Sunday, October 15, 2017

THE LORDS OF SALEM: Interview with Director Writer Rob Zombie [From The Archives 9/11/12]


                Rob Zombie talking with Robert Mitchell at The Lords of Salem premiere.
 

THE LORDS OF SALEM marks Rob Zombie's first time at the Midnight Madness programme at the Toronto International Film Festival. I don't think Mr. Zombie is given enough credit of how good a filmmaker he is. THE LORDS OF SALEM shows a filmmaker who definitely growing as a storyteller. I have always believed Zombie is a consummate visual stylist. Lords reaffirms this for me -- a film in which Zombie sits the camera down and sets up well composed shots influenced by Kubrick. His casting choices are always inspired and pay respect to the history of the horror genre. I recently had the opportunity to ask Mr. Zombie some questions.

Being born in Haverhill not far from Salem Massachusetts have the witch trails always a point of fascination? What was it about the witch trials that sparked your imagination and set in motion the writing of The Lords of Salem?

Growing up in Massachusetts I always thought the state had a cool spooky vibe and the reality of the witch trials certainly fed that vibe. The inspiration for the movie was an accident really. One day I just happened to buy a book on the witch trials in the gift shop of a hotel I was staying at. That book got me thinking about it and that was the beginning of the project.

 

You shot the film, then went on tour and then returned to edit the film as well as produce your next album. How did that gap between production and post help you approach what you shot as opposed to jumping right into an editing suite? What were some of the benefits of the challenge of balancing both projects?

In some ways it drove me crazy because I really just wanted to keep working on the film until it was done, but in other ways getting away from it helped me to solve problems that you can't solve sometimes just because you get too close and can't get any distance from the project. All in all this method worked out great.


The cast you and Monika Mikkelsen have assembled is a who's who of genre films. How do you approach casting? Do you write with certain actors in mind or seek out actors through more traditional methods, like auditions?

All of the above. For some roles I have a specific person in mind and for others I do typical auditions. Whatever it takes to find the right person for the role. One example of an audition that blew me away was Judy Geeson's read for the role of Lacy.


Watching your films and videos over the years I believe you are a consummate visual stylist. How did you approach the look of this film with cinematographer Brandon Trost?


We basically just talked about it over and over and over then decided on a course of action. I was always a big fan of handheld camera work, but suddenly it started to look like TV to me since so many TV shows use that style. So I wanted to do the exact opposite. Very steady camera work with all the camera moves being motivated by the action on screen. No shakey camera just for the fuck of it.

How has your approach to directing evolved from House of Thousand Corpses to The Lords of Salem?

Well, with each film you hopefully develop a better set of skills that you can apply to the next film. If you watch those two films back to back I don't think you would never think the same person made both films. Lords is a far more sophisticated production.


I have been reading that The Lords of Salem is your darkest film to date. Is there anything you can tell the audience of the experience that awaits them upon watching The Lords of Salem?

Be patient and pay attention. It is not what you think it is.


Originally Appeared 9/11/12 Midnight Madness Blog

Saturday, October 14, 2017

THE FINAL GIRLS: Director Todd Strauss-Schulson Interview [From The Archives 09/09/15]

The Final Girls is set to close the 2015 Midnight Madness program. The film is full on rollercoaster ride. Full of laughter, chills, thrills nostalgia. The film that Todd Strauss-Schulson directed is a perfect way to close out the midnight screenings at our beloved Ryerson Theater. I recently had the opportunity to talk to Todd about making the film. -- Robert A. Mitchell

             Malin Åkerman talking to Robert Mitchell at the premiere of The Final Girls

When you first read the screenplay written by M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller what attracted you to the story and made you say I want to direct this movie?

It touched me. I was immediately stuck by the heart and how full of feeling it was. To me it was always a movie about a girl who got a second chance to be with her dead mother. To see her again, to have one more day…

A few weeks before I made my first movie my Dad died. He was my best friend, and he was so supportive of my filmmaking, and he died, he missed me booking that job by a matter of weeks. So that was difficult. And while I was working on my first movie, I would dream about him all the time. I still do. Happy dreams where were riding around on a bus through New York, or eating pizza and strolling around the lower east side… my father would visit me in my dreams… and that is what Final Girls is to me. That is what I saw in the script. The reverbs of grief and that wish to get another day. And Max (Taissa Farmiga) gets this second chance to see her Mom in this 80’s horror movie… which we made feel almost like a dream. It’s consciously hyper real and ethereally beautiful. And really, the idea of the horror movie was very much consciously linked to the emotional concept… I loved the clever idea of a story about the emotional aftermath of a death in the middle of a genre that doesn’t take death very seriously… in fact a genre where big bigger the body count the more fun… so we’re USING genre to tell that emotional story… not the other way around.

