Schokkend Nieuws Film Magazine: An Interview with Dutch Filmmaker Wim Vink by Hans Minkes

Editor’s Note: This interview with Dutch filmmaker Wim Vink by Hans Minkes originally appeared in the pages of the Netherlands-published Schokkend Nieuws (Shocking News) Film Magazine, dedicated to horror, science fiction, fantasy and cult cinema. It was first published on July 9, 2013, and digitally-republished in its homeland on September 9, 2013, and updated on July 22, 2018.

Hans Minkes, the writer of this interview for Schokkend Nieuws, also publishes his film insights for the Dutch-language cinema blog Bloedlink FilmBlog— a blog dedicated “about the real necessities in life . . . Genre, Horror, and Cult Movies!”

As you read this interview, you’ll discover Wim Vink has a rabid, international fan base and is revered in the United States by horror aficionados. While the press is bountiful in the Netherlands, there’s no English-language press on Vink’s works—let alone an interview—with the writer-director.

Our thanks to Schokkend Nieuws and Hans Minkes for allowing this English-translated version of this article to appear on B&S About Movies. We also extend our special thanks to You Tube user altohippiegabber for their efforts in preserving the career of Wim Vink and making us aware of this rare interview, which we’ve translated for U.S. and other English-speaking fans. As Alto opined: Wim Vink is undoubtedly the godfather of the Dutch horror film, “the uncrowned horror king of Tiel.”

Amen to that.

Wim Vink: Groundbreaker from Tiel

09-09-2013 | Last updated: 22-07-2018 | 07-09-2013
By Hans Minkes

In ZOMBIE 1, Richard Raaphorst’s short film from 1995, Wim Vink rises from the grave after a drunk has pissed on his tombstone. This time, reaching retirement age is enough to bring about his return. Wim Vink, after a long career as a professional photographer, hangs up his camera. But his film camera hangs on another twig. . . .

The founder of Dutch low-budget horror—he has directed the short films ZOMBIE HORROR (1981), DANCE MACABRE (1986) and the feature film HEAVEN IS ONLY IN HELL (1994)—is reviled by many. He is accused of a lack of talent or is called a sell-out for the ostentatious use of surreptitious advertising in his films. Yet there is no escaping it: Wim Vink was the first to shoot horror films on pro-super-8 and 16mm with friends and acquaintances. And that from the wet river clay of Tiel.

What I admire in this man is that he has managed to make horror films with his own hands for years and that he enthusiastically tried to sell them to everyone. Pouring blood bag after blood bag on your actresses, while no one around you is waiting for this and investing so much money in your dream with a reasonable chance of never seeing it again, that’s guts! To me he is the Godfather of Dutch Horror.

ZOMBIEHORROR was your first short horror film in 1981. Why did you choose horror?

“I was crazy about horror. I had already filmed everything; documentaries, nature films, corporate films, but no feature film yet and you should have tried everything. The equipment was there and within two days I had gathered friends around me who wanted to go on the adventure with me. I was a big fan of Fulci, Argento and Romero’s work, so a horror film was a natural choice.”

Image courtesy Letterboxd. Both are available as a two-fer PAL-VHS in overseas markets.

How did you manage to finance the films?

“I paid for everything out of my own pocket for ZOMBIEHORROR. I had a budget of 10,000 guilders (!) [dollars]. Later I started using surreptitious advertising. I often had to hear criticism about that, but it was effective and shooting a film costs a lot of money.”

It sometimes comes across as if you were fighting the windmills of Tiel like a Don Quixote in clogs. Did you encounter a lot of resistance? To what extent are you responsible for the end result?

“The problem is I’m stubborn. I want to keep everything in my own hands and that takes a lot of time. I wrote the scripts, filmed everything myself and also did the editing. It was always really a Wim Vink Production. You really shouldn’t arrive in the Netherlands with Dario Argento at the time, then you would have been ripped off. I’ve argued hundreds of times with people who don’t understand horror, but I don’t anymore. Everything is allowed in movies. It is and remains film. End of discussion.

“The headmaster of a school in Zoelen, a village next to Tiel, has been unimaginable at me with letters sent to the local newspapers. I was put down. Fortunately, there were also supporters, such as the then mayor of Tiel. The misunderstanding has even once almost led to a real lynching. I had planned a funeral scene next to the cemetery in a small village outside Tiel on a Sunday morning. We were busy when suddenly a procession with villagers and accompanying coffin entered the cemetery. To say the least, people were not pleased with the film crew present. We were almost molested there. Fortunately, one of the actors was a police officer. He called for reinforcements quickly, otherwise things could have gone wrong.”

In the pre-internet era, advertising a movie was a bit more challenging than it is today. No YouTube or crowdfunding, but with a film look and your soul under your arm, you can visit potentially interested parties. How did you handle that?

“In the Netherlands I distributed large numbers of video tapes with my own hands, but it was mainly abroad where I had the most success.”

In a videotape I bought from you, I found a personal message from the American distributor Mondo Video. They asked if you could provide NTSC versions of your movies. What have you managed to achieve internationally?

“I immediately saw the great potential of the foreign market and therefore decided to make my films in English. I have spent many guilders [dollars] advertising in fanzines worldwide. For example, I had advertisements in Fangoria, which I paid five hundred dollars for at the time, and then you only had a postage stamp size in advertising space. The advertising campaign certainly paid off. I distributed my films single-handedly in the United States, Russia you name it! I also had a long-term contract with the French television channel Antenne 2, which often showed my films in the late evening programme. I have won 187 awards worldwide, so in addition to scorn and ridicule, I have certainly received respect and appreciation. [There was never a deal with Mondo Video due to financial disputes].”

The VHS reissues/courtesy of onorato73/picuki.

Despite the relative success overseas, you were systematically rejected at film festivals in the Netherlands. Seems quite frustrating to me.

“I submitted my films several times for festivals, but I never made it through the pre-selection. ‘We don’t allow those kinds of films,’ was often the reaction I got. I thought, look at it, I am organizing a festival myself; the Benelux Horror & Science-Fiction Narrow Film Festival in Tiel. It had four editions in the eighties and was very infamous! I had about 1,200 visitors in one day, so there were definitely people waiting for genre films.”

Strangely enough, you can’t be found in the compilation video THE NETHER HORROR COLLECTION from 1995. Your name does appear in ZOMBIE 1 by Richard Raaphorst. The grave of Wim Vink that is pissed on by a drunkard, on which ‘Wim Vink-the Zombie’ comes to life; do you consider it an ode or a snarl?

“Oh, delicious! I think it’s a good joke. Any form of publicity is advertising and it was entertaining too. Richard Raaphorst contacted me to ask if I would mind. The film was already finished by then, but I said: ‘Go ahead!’ I’m actually flattered.”

I recently came across a DVD of your movie HALF PAST MIDNIGHT on a site. Doesn’t seem like pure coffee to me?

“I’ve come across that DVD too, but it’s as illegal as it can be! I have not given permission for that. I’ve been working on the release of a DVD box set containing all six horror movies I’ve made for some time now. With making offs, trailers, soundtracks, stills, mini posters, and two short horror/science fiction animation films. And then there is also a bonus. What that will be. . . . There were some contractual obligations that made it take so long.”

The original VHSs/courtesy of mattressparty/picuki.

Now that you’re retired, you naturally have plenty of time. Can we expect some more news from you?

“It’s always itchy! I have stories on the shelf for ten films. But making those films takes a lot of time and energy and I’m not twenty-five anymore.”

END

* Be sure to read the retrospective review by R.D Francis at B&S About Movies of Wim Vink’s Half Past Midnight and Heaven is Only in Hell, along with Pandora and Dance Macabre.

Our many thanks to Julius Koetsier, the Editor-in-Chief at Schokkend Nieuws, for working with B&S About Movies to honor the work of Wim Vink in the U.S.

Banner image courtesy of Schokkend Nieuws Filmmagazine Facebook.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes film reviews for B&S About Movies and publishes music journalism pieces and short stories based on his screenplays, on Medium.

Part 2 of interview with producer, writer, director (and so much more) Joel Soisson

Yesterday, we shared part one of Joel Soisson, who has worked on some of our favorite movies such A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, PhantomsPulseTrick or TreatThe SupernaturalsThe Prophecy and so many more.

With the release of his new film, My Best Worst Adventure, available on Amazon, Comcast, FandangoNow, Vudu, Verizon Cable, Overdrive and Vimeo, we got the opportunity to discuss his incredible career.

B&S About Movies: You said, “I’m locked into making low budget movies that are not meant to be permanent. They are not meant to be revisited at in ten years. They are not meant to be paragons of art or social commentary. They are just meant to entertain somebody for 90-minutes and then they go on about their day.”

Are you surprised by the permanence of film?

Joel: Yes, I really am. Because there are two types of films in my world.

There are the ones that are like newspapers in which you put out your best work. And whether the end result is good or bad, it’s old news on the next day. Then there are the ones that every now and then you look at it and realize that now, this is possibly timeless. This might be a little bit of a cult classic. This might even engender some sequels and some more business and some fan appreciation.

Those early movies we discussed — until I got into the Nightmare on Elm Street world — my resume was not one of permanence. I mean, except for you. Thankfully there were people like you that are out there holding the torch for those old days.

B&S: You realize that I love Trick or Treat.

Joel: Okay, now you finally got to one where I actually have some real affection.

I like that film too. It was just a sort of a simple, you know, glam rock story about bullying and not particularly deep. We were hired by Dino De Laurentiis to do a version of A Nightmare on Elm Street with obviously different characters. But he wanted a Freddy Krueger. Rhet Topham dreamt up a new version with a guy named Sammi Curr.

That movie wasn’t a breakout hit but it has the longest legs of practically any movie that I’ve ever worked on. I still have people emailing me and leaving messages about how that movie got them through a real rough patch in their teen years.

B&S: That’s why I’m excited to be able to tell you, I was that Ragman character growing up. So the movie means so much to me because it really feels true to my teenage experiences. You know, without the presence of a rock star returned from hell.

