YouTube all of a sudden…it’s done in a retro, really bad way. It’s one of those things where you know everybody is laughing at it and making fun of it. And so we reconnect that way. And in real life I hadn’t seen her in 20 years either, so it’s been a really comfortable relationship. She’s a great actress. And she fits in with the style of the show really well.

MG: What can we expect from your character, Terry, in season two?
SB: Well the big thing is that he’s working at the car dealership…and that’s a big challenge for him. Just having a regular job is a huge challenge for him. He’s trying to do a good job for his friend. He’s trying to put his life together. He does a lot of growing up this year on the show. He does a lot of growing up this year on the show. He gets into a rivalry with another employee of the dealership and it’s typical guy stuff. He gets competitive and he gets ticked off and they kind of have this rivalry. But Terry also finds out that he can be successful at something and that is a big deal to him. And now this relationship with Melinda comes along and he’s experimenting in being in a committed relationship. Of course, in the tradition of our show, there are a lot of seriously bad bumps along the way, which I don’t want to give away. It’s a rocky ride for Terry. Which is what you’d expect from a guy like him.

MG: The show is very funny, but also has a very dramatic tone. How is it to play both sides?
SB: I love it. I think any artistic endeavor…if it’s just one thing that’s not life. Life is a lot of things happening at once. Some days it’s tough and other days it’s goofy. It’s moment to moment. The things that pull you down…you just never know. And that’s what I think life is. And I think the show reflects all aspects of it. And I think that’s why people are relating to it. We’re not trying to be, “oh here comes the big drama scene,” or here comes…we’re really bouncing all over the place. With three guys in different places in their lives it also gives us great variety.

Click here to purchase “Men of a Certain Age” Season One on DVD and Scott’s other films

Interview with Ernie Hudson

From Winston Zeddemore in the “Ghostbusters” series to Warden Leo Glynn on HBO’s “Oz”. Ernie Hudson has played a wide array of roles. Movie Mikes’ Adam Lawton got a chance to talk with Ernie at this years Chiller Theatre convention and got a chance to ask him about his career and the possibility of a “Ghostbusters 3”.

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Adam Lawton: You played Warden Glynn on HBO’s hit series “Oz”, was it hard for you to come out of that role when shooting was all done for the day?
Ernie Hudson: No it’s not hard. It’s acting. I would be in the character on set with all the other guys who are into their roles but at the end of the day I am very clear about who I am and who the character is. It was an interesting character. I think if an actor plays a character that he loves or people seem to like that character more than him, it’s very tempting to want to stay there.

AL: You were in the Crow with the late Brandon Lee was it hard for you and the rest of the cast to go back to work after the tragedy that occurred involving Brandon.
EH: I didn’t want to go back and do it but a lot of the guys felt that Brandon had worked so hard on the film, that it would be a shame not to finish it. So we came back and finished after about an eight week break. “The Crow” is actually one of my favorite movies. They really did a great job with it, but it’s just so tragic. They had actually called me to do the other films but I felt that after the first one it should have been put to rest.

AL: Working with Bill Murray, you must have some interesting behind the scene stories?
EH: Bills a great guy, he’s kind of quirky but I love him. He’s a guy who is very much into what he’s feeling. I know he really cares about his work, which is probably why there hasn’t been another “Ghostbusters” as of yet.

AL: Rumors are “Ghostbusters 3” is in the beginning stages?
EH: Dan and Harold are working on the script. If it happens we will see but Bill has been the hold up. His definition of good is a little bit different than everybody elses. So we will see, I would love to see it happen. I know the fans have been asking for it…so hopefully.

AL: Any projects you have coming out you would like to tell the fans about?
EH: I just finished a movie called “Doonby” with Jon Schneider. I also how worked on some voice work for the animated “Transformers” series and also “Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2”.

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Interview with Director, Uwe Boll

Uwe Boll is best-known for adapting video games into movies, having directed and produced a number of such adaptations, including “House of the Dead”, “Alone in the Dark”, “BloodRayne”, “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale”, “Postal” and most recently “Far Cry”. Although he also has a few non-video game themed films, “Rampage”, “Darfur”, and “Stoic” coming on in this year they look really good and different from his past films. Everyone should give these films a chance and see the potential that Uwe Boll has as a director.