The secondary thing that really attracted me was, as a movie lover… and I LOVE movies … the big fun conceit of getting stuck IN A MOVIE. That’s just a delightful idea. And the opportunity to deconstruct a movie, to almost turn the movie into an antagonist. It lent itself to a lot of visual playfulness and stylistic flamboyance and comedy. And I really felt this could give me an opportunity to flex some of those cinematic muscles in a way that was integrated with story. I really love when a film can perform WITH the actors, its not just a capture medium... it’s a performance medium too. And Final Girls really lent itself to that kind of filmmaking.

So, tons of heart, a very personal story, and this really fun cool container was what appealed to me… its almost like All That Jazz, a personal story about death and humanity in the body of a delightful musical full of pizzaz and showmanship. I loved that tonal mash up.

Final Girls blends horror and comedy. Was it difficult to strike a balance between these two elements?

I look for movies where the telling of the story is as integral as the story itself. People have been saying to me for years that Final Girls has a tough tone to pull of... but I just never saw it that way... I think if you're doing your job, and telling your story, and telling it in your own voice, you can kinda go anywhere and do anything. The movies that I love the most are the ones that are tonally all over the place. And that's true to life...  The best stories a friend can tell are the ones that start off where a happy thing happened, and then a horrible thing happened; then this person saw someone get their purse stolen, but then you ate a delicious scone at a new coffee shop and saw an old family friend out of the blue who is really beautiful... but then they told you their cat has diabetes...and then you wonder if dating them is gonna be too intense cause you're gonna have to deal with that cat all the time so you get anxiety... It's what any random day in your life is like, it's tonally and emotionally all over the place. Its funny, its sad, its scary, its beautiful, its lonely.

I remember being a kid and my mom took me to see Spalding Grey do a live monologue at Lincoln Center, and he talked for three hours. Just sat and talked on an empty stage and it was as riveting as any movie. He did the craziest tonal shifts, I felt every emotion, I went with it, I was connected, because he was so sure and steady about what he was saying and how he was saying it, he would go fast, then slow, he would go on a weird tangent that seemed to meander, then race back to the point...it all held together. One of the reasons why Final Girls is so flamboyantly visually stylish, the colors, the set design...and what the camera is doing... it's not subtle,  But a lot of that is in service to hold these disparate tones together, the horror, comedy, heart, magic, weirdness... To feel that strong hand of a storyteller, to have the specific cadence to the storytelling, of me telling the story and pushing you ahead. It's what my favorite movies do: What Kill Bill does, what Magnolia does, what One From The Heart, Hudsucker Proxy, and Obsession do.

This film features a large ensemble cast, what was the casting process like?

I really wanted to be able to feel the TONE of the movie in the casting The tone is wild, it’s a comedy, its scary, its cool, it’s a melodrama… and I wanted you to feel that when you looked at the ensemble. So you have Adam and Thomas and Alia and Angela who are bringing a lot of the comedy, you know them from comedy. But then you also have at the center Taissa who is such a wonderful and grounded actor. She has such fragility, such a grounded and raw emotion… and she tethers the movie. And then you pair her with Malin who is a terrific actor. She’s really able to do the comedy, but she also has this incredible depth of emotion. I loved her in Happythankyoumoreplease.

It was about putting together a group of young and talented actors who could all be friends. Who I wanted to go to camp with. and they would be campers and I was head counselor. And they all ended up almost perfectly falling into their dynamics as we were shooting, we became a family out there. It was the best experience ever.

You and your team were shooting as many as fifty shots in a day. How did you keep up the focus and energy of the cast, crew and yourself?

I think enthusiasm is the key. Being a fan. Of other people and also of your own ideas. Especially if you’re trying to do something special or different you kinda have to convince a lot of people that these things you want to do are gonna be great!

Ambition is my favorite quality in a movie, I really hate when a movie isn’t trying to do anything new or special. And I think people can feel that. I think people galvanize around that kinda enthusiasm and ambition. It’s exciting to be working on a movie that is trying to be disruptive and do something new… tonally or visually.

I always love when I'll meet a person and when I’m around them I feel so interesting, so smart, so funny, they somehow bring out the best in me. They are interested, and kind, and able to make me feel instantly comfortable… I try to be that for other people. I want to bring out the best in everyone around me and make it feel the way it felt for me when I was 14 making movies in my living room with my sister. There is a cool Lorne Michaels idea that has been coursing through SNL for years that the sketches are really designed to let the hosts “score”. I love that. That you are really creating opportunities for the people around you to score. When I read the script I thought I could score with this movie. I thought my dp Elie could score, I thought Katie Byron our intrepid production designer could score… Taissa and Malin could score in their goodbye scenes, Nina on that dock has this big moment to score… Greg our composer gets to play around with this crazy music and score… I just loved giving these amazingly talented people around me these big challenging things to pull off so that they could score. I think that is an infectious vibe on set and it gets people to give you their best.

