Sven-Ole Thoreson [Interview]

I am always excited when we have legendary folks on Trainwreck’d Society, and I never forget how blessed I am to have this platform to share words from amazing figures in the world of film, television, music, etc. But, Folks, this is an AMAZING interview that truly hits close to home for me personally. And it should for all of you as well!

We have spoken with a lot of folks who have worked in both the View Askew and post-Jersey world of the brilliant filmmaker, and recent heart attack survivor Kevin Smith, over the last few years. And today we have another brilliant individual from this world who is forever embedded in my mind as one of the best “villains” of all time in the View Askew world. He has also had a brilliant career beyond this one film, which we will definitely discuss below, but it behooves me to emphasize just how much I adore Sven-Olen Thoreson for his role as LaFours in the cult classic film Mallrats.

Sven-Olen is not only a legend in the world of acting, he is a renowned body builder, even receiving the covenant title as Denmark’s strongest man. He has also managed to have been killed by his friend Arnold Schwarzenegger on screen more than anyone in history! Which is very impressive considering the death toll that the former California Governor has racked up on screen.

So Folks, please enjoy some amazing words from not only a legend in the world of all things Kevin Smith, Schwarzenegger, and body building….but a genuinely cool and wonderful person we are proud to call a friend of Trainwreck’d Society, the great Sven-Olen Thoreson!

What inspired you to join the world of acting? How did you transition into this line of work?

In Denmark based on size not talent, I was asked to work on a few pictures. And based on my friendship with Schwarzenegger, after inviting him to promote Pumping Iron in Denmark, I was invited to work on 3 Conan films, Conan the Barbarian in Spain, Conan the Destroyer in Mexico and Red Sonja in Italy, still living in Denmark.

When I moved to LA, the only person I knew was Arnold, so I called him and was invited to Grifith Park where he was filming Comando. Joe Silver the producer, became very impressed by my huge size, being much bigger than Arnold, that he offered me $20K to work as a stuntman and train Arnold to keep him in shape. I had to become a member of SAG and to get a US Social Security Number. I went to SAG and produced proof of prior movie work and gave them my Danish SSN, and from then on I have worked non stop for 30 years and so far been apart of over 160 productions both on Film & TV.

In 1995 you appeared in the cult classic comedy film Mallrats, as the antagonist to Jay & Silent Bob, La Fours. What was it like to work on a project like this? How did working under the guise of Kevin Smith differ from other work you have done?

The year before I had worked with Jean Claude Van Dame on Hard Target and the producer Jim Jax promised me, that I would work for him in Mallrats.

Working with Kevin Smith was a thrill and working in the biggest mall in US in Minesota. The whole cast and crew was such a joy.

Your line of work is obviously a very dangerous one at times. What would say has been the most unfortunate accident that has occurred on one of your projects?

In Dragon, The Bruce Lee Life Story Directed by Rob Cohen, where I played the demon, and have a big fight scene with Jason Scott Lee, shot in Hong Kong.

The finish of this particular scenes was moved on location in Granada Hills in California where my character comes up from a grave to fight. Because of the light the scene had to be shot just before sunrise…

I was supposed to come up by a lift from 12 feet underground and had to ware an oxygen mask based on heavy smoke that covered the graveyard. So before stepping on to the lift I asked the special effect guys if it was secure & safe. I was told that there had been 6 people on the lift tested several times. We did the first take of final scene of the fight scene and it was perfect.

The director was happy, but asked us to do another take while we still had time before sunrise… so I was yet again prepped with an oxygen mask and steped out on lift to be lowered down the 12 feet, when the cable broke and dumped me to the depth of the hole and I broke both my knees and lost the oxygen mask and could not breathe. I recall that I could not get out of there, so I screamed for my life and fainted. Next thing I recall is laying on the ground and seeing the crew and director looking down on me and said “Yes! Thank God, He ain’t dead!”

When you look back on your career, and the extremely impressive body of work that you have done, what would you say you are most proud of?

