B. Harrison Smith talks about working with horror legends in his new film “Death House”

Photo by KGE

Harrison Smith is the writer and director of the new horror film “Death House”, which is being called the Expendables of the horror genre! This film is jam packed with dozens of icons including Kane Hodder, Dee Wallace, Tony Todd, Bill Moseley and many more! B. Harrison took out some time to chat with Media Mikes about the film and what we can expect for the future!

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you first got involved with “Death House”?
B. Harrison Smith: All of that can be found here. It’s my personal blog called Cynema. It has four articles called “The Road To Death House” series which answers everything you need to know.

MG: How much did Gunner Hansen complete before his passing?
BHS: Gunnar did the original script. That’s covered in the “Road to Death House” series on my blog. The script that’s shot is 90% mine. I kept his concept of the Five Evils and the issue of good and evil’s dependency on each other. However Gunnar’s original script was about a team of filmmakers going into an abandoned asylum where they were killed off. So it’s pretty different. He gave the script his blessing before he died. He was happy with what I did. He was such a good person.

MG: What was it like to work with so many horror legends?
BHS: Educational. They know so much. They’ve seen so much and how the industry has evolved and changed for the better and worse. I loved the fact that I grew up watching them in theaters and late night cable and video and now I work with them. That’s the best thing.

MG: Were there any talent that you reach out to that turned you down or that you weren’t able to get for this film?
BHS: Sure and it was due to scheduling. When the money finally moved it didn’t jive with everyone’s schedule. Robert Englund was in the middle of three projects and flying to Scotland. Bruce Campbell was smack dab in the middle of the Evil Dead tv show but they were really nice about it and supportive. What can you do? The project had been on and off again for years. They had to work. Hopefully the next one we will get them!

MG: What was one of the coolest moments you had on set during production?
BHS: There were a few but one that comes to mind was watching the interaction between Kane, Bill, Michael. They’ve known each other so long. They’re icons and they fuck with each other like high school kids. They did this three stooges “hello, hello, hello” bit and it was classic.

I also got to eat lunch with Sid Haig who just told me so much about the industry over the last 50 years. He’s a wealth of information and stories and I was so privileged to have him share them with me.

MG: On the flip side, what was the hardest part of the production?
BHS: Having a low budget and 24 day shoot schedule. I think most indie filmmakers will cite money and time as the biggest issues. There were no divas. No “creative differences.” The people part and crew part was easy. Time and money…they’re the hurdles.

MG: According to IMDB I see there is a prequel in the cards, “Dawn of 5 Evils”, is this next for you? Give us a tease on what we can expect?
BHS: Producer Rick Finkelstein wants it and I’ll oblige. It’s a prequel and that title will change. That’s just a working title for now but It will examine the backgrounds of the Five Evils and their origins.

MG: What is your wishlist cast for the next film in the franchise?
BHS: Ah hell, if I do that and leave anyone off then I piss off potential cast. I hope everyone for the sequel returns and I look forward to new faces as well.

MG: Fun question, if you could remake/reboot one horror film, what would it be?
BHS: I’m not against remakes when they’re warranted. There have been some great ones: “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” ‘78, “The Blob”, “Night of the Living Dead”. So if I had my choice, I’d love to get a crack at remaking “Let’s Scare Jessica To Death.” I love the original but I think there were things limited by budget and time. The original sits on my DVD shelf and it scared me since a kid.

MG: Favorite childhood horror film that inspired you to your current role today and why?
BHS: I always say the original “Jaws” is the movie that made me want to make movies. But I’m not sure I classify Jaws as a horror film. But that’s the one. I was 8 when I saw it in 1975 in theaters and I told my mom afterward that I want to make movies when I grew up. I wish she’d lived to see that happen.

Cortney Palm talks about working with horror icons in “Death House”

Cortney Palm has been making her mark in Hollywood and securing her role as a scream queen with roles in films like “Silent Night” (2012), “Zombeavers” and “The Dark Tapes”. She also co-starred in the film “Sushi Girl” alongside Mark Hamill in 2012. Recently she is starring in the film “Death House” alongside about a dozen of horror icons including Kane Hodder, Tony Todd and Dee Wallace. Cortney took out some time to chat with Media Mikes (again) to discuss the film and her love for the genre.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with the film “Death House”?
CP: I had received message from director Harrison Smith via Twitter saying that some things had developed and he was interested in sending me a script. The script was “Death House”, and after I read it I thought I HAD to be a part of it. My managers got involved and literally a few days later I flew out to Pennsylvania to film.

MG: You are no stranger to ensemble casts after working on films like “Sushi Girl”, but tell us what was it like working with so many horror icons?
CP: Each actor brought something unique to set. An embodiment of their work and who they are as people. It’s always a joy to work with actors who have had long careers because you can learn so much from them. Kane (Hodder) and I did some improv that added depth to our characters and Barbara (Crampton) was so great in that we would work the scene before we filmed, which helped a lot.

MG: What drew you to your character Agent Toria Boon?
CP: I love her character arc. She clearly has a distinct past and simultaneously a past that is unfamiliar to her. Was it a part of a scientific test? Or something she’s trying to bury? But throughout the film she begins to unravel and question reality and her mission. I’ve always been drawn to strong female characters and agent Toria Boon is a badass, so that helps.

MG: Give us a fun behind-the-scenes story from the production?
CP: There was this one room in the prison, it was the freezer room, that we had to film in. It felt like bad juju. the camera crew had burned incense and wore crystals, but for some reason that room really took a toll on a few of us actors. Was it supernatural play? Bad energy? Or something that wanted to drain us. Whatever it was, it was a very difficult room to film in.

MG: I can see “Death House” being a great franchise, what horror icon would you like to see on board for future films if they happened?
CP: Honestly, Jamie Lee Curtis or Sigourney Weaver.

MG: How does it feel to be earning the status of scream queen in the horror genre?
CP: Am I? *Blushes* Horror films are so much fun to make. They take a lot of work, more than what people think. Buy they’re some of my favorite movies to work on, so I appreciate the fans who like to watch my work!

MG: Do you have any other projects upcoming that you would like to shout out to?
CP: “Hooker Assassin”
“Your Own Road”
“Sunflower”
“Dead Ant”

James Furlong and I also are co-producing an action/drama called “Savvy Strong”, where I play an ex-marine out for vengeance. We having a production team on board and are looking to secure more financing.

Greg Bell talks about working with Sirius/XM on Radio Classics

It was called “the theater of the mind.” Back before television families would huddle around their radio and listen to such popular shows as “Gunsmoke” or “Burns and Allen.” I still have fond memories as a young boy going to bed on Sunday nights and listening to the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, drifting off to sleep while picturing the program’s action in my head.

I bought a Sirius/XM radio for my car because I love to listen to the music of the 1970s. But more often than not you’ll find me tooling down the road listening to a great old radio drama on Channel 148, hosted by Greg Bell. I recently had the opportunity to ask Greg some questions about his interest in Classic Radio and why it’s still so popular 50 years after the last program aired.

Mike Smith: Where did you develop your interest in the radio programs of the past?
Greg Bell: As I was born in the 1960s, I was too young to have listened to these shows when they originally played. What is often called “The Golden Age Of Radio” wrapped up in 1962, when CBS, the last network still playing weekly radio theater, ended that with the final episodes of “Suspense” and “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.” Personally I was always a fan of classic media, old films, TV shows and radio. I grew up listening to the revival radio shows including Himan Brown’s “CBS Radio Mystery Theater” in the 1970s and The Elliott Lewis led “Sears Radio Theater” in the late 70s and early 80s. And later I listened to “When Radio Was” during the Art Fleming and Stan Freberg era. The entire reason the XM (now Sirius XM) RadioClassics channel was created was to introduce all these wonderful shows to a whole new audience, who like myself, were not around when they originally aired. Great storytelling is truly timeless, and these shows prove that.