…also shotlists…

Final Girls is roller coaster ride and really taps into the joy of movies. What does cinema mean to you? What cinematic experience awaits the Midnight Madness audiences?

Final Girls is the kinda movie I personally love. Its ALL the feelings. ALL OF THEM. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get scared, you’ll feel nostalgic, you’ll be dazzled by how pretty it is, how weird it is,  it’s fucking BADASS, you’ll cheer, you’ll yell at the screen, you’ll see things in this movie you haven’t seen before… it’s the full range of human emotion!!!

I think you should walk out of a movie feeling better than you did going in. I think we go to movies looking for a human experience, and I think you want to laugh and cry and in some kinda subconscious way, touch that tender part of you that gets cemented up throughout the day with irony and anxiety and sarcasm and fear and just endless thinking… I think what a movie can do almost better than anything else is connect you back to yourself,  to make you feel a little more connected and empathetic. I think if they are working, movies can be an antidote to the rest of your life. I think that's what they're capable of… I don’t go to movies to “escape” my life, I go to reconnect to it.

Originally Appeared 9/9/15 Midnight Madness Blog




Thursday, October 12, 2017

BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 Vince Vaughn, Udo Kier, Dan Amboyer Premiere Interviews


Last month I attended the North American premiere of S. Craig Zahler's (Bone Tomahawk) new film BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99. Mr. Zahler has written and directed one hell of pulp, crime, prison movie. He even wrote several of the songs that play in the film. Vince Vaughn's transformation in playing Bradley Thomas is an amazing performance. I was able to speak with Mr. Vaughn, Udo Kier, of which I can confirm his stare will burn a hole into your very soul, as well as actor Dan Amboyer on the red carpet at Midnight Madness at the Toronto Intentional Film festival.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

COVERED IN BLOOD!!!! Interview With Eli Roth [From The Archives 09/09/12]

Eli Roth is no stranger to the Midnight Madness programme of the Toronto International Film Festival. His first film as a writer and director Cabin Fever received its World Premiere in 2002 and instantly became a genre favorite. He would return to Midnight Madness in 2005 leading a new direction in American horror films with the extremely intense, visceral film Hostel. 2012 marks the return of Eli Roth to Toronto’s midnight showcase as the lead actor and producer in Nicolás López’ AFTERSHOCK. I recently had the opportunity to ask Eli some questions on his latest film project.




How did you meet Nicolas Lopez? What did you see in his previous films that made you want to collaborate with him?

In 2004 I was invited to the Los Angeles Film Festival to be on a filmmaker panel, and after the event I was about to leave when the programmer Rich Raddon said "Don't go! There's a movie you HAVE to see. The director loves Cabin Fever - he told me to find you, he's this hilarious 21 year old Chilean kid, he made a crazy teen comedy, you can't miss it." That was Promedio Rojo. I remember Nicolas' introduction was so funny he had the whole audience rolling before the credits even started. 90 minutes later I was a huge Nicolas Lopez fan. We hung out that night and turned out we had a lot more in common than we realized.

Specifically, we had made out with the same girl from this one particular film festival in Europe. (Different years of course.) After that we were pretty much bonded for life. The more I got to know Nicolas, the more I realized what a genius he was. At the age of 16 he produced Jorge Olguin's horror film Angel Negro, and then wrote, produced, directed and starred in his own MTV show called Piloto MTV," where he's a director who every week he had to do come up with a new show for MTV. It's totally nuts, and if you speak Spanish I recommend tracking it down on youtube. Piloto was a massive hit in Latin America and aired on MTV after Jackass. Nicolas had accomplished all of this by the age of 17, and by that time had a regular column called Promedio Rojo in the major newspaper of Santiago, where he wrote about what was going on in his high school. This wasn't like writing for the school paper, he was writing for the equivalent of the Los Angeles Times about his high school and exposing all kinds of things, which Que Pena Tu Vida they threw him out for.

Nicolas wanted to make Hollywood style movies from the get-go, which was the antithesis of most of the artier festival type government funded films being made in Chile. I was amazed at what he had accomplished by 21, I didn't make my first film until I was 29. And over the years I've seen him grow into an incredible filmmaker. After Promedio Nicolas was the hot shot new director in Hollywood for a minute and everyone was throwing projects at him, but he went off and made this wild VFX comic book-style movie called Santos. It was a complete disaster, it totally tanked in Spain and Chile, and for the first time in his life he felt he had failed. He felt washed up at 23, and then just buckled down and wrote Fuck My Life, a romantic comedy about how difficult it is to break up when everyone is so connected and we're reminded of our exes every time we use twitter or facebook or instagram.