The scene from Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott, where my character Tigris fights Russell Crow who plays Maximus must be the one to mention here, becourse when I arrived in Malta where that scene was shot, I was given a 30 page storyboard with the movements and camera angels of the entire fight. 4 weeks of prep and 3 weeks to shoot the scene.

I was 55 and the role was very hard and tiredsome, but due to my discipline I could carry on and it got me 2 Stunt Oscars, the Taurus Awards, one for best work with Animals ( Tigers ) and one for best fight.

When you’re not out there hard at work on set, what would we find you doing for a little bit of “me time”?

I’m often to busy for me time, but writing scripts, books, hanging out with family and friends, working out, hiking and reading and giving public speakings and seminars all over the world has my time outside of the set of filming.

 

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I have upcomming filmings in Israel, the US, and Denmark and still fit for fight.

I plug my stuff as it comes up for promotion so I suggest the readers tag along on my website www.sven-olethorsen.com and find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

This, your question 🤪

Believe in your self, pain no gain, body and mind, you only have one body look after it!

I salute you all!

Check out this amazing video entitled “Muscle For Hire” created by Mick Hedge that can also be found at sven-olelthorsen.com:

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Robin Riker [Interview]


We have a great interview for you fine readers today here at Trainwreck’d Society! Today we are talking with the brilliant actress who has been rocking the world of television, film, and most importantly, the stage, for over 40 years! It’s Robin Riker!

I first discovered Robin’s work when she appeared as Chris Elliot’s nemesis in the cult classic TV show, Get A Life. I absolutely loved her character on this program, as she was the only one who was willing to truly call him out for his ridiculous behavior in a world surrounded by enablers. And then I caught Robin on a couple episodes of on a recent favorite series, You’re The Worst, and I thought I would try to track her down and get some words from this brilliant actress. And we did!

As it turns out, Robin actually has a wonderful book available now that is not only a tutorial on how to survive the world of acting, but also tells a bit about her life as an actress. So while I encourage you to continue reading her amazing answers below, I would more so encourage you to follow the links provided to find out even more about this amazingly talented human being!

We are so excited that Robin was able to share some words with you fine readers here, so let’s just jump right into it, shall we?

When did you decide that you wanted to join the world of performance for a living? Was it an early passion of yours? Or did you just find yourself in this life one day?

I think my life choice was kind of inevitable.  I’m the 3rd generation of perfomers in my family…on both SIDES of my family.

My paternal  grandfather was a clown in Ringling Brothers, my father was an actor from a very young age in TV and radio, my maternal grandmother was an amateur actress and my mother was a professional actor and writer and director.  For a few years after I was born, my dad did the weather and operated the TV camera and hosted a childrens’ television show in Harrisburg Pennsylvania.  The show was called Captain Rick’s Showboat, and he often had kids in studio as his audience…you guessed it…my older brother and I were, sometimes a couple of those kids.

I made my stage debut at the age of 2 playing the little girl in a local production of The Littlest Angel.  I still remember the first lines I ever uttered in front of an audience, “ Daddy, why is the star on top of the Christmas tree?”

I discovered a short-lived but ultimately hilarious show about 20 years after it originally aired, entitled Get A Life, in which you were a regular star. I absolutely adored this program, and can always go back to it for a good laugh. So, I am curious to know what it was like to work on such a bizarre and hilarious sitcom like this? Was it as much fun to work on as it was for the fans to watch?

Oh, we had a ball!  The cast and crew were all  such fun and I loved the character I got to play. “Sharon” was the nemesis of Chris Elliott and got to say all the things the audience was thinking about his ridiculous behavior.  I loved working with Chris.  In fact an episode in which Chris and I played rivals in a community theatre production of “Zoo Animals on Wheels” was named by TV Guide as one of the 50 funniest moments in TV history….I’m very proud of that fact but its hard to work that into everyday conversation so thanks for giving me the opportunity to bring it up!  🙂

We have had the pleasure of showcasing quite a few folks who have worked in the world of Soap Operas. You have managed to work quite extensively in this world as well! I always like to ask folks on both sides of the camera what it was like to work in such a fast paced environment? And what sort of knowledge did you happen to draw from working in this field for the times that you have?

