I recently got the chance to talk to Virginia Newcomb about her leading role in ‘The Theatre Bizarre’. Here, Virginia talks about what it was like working with Udo Kier, and how she got into acting in the first place…
Hey Virginia. 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’.
Hey to you too, Matt. Thanks for the interview.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film? I understand it’s split into segments?
That’s right; it’s an anthology film that brings together filmmakers, each of whom directed a specific segment to be featured in the movie. All were given complete freedom, so long as it adhered to the general concept of “Grand Guignol” (which was an era in Parisian Theatre that focused on brutally truthful scenarios). Jeremy Kastin directed the wraparound film that ties them all together. That’s what Udo Kier and I were in.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
Casting director, Aaron Griffith called me in. The audition was unconventional in that there were no sides. It was largely improvisational. Jeremy led me through a series of scenarios to react to and then we chatted about my ideas on the character. I remember thinking how much I loved that meeting. Auditions are really an odd sort, so rarely an environment that truly showcases the actor, but Jeremy’s great and I think he and Aaron ran the audition in a way that made me feel free and collaborative. I actually knew very little going into the project. I had only read the wraparound segment, but it was so intriguing. I’m a sucker for theatrics and elements of fantasy and it was chocked full of it. The imagery, the metaphors, the characters – were all scrumptious!
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…I understand she’s the main focus of the story?
Enola is the voyeur of the stories, perhaps even the instigator. She is obsessed by this old abandoned movie theatre across the street. She spends her days studying it, drawing it, and one day the doors slowly open… she’s drawn into a surreal world of automatons playing out her worst fears. As the vignettes unfold the audience experiences her reactions to them along with their own. Except as an audience you are safe, Enola is not.
How would you say this film is different from other horror movies?
When I first read Enola’s story it reminded me of nightmares I’d had as a child. You know those ones that you never seem to shake off, like, even though they were just in your head they somehow scarred you? Honestly, it didn’t even read to me as “traditional” horror at first, just bizarre. I think the other segments definitely make up for that. Though, the wraparound segment is more about how sometimes the way we see things is what’s really terrifying. I think a successful horror film, one that scares us, awakens those inner fears inside us all. Now, I’m no horror aficionado. I’ve just happened to be in a couple. It’s a serious cult genre and those folks may have a way better answer for you.
The film stars yourself and Udo Kier, with a variety of other cast members – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
Udo is so fun! He just jumped into all that craziness and swam around like a kid. It was so great because we shot in the historic Million Dollar Theatre in downtown LA. It doesn’t matter what actor you’re dealing with – they all have a unique communication with a stage, and with theatre. So, when Udo was up there on that stage he just exemplified a true actor, the playful professional. We had a blast. Jeremy and I hit it off immediately. We sat for hours talking about dreams, the peculiar, good food, and playing harmonica (which we both do). We had an intrinsic relationship from the get go, it was easy and real. Everyone was great; it was a really terrific team. Actually this was funny; I hadn’t met David Gregory (the producer) before we started shooting, and on-set I saw him getting something for Udo and then kind of hanging out with him. So, when I met him I said, “Oh hi, are you here for Udo? Are you his assistant, or something?” He said, “No, I’m David, the producer… but I guess I am kind of assisting Udo, too”. Luckily, David is super cool and has a great sense of humor, but I did have to charm my way out of that one.
Let’s talk a bit about you Virginia. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
Well, I guess some of those same fears I’ve talked about. I have a very introverted shy side. I grew up in the south where you had to really seek out creative outlets and artistic types. My first form of expression was in the visual arts, it was safe, personal, but in high school I decided, “You know what, I’m going to run straight into those dang fears and see what’s to see.” That’s kind of become my motto. I’ve always been creative and had a natural need to entertain, but the idea of performing in front of people was terrifying if even a bit thrilling. So, I did it and it turned out to be my gold. I love trying to understand people and why they behave a certain way and how that communicates through a story. And, I love dress up. I’ll never grow out of that.
Who has been your favorite actor to work with so far and who has given the best advice to you?
I’ve actually been very lucky, in my albeit short career, to work with some amazing talents. In ‘Peacock’, I played opposite Cillian Murphy. I’ve always admired his work and that was only strengthened by seeing his commitment and getting to know him as a person. He’s one of our generation’s best. Bill Pullman and Keith Carradine were also treats to work with. Seriously though, name dropping aside, I’ve been blessed. There are some hidden talents out there, too. When I work with someone like, Benjamin Keepers who’s a relatively “unknown” actor like myself, I’m reminded of how much talent is still undiscovered. The best advice I’ve had has been said in different ways by different people, but essentially; “Be you”. It’s something you don’t really get until you get it, but it’s kind of the key to everything.
Ok, I‘m going to give you an imaginary scene of an imaginary film. You‘re in an apartment, on the sofa, with your boyfriend of one year – (Mitch). A startling revelation about Mitch is about to be unearthed – he’s an alien. Not the evil sort, but a kind of furry Ewok from ‘Star Wars’. How would the scene play out? Be as descriptive and creative as you want!
Oh Mitch, always the secretive one. See, he thinks I don’t know, he thinks he’s got one over on me, but what little Mitchy doesn’t know is I’ve known all along. I see how he gazes at the stars, I noticed the first time he tried to use a fork, and the sounds he makes when we… well, you know. Not to mention, that 80 ft. ship he’s been building out back doesn’t exactly look like it’s just for going to Red Box and back. Lucky for Mitch, I’m quite partial to tiny fuzzy aliens. So, we live happily ever after… but like everything, it’s complicated.
If I gave you a room to decorate, what colour would you paint it and why?
I’m gonna use this room you’re giving me as an art studio. So, I’ll paint it white (if it isn’t already). That way it’s a blank canvas, literally. Then day by day I’ll just go crazy on it with paint!
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
Wow, geez, there’s something interesting happening all the time everywhere. I can’t keep up. I did just read an article in Los Angeles Magazine about the Mitrice Richardson murder. This poor girl was unstable and there were so many fishy things surrounding the way the cops dealt with it. It is so crooked and sad and disturbing how it all unfolded. What’s really wild to think about though, is this kind of stuff happens all the time. People die and people make mistakes, but in this case someone needs to be held accountable. It’s a good article, check it out. On a lighter note though, I heard the animal with the largest brain in proportion to its size is the ant. They’re smart little buggers, proportionally.
What else is coming up for you in 2011?
I start shooting a feature this fall that I’m really excited about. I play the lead, Olivia, who has recently been fired from teaching for smoking pot in the parking lot. It will be shot kind of modern ‘Mumblecore’ style. All the other details are pretty hush-hush, you know how it goes. I’ve been in development with partner Polly Cole on a multi-media interactive graphic novel. The story follows mysterious Rosalie Ray from her small town in Oakridge, TN to 1940s Los Angeles. It’s a multi-platform endeavor that begins as a website in which the reader controls our character’s fate. Funnily enough, Polly and I shot the project in the Million Dollar Theatre just months before we filmed ‘Theatre Bizarre’ there. Something keeps bringing me back to it… they do say it’s haunted. I have a bunch of sketches and web content I’m working on, too. I’m really into comedy right now.Who knows what else?! I always book something cool in the fall. It’s my lucky season!
Thanks for the interview!