He shot Que Pena in 11 days for $100,000 on a 7D and it out-grossed The Social Network in Chile, which was a massive hit there. It was box office smash, taking in fifteen times its budget. We talked about doing a film together, something high octane, in English, something scary and violent. I went down and visited him in Chile and we just started writing and scouting locations. It all came together very fast, but really sprung from our friendship and mutual admiration of each others' work.

You have produced several films before. What unique obstacles did you and the production team face on AFTERSHOCK? How did you overcome them?

I wanted to do AFTERSHOCK in the same way that Nicolas had made his Que Pena Films, which is down and dirty and fast, shooting all in Chile, with a Chilean crew. I had just spent several months in China shooting Man With the Iron Fists, and had nearly an entirely Chinese crew, so I was used to working with foreign crews, especially after the "Hostel" films which I shot in Prague and Iceland with local crews. I love going into another country and figuring it out. It's exciting to me, and with each system you can take something you learned onto the next one with you.

I even had that experience on Basterds with the German crew shooting Nation's Pride. One of the major unique obstacles was getting a completion bond, which financiers require. It had never been done before in Chile. AFTERSHOCK is the first bonded film shot in Chile. It took a lot of education and trust and showing them that the team down there knew what they were doing, and the bond company was great and we came in a day ahead of schedule and under budget. I had to put up half my salary as collateral, which I got eventually, but it took me bonding the bond company, if that makes sense. The biggest obstacle was adjusting to the Chilean style of making movies, which I actually prefer in some ways.

For example, there are no trailers - you just share a room to change if you need to. There's one make up artist for everyone, not a big makeup trailer with lots of chairs. It's just how it is. Things moved so fast it reminded me of what it was like to make a movie with your friends when you're a kid. There's no unions, so everyone's just picking up helping out. Nicolas and his producing partner Miguel Asensio have assembled a great team there. I also produced it with Brian Oliver and Mac Cappucino and Jim Holt, whose company Vertebra films were financing. We were all there, on the ground, bridging the U.S. system with the bond and the exchange rate and all that kind of stuff, plus I was acting in the film which took up most all my time. I had to go from writer to producer to actor, and then back to producer. It was a lot, but it was so much fun. It felt like we were breaking new ground, kind of re-learning everything we knew at the same time. It was a combination of adjusting the Hollywood culture and the Chile culture to create a new style that accommodates both.



How difficult is it to act as well as produce in the same film? Are there moments when you are in a scene and CUT is called and a phone is handed to you in regards to a producing concern? How do you stay in character?

Yes. It's very difficult, way more so than I anticipated. I want to do every job at the best of my abilities, so I tend to go all in and completely immerse myself no matter what it is, if it's writing directing, producing, or acting. I want to give in a great performance, and that takes intense concentration and preparation. But the way I can produce at the same time is to produce the film with good partners who can take over those duties while you're acting.

They knew what my acting in the film meant, and we were prepared for it. Miguel, Mac, Jim and Brian were handling producing duties when I was acting, and if something needed to get done we just dealt with it. It's never an ideal situation and they don't want to bother me when they don't have to, but more often than not I was taking phone calls and signing contracts and solving problems completely drenched in fake blood, dust and sweat. It's also hard to shut your brain off, so after a while you just kind of give up on sleep until you wrap. It was like this on Basterds when I was acting and shooting Nation's Pride at the same time, it was really hard and just took all my focus at all times. After we wrapped photography we all got sick - it's like our bodies were fighting it and once we knew we were allowed to shut down we spent a week in bed not moving.

Can you describe what the process was like to write the screenplay with Mr. Lopez and Guillermo Amodeo?

We wrote the script over skype, and a lot of it was like a volleyball game, where we'd just bat it around back and forth. Guillermo had worked closely with Nicolas on his other scripts, and he's great with story and structure. I'll come up with a ton of ideas of ways to kill, as does Nicolas, and Guillermo can help wrangle them into an escalation of events. But really it started with Nicolas describing the earthquake to me and what he went through.

He just took me through the events of the night, and the stories that happened to people he knew, and it was all there. It was horrific - the total collapse of society. The whole country shook violently for 3 and a half minutes, it was a notch under the Tokyo earthquake. It hit at 3:30 in the morning on a Saturday on the last weekend of their summer, so most of the young people were out at bars partying, dancing. Thousands of people drunk, girls in heels and tiny dresses, suddenly getting hands chopped off or having pieces of ceiling collapse on them.

