Interview with COMPANY OF HEROES Dimitri Diatchenko

Terry talks with multi-talented actor Dimitri Diatchenko about his role in Company of Heroes, other experience as an actor, as well his vast expertise as a classical guitarist and martial arts champion.

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Terry Wickham:  Hello Dimitri.  Let’s go back to your beginning.  That’s quite a story about you getting attacked by a wolf in Lake Tahoe when you were 3 years old.  Do you mind telling me what happened?

Dimitri Diatchenko:  Terry, thanks for your interest in my music and acting career.  The wolf attack was when I was very young.  I was 3 years old I believe.  I don’t remember any of it, but my mom and dad were camping at a camp site back in the 1970’s and while they were packing up to leave I wandered off.  It was about 5am and this wolf just came out of the woods and took my whole face in his mouth and tried to drag me away.  Luckily there were other campers near by that saw what was happening and everyone scared off the wolf but not before he tore most of the right side of my face off.  The flesh that covered my cheek was hanging from my throat.  My mom thought I was a goner, but I survived and the local Doctor who stitched me up did a pretty good job.

TW:  I’ve read that even though you experienced that horrifying ordeal, you still love dogs.  Was that always the case?  I would have thought you’d have opposite feelings for those types of animals because of being mauled by one.

DD:  I couple weeks after the attack my mom was visiting with friends who had four big dogs in the back yard.  I ran right outside and started playing with them much to my moms surprise.  So no phobias here with dogs.  I love most all animals, but dogs are probably my favorite…..well behaved dogs.

TW:  How long did it take to recover from that incident?  Does it ever still bother you?

DD:   I believe it was six months before my face started healing up.  It used to bother me…the scaring, but I think it adds character to me both on and off screen.

TW:  Not to throw salt in a wound but did you see The Grey?  I thought it was an amazing psychological-adventure film and those wolves were pretty scary.

DD:  Yes I have seen The Grey.  Great film.

TW:  Did you start training in martial arts at age 7 in retaliation of that attack?  I can imagine that if you were in a situation like that again (animal or man) you’d be ready.

DD:   My mom and dad divorced when I was about 4 or 5.  I was always moving from dad to mom and back and forth, always the NEW kid so I’d fight a lot.  So my mom got me into martial arts so I could kick ass more efficiently. I also was a big Chuck Norris fan so Karate/TaeKwonDo was my first training. Then I followed up with some standard American boxing, American Kenpo, Arnis and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  I’m a big UFC fan. If the UFC would have come along a few years earlier I would have been doing MMA instead of just kickboxing championships.

TW:  Talk about your fondness for classical guitar.  Where did your interest in playing the instrument come from?

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DD:   I was a big Elvis Presley fan from a really young age.  He played guitar and sang and was in movies with a bunch of beautiful women all over him.  I saw this and thought, “That’s not a bad job to have when I grow up”.  So now I’m doing it too. LOL. My focus on classical guitar was purely due to the fact that my dad’s friend was a classical guitar teacher.  So I studied with him for the first five years.  I got to see Andre Segovia five times live at Boston Symphony Hall.  Segovia became quite an influence as a solo guitarist on me.  His technique, repertoire and overall musicality was just awesome.  I’m a huge lover of Latin music and blues/jazz as well.

TW:  I’ve read you are a prize-winning classical guitarist.  Did you ever dream of just being a musician for a career?

DD:   I think before I became interested in acting while doing my undergraduate degree at Stetson I wanted to have a career as a university professor of guitar studies and tour and record albums much like my guitar professor at Stetson has his career set up.  I tried to balance acting and music for 12 years when I moved to LA.  It worked for a while but I decided to focus on acting for my own sanity.  The money is better and I can reach more people around the world with a film than by touring small venues.  I actually played guitar in an indie film I shot last year in Birmingham, Alabama, called Clubhouse.  So I’m starting to have the opportunity to fuse my two passions.

TW:  I actually was the Senior Writer for Guitar 2001 Magazine for 6 years.  Could I get copies of your guitar albums?  I’d like to review them on mantaraypictures.com

DD:  Sure I can send you some copies of my CDs.

TW:  It’s amazing that you are a former national Tae Kwon Do heavyweight champion.  Who did you train with and did you ever consider being a martial arts instructor?

DD:  From the time I was 17 years old I fought in the men’s black belt division in local and national tournaments.  I have about 25 medals…national championships, collegiate championships, state, regional and a couple international medals.  I fought for about 7 years as a top 3 heavyweight in the USA. I actually was an instructor at my school in Boston and in Florida. I enjoy teaching martial arts as much as I do teaching guitar.