Thanks to the beauty of Skype, I was able to talk with Dr. Uwe Boll via Germany and got a chance to chat and ask him a few questions about his career, his upcoming movies and how he feel about how the critics have it out for him.

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Mike Gencarelli: Tell me about the process of how you choose the movies you will direct?
Uwe Boll: It is different movie by movie, lets say a video game like “House of the Dead” was not developed by me and came to me from third parties. Basically “House of the Dead” was Mindfire and it was more a financial decision and a market decision to say lets make “Alone in the Dark”, lets make “In the Name of the King”. These kind of movies you get more money for financing, you get bigger stars and you can make bigger sales. There are the other movies like “Stoic”, “Rampage”, “Darfur” and “Postal”, they are my kind of movies. I really have emotions behind them, also usually I am writing the scripts and so on.

Mike Gencarelli: You have made quite a few films based on video games, what is your connection to the genre?
Uwe Boll: I think I am a big fan of genre movies, of horror, thriller or sci-fi. I think of the video games movies based on film genres and not as a genre of its own. Like “Postal” is a comedy but based on a video game, “In the Name of the King” is based on a fantasy movie, “House of the Dead” as a zombie movie. This is how I try to treat the movies I make, I try to get various rights to different kinds of video games so I am not redundant. I don’t try to only make horror movies, I try to sci-fi, action, fantasy and to basically have a wider range of genres.

Mike Gencarelli: Where do you usually get funding for your films?
Uwe Boll: It depends, in the beginning, I had ten film funds in Germany to raise money. In the beginning people could get 50% tax rebate on them, this stopped. Even then you still have 50% of your money in the movie, so you hope of course that the movie is a hit, not a flop. This strategy was over from the 2006 and on, so movies like “Rampage”, “Darfur”, “Stoic”, “Alone in the Dark II”, “Bloodrayne II”, were all financed more classically with pre-sales, bank loans, and deferrals where CGI companies invested. This is a reason why we went a little lower with the budgets.

MG: Although you haven’t had much box office success in the US theatrically, “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale” was your last in 2007. Are you planning your next US theatrical release?
UB: My movies are available for a theatrical release by Phase 4 in America, but it will be only NY and LA, a mini platform release. The tendencies of some territories, is that the P&A is so expensive that the math is just not working any more. For example in Russia, Thailand, Middle East or Singapore, these kind of territories you can still release movies with money and advertising. You basically have a better shot at getting the money back. In America, Germany and England, its so expensive to release movies, with all the TV spots you need to book. It is tough. “Max Schmeling”, my boxing movie, will get a wide release in Germany, if it works in Germany maybe we get a bigger release in America. Max Schmeling against Joe Lewis, people know the story, it is a period piece movie, set in World War II. Who knows maybe it will get a better shot in America after it gets put out in Germany.

MG: Why do you like low budget films compared to bigger budget?
UB: It is definitely easier to recoup the budget if you spend $5 million and not $50 million. It is in a way, a movie like “Rampage” has a chance to recoup all of the money only out of DVD. It’s not so nerve wreaking as it was it “Bloodrayne” or “In the Name of the King” where you are totally depending on the US theatrical release to get the money back. In the “Bloodrayne” case, we only ended up getting 900 and with “In the Name of the King” we had 1600 or 1700 screens but it is not enough. With a movie like that if you are not in the best screens in every town, if you are only in the secondary screens you cannot make a hit anymore. It was a Freestyle release, an independent release, and 20th Century Fox only have TV and DVD rights but not theatrical right. You do not have any support from the exhibitors, they just don’t play your trailer, if you are Freestyle.

MG: Your films have not been favorably reviewed by the critics, what gave you the idea to challenge your critics to a boxing match?
UB: When “Bloodrayne” came out and I got bashed to the ground for it, I compared the reviews from “House of the Dead” and “Alone in the Dark” with “Bloodrayne” and they were all the same. They are not the same movies, I think they are totally different movies to be honest, you really can not compare the three movies. I know people that love “House of the Dead” because it is so cheesy and violent. “Bloodrayne” is a way better movie than “House of the Dead”, I believe. Based on this frustration I said “Hey guys, if you want to kill me or destroy me, lets do a boxing match”. I figured they should try to kill me physically in the ring. A few people stepped up to do it and it was like real like “Jackass” stunt.