One of our leads Lorenza Izzo was in a club when it hit, and said when we were shooting the earthquake it was exactly what happened to her. In the very club we filmed at people were killed when the speakers fell on them. One kid lost both his hands and had his friends looking for them, but they couldn't find them and had to leave because the structure was collapsing. The prisons broke up, violent criminals got out, there was looting - and nobody could communicate. No police, no fire - it was chaos. A lot of the country is still destroyed from the earthquake, so we used real locations. The Santiago cemetery let us film in a wing that was too damaged from the earthquake to be usable, so while we were shooting we suddenly realized we were surrounded by broken open tombs with bones falling out. We didn't have to set dress it, I was lying on the ground and all around me were dust and bones that were rattled in the earthquake. It was crazy.



 
As well as your directing and acting you have been quite prolific as a producer, what do you look for in a story before jumping on board as a producer?


I generally don't look for something, something grabs me, if that makes sense. It usually sparks from conversations with other filmmakers, or sometimes an idea just pops in your head and you know you have to make it. I hear a story, often based in fact, and then I say "we have to do that!" But one thing in common is I like to put a fresh spin on genres or types of films that people haven't done in a long time.

Cabin Fever was my love of 80's horror, really gory R rated kids in the woods horror which had all but evaporated by the 90's, and was way too sanitized and politically correct for my taste. With Hostel  I wanted to bring the unflinching brutality I had seen coming out South Korea and Japan to American cinemas. I wanted to push the R rating as far as anyone had ever done. I wanted to make the movie people were afraid to see. With Man with the Iron Fists I just loved RZA's story, his whole conception of how to modernize and do an updated version of the films we loved watching on Saturday Kung Fu theater, and with AFTERSHOCK I realized there hadn't been a good realistic, violent earthquake disaster thriller since the 70's.

We wanted something that was real, but a high octane, roller coaster thriller, something that when it hits just doesn't let up. So many disaster films are done with CG, which is fine, but we had the opportunity to do something that was modern and do it real by actually destroying things. Most everything you see we really did. A lot of the takes I closed my eyes because I was terrified someone would get crushed. Thankfully no one got hurt, but the film was made with that kind of energy. Nicolas would look at me after a take and just shake his head and say "Someone's watching over this movie." And you feel it when you see it. There's no substitute for the real thing.

AFTERSHOCK was shot in Chile, what were some of the unique aspects to making a film there as opposed to Los Angeles?

In Los Angeles, everything is union. It's much more expensive, and the departments are segregated into very specific jobs, and no one crosses over and does the other person's job. In Chile, it's non-union so everyone just pitches in and does everything. Also there's no agents, no managers, none of that. None of the Chilean actors are in SAG, so you're not dealing with overtime and turnaround issues, which is after an actor wraps you can't bring them in the next day until 12 hours later. People just do it for a flat weekly rate and that's it. It was really like a family, but that comes from Nicolas and Miguel Asensio his producing partner. They've all made so many movies together they're all friends and everyone gets along great. I was lucky to be able to just plug into their system, that was always the idea. And they are fantastic, we're planning to shoot a bunch of movies now. We call them Chilewood movies.


Why should folks check out AFTERSHOCK at Midnight Madness?

Nicolas Lopez is one of the most exciting talents out there, mostly unknown to English speaking audiences. His movies are very, very fun, I think people are going to be shocked and thrilled by what we did. There's nothing like AFTERSHOCK. You're discovering a new talent for the first time, and after I think people will track down his Spanish movies on Netflix.

He's going to be a major force in genre cinema, and you can be there to be part of that moment when he crosses over and help support him. He deserves it. Also if you're a fan of my acting, you see me covered in blood for a lot of the movie. This is the first film I've starred in, and I wouldn't just do that with any director. I was offered lead roles in movies after Basterds and turned them all down because none of the projects excited me. Nicolas is one of the few directors I really trust as an actor, and I hope people will be surprised by what they see me do on screen. Plus the other cast members are superb - Ariel Levy, Lorenza Izzo, Andrea Osvart, Nicolas Martinez, Natasha Yarovenko - they're incredible. The audience who sees this will really be discovering exciting new talent.





                                          Robert Aaron Mitchell interviewing Eli Roth

Midnight Madness and the Festival have marked crucial points in your career having launched the world premieres of both CABIN FEVER and HOSTEL. Can you talk about your relationship to the Festival and Toronto?   

Toronto is the place where I was officially born as a director. I had a made a movie but somehow it wasn't official until I saw it in a theater with a paying audience. That first premiere at the Uptown 1 is one of the greatest memories of my life. When the doors opened it was like being at the center at the buffalo stampede from Dances with Wolves except with rabid horror geeks.