TW:  What made you turn to acting?  Did it begin in high school or college?

DD:   I got into acting by taking acting class at Stetson University while doing my music degree.  We had to take a non-musical course as part of our course credit.  So I took the two classes that had the hottest chicks in the school.  Acting and Dance.  I enjoyed it so much I got an agent in Orlando and started going out for student films and local plays. I booked the first play I ever auditioned for, Foxfire, by Hume Cronin.  I played the role of Dillard Nations, a country music star who came from the mountains of Tennessee.  It was quite an experience.

TW:  I’m fascinated by your talent for dialects.  Does that come from your multi-national heritage?

DD:   My musician’s ear is very good at doing dialects.  My Russian accent is quite natural because of growing up hearing my dad’s side of the family e.g. grandfather and grandmother, speak.  I studied Russian in high school and college as well.  So I read and write in Russian.  This allows me to actually have the subtle tongue inflections that are part of the Russian language. My southern accent is natural because of growing up in central Florida and my Aussie accent is pretty good cause I dated a few Aussie gals in my time.

TW:  Your voice talent have parlayed into quite a bit of voice over work.  What’s been your favorite video game part and why?

DD:  Yes I have done 38 video games as voice talent.  I’d have to say my favorite is Red Alert 3: Command and Conquer.  The reason is that they actually had me in costume and on camera where my character Oleg Vodnik would pop up on screen and interact with the player.  I got tons of fan mail from around the world for my part in Red Alert 3.  Very cool.

TW:  You’ve built up quite a diverse body of work so far.  What do you like doing the most TV, video games or feature films?

DD:  That’s a tough question.  After my experience with Chernobyl Diaries I saw how fast the world warmed up to Dimitri the actor and Uri, my role in the film.  The ability to reach so many people at once is quite enticing.  It takes so long for films to get completed though.  TV is fast turn around so you can see your work usually a month after you shoot an episode.  I like that aspect of TV work. I got a lot of great comments for my guest star on How I Met Your Mother. Video Game work is fun, but we don’t get any cut of the sales and downloads of these huge games that make hundreds of millions of dollars.  That bothers me quite a bit.  I’d like to see a change in our contracts within the interactive media genre where actors get a piece of the sales and online usage just like we do from TV and Film.

TW:  Talk about Chernobyl Diaries.  What was it like playing the role in the film and working with Oren Peli, who’s been a quite a roll since Paranormal Activity.  I have not seen the film yet, but scary movies are a big part of my life.

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DD:   Chernobyl Diaries was a great adventure for all of us.  I got to stay in Belgrade, Serbia for two weeks and Budapest, Hungary for two weeks.  That alone was awesome.  The work part of the trip was interesting too.  I had to train driving that shitty van that was Uri’s tour bus.  Not a user friendly vehicle. There was no script for the auditions.  It was all improv, which I excel at so I enjoyed that.  Working with Oren Peli was such a great experience.  He is very hands on and very easy going.  He’s the coolest producer I’ve ever worked with.  Playing Uri was a fun role because he was an ex-Special Forces Ukrainian stud. I stood out from the rest of the cast because I was the tour guide and had the best ass on the set as well.

TW:  Where was the film shot?  Locations are a big part of any good scary movie.

DD:   We shot two weeks in and around Belgrade, Serbia and for two weeks we shot in Kiskunlachaza, Hungary on a semi-abandoned Russian military base. They did a great job at recreating Pripyat in it’s post-nuclear meltdown state.

TW:  Finally tell us about Company of Heroes.  How did you get involved and cast in the film?

DD:   Company of Heroes was one of these auditions where I went in one time, read with the director, Don Michael Paul, and as he put it, “You were exactly what I wanted IVAN to be”. So two weeks later I was arriving in Sofia, Bulgaria to start shooting an epic WWII film with a bunch of great actors.

TW:  With such a historic storyline, did you know much about the actual events portrayed in the movie prior to being cast?

DD:   I read the first version of the script the weekend before my meeting with Don and was very psyched to play IVAN Puzharski.  I grew up hearing stories from my dad and babushka Valentina, my grandmother about their surviving the upheaval and violence and turmoil of those times.  Those stories all came back to me as I was preparing the role and digesting Ivan’s personality and history. It was a dream role.  I wish my babushka and my mother were alive to see Company of Heroes.  It’s like I’m playing one of my cossack relatives whom I only know by stories told to me as a child. 

TW:  What research or preparation did you do to play “Ivan Puzharski?

