Q: What was your childhood like? I've been wondering when you were
actually born--imdB doesn't tell when...
A: Everything was pretty idyllic in my memory until about the age of five, when we moved from Northumberland, PA to Albuquerque NM. My mother had asthma and we needed to get to a dryer climate. This meant that both my parents had to start their careers over again in a new place, and with eight children, it was pretty rough going for a long time. When I saw The Sound of Music at age 7, I thought, "Look at those kids, running around the Austrian countryside and living in that huge house with all that money! I want to be an actor!" I couldn't quite separate out what was the movie and what was these kids' actual lives. But I knew I wanted to live a different life than what I saw around me in Albuquerque.
Q: What was high school like for you? Were you involved with theater or
anything like that?
A: I auditioned for my first play as a sophomore. I was absolutely NOT going to audition for it. Just the idea of getting up in front of people, well, if I can be graphic here, it gave me instant, severe diarrhea. BUT, these two girls I knew, Gail Gallacher and Rosalyn Ryan, grabbed me as I was heading to the bus stop and each one took and arm and they took me to the gym and told me I was going to audition. Looking back on that now, that is VERY strange. Had I told them I wanted to be an actor? Did the angels take hold of them and lead them to me? Don't know.
Our Catholic high school was doing a production of Godspell. Since I had nothing prepared, Father Falbo said, "Just sing a few lines from "Happy Birthday". I croaked them out and ran away as fast as I could. There was an "A" cast—the better actors—and and a "B" cast. I was in the "B" cast. But I got in. And once I was rehearsing, I was in heaven.
Q: What finally made you want to break into acting?
A: As I said, The Sound of Music at age seven. It looked like a good way at age seven to be rich and happy. Okay, we do have all kinds of wrong assumptions at age seven, but I have made a decent living at times, and I DO love my work.
Q: Tell what you've been up to lately, with your animation, film offers,
A: Finished my MFA in Film and Television, with concentrations in Screenwriting and Animation, at UCLA in June. Right now, I'm re-writing a script of mine for a fledgling director and re-writing someone else's. I'm also ghost-writing an autobiography for a ninety-year-old "doctor to the stars" (Brando, Rita Hayworth, etc.) in Beverly Hills. I have a supporting role in a feature called "The Deviants" that just finished post-production, and a short film I starred in "Black Gulch" is currently making the festival rounds.
Q: "Family Ties" is one of my favorite TV sitcoms ever. What was that all
like, and did you get to meet the entire cast (Michael J. Fox, Justine
Bateman, Tina Yothers, etc.)?
A: Oh, sure! And me, too! I LOVED that show! I couldn't BELIEVE it when I got the call. Standing on that kitchen set! There was that bottled water dispenser I've seen every week! I'm actually touching it! Very, very cool. I didn't really get to talk to Justine Bateman or Meredith Baxter, but Michael Gross and Tina Yothers made friendly small talk with me, which was a thrill. And I got to act with Michael J. Fox! So unbelievably cool! And very interesting to watch he and Marc Price work out various physical comedy bits that weren't scripted.
Q: I've been trying to find more of your movies recently. Do you have any
A: Killer Instinct is a big favorite. It's just a straight-to-video gangster movie, but it was my first lead and I'm very proud of my work in it. And Janusz Kaminski was our cinematographer (He won an Oscar the next year for Schindler's List) so it looks fantastic.
Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss is another one that I love. I rarely get to do comedy—usually the bad guy who kidnaps the girl and gets killed by the hero in the end! But I did a staged reading of the screenplay after having done a couple of short films for Tommy O'Haver. The reading went great, and Tommy trusted me with a comedy role. I was so glad. (Doing comedy on film is very different from doing it on stage, by the way. On stage, you know instantly if your joke "landed". In film no one can laugh and it's very disconcerting! You KNOW you timed it right, but there's this horrible silence after the line!)