MG: You ended up winning all of 6 the boxing matches? Is that correct?
UB: Yes, and they are on Youtube. Each fighter had three months to prepare. One guy said he was boxing for a year and another guy Chris Alexander, who is now I believe the boss of Fangoria, said he trained in the boxing ring. I told everyone I boxed when I was younger, so I went back in training and this was in my advantage.

MG: You currently have a petition against you called “Stop Dr. Uwe Boll”, it is at 353,594 signatures? if it gets to 1 million would you actually retire?
UB: I think no, its has been too long. If they would have made to a million in like 2 months, then they would have had something. They even got sponsored by that gum factory. I felt like its three years later, forget it. I also felt that people signed numerous time on the petition so it is probably only like 150,000 people that actually signed it.

MG: You work with a group of actors that show up in each of your films, Michael Paré, Will Sanderson, Zack Ward & Ralf Moeller to name a few. What is your reason for that?
UB: If you have a good relationship with somebody it is way easier to use them again in a movie, you don’t have that insecureness anymore that in the beginning. It’s more fun to make a movie with people you worked with before. Michael Paré has the record I think with like 10 or 11 movies I’ve done.

MG: What is your favorite past time besides directing?
UB: Watching movies, having good food, playing sports. That is it, basically my job is my hobby also, it is fun to do it.

MG: Tell me about “Bloodrayne: The Third Reich”, Is this your favorite series you’ve created?
UB: I like “Bloodrayne” because I like the person, half vampire/half human. In the beginning the whole concept was to move 100 years forward with each episode. The classical vampire movie in part one, the second one in the Wild West and the third one is set in 2nd World War where Rayne fights the Nazis. The story is Dr. Mengele played by Clint Howard, wants to get her blood to make Hitler immortal. They try to catch her alive to brings her to Berlin and to do a blood transfusion. In between she fights against the Nazis and the commander, played by Michael Paré, who plays the villain. He gets bitten and turns into a vampire also and starts killing his own people. It is an interesting story, sort of like the first part again, very violent and a lot of sex. The second part because of the Wild West, you couldn’t have real gore because they were shooting with their guns the whole time. We shot it in Croatia and finished last week and i think we have some really cool stuff.

MG: Tell me about your other upcoming films?
UB: I am on tour here the next few weeks, with “Rampage” in Europe and some festivals in Brussels, Amsterdam and Munich. On April 29th, “Rampage” will be getting theatrical release here in Germany in like 10 screens each. “Darfur” comes in June in America, but “Rampage” will only be direct to DVD release by Phase 4 on June 1st. They are also releasing “The Final Storm” on DVD April 13th, it is more a conventional thriller about what if the end of the Earth happens, but you own a small farm and you do not get the information, no press and no telephone. Slowly it turns into like a psycho thriller, Luke Perry is playing the psycho part and Lauren Holly is the wife. It is a little like “Cape Fear” meets the end of the world. “Stoic” also comes out on DVD April 13th, which is the jail movie I did, about a real case in prison. I’ve got a lot of movies and its tough to almost follow up most.

MG: Anything you have to say to your fans?
UB: I hope everyone checks out the new movies I did especially, “Stoic”, “Rampage” & “Darfur”, I think they are totally different than the video game based movies and I enjoy doing both. As a director, I watch a lot of movies. I like watching them for fun and I try to make movies like “Bloodrayne”, “In the Name of the King” and “Far Cry” to be just entertaining, I do not try to have a message with them. From time to time it is good to tell the story with facts like “Stoic” or you have “Darfur” about the genocide in Sudan, you use real stuff and make interesting movies out of them. I hope the people that watch the genre movies will follow me over to the other movies and say that they will give me a shot.

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Interview with Eric Roberts

I had the pleasure of meeting up with the amazing talented Eric Roberts. His career began with King of the Gypsies (1978), earning a Golden Globe nomination for best actor debut. He earned both a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination for his supporting role in Runaway Train (1985). He is starring in the upcoming “The Expendables” directed by Sylvester Stallone. He is also currently appearing on NBC’s “Heroes”. His daughter is Emma Roberts (Valentine’s Day).