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DD:  Preparation for playing Ivan was watching some original footage of the Russian front during WWII to get my mind into a 1944 vibe. Mannerisms were different back then, relationships between Russians and Americans were quite cold so my joining the fight with the Americans and British was an interesting layer that was fun to play. Not a good guy, but not a bad guy, just a soldier who wants the best outcome for his country. As for the accent, I added a slightly German element to the accented English because Ivan is a spy and works with Germans as such, so I figured he would have a little hint of German in his English.  I didn’t have to speak too much Russian in CoH like I had to speak Ukrainian in Chernobyl Diaries, so I didn’t have to study overtime for any speeches in Russian.

TW:  What was it like working with your fellow cast mates; Tom Sizemore, Vinny Jones, Chad Collins, Melia Kreiling and Jürgen Prochnow?

DD:   Working with all the actors on Company of Heroes was great.  Vinny Jones is exactly what you see…which I like.  He’s an ex-world class soccer star turned action actor.  His bravado and sense of humor were great to play off of.  Tom is brilliant and very helpful on the set and he has funny stories for days. Chad and Melia are kinda like me in the sense that we are fresh faces who are rising in popularity and we bonded quite well on and off the set.

TW:  Where was it shot?  Did you film at any of the actual places?

DD:   We shot in the country outside of Sofia, Bulgaria. It was the coldest winter in 30 years to hit Bulgaria.  Some of those nights fighting and rolling around in the snow were quite challenging.

TW:  I’ve read that this was a dream role for you because of you being first generation Ukrainian-American on your father’s side.  Explain.

DD:   Having the knowledge of my Ukrainian ancestors and what they went through during WWII gave me an appreciation of IVAN and his life experience and survival skills.  I often would sit quietly and just ponder the situation I was in.  I’m starring in a WWII film as a Russian soldier who teams up with the other side to help defeat Hitler and the Nazis.  It connected me with my ancestors.  I’ve never been to Ukraine.  I’d like to go and perhaps meet some family. 

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TW:  Thanks you for taking some time to speak to me about your career and your wonderful layered performance in Company of Heroes.

DD:   Terry, thanks for your interest in me again.

 

www.dimitrid.com

IT’S IN THE BLOOD Creators Interviewed

Terry speaks to Writer/Lead Actor Sean Elliot and Writer/Director Scooter Downy about their film It’s in the Blood.

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Terry Wickham:  I know you both wrote the screenplay for It’s in the Blood. But who actually got the first seed of an idea for it? When did it first happen?

Sean Elliot:  It’s In The Blood is a derivation of a script I wrote for a screenwriting class some years ago.  I suppose the initial idea occurred to me a year or two prior to then, when I began brainstorming on a film that would not only contain character and plot elements that Scooter and I would be interested in exploring, but would also be feasible to produce on a low budget.  Keep in mind though the film you see on screen shares very little in common with the initial script/idea.  As soon as Scooter and I decided we were going to independently produce this project, the script underwent extensive revisions as the first stage of our collaborative effort; and by the time we actually shot the film some 10 drafts of the film had been written.

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Left to right; Lance Henriksen, Sean Elliot, Scooter Downy in backseat shooting It’s in the Blood

TW:  How did you work together? In other words, what was your process? Did one of you write a draft, while the other polished or did you split scenes up?

SE:  Yeah, initially Scooter and I took turns writing drafts of the script.  I wrote the first draft and then he took the script and spent a few weeks rewriting it.  Once he finished his draft he handed it off to me and so the cycle continued.  Eventually we locked ourselves in a cabin for a month in the Colorado mountains and hammered out what I would consider to be the “real first draft” of the film we actually ended up making.   I believe this was our 4th draft.  All of the subsequent drafts that followed were 100% collaborative efforts between Scooter and I, where we both shared in all the responsibilities of polishing/revising/editing/etc.

TW:  What did you bring to the script versus Scooter (and vice versa)? I’ m sure you each have your own writing/story/character strengths.

 SE:   In this particular script, I guess the element(s) I am most directly responsible for would be the wilderness/survival aspects.   The very first draft I had written had largely been inspired by the movie The Edge, staring Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin.  I really like man against nature stories.  When it comes to Scooter and I writing in general, I would say I tend to focus on world building/mechanics, while Scooter is really good with characters/character development.

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TW:  How long did you spend writing it?

 SE:  We wrote roughly 10 drafts of the script, and when we finally got on set and the cameras started rolling, we threw them all out the window.

TW:  Was it hard to get financing? How long did it take to get the capital to make your movie?

SE:  It is incredibly hard asking investors for money to finance a film under the best of circumstances.  When you do not have any resume whatsoever demonstrating your ability to successfully write/produce/co-star/direct/etc. a film, it’s even worse.  Despite numerous pitches at varied venues (venture capital clubs, fund-raising parties, etc.) where we failed to generate any capital, we were really fortunate to find enthusiastic support from friends and family.