But Billy's was an amazing group of people. A very happy set to be on. Everyone knew it was going to be a good movie and there was a lot of happiness and excitement. What I DIDN'T know was how beautiful it would look. The wide-screen thing, the saturated colors. Another nice looking film.
Q: I've yet to see "Waxwork," but it seems like a pretty well-known horror
movie. Any memorable things to say about that one?
A: I've heard this is true—seriously—that one of the scenes I was in set a new cinematic record for the amount of stage blood used in a single scene.
Tony Hickox's sense of fun was so infectious, and his appreciation of what everyone was doing was so inspiring that the special effects crew was put in all kinds of extra time making the effects looking like millions of dollars, just because they liked him so much.
Q: Have you had many starstruck instances where you've worked or met
people you admired?
A: Richard Dreyfuss, definitely. Jaws, Close Encounters, even the guest-host stint he did on Saturday Night Live— I loved everything he did. Still do. I was doing a small role in a play with him—The Normal Heart—in L.A. when I was twenty-three. One day during rehearsals I was walking to the theater from the parking lot and he caught up with me and said, "I just wanted to tell you how good your work is in this play." I almost passed out. So generous.
Q: What else do you like to do besides acting and animating?
A: Write screenplays! Going to the movies. Swimming in the ocean.
"The Initiation" Questions
Q: Which actors were the easiest to work with on the 1984 slasher?
A: Well, I was cast locally in Dallas, so we were sort of in a separate league from the L.A. actors. Marilyn Kagan, though, was very down-to-earth. I was behaving like a two-year-old, so out-of-my-mind excited to be in my first movie. It must have been painfully embarrassing to be around me. But Marilyn was very nice. Trey Stroud who played Ralph is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. Hunter Tylo (Deborah Morehart at that time) was also cast locally in Dallas. She went on to have a great soap career. She was fun to hang out with.
Q: Did you run into any of the people you'd worked with after filming?
A: I used to see that guy who played the Security Guard—the one who gets the garden trowel shoved into his chest—on auditions. Also, I was doing a spear-carrier role in Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte in New York the year after the Initiation and Joy Jones, who played James Read's trusty assistant, came backstage. We weren't ever on the set at the same time, but it was cool meeting her. I don't think she continued acting, but I liked her in the movie and it was cool meeting her.
Q: What was the whole make-up procedure like for your death scene?
A: Well, they made this rubber appliance—like the size of your fist, with a trough in it that looked like a jagged gash. The glued that on my neck. When we shot the scene, I would lean back and the special effects guy filled the trough with blood and jumped out of the shot and the camera rolled as it oozed out.
That was a bad night on the set. We were shooting in a mall and we were way behind schedule and everyone was on edge. The appliance had to be glued on, and the special effects guy was being rushed so badly that his got his hands wet with stage blood and then the glue wouldn't stick. None of this was anyone's "fault", but the director came up and yelled at ME—"What the HELL is taking so long?"
What did I know, then? For all I knew, it WAS my fault. I was really embarrassed and upset. Another guy on the crew—was it the first AD?— pulled the director aside and told him if he didn't apologize to me immediately, he was quitting the movie right then. To his credit, the director DID. We got the thing glued on, ran into the bathroom and got the shot. I think it looks pretty convincing.
Q: I've always wondered what Daphne Zuniga is like... What kind of a
person did she take you as years ago acting with her, and have you been in
touch with her since?
A: I've only seen her once since, at this kinda trendy bar I NEVER go to where I was meeting friends. Now, you gotta understand this film was made twenty years ago, and I was a local yokel who was on the set for a few days and she spoke to me MAYBE twice. Anyway, I made momentary eye contact with her across the bar. She looked annoyed. I looked away. The end!
Q: I remember you telling me that you'd bought many copies of the film on
VHS. What do you think of the film's recent release to DVD by Anchor Bay
A: I actually HAVE it, but I haven't OPENED it. I bought it because I've heard VHS tapes start disintegrating over time, and I wanted to have the film on some sort of more dependable media. I thought I'd better-- it's not likely any arty film archive is going to preserve it!