I’m very lucky to have inherited a tiny chip of my grandfather’s genetic material…he was an attorney with a photographic memory…so that is a great help in learning the pages of dialogue required everyday in the  fast paced production of Soaps.  I was also classically trained in the theatre so that’s a great help as well because, they do VERY few takes so  if you falter in a scene but have the ability to  cover the mistake and get to the other actor’s cue its a real asset.  I never really aspired to working in soaps but when my agent called and asked if I’d be interested in accepting an offer to join the cast of  Days of Our Lives for a while, I paused and then replied, “Well, yeah if it’s something interesting like a homeless woman who lives under a bridge.”  There was a much longer pause on her end of the line and then she laughed and said,  “She IS a homeless woman who lives under a bridge!”

Well, when the universe answers you so quickly and specifically you have to say yes!  Soap Opera fans are so loyal and the soap world is a tight community so once you’ve acquitted yourself well on one of them it’s not unusual to be invited to other shows too.  I was lucky enough to receive a couple of subsequent offers from The Bold and the Beautiful and then General Hospital as well.

You have worked extensively in the worlds of television, film, and the stage. You’ve had some great success in all of these forms, but I am curious to know what is your preferred method of performance? if you were destined to work in only one field for the rest of your career, what would it be?

Theatre, hands down.  There is nothing quite like telling the story from beginning to end every performance.  The immediate connection with an audience of living breathing people only feet away from you is thrilling and dangerous and extremely fulfilling.  One’s performance grows and evolves over the run of a show and you discover more and more about the character you’re portraying with each performance. I’ve often said that despite the rehearsal process –  which I also love but  you don’t get much of when doing a film or TV show – I feel just about ready to open a play the night it closes.

I understand you have a book available now that sounds very intriguing? Can you tell us a bit about what the book is about? And what inspired you put it out into the world?

Its called A Survivor’s Guide to Hollywood: How to Play the Game Without Losing Your Soul. I was asked to address the students in the  theatre department of Wright State University in Ohio.  The day before I spoke, I said to myself, these students have just gone through a couple of years of theatre history and scene study and all the academic aspects of acting so what do I have to share with them that they don’t already have freshly implanted in their minds?  And then it came to me:  I can tell them what its like to actually LIVE the life of an artist.  The day to day struggles and the philosophy that can support you through those struggles.  The perspective one needs to live a happy life even when you’re not booking the jobs and receiving the encouragement so vital to all of us – no matter what profession we choose.

I’m not teaching them how to “act”, I’m suggesting ways they might want to ‘behave” in order to keep their creativity and their happiness intact. This business, indeed this world, has a way of diminishing accomplishments that aren’t “spectacular.” I show you ways to recognize that you are far luckier than you think, you accomplish far more than you give yourself credit for, and that being aware of the company you keep are all critical to maintaining the sort of self support one needs to succeed as a person in any profession.  In fact the reviews that have made me extra happy are the ones from readers outside show business – house painters, therapists, attorneys and political activists – who have said what a useful philosophy for life my book has been for them.

Thank you so much for asking about it!  Now for a little shameless self promotion:  “A Survivor’s Guide to Hollywood” is available world wide at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and through bookstores but if  ordered from my website, I can personalize it for you!  Its a very funny and good read, I’ve been told and I’m quite proud of it…can you tell? 🙂  robinriker.com

What does the future have in store for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I just shot a film for Lifetime called Killer in a Red Dress.   I’m neither the Killer nor the Red dress but the role was a lot of fun.

I’ve just completed a pilot entitled Hildy & Maude which we are shopping around and I’m looking forward to launching into…I’ll keep you posted as to where and when that can be found and I’m starting a new book of short stories.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

This question 🙂  I just love the fact that you know how important it is to smile!  There have been psychological studies done which prove that if you force yourself to smile even when every feeling in your body says “there’s nothing to smile ABOUT” the simple act of maintaining that reluctant smile will, in fact, uplift your mood!  Wild isn’t it?