My whole life I had dreamed of that moment and for the first time I really felt like everything I had envisioned since I was 8 years old was coming true. I had heard so many stories about being the hot film at the festival, I had always wanted that to happen. And the fans were so receptive, they went crazy, and the bidding war ensued and the rest is history. I feel like Cabin Fever helped buyers realize what a goldmine Midnight Madness is. There were many great films at the festival, but when Cabin Fever played a lot of buyers would leave halfway through the festival.

After Cabin Fever sold and Lionsgate's biggest hit of the year for them, people got fired for not bidding on movies at midnight madness. The whole psychology shifted - especially when Saw played the next year. And now it's where people look to find the next big thing in horror or genre. Colin Geddes has such great taste in selecting an exciting, diverse program that give attention to films that really need it and deserve it. So my career is forever tied to Toronto, and I love that, that's why I wanted to bring Hostel there. Even when I shot Hemlock Grove in Toronto I moved into the TIFF Lightbox building because it felt like home for me.

The Toronto fans welcomed me before they had seen a frame of my film - they gave me a chance and welcomed me with open arms. Many film festivals the audience is somewhat hostile, they want you to impress them, but the Toronto fans are genuinely appreciative you brought the movie there and they want to see it in the theater with a wild crowd, which is why we make them in the first place. And that's why it was important to premiere AFTERSHOCK here as well. I want Nicolas to feel the same reception I felt. I can't wait to show this to the Toronto Midnight Madness audience. It's one of the best audiences you can show a movie to.

Originally Appeared 9/9/12 Midnight Madness Blog

Monday, October 9, 2017

MIDNIGHT MADNESS 2017 Photo Gallery Ft. James Franco, Vince Vaughn, Dizaster, Joseph Kahn, Coralie Fargeat, Ryûhei Kitamura, Sôichi Umezawa

Here is a photo gallery of Robert Aaron Mitchell and Sarah Dillard Mitchell's adventures at the 2017 Midnight Madness programme at the Toronto International Film Festival. Here is a link to a New York Times piece about the programme. Photos by Ian Goring, Sarah Mitchell, Daniel Pearl & Dominik Magdziak.

  Talking to Dizaster at the world premiere of Bodied. 09/07/17 Photo by: Ian Goring

Speaking with Director Joseph Kahn at the world premiere of Bodied. Photo by: Ian Goring

Talking to Director Joseph Kahn at the world premiere of Bodied. Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

In conversation with actor Calum Worthy at the world premiere of Bodied. Photo by: Ian Goring

Interviewing writer Alex Larsen aka Kid Twist at the world premiere of Bodied Photo By: Ian Goring

 Speaking with Charlamagne Tha God about his role in Bodied Photo by: Ian Goring

Interviewing actor Rory Uphold at the Bodied world premiere. Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

Talking to Director David Bruckner at the world premiere The Ritual 09/08/17 Photo by: Ian Goring

 Speaking to actor Sam Troughton about his role in The Ritual Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

"Crank-styled" interview with writer/director Brian Taylor at the world premiere of Mom & Dad Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

Talking to writer/director at Mom & Dad premiere 09/09/17 Photo by: Ian Goring

In conversation with Anne Winters about her character in Mom & Dad. Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

 Anne Winters at the world premiere of Mom & Dad. Photo by: Ian Goring

With cinematographer Daniel Pearl (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) at the premiere of Mom & Dad Photo by: Daniel Pearl

Talking to writer/director Coralie Fargeat actor Matilda Lutz at premiere of Revenge 09/10/17 Photo by: Ian Goring

Talking to James Franco at the world premiere of The Disaster Artist 09/11/17 Photo by: Ian Goring

Talking to James Franco at the world premiere of The Disaster Artist Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

 Speaking to Ari Graynor about portraying Lisa in The Disaster Artist Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

 
Talking to screenwriters Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

 
With Vince Vaughn at the world premiere of Brawl In Cell Block 99
09/12/17 Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

Interviewing actor Dan Amboyer at premiere of Brawl In Cell Block 99
Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

Speaking with the Let The Corpses Tan writers/directors Bruno Forzani & Hélène Cattet
World Premiere 09/13/17 Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

 With actor Hervé Sogne at the premiere of Let The Corpses Tan
Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

Talking to The Crescent Director Seth A. Smith 09/14/17
Photo by: Ian Goring

Speaking to actor Danika Vandersteen at the world premiere of The Crescent
Photo by: Ian Goring

 With director Ryûhei Kitamura at world premiere of Downrange
09/15/17 Photo by: Ian Goring

Talking to actor Graham Skipper about Downrange & Sequence Break
Photo by: Ian Goring