TW:  Did the financing company take script as it was or did you have to revise & alter it? If so, how much?

 SE:  Because this was primarily financed by friends and family, we were able to maintain 100% artistic control of the film, which was really a blessing.

TW:  Is either one of you from Texas? How did you end up shooting at Spiderwood Studios? Your locations have a rich and varied look.

 SE:  No, neither one of us is from Texas, but I had spent a year living there building up my acting resume.  It was actually sometime that year that I wrote the very first draft of the script.  A few years later, when it came time to choose a shooting location, I knew from the year I had spent there that Austin Texas had a really great film community with some of the best crew you can find anywhere in the world.  Once we decided to shoot in Austin, Utilizing Spiderwood Studios was a natural progression.  They have an incredible set up and are a fully functional studio.  They have a 200 acre wilderness back lot which is where we did most of our shooting.

TW:  Speaking of Spiderwood Studios and your locations, I read in Fangoria that you had trouble with snakes and spiders. Please elaborate. What kind of snakes and spiders gave you a problem and what exactly happened?

 SE:  We encountered every king of stinging, biting, clawing vermin you can imagine!  Rattle snakes, scorpions, water moccasin, copperheads, cottonmouths, wasps, bees, ants, etc.   I know Scooter has stories of his own, but my closest call was the night we were shooting an important sequence where both Lance and I had to be in the river.  No sooner had we finished shooting the scene and gotten out of the water when a really large water moccasin comes cruising up the river, right through the spot Lance and I had been not 30 seconds prior.   These kind of event became fairly routine for the crew.  It really is a miracle that we didn’t suffer any casualties while shooting this movie.

TW:  Casting Lance Henriksen as the father character Russell was an excellent choice. He fit the movie perfectly. Was he always your first choice and tell us how you got him?

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Lance Henriksen gets ready to do a scene It’s in the Blood

SE:  We had a short list of actors we were interested in pursuing for the roll that also included Will Patton, Robert Patrick and Ed Harris.  However, as soon as we talked to Lance we knew we had our guy.  Of all the people to read the script, He was the first to really “get” it.  Ultimately, Lance understood this character so well that he was able to bring a level of humanity to Russell that was above and beyond what we had envisioned for the character.

TW:  Sean was it always your intention to co-star in the movie or did that come about for another reason?

 SE:  Yeah, it was always my intention to co-star in the film.  We designed this project to give both Scooter and I the opportunity to do what we love.  After having been auditioning for a few years with limited results, I was tired of asking for permission to work.

TW:  Was it easy balancing your responsibilities as an actor versus producer?

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It’s in the Blood’s raven haired beauty Rose Serna

 SE:  This was one of the hardest parts of the entire process for me.  I had been so involved with the development/production of the film every step of the way, that when it came time to step back as a producer and concentrate on acting, it was very hard for me to relinquish that control.  The entire time we were shooting the film, Lance was always telling me to “surrender”.   It took me a long time to learn what that meant, but when I finally did it made all of the difference.

TW:  Scooter was it always your plan to direct this movie? Talk about your background. How did you become a filmmaker? What are the movies that got you interested in directing and what influenced this movie in particular?

 Scotter Downy:  From the get-go we developed the film as a way to to get feature film experience. But if James Cameron had wanted to direct it, I probably would have stepped down. Like most directors, I became a filmmaker by seeing way too many movies and behind-the-scenes documentaries. As a four year old I had an unholy fascination with Jaws which I watched over a hundred times. Then mom and dad bought a camcorder and editing software for me in high school and I started making spoof movies for the morning news program. This was thankfully before YouTube got popular. It’s In The Blood was influenced by lots of films — The Edge, Predator, Jacob’s Ladder, TV’s Lost.

TW:  Scooter, what was your vision for It’s in the Blood? Do you feel you accomplished what you set out to do?

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Lance Henriksen gets direction from Scooter Downy

 SD:  My vision was to make a character driven atmospheric fever dream of a horror movie that won the Sundance film festival and made millions of dollars. So yes and no.

TW:  What format and camera did you guys film with? Talk about your director of photography Mike Simpson as well. Your movie as a nice visual look, very green which I kind of wouldn’t picture Texas very green because of the heat. Was that captured live or done with color correction in post?