I think it’s important to realize the power of a smile that’s freely given, too.  Just try it for yourself the next time you go out. Simply smile at a passing stranger.  Even if they don’t smile back, you have changed the energy around them.   All the technology we are immersed in every minute of every day tends to isolate us from each other even as we think we are connecting by text and instagram etc.  Looking at a person as they walk by and smiling at them is a real  and all too rare connection these days.  It  can change a person’s day…both for the smiler and the smilee!

New Music Tuesday: A Flock of Seagulls with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra – Ascension [Album]

 

I will be the first to admit that I was mostly unaware of the actual work of A Flock of Seagulls. I knew the name. I knew “I Ran”. And I knew the haircuts. I remember the references in The Wedding Singer, and knew that my dad probably hated these guys when he was in high school in the 80’s. Or he probably actually loved them, but tried to hide his love for them under a Def Leppard t-shirt and acid washed denim jeans. But beyond that, I couldn’t rightfully call myself a fan of this legendary band.

But dammit, I will say that I am a fan now! I guess it just took a 34 year hiatus and The Prague Philharmonic Orchestra to key me in to their wonderful tunes! Not only have A Flock of Seagulls managed to pull together to bring back some of their legendary cuts to the world, they have managed to reinvent their classics in a truly original and stellar fashion.

 

Ascension is a wonderful collection of the songs that AFOS fans already know and love, but done so masterfully with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. If you are a casual listener of the band before checking this out, “I Ran” is definitely on there and is definitely great. But, while you are revisiting this fabulous group, so much of this tracklist is inevitably something you knew, but didn’t know that you loved! The highlights of the album come right around the middle of the album for me, with the title track being amazing and “Wishing (I Had A Photograph of You)” just rocking my damn world!

Seriously Folks, A Flock of Seagulls has done something truly magnificent here, and you have to check it out. Ascension is not only a beautiful comeback album for the band, it may very well be one of the best albums of 2018. Prepare to hear a band you either didn’t know, thought you knew, or have always loved and now get to pull the “I told you so!” comment of the shelf. No matter how you want to listen to this album, or for what purpose, this is an absolutely delightful record!

Ascension is available now wherever you buy music. Check out this amazing video for ‘Space Age Love Song” right NOW:

Sherren Lee [Interview]

Happy Monday Folks! Today we are kicking the week off with some wonderful words from one of the finest indie filmmakers working today. It’s the wonderful Sherren Lee! For those of you who managed to check out our Sunday Matinee that went live yesterday for the brilliant short film, The Things You Think I’m Thinking, you may recognize Sherren by name. Or if you are just a fan of brilliant modern cinema, you probably have been following Sherren for years!

Sherren has had an amazing career thus far, and with her latest short film straight blowing up in the festival circuit, it is only a short matter of time before she is a household name across the globe. With that, we are so excited that she was able to take some time to share some words with us here at Trainwreck’d Society. So, without further babbling, please enjoy some great words from the brilliant Sherren Lee!

When did you discover your passion for the world of filmmaking and storytelling? Was it always something you have wanted to do since you were a youth, or did you just manage to stumble into this world?

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be an actor. So, as a kid, I was in all the school plays and sent my headshot to any agency I could find (and got rejected by all of them). In university, I studied Marketing and Organizational Behaviour, and kept acting on the side, mostly doing community musical theatre. Then, as I was about to graduate, I directed a play for the first time… and never acted again. Since then, I knew I wanted to be a director and has pursued nothing but.

Your short film The Things You Think I’m Thinking is one of the most interesting short films I have ever watched, as it manages to be both heart warming & wrenching at the same time, often moments apart! So how did this project manage to come to life? What made you decide to bring this incredible story to the screen? 

That is such a compliment, thank you! It’s very important to me to tell stories that move and warm our hearts, so that means a lot. The project was brought to me by Jesse LaVercombe, the screenwriter. He wrote the script specifically for Prince Amponsah, who plays our lead Sean. The story was completely inspired by Prince and his real life story. Jesse has such a knack for writing unique and charming characters, and they felt real to me right away. The script also made me feel uncomfortable — I was scared of not being able to handle the subject matter in the “right” way, and that made me want to do it. I knew it was an opportunity to tell a story that focused on empathy, and to challenge my own discomfort… so I leaned into that.