Joel: Actually t was amazingly pervasive and I was kind of that kid too except I was a little bit before heavy metal. My salvation was the Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton-type stuff but it’s the same thing. It’s just like taking refuge in the music. When you feel like you’re tortured and bullied when you go to school…so yeah. I have a real fondness for that film.

B&S: It’s a movie that’s beloved by metal bands, too. What always comes up is that it feels like one of the few movies that understands what it feels like to be saved by music. It isn’t fake where the soundtrack and metal ideas were grafted on. It wasn’t a tie-in just to be commercial. It just feels honest.

Joel: But we did have a great soundtrack with Fastaway. And we had Gene Simmons, who was a trip. Have you ever interviewed him? He is a very, very big fan of Gene Simmons.

This is a story about Charles Martin Smith, who directed the movie, and Gene.

You know, he was an actor before, he was in American Graffiti and Never Cry Wolf before going into directing. A great guy and a talented director, so here he is flying into Wilmington, NC to make Trick or Treat and he finds himself sitting next to Gene Simmons, who was coming in to play Nuke.

Gene is reading the script and Charlie leaned in and said, “Is that the script for Trick or Treat?”

And Gene answers, “Yeah, this some piece of shit that my agent said yes to before I had the chance to say no.”

Without pause, Charlie says, “Hi, I’m Charlie Martin Smith and I’m the director of that piece of shit.” (laughs)

The same thing happened to me with O.J. Simpson.

B&S: Hambone and Hillie has an amazing cast.

Joel: That was the first film that I wrote, so I was excited to be on set. He walked up and I had no idea who he was outside of the fact that he was a football player and was in those airport commercials, but when I said, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you,” he informed me that his agent had two stacks of films, ones that OJ was taking and ones he wasn’t. And the agent screwed up the stacks and he was stuck making my movie. So that was how I met O.J.

B&S: He should be so lucky. I mean, that cast is really special. You have Candy Clark, Alan Hale Jr. and Lillian Gish!

Joel: Now that I watch her silent films, I think that nobody was better than Lillian Gish. I’ve really developed an appreciation for what the silent movies were and what she did was pretty fantastic and I almost have come to the notion that those damn talkies came along and spoiled a good thing.

B&S: It’s obsessed by who could and couldn’t make the transition from the silents to the talkies.

Joel: I wouldn’t say she equaled her success, but she was in The Night of the Hunter.

So like a lot of us, I’ve gone inward during the pandemic and I just watch too much Turner Classic Movies or Netflix, but it’s all for work.So that has influenced the next two films that I’m writing and one is a loose remake of The Magnificent Seven with Danny Trejo is as the old Brenner part.

The other project that may be closer to my heart is a remake of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and updating and reimagining that story. I bring that up because it reminds me of The Night of the Hunter because it has Bogart being — like Mitchum — pure evil. Usually, when Bogie was playing bad guys, he was the antihero and you’d still root for him. But he’s no hero in that movie at all. And that’s just delicious to get to play with a character like that. You don’t have to do anything redemptive about him. He just isn’t worthy of it.

B&S: You should check out how Battle Beyond the Stars tells the same story as The Magnificent Seven. Robert Vaughn plays the same character in both movies. Now, it’s not great, but I was a Star Wars kid and couldn’t wait for a new sequel.

Joel: Have you ever noticed that there seems to be a before and after Star Wars for so many careers? There’s a whole generation of people that say that that movie is why they are in the business. And of course, the generations that came afterward, I don’t know why they’re in the film business! (laughs)

B&S: As a kid, having Peter Cushing be in the first movie legitimized it.

Joel: I mean, if you were a 70s monster kid watching horror hosts, I can see that. I’m a Cleveland boy and we had Big Chuck and Little John, Ghoulardi…he was the first person I ever saw that could superimpose himself over a movie and make fun of it. I still remember seeing him do Attack of the Crab Monsters with the Professor from Gilligan’s Island. And his son ended up being Paul Thomas Anderson!

B&S: So what was it like taking that experience with that cast into a young and unproven one with My Best Worst Adventure?

Joel: One of the reasons why I’m so proud of that film — and I’ve since become an even bigger silent movie buff — is because our two leads have been made functionally mute so they had to act in the way that actors did in the silent days. It was all about the visuals and the emotions that they conveyed through their looks, attitudes and actions.

B&S: The Prophecy is another big movie. I took a first date to see it and she walked out during the tongue biting scene.

Joel: (laughs) This girl wasn’t the one you married, I hope.

That’s probably my favorite franchise that I’ve ever been involved with. Look at the cast we had — Viggo Mortensen, Amanda Plummer, Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen and Eric Stoltz before you even get to Christopher Walken. Oh my God, it was just a fun cast!

The idea was that these Hallmark angels in the Old Testament were not nice at all. They were brutal motherfuckers. And they just take you down. And I looked at it as they hated humans and then we have these predatory angels and nothing had been done like this before. Now, TV is starting to do things like Legion but in 1995, nobody was doing this.

The producers didn’t get it. They really liked the story but said, “What if instead of angels, they were zombies?” And we answered, “Well, that’s not the story.”

So we found Robbie Little who said, I’m going to give you too little to make this movie, but I will finance it.” And that worked out, because it had to be this outsider type of film because the mainstream wasn’t buying it. That’s what worked.

When I look back at all the genre things I did, that’s the one that I would remake or make another sequel. Yuy Greg White, who wrote the original script, made something as engrossing as The Bible and it’s just as full of paradoxes as The Bible. So whatever you believe, you don’t have to be Christian, you can interpret so many things out of the Scriptures. And the angels are mysteries that we can’t understand and it’s fascinating to me.

I love that we find this conflict between the angels, with Walken’s Gabriel leaving Heaven and trying to start a new Hell, but Satan comes to Earth and says, “Not on my watch.” And Satan helps humanity! There’s humanity and even some John le Carré espionage.

Don’t forget to check out Joel’s new flm, My Best Worst Adventure, available on Amazon, Comcast, FandangoNow, Vudu, Verizon Cable, Overdrive and Vimeo. We really appreciated the opportunity to speak with him.

Thanks, Mr. Soisson and also special thanks to Rachel Michelle at October Coast for setting up this interview.

Part 1 of interview with producer, writer, director (and so much more) Joel Soisson

Joel Soisson’s biography reads like a list of everything people watched and rented in the 80s and 90s, including Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, PhantomsPulseTrick or TreatThe SupernaturalsThe Prophecy and so many more.

With the release of his new film, My Best Worst Adventure, we had the amazing opportunity to discuss Mr. Soisson’s career. We’re incredibly indebted to him for his time and energy. Please check out his new film on Amazon, Comcast, FandangoNow, Vudu, Verizon Cable, Overdrive, Vimeo and more right now.

B&S About Movies: Tell us all about My Best Worst Adventure

Joel Soisson: I was looking for something that had a little bit more heart and substance than a lot of the genre stuff that I’ve been doing for quite some time. I wanted to find a sort of a vehicle that would allow me to scratch that itch, but I didn’t want to get so far from my sort of horror/action/suspensive roots that it got soft.

When I was actually shooting a little horror-thriller in Bangkok, I met the producer there and started talking to her about her own life in Northern Thailand and growing up with this crazy sport called buffalo racing, which you know from seeing the movie is kind of insane. I mean, kids riding stampeding buffaloes!

That was kind of my way into the story, it’s like I want to do an alien kid on an alien planet, someone who lands in the middle of this place where it’s scary and exasperating and predatory and completely outside of their frame of reference. And she’s got to survive. In the middle of that, she has her sort of coming of age.

B&S: It is an alien place. And one not often explored in a western-made film.

Joel: Oh, it isn’t! And the parts that are, are kind of like The Hangover 3 aspects of Thailand. The glitz and the seamy underbelly of Bangkok. But there’s also this whole other side to Thailand that is ancient and spiritual and just super fascinating, especially from somebody from a culture like ours where you just don’t share a lot in the same experiences. But it does turn out that we share a lot of the same values and that’s sort of one of the discoveries that the lead character makes.

B&S: People are still put off by foreign countries and say, “It’s so strange.” Yes! It’s foreign. Celebrate that there is a different place outside of your experience.

Joel: I wasn’t trying to make necessarily a timely movie, but this is such a factionalized divided country in a divided world. At some point, the divisions kind of melt away and you have to look at what drives people. And to me, it’s bonding between people and family and the desire to do well by one another.

There are moments of abuse and bullying in the film. There are these traumas, but even with the perpetrators of these acts, I wanted to find their hearts. Is there some merit in their lives? Can they ultimately come around? Because this film does not have a conventional bad guy and so much of my career has been based around defining the bad guy and allowing him to pillage and plunder and behead people for 65 minutes until he gets his in the end. And then we say, “OK! We’re satisfied. We for our revenge!” (laughs)

B&S: It struck me as anything but a traditional Hollywood coming of age movie.

Joel: I think that’s because it is real. It’s not biographical per se but it was based on real experiences that this producer had. And so it informs the whole story. There was the challenge of animals, children, language and culture, but I felt like I had her on my side guiding me. What was legitimately Thai? What was her experience? And when I became my crass Hollywood self, she was never shy to point out that I was falling back on my old Hollywood tropes.

B&S: So I went a little crazy researching your career and you’ve worked on a lot of movies that I’m quite frankly obsessed about. You said that you’ve worked in every role there is, well, here’s your first credit and you were the boom operator on David Hess’ To All a Good Night.

Joel: Wow. (laughs) Yes, yes. Okay. Obviously, you’re on the level. Wow, I’m glad that I have an audience for some of the things that I thought just slipped away in the anonymity — whether deserved or not.

B&S: I may have watched it more than a few times. I mean, Harry Reems shows up in it.

Joel: So what did you think of my sound mixing? (laughs) At least the boom doesn’t show up in the movie! When I was hired, I had no skills whatsoever except that was six foot three, so they figured, “Okay he can keep that thing out of the way.”

This is a first for me because I’ve never been asked about To All A Goodnight. I’m just like having a little bit of PTSD, so you’ll have to forgive me. All of the cast and crew were put up in the same house, there was no money whatsoever and it was just bedlam. And somehow, something comes out of that kind of thing. I guess it’s watchable!