 SD:  We shot digitally on the RED-One. Mike Simpson is a tremendous talent. We originally wanted to shoot the film in the Pacific Northwest to give it that dense, primordial green look but were surprised to find something comparable in Bastrop Park outside of Austin. So the color was captured live and enhanced in post. We wanted to do a spin on the bleach bypass look while still flooding the wilderness scenes with intense greens and blues and with strong backlight at night to see deeper in the woods. The pastel colors in the flashbacks provide a nice visual contrast.

TW:  How’s the response been to It’s in the Blood so far?

 SE:  The response has been overwhelmingly positive.  We were voted best horror film of 2012 by Planet of Terror, and were an official selection in over forty film festivals where we won a whole bunch of awards including Best Picture at Shriekfest LA.  We successfully achieved distribution, and the film is now available for rent/purchase on DVD as well as numerous Video On Demand platforms (Amazon, Itunes, Vudu, and a number of cable on demand providers).

SD:  Critically it’s been overwhelmingly positive. However for most audiences It’s In The Blood inspires wildly different reactions. It’s not your average horror movie — the focus is on atmosphere and the father-son relationship. The ambiguity at the end seems to be a sticking point for some while others appreciate the passion and ambition.

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Left to right; Lance Henriksen, Sean Elliot, with Scooter Downy getting ready film a pivotal scene

TW:  What’s next on your agenda?

SD:  We just finished a short animated film called  Political Earth (Preview)  which won the $5000 Third Place Prize for the Infowars.com Operation Paul Revere film contest.  It’s basically an animated political cartoon in the style of a nature documentary — a safari showcasing our world’s “political animals” — from the fat cats of wall street to the federal leviathan.  We’re hoping to turn that into a webseries soon.

 

Please visit the movie’s official site:

www.itsinthebloodthemovie.com

Author David Grove Interviewed

Terry gets the scoop from author David Grove about his latest book On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday The 13th and his book Jamie Lee Curtis: Scream Queen

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Terry Wickham:  Where and when did you first see John Carpenter’s Halloween?

David Grove:  I first saw Halloween on Halloween night 1984, when I was eleven years old.  I returned home from trick r’ treating and caught the ending of the film – just the last ten minutes or so, which I recorded on the old Beta machine we kept upstairs.  That was significant because recording horror films off television was something I did throughout the eighties, creating my own little video store of Beta tapes, which I watched over and over again.  Those memories, and films, burn themselves into you.  You can’t forget them, but what’s really weird about those kinds of memories – and this has to do with everything in life – is that they always seem like they just happened yesterday.  They still seem so real, even as years and decades go by.

 To finish answering your question, I saw the entire film – Halloween – soon after, in 1985, and watched it over and over again, particularly throughout junior high, through the end of the eighties.

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“The Boogeyman”, Michael Myers in John Carpenter’s Halloween

TW:  What kind of lasting affect did Halloween have on you?  I distinctly remember playing baseball with a friend the next day and just couldn’t get the images of Michael Myers out of my head.

 DG:  You know, it didn’t have the psychic effect that Friday the 13th had had on me years earlier.  Halloween was the first horror film I saw from an artistic point of view, in terms of actual technique and strategy being employed to create a truly powerful experience.  I used to read movie guides all the time, before I’d seen most of the movies.  Horror movies carried such a taboo growing up, and watching an R rated movie, either at home or in a theater, was a badge of honor.  I remember reading reviews of Halloween and being struck by the level of critical acclaim it received and I was blown away that a horror film could be considered so “good” in a critical sense.  Likewise, my appreciation of Halloween deepened in comparison to the gore-filed Halloween II (don’t get me wrong, I watched Halloween II countless times as well – throughout senior high even), which was seen as a “fall from greatness” compared to the first film.  My reaction was like, “Okay, why is Halloween seen as this masterpiece while Halloween II is regarded as being a gore-filled, uninspired sequel.”  I was intrigued by this, on a critical level.   What is suspense, and how is it created?

TW:  The time period you focus on in your book where Jamie Lee Curtis made all those horror films was special.  I remember that time with great fondness.  We’ve never experienced anything like that with an actress the same.  Why do you think we haven’t?

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Laurie Strode spots “The Boogeyman” in Halloween

DG:  I don’t think the climate’s ever been the same as it was during that golden period between 1978 and 1981 to allow an actress to assume that mantle again, but I also think Jamie was special and no one else has ever matched her, in terms of the qualities she brought to the horror genre, and what she meant – and continues to mean – to the genre.  Halloween was a classic that – along with the success of Friday the 13th – brought the horror and slasher genres into mainstream Hollywood, and as the star of Halloween, Jamie became the flag-bearer for the genre in that time period.  Halloween is the most highly-regarded genre film since the mid 1970s, certainly by me, and as the star of that film – as the scream queen – Jamie really set a standard, but she also crossed the entire trajectory between 1978 and 1981, starring in slasher staples – and blatant Halloween knockoffs – like Prom Night and Terror Train, being the “star” of the most productive period in John Carpenter’s career – with her roles in Halloween and The Fog – and really closing out the era with Halloween II, just as she walked away from the scream queen title and moved onto other roles.