The Things You Think I’m Thinking (2018)


I understand you have been working the film around the festival circuit lately, and have managed to take home some very covenant awards at some wonderful festivals. So, overall, what has the fan reaction been like to the film? Have you noticed an impact on people’s lives? 

It truly has been a humbling experience. You never know how your film is going to affect other people, and the stories that audiences have shared with us about their own lives have been so moving and unexpected. The thing I’m most excited about, is that most people just get it–we all know what it’s like to go on a first date (which is excruciating enough) and to be afraid being judged for own flaws that we’re desperately trying to hide. We all have demons, but Sean’s can’t be hidden: so this scenario of a first date is a universal entry point for audiences to only imagine how difficult it must be for Sean, a burn-survivor and amputee, to put himself out there, to not be in his own head… things that we all need to work on.

I am always curious about relationships between those on screen, and their directors. I often ask actors and actresses “What makes a great director?”, but I would also like to know what you believe makes a great actor to work with? What do you believe has to be in place for a solid relationship to exist between those in performing roles and those you are guiding the process as directors? 

I think that great actors come from all kinds of places and have all kinds of different processes. For me as a director, it’s part of the job and part of the fun to get to know how your actors work and how to communicate with them. But ultimately, trust is the most important thing. If an actor comes with their own prep and their own ideas of who their character is, that’s very very exciting. And then we can have a dialogue and craft this character together. Basically, we’re partners. We want to give each other what we want. I’m there to make sure the character we’ve built comes alive on screen. I’m so in awe of actors because when the camera starts rolling, they are completely vulnerable, honest and open to me whispering in their ears… and they’re capable of shifting every so slightly to hit the sweet spot that we’re looking for. That experience is magical.

If you were handed a limitless budget, and a laundry list of your favorite performers and crew…and were tasked to create a biopic for any female figure who has affected world history in some way, who would you choose? And who would you want on your team? 

Oh my goodness, this is an impossible question. There are SO SO many talented people I want to work with. I’d really love to make a classic Wuxia (martial arts) movie with a female hero. One that hasn’t been told, through my female gaze. I’ll have to start doing my research to find this story! That would be a dream.


What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers? 

I’m currently working towards my first feature film, With Might and Grace, about a grieving mother and talented chef at the height of her career who checks into an illegal assisted-suicide facility with a reflection period of fifteen days. There, she meets a group of people, each with their own struggles, who challenge her right to choose own fate. I’m also about to start prep on two episodes of Murdoch Mysteries Season 12! I’m so excited to be returning this year after directing two episodes last year. And after that, I’ll be going straight onto CBC’s new show, Coroner, to direct one episode.

7) What was the last thing that made you smile? 

Watering my plants after being away for a month. My roommate calls me the plant lady. It’s gonna be okay.

Sunday Matinee: The Things You Think I’m Thinking [Short]

“The Things You Think I’m Thinking follows the story of a black male burn-survivor and amputee who goes on a date with a regularly-abled man. After the bar, they go back to his apartment, where he faces his demons as he attempts to experience intimacy for the first time since his accident, ten years ago.” – Project Four PR

On concept alone, this is a very compelling story. It is a truly specific story about human relations coming to head in the face of adversity. This short film could almost rear it’s head as something metaphorical had it been told only in written format. But to see the courage, fear, and eventual acceptance on screen brings this story something entirely different.

Filmmaker Sherren Lee manages to bring out some amazing performances in Prince Amponash and Jesse Lavercombe. What I enjoyed most about this beautiful short film is that it is entirely obvious that nobody was phoning it in. It sucks to say, but they really could have and absolutely gotten away with it. The story alone is, again, so specific! And it contained a real life victim as the lead role. Yet, Prince and Jesse gave absolutely brilliant performances as the film’s principle stars. As touching as the concept of the film may be, it makes it all the more beautiful to me when I see filmmakers like Lee and actors like Prince and Jesse truly taking the subject matter seriously, and perfecting their craft within a wonderful story that needs to be told.