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Mike Gencarelli: What was it like to work with such a diverse cast in “The Expendables”? Can you tell us about your character?

Eric Roberts: Well with Sly (Sylvester Stallone) leading the way, there was really no pressure, it was like going to fucking camp and it was really fun and we all know each other, we all have been in good movies together and all have been in bad movies together and we like each other. Sly is a good leader, Sly is all boy and Sly doesn’t take no for an answer. So you know we all deliver for him and its fun to go to camp with the boys. I play a rouge CIA operative. I play a guy that falls in love with his own power in his situation, so they realize they have to get rid of him…so they do

Mike Gencarelli: I heard you were recently cast in the new Roger Corman creature feature “Sharktopus”, can you tell me about the movie and the character you play?

Eric Roberts: All I can do is I can tell you this, you’ve heard of sharks that scare you, you’ve heard of octopus’ that scare you. Put a shark and octopus in bed together, what do you create.. you get a “Sharktopus”. The “Sharktopus” is so bad, that I get looked at as an evil scientist, when in reality I am just an incredible scientist, but they don’t get me.

Mike Gencarelli: You play Salvatore Marconi in “The Dark Knight”, how do you feel about the movies success? Do you have any reflections on the movie? Was Marconi fun to play?

Eric Roberts: I think it is one of the most beautiful movies I have ever saw for what it is, its genre, everything, it’s just cool to watch and I hope that man hires me again, that Chris Nolan. Yeah it was good to be part of it, he was a blast to play, cause its easy. It was a blast. We shot it at a place called the old Zeppelin hanger, 30 miles north of London, this great big old hanger, it had the Zeppelin IV at the turn of the 20th century. It was three football fields wide, it was nine stories tall and you walk in and its all Gotham City, it was just really cool, like a life size dollhouse.

MG: After playing Thompson on NBC’s “Heroes”, how do you feel the direction of the show has taken and did you enjoy playing that character?

ER: I worked so hard on the scripts, I worked so hard on the history. I am an old homework actor and I started having fun with the character this season. They made my character an understanding human being, you understand where he is coming from for the first time. I like that cast, they are a lot of fun.

MG: You have worked on a lot of music videos over the years, ranging from The Killers to Akon to Mariah Carey? What is your connection to music?

ER: What interesting is that you are behind, because every video I have been on has gone number one and I’ve been in 4 or 5. Yeah, I’ve become videos lucky guy. What happened was that Sophie Miller was directing The Killers video and she called me to play a pimp and that is how it all started.


MG: You’ve been working in the business since you were 5, you’ve worked on theater, TV, movies. Nominated for an Oscar, two Golden Globes, have you ever thought about directing?

ER: They always ask me to direct shit, I love my headache, and I don’t want their headache. I really love what I do.

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Interview with Corbin Bernsen

I recently met up with Corbin Bernsen who is currently starring in USA Network’s “Psych” and known for roles in “L.A. Law”, “Major League” series and “The Dentist”. I had the opportunity to ask him some questions about his career and what is in store for the future.

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Michael Gencarelli: You are currently starring in the USA Network television show “Psych”. As you are approaching your fifth season this summer, what can we expect from the show and your character, Henry Spencer?

Corbin Bernsen: Truthfully, I have no idea where they go, first day out of the picture, I wait to get the scripts and go “Ok that’s what you want me to do”. Everyone keeps saying they are going to add more Henry, but they’ve been saying that for three years. I just sit back and take it as it comes and everyone always asks me to do a TV series. But the trust is, in a TV series you do not change much. It is usually more of the same, that’s kind of what the nature of a TV series is but when you change drastically you’re not doing the series you did when it was successful. I think you’ll see more, maybe a little bit more of Henry, maybe. Maybe going back a little bit the root of the relationship with Shawn.

Michael Gencarelli: You’ve worked on a few daytime soap operas, such as “General Hospital” and currently “The Young and the Restless”. How do you like working on soaps? Do they differ much from other television shows and movies? Your mom, Jeanne Cooper, has worked on “The Young and the Restless” for 35 years, how is it working with her on the show?