MS: How did the gig at Sirius come about?
GB: In December of 2001, I was hired at XM Satellite Radio in DC for the now-defunct USA Today channel (basically a radio version of the newspaper.) In the summer of 2002, they launched two new spoken word channels, Sonic Theater and RadioClassics. I was hired to run the classic radio channel, and was able to draw on my knowledge of classic films and television to also host the channel. XM merged with Sirius in 2008, and I was retained as the host of RadioClassics. And then following the retirement of Stan Freberg in 2006, I took over as the host of the syndicated series “When Radio Was” airing on approximately 200 radio stations across North America.

MS: You’ve hosted several radio themed cruises. What all do they entail?
GB: What a blast! We are currently preparing for the Fourth Annual Radio Spirits sponsored sea cruise: www.cruisingwithgregbell.com The first three were tremendous successes. While at sea we re-create both classic and original radio plays live on stage with the fans as the actors as well as handling the sound effects also created live. We also have old time radio trivia, show discussions, listening parties, gift bags, and perhaps most importantly it’s a place where I lot of folks, from all over the nation, who love the same stuff (classic radio theater) can meet.

MS: What are some of your favorite radio programs?
GB: Only way to answer that is to break it down by genre:

Comedies: Jack Benny is the king, but for great chemistry and timeless humor; my favorite is “The Phil Harris & Alice Faye Program.” Harris and Elliott Lewis as his pal, Frankie Remley were Cramden and Norton before the “Honeymooners” came along.

The top thriller and mystery series: For me they are “Suspense” and “The Whistler.” Both had tremendous storytelling and featured different themes each week, so it might be a murder mystery one week, science fiction the next and so on.

Police dramas: “Dragnet” was a radio show first and is very well done, but I also recommend “Broadway Is My Beat” (follows NYPD detective Danny Clover) and “The Lineup.”

The Westerns; sure everyone remembers “The Lone Ranger,” “Hopalong Cassidy” and “Red Ryder,” and they are entertaining but were targeted for younger listeners. So my favorites are “The Six-Shooter” (with Jimmy Stewart), “Fort Laramie” (featuring future “Perry Mason” star Raymond Burr) and “Gunsmoke.” Radio’s “Gunsmoke” which debuted three years before the TV version, is easily the best of the bunch. With a whole different cast (William Conrad was the voice of Marshall Dillon) “Gunsmoke” was much more than a western. The writers tackled issues of the 1950s like racism, xenophobia, domestic abuse, etc while setting the stories in the late 19th Century American West.

MS: Why do you think the medium is still popular?
GB: As I said earlier, great storytelling is truly timeless!

MS: With the popularity of satellite radio growing, do you think that radio dramas/comedies could return? Maybe “Screen Directors Playhouse presents ‘Jaws’?”
GB: It’s already here; there are tons of modern radio theater groups all over the country performing both classic and original scripts, so it’s truly alive and well.

MS: Do you have any new programs coming to the channel this year?
GB: There will always be series that our exclusive content provider, Radio Spirits, is able to get legal broadcasting rights to air and/or have digitally restored and prepped for satellite radio, plus they periodically supply us with more “new to the channel” episodes from series we currently feature.

For a list of the weekly shows, click here http://www.siriusxm.com/radioclassics/weeklyschedule

Bob Gale reflects on working with Robert Zemeckis on the “Back to the Future” series

I’ve been a huge fan of Bob Gale since the year I graduated high school. That year (1978), he and his writing partner, Robert Zemeckis (who also directed), came out with a small film called “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” a movie which detailed a group of youngsters plotting how to meet the Beatles during their first visit to New York City. Next up for the duo was the Steven Spielberg-directed comedy “1941,” an all-star epic featuring an amazing cast including Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Nancy Allen, Tim Matheson and Treat Willliams.

In 1980 the two wrote (and Zemeckis again directed) the outrageous comedy “Used Cars,” a film still on my top ten list of funniest films ever. Things changed for the duo in 1985 when Universal released “Back to the Future,” a film that spawned two successful sequels, earned Gale and Zemeckis their first Academy Award nominations and made Michael J. Fox a star. While Zemeckis continued on his path to Oscar-winning director, Gale continued to write and produce, eventually moving behind the camera himself.

In the mid 90’s, Gale partnered with Sony Pictures to produce an interactive theatre experience called “Mr. Payback.” I was very fortunate to work for Loews Theatres (owned by Sony) at the time and my theatre was one of the trial theatres for the film. Mr. Payback was a cyborg who punished the bad guys when they needed it. As the story progresses, the audience decides the punishments Mr. Payback dishes out to those who deserve them.

This Saturday evening, April 18, Mr. Gale will be appearing at the Kansas City Film Fest, where he will present a 30th Anniversary screening of “Back to the Future.” As his appearance grew near, we spoke about his early films, the resurrection of “Mr. Payback” and if he has any money on the Cubs winning it all this year.

Mike Smith: Hello.
Bob Gale: You called right on time. You score points for punctuality!

MS: 30 years ago your life was about to change. Did you have any idea that “Back to the Future” was going to be so well received?
BG: (laughing) Hell no! We had a hard enough time getting the movie made when we did. It took us almost three and a half years from when we did the first draft to get the movie into production. People kept telling us that it was a time travel movie and that time travel movies never make any money.
MS: Surprise.
BG: (laughing) Yeah.

MS: Your earlier films, among them “1941” and “Used Cars,” are now considered classic comedies with a great fan base. I actually saw “Used Cars” here in Kansas City when it screened at Showarama.
BG: Oh yeah, we did come out to Showarama to talk “Used Cars.”

MS: Can you explain why some films, especially comedies, sometimes take time to be recognized?
BG: Sometimes it has to do with the marketing. People need a reason to go to a movie. If they could figure out a way to do it right every time more movies would be more successful. I mean, the problem with “Used Cars” is that we opened in half of the country the weekend after the movie “Airplane!” opened. And “Airplane!” got all of the attention. And it should have, it was a very funny picture. Also, in hindsight, “Used Cars” was probably not the best title. You mention “used cars” to people and they have a bad connotation with the concept. Maybe if we’d called the movie “Trust Me” (the campaign slogan of Kurt Russell’s Rudy Russo) it would have done better. And Kurt Russell was not as well-known back then as he is now. And of course, older movies are now more easily accessible, with cable television and all the streaming home video. Now it’s not that hard to search out a movie that somebody has talked about to them.
MS: I would proudly put a RUDY RUSSO bumper sticker on my car!
BG: (laughs heartily)

MS: Tom Wilson (Biff in the “Back to the Future” films) famously sings during his stand-up act that “Back to the Future 4” ain’t happening. Any chance he’s wrong?
BG: No, he’s not wrong. Who would want to see a “Back to the Future” movie without Michael J. Fox in it?
MS: (feeling like an ass because I tried to be cute and instead sounded like an idiot) Wow. I didn’t even think about that.
BG: There you go. Besides, what did you think about “Indiana Jones 4?”
MS: Gotcha.
BG: Sometimes it’s best to just quit while you’re ahead, right?

MS: Any chance they’re ever release the Eric Stoltz footage? (NOTE: for those readers who don’t know, when Michael J. Fox was originally unable to star in “BTTF,” the role of Marty McFly went to Eric Stoltz. Apparently the filmmakers were not happy with Stoltz’s performance and made a deal with the producers of Fox’s television show, “Family Ties,” that allowed Fox to do both the series and the film).
BG: We’re not in a big hurry to do that because it would make Eric look bad. We’re not interested in shining a light on the guy and saying, “Jesus, see how (bad) he was?” We never destroyed the footage. Maybe it will be released after Zemeckis and I are dead. We felt it was of enough historic value that we wouldn’t authorize its destruction.

MS: Last “Back to the Future” question – if you had a chance to get into the DeLorean, where would you go?
BG: (laughs) What day is it? Every day you read about something and you wonder, “Gee, I wonder what really happened back then?” I have to say, I would really love to watch my parents on their first date. There is just something so sadistically voyeuristic about that. I would also like to go back in time to attend a lecture by Mark Twain…I’d like to go to some of the great, old World’s Fairs, to see what they were really like. I’d like to be a time traveling tourist.