The Things You Think I’m Thinking is currently rocking the festival circuit right now. It has one numerous awards and has appeared at SXSW, Outfest L.A., and many more. Learn more about this truly amazing film, and how you can find it yourself, at sherrenlee.com. And stay tuned for a wonderful interview with filmmaker Sherren Lee here at Trainwreck’d Society in the coming days!

Mark Rosman [Interview]

We have a wonderful interview with a brilliant writer and filmmaker who has had such a varied and stellar career that we are so honored that he was willing to take some time out of his busy life to share a few words with you fine readers today! We believe you are worth it, and we are so happy when someone as talented as Mark Rosman does as well!

Mark is responsible for one of the greatest cult classic horror films of all time, 1983’s The House on Sorority Road. This was our initial reason for wanting to hear from Mark, but we would then learn that he has done some amazing work outside of the world of horror, and we wanted to talk a bit about HOSR as well as they plethora of other fine projects he has done. One highlight would definitely be his work bringing the wonderful young actress and music sensation Hilary Duff to the limelight by being entrusted to direct her work several times in both the world of film and television. And there is so much more to learn! We wanted to know how he got his start, and where we can catch him in the future. And we did just that!

So please enjoy some great words from a damn fine man, the great Mark Rosman!

When did you first realize that you wanted to join the world of filmmaking? Was it a passion you derived from an early age, or did you just happen to find yourself in the business?

I wanted to be a filmmaker from a very young age.  My interest began with photography.  My brother, four years older than me, had a Pentax still camera and took pictures on family vacations and more artsy pictures as well.  He converted his bathroom into a darkroom and I became his assistant.  Around fifth or sixth grade, I started taking pictures myself and developing them.  One in particular stands out to me as a clue that I wanted to expand my interests into movies.  I went to a Dodger baseball game and took a series of photos of different plays.  In the darkroom, I picked out the ones that told the story of one play: from the pitcher pitching, to the batter hitting, to the infielder fielding and throwing, and finally to the first baseman catching the ball and making the out.  I printed the pictures and then cut them up into smaller pieces and mounted them in a vertical sequence.  My first storyboard!  Soon after that, I was asking my history teacher if I could make a small movie about the California Gold Rush and turn that in instead of a written essay.  That led to me filming a satirical take-off on the TV series “Mission Impossible”.  And finally in eighth grade I wrote and made my first original narrative short movie called “The Room” about a small, one room apartment that has a life of it’s own and takes revenge on the drunk who’s living there after he wrecks the place.  I was hooked after that.

What was your very first gig you can remember working on the film business? And did that first experience leave any sort of impact on you that you still feel in your work today?

My first real paying gig in the film business was working as a PA on a TV movie called Love For Rent in 1979.  I had just graduated NYU undergrad film school and actually had an amazing experience (that didn’t pay) being Brian DePalma’s first assistant director on a feature called Home Movies.  Brian was already famous for directing Carrie and other films (this was right before Dressed to Kill) and he wanted to make a low budget comedy working with a largely student crew.  He recruited kids from Sarah Lawrence College (one of his alma maters) and since I was dating a girl from there, I snuck into the mix and quickly volunteered to be his first AD when they were passing out job assignments.  I had made a few student films by then but knew nothing of what a real production was like or what a first AD did.  Needless to say, I learned a ton.  I spent the rest of the year in New York City being the worst PA imaginable, then for some reason one of my lungs collapsed (not really that serious, but laid me up for a couple weeks) and I finally decided to come back home and live with my parents in LA.  My father, a dermatologist, had a TV producer as a patient who hired me to be a PA on this TV movie.  I did all the typical stuff like get coffee and pick-up the lead actress when her car broke down.  The one thing I remember that I still apply to my directing came when I happened to be one of the first crew members on a new location right when the director arrived and saw the set for the first time.  He gave notes to the art department about how the set dressing needed to reflect more of the personality of the character living there, and how some areas on the walls were too empty and needed filling up.  Very simple stuff, but I ate it up.