B&S: I mean, look at the conditions of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!

Joel: I’ve actually only quit a film once in my career and it was during the same period I was booming. I want to say that the title was Operation Overkill and it was shot in Reno. The production manager had this brilliant idea to take all of the catering money and half the production budget and run over to the casino and see if he could double it and have us actually have a credible budget.

It did not go down that way.

Rather than return to the seat of the set, he just took off because, you know, he had failed us. Basically, we are now getting no money and no food. And that was the killer. Right there, I said that I was done with this film. If my book comes out about the art of making movies, it’s going to be titled Make the Food Good.

B&S: Another early film in your career was Superstition and it’s another movie that I’m kind of fascinated with because — you can tell it wants to be Suspiria — but it also feels like it outright hates its characters.

Joel: It also outright hated the people who paid to watch it!

Full disclosure: I don’t know if I’ve ever actually seen either of those films but the memories are still raw after 35 years. I was in the art department on that one. It was another learning experience about what I’m not good at. I was driving the art department van through Los Angeles on Fairfax and there was a light on a pole and I took a corner wrong and scrape! There was just this incredible gouge on the side of this five-ton truck that I had to drive back to the set.

I’d been in the business just a few months and I thought my career was over. How do you get out of that anonymously, like how can you return the truck and get away with it? I didn’t succeed in doing that and had to own up to being the worst hire on the set.

B&S: Which brings us to The Supernaturals. And what a cast this had.

Joel: Doesn’t it? Yeah, again, I wouldn’t say the movie I’m most proud of! There was a guy named Sandy Howard that did probably pound for pound as many films as Roger Corman was doing back in the day. They were cranking those out and anybody that was even remotely in his orbit could wind up producing, writing or even occasionally directing just because he’d have so many movies. He’d look around and say, “Who can do this?”

There was one thought that he gave us to guide the movie. There was an s on the end and it was The Supernaturals, not the Supernatural. So we have to have more than one supernatural.

B&S: There’s an urban legend that Maurice Gibb is in the movie in the Civil War scenes.

Joel: No, but he did some music for it and we dumped the score he wrote! I remember meeting him at the Plaza Hotel which was a trippy experience for me. I’m a wide-eyed 22-year-old film geek and here I am meeting a Bee Gee.

If we could have set the whole Civil War minefield scene to “Stayin’ Alive,” that would have been great. I don’t think he would have gone for it.

B&S: He should have been in it. It would have been an actual good film unlike Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Joel: (laughs) I would love to be compared favorably to Sgt. Pepper’s!

B&S: The movie is a rough watch.

Joel: Aren’t you the guy who likes To All a Goodnight?

COMING UP TOMORROW: Joel gets into some of the 90s films that he’s best known for such as Trick or Treat and The Prophecy.

Interview with Shawn Kelley, director of My Father’s Brothers

Earlier this week, we discussed My Father’s Brothers, a documentary about the journey that filmmaker Shawn Kelley’s father and seven survivors went through after one life-changing battle in Vietnam. Now, we’ve had the opportunity to discuss the film with him and wanted to share it with you.

The MFB 3rd Platoon before the events of June 29, 1966.

B&S About Movies: I’ve read that this film was based on a car ride with your father. Did you ever expect to make a movie about him? 

Shawn Kelley: I never expected to. My dad didn’t really talk about the war when I was growing up. During that car ride, I had a lot of one-on-one time with him, and I found out things about his past that I didn’t know before. So, we kept talking. The more I learned, the more I thought this was a story worth telling.

B&S: War seems like something that the general population forgets, but we’ve been at war literally since you and I have been born. And for the soldiers in the movie, the war keeps going. Did your father keep a lot of this inside before you talked?

Kelley: Combat veterans process their experiences in different ways. I believe my dad wanted to keep his experiences in the war separate from his children. Maybe as a way of “protecting” us. That’s what it felt like in the interview process – while he told me what happened during the battle in 1966, he was holding some things back. The other veterans I interviewed did not. So much so that I was trying my best not to cry while I was talking to them. I am still amazed, and horrified, by what they went through.

The MFB 3rd Platoon after the events of June 29, 1966.

B&S: Did you know any of the men your father served with before the film?

Kelley: I did not! I even went to high school with the son of one of my dad’s platoon leaders, but I didn’t make the connection that his father and mine served together until much later. As for the veterans in the film, I knew a little about them, and I had read statements they had written about the battle as I was prepping for production. But I met them for the first time the night before I started interviewing them. Now, after traveling to reunions and film festivals with them, and getting to know them more, I’m proud to call all of them my friends.

B&S: What movies influence you?

Kelley: That’s tough to answer, because so many films have influenced me in some way even beyond the story. It could be a camera technique, how they handle foreshadowing, or even a small, unexpected moment that you just can’t stop thinking about. A few docs that come to mind are Muscle Shoals, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, and Jiro Dreams of Sushi. For narrative, Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption, and Saving Private Ryan.

The MFB Airborne reunion.

B&S: What are some facts that we should know about vets and trying to understand what they’ve gone through?

Kelley: Unless you’ve worn their boots, you’ll never really understand what they experienced or how they may still be processing it. One of the vets in the film was drafted, trained, and sent to Vietnam. He was only in the army for two years, but because of what he went through, he sleeps upright in a chair, 50 years later. PTSD is a much bigger problem in our veteran community than most people know. Telling a veteran, “Well the war is over, you’ve got to just move on and forget about it,” may be the worst thing you could possibly say. It trivializes what they went through. As a country, we need to support our veterans more – they’ve given so much.

B&S: Any projects coming up?

Kelley: A friend of mine who was in the Marines called me out of the blue one day after he saw My Father’s Brothers at a film festival. He told me he had an idea for my next film. I said, “Great, what’s the idea?” He said, “Something light-hearted.” I laughed, but I am taking his advice. While I have plans to do more docs about veterans, my next film is about a craftsman and his journey to becoming a custom knifemaker.

We really appreciated the time that Shawn spent speaking with us. Make sure to watch My Father’s Brothers by checking out the watch page of the official website, as well as the official Facebook and Instagram pages.

INTERVIEW: Cecil Castellucci on live action Disney films

When I started off this live action Disney idea, one of my friends on Twitter suggested that I speak with her friend Cecil Castellucci, who was in the midst of live tweeting multiple Disney films (she still is — you can follow her on Twitter to read them).

Any time that she was tweeting them, I’ve delighted in reading her comments along with sending messages back and forth. Once this week finally came around, I was beyond excited that she agreed to be interviewed for our site.

Before we get started, Cecil Castellucci is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of books and graphic novels for young adults including Shade, The Changing Girl; Boy Proof; Soupy Leaves Home; The Year of the Beasts; Tin Star, The Female Furies and Odd Duck. In 2015 she co-authored Star Wars Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure. She is currently writing Batgirl for DC Comics and The Little Mermaid for Dark Horse Comics. Her two newest graphic novels are Girl on Film (Boom!) and The Plain Janes (Little Brown). Her short stories and short comics have been published in Strange Horizons, Tor.com, Womanthology, Star Trek: Waypoint, Vertigo SFX: Slam! and many other anthologies. In a former life, she was known as Cecil Seaskull in the ‘90s indie band Nerdy Girl. She has written two opera librettos Les Aventures de Madame Merveille (World Premiere in 2010) and Hockey Noir: The Opera (World Premiere 2018). She is the former Children’s Correspondence Coordinator for The Rumpus, a two-time MacDowell Fellow, and the founding YA Editor at the LA Review of Books. She lives in Los Angeles. You can check out her official site for more.

If you’re a Kirby fan or just like strong women heroes/villains/somewhere in-between, you need to check out Female Furies.

B&S About Movies: Did you watch these Disney films as a kid or are you coming into them as an adult?

Cecil Castellucci: Oh I totally watched Disney films as a kid. My mom was going back to school to get her PhD so my Dad used to take me and my brother to a double feature matinee on Saturday’s so that she could study.  So that’s when I saw a lot of the classics or ones that were not first run. And when we were older, there was always family movie outings and Disney films definitely figured into that equation of what we would go see.  The nice thing about seeing/revisiting some of these films is it’s like an archaeological excavation into my own film memories and going back to the beginning of my roots as a cinephile.

B&S: You’ve been live tweeting your live action Disney experience for a while. How did that get started?

Cecil: Well, you know, during the pandemic I was riding the whole thing out solo. And I had to keep myself amused. I was on a zoom with Jose Pimienta who I did the graphic novel Soupy Leaves Home with. He and his lady, who is in animation, were watching every animated film in order as a project and for art learning. I had just written the comics for Disney of Snow White, The Little Mermaid and Frozen, and I’m a Disney/Disneyland fan. I thought: “Who knows how long lockdown will be and it will sort of be a measurement of time. What a good pandemic project!” But I didn’t want to do just animated films, because I’m a live action girl. So it was really something to keep me occupied and engaged and I thought something fun that I could tweet about and have a little connection. Because most people have a fave Disney film or at least one that they have a bit of nostalgia with.  I also just thought it would be really interesting to see the evolution of a studio and its voice. Like an ethnographic study! I should mention that I decided I would only do Disney films not Touchstone or Hollywood Pictures. I’m going to include Pixar but I haven’t decided about Marvel or Lucasfilm yet. Maybe I’ll put that to a Twitter poll.

B&S: What’s the best you’ve watched? The worst?

Cecil: Well, I’m only on film 153 and by my count I still have about 370 films left to go, so I can’t really say for certainty which films I think are the best. And there are some classics that are just great, or have some great things about them, but in reviewing you’re like, oooooh that is super problematic. There are a couple of titles that I had forgotten about thought were stellar and were a great pleasure to watch/rewatch. Those include Sleeping Beauty, Pollyanna, The Parent Trap, Robin Hood, Freaky Friday, Candleshoe, The Black Hole and Tron. As for the worst, I’d say Song of the South, all of the Davy Crockett films and pretty much all of the westerns and One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing.

B&S: Were you a Disney Channel kid?