MS: I worked for Loews Theatres back east and we were one of the theatres that had “Mr. Payback.”
BG: Wow!
MS: In this day and age, with everything being so interactive, is there any thought of bringing that process back?
BG: I’ve got a DVD where I recorded a couple plays of the show and I periodically take it around and show it to people and say, “Hey, we can do this. We can do this now.” But people still don’t get it. Eventually I think that they will. I do hope so. We were definitely ahead of our time with that thing.

MS: You’ve written for comics. Is it easier as an artist because you don’t have any time constraints? Where normally you’d have a 5-hour movie, now you can just stretch it out over enough issues?
BG: Every medium that you work in has its own rules and restrictions and conventions that you need to be aware of. So is it easier to write for comics then for movies? Not necessarily. There are certainly a lot fewer people that you have to deal with to get to the point where somebody pushes the button and says “let’s go” but you also have the matter of them saying, “OK, we want this series to be finished in four issues” when you thought you were going to have five or six to do it in. Again, you still have marketing to deal with and all kinds of crazy stuff because what it looks like from the outside is never the same as when you get in there.

MS: Finally, what are you working on next?
BG: I’ve got a television pilot I’ve been trying to get off the ground. This year has been so…everyone has been so crazed about “Back to the Future” and its 30th Anniversary…it seems like I can’t get two uninterrupted hours to work on something where I’m not interrupted by a phone call or email or an interview regarding some of the events were putting together for the rest of the year. There’s a fabulous book coming out, on or about October 21st, that is pretty much the definitive “making of” about the trilogy. You’ll see plenty of photos of Eric Stoltz in that. So for everybody that wanted to know what it looked like with him in it, they’ll get a taste of it.

MS: Quick follow-up that just hit me…do you have any money on the Cubs winning the World Series this year? (NOTE: In “BTTF II,” Marty travels to the year 2015 and is surprised to learn that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series that year, beating Miami).
BG: (laughs for a while) No, but interestingly enough, the Miami Marlins…the guys in their promotion department are big “Back to the Future” fans…they’re planning most of their season off of “Back to the Future II,” saying they’re going to rewrite history and win the World Series, not the Cubs. They’re going to do a big promotion at Marlins Park on September 25th (sadly, the Marlins play the Braves that night, not the Cubs). We’re going to go there and throw out the first pitch and they’re even going to make their uniforms look like the way we depicted them in the movie. Now when we made Part II, there was no baseball franchise in Florida, so when we created them we thought they would be the Miami Gators. The plan that I heard was that they were going to make Miami Gators uniforms for that night. But would I ever bet on the Cubs? Not a chance! I’m from St. Louis.
MS: Cardinal fan.
BG: That’s right.
MS: Wow, it must have hurt for you just to write that the Cubs won the World Series.
BG: Not at all. It’s a great joke! But look, here’s the deal. If the Cubs actually get into the World Series, Bob Zemeckis and I will be hailed as visionaries! But if they choke, the joke will remain funny for many more years to come.

MS: Thank you so much for your time. It’s been a real pleasure to speak with you.
BG: Thank you, Mike. It’s always a pleasure to speak with a “Used Cars” fan.
MS: I work for the local electric company and I deal with customers every day and I often find myself quoting Jack Warden to myself.
BG: (in a gruff Jack Warden voice) You don’t know dick!
MS: Exactly. That and “what are you, a f***ing parrot?!”
BG: (laughs)
MS: Have a great day and thanks again.
BG: You too, Mike. Bye. (continues to laugh as he hangs up the phone – I must say it feels so great to hear someone who makes you laugh think you’re funny).

The “Back to the Future” event with the Miami Marlins on September will raise money for Parkinson’s research. Media Mikes would like to ask its readers to please take the time to learn about the disease by visiting the Michael J. Fox Foundation at www.michaeljfox.org Thank you!

Tanner Beard talking about working on Terrence Malick’s “Knight of Cups”

With James Brown gone, Tanner Beard may easily be the new “hardest working man” in Hollywood. A recent acting job turned into a gig where he not only continued to star in the film but also co-write, co-direct, help produce, supervise the music AND do his own stunts! He is also executive producing the next two films by creative (and reclusive) filmmaker Terrence Malick. While preparing to head to Germany for the upcoming Berlin Film Festival where one of the Malick films, “Knight of Cups,” is representing the United States in competition, Mr. Beard took time out to talk to me about sixties-style movie making, who Martin Weiss is to him and whether or not there really IS a Terrence Malick.

Mike Smith: Hello fellow Virgo!
Tanner Beard: Virgo is the best you can be! Do we share the exact same birthday?
MS: Not the year, but the date.
TB: (laughing) My man!

MS: Give us a little introduction to “6 Bullets to Hell.”
TB: “6 Bullets to Hell” is a throwback to the classic Sergio Leone’ films back in the day. Kind of like Clint Eastwood – “A Fistful of Dollars” – or the original “Django” kind of style.

MS: You wear at least four different hats on the project. Was that something that was important to you to ensure a certain vision?
TB: You know, I haven’t told a lot of people this but I actually went out there as an actor and a little less than halfway through shooting they called a big meeting and we were told that the funds were about to run out. But because what we had shot so far looked so good my production company decided to come in and finish it. So we spent every night re-writing the script and making it the best we could with the time allotted that we had to shoot. It’s really an interesting story of how it got made that we haven’t shared with anyone yet.

MS: (slyly) Do you want to share it now?
TB: (laughing) Yeah. We kept sending the dailies back to the states and I kept saying it’s so great because we’re doing it like they did in the sixties. There was no sound. We decided to ADR everything after we were finished like they did in the sixties. We were shooting on the same set that literally made Clint Eastwood famous. Half of our crew was from all over the world. There were six or seven different languages spoken on set daily. We were literally making a “spaghetti” Western just like they did back in the sixties. And I said to my production company “what do you think about us coming in and taking it over?” To make it more for an American audience, as opposed to its original European market. And we ended up making a classic, late night, drive-in movie style film. It was so much fun. I learned how to ride a horse on that movie that’s for sure.

MS: What, if anything, can you share on “Knight of Cups?”
TB: “Knight of Cups” is a film with an unbelievable cast and an unbelievable director. I still pinch myself when I see my name near any of those people. People who I grew up studying and learning. I used to study Terrence Malick in film school. So now, later on, to even have my name anywhere next to his is unbelievable. It’s still settling in. Christian Bale is one of my favorite actors so to be up there with him is pretty surreal. I actually haven’t seen the full film yet…just bits and pieces. So I’m probably more excited about seeing it in Berlin then others since I haven’t seen the completed film yet.

MS: This questions is tongue in cheek but, I mean, the man is so reclusive. Have you ever actually SEEN Terrence Malick?
TB: (laughs loudly) I have! Though I’ve never seen him in America. My offices are very close to his so you would have thought I’d have run into him sometime…maybe seen him at the grocery store. But he is so dedicated to his work…he’s not out and about too often. There have been a couple times that we were supposed to go to dinner but some schedule conflictions came up. When I was in Cannes last year I got to meet him very briefly. It was a very cool moment for me because some people don’t even know what he looks like because he is SO dedicated to his craft. He’s not out on the red carpets. I am looking forward to spending more time with him in Berlin, which makes the trip so much more exciting and important to me.

MS: I had to ask. I saw a note on another untitled Malick project you are working on that stated on September 16, of last year, it was reported that a photo of Malick was taken on the set.
TB: Was that in Austin? The Ryan Gossling film?
MS: Yes.
TB: I’m surprised more pictures weren’t taken, since that’s a great day to take them on! (laughs)

MS: I couldn’t help noticing a big coincidence in your acting credits – who is Martin Weiss and why do you play him so often?
TB: (laughs) Oh my God! That’s a funny story. Probably six or seven years ago…maybe longer…I was beginning to find my way as an actor out here. Back when you used to answer actor ads on Craigslist. A really kind gentleman named Roger Lim actually was making a film and I thought it was just….that I was just making a baseball movie. But it turned out to be four movies. So it keeps showing up. He shot enough footage to make four films so my character keeps going. I actually haven’t seen them but I guess I shot more than a trilogy in two weeks!