Corbin Bernsen: It’s great, I love working with her. I feel like I still haven’t done the thing I want to do with her. She is an incredible actress and thank God, she has her home there on the “The Young and the Restless” but I still think that she should be doing like “What Happened to Baby Jane”. She should be doing one of these crazy shows (referring to Monster Mania convention) and one these crazy movies. Maybe put her with Malcolm McDowell in a movie, that would be great. For me acting is always acting, you know I don’t care if it’s soaps, commercial, whatever. There are a few technique differences, at the end of the day it is about character, story and I just try and keep as in the moment as anyone possibly can. I mean it is no big difference, I mean it is not working with you know refined dialogue, necessarily its more about emotion in soaps. We don’t walk around constantly emoting in life but soaps tend to emote a lot. It doesn’t allow the moment to moment sorta human shit that we all do and experience, so that would be the biggest difference.

Michael Gencarelli: Any plans for the return of Dr. Alan Feinstone of horror movie franchise “The Dentist”?

Corbin Bernsen: No, I would like to, I have been talking to Brian Yuzna, the guy who directed it and really going back because when we did it, it was really a small little movie but it has got a pretty big following. The truth is then and now it could have gone theatrical for a short period of time. He and I were saying “Wouldn’t it be fun to do The Dentist in 3-D”. So yeah, we’re talking about that, but the problem is the rights to that have been sold a couple of times to companies that have acquired companies and we’re actually talking to Lionsgates right now but they do not know about all the stuff that they acquired so you have to convince them that that should be the thing to make right now. If you start a writing campaign to Lionsgate, tell them you want to get this movie going.

MG: You took on quite a few roles for your new film “Dead Air” such as director, producer, actor and production design. Did you find it hard to juggle all those various tasks?

CB: No I love all that, I am doing another movie in two weeks in Akron, Ohio, called “25 Hill”, about a soap box derby and my son is going to be a production designer but we are going to work very closely, and I enjoy it. I raise the money, write the script, act, I do everything you know. I’d barbecue the lunch if I could get a grill.

MG: I read you have one of the world’s largest collection of snow globes, over 7000? Do you have a favorite?

CB: Yeah, 7000. Well I have been collecting for 20 years. I am sort of fascinated by them. I was thinking here (referring to Monster Mania Convention in Cherry Hill, NJ) that like I wish I had more for the different great horror movies. I got one from “Halloween”, “Fargo’s” got a good one, not a horror movie though. Actually there’s a “Friday the 13th”, I am actually have some horror but they’re the little plastic ones. Yeah, It is actually funny, in the vain of where we are here, well I actually have a couple of favorites but there is this one that came out Halloween in the 70’s or 60’s. It’s a grim reaper with skull and crossbones in the belly, these figures sometimes have like a glass belly and from what I understand there is only one of these.

MG: What is one of your favorite memories working on the “Major League” series?

CB: My favorite moment working on Major League was following around Charlie Sheen to the clubs at night. You know that term chick magnet, he was like chick super government magnet. He would walk in a place hang out for 10 minutes and like the Pied Piper, the most beautiful women in the world would literally follow Charlie out.

MG: Working on “L.A. Law” from ’86 to ’94, you were nominated for 2 Golden Globes and 2 Emmys and the show was nominated for over 100 awards and won many of them. How did it feel to be have been on such a highly acclaimed show?

CB: Well that was a great thing, it gave me my career, gave me the key to the kingdom. I tell that to Stephen Bochco. It also left me for years with two things. One is that, I went from like zero to 60 overnight and there is a resentment and there is a certain part of the business, the industry part that doesn’t respect that, because they don’t assume you put the time in, which was false. The other one was that I played this character that everyone assumed I was and for years, I really didn’t get the kinds of roles I wished I’d done. Even following out of L.A. Law some of the movies I did playing the same role as you’ve seen in Major League. I loved it. It’s a great movie, but I played the pompous sort of prissy boy and when you do that you get as you get older, you sorta become, not really typecast, but what are you. As opposed to Bruce Willis out of “Moonlighting” does “Die Hard” and he is an action hero till this day.

MG: Was there ever any roles that you wished you had done?

