I recently got the chance to talk to Richard Fancy about his role in Rob Zombie’s new film, ‘The Lords Of Salem’. Here, Rob talks about how he got involved in the project and what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set…
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
A young woman disc jockey at a rock and roll station in Salem, Massachusetts, is sent a record (not a CD) that contains some oddly compelling music. Turns out the music was the theme song of The Lords Of Salem, a bunch of devil worshipping witches in the heyday of the witch hunts in the 17th century. Our heroine is the recipient of the record because she is a descendant of the chief witch hunter of the day: when the witches were burning back then they placed a curse on all his feminine descendants. As she is being transformed by the music, an investigator starts putting together what is happening. It doesn’t end well for anybody.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
The investigator who is on the track of the curse contacts an old friend of his, an expert on 17th witch trials. I play the expert, a guy named A.J. Kennedy. Though Rob Zombie wanted the character in the movie for exposition, he is a director who encourages the actor to have a point of view on the character. I decided that his point of view was one of extreme and humorous scepticism.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I’d worked for Rob before in ‘Halloween’. I had three scenes with Malcolm McDowell. He encouraged Malcolm and me to improvise. It was a lot of fun, Rob liked what I did, and then cut two of the scenes!
How would you say this film is different and unique?
It’s unlike any film I have seen, particularly different from the formulae which appear in every horror film: people suspended in mid-air, feral children who suddenly appear on top of furniture, people CGI’d through space. It’s very music centred and the look to the film is varied and different from almost every film out there. The palate ranges from sepia and washed out tones to a stunning full colour interior – I won’t tell or spoil it by telling you of what. Rob is simply not concerned with scaring you every minute; he wants to show the gradual possession of his central figure, the female disc jockey, played by his lovely and charming wife, Sheri Moon Zombie.
The film stars Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Judy Geeson, Meg Foster, Patricia Quinn, Ken Foree, Dee Wallace, Maria Conchita Alonso and your good self – with Rob Zombie onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
The only actor I worked with is Bruce Davison, a funny guy and, thank the Lord, a hard worker – not everybody is. We started running the lines in the make-up trailer, went out to the set, continuing our rehearsal. Rob’s marvellous crew set up around us and, when we had rehearsed the scene countless times, they shot it. Rob, who I’d gotten to know a bit on Halloween, creates an entirely safe atmosphere. It is wonderful to work for him.
Let’s talk a bit about you Richard. What made you want to get into the acting industry in the first place?
I really don’t know. It’s kind of like falling in love; you know what you feel but why THIS person. My mother had been an actress and I’m sure that had something to do with it but, more than that, I got a lot of positive feedback for being the class clown in school. And then the high school I went to give me a lot of opportunity to work in beautifully produced plays. By the time I was fifteen or sixteen I knew this is what I wanted to do.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
Make sure you are doing it because you have to. It can be a very arduous career and, if you don’t love acting and are willing to do it for nothing, than you are in the wrong business.
You’ve been in a number of different film and TV projects – which actors/actresses have been your favourites to work with and why? Any good stories?
I loved working with Julia Louis Dreyfus on ‘Seinfeld’. She was fun, generous, and funny. I worked with Garry Shandling on his first show and had a ball. I’m working with Alley Mills – (the Mom on ‘Wonder Years’) right now and am having a great time. But most of the people I have enjoyed working with are not famous. That’s because I do a lot of theater in Los Angeles and am constantly reminded how many superb actors there are who never “made it” in films and television.
What’s currently on your I-Pod right now?
A lot of jazz: Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Michel Petrucciani, Charley Parker. Some classical: I saw Jerusalem a couple of years ago on Broadway and can’t get that tune out of my head. So I have it, along with some Elgar, as well. It’s amazing to be that you Brits sing Jerusalem at soccer matches. I do like the Star Spangled Banner (particularly the lyrics) – what Americans sing at ball games – but the melodic setting that Hubert Parry set for Blake’s poem is genius. And I also have a lot of talk on my I-Phone; mainly politics.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Shakespeare, of course, because I am so curious about him. He turns out to have been a rather ruthless businessman, he was an actor, and the supreme genius of drama. How did it all fit together? And the other two would be my maternal grandmother and my paternal grandfather: I barely knew my grandmother, and my grandfather was only a legend on my father’s lips.
Which film was your favourite of 2012 and why?
‘The Gatekeepers’, an extraordinary documentary history of counter-terrorism in Israel, from early days till now. Among those interviewed are former heads of Shin Bet, the counter-terrorism service in Israel. Their conclusions are surprising, an antidote to the two-dimensional information that comprises American coverage of the Middle East.
What’s coming up for you in 2013?
A play for sure – (I’m working on one right now) and as to what’s next: I’m as in the dark as I always have been!
Thanks for the interview!