Your 1983 film The House On Sorority Road is held in a very high regard in the horror community as an absolute classic. Aside from the 80’s being a heyday for horror filmmaking, what was it that made you want to tell this tale? Where did this story come from?

Thanks for calling it an “absolute classic”!  I’m not quite sure about that.  After graduating college, I was trying to figure out how to start my career as a film director.  At first I thought I could find a script to try to get made.  After reading some bad scripts, that concept didn’t work.  Then I tried to find some writers that would write something for me.  That didn’t work either.  I had co-written one script with one of the student  crew members on “Home Movies”.  His name was Sam Irvin and he’s gone on to direct many films and TV movies.  We collaborated on this script about a mother who keeps her demented son in a closet in some hick town and he occasionally got out and killed people.  It was a really bad script!  But there was one idea I liked in it – the mother who keeps her mentally ill son locked up.  Once I realized that I needed to write a script in order for me to start my directing career, I took that fragment of that idea and married it to a world I was familiar with from my first two years of college – the Greek fraternity and sorority world.  I was in a fraternity at UCLA before I left and went to NYU (the reason was that I wasn’t accepted into the UCLA film department).  I knew that horror films were cheap to make and were doing really well at the time – films like Halloween and Friday the 13th.  I wasn’t actually a fan of horror films — what I loved were thrillers.  I saw myself as the next Hitchcock and John Frankenheimer.  So I decided to write a script that had enough of the horror elements to sell it, but it would essentially be a murder thriller that focused on an ensemble of seven sorority sisters.  There were two things I really wanted to accomplish story wise with the script.  The first was that the victims of the crazed killer, the sorority sisters, needed to bring about their own demise due to their own misconceived actions.  In other words, they were at fault, they weren’t just innocent pieces of meat.  And the second was that the final girl was going to die at the end.  Well, I accomplished the first and I shot the movie the way I intended for the second, but the distributor had me change the ending to indicate that the last girl survived.

In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that sets The House On Sorority Row apart from the plethora of other amazing horror films that were released during that era? I know why it is special to me, but I’d love to know what your thoughts are on the matter as the mastermind behind the project?

What sets the movie apart, I believe, is that first story element I just described above.  In many of the horror films of that time, the victims’ only fault was that they either were having sex or they stumbled into the wrong place at the wrong time.  To me, that was just so thin and uninteresting.  I loved movies where you put a bunch of people together in a room and they are all in a desperate situation and they argue about how to solve it.  One of my favorite scenes in the movie takes place in the kitchen during the party just after they realize that the body of the house mother they’ve accidentally killed, and put in the pool, is now missing.  We see the girls arguing over what to do and I pit the good girl vs. the bad girl and see the choices they must make.  The other girls chime in one way or the other and they all now regret having done what they did.  In other words, I desperately wanted there to be a vivid, dramatic story happening to real characters in this movie while at the same time they are being stalked and killed.  This was my attempt at a Hitchcockian horror film!

In more recent years, you have been known for works that are a bit away from the horror/sci fi/thriller genres you were working extensively in at one point. More recent work has actually been a bit more family friendly or youth oriented. How was this transition for you? What are some commonalities in working in two very different types of films?

I never intended to go into the family film genre.  But when my good friend from NYU, Alan Shapiro, got an overall producing deal at the brand new Disney Channel in 1984, he asked me if I could come up with something suitable for that family friendly network.  At first I balked, thinking that wasn’t for me.  But luckily, I realized that this was an opportunity I shouldn’t pass up, so I sat down and started to come up with ideas.  One of the things I did was write down a list of regrets and/or wishes in my life.  One of the things was I wished I had known my grandfather who died when I was five.  As I grew up, everyone said how much I seemed to be like him.  He was in the metals business, nothing creative, but was an amateur photographer with a great eye who took really nice family pictures.  So I had this idea about a boy who goes back in time to meet his grandfather.  It was half an idea that was cool but it didn’t go anywhere.  One day I was biking around Palm Springs with another friend of mine, a producer named Steven Fazekas, and he said, “what if the boy goes back in time to save his grandfather’s life?”  Bingo.  That was a movie idea.  Thank you, Steven.  I ended up pitching that story to the Disney Channel and they hired me to write and direct it as my second movie.  It was called The Blue Yonder and starred Peter Coyote, Art Carney, and the boy from the the movie Terms of Endearment, Huckleberry Fox.  The film came out really well, was nominated for Best Cable Movie of the year at the ACE Awards and for Best Children’s Script at the WGA Awards.  Suddenly I realized that I was good at this family genre and really liked playing in that sandbox.  From that point on, I went back and forth between writing and directing thriller and sci fi movies that went straight to video and making Disney Channel TV movies and eventually directing some Disney TV shows like Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire.