Cecil: I was not. I think it came on the scene after I was a kid.

B&S: Do you think anyone other than the writers caught on to the fact that the movies had a central Medfield setting?

Cecil: Yes!  I mean, the Kurt Russel films make it obvious, and I kind of love that there’s this one central fucked up university in the Disney Universe.  I mean, I kind of want to go to Medfield. Seems like a lot of cool weird shit goes on there. And they definitely celebrate science and invention.

Medfield even shows up in Disney theme parks!

B&S: What makes the perfect Disney movie?

Cecil: Character. Heart. Warmth. Story. Care. I think a character who figures out it’s ok to walk through the/ their world as themselves. Self-acceptance.

B&S: Has any of this impacted your writing?

Cecil: I am not quite sure yet, but I think it probably will in some unknown way. One thing for sure, is seeing all the problematic stuff being so blatant and obvious makes me even more aware of that and so makes me really think about trying to avoid that. So that awareness has impacted me. Because a lot of the films it’s like, really you had to do that? And go there? And what that what? Whoa not cool storytellers. That is not cool.

B&S: Have you ever compared the remakes?

Cecil: My rule is that I am going in order, so I’m only in 1983 right now. The remakes will be coming up sooner than later and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they are updated and if they hold up a bit better and try to fix some of the oh no stuff. And you know, have more girls in them. Too many boys in a lot of the earlier films.

B&S: Who is the better Disney hero: Dean Jones or Kurt Russell?

Cecil: Hmmmmmmm. I’m going to go Kurt Russell because I think Kurt Russel the actor had cooler parts outside of Disney films that had a little more edge. Dean is a little milquetoast. Sorry, Dean!

B&S: When does Condorman show up in the MCU?

Cecil: Never, hopefully. Condorman is a boring hero. Gosh I disliked that film so much. BUT I would gladly write a comic book miniseries about LASER LADY who he created a comic book about. So give me a call, Marvel about that!

Thanks Cecil for your time! Don’t forget to check out her site and all of her great books!

Exclusive interview with Courtney Gains, star of Children of the Corn, The Burbs and the new Queen Bees

With thirty years of being in the movies, Courtney Gains’ career is so much more than Children of the Corn. His resume is packed with plenty of classic films and TV shows — 132 and counting — including Sweet Home AlabamaColorsCan’t Buy Me LoveHardbodiesBack to the FutureThe BurbsLust in the DustSecret Admirer — and a memorable appearance on Seinfeld.

We were beyond lucky to get the chance to speak with him and learn what experiences have meant the most to him as an actor, what he gets recognized for the most, how he found his way on stage with Phish and what he’s up to right now.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: Our experience with pop culture is to absorb it and discuss it, so your experience fascinates me. What’s it like to be part of so many different strains of pop culture?

COURTNEY GAINS: Because of all my 80s projects, right? Yeah, that’s something I’m proud of. As an actor at the time, once I did a horror film, my next goal was to not do the same thing twice — not just genre, but type of role. And I was able to accomplish that in the 80s obviously doing everything from like Malachi to Can’t Buy Me Love to Hans in The Burbs and even Colors. They were all very different types of roles, which was my goal.

B&S: When we brought up that we were interviewing you, everyone mentioned a different thing that they knew you from. Seinfeld came up a lot*.

CG: The smelly car! Apparently one of the top-rated shows of all time. I mean, what a great thing. What a great show.

B&S: Does what you get noticed for fluctuate all the time?

CG: For sure. Because what happens is you start getting recognized on the street again for a particular thing, right? Like you can all of a sudden it’s like The Burbs. Or like three people in a row say Seinfeld. Hmm, that must have been on TV recently. The things that get played the most nowadays are Back to the Future and Sweet Home Alabama seems like it’s on all the time.

Courtney as Sheriff Wade in Sweet Home Alabama.

B&S: Is it amazing to just flip on the channel and there you are?

CG: Yeah, I’ve managed to be on TV every week. It’s nice. Overall the most recognizable role would probably be Children of the Corn and particularly that’s what I’m known for at conventions. But sometimes. people come up to me with pictures from Can’t Buy Me Love.

B&S: And then people want you to say the big line.

CG: Yeah. A lot of people want me to videochat with their mother. And they’re always asking me to shout “Outlander!” But that’s a lot of work to do over and over.

B&S: That’s extra if you want that.

CG: (laughs) I will flip you off in forty languages like Hardbodies, though, if you ask.

B&S: You hit the teen movie genre from both angles, the sweetness of Can’t Buy Me Love and the raunch of Hardbodies.

CG: Back when you know, seeing boobs in a movie was was was a thing. You know, pre-pre-internet porn.

B&S: It’s a different world now. We had to hunt for nudity.

CG: Skinemax! I got Hardbodies through the director Mark Griffiths. I was in an acting class and he and Geno Havens were casting the movie. They were running the class, so when Mark got that movie, he always asked for a chance to rewrite the script. He tailor-made that role for me. I still had to come in and audition, but it was kind of a done deal. So that was really nice for him to give me that opportunity.

B&S: What’s a movie that you’re really proud of that people may not think of?

CG: Lust in the Dust is a pretty cool film. A lot of people don’t know it, unless they’re Divine fans, but I just think it’s so many good performances and so many wonderful veteran actors. I stayed another two weeks just to watch everybody work because I was just, you know, getting a chance to Cesar Romero work. I didn’t know if I’d ever get a chance like that again.

There’s a movie that I produced it that I’m proud of — I also do a lot of music in it — called Benny Bliss and the Disciples of Greatness. It’s an anti-technology, rock ‘n’ roll road comedy and I play the lead in it. I wrote four or five of the songs for that, too. It’s a movie I stand by and I think people would enjoy it.

B&S: You just put out a new album out…

CG: Yeah, got a couple things going on. So I have a solo project called Acoustic Gains. That’s just all acoustic songs I put out, we’ve released our first single called “There was a Time” and the second single “Cherish” is coming out.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can listen to this song on Spotify.

I also have a band called Ripple Street. We’ve put out three singles this year. My bands are on opposite sides of the spectrum because the acoustic stuff is very mellow and then the other stuff is very heavy, like Black Sabbath.

B&S: You played with Phish, right?

CG: I met Mike Gordon hitchhiking in the mid-80s right before Can’t Buy Me Love came out. We hit it off and I kept in touch with them as they grew into this big band. They had this friend that they were always pranking who was deathly afraid of Malachi. They had an idea for a great prank and it was never the right time and place, but they were coming to Vegas and it was the perfect scenario.

They had been trying to do this for years. When it finally happened, they acted like they were just going to watch the movie while he was on mushrooms and then one by one, everyone else left the room. So I snuck in and put on Trey’s (Trey Anastasio, lead singer and guitarist of Phish) jacket and sat down next to the guy. I didn’t even have to be Malachi that much because the guy’s mind was just blown.

After that, they said any time I wanted something, it was like whatever I want. And I said, “Well, let me come up and play.” They said, “Done.” Got to play in front of 8,000 people in Vegas**. That was pretty amazing.

B&S: Now, you’re in Queen Bees. That has an amazing cast too, almost on par with Lust in the Dust.

CG: Yeah, on par with and then some. I only do a cameo in it, but I was surprised my cameo made the trailer so that’s been really cool. I got a chance to work with Ellen Burstyn, Jane Curtain, Ann-Margret and Loretta Divine and I was like, I’m not gonna pass this up. To get to watch those iconic ladies and work with them was great.

Jane Curtain was really sweet. You know, you get on a set, especially when it’s just for a day. And so often, how the movie feels depends on the vibe of the people right? There’s some of them that are like, “I’m not gonna see you tomorrow. I’m not even gonna bother to get to know you.”

Right. And others go out of their way. But she was so great. When I got introduced to all of them. She was like,” I’ve seen you” and everything like that. Wow, Jane Curtain just said that to me. How cool is that?

B&S: What else are you working on?

CG: I’m in a really dramatic horror movie called The Bleeding Dark that is coming out soon and just finished Tales season 3 for BET. It’s a ten episode anthology and I play a bad cop and it was really interesting.

I have another movie called River that comes out July 13 and it’s a real independent sci-fi type movie. When I say sci-fi that I don’t mean with a lot of special effects. But it’s got sort of alien undertones to it.

It’s a cool project. I play an interesting role — Dr. Michael Glenn — and he’s this small town antique store curator, but he’s also the local psychologist. So he works with this girl because she’s having time lapses. You know, she disappeared for like a week and doesn’t remember how and why. And so I work with her and it’s just a different role for me.

I had a nice long COVID beard for it. It wasn’t a normal role, not a bad guy role, somethingvery mature and a very loving role. And it’s nice to do something different like that.

I’ve never played a shrink before. I’ve always thought that it was something that I could do. Because I teach acting and have taught a lot of psychodrama, drama therapy, you know, where you get into people’s heads and how you can open up the floodgates for them emotionally.

I think actors are — we have to be — psychologists to ourselves, we have to know what pushes our buttons what we’re passionate about and what we’re not passionate about.

I’ve always found psychology interesting. As a matter of fact, if I hadn’t become an actor, I might have become a child psychologist. So that’s probably what I would have gone to school for, because I found it interesting.

B&S: You find yourself bouncing all of those emotions off one another in scenes…

CG: But you need to know people’s different styles I’m a method actor. And so I’m looking, you know, from the inside out. As I say, you have to know what’s gonna push your buttons.

When I taught acting, it’s about if a character has some type of loss, it can be something simple. Yet in a scene, you’re acting but the other actor isn’t connected.  So I find that it helps to talk to them about something they’ve lost. Let’s talk about something in their life and create that mood, right? And they can see that, they can feel that, it’s generating in themselves. And like that’s what I’m talking about. Now, let’s drop into the scene. Sll of a sudden the scene clicks, right? Does that make sense?

B&S: It totally does. Because it’s like creating an emotional language that people may not be able to fully tap into…

CG: Or do they even know how to go about getting that right? So once you start to show them some ways to get access, then they can start applying that to other stuff.