CB: There was a role I probably should have done. Joel Schumacher was doing a movie called “Cousins” which was a remake of a french film called “Cousin, cousine” and I met him and at the same time I was being wooed by Disney to do this movie called “Hello, Again” with Shelly Long, same kind of role but much more visibility and all the people around me said “Oh you gotta do that”. Jeffrey Katzenberg who was a wonder kin at Disney, was sending me stuff in the mail saying “Please come and be in our movie, forever we will be grateful”, so I went and did that and it turned into being a pitiful fucking movie and meanwhile William Peterson went on to do “Cousins” and we both ended up doing alright but I could have had some more interesting roles.

MG: What projects do you have planned for the future?

CB: I am sort of deep in the indie world, you’ll see a lot of little films that I am involved with. Generally I’ll go in for a couple of days, make a few bucks, its not about money, its meeting all these young filmmakers. I am really involved not in the indie world but the true indie world. I just did a movie here yesterday in Philadelphia, called “Calender Girl”. I am more involved in the films that I am making as writing, producing, directing. Just did a movie up in Canada, sort of a family movie, called “Rust” that Sony just picked up, that will be out next year. I’m doing a movie in three weeks set in Akron, “25 Hill” about a soap box derby. I have another pretty good idea for a movie I am doing in Canada, tentatively titled” Meteor Man”, about a mentally challenged guy that insists that he comes out of a meteor shower. The town doesn’t believe him and it poses sort of the question if you can believe in God, why can’t we believe in something paranormal or stuff that we can’t see like our faith teachings. It’s that or a story about a guy that comes up to teach, this is just wacky and I did not do drugs to get to it, an ex NHL hockey player and gets asked to come to a small town to coach kids in playing hockey only to find that it is twelve chimpanzees, who are refugees from a Russian ice show, they got stranded in the town. The town has purchased them and he has to go coach twelve chimpanzees.

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Interview with Henry Winkler

I’ve had the very good fortune to meet many of the stars I’ve admired in my various jobs in the movie business. Sean Connery. Charlton Heston. Of course the late, great Roy Scheider. But it wasn’t until I met Henry Winkler that I realized a person’s on-screen persona can be so similar to the one he lives off-screen. Most celebrities are usually courteous when greeted by a fan (I can name a couple who aren’t but that would be indiscreet). However sometimes the courtesy is forced. In 1989 I attended an event featuring Mickey Mantle. Hoping to get a baseball autographed by the Yankee great, I stood in line for almost 2 hours. When I got to his table, an assistant took my ball from me, passed it down to Mantle, who signed it and passed it to another assistant, who handed it back to me. As I took my ball I said, “Thank you, Mr. Mantle.” Mantle gave me a quick glance and went back to signing the next item. “Did you see that,” another person in the line said to me, “Mick looked at you!” It was at a similar promotional event that I met Henry Winkler. Rather then sit behind a table and surround himself with assistants, Mr. Winkler stood and greeted each fan personally, not only shaking their hand or giving them a hug, but exchanging a quick story or two. And after more then three decades of stardom, there are plenty of stories to share. From the iconic Arthur Fonzarelli on “Happy Days” to a successful career as producer and director, Henry Winkler has seemingly done it all. And with style.


Mr. Winkler graciously answered some questions before catching a plane.

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Michael Smith: You’re a graduate of the Yale Drama School, Class of 1970. Did you have any classmates that went on to fame? Also, I see your 40th Reunion Celebration is coming in June…will you be attending?

Henry Winkler: Twenty-five actors started with me at Yale. Eleven finished the program. Three were asked into the company. James Naughton, who went on to win Tony Awards on Broadway (for “City of Angels” and “Chicago.” TV fans may also recognize him from the “Planet of the Apes” television series), Jill Eikenberry of “LA Law” fame, and me.

I almost never go to reunions. I’m not exactly sure why, but I have an aversion to them. I think I noticed that I break out in a rash thinking about them.


MS: You were very close friends with John Ritter, and you both got an early break by appearing on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” How did you two meet?

HW: We met at the 25th anniversary of the ABC network. There was a big party. John’s table was directly next to mine. Our chairs were back to back. I leaned over and whispered to him that I thought the promo for his new show “Three’s Company” was very funny and that his physical comedy in it was fantastic. That started a long and loving friendship.