Speaking with Anthony Kirlew about his character in Downrange
Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

Interviewing Kelly Connaire at the premiere of Downrange
Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

Talking with Downrange actor Rod Hernandez-Farella
Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

In conversation with Stephanie Pearson at the Downrange premiere.
Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

Talking to Alexa Yeames at the Downrange premiere.
Photo by: Sarah Mitchell

With actor Jason Tobias at the Downrange premiere.
Photo by: Sarah Mitchell 

Talking to Tamotsu Kimura, director Sôichi Umezawa & Asuka Kurosawa
at the world premiere of Vampire Clay 09/16/17
Photo by: Ian Goring

Robert & Sarah Mitchell 
Photo by: Ian Goring

 Robert & Sarah Mitchell Midnight Madness Progammer Peter Kuplowsky Photographer Ian Goring
Photo by: Dominik Magdziak

Nicolas Cage
Photo by: Sarah Mitchell





Monday, July 17, 2017

WARREN OATES: "I DON'T KNOW WHERE HOME IS". My Visit To Depoy and Greenville Kentucky


     “How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.” ― William Faulkner

"Look at this face you sons of bitches, your going to remember this face!" - Warren Oates as John Dillinger. 

I am in the midst of a life of wandering. Currently I live nowhere near where I was born and have sought to put as many miles away from there as humanly possible. The concept of home is one I think about often. I have stood in front of childhood homes of literary figures who have inspired me. Ernest Hemingway's Oak Park, Illinois home. Hunter S. Thompson childhood home in Louisville, Kentucky. I am fascinated where peoples lives begin. In the case of actor Warren Oates, he was born in small Kentucky town in the heart of coal country, Depoy.

One night years ago while re-watching one of my favorite films, Sam Peckinpah's "Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia" I started researching Warren Oates and found out he was born in the small Kentucky town of Depoy. Not all that far from where I am living these days. Further research informed me that in nearby Greenville, Kentucky at the Duncan Museum and Art Gallery was a tribute to Muhlenberg County's most famous son dubbed the Warren Oates Memorial Hall. This information was buried somewhere in my brain caves. A couple of days prior to Independence Day this year I began looking for information about Warren's hometown. I saw that he was born on July 5th, 1928. How great would it be to be in his hometown on his birthday. Remembering that there was a tribute to him I began researching once again. My research informed me that the art gallery was donated in late 2013, the Duncan home was gifted to the Muhlenberg County Public Library by the City of Greenville and was now named Thistle Cottage.





I also discovered that this space was currently undergoing renovations. I wondered if the tribute to Mr. Oates was still there. I found a contact and emailed. Amie an archivist for Thistle Cottage emailed back an hour later stating that the Warren Oates items were indeed still housed there, and confirming that renovations were on-going and that the items were not currently on display, however she would set them up for me if I were thinking of visiting. I responded if that was not too much trouble I would head down for a visit as I was trying to time it around his July 5th birthday. She said that it was no trouble at all.

My wife and I got up early and I began to drive down to Kentucky from our house in Southern Indiana. The drive down I-69 was good and the day was threatening thunder storms. When we arrived in Depoy, Kentucky it was still a beautiful sunny morning. As we got closer to Depoy we kept look out for a sign. We spotted the sign. I pulled the car over and Sarah took a picture for me.



As expected there was not much to see. We got back in the car and arrived in Greenville an hour before Thistle Cottage opened. Walking around the town square we saw a beautiful marque for the the Palace Theater which was where a young Warren Oates would see films and perhaps where the yearning for cinema and acting began.


The marque stands in remarkable shape. The space is now the Muhlenberg Community Theater where plays are staged and other community events take place. We walked around the square which is centered around the old courthouse. There were several statues dedicated to history and a 911 memorial. We then drove over to Thistle Cottage. I opened the door and a woman approached us. "Amie?" "Yes." "I'm Robert Mitchell who emailed you about the Warren Oates items." We exchanged pleasantries and she showed us into the front room where all the items were on display. My eyes immediately were drawn to the large photo of Warren front and center. One can quickly put Mr. Oates into categories. "Character Actor." "Every man"



Muhlenberg County's
Muhlenberg County's
Muhlenberg County's

The painting above of Warren Oates shows him as Major Welles in the Blue and the Gray. The painting is by local Greenville area artist Thelma Yates, a cousin of Warren Oates.


Many films Warren acted in were displayed in the space. According to iMDB he has 125 acting credits. There were many episodes of television before breaking into feature films.  For my money he is one of America's consummate actors. His energy and charisma were magnets drawing to a film viewer. The characters he inhabited were wounded and prone to rage. They also had dreams and heart.

