Jesse James [Interview]

Welcome to Day 15 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Annual Month of Horror Showcase! We have a fully loaded month of all things horror for you fine folks! October is our favorite month for this very reason, and we are so excited to share 31 full days of film showcases and interviews with some of the finest folks from the world of horror, just as we have been doing for the last 6 years. What started as a simple 5 day showcase, has now blossomed into a full blown month long event. You’re going to love this! Enjoy!
Hello Folks! Hot damn do we have a good one for you all today for our Month of Horror showcase! I have actually been hoping to chat with this person for quite a long time. He has done some amazing work in the world of horror, but it was far from the only reason I have been wanting to have him on the site. It’s the incredible performer Jesse James, Everyone! And by some strange account, I happened to remember the fun fact that one of Jesse’s first film role was alongside the greats like Helen Hunt, Shirley Knight, and Jack Nicholson, in one of my favorite film’s of all time, As Good As It Gets, as the young asthma-riddled Spencer who is essentially saved by Jack and the late great Harold Ramis. If that doesn’t make sense, please watch this film. It’s absolutely perfect in so many ways.
But, beyond this one role over 22 years ago, James has done so much incredible work, especially in the world of horror, which is obviously our main focus this month. He worked on the brilliant Andrew Douglas’s reboot of The Amityville Horror starring Ryan Reynolds, which is a brilliant film that is on par with the original, a rare feat in the world of horror. Other roles include spots in The Butterfly Effect and The Darkroom, which features our old friends Richard Riehle and Michael Hurst. He’s had a wonderful career that is only looking up, and we are so excited to have him on the site today!
So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the great Jesse James!
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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it an early aspiration you can always remember having since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day?
The first jobs I can remember aspiring to have were paleontologist and paper-boy, I just liked Jurassic Park and riding bikes. When I was 5 years old, I got into this business as a fluke; my dad was getting headshots taken by Dino May, a photographer friend who was also a talent manager. I was tagging along and Dino saw something in me and offered to get me some auditions/an agent if I wanted to give acting a try. I shrugged and said ‘Sure, why not?’ and it ended up working out and being fun, but it wasn’t until I was 12 or 13 and getting to play roles that were more complex and dark and different from myself that I realized I really wanted to keep doing it for the rest of my life as a career. Life is so short and there are only so many things you can do/be, but getting to be an actor means getting to live dozens, hundreds of different lives/professions/experiences, and that’s what drew me in and kept me here.
What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any kind of lessons learned from this project that still affect your work today?
I did some Tommy Hilfiger and Brooks Bros. and GAP print ads but was pretty much just paid in clothes, a Dominos commercial where I was basically ‘background’ and a Sesame Street episode. My first real paid gig was As Good As It Gets, and there’s a laundry list of lessons I learned on that set, that was what started everything. Dino managed to get me an audition for a new James L. Brooks movie (it was called “Old Friends” at the time, all the way through production), even though the role was for a ‘chubby 12-year old redhead’ and I was skinny, blonde and 6. I went in for several callbacks, and got to play around with Jim Brooks, who let me improvise and taught me a lot about being natural. The process of getting that part taught me that just because it might not seem at first like you’re right for the role on paper, sometimes they don’t know what they’re looking for until they see it in person.
In 2005, you appeared in the amazing remake of one of the best franchises in the horror world, The Amityville Horror. I am curious to know what it is like to be a part of this legendary franchise? And how was it to shoot such a dark film? Where there any tactics to try and keep it light on set?
It was an honor to get to be part of such an iconic franchise, “Amityville” is such a quintessential haunted-house story and the ‘real-life’ aspect gives it so many fun layers and twists (and controversies). That shoot was a really good time. It’s odd, but on horror sets the mood tends to be fairly light-hearted and humorous, because you’re surrounded by scary, awful stuff but you know it’s fake and you get to live outside of it, and sometimes it’s hard not to laugh at certain things. For example, doing schoolwork with the other kids between takes in the school trailer, but one of the kids is a sweet little girl with a gruesome bullet hole in her forehead and a gaping wound in the back of her skull. It’s too surreal to be scary, so it’s just funny. And Ryan Reynolds is obviously a very funny guy, so he had everybody laughing. There were a couple of creepy moments, where the lights would all turn on in the house after everyone had gone home for the night, and I think during filming just about everybody woke up at 3:15am at some point with the heebie-jeebies.
Beyond the world of horror, and as you mentioned previously, you appeared as a very young man in what I consider to be one of the greatest films of all time, and that film would be the aforementioned As Good As It Gets. The film is not only great, but stacked with legendary actors from top to bottom. So how was it working with some absolute pros as such a young man? Any takeaways from this film as well?
At one point during the shoot, we were setting up on either side of a small crosswalk and in between takes I went to go running across to get a snack or something. Right then a big hand clamped on my shoulder and yanked me back, and VROOM, the taxi cab we were using pulled up quickly right where I was about to be running. The driver didn’t see me, and I definitely would have been hit. I looked up and there was Jack Nicholson with his hand on my shoulder and he says “Don’t die now, kid, we need you for the movie”.
So perhaps my biggest takeaway from As Good As It Gets was: “Always look both ways before crossing the street!”
I was really fortunate for that to have been my first experience on a film set, I learned so much from everyone. It was like a Master class but at such a young age all I could do was keep my eyes open and ask questions and try to absorb whatever I could, I didn’t realize then how useful it would be later, it was just fun and exciting.
In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes the horror genre special? What sets it apart from other genres you have worked in?