 I refer to the period between 1978 and 1981 as a “golden age” because, for someone my age, the genre films made during that period serve as the benchmark for everything that’s happened in my life as a moviegoer.   That’s true for many people, judging from all of the remakes of those films.

TW:  What was your favorite Jamie Lee Curtis film post Halloween (of course I’m referring to her genre films) and why?

DG:  Wow.  That’s a tough question.  Jamie’s worked in almost every genre and proved herself capable in all of them, but she’s only been in one truly great film and that’s Halloween.  I don’t like most of the horror films she did after Halloween, even though I find them endlessly fascinating as a journalist in terms of her career and the context they fit into.  I loved her performance in Blue Steel, but I had mixed feelings about the movie overall.

TW:  Where and when did you first see Friday The 13th?  It obviously left an impression on you, talk about it.

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 DG:  I saw Friday the 13th at home on television when I was about eight and, yes, it had a huge effect on me. I’ve never been so scared watching a film since.  I remember the sequence near the end of the film where Alice is back in the main cabin, after discovering Bill, and then the bodies start flying out at her (Brenda and Steve) and you don’t know where – or who – the killer is, and she’s trying to hide and barricade herself, and it’s just pure terror.

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Bill (Harry Crosby) in Friday The 13th

TW:  I’ve got my own thoughts but why do you think the remakes of Halloween & Friday The 13th were so bad (I don’t think they should have even been made) in comparison to the originals?

 DG:  I don’t think they were remakes.  Halloween was a Rob Zombie film – in the worst sense – and was full of his own peculiar touches, and it was padded with back-story that only serves to demystify the legend, and the Michael Myers character.  The 2009 version of Friday the 13th isn’t a remake of the 1980 film, but rather similar to the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, in terms of style, tone and execution.

TW:  Pinpoint the Top-5 things about Friday The 13th that make it the classic that it is.

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Tom Savini’s Special-Make-up Effects stood out in Friday The 13th

 DG:  The unseen identity of the killer.  The concept of such gruesome bloodshed set against such a remote, apple pie setting.  Tom Savini’s effects and the way they were executed.  Betsy Palmer’s appearance and her terrifying performance.  The lake scene at the end.

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This scene made many, including this writer, to jump out of their chair in Friday The 13th

TW:  I never read your previous book about Friday The 13th that was published by Fab Press.  What’s the difference between On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday The 13th versus that book?  Is it possible for me to get a copy of that first book to review?

 DG:  The first book covered the entire series (and the TV series) with about a quarter devoted to the first film.  The new book is full of new information about the first film – and the planning and the people involved with the film – as well as lots of new information about old information, such as the casting, financing,  what went on in Blairstown, and especially the people.  I have one pristine copy left and they’ve become collector items, having sold out completely, and they’re expensive.  Maybe someone will reprint it one day.  I’m flattered that the first film has become a classic film book for fans, but I know On Location in Blairstown will that take to a completely different level.   This book takes the reader back in 1979 – before, during and after the making of the film.

TW:  Have you ever visited Blairstown, NJ and Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco?  I had the chance about ten years ago and really enjoyed seeing those locations in person.  It wasn’t easy getting clearance from the Boy Scouts of America but I eventually got the Ok.

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Sign to Camp Crystal Lake (actual location Camp-No-Be-Bo-Sco in Blairstown, New Jersey) in Friday The 13th

 DG:  No, I haven’t, and I heard they don’t welcome unwanted visitors.  In the book, I relied on the memories of the cast and crew, as well as pictures (including pictures taken in 1979) from visitors.  I’d like to go there.  They requested a book.

TW:  How’d you like the character (Elizabeth Solley) that Jamie Lee played in The Fog?  It’s one of my friend’s favorite parts she’s done.  He told me he wished he could find a girlfriend like that character.

 DG:  I found out way too much about Jamie’s films, and her work in the films, to be able to simply watch and enjoy the films anymore.  Her role, much like her mother’s role in the film, was really a patchwork on the part of Carpenter and Hill, just so they could squeeze Jamie and her mother into the film.  I like her too, but I don’t think there’s much of a role there.  I’ve always felt The Fog plays much better on television, a format in which the film’s flaws are less apparent.