This is huge because as you audition, you have to prove to people you can do the part even though you don’t know the dialogue very well. You have maybe 24 hours to work on it, so it can feel like a cold reading. So you have to find some way to lock into the scene emotionally and bring that with you. And that’s the truth that you carry with you.

Eric Stoltz in one of the few shots of his brief time as Marty McFly.

B&S: I have a weird method question for you. Were you involved in any of scenes in Back to the Future when Eric Stoltz was still in it?

CG: Yeah, so I so I didn’t actually work with Eric at the time. We did Memphis Belle together, so we got to talk about all of this then. But I did work during the time Eric was on the movie.

The story was that he was being super method and making everybody call him Marty. And I guess the dailies were coming back and they didn’t think he was funny enough.

I mean, I think Eric’s a fine actor, but I guess they didn’t think so and that’s when they dropped him. The good news for me was that you can only drop an actor once and then bring them back on a certain date. They’d already done that. So basically, they did the reshoot for five weeks. I was on payroll on a job that I was probably only going to work a week on. So for it to go on to be one of the top-grossing — maybe still the top-grossing trilogy of all time — it’s been the best residual checks I’ve ever had. So I’m very thankful for Back to the Future.

There’s Courtney as Mark Dixon in Back to the Future.He’s the guy who puts the kick me sign on George McFly and tries to cut in on his dance with Lorraine.

B&S: Any truth to the urban legend that when they fired him, Christopher Lloyd really thought his name was Marty and asked, “Did they fire Marty?”

CG: (laughs) Is that real? That’s really funny.

B&S: What actor have you learned from?

CG: That’s a tough question, because  I think it’s like you get little tidbits from everybody.

Here’s an example. Tom Hanks big monologue at the end of The Burbs, after he comes out of the burning house and says, “It’s not them. It’s us.” That was at like two or three o’clock in the morning. He could have just said, “Man, I’m tired. We’ve been up all night.”

But, you know, he did, he showed up. And that, that level of professionalism and commitment is what I got at that moment. and from him.

Another is Robert Duvall, one of my favorite actors. I got to work with him in Colors which was a big deal for me. I was watching him like a hawk. We had the last day of shooting which is also where he passes away after he gets shot. I was within four feet of the guy and they call him in to do the scene. This big death scene, they lay him down in the dirt and they’re not ready. And then Dennis Hopper comes in and says, “Hey, we have a lighting problem and it’s going to be 45 minutes.”

Now for an actor, you’re emotionally prepared for this scene and now, to have to sit there and wait 45 minutes is not easy. That can really throw your throw you off, you could burn out, you know?

He just laid there. Cool as a cucumber. And I was just sort of shocked they would do this to someone of the caliber of Robert Duvall.

They finally come in and ask, “Are you ready” And then he blew the lid off. It was the best performance I’ve personally seen. And I had to come up afterward and tell him — I’m one of the many actors on this set and he knows me but it’s not like we hang out — that it was awesome. And he said, “Well, I wish that was my close-up. Because I don’t have another one like that.”

He blew it out on the first one. And what they did, if you look at the film, you’ll see that the close-up of him is really kind of a little grainy. And kind of at a weird angle. I believe what they did was blow up the wide shot because the performance in that take was just exceptional.

What I learned from Robert Duvall was that he had humility. If he had let his ego get in the way at that moment, it would  have stopped the flow of that performance. He had to put his ego completely in check and just stay calm. And it allowed that performance to come through.

He taught me that you can get caught up in the BS, but if you do, it’s gonna cost you your work, you know? What a class act.

B&S: When I saw that scene in the theater, it destroyed the audience, who came in for an action movie and weren’t ready for that dramatic performance.

CG: If you watch it again, you’ll see he has three lines: “Let me catch my breath. I’ll get back on my feet. Call my wife, I’m going to be okay.”

Those are the three lines that were written, but what you watch happen as he keeps repeating them is that he’s sort of fading away, right? Well, he’s a Meisner guy, you know, Sanford Meisner technique. And one of the techniques they have is a thing called repetitions where people repeat back and forth to each other to in a listening/reacting drill. And that’s basically what he was doing.

He was doing  that repetition. He kept saying the same things over and over. It was genius that he did that because those, you sort of watch like this guy dying. He just kept saying the same things. But if you didn’t know that, if you didn’t know the technique — the Meisner technique — you wouldn’t realize what he was doing.

I studied all the methods. And so that was, you know, again, one of the things you file away and maybe you could use someday.

Thanks to Courtney for his time, energy and sharing in this interview. If you can’t tell, we had an absolutely incredible time. Also we really appreciate Rachel Michelle from October Coast for setting up the interview and, as with everyone there, being incredibly easy to work with.

*Gains appeared in the 1993 episode “The Smelly Car” as a video store clerk.

**Gains played on the song “Suzy Greenberg” on Phish’s 12/06/1996 Las Vegas show.

Interview with Suzanne DeLaurentiis from Suzanne’s Saturday Night Scares

Suzanne DeLaurentiis, whose credits include producing Rocky V, Mannequin 2, 10th & Wolf, D-Railed and many more has a new series. Suzanne’s Saturday Night Scares is your opportunity to watch a wide range of classic horror films with Suzanne providing wrap-arounds that explain more about the movie while sharing fun facts and tidbits from behind the scenes. Plus, Suzanne brings in guests like Morgan Fairchild and Lara Parker of Dark Shadows to add more to each episode.

We had the opportunity to discuss the new series with Suzanne as well as her career.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: We’re really excited about your new show and loved getting to watch the first two episodes. What led you to want to do the show?

SUZANNE DELAURENTIIS: I’ve always loved horror. I’ve always been a fan, even though my company does so many different types of movies. We do comedies, musicals, drama, a little bit of everything. I was trying to think of something that was low stress and fun.

My friend Lee Turner hosts a show called After Hours Cinema and it’s a very successful show. We spoke and I said, “Hey, I want to do something like you’re doing but with a different spin. So we shot the first couple of episodes and now we’re really anxious to start shooting more.”

B&S: It’s exciting that Messiah of Evil was one of the first ones you’ve shown.

SUZANNE: I think it’s really awesome and well done. We have probably 70 or 80 movies that we’re going to be showing. So I’ve got some really great ones in the lineup that I think everyone will enjoy.

B&S: Any that you can give us some spoilers for?

SUZANNE: Not too many, because we want to keep it kind of a surprise to the audience. But I can tell you the next one we’re doing is Nightmare Castle with Barbara Steele.

B&S: The first movie that we saw your name on was D-Railed. I really loved it because it jumped, pardon the pun, from track to track in the story and was filled with surprises*.

SUZANNE: I had people criticize me for that. They said, “What is this? Is it a murder mystery? Is that a monster movie? What is it?” I said, “Well, it’s kind of a little bit of everything.”

B&S: It was unexpected. And you had a great cast!

SUZANNE: It was a tough one. We shot half in LA and all the water stuff on a set in Philadelphia. So we pretty much moved the company from LA to Philadelphia. I had a great group of people that were working back there to help us. We actually have a lot of veterans that worked on the crew. I have a program at my company called Operation Hollywood. And we train veterans to work on movie sets. It’s really rewarding to give back.

B&S: What other productions should our readers look out for?

SUZANNE: We have a movie in post-production right now called Reed’s Point, which is our version of the Jersey Devil. And we’ve got another movie called It Crawls Beneath about a guy that’s working in his garage and there’s an earthquake and he gets trapped under his car and then creatures come out of the cracks…it’s really fun.

B&S: So I have to ask, you were in the cast and crew of Mannequin 2

SUZANNE: Stewart Raffill, the director, was a good friend of mine and I had a small part in it**. And we were actually shooting that during the day and then working on Rocky V at night. Mannequin 2 was a lot of fun to work on and Stewart is a really talented director. He actually ended up directing a movie for me not long after that called A Month of Sundays with Rod Steiger.

B&S: You’ve really been all over the place with the films you’ve produced — in the best of ways.

SUZANNE: I have to say my most favorite of all was the mafia drama that I shot in Pittsburgh in 2015 called 10th and Wolf. Pittsburgh is an interesting town to shoot in, because it can also double for Philly or New York City.

We really appreciate the time that Suzanne spent with us and hope that everyone checks out her series Suzanne’s Saturday Night Scares. You can watch the first episode, Sisters of Death, on Apple TV and Amazon Prime. The second episode, Messiah of Evil is also on Apple TV and Amazon Prime.

Want to learn more about Ms. DeLaurentiis? Check out her official site.

*You can watch the film on Tubi.

**Suzanne is the nightclub waitress during the dancing in the club scene.

Jesus Christ Movie Star: The book and interview with author Phil Hall

A few months back, we interviewed Phil Hall, the author of The Weirdest Movie Ever Made: The Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot Film.

Now, BearManor Media has released Jesus Christ Movie Star, a new book by the author of The History of Independent Cinema and In Search of Lost Films and host of the award-winning podcast The Online Movie Show. This 176-page illustrated book is now available in a $22 paperback edition and a $32 hardcover edition.

It’s a great idea for a book, as Jesus Christ has challenged and inspired filmmakers from the very start of film and has seen so many different interpretations. I really enjoyed it as it unites everything from the silent film era through Old and New Hollywood, from blockbuster films to the world of the exploitation filmmaker, from movies by Hollywood royalty to movies made in the gutter.

From largely unseen oddities like Assassin 33 A.D and The Passover Plot to famous films such as The Last Temptation of ChristThe Greatest Story Ever Told and even Monty Python’s Life of Brian, the book gives a balanced overview of the many interpretations of the Son of God on screen. Even if you’re not religious, I recommend this book.

I had the opportunity to ask Hall some questions about the book and discover what went into making it, why Jesus appears in so many movies and what films do the best job of portraying Christ.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: What inspired you to write this book?

Phil Hall: During my youth, I considered the ministry for a career – my minor in college was religious studies – and my academic interest in the Christian faith never waned over the years. In the early 2010s, I had hoped at one point to do a book on Pilate’s wife, who is not identified by name in the Bible but is popularly known as Claudia Procula, but that project never moved forward. This new book comes from some of the research in the Claudia book’s section of cultural depictions of her place in the story of Jesus.