MS: In 1974 you appeared alongside Perry King and Sylvester Stallone in “The Lords of Flatbush.” Could you tell by working with them that they would both go on to pretty successful careers?

HW: Sly Stallone hid in this big, over the top persona of a street-tough. But underneath was an articulate, dedicated, very funny, successful writer.

When we were doing the movie, I had the opportunity to walk him home to his apartment. It was in a walk-up building with no elevator on Lexington Ave. He shared it with his wife, Sasha, and their bull mastiff. He painted the windows black so that he would not be disturbed by time while he wrote. A year later, he and his wife drove across country with their dog. The car broke down on Sunset Blvd. He called me and said he’s got a problem. I went and picked them up and took them to the apartment they were renting in Hollywood, north of Sunset Blvd.

MS: Stephen Verona recently released a book on the making of “Lords.” I was unaware that Richard Gere was the original choice to play Chico. That’s even more of an impressive cast. Was there a reason Perry King replaced him?

HW: I replaced him.

Interviewer’s mea culpa! Mr. Winkler’s character in the film is “Butchie.”

MS: Of course 1974 also brought about “Happy Days.” If memory serves me correctly, the character of Fonzie was very minor at the beginning of the series and wore a blue windbreaker. When was it suddenly ok to break out the leather?

HW: Garry Marshall made a deal with the powers that be at ABC that the Fonz would only wear leather when he was near his motorcycle or riding his motorcycle. Garry then called all of the script writers on our show and said, “Never write a scene for the Fonz without his motorcycle”.

MS: You went from ensemble player to second billing. Were there any hard feelings among your co-stars?

HW: No. The cast of “Happy Days,” no matter what their age, were completely professional. There was no attitude, not even for a moment for the ten years of the show’s run. We played charades together, played baseball together, traveled all over the world for the USO together and worked very hard together to make the show as funny as it could possibly be.

MS: Let’s talk about one of my favorite films, “Heroes.” I was a movie theatre usher when the film came out and even today, every time I hear Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son” I think about the coming attraction. I’ve read that after “Happy Days” made you a star you were offered many different parts, from the role William Kaat would eventually play in “First Love” to Danny Zuko in “Grease.” What made you choose “Heroes?”

HW: A lot of the opportunities were very “Fonz” like, so I wanted not to be type cast.

Of course, hindsight makes us all brilliant. If I had to do it over again, the one decision I would have changed- I would have done “Grease”. I went home and had a Coca-Cola. John Travolta went home and bought a plane.

MS: You won back to back Golden Globe awards in 1977 and 1978 for your work on “Happy Days.” In 1978 you were also nominated as Best Motion Picture Actor for “Heroes.” So many television actors try features and fail miserably. Did the nomination give you a sense of validity?

HW: No. I don’t think so. I was very appreciative but I think validity is not defined by awards, but rather by longevity. The most difficult part of being an actor is remaining relevant.

MS: You did 255 episodes of “Happy Days.” Plus, the show spun off four more series and an animated show. You made appearances on “Laverne and Shirley,” “Mork and Mindy” and “Joanie Loves Chachi” plus voiced the Fonzie character on “The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang” cartoon. AND you pitched on the “Happy Days” softball team. When did you find time to sleep? 🙂

HW: I always believed in the phrase, “If you want something done, give it to a busy man.”
I so enjoy the fact that I get to do my work everyday, that sleep becomes irrelevant.

MS: Ron Howard left “Happy Days” to pursue his directing career but you stayed with the show the entire 10 years, even though you had a very successful movie career. Did you ever entertain the idea of leaving?

HW: No. I never thought of leaving. I thought, “If I sign my name to the paper, I’m going to honor my commitment.” Ron’s choice was completely different. He knew from a very early age, maybe 15, that directing was going to be his path. So after his commitment of 5 years was over, he left to pursue his passion. And luckily for us, he did, because he is truly one of the most successful directors in the world. And TRULY great at what he does.

With that question answered, it was time to head for his plane. There are many more questions to ask and, schedule permitting, perhaps Mr. Winkler will grant us some of his time again. Our sincere thanks to Mr. Winkler for participating in our interview series.

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