MS: After fourteen years you’re releasing “The Beaver Trilogy, Part IV.” Is this a continuation? Is Bill Hader taking over from Crispin Glover?
TB: No, Bill Hader is actually narrating the documentary piece. “The Beaver Trilogy” has been a very interesting cult film for a long time. Jack Black was very aware and interested in it. The director has just done so much with it. It’s based on a real encounter that was videotaped and then it was re-created with various actors. Crispin Glover did a version of it very, very early on. Sean Penn did a version of it way before “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” So there were three different versions of it. It was the filmmaker’s thesis project. He created this really weird chance encounter. And now part IV is the documentary that ties all three of them together and lets the story in on where these interesting pieces came from. It’s a very cool and quirky documentary. I think people are going to like it. And it drew the attention of Sundance early on. So it’s very odd that a chance encounter from 1979 is still being talked about today.

MS: What else do you have in the pipeline?
TB: There is an animated feature that we’re working on now. We’re very early in the pre-production stages. It’s called “Fridgeport.” And we’re working on a Christmas movie called “Just Claus,” which we just started casting to being shooting in February that hopefully will be out by Christmas.

Durga McBroom-Hudson talks about working with Pink Floyd on “The Endless River”

Singer/songwriter Durga McBroom-Hudson has worked with the band Pink Floyd as a backing vocalist consistently on almost all of their shows since the 1987 “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” Tour up to the final concert of “The Division Bell” in 1994. In 1989, she formed the band Blue Pearl and had several hit songs including “Naked in the Rain”. Recently, she came back together with Pink Floyd to record on their supposed last album “The Endless River”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Durga about her work with the band and her plans for the future.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how you ended up perform backing vocals for Pink Floyd?
Durga McBroom-Hudson: My sister was recording an album on Capitol Records in New York with Nile Rogers, and I was doing backing vocals for her. Meanwhile, Pink Floyd had started the Momentary Lapse Of Reason Tour with only 2 singers. The man who ran the production company shooting the initial concert videos recommended my sister, and she recommended me. They needed someone to sing bottom, so they asked me to join the tour.

MG: You toured with the band for their album “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” and “The Division Bell” tours; what was your most memorable experience?
DMH: Probably Pink Floyd Live In Venice.

MG: After your first tour with the band for “A Momentary Lapse of Reason”, what was it actually getting to go in and record in the studio for “The Division Bell”?
DMH: It was wonderful. Bob Ezrin had wanted all English singers, so they recorded the whole thing that way. But David thought the low parts weren’t right, so they flew me over from Los Angeles and I re-recorded all of those parts. He really likes the tone of my voice. It’s a huge honor to know one of your biggest teachers appreciates you.

MG: What is your favorite Pink Floyd to sing and why?
DMH: I don’t have only one. That is like asking which of your children is your favorite. Most people would assume “Great Gig In The Sky”, but I have a love/hate relationship with singing it because it’s so difficult.

MG: What is a fun fact about David Gilmour that a lot of people might not know?
DMH: I personally believe he’s a bit shy, despite the fact that he has quite an imposing presence. I am very fond of him.

MG: How did you get approached to come back for Pink Floyd’s last album “The Endless River”?
DMH: Youth, who is my partner in my own band Blue Pearl is a co-producer on “The Endless River”. He asked me, and we surprised David with what I came up with. Luckily, David loved it.

MG: Did you work exclusively on “Louder than Words”?
DMH: No. I am also singing on “Talkin’ Hawkin'” and “Surfacing”. David asked me to come in to add to what I had already done on “Louder Than Words”.

MG: What was it like working with David Gilmour again after a 20 year break?
DMH: He is the best, and he makes me do my best. I love working with him. It was like coming home.

MG: Was it challenging coming back to work on the music that Richard Wright created without him there?
DMH: He was there. I could feel him.

MG: Tell us about your involvement with the animated film “Strange Frame”?
DMH: I sang on the soundtrack, including a cover of “The Gunner’s Dream” from “The Final Cut” with Roger Water’s approval.

MG: What else do you have planned for the rest of the year and next year?
DMH: I expect to get more mixes in from Youth from the new Blue Pearl album, and next year I expect to see it released, as well as doing A LOT of shows. The rest of this year will mostly be spent with family. The new Culture Club album will be released in January, and hopefully George will have recovered enough from his throat injury to go back on tour – I hope to do some shows with them too. I already have at least 15 dates lined up from Brazil to Finland, some with my sister Lorelei. Keep your eyes open – chances are I’ll be in a city near you!

Lou Volpe talks about working with Clint Eastwood on “Jersey Boys”

Photo Credit: Marnie Volpe

Born in Italy, Lou Volpe moved to America with his family when he was still a young boy. He made his feature film debut in 1987 and has worked frequently in both film and television since then. An accomplished filmmaker in his own right, Volpe has written and directed two feature films: “Divorced White Male” and “Every Secret Thing.” This week he will be seen as Anthony Castelluccio, the father of singer Frankie Valli, in Clint Eastwood’s film version of the Tony-award winning Broadway hit “Jersey Boys.” While promoting the film Mr. Volpe took the time to talk with me about his role in the film, his work and sharing a joke with his director.

Mike Smith: How did you come to be cast in “Jersey Boys.”
Lou Volpe: I auditioned (laughs). Me and several other guys. A few weeks later my agent called me and told me I had the part.

MS: Wow! That’s an easy story!
LV: (laughs) It’s not usually like that. But when I go to audition I try to do the best that I can do and this time I did all right.

MS: Were you able to speak at all with Frankie Valli about his father? Maybe try to pick up some little quirks or qualities of his?
LV: No. Unfortunately Frankie wasn’t on set during the time I did my scenes. I did do my own research…I looked into some of Frankie’s biographies and found out the kind of man his father was…what he did for a living (he was a barber)…that kind of stuff.

MS: You’re also a filmmaker. How does Clint run his set in comparison to yourself or other directors you’ve worked for?
LV: Clint was great. He’s really a very nice guy and really easy to work with….work for. He pretty much lets you do your own thing. He may give you a few suggestions but mostly he lets you do your own thing. He’s very easy to work with. Most of the time he doesn’t even call “action.” He just says, “OK, go ahead.” We had fun. When I was on the set, because he knew I spoke Italian and he had, of course, done many films with Sergio Leone’, instead of calling “action” he would call “Actione’” in Italian. Of course then he’d crack up…then I’d crack up. He’s really a nice, funny guy.

MS: As I mentioned earlier, you’re also a filmmaker…you’ve written and directed a couple of feature films yourself. Do you have anything coming up?
LV: I’ve just written a pilot that is getting some interest. And I’ve just auditioned for a film…it’s the lead role…that I hope will come through

Eddie Bakshi talks about producing “Last Days of Coney Island” and this year’s Kansas City Film Fest

If you’re a fan of classic animation you surely are a fan of Ralph Bakshi. In his five decade career he has created such seminal animated features as “Fritz the Cat,” “Heavy Traffic,” “Wizards,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “Cool World” and many more. This week at the Kansas City Film Fest a retrospect of his work will be shown, featuring screenings of “Heavy Traffic,” “Coonskin” and “Wizards,” culminating in a Q&A Skype session with the director after Saturday’s screening of “Coonskin.”

Introducing the films this week will be another filmmaking member of the Bakshi family, Ralph’s son, Eddie. Eddie caught the filmmaking bug at a young age and is finishing up his animated producer’s debut, “Last Days of Coney Island.” While waiting for the Fest to begin, Eddie Bakshi spoke with Media Mikes.:

Mike Smith: Can you give the readers a little inside introduction to the upcoming retrospect of your father’s films at the Kansas City Film Fest?
Eddie Bakshi: The festival is presenting screenings of three of his films: “Heavy Traffic,” “Coonskin” and “Wizards.” There will also be samples of the original art – the original animation cells used to make the film. They will be on display and some will also be available to purchase. In addition, he will be Skyping in to the festival after the Saturday evening screening of “Coonskin” for an audience Q & A. The audience will have a chance to ask him a question about any of his films, be it “Coonskin” or his latest film, “Last Days of Coney Island.” He’s currently editing that film right now and will actually be Skyping in on the same computer he’s editing on.