B&S: What makes Jesus such a uniquely filmable figure?

Hall: Jesus defies pigeonholing. His life story and message resonates differently with anyone who comes to the Gospels. This obviously includes filmmakers, which explains why there are so many different cinematic considerations of Jesus’ philosophy, actions and behavior. Griffth’s Jesus in Intolerance is worlds removed from Pasolini’s in The Gospel According to St. Matthew and Stuart Hazeltine’s in The Shack. There is no other historic figure who has been open to so many different interpretations, nor is there any that has been on the big screen from the dawn of silent film in the 1890s to today’s digital cinema.

What really struck me about your book is how the films of Jesus unite everything from highbrow features to the exploitation films of Sunn Classics and Larry Buchanan. Why do you think Jesus is so fascinating to filmmakers?

Hall: A crass answer would be the commercial viability of the subject – with relatively few exceptions, films about Jesus have consistently been profitable. It is also a story that can be molded to fit the times – consider the pacifist Jesus in Thomas Ince’s 1916 antiwar epic Civilization, the surly anti-authority Jesus of Pasolini’s 1964 film, and the hippie Jesus in the 1973 Godspell and the “bro” Jesus that we’ve seen in more recent films like Risen and The Shack.

B&S: It may be difficult, but what’s your favorite film in the book? Which do you think gets closest to translating Jesus (in your opinion)?

Hall: I believe Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew and the 2003 The Gospel of John come closest in terms of staying on topic, as both were adapted exclusively from their respective Gospels. Most Jesus-centric films take a buffet approach in borrowing some aspects from the four Gospels while omitting others.

For personal favorites, George Stevens’ The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) is wildly imperfect, but among the epics I think it comes closest to being an act of cinematic reverence. The Johnny Cash-produced 1973 The Gospel Road is wonderfully idiosyncratic and represents a true work of sincerity – plus, it has a great country-gospel score that never shows up in this cinematic genre.

B&S: What actor did the best job? Which one surprised you?

Hall: Max Von Sydow’s presence in The Greatest Story Ever Told is my favorite – he resembles an Eastern Orthodox icon come to life and he possesses the right degree of otherworldliness that sets him apart from the rest of the cast.  As a surprise, Donald Sutherland took what could have been a one-dimensional caricature in Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun (1971) and gave the role a degree of charisma and humor that helped to sell an interpretation of Jesus that some might have found offensive.

B&S: Are there any angles that have not been explored in Jesus films?

Hall: No. And if you ever see the 2000 short Jesus and Hutch with the Nazarene (played by Eric Stoltz) as a 70s’-style detective whose right hook gives criminals a new meaning of turning the other cheek, then you will realize the possibilities are infinite – if, perhaps, for the wrong reasons.

B&S: You’ve written about the movies that include Bigfoot and Jesus now. What historical figure, if any, is next?

Hall” I have no plans for new books at the moment, although outside of cinema studies I am writing a weekly series for the financial news site Benzinga called “Wall Street Crime and Punishment” about historic and contemporary figures who faced criminal charges for running amok with other people’s money. My next column is about Howard Hughes’ controversial acquisition of AirWest in the early 1970s, which I am writing after concluding this interview.

You can get your copy of Jesus Christ Movie Star at BearManor Media. They have the paperback, hardback and ebook versions available for sale. Thanks to Phil Hall for his time and great interview.

Interview with Ed Piskor, the creator of Red Room

Ed Piskor has created some of the most amazing comics of the last few years, including WizzywigHip Hop Family Tree and X-Men: Grand Design. Now, his new book Red Room takes the Dark Web, slasher movies, snuff urban legend and so much more to create a book that is ready to tear a big bloody swath through the boredom of current comics.

We were lucky enough to talk to Piskor this week and found him checking out the comp copies of the first issue. Our rambling discussion covered everything from where Red Room came from, but also the influence of Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, where comic book movies get it wrong, the change in media with the New Hollywood, snuff movies for real and, inevitably, Glenn Danzig.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: I heard an interesting theory today that while in comic books, you can do anything you want without a budget, when you turn that comic book into a movie, it’s like you’re immediately doing the remake.

ED PISKOR: Right. It’s like a second pass and a chance to tighten things up in the second draft.

B&S: It’s hard to read trades these days, because you can tell they’re trying to stretch things out to six issues every time so they just pad stuff.

PISKOR: That’s exactly why I’m doing Red Room the way I’m doing it. I’m so tired of that nonsense.

B&S: I guess you see it in the old collections, too. Like the 70s Marvel books have that Jim Shooter rule that every comic is someone’s first comic, so you have that recap.

PISKOR: That’s how the Frank Miller Daredevil issues are. Just skip the first page of every issue where we recap his origin and the rest works as a novel.

B&S: Doesn’t it seem weird that every comic movie needs to retell the origin? Don’t we just get it?

PISKOR: Morrison’s All-Star Superman did it right. One page, they got through it quick.

The problem is always whenever people try to make things too legit. It’s just stupid sometimes and that’s fine. Like Batman 1966 with Adam West and Burt Ward is a better Batman movie than any of these other ones, man. It’s just like, that movie knows what it is. Batman cannot work in any real world context, so let’s just go for it. Just be cornball. l

All you need to know about Superman in four panels.

B&S: The Tim Burton stuff works, though.

PISKOR: Yeah.

B&S: But then in Batman Returns, he just whips his mask off in front of the main bad guys.

PISKOR: They always do that shit!

B&S: Are you old enough to remember the worry about Michael Keaton playing Batman?

PISKOR: I never had any trouble with it because I was young. And I definitely drank the Kool-Aid. I was fully on board and so was every football player in my school. They had the Bat Signal shaved into their heads. And my parents took us, because we were so fucking relentlessly on them to take us to see that movie. So eventually, we hit the Greater Pittsburgh 5 in North Versailles.

That’s where we would see all our flicks. And it was huge to us, man. It was like a couple years, there was the year of Batman, then it was Rocketeer, then it was Dick Tracy

Now a Wal-Mart. RIP.

B&S: Isn’t it weird how Dick Tracy has kind of been forgotten now?

PISKOR: What’s crazy is it’s totally not forgotten by me. I have two shelves dedicated to the entire bibliography of Chester Gould from 1931 to 1977 in like thirty volumes. It’s my favorite comic strip and it’s impossible for me to be critical of it at all. I just totally buy everything he’s selling. And it’s like the only comic that I enjoy where I can have that suspension of just like, “Chester, whatever you say goes man. Like I’m not even going to harsh on you, dude.”

I even love when the moon stuff happened, which is a period that everybody hates but I love it so much. It speaks to his mania and neurosis. The whole moon period happens after America has already been to the moon. You know, we’re reasonably sure there were no moon people and stuff but Chester Gould didn’t get the memo, dude.

So there are civilizations on the moon and there are whole governments being set up. There e  these kinds of like, cars and species and shit like that. It’s one of my favorite periods of his work actually.

And then in the Sunday episodes, he would have the Crimestoppers Textbook. And at its height, it would be this great forensic stuff about fingerprints and how every bullet leaves a signature behind.

But then in the 60s, when he was doing the moon stuff, he was just such a crotchety old fuck, so he was anti-rock and roll and there’s a Crime Stoppers textbook about not crowding your boyfriend when driving in a car and there’s an American Graffiti-looking girl hugging up on some dude in a Cadillac. “The only fuzzy dice that should be on a vehicle,” and it’s the rearview mirror on a stroller, which is just so cranky. It gets so weird. Total Midwestern values.

B&S: So much of the pop culture law enforcement of that time is Dragnet and Dick Tracy and they’re the heroes. The square guys without any humor at all.

PISKOR: For sure. Because that would have been like, you know, mom and dad’s entertainment. You know, it’s totally that Mad Men era where there’s a paradigm shift happening. And people stopped responding to that square authority. Fucking Eisenhower and Perry Como bullshit. So then they had to start switching things up, man. Ain’t too much longer where you’re going to get Carroll O’Connor and shit like that. You know what I’m saying?

B&S: And in comics, it would be Hard Traveling Heroes, Green Lantern and Green Arrow?

PISKOR: Yeah, that’s the first thing that comes to mind. And then you think about the film analog and that’s like, Easy Riders and Raging Bulls, right? Like the era of New Hollywood when you know this old Hollywood era of Cecil B. DeMille, Warner Brothers — like the actual Warner Brothers — are completely out of touch with the youth. Fully disengaged beyond belief. And then you have to have that young energy come in, man.

B&S: But then it falls apart. Easy Rider was big. They made all this money and they’re like, let’s make another Easy Rider was like trying to find another Nirvana.

PISKOR: Right? Do you remember the Captain America show where they took that Easy Rider reference from the movie and we end up with Cap on a motorcycle with a helmet and all that shit? How ridiculous.

B&S: I heard a kid walk out of the second Guardians of the Galaxy upset with it and I thought, “You should have grown up with 70s Marvel movies.”

PISKOR: But you know what, I love that shit. I have this one wall of my VHS tapes. And I just kept enough to kind of fill up this shelf. And one set of tapes is the Mighty Marvel Marathon and it would be on SyFy where they would just play every Marvel property for like a whole day. It would be that old Dr. Strange, all the Ferrigno Hulks, the Spider-Man series, the old Ralph Bakshi cartoons.

B&S: All of those old Marvel movies have actors who went on to do Italian movies, like Ferrigno is in the Cozzi Hercules, Peter Hooten from Dr. Strange is in a ton of them, Reb Brown too.

PISKOR: That’s funny, man. Who pops up in that stuff? Because you watch like Cannibal Apocalypse and John Saxon is in there. There was a line between TV and movie actors back then.

B&S: And then the Marvel movies and lots of TV movies got put together and released in Europe as actual movies.

PISKOR: Right, like Spielberg’s Duel. You can see he already had a vision in that movie. It’s one of those great examples. It’s something we talk about on Cartoonist Kayfabe a lot where a guy’s given a shot and it’s a throwaway piece. Something a lot of other people just hack out. But then you see this person who’s just got a real vision, who put something together and that transcends. And in the medium of TV movies, which were schlock at best, and, you know, they can turn the lemons to lemonade.