That smile Mr. Oates flashes as GTO the first time we see him in Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop stays with long after the credits roll. Kent Jones would write of Oates performance as "heartbreakingly eloquent woundeness" and would further expound, "Warren Oates GTO is every pontificating drunk, every reformed junkie or born again proselytizer, every guy who moves to another town to begin again....Like all dreamers, he's just talking to himself."





Then there is Oates' first leading role, Bennie from "Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia" a down and out bartender working in Mexico. A character it has been said was based on larger than life film director and frequent Oates collaborator Sam Peckinpah.

The highlights of the collection on display at Thistle Cottage were the couple of family photos and numerous local newspaper articles that Warren appeared in when he would come back to Muhlenberg County. Warren's father Bayless Oates owned a general store in Depoy. The family lost the store during the Great Depression. Bayless then took to the road doing odd jobs. Warren's mother Sarah took in boarders. One night they took in Jesse James and his partner just before they did a bank robbery in nearby Russelville. James and his partner left a ten dollar gold piece under a breakfast plate. The Oates family moved to Louisville, Kentucky when Warren was thirteen. He attended school was often made fun of for being a "hillbilly" who dressed funny. Ostracized he spent most of his time in trouble and getting into fist fights. By eighteen Warren decided to join the Marines, "I figured if I didn't, I'd end up in jail." He served for two years mostly as an aircraft mechanic. Back in Kentucky he attended Louisville State University. He took courses in business administration, anthropology and English.  It was during his time at Louisville State University that he developed an interest in acting after joining a student theater group. Warren dropped out of college and decided to New York City to pursue the life of an actor. He his Kentucky roots with almost nothing. His brother Gordon gave him two twenty dollar bills and said, "Don't spend this until you have to."Warren boarded a Greyhound bus for the big apple. He checked coats and washed dishes. All the while going to auditions. Warren began to get jobs in television. His career would span over two hundred television shows and forty-one feature films.






A large article about a documentary in the making about Warren that was created by two fellow Kentuckians, Tom Marksbury and Tom Thurman. That documentary would become Warren Oates: Across The Border. In this article I read a great story about Peckinpah and Oates both living as neighbors on ranches in Montana. Judy Jones Warren's wife was trying to keep him bad influences of Peckinpah and had facilitated a large, study gate to close off the driveway. Peckinpah was driving a pickup over to Oates' place and went hurtling through the gate at 75 miles per hour, sending the gate flying straight up towards the sky. Oates came running out to see what the commotion was and upon spotting his friend through his hat up in the air. The gate and hat land at the same moment. Witnesses said it was just like a scene in a Sam Peckinpah movie. Another newspaper article was about Oates returning to Kentucky, Lexington to be exact while he was filming the t.v. movie Black Beauty.



There pictures from the local paper of Warren getting married to Judy Jones. The wedding happened at the Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Depoy in 1977. At this church in the 1930s Warren a scrappy, young kid would earn seventy five cents a day for firing up the stove and ringing the church bells.


Another newspaper article by Dudley Saunders from February 20th, 1972, cited Oates speaking of this church and Depoy: He didn't believe the ringing of the church bells lead him to acting but he adds there was plenty of human drama in that little coal-mining town he has never forgotten and which he plans to recreate in future films.

The unpredictable and nomadic life of actor sometimes got on top of Warren. In one interview he spoke of hanging out and bars and counting to get into fights. "I'd pick up a bottle and clear the table with it." There was another night back in Hollywood he chased a guy up Santa Monica Boulevard "like a raving banshee wielding a knife." Warren's first marriage fell apart. He discovered he had hepatitis. He stopped drinking and started writing, mostly poetry. Another article Warren lamented being typed cast as the anti-hero in films. There are also a  couple newspaper cutouts of Warren Oates obituary.

I had no idea what I would see at Thistle Cottage. I enjoyed seeing the newspaper articles that had been saved from years gone by. I now know more about someone who I consider one of America's great actors. To be able to physically stand in the tiny town of Depoy and know that from this place is where Warren Oates began his life was remarkable for me. Talking to Aime before leaving she told me that she had no idea what she was going to set up in the front room of Thistle Cottage for the month and then she received my email inquiring about the Warren Oates items. She then thought that was perfect. As Sarah and I we left to head back home, I thought it was great that I had a small part in influencing the culture of a small Kentucky town and that for Warren's birth month the tribute to him was once again on display in Greenville. 

Kentucky born Warren Oates found his calling for acting in the Bluegrass state and then hopped on a bus bound for New York City to pursue his passions and those dreams and ambitions took him to Hollywood. Once Warren was established in the craft of acting he also spent time in Montana. In a December 23rd, 1968 a Greenville newspaper article Oates was asked where home was, "Man, I just don't know." Warren replied.