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Left to right:  Adrienne Barbeau, John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh on the set of The Fog

TW:  Do you ever wish that John Carpenter, Debra Hill and Jamie Lee Curtis would have made more films together?

DG:  Yes, absolutely, and I really got into that in the book.  Carpenter and Hill were like surrogate parents to Jamie – career-wise – and they had a special bond, although they weren’t joined at the hip or anything like that.  I don’t think either Jamie or John ever imagined that they’d never work together again, as director and actress, but they went their separate ways, as did Debra Hill.  I don’t think Carpenter was ever the same again.  The success of The Fog and Escape from New York seemed to foretell mainstream Hollywood success for Carpenter in the big studio system, but it was a nightmare for him, while everyone around him – everyone who started out with him – seemingly went onto bigger and better things, including Jamie.  Carpenter and Hill needed Jamie in that early period, but there came a point where Jamie didn’t need them anymore.

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The unbeatable team of Debra Hill and John Carpenter

TW:  It’s a real shame that Dimension didn’t pony up enough money to have those three work together on Halloween H20.  They were a winning combination together and I can only imagine the film we might have got out of the situation.  I actually liked the job Steve Miner on that film, but would have preferred the original people again. How do you feel about it?

DG:  I didn’t like the film, but it was harmless, and I think Jamie deserves credit for putting the pieces of that project together and making it a financial success, at least.

TW:  What made you want to write another book on Friday The 13th?  Were you unsatisfied with your first attempt?  Did you uncover more information after the first book was published? I believe Crystal Lake Memories came out after your first book was published, right?

DG:  I liked the idea of writing a book on the making of a single film and since I’ve spent over a decade covering Friday the 13th, it seemed like the perfect choice – if I had enough new information, which I quickly discovered I did.  If that hadn’t been the case, I wouldn’t have finished the book.  I was unsatisfied with the first book only in the sense that I have no real passion for any of the films except the first one, which I felt warranted a book of its own.  I think even the most diehard fans of the film – and the readers of my first book – will be surprised by this new book, and they’ll enjoy it very much.

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Crew of Friday The 13th, DP Barry Abrams front bottom left & Director Sean S. Cunningham center in white shirt

TW:  Do you have that big Friday The 13th soundtrack box set that was released a few years back?  I really wanted a copy of that but it was sold out too fast.

DG:  No, but I desperately wanted a copy of the sheet music to put in the appendix section of my book, and it was simply unavailable.  There’s a detailed section on the music in the book, including the “Sail Away, Tiny Sparrow” song, which is so disarming to hear in the film.

TW:  Before you found out what Harry Manfredini’s echoed voice said in Friday The 13th, what did you think it said?  I always thought it was saying “Get Out.”

DG:  When I was a kid, I thought it was ha-ha-ha.

TW:  What are your favorite Jamie Lee Curtis moments/scenes in the following movies and why?

Halloween

DG:  One favorite moment is when Laurie and Annie are driving in the car and Laurie mentions her crush on Ben Tramer, and just the scared, nervous look on her face.  A second moment is when Laurie walks out of the kitchen with the pumpkin and then she just flops down on the couch, as if she’s exhausted from running around with the kids and just needs a rest.   She has your sympathy.

The Fog

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Jamie Lee Curtis & Tom Atkins in John Carpenter’s The Fog

DG:   I like the banter between Jamie and Tom Atkins when he picks her up.  I like it when she asks him, “Are you weird?”

Prom Night

DG:  I like the trembling emotion she shows at the end of the film when she’s looking down at her dead brother.

Terror Train

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Kenny Hampson (Derek McKinnon) and Alana Maxwell (Jamie Lee Curtis) in Terror Train

DG:  I like the moment at the end when Kenny forces Alana to kiss him and just the disgusted, snarled expression on Jamie’s face when he pulls away from her.   It plays into Jamie’s own androgynous sex appeal.

Road Games

 DG:  Jamie doesn’t have a lot of screen time in the film, so I’d say the dialogue between her and Stacy Keach.  I thought they had good chemistry together, not in a romantic sense, but a comic sense.

Halloween II

DG:  Jamie probably says less than 100 words in that film.  I’d say the scene where she shoots Michael in the eyes.

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Laurie Strode defends herself against Michael Myers in Halloween II

Halloween H20

 DG:  There’s one moment in the film where Laurie references her murdered friends and that was the only moment in the film where I felt a connection between H20 and the first film.

TW:  If you could have had your choice, which story direction would you have taken Laurie Strode in Halloween II?  It’s pretty much agreed that she was kind of wasted in Halloween II confined to a hospital bed, though I still like the film.