B&S: There’s such a thin line between exploitation movies and TV movies, which is why I love them.

PISKOR: Yeah, that’s a good point, man. That’s something I’ve never really thought about. But you know, when you have these kinds of actors, you get a stage play delivery which adds to the camp of it. And that’s also how those old exploitation flicks feel.

B&S: Which is part of why I liked Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood.

PISKOR: Whenever the new Tarantino comes out, I gotta go see it. Day one, all that kind of stuff. After the flick in the bathroom, there were kids in there and had no idea about Charlie Manson. Zero. That’s the world we live in.

B&S: Meanwhile, they just saw a movie that had period-perfect Italian movies and art…

PISKOR: People got paid good money to make kayfabe Jack Davis TV Guide covers.

B&S: Was TV Guide important to you?

PISKOR: It’s a bit before my time, but now, I grab some of those. Sanford and Son covers. But when I was a kid, we used the Sunday newspaper TV listings, that was a big deal. You had to plan out your week. If Real Sex was going to be on, you have to plan a sleepover at a friend’s house who had HBO (laughs).

B&S: So after reading the first few issues of Red Room, I have a theory. You were really influenced by the video store experience.

PISKOR: Yeah, for sure, man. But the starting point is definitely comics. Also, the culture is very weak right now. People are really afraid to get roasted. They’re afraid to to get slammed on Twitter. So the comments are very placid. So I’m just trying to do the opposite of everything that I think is wack about comics. So it’s like, do something that’s a little hardcore. Everybody’s trying to pander for the young adult dollar. And what that really means has nothing to do with young adult readers and has everything to do with young adult librarians who buy these things and stock these books in the libraries. So fuck that, you know, I’m going to do some hardcore shit.

Dude, you go out to a comic shop. You go digging in the bins. And why is Red Room getting big orders and the best-selling Fantagraphics comic in a long time? Because people want to see some fly shit. People want to see some hardcore stuff now that we’ve all been sitting around for a while.

Let’s bring back some of that Faust energy. Let’s bring back some of that Deadworld energy. That James O’Barr The Crow kind of stuff.

B&S: I mean this as a compliment: it feels like an Aircel comic from 1985.

PISKOR: I’m down with that. It’s astonishing how much Aircel published. I thought that I had seen it all, then I found two or three series I didn’t even know existed.

That’s the stuff I buy. I buy the old black and black and whites from the 80s. The stuff that might only have one issue, the stuff might that might even be kind of region-based, because the creator never went beyond their local comic con.

And somehow, you know, the comic changed enough hands, so eventually, it comes to your local comic book store. I scoop up basically anything that’s odd that I never saw before. Usually, you know, it’s pretty crude, but I find so much charm in that artwork. And then I think I start to fantasize about the creator and the way like, why didn’t they just keep going? I feel like they were probably trying to measure themselves against George Perez or Barry Windsor Smith. And they didn’t realize that they kind of created their own kind of vernacular, but they didn’t respect it. You know, they were just like, I fell short. But you know, I love that stuff.

B&S: And there are movies a lot like that too.

PISKOR: Yeah. There’s a great YouTube channel called Power Comics that is into the very same thing I am. They get hold of, like weird black and white comics, exact stuff that we dig and do readings and track down the artists and interview them. It’s wild stuff.

B&S: Like Fat Ninja.

PISKOR: He was part of the Grips universe and I ended up liking him more than the main character. Gary Amaro is a great cartoonist. But then, you know, Faust comes along and blows away Grips.

You go from one claw to two claws and Tim Vigil changed his own career.

B&S: Can you imagine if they did a movie that went full-on Italian insanity with that story?

PISKOR: Yeah, I wish! Did you ever see Vigil’s Zero Tolerance? It’s Vigil, Tim Tyler and Amaro, such an outlaw comics team, drawing for First Comics in color. But it’s kind of like, once they did something in color that was more higher budget, it took away everything I loved about their work.

B&S: He’s like the Lucio Fulci of comics. You can’t be a casual fan of his stuff.

PISKOR: You can’t find his stuff in the wild. People hold on to it.

B&S: Who else is one of those guys that made it? Sam Keith?

PISKOR: James O’Barr. Guy Davis. Kevin O’Neill, whose artwork was not approved by the Comics Code. Not anything he did, but the vibe of his artwork. That seems like potentially BS, but if not, what a great sell job. It’s like William Castle. This movie might give you a heart attack!

Poltergeist is full of those stories and Heather O’Rourke dying helped that urban legend. But you know, I just watched the first episode of Freddy’s Nightmares where Tobe Hooper did the origin and hated it. Freddy just stands there while they burn him and there’s no storytelling or better way of presenting the imagery. It reminded me of how bad TV used to be.

B&S: I think Tobe Hooper just got beat up and was exhausted by then. Then again, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is great, even if people at the time didn’t like it.

PISKOR: It’s the Pittsburgh one, because Savini did the effects. He used to wear the Leatherface mask he did when they did the haunted house at Century III Mall. Chop Top is an amazing character and I like that Stretch has a dutch boy haircut. So that one is also near and dear to my heart.

Century III Mall, now dead.

B&S: Is it your Chainsaw?

PISKOR: The first one was mine. We had it on VHS, but I know that I was conceived at a double feature of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. I’d like to think it was during the second movie, because it’s so boring.

B&S: Pittsburgh was a huge drive-in town.

PISKOR: We just went to the Dependable the other night. My girlfriend is from Hollywood and with Los Angeles real estate, they couldn’t have the big space that Dependable takes up out there. It was great.

B&S: As much as we love video stores, they kind of killed drive-ins.

PISKOR: And I can see that happening eventually with comic book stores. I try to promote them as much as I can.

B&S: So what was your video store?

PISKOR: I actually worked at Hollywood Home Entertainment. And then another one was called Best Video on Eighth Avenue in Homestead. But then we went to weird places like PharMor.

B&S: When did you go from just reading comics to knowing who made them?

PISKOR: I had this book about the fifty-year history of Marvel Comics. It talked about fandom and it had this letter sent in from a little boy, you know about his favorite comics. And when he was talking about fandom, it was describing how, you know, the discerning fan is able to look at an image and tell who drew it and sometimes could tell who penciled in and who inked it. And I couldn’t believe that.

It seemed insane to me that you could do that. But it was really that post-Jim Shooter era, when it’s the people with very, very distinct styles. Like when it sort of went anti-house style. When we had Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee. I became fans of specific artists and followed them around, like I was reading incredible McFarlane Spider-Man stuff, then anything Liefeld would do and then Jim Mee’s Punisher was sick as fuck.

So that’s when I really started paying attention to artists.

B&S: You had a big eureka moment when you came up with Hip Hop Family Tree. Was there one for Red Room?

PISKOR: This comic was swirling in my head for a long time. I had sold it right before I did X-Men Grand Design, which kind of popped up and it was an opportunity and my trajectory was diverted for three years. That gave me more time to ruminate on this comic and then get busy.

It was inspired in a big way by Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, which taught me that the best of horror is part of the zeitgeist from which that material is created. It’s exploiting things that are really happening at that exact time. So what would a good modern day horror story that couldn’t have been made a decade ago? And playing with the Dark Net seemed perfect. It’s so mysterious to people and snuff has been an urban legend for a while. So let’s play around with it.

How I work is find this subject that interests me, then I watched a documentary about it, then I found Snuff, then I found Hardcore and I got inspired by all of it.

My conceit in the comic is that red rooms give agency to the 1% over life and death, the power to see atrocities as they wish. Like Caligula. This is an entertainment vocation for the men and women who have everything. I could see Epstein putting down some bitcoin to see this.

B&S: I liked how much of Wizzywig tied into this.

PISKOR: Wizzywig is playing it straight. Red Room is pure fiction, but that was many real-life stories all put into one character. I’ve always kept up with technology and been fascinated with the freaky nature of the Dark Web. One of the great compliments I get when someone reads this is when they ask, “Are Red Rooms real?”

B&S: So how deep did your research go?

PISKOR: Mostly reading cases of people that have been arrested, reading their indictments and VICE articles, which helps with the character stuff. It’s not that easy to get a motivation for them to be killers. It can’t be money every time. If you want to create some rich characters, I have to make some way that makes you want to see them become murders. I also used the bibliography of John Douglas and Mark Olshaker in their book that became Mindhunter. Yet real serial killers are almost always the same white guy in the profile.

B&S: So how much of an influence are slasher movies?

PISKOR: Huge. It’s also Mortal Kombat fatalities. Dude, we live in the town of Tom Savini. You know, I’ve learned a lot about anatomy, putting this comic together, and I remember Savini talking about his combat photography,and using some of the photos he took in Vietnam as reference material for some of his gore. I definitely I know what a pancreas looks like now.

B&S: Everyone else will after they read that issue!

PISKOR: That was one of my favorite pieces to draw. Let’s see what’s in that chest cavity. That actually was inspired by somebody that sent me some cartel footage. And these guys are vicious. They cut up this dude’s chest, cut open some holes in the ribs and then reached in, grabbed his heart and showed it to him before he died. That’s a real snuff movie and they film this shit as propaganda. They strike fear into their rivals and their own guys with them. I can’t unsee it, you know? It’s a direct inspiration and somehow, not the worst one I’ve seen.

An actual tape from Piskor’s collection.

B&S: Did you do tape trading? Like VHS mixtapes? Kind of like what people would post on the internet today, but way more underground.

PISKOR: Yeah, like the Heaven’s Gate Cult and GG Allin tapes. Bumfights and Banned from TV were big, but you could get those at Best Buy.

B&S: The best compliment I can give Red Room is that it feels like something that would have come out from Italy in 1977.

PISKOR: Thanks. That’s super cool. I think the rawness of the art style lends to it, because it has like, I wouldn’t say an amateurish finish to it, but it’s not Marvel or DC. Perfect anatomy. Like there are things that I can’t unlearn so it doesn’t have quite the psychotic look of some of the some of that stuff that I dig a lot. Like, I just can’t unlearn how to ride a bike. The rawness of the style, I think, lends to the aesthetic, which was kind of important to me.