MS: Can you talk a little about “Last Days of Coney Island?”
EB: “Last Days of Coney Island” is a project that we’re both working on. He’s directing and I’m producing. We’re currently in the middle of editing it. It’s an eighteen-minute featurette. When we announced it on Kickstarter we had said it would be a five to seven-minute short but now it’s a bit longer. Actually, we may continue the project and turn it into a full length feature film. If we can get the funding we would like to tell the entire “Coney Island” story, which takes place in the 1960s and involves cops and a whole lot of seedy characters…the inhabitants of Coney Island. It will be a classic Bakshi film in the vein of “Heavy Traffic.” It has a lot of strange characters and they’re all interlinked. He’s very happy with what he has done now but he would love to turn it into a feature. He’s very happy with the story and how it’s going. He’s been very involved the past several months lengthening the story to eighteen-minutes. The art style is very interesting.

MS: You will be offering some of his original art and cells to the public?
EB: Yes. It’s a great way for his fans to own a piece of his work.

MS: Is this retrospect a way to introduce his work to new fans as well as letting old fans know about his newest project?
EB: It’s a new way to promote Bakshi Productions. It’s really the first real chance people will have to ask him about the project directly. There has been a real spike in the increase of interest in his work since the advent of outlets like Twitter and Instagram. Many new fans are being exposed to his work. An outlets like Facebook these fans are finally getting to see the images from his films and it generated a lot of interest in the new film. We’ve been getting offers from all over the country to attend film festivals to not only talk about “Last Days of Coney Island” but to show his older films as well. It’s kind of like a bundle package. Once “Coney Island “ is ready we can take that to festivals, or show a trailer for it with some of the older films.

The Kansas City Film Fest runs through April 13. For more information go to www.kcfilmfest.org

Michal Sinnott talks about working on “Grand Theft Auto V”

Michal Sinnott has appeared on several television series such as “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “One Life to Live”. Michal’s most recent role is that of Tracey De Santa in the super successful video game “Grand Theft Auto V”. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Michal recently about what it was like working on the project and about her role in the upcoming independent film “Horror Con”.

Adam Lawton: What was it that interested you in becoming an actress?
Michal Sinnott: My mother has her Master’s Degree in theater. When I was really little she brought me to one of her auditions. We both ended up getting a role in the play as the mother and daughter. That was my initial introduction to acting. I think my mother had tried before this when I was really young however I was just too shy. I am originally from Virginia which is a right to work state. You can work on both union and non-union jobs there so I started working on locally based projects and projects that were coming to Virginia to shoot. I ended up going to a performing arts high school even though acting was something I wasn’t sure I was going to want to do. Growing up in a single parent home I knew the reality of things very early on as to how hard of a struggle this type of career could be. I didn’t want to have to struggle so I was determined to get a “real job”. My senior year of high school I had to write a play for a class which I then submitted to a festival in Richmond, VA. The play ended up winning and I got to go to this 3 week conference where my play was put on in this huge theater. That experience was so phenomenal and it really opened my eyes to things. While I was sitting in that theater watching my play I said that I would do this and I have just never looked back.

AL: How did you first become involved with “Grand Theft Auto V”?
MS: This audition was just like any other for actors. You get the call the night before and the next day you are in an office reading for a part. You end up just throwing yourself in to it. A lot of things are often shrouded in secrecy so generally you don’t even know what you are really reading for. The thing with “Grand Theft Auto” is that they have such a dedicated fan base that people are constantly looking for hints and clues about what could be coming out. Things were kept as anonymous as possible.

AL: Were you allowed to experiment with the character or were you asked to stay more to the script?
MS: There was certainly room for improvisation. I think that’s something I have found in most situations I have been in. There generally is always a little bit of wiggle room. If you are working on a play then things are more to the script same as if you are on a set and the director is directing their own words. When the director is working in more of a collaborative type setting then there is usually that room to improv. Tracey is such an awful character so to be able to explore that and be able to say things you would never say in real life was pretty interesting.

AL: Prior to your work on “Grand Theft Auto V” had you been interested in voice/performance capture acting?
MS: Yes. I have a strong background in voice over acting as I started doing that when I was still growing up. I have done commercials for places like Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds. This was actually my second time working on a video game however this experience was a bit different.

AL: Were you familiar before-hand with the popularity of the game franchise?
MS: Not entirely. I am not a gamer so I didn’t really know. I also didn’t really know I was working on “Grand Theft Auto V” for quite a while. I knew I was working on something for Rock Star but that was about it. (Laughs) I didn’t really see the full magnitude of the project as it was happening. Even back when I auditioned for the part I had no idea that it was a project I would be working on for 3 years. Nothing has prepared me for how big this has become. It is astounding! I feel like the lucky girl who won the lottery. It started out as this random audition that I had no idea about where it would take me.

AL: Did you find it hard in any way working on the project for so long?
MS: Tracey is not the most nuance character. There were times where I would go a couple months without working on the character and when the time came to start working again I was able to jump right back in to the role. I established the attributes of the character very early on and when you get back on set after a break it all sort of just comes back. Working on the project for so long gave me time to explore all the variables with the role. That is something that you don’t always get to do with other roles that aren’t as long.

AL: What do you feel was your favorite part of the process?
MS: I really liked working with the same group of people for so long. All of the tech people who made this happen were just great. To get to see them every day was just great. We became this sort of family. I developed this sense of familiarity which was really nice.

AL: Can you tell us about some of your other current projects?
MS: I did a couple independent films which are making their way around the circuit. One is called “Every Drop Counts” which is a film that was shot entirely live at a horror film convention. I play a roller derby girl who is this sort of weepy lesbian. She is just always falling apart. I think I cried in every scene. (Laughs) I am also producing on a Bio-pic film about Rick James. This is a really interesting project that I am excited to be working on.

Bob Kulick talks about working with Kiss and “Thriller: A Metal Tribute to Michael Jackson” album

Bob Kulick is a Grammy Award winning producer with credentials that read like a who’s who of music royalty. Bob is also the older brother of ex-KISS/ current Grand Funk Railroad guitarist Bruce Kulick, and has performed on stages around the world with groups such as Alice Cooper and Meatloaf. Bob’s newest production project “Thriller: A Metal Tribute to Michael Jackson” was recently released via Cleopatra Records and Media Mikes was fortunate enough to speak with Bob recently about the release and his longtime relationship with KISS.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us what initially sparked your interest in music?
Bob Kulick: My cousin played guitar and during family functions she would often play her acoustic guitar. My sarcastic, Brooklyn mother would always say things like “why can’t you do something like that”. It was sort of a dare on her part. My cousin started showing me the basics and when The Beatles came out the seed was planted. I do recall that even before that when I was a child in school we went on a trip to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The orchestra there performed Ravel’s “Bolero”. I remember sitting there with my mouth hanging open and I just started to cry. I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. The gift I was given was announced that day. That was the birth of my gift and I just couldn’t recognize it initially. That was something special. I went on to college and did all that stuff but I still wasn’t happy. My gift was music and that is what I wanted to do. I knew if I applied myself and gave it the one thousand percent that it needs I would get the result I wanted.