Q: Even though you didn't have any scenes with them, did you have the
opportunity to meet Vera Miles or Clu Gulager?
A: Clu Gulager wasn't on the set at the same time I was, but I did see a tiny bit of Very Miles. Literally. We were shooting nights and I was sleeping on the floor in some storage space they were letting the actors hang out in. I woke up to a small commotion and opened my eyes just in time to see Vera Miles' calf and foot— in a blue high-heel shoe— disappear into her dressing room. That was all I saw of her.
Q: What was it like playing Hunter Tylo's (Deborah Morehart) boyfriend? I
know she became somewhat famous with her soap opera roles later in her
A: She was a very nice local Texas gal. Very friendly and fun. It still looks weird to me, seeing her in all that glamour stuff on her soap.
Q: In our original interview, which I apologize once again for losing, you
mentioned a scene cut where you and Tylo's character engage in a kiss
during the "Come as Your Favorite Suppressed Desire" party. Were you upset
that it was cut, and do you remember anything else that was left on the
cutting room floor?
A: Frankly, I was glad it was cut. That was my first night of shooting and I was very, very nervous. Whatever was cut probably sucked hard!
Q: Do you still have those journal entries you kept during filming? I
remember they were pretty interesting--love to see them again.
A: I wrote this after the first night of filming--
"June 10, 1983
So this is how it feels to be in the movies. It feels like getting into wardrobe & makeup at 7:00 PM and then walking down an empty street at 3AM, carrying my script and my portfolio and a scarf that wardrobe couldn't use, with tired legs and green glitter in my hair.
I love it.
Everything about it! The tension, the conceit, the fear-- Breaking through the bullshit and finding surprisingly open people. Laughing between takes, making new friends. And filming it-- being "the one" who gets to do it!
It's not how I imagined it. I imagined it much "cleaner" somehow. People who were so much better than me-- more of everything-- richer, smarter, more refined, braver, more open. Instead everyone is like me.
This is what I want my life's work to be."
And I wrote this one a few years ago, when I rented the film with some actors with whom I was doing a regional theater play in New Hampshire. The film I refer to in the last paragraph with the "scary content" is Leather Jacket Love Story, which was playing film festivals prior to its release---
"June 16. 1997 2:30 AM
Celeste, David & I rented a VCR tonight. We found three tapes at the local video store that we wanted to watch, one of which was "The Initiation," the film I did in Dallas right after college.
I haven't watched it all the way through in many years. I watched it with relish, almost able to feel Steve McGaw and Chris Teal and Jon Whitaker and all my other college friends somewhere in the off-camera world.
And seeing myself. And my dreams and my happiness at being in a movie, any movie, there on my face.
Fourteen years ago. How is that possible? And seventeen years since I did Tea and Sympathy in college. HOW CAN THAT BE? I listen to David Monahan say Tom Lee's lines in rehearsal. And I still remember so many of the lines, and how I played Tom Lee, when I said those lines, then. And David Officer, now dead of AIDS, and how good he was in the role of Al and how impossible it is that he's dead and that Frank Pittman is dead and Chris Teal is dead. I must, must remember to enjoy my life no matter what. Just take the current reality and celebrate it. My discomfort with my situation with Gerard-- celebrate it. The joy of being in a play. And the joy of having a new movie that's doing well in film festivals, no matter what the scary content. Celebrate it.
Q: Do you remember any instances where anybody goofed up and messed up a
scene? Was this a problem you experienced yourself?
A: Can't think of any off-hand.
"Leather Jacket Love Story" Questions
Q: Were you uncomfortable with the nudity and overall content of the
movie? Any reservations on taking the role?
A: My agent told me not to do it. He said I would never work again. At that time, I was doing tons and theater and getting great reviews in the small LA papers, but I hadn't had a film or TV role in three years. I thought, "Never work again? What are they gonna say to me? "Sure, you haven't worked in three years, but you are SO SERIOUSLY not working NOW!" I had nothing to lose. It was a lead in a film and a good part. I took it.