DG:  Wow.  I would’ve liked to have seen Laurie become a psychiatrist – to take over the Sam Loomis role – and either be confronted by Michael Myers, or another child in Haddonfield who is, in essence, the reincarnation of Michael Myers and the evil he represents.

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“The Boogeyman” comes out of nowhere to get Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s Halloween

TW:  In my opinion, Terror Train is one of the Top-10 Slashers of All-time.  Claustrophobic train setting, the opening scene is terrific.  Jamie Lee looks great and David Copperfield brought a mysterious touch to the table.  How would you comparably rate it?

 DG:  I loved that movie as a kid, but it didn’t hold up when I watched it later on, in terms of logic and story.  It’s a well-made film – a well-made slasher film – and makes good use of its location, and the reveal of the killer is very effective, although a cheat.  Yes, I’d probably pick Terror Train as my favorite of the rest of her scream queen films, although I always find Prom Night compelling to watch, not in terms of character and story – because the film isn’t very good – but in terms of being a time capsule of the era in terms of teenage life and the film business and especially in terms of what was going on in Jamie’s life and career during that period, which I detail in the book.

TW:  It’s been a long time since I saw Road Games on VHS back in the early 80s.  What are your thoughts on Richard Franklin’s film and Jamie Lee’s performance in particular?

 DG:  It’s clever, it’s a work of craftsmanship, but I don’t really care for it.  I don’t think it’s particularly scary, and I don’t think it plays fair with the audience in terms of how the killer is always able to move around.  That takes away the suspense.  It’s not bad.  It certainly has its fans.  I spoke to Richard Franklin just a few weeks before he died.  I don’t think Jamie is used very well in the film.  She’s under-used, and there’s a whole story about that, in relation to her being cast in favor of an Australian actress, which was very unpleasant for Jamie.

TW:  What’s your Top-5 moments in Friday The 13th and why?

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Jack Barrell (Kevin Bacon) gets it via Tom Savini’s amazing work in Friday The 13th

 DG:  Bill on the door.  Bill was so nice and the effect was so grisly.  The Kevin Bacon scene because of the effect’s execution.  The lake scene was a real chair-jumper.  I love the scene in the cabin where Marcie and Jack are having sex and the camera reveals Ned on the top bunk.  I love the way the camera stalks Brenda as she moves around the archery range.

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Brenda (Laurie Betram) is in the wrong place at the wrong time in Friday The 13th

TW:  What book was more difficult to write out of the two books we are talking about?

 DG:  They’re all tough, but the Jamie Lee Curtis required an investment of time and energy that I probably wouldn’t be able to do again.   Sitting in “the room” all day, week after week, going over everything, putting it all together.  Those aren’t good memories.

TW:  What’s your next book about and/or what’s in the pipeline?

 DG:  One thing that I’ve learned about myself is that when I have an idea for a book, I make it happen.  I do it.  I finish.  You know, with the Jamie Lee book, I remember it was the spring of 2002 and I was watching one of the Halloween DVDs in my basement at night and it was the one with Mark Cerulli’s excellent featurette.  I remember thinking about Jamie Lee’s work in the Halloween, and the other films she appeared in, and how she really dominated that era – an era that made a big impact on me growing up.

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Michael Myers (Nick Castle) is coming to get you in John Carpenter’s Halloween

 When the Jamie Lee book came out in 2010, I did an interview and casually mentioned that I was going to do another Friday the 13th book.  Word spread and so I kind of had to do it.  I started writing in the summer of 2011 and here we are now, so you can see the investment of time that goes into these projects.

 I’d like to do a biography on Jan Michael Vincent.  Maybe I’ll do that next, because it would be easier than the other two projects I have in mind.  One is a book on the teen/college sex comedies from the early to mid 1980s.  I have a title for that: Horny Teenagers: The Rise and Fall of the Teen Sex Comedy Film, 1981-1985.  The other book I’d like to do is a book on Frank and Eleanor Perry, the legendary husband and wife filmmaking team who made such great films as David and Lisa, The Swimmer, Last Summer.  Now that would be a big project.  You know, I’d have to travel to Los Angeles and Connecticut where each of their papers are.  They’re both dead, and most of their colleagues are dead or are very old, which is much the same story with Jan Michael Vincent, who I find to be a very intriguing person.

TW:  Do you have a website where people can follow your work?

 DG:  No, but if you Google me, you’ll find everything you need to know.

TW:  Thank you for all your dedicated work on these two brilliant books.  I think I can speak for most horror fans by saying that your books have made our world of horror undoubtedly better.

 

Thank you very much for your support.

 

David Grove

Filmmaker/Journalist