AL: Having worked with everyone from Meatloaf to Alice Cooper at what point did you start to notice your transition from a performer to a producer?
BK: Being a studio musician afforded me the look see at people who I probably wouldn’t have ever gotten the chance to work with otherwise. The stuff I did with Diana Ross was one of those instances. She was dating Gene Simmons from Kiss at the time and he called me from the studio one day to ask if I would come in and play a solo. I went in and ended up playing the solo on her number one hit single “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”. Hanging around with people like that and utilizing my brain really helped. I got to watch guys like Eddie Kramer and Tony Bongiovi work so I just watched everything. I never was really interested in engineering as I was more interested in song creation. When I met my mentor Dick Wagner who worked with guys like Lou Reed and Alice Cooper I really got a firsthand look at somebody who was an arranger and a writer. Dick was also the guy who hired me to fill in for Steve Hunter on the Australia/New Zealand leg of the Alice Cooper tour and to play on Mark Farner’s solo record. I learned all the little tricks from him. It also became apparent to me at this time that the business was changing, as was the music. After being out on the road with Meat Loaf, Paul Stanley and Diana Ross my desire to be out on the road constantly had also started to die down. I said to myself that I wanted to try producing so that’s what I did. I met my first partner Billy Sherwood who had a studio here in Los Angeles and when he got the gig in Yes he handed me the keys and I started getting hired to work on projects which included a series of tribute records I did which included a Metallica tribute album that ultimately won me a Grammy. As of late I have started performing more regularly. I have been doing charity gigs as well as some Kiss tribute band gigs. I was part of the pre-Kiss Kruise kick-off party this year in Miami. I also jammed recently with Dick Wagner and Mark Farner at another event. It’s been nice to rekindle that fire and show myself that I can still dish it out. I even still look the same, as I haven’t lost any hair. (Laughs) It was like getting back on a bike after not riding for a while. It’s a blessing to be able to do both and to see and talk to the fans. I am very lucky, blessed and grateful.

AL: You have been working with KISS on and off almost since the bands inception. What do you think has been the biggest contributing factor to that ongoing relationship?
BK: My visibility with the band has been several fold. I have participated not only as a player on records and as part of Paul’s 1989 solo tour but I also have worked with the band as a writer. Even now I still get up and jam with the guys at various Kiss type events. Because of my visibility with the band I have been dubbed the 5th member of KISS. (Laughs) I have played on a number of KISS tracks like “Nowhere to Run”, “Rockin’ in the USA”, “Partners in Crime” “All American Man” and “Larger than Life”. There is quite a wealth of work there. The band has thought of me enough over the years that they even interviewed me recently as part of a new KISS documentary. It’s great that Gene and Paul acknowledge the times we had together. During the time of Paul’s solo album he was by best friend. People always ask me about that experience and what it was like working on that album. It was great! I got to hang out with my best friend. There was no pressure and it was fun. That’s why it came out so good. Paul would show us the songs and we would play them a couple times until we thought we had it and that was it. It was very organic. Everyone was really professional.

AL: Can you tell us about your work on the recently released album “Thriller: A Metal Tribute to Michael Jackson”?
BK: Michael Jackson even after his death is still one of the biggest stars in the world. The second album I did with Diana Ross he wrote the song “Muscles”. I was always fascinated with him and would often ask Diana what was up with him. (Laughs) After the work I did on Dee Snider’s Broadway album and the Frank Sinatra album we decided to take that same attitude and idea and apply it to this record. We weren’t re-writing or changing any of the songs, as we wanted to remain faithful to the originals while at the same time being different. We came up with a tunings that worked and got some guys that could really dish it out. We got some classic metal guys like Chuck Billy and Paul Di’Anno along with Lajon Witherspoon, Corey Glover and Angelo Moore from Fishbone who did an awesome job! We were very lucky to have such a great group of musicians/singers be a part of this record.

AL: Were you involved with the song selection at all?
BK: We worked in conjunction with the label on that but all of the arrangements are my partners and mine. No one came to us with arrangements ahead of time, as these types of albums don’t generally work that way. We usually will cut the song as a template and then send it out to someone to see if they would be interested in doing it or not. By doing that the artist gets to see maybe not the finished product but they have the framework of what it is.

AL: Having done a number of tribute albums what is it that interests you in these types of projects?
BK: Some projects are harder to do than others. So the idea of putting together a track say for instance the Chuck Berry song “Run Rudolph Run” which we did for the Metal Christmas CD and getting guys like Lemmy, Billy Gibbons and Dave Grohl as the band is just crazy. No one but me is doing things like that. I am the guy who comes up with these creations. A lot of times the creations are what make the people want to show up and be a part of these projects. That’s how Tim “Ripper” Owens got connected with Yngwie Malmsteen. I put them on a track together and Yngwie loved it! For me it’s all about making exciting concepts of these songs through the arrangements and through the combination of people who play and sing on them. The word tribute really is just a title. People have been covering songs for years and I am a guy who likes to stir the pot. It’s just music which is about the fun and I like to push the envelope.

AL: Can you tell us about any other projects you are currently working on?
BK: I worked on a song for Dee Snider and Giuliana Rancic from the E! Channel which available now on ITunes. We did a very unique arrangement of “Silent Night”. This is a really cool version of the song as you don’t know what you are getting until you start listening. I also have a few other projects in the works however I can’t announce any of those just yet. I also have been working with my brother Bruce on some songs that we hope to have out early next year. The idea with these songs is to keep things within the boundaries of our audience. We want to make songs that people who enjoy our work will like.

 

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Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto talks about working with Hugh Jackman in “The Wolverine”

Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto have a couple things in common. Both are very successful models. And both made their future film debut this past year opposite Hugh Jackman in the highly popular film, “The Wolverine.”

As the film makes its debut this week on DVD and Blu-ray, they both spoke with me about their new success, not being intimidated and what a nice person that guy Logan really is.

Mike Smith: You both are very successful fashion models. Before the opportunity to appear in “The Wolverine” came along had either of you aspired to being an actress?
Rila Fukushima: To be honest I never wanted to become an actress but when I was approached I decided to do it because I was going to be Hugh Jackman’s love interest! (laughs).
Tao Okamoto: I’ve always had an interest in getting into acting but I’d never done any feature films. Doing “The Wolverine” was a magical experience.

MS: Were there any nerves, considering the popularity of the “Wolverine” films, on making this film your debut project?
TO: “The Wolverine” is all about fear (laughs) I was very lucky to get the role.
RF: Luckily I didn’t have a lot of time to realize it was a big deal. The audition process took about four months and before I knew it we were shooting. I’m glad I didn’t have the time to realize it was such a big movie. When I finally saw the finished film it hit me that this was a pretty big deal. (laughs).

MS: Being new to the business was Hugh Jackman supportive of you on set?
RF: Absolutely. I think he still remembers his first experiences on a big movie so he could understand how hard it was. He also taught me the “language”…I had no idea what “on camera” was or what “off camera” was. He was very, very supportive.
TO: Everyone was very supportive. From James Mangold, our director, to Hugh. They both gave me a lot of information about my character. And Hugh is so funny! He’s a superstar but he’s also a really, really nice person. He would be on the set when he was supposed to be sleeping. He would film eleven hours a day and spend three hours before he was supposed to shoot working out. He would spend time with his family and take care of his children. I think he really only slept three hours a day! (laughs) But then again, he’s Wolverine…he doesn’t have to sleep.

MS: You both have some pretty intense action scenes in the film. Did either of you have any prior martial arts experience or training?
TO: A little bit. For the movie I took about three weeks of training in sword fighting. I love to exercise and had been taking taekwondo for about two years before I was cast.
RF: We trained for about a month before we started shooting. I learned Karate, how to throw a knife and self defense.

MS: What do you have coming up?
RF: I’m working on a new project but I can’t tell you until its finished (laughs).
TO: I’m shooting a drama for Japanese television right now and hopefully I can return to an American film in the near future.

 

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Val Lauren talks about working with James Franco on “Sal”

Val Lauren has done very well for himself, carving out an impressive career while staying just below the radar. That is all going to change thanks to his bravura performance as Sal Mineo in director James Franco’s bio film, “SAL.”
A longtime member of Playhouse West, Lauren is a frequent collaborator with his friend, Scott Caan, on various film and stage projects. He made his film writing and directing debut with the well received short film, “Help,” which I recommend you give a look at http://www.openfilm.com/videos/help

While getting ready for the release of “Sal,” which opened last week, Lauren took time out to speak with Media Mikes about Sal Mineo, changes in Hollywood and why James Franco has his cell number.