B&S: I don’t know if anyone could draw like Fletcher Hanks today.

PISKOR: Well, you know, I think you could, but you can never go to art school because art school would fuck you up. Yeah, like art school would take all of that character out of your style and just like make you homogenous.

Then you have Paul Karasik, who uncovered Hanks’ real story and you realize that’s his id on the page. He was a real maniac and the term outsider art really is for someone like Fletcher Hanks. The guys from RAW found him and you wonder, are they laughing at him? But they uncovered a gem.

B&S: It feels like you always come back to 70s Marvel, with the copyright and last issue block.

PISKOR: Each issue is its own story and everything. But I’m following the Jim Shooter mandate dude. Yeah, every comic is somebody’s first comic so like, let me give you that little piece so that you know what this world is about if you’re just picking up this issue randomly.

I agree with that part of Jim Shooter. Like fuck, that idea of every comic is somebody’s first comic becausewhy not try to create new readership? Why push people away?

B&S: It’s so funny because we went from the Marvel guys that hated Shooter to people realizing that he may have had a point.

PISKOR: I actually don’t think that people disagreed with shit like that. I think it was just that his approach was bad. You know? Like he wasn’t a magnanimous character. And people have bad feelings about him because he was maybe too harsh or whatever. Artists are fucking sensitive people. So like, he might have told them some like hard truths. But you know, they’re salty.

B&S: It’s like when a wrestler becomes the booker and he’s no longer one of the boys.

PISKOR: He’s office now. He’s big ponytail daddy now who sold out.

B&S: And man, after he left, people went after him.

PISKOR: John Byrne did The Pitt and destroyed Pittsburgh and wiped out Star Brand just because Jim Shooter was from here! They blew up our hometown!

B&S: Is there a great comic book movie?

PISKOR: I don’t see the movies.

B&S: Really?

PISKOR: Yeah, a lot of times in like, I just have no interest in comic book movies. Like I think comics are so fucking rad. Fuck the movie. Like that’s just for like, my cousins or something. It doesn’t generate new readership. So they’re really irrelevant to me.

B&S: But for posterity, how messed up was it that Bob the Goon died immediately in Batman?

PISKOR: You think he’s going to be a major character because there are three toys: Batman, The Joker and Bob the Goon. It’s so funny because we all know his name is Bob the Goon. You had him for two seconds and he’s dead!

B&S: Isn’t it weird that other than a few movies, there’s more of a cross-over between metal and horror than hip hop and horror?

PISKOR: I’m happy with the metal thing. I’m a Danzig fan. He’s a big dork. There’s a Pushead interview and he turns the camera around in Glenn’s room and he’s living with his mom in Lodi, New Jersey and the entire room is packed with comics and Godaikin robots.

Even in his first home video, he’s reading an issue of Wolverine. when he’s reading that. First off, it’s his own video. He’s producing it. So the guy’s asking you what are you doing? And he’s pretending like he’s annoyed. And he’s like, I’m reading. What are you reading? “A Wolverine comic. It’s heavy.”

Like I have that shit memorized. Because you never saw comics on TV.

B&S: The comic looks huge in his hands.

PISKOR: Glenn is short, so regular size comics are Treasury editions in his hands.

Red Room is out today, so make sure to grab your copy. You can get order it from Fantagraphics or at your local comic book store. Thanks to Ed for spending so much time with us.

Interview with Bill Oberst Jr. — star of Painkiller!

We had the opportunity to have a few moments with Bill Oberst, Jr., the star of the recent release Painkiller. He has a great resume of theater and film parts, but most know him from his horror appearances in movies like Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies3 From Hell and Lifechanger. We had a blast connecting with him and came away with even more respect for the man and his acting ability.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: You’ve played some amazing roles. If you think about it, you’ve pretty much played some of the most important people in history between JFK, Lincoln, Jesus, General Sherman and Lewis Grizzard. What kind of head trip is it to play those major historical roles?

BILL OBERST JR.: It’s pretty tough. What I learned to do to play these people is that some of them still have objects in this world. Their families or their estates will give me shoes or glasses or a notebook or some part of the person. So I look at this stuff and I realized, that’s all we leave behind. Stuff. And, of course, ideas, words and the emotions that move on through the people we love.

These people are really famous and those emotions run through a much larger group of people. The way I approach their struggles is through their words, particularly people like Lincoln and Kennedy and Twain. Even Jesus, without the words that they left behind, it’s just a faint memory.

All of that makes me really careful about the words that I say and what I’m leaving behind. And then, if you have a script, you may have words to say. But when there’s no script and I’m just playing these famous roles, you have to be really careful and really intentional.

And that makes me think about my life. I want to be really intentional about what I say and leave behind!

B&S: Amongst these famous roles, what’s your favorite?

Bill: There are two, one on stage and one on screen. The one on stage is Jesus because of that experience of being in churches of every denomination, and in theaters, where some people who have no religious beliefs and still listen to the words of Jesus, and they say, “Wow. It’s kind of cool.”  It cuts across all those and that was astounding.

My favorite thing I’ve ever done on screen was Criminal Minds*. Because the makeup artist** had worked with Tarantino and he was even the groom in Kill Bill. And he got it, he said to me, “Let’s make your character something like Lon Chaney Sr. would have played, the wounded monster.” And the director was into it as well, so they let me create this beautiful but dangerous monster who had been made that way by the way people treated him. I had the prosthetics and a hunchback and got to do the character like a classic horror villain. Plus, I got to put barbed wire around Adrienne Barbeau’s neck!

B&S: Every actor has their dream role. What’s yours?

BILL: Phantom of the Opera, but it doesn’t have to be at the opera! The base dynamic of that role and what I like about it so much is that Eric was born that way. I hate it when movies have to have an excuse that his face is that way. Someone threw acid in his face and thats why he’s like this or he was burned. And the point of the novel is, he was born a monster, he was a freak at birth and his father would never look at him. His mother turned her face and they have him a mask before selling him to a traveling carnival. That’s how he became what he was, a magician and an outcast from society.

So I really want to play that role. I keep telling young directors that the story is in the public domain and it doesn’t have to be set at the opera. Just take the dynamic and put it somewhere.

B&S: I mean, they did it in a mall once!

Bill: Exactly! Chaney is the only one who did it with Eric being created that way. And the original ending of the 1925 film had Eric die of a broken heart and they find his skeleton slumped over the pipe organ years later. They played that for audiences and they hated it! You can’t feel sympathy for the monster! So they made the new ending where he acts like he has a grenade and they launch him into the river and everybody’s happy. But that original ending is much closer to what I’d like to do.

B&S: Did you like the Robert Englund take on it? He claims that he didn’t get to do the full vision that he had for the film.

Bill: Yes, I did. And that’s always the case with independent film. You have to make some version of the movie you think you’re gonna make. Because you know, you always run out of money. And you always run out of time. You just do the best you can.

B&S: What’s it like being in a Rob Zombie movie?

Bill: Great. He’s the coolest guy ever because he is really aware of his public persona, but he’s not like that at all. It’s not fake, you know? It’s who he is, but he sets it aside to do his film work.

He was a great director to work with because I wanted to adjust my acting to the way he wanted the role. We were on the way to the set and I asked what he wanted and shared what I thought he was looking for. And he said, “I hired you because I like what you do. I like the wounded animals that you play and that’s what I want you to do. So just take what’s written here and pour it through you. And it’ll be alright.”

I was like, “This guy is brilliant.” He just made me want to please him and give it everything. He’s great with actors.

B&S: Isn’t that why people hire actors? For what they are known for being able to do? It’s like hiring a voiceover artist and making them change their register or read when you hired them for a specific reason.

Bill: I actually started doing animated movie voiceovers during COVID-19, so that’s been fun. And they always want a higher register.

I was talking to my dad and he asked how work was. I said, “Well, yeah, you know, I got this animated thing and I’m a donkey.” He asked me for a bit of it and said, “Well, that was predictable.”

(Laughs) That’s the life of an actor! Everybody tells you what to do. But when it comes from your dad, you need to listen.

B&S: Tell us about Painkiller.

Bill: Painkiller comes from a real-life tragedy. Tom Cornell is the co-writer and executive producer. Plus, he’s one of Florida’s largest accident and insurance attorneys. You can see his face on billboards all over the state. His son was 21 and accidentally overdosed from opioids. So this script comes from trying to work through the pain and it ended up being a revenge fantasy.

It reminds me of Death Wish, the Charles Bronson-type stories, where Bronson does what you would never do but wish you could when you’re angry. Injustice has been done and someone has to pay.

My character has lost a child to accidental opioid death and he’s determined that since the government cannot do anything about it — nobody is doing anything about it — he’s going to do something about it.

It’s a revenge fantasy, just like the other one I’ve done, Stressed to Kill. In that one, the same character is killing people to keep his blood pressure down. If you think about it, when you get upset, you want to kill people and you watch these movies and you’re on the side of the vigilante. And then you think, “This is murder.” But then you get stressed out again and want people to just shut up. So you’re torn. (Laughs)

B&S: What was it like to work with Michael Paré?

Bill: Intense! He’s intense! I’m glad I didn’t have a fight scene. He would have beaten the crap out of me. He’s just I mean, he’s got the eyes. He’s got the presence. And he’s so experienced, he even tells the effects guys where to put the squibs on. It was great to work with such a powerful actor.

B&S: It sounds pretty exciting.

Bill: I want to entertain people, but I want to make them think about how long this opioid crisis has been going on and how it started. How did doctors decide to prescribe something that they knew was addictive to kids who had sports injuries? And then they ended up dying, how did we get to this point?

I hope that the movie makes people think about it and talk about it. And you know, think about what we could do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Thanks to Bill for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us. You can check him out on Twitter and don’t forget to watch Painkiller.

*Oberst appeared in “Blood Relations,” which was episode 12 of season 9.

**Christopher Allen Nelson