As far as commonalities between those genres, I’d say they have in common what all good movies have in common — great stories and characters we can relate to and root for.  That’s what I’ve always tried to achieve in my films.  Also, those two genres are benefited by being visual.  I try to create a world to put the characters into and I try to show that world and tell those stories in the most visual way I can.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

Lately I have turned to writing more personal, indie types of films.  I wrote a script that’s been a passion project of mine for many, many years and I finally finished it a few years back.  It’s part autobiographical, and part historical fiction.  In 1965, the Beatles were next door to my house in Beverly Hills!  I was eight at the time, but a huge Beatle fan and I was in my own little band playing guitar.  We lived next door to the president of Capitol Records who invited the Beatles over.  The band was actually renting a house nearby while they were in town to play at the Hollywood Bowl.  One night, the fab four met with Elvis Presley, who was John and Paul’s idol and the reason they loved rock ’n roll.  In my story, a 16 year old boy who lives next door to the house the Beatles are renting, finds John Lennon passed out on his lawn.  When John wakes, he tells the boy that he wants to meet Elvis one on one before the rest of the group, and the boy helps him get to Elvis’ house.  It’s a coming of age tale for both the boy, who finds out his hero isn’t just the fun loving jokester he thinks, and John who was going through a depressed time that he referred to as his “fat Elvis” period.  It’s a pivotal time in Beatle history when John changed his whole approach to writing pop songs and penned great songs from the album Rubber Soul, like “In My Life” — which is the title of the movie.  I have a producer interested right now and hope we can shoot it soon.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I just saw a 2016 documentary called American Typewriter that is about the typewriter and the people who are passionate about it on the one hand, and on the other hand, a fascinating look at what we’ve become in our fast paced, digital world, and how the tools we use to create might just effect the actual thing we are creating.

Joseph R. Gannascoli [Interview]


Today Folks,  it is a day to honor an absolute LEGEND! Joseph R. Gannascoli is an incredible actor that you all surely know and love from his amazing role in the television series that changed the world known as The Sopranos. Or maybe from his multiple film appearances in projects like Mickey Blue Eyes, The King of Brooklyn, Bad Ass, and more. He is an incredibly charismatic man who has had an incredibly fascinating life thus far, and we are so happy that he was so kind to share a few words with us.

And, we are so excited that he felt that it was best to express himself through his own voice! Today we have our first non-voice over artist interview that was done with a voice text! And it I can not think about a better person to kick this hopeful trend off. He has such an amazing man with an amazing story to tell, and we are so damn excited that he wanted to share it with us!

So please enjoy some brilliant words with the Joseph R. Gannascoli!

How did you find yourself in the world of acting as a profession? I understand you were previously a pretty accomplished master of the culinary arts?

When you were first began your tenure on the now legendary HBO series The Sopranos, were you able to tell from the beginning that you were about to be a part of something very special? Something historical at that?
Your character Vito Spatofore hit on a subject that rarely tends to be brought up in the macho paradox of mafia related films and television, which is the subject of homosexuality. How did this storyline come to be? And how has the reaction to your role as Vito been from the fans, especially possible fans within the gay community?
I’ve come to learn that beyond being an accomplished actor and chef, you are also an author. I understand you have a novel out there right now? Can you tell us a bit about it?
When you’re not on set, cooking, or working on one thing or another, what do you do for a bit of “me time”? What would we find Joe Gannascoli doing in his down time?
What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to share with our readers?

What was the last thing that made you smile?