Mike Smith: How did you get involved with “Sal?”
Val Lauren: James Franco offered me the role out of the blue. I got a text from him saying that he would like me to play Sal Mineo. I had no idea the offer was coming so it really took me by surprise. That’s simply how it all started. I stared at my phone for a while and then I texted back “cool.” And the next thing you know we had jumped in feet first.

MS: Nice. The first thing I would have wondered is how James Franco got my cell number.
VL: (laughs) James and I are friends. We’ve had a collaboration as actors for many years now. We’re both part of the same theater company, Playhouse West, an acting school and repertory theater company in Los Angeles. That’s where we first met over a decade ago. We’ve collaborated together on characters we’ve played in our individual movies as well as on scenes in plays for the theater. It’s an ongoing joke that we’re regarded as the James Dean and Sal Mineo of the theater company. In fact, when James did the movie “James Dean” I worked with him for a couple of months helping to research the part and that’s where we both learned a lot about Sal Mineo. We considered writing a play about James Dean and Sal Mineo so that topic has always been there. After James read Michael Gregg Michaud’s biography about Sal he decided he wanted to tell a story about Sal Mineo and that’s what we did.

MS: In researching the part where you able to speak with any members of Sal Mineo’s family or his last partner, Courtney Burr?
VL: I was. I spent a wonderful afternoon with Courtney Burr. Michael Gregg Michaud is a friend of Courtney’s and one day he asked me if I wanted to meet him. Of course I said yes. So we went over to Courtney’s home and spent the day together. Courtney told me some great stories about Sal and about their experiences together. He had a chair…a beautiful chair…in his house that Sal had given him as a gift. He let me sit in it, which I was very nervous to do. I didn’t want to knock it over or break it. He told me about their time together. We really just talked a lot about Sal. I can really see why Sal loved him. I can also see why Courtney loved Sal. He was great in helping to inform and reinforce me about the man that I had been given the responsibility to represent.

MS: Though he didn’t flaunt his sexuality, Sal Mineo never shied away from the fact that he was gay, even in an industry that, almost four decades after his death, people do their best to stay closeted. Do you think that affected his later career choices? I mean, his last movie was “Escape from the Planet of the Apes.”
VL: It absolutely demolished him. Technically he was the first known actor to come out. He didn’t make a big thing out of it but he did not make any efforts to really hide it. He would do interviews with gay publications, which at the time were relatively unheard of. He would not stay undercover. This absolutely destroyed him in the business. Friends of his that were actors and actresses and directors were afraid to even hang out with him because they would not want to be guilty by association. And I found that just appalling that it happened. I’m very happy that, almost forty years after his death, we don’t have to hide ourselves. Not only in Hollywood but in life. People have finally started to wise up and say, “what’s the big deal here?” There has been a lot of growth since then. Although there are always pockets of people that are slow to catch on I think we’re on our way to sanity.

MS: As a writer/director yourself can you give us a critique of James Franco as a director?
VL: (laughs) I think he has a very interesting and specific lens through which he views things. I think he has a very unique perspective on how he likes to tell stories. I think he’s brave to venture out and try new things at a time when we often see the same kind of movies told in the same kind of format. He has very specific ideas on what he wants to explore, which is an attribute I find in the greatest directors that I admire. I applaud him for exploring areas that, frankly, other people are too afraid to touch.

MS: There had been some talk about you making your short film, “Help,” into a feature film. Is that still the plan?
VL: I believe that the story in that short film was told in full. We may make it as a feature and we may not. I’m still not sure. I’m really proud of the film as it is and I think that I’d like to make other movies now and tell other stories and let “Help” be what it is. Yes, it’s a short film. It is 40 minutes long. But I believe that the story I wanted to tell has been told.

MS: What else are you working on?
VL: Right now I’m directing a play that just opened called “One Hundred Days of Yesterday” that was written by Scott Caan. We’ve done about a dozen plays together….ones he wrote…ones I directed…ones we starred in. This is one that he wrote that I’m directing with two great actors. My next movie coming out is called “The Last Knight” and it’s based on this great Japanese tale of the 47 Ronin, who were a group of warriors that set out on a mission to avenge their master.

MS: I’ve got to end this by saying I thought your performance in “Sal” was brilliant. I’m making sure I use that word in my review as well. I think it’s so hard to play a real-life person that is so well known because people go into the film with a preconceived notion of how that person is. I think you captured Sal Mineo perfectly.
VL: You just made my day, man! Thank you so much. That really means a lot to me.

Tom Green talks about working on TBS’ “Who Get’s the Last Laugh”

Tom Green first broke in to mainstream media with his wildly popular television show “The Tom Green Show” which aired on MTV in the late 1990’s. Tom has also appeared in a number of films such as “Charlie’s Angels” “Stealing Harvard” and “Road Trip”. On May 28th the TBS show “Who Get’s the Last Laugh” will feature a prank orchestrated by Tom as he competes against two other comedians in an effort to earn money for their prospective charities. Media Mikes had the pleasure to talk with Tom about the upcoming appearance and what he likes most about performing standup.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about your upcoming appearance on “Who Get’s the Last Laugh”?
Tom Green: I had a lot of fun doing that show. I was a huge fan of “Punked” so when I was asked if I wanted to do it I was really excited. I thought it would be fun to be able to punk someone myself. Having done a lot of pranks when I was younger I felt like this would be a good opportunity to maybe win some money for the Cancer charity I was playing for. It was hilarious working on the skit and we had a really great time doing it.

AL: Can you give us any hints about the prank you set up?
TG: There are three comedians on the show and we each get to pull a prank. The show is set up very similar to “Punked” in that I was in a booth directing the actors. Our skit is based around needing a babysitter. When the babysitter shows up they realize that they are looking after a full grown adult who turns out to be a little bit nuts. I essentially direct the actor who is playing the adult. I talk to him over an ear piece telling him what I want him to do. The situation gets pretty crazy.

AL: How much of the prank was improvised?
TG: That was the fun part for me. We shot it several times with different people so there was quite a bit of room to improvise. We were cracking ourselves up in the control booth as the stuff was just hilarious. There was a lot of improv in there even though the situation and camera angles are all pre-determined. We just worked within the boundaries of that.

AL: How does this show stand out above other hidden camera shows?
TG: This show is fun in the sense that your bringing in three comedians that do comedy for a living to guest star. They get to compete for their various charities which that alone is quite a bit different. It’s interesting because I had never done a prank like that myself. I think it’s a fun thing to see people out of their elements.

AL: What do you prefer? Directing the prank or being park of the prank?
TG: I directed and performed all the pranks on my show so I have a lot of experience doing those things. This was sort of different because I was able to just come in and have fun with things. There was really no pressure which made the experience very enjoyable.

AL: Can you tell us about some of the other projects you have going on?
TG: I am currently out on tour performing stand up all over the country. Standup is something that I have really been throwing myself into within the past 4 or 5 years. I am really enjoying it. My first stand up special “Tom Green: Live” which was shot for Showtime is currently available on Netflix. I have a new podcast called “Tom Green Radio” that people can check out on iTunes and at www.tomgreen.com. I interview tons of hilarious comedians and interesting people. I also just started really getting into my new YouTube channel which is www.youtube/tomgreen. You are going to be able to go there and see a lot of my classic pranks. If people are in to that stuff they surely will want go and check that out.

AL: What do you like most about being out on the road and performing live?
TG: I have been going at it pretty hard in the last 4/5 years playing hundreds of shows. It’s something that I love to do. I started doing it when I was a kid and have done it intermittently over the years. It has been great being out on the road and seeing a lot of cool places. I have been all over from New Zealand to London and the shows have been getting great reviews. This has been a new chapter in my comedy career and it’s been nice being able to go out there night after night and get good responses. It’s a great feeling and something I want to keep doing for a long time.

