I recently got the chance to talk to James Gill about his role in ‘The Theatre Bizarre’. Here, James talks about what it was like working on his section of the film, and how he got into acting in the first place…
Picture: James Gill (R) at the world premiere of ‘The Theatre Bizarre’ with Udo Kier (L)
Hey James. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. Of course we‘re here to talk to you about your new film ‘The Theatre Bizarre’.
First, thank you very much for having me, Matt. You’ve got a great website.
What’s the general plot line surrounding the film?
‘The Theatre Bizarre’ is an anthology horror film set in an old, disused theatre wherein six twisted tales play out over the course of one night. Each tale, inspired by the term “Grand Guignol”, is the work of a different director: Buddy Giovinazzo, Douglas Buck, David Gregory, Karim Hussain, Jeremy Kasten, Richard Stanley and Tom Savini.
Here is the plot summary:
Down a seedy city street in her neighborhood, young Enola Penny is obsessed with what appears to be a long abandoned theatre. One night, she sees that the front doors open up and impulsively decides to sneak inside. But there in the dark, decrepit auditorium, a show unlike any other unfolds before her eyes. Its host is an eerie human puppet named Peg Poett who will introduce Penny to six tales of the bizarre: A couple traveling in a remote part of the French Pyrenees cross paths with a lustful witch; A paranoid lover faces the wrath of a partner who has been pushed to her limit; The Freudian dreams of a husband blur the lines between fantasy and reality; The horrors of the real world are interpreted through the mind of a child; A woman addicted to other people’s memories gets her fix through the vitreous fluid of her victims’ eyeballs; And a perverse obsession with sweets turns sour for a couple in too deep. But as the stories unfold, something much stranger is happening to Enola. Something irreversible and horrific. Something that awaits its next audience in ‘The Theatre Bizarre’.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
This is the funny part. During a period where I wasn’t really looking for work, out of the blue, a friend of mine wrote on my Facebook wall that she was casting a role and she thought I should submit myself. So I did. Not knowing exactly what the role was, I sent in my smiley picture. Based on the pic, the producer had the idea that I was taller than I was and didn’t look the part. He therefore put me in the ‘ NO’ pile. He only selected a few for the audition. For some reason, he then decided to go back to the huge ‘NO’ pile and add one more to the ‘YES’ pile. That was me and the rest is history. He told me about this after we wrapped, of course.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
My character is Donnie and he is the protagonist of the story. He’s the husband of the beautiful Carla, played by none other than the exquisite Debbie Rochon. He’s experiencing vivid nightmarish dreams. He’s torn between fantasy and reality. Unable to escape his nightly horrific dreams, he seeks the help of his friend, Dr. Maurey, played by the Wizard of Gore himself, Tom Savini. He’s a huge Steelers fan. I cannot reveal any more or I will ruin the many surprises of this tale.
How would you say this film is different from other horror movies?
Well for one, it’s an anthology and the segments do not crisscross each other. There are six separate tales all linked together by a seventh one, if you will. This is the one happening in the theatre where a living automaton, played by the grand Udo Kier, recounts the infamous tales to the ever-so-curious Enola Penny. The link between all the segments is the Grand Guignol theme.
The film stars Virginia Newcomb and Udo Kier, with a variety of other cast members – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
It was an amazing experience. My best so far. I had so much fun working on this film and felt so alive and creative. It was such a thrill and as soon as it was done, I wanted to start another one. After a day or two of rest, mind you. The seven segments were filmed separately. Tom Savini was my director and co-star as well as Debbie Rochon. Tom was such a joy to work with. He right away made me feel comfortable and at home. Actually, the very first thing he said to me when I met him for the first time on set was, “Wow! You look so much better in person!” So it started well, though it made me wonder if I should get new pictures! Ha ha! He was very kind and patient and so respectful of the craft. I loved working with him and am looking forward to it again. Debbie was a joy. So nice, calm, reserved and talented. We had a great time together, especially when filming our wedding sequence, the very first day! Look closely and you’ll see how much fun we had. I taught Debbie how to dance a waltz and she made sure to thank me by putting cake all over my face. It was lovely. The crew was amazing and so passionate about this project. I remember one night they only got two hours of sleep and got up and happily went back to work. I was very impressed.
Udo Kier and Virginia Newcomb were the stars of one segment. I didn’t get to work with them. I met Udo at the world premiere. He’s a great funny guy. I’m looking forward to working with him one day. We were well over 30 people from the film at the premiere and I met them all. Extraordinary people. I made some great friends and can’t wait to work with them in the future.
Let’s talk a bit about you James. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I’ve always loved acting as a kid. Playing all kinds of different characters, with some kind of costume and most of the times some weapons. Running in parks and the likes which became other worlds and unexplored territories in my vivid imagination. I did a bit of acting in the boy scouts and some in high school. At the time, however, because of society and what people told me, I always thought acting could only be a secondary hobby. I had to become a businessman. And maybe one day an actor, but only after succeeding as a CEO. For some reason, I never considered myself an artist. I had this erroneous notion that unless you were good at drawing and/or painting, you weren’t an artist. My path went different ways and one day I had to make a serious decision about what I wanted to do in life. I had worked in bars many years and saved up enough money to travel the world for three years, which was a dream of mine. I decided to seek professional advice from a career counselor. After what seemed to me like a hundred tests and more talking than I envisioned necessary, what came up was acting. My mind was set. Career first and the travel will be done sporadically in the next 20 years or so. I did research to find out the best acting school I could go to. Set on Strasberg in New York. The rest is history. Oh yeah and of course I totally do consider myself an artist now ha ha!
Who has been your favourite actor to work with so far and who has given the best advice to you?
Well, my favorite actor to work with is no doubt Tom Savini. I felt I could completely trust him and he’s such a generous person. The best advice came from Alec Baldwin, who explained that when accepting an acting job, you should always consider three things: the script, the director and your co-star(s). If at least 2 out of 3 are good, you can accept the job and it’s pretty safe to say that the result will be solid and to your advantage. If only 1 out of 3 is good, it’s very risky and you might want to pass.
If you could have three historical guests to dinner, alive or dead – who would you choose and why?
No doubt JFK. He was such an influential figure and so loved and respected. People still talk about him today. My Mom loved him so much and cried when he was shot, and she’s not even American. I would love to get to know the man for who he truly was. Next would be Leonardo da Vinci. The man was a genius and competent at so many different things and on so many levels. An incredible artist. I admire him very much and would have loved to work with him. I would have so many questions to ask. One of them would certainly be: What did you have in mind when painting the Mona Lisa? Last but not least, FDR. Such an impressive man who uplifted a nation in deep depression, boosted the economy and formed intelligent legislation. A powerful figure and a great leader.
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
Well, I would say Hurricane Irene. For one thing, it was the first time in my life being in a hurricane. I was in NYC when it hit. I prepared well for it and was lucky, living in Upper Manhattan, that the only thing that happened was that a little water got into my bedroom. Some were not as lucky as you saw on TV. It was devastating to many and NYC was not the worst. Many had to evacuate. That must be horrific, but even more for those who lost everything. I believe Mother Nature is telling us something, and we better listen and quick.
What else is coming up for you in 2011?
Well, I’m finally making the big move to LA. Fortunately, I have friends and contacts there already. We have things to discuss and many things are coming up in the near future, but unfortunately, I cannot discuss them at the moment. So keep an eye out and I will be sure to let you know as soon as I can. Thank you so much Matt for this interview. I’m looking forward to reading more of them in the future.
Thanks for the interview!