A: And not just that, the film was saying something I wanted to say. My character had become cynical and had given up on true intimacy. In the course of the film, he opens himself back up again. I'd never seen that in a gay-themed film before.
I had reservations about doing the nudity. Absolutely. I don't like gratuitous nudity, because I think it's numbing and it cheapens the movie (and sex in general). But these characters are having sex. Are they going to have sex with their clothes on? It was what the scene required to be real.
But, by the way, acting in a nude scene with three or four crew people on a set is very different that sitting in a theater with five hundred people watching it.
Q: How did you perceive David DeCoteau then and now? He's responsible for
a lot of my favorite campy movies, and I admire his different approach of
exploiting men instead of women.
A: David and I had dinner together a couple of months ago. I like him so much. A very smart director and a very smart producer. He has a deal with Blockbuster to make low-budget straight-to-DVD films. Since Blockbuster has money in the projects, they give the films shelf space in their stores. They always make their money back.
Q: Having worked on some gay-themed movies (the other that I know of being
"Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss"), what's your outlook on this particular
type of lifestyle?
A: You'd think homosexuality was invented in 1967. By humans. It wasn't. It's always been in human society. Always. Sometimes gays have been left alone, sometimes they've been jailed and killed. But homosexuality has always been there. And it's in almost every animal in the animal kingdom as well. People who say, "It's against nature" don't know their science very well.
Gays are taxpaying citizens and should have every right any other tax-paying citizen has. The term "marriage" is a hot button because of its religious connotations. But we don't live in a theocracy, and our laws are not based on any one religion's guidebook. Whatever one's opinion of the "lifestyle"—whatever that term really means—any American citizen is guaranteed certain rights. If gays were given all the rights surrounding marriage, I don't think the word itself matters so much. Call it something else. But they should have the same rights.
Q: What was it like playing such a different kind of character?
A: At the time? A great challenge, and I was ecstatic, losing myself in that character. Now, it's a little strange, because people expect me to BE that character when they meet me. Then when I talk about oh, say, the sacredness of intimacy and sexuality, they don't know quite what to do with that. They seem to be thinking, "What is this? I thought you were some throw-your-clothes-off slut?"
Q: Any interesting on-the-set stories?
A: Well, when you're making a film, you do tiny pieces here and there. During the nude stuff, I took this robe on and off a hundred times and I got tired of it. I mean, why was I covering up? They SAW it.
I was reading a magazine on the bed while they were setting up the next shot at one point. David brought me the robe. I said, "Oh, it's okay."
He said, "Don't you want to put it on?"
"Naw, it's okay."
"You sure you don't want to put it on?"
I looked up at him. He said, "Maybe you should put it on. You're upsetting the crew!"
I mean, I thought I supposed to be the one who was squeamish about it!
Q: How do you feel with the finished product? Is it awkward seeing
yourself on-screen in the nude?
A: It's always weird seeing yourself in a movie. You see all the things you wished you'd done differently—"Oh, if I could just have one more take on that moment…"
I was living in Manhattan when the movie came out there. If you've seen the poster, it has me standing behind the other actor. He's in a leather jacket and nothing else. I'm in nothing at all. You can't see anything, but it's still pretty racy. Well, this poster was plastered on every construction site in Greenwich Village and Chelsea the week it came out. My eighty-three-year-old Uncle Frank lives on 1st Avenue and 20th street. I was thinking, "Oh, man, is he gonna see that? Would he recognize me? Would he ever look closely enough at the poster and see my name?" But I put it out of my head.
About two weeks later, my cousin called me. "Are you in some movie that's playing at the Quad?"
"Uncle Frank went to it."
I couldn't speak at first. Then I said, "Uh, what'd he say?"
"He said you were good in it. He also said he couldn't understand at first why there were no women in the theater."
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