Robert Trachtenberg talks about working on American Masters’ “Mel Brooks: Make A Noise”

Robert Trachtenberg is the Writer, director, producer and editor on the latest American Masters special “Mel Brooks: Make A Noise”. Robert has made several films for “American Masters” including specials on Cary Grant, Gene Kelly & George Cukor. He is a bestselling author (“When I Knew”) and award-winning photographer. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Robert about his work with Mel Brooks and his love for photography.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you end up working on “Mel Brooks: Make A Noise” for American Masters?
Robert Trachtenberg: Susan Lacy, who is executive producer of the series, had secured Mel. She thought my sense of humor would pair up nicely with his, so she called and asked ifI’d like to direct the film.

MG: What is it like working with a legend like Mel Brooks?
RT: The old saying, “comedy is serious business” is true: he’s very professional, actually very “Old Hollywood” in the way he runs things. We’d meet once a month, film for as long as he could stand, and then do it again the following month.

MG: How much footage was shot to make up this 1 1/2 hour special?
RT: We shot about thirty hours of interviews just with Mel alone over a four month period.

What is your favorite Mel Brooks film?
RT: Probably YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN – I think it’s the most fully realized of all his films.

MG: How long did it take to get that excellent shot of Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks?
RT: They gave me ten minutes! Guys who cut their teeth in live television have zero patience for an entire shoot – they expect everything to happen fast.

MG: How does this compare from your American Masters specials for Gene Kelly and Cary Grant?
RT: This time my subject was alive so that made a big difference. It’s impossible to compare in that Mel required a completely different approach – I knew if I asked the questions correctly, I wouldn’t need to rely on critics and academics in the interviews, for example. I really wanted Mel to tell his own story, firsthand. If I did my job right, he would be honest and candid about what worked and what didn’t in his career.

MG: I am a big fan of your photography; what does it take to get the perfect shot?
RT: I think the ability to work on your feet – you go in with one idea, and then it can quickly morph into something completely different due to a variety of factors. And you have to be malleable to that.

MG: I have to ask what was it like photographing Larry Hagman?
RT: Perfect example – for some reason I thought he’d be serious, and he couldn’t have been more of a lovable goofball.

MG: Do you have plans to write and direct more in the future?
RT: Definitely. I love that Director’s Guild health insurance!

 

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Tippi Hedren reflects on working with Alfred Hitchcock and the 50th Anniversary of “The Birds”

Tippi Hedren is known best for her roles in the Alfred Hitchcock films, “The Birds” and “Marnie”. This year “The Birds” is celebrating its 50th anniversary, yet the film is as popular as ever and still very relevant. Besides acting, Tippi also works with animal rescue at the Shambala Preserve, which is a 73-acre wildlife habitat which she founded in 1983. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Tippi about working with Hitchcock, his films and her work on the Shambala Preserve.

Mike Gencarelli: With “The Birds” celebrating its 50th anniversary, what is your most memorable experience with this film?
Tippi Hedren: There were so many of them, since it was such an overwhelming experience for me. “The Birds” was my first film. So not only having Alfred Hitchcock discover me in a commercial that I had done, but he took me under his wing – you might say. He put me under contract before I had even met him just based on my commercial and photo work. It was a very exciting time for me.

MG: Can you reflect on the film with about today’s audience and why the film is still relevant?
TH: “The Birds” really seems to have a life of its own. So many people are really enchanted with it. The fact that this film was even able to have been done is amazing. Year after year, the film gets introduced to a younger generation. When you watch it with the audience of today, when you see the telephones 50 years ago they start laughing. It is interesting for me. But on the other hand the film holds up so well. Fortunately Hitchcock always had his leading women dressing in very traditional clothes. I could wear that green suit right now and be perfectly in style, which I actually still have six of them today.

MG: I recently saw the HBO film “The Girl”, which was based on the making of “The Birds”; how accurate was the film to what happened?
TH: Yes the film was totally accurate. In fact, the writer Gwyneth Hughes came out to my Shambala Preserve, where I live and she spent an afternoon with me talking about my years with Hitchcock. So, yeah the film is absolutely accurate. Also at the time that she was writing she would also call me and discuss any issues or concerns.

MG: What are your feelings on seeing Sienna Miller playing yourself in the film?
TH: I thought she was wonderful. Sienna also came out to the preserve and I got to spend an afternoon with her as well. She called me several times during the filming, which was done in South America. There was a close comradery between all of us.

MG: In the final attack scene of the film; how many times did you have to shoot that?
TH: When I opened the door to that room and all those birds came flying at me and I was under attack for a full week from Monday to Friday. It was unbelievable and also very exhausting.

MG: How would you compare Hitchcock’s style to other director’s you’ve worked it?
TH: The thing that impressed me so much was that he was always so well prepared. He literally worked 9-5pm. At 5 o’clock, we had the martini shots…every day. Most directors will go into very late at night or tremendously long hours, which is actually the norm. With Hitchcock, he always kept to a schedule. That was pretty amazing.

MG: How did the production of “The Birds” and “Marnie” compare?
TH: They are two entirely different films. In “The Birds” you have the added problem of working with live animals, which is always a difficult situation. They do not care about being in a movie. So there is a great deal of difference. I loved doing “Marnie” since it was such a psychological piece and entirely different.

MG: My site partner told me that if I didn’t ask you about working with Sean Connery that he will quit, so tell us about working with him in “Marnie”?
TH: I was very fortunate having Rod Taylor as my leading man in “The Birds”. I was working with all  consummate actors including Jessica Tandy and Suzanne Pleshette. They were all great. So, it was kind of a surprise for me when they told me I was going to play Marnie. I play a compulsive thief that is so frigid that she screams every time a man comes near her. So when I was asked who would be playing Mark Rutland in the film, Hitchcock told me that it would be Sean Connery. I said “Sean Connery? The Sean Connery that just got out of ‘Dr. No’? Sean Connery, who could melt the iciest of blondes? Mr. Hitchcock, do you remember that Marnie is so frigid that she screams everything a man comes near her? How am I supposed to handle that?” He simply told me “It’s called acting my dear”. And that was the end of that [laughs].

MG: How was it being the topic of the season and guest starring on the season finale of “Cougar Town”?
TH: It was great fun. It was such a short piece. The whole season was about how can they find Tippi Hedren, so then at the very end is when I appeared. I wish it would have been a little longer but it was still a lot of fun.

MG: Tell us about the inspiration behind the film “Roar”?
TH: Well it goes back to 41 years ago when I started rescuing lions and tigers. I had just done two films in Africa. During those years, environmentalists all over the world were saying that if we didn’t do anything right then, which was 1969-70, to save the animals in the wild then by the year 2000 they would be gone. So my then husband (Noel Marshall) and I decided to do a film about the animals in the wild. We choose the great cat, because people are either enchanted with them, scared to death of them or think they should be admired from afar. We had seen an abandoned house while on a photo Safari in Mozambique. The owner had moved out since it flooded during the rainy season. So when he moved out a tide of lions moved in. It was the largest pride in all of Africa. We couldn’t count me but there was somewhere between 25-30 lions of all sizes that were living in this house. We thought that this was incredible. They were sitting in the windows looking like great portraits. There were going in and out of the doors. They were napping on the verandas. So we decided to use these animals as our stars. We then went back to California and got the script written. When we gave the script to the trainers of these Hollywood animals and they all came back to us laughing that this film could not be made. They told me to get my own animals for the movie. All of the sudden I had little lions and cubs all over my house. It was quite an experience and we learned right then and there that they are definitely not pets.

MG: Tell us about continued your work today with the Shambala Preserve?
TH: The preserve is 73-acres and it is very beautiful. We keep the animals that we rescue for the remainder of their lives. We give them huge areas in which to life, many of which are over an acre. It is so expensive though. I have to raise over a million dollars a year, which is quite difficult. I would appreciate if your readers can visit our website, http://www.shambala.org/ and see what we have to do in order to keep this going each year. I am doing everything I can and any help is appreciated since this place is so beautiful and necessary. I am also working on federal bill which will be introduced this month, which will stop the breeding of lions and tigers to be sold as a pets. So please look that up as well.