Humans have such vivid imaginations and we’re capable of so many deep emotions that every genre is a necessary outlet for those aspects of our psyche/soul. Horror might be even more necessary than the rest, because it’s an outlet for our absolute darkest places; it’s a pessimistic take on the “What if?” question. What if a family moved into a house and was terrorized by ghosts? What if the dead came to life? What if a psychopath attacked a summer camp? What if my dreams could kill me?

Working on horror films certainly leads to some of the most memorable experiences. How many people can say they’ve been crucified by their own mother? (This guy!) And fake blood, oh man, so much fake blood. Horror films are the only time you routinely go home from work every day, take a shower, and the drain looks like a Hitchcock shot. I’ve had my contact lenses get permanently stained pink from blinking away all the fake blood. It’s a sticky business. Horror also forces you to really let go and be in the moment because those moments are so extreme and out of the ordinary. You can’t think about how you would react if you were being chased by a screaming zombie or whatever, there’s no time to plan it or ‘make choices’, once it’s screaming and coming at you your brain just sort of takes over and puts you there as if it were real and you operate on adrenaline, it feels good.
What is your favorite scary movie?
Probably The Shining. I’m a massive Stanley Kubrick, Jack Nicholson and Stephen King fan, so it’s sort of perfect for me. The story, the atmosphere, the performances, everything about it, I could see it 1,000 times and never not enjoy it. Also gotta love The Exorcist, Event Horizon, The Devil’s Backbone, The Witch. I’m always more interested in slow creeping psychological/supernatural horror rather than ‘splatterfests’.
Do you have any plans for this coming Halloween? And fun traditions that you try to stick to every year?
I don’t have any plans yet, I do love Halloween though. Especially as an actor, because it’s the only day where everybody else dresses up in a goofy costume and walks around too. It’s like “Welcome to my world!”
No real fun traditions, though I did dress as a Simpsons character two years running (Ned Flanders, Otto the bus driver), which was fun. I’ve also done Beavis and Butthead with a friend, H.I McDunnough from Raising Arizona, Alex from Clockwork Orange, etc. It’s almost always a character from film/TV, which I’d never really thought about until now. Funny, I wonder what that says about me.
8. What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers? (THIS GOES LIVE IN OCTOBER)
The future is looking good, I have a few screenplays that are in development; hoping to have my first feature “written, directed by, and starring Jesse James” completed by next year. I’ve been teaching acting classes/workshops in Vancouver, BC as well, which has been rewarding. Nothing coming out immediately, but I recently guest-starred in an episode of “The Good Doctor” and Nat Geo’s “Valley of the Boom”. Your readers can always follow me on IG at @theactorjessejames or on Twitter at @jessejamesactor
9. What was the last thing that scared the hell out of you?
Donald Trump scares the hell out of me every day. Also, potato bugs (a.k.a Jerusalem crickets) make me run away screaming and hooting like Daffy Duck.

 

 

10. What was the last thing that made you smile?
I’m really close with my parents and siblings, they make me smile. I just got to spend a good amount of time with them on our family farm in Canada, and the memory has me grinning like a champ.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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