Dall’altra parte del cult – Interview with Bill Oberst Jr.
This is the original version of the interview to Bill Oberst Jr. realized by Cinewalkofshame (here in italian). Thanks, Bill!
K: Hi Bill! You are famous to be specialized in historical roles. You have been Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain and John F. Kennedy. Why this preference for really existed characters? Is play a historic character more difficult than a fictional?
B: Well first let me apologize for not speaking proper Italian and causing you to have to translate! I am a big fan of Italian cinema and should learn to speak the language. It is an honor to be interviewed by the Cinewalkofshame! I like your blog for exposing some us who work in B-movies to your readers and I definitely do not take myself or my own B-movies seriously, so we are a good match! As for your question, yes, a historical character is more difficult to play than a fictional one but I enjoy the challenge always. I love the fact that all human beings are a mixture of good and bad traits. Historical characters tend to be shown only as one or the other; only in black and white. My job as an actor when I play men of history is to find the space in between – to show them as both great men and ordinary men at the same time. That is what makes it fun. I like tension and conflict in a character, and all of us have that inside. I love history myself, so when I play history I want it to be real, even if the movie is not.
K: You start your career like a theater actor, Can you tell us how did you commence your adventure in the world of cinema?
B: I made my living in professional theater for 14 years and never thought about doing a film role. Then a friend asked me to audition for the role of a famous general from the American Civil War, General W.T. Sherman. He was notorious in American history for leading a march through the American South called Sherman’s March, where his men raped and plundered and burned the landscape to break the spirit of the South. Sherman was one of Lincoln’s favorites and Lincoln authorized the march. Sherman is the one who first said “War is hell.” He also said “War is cruelty; the crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.” I was raised in the American South and had been taught in school about Sherman as a devil, so I thought it would be fun to audition. I did and I got my first TV role playing him in the TV docudrama called Sherman’s March. It won awards and that’s what got me into the world of TV & film and out to Los Angeles, where I have been for 4 years. I’ve done about 80 TV & film projects so far.
K: An Italian film critic called you “the new face of independent horror cinema”; but what’s your favourite kind of movie? Horror, sci-fy, thriller?
B: I do like the horror, sci-fy and thriller genres very much, yes! I think that we are all afraid of our common enemy – death. And films that are able to deal with the things that scare us do a great service besides entertaining us. Good horror movies can be cathartic and fun, although there are a lot of bad ones made, that’s for sure! I would be so happy to play a small part in lifting the horror film genre back up to it’s former glory. I would very much like to come to Italy to do a great horror film there. I think classic horror mixed with the great traditions of Italian cinema is a tasty combination!
K: Let’s talk about Abraham Lincoln VS Zombies, a film that I liked very much. How was interpretate a character like Abraham Lincoln, an important figure in american history? And what do you think of the bizarre idea of a “zombie hunter President”?
B: Thank you for liking that little zombie movie! Our budget was small and you know how that goes, but everyone tried to make a fun movie. For me, I just wanted young people who might watch it to get a little bit of the real Abraham Lincoln’s character and strength, so I tried to play him straight. Lincoln was a great man and he should not be made into a joke. I suppose if he had actually fought zombies he would have done it the same way he led America through the Civil War – with strong resolve and with kindness when the fight allowed for kindness. The writer & director Richard Schenkman made clear to me that he wanted the Lincoln of history who just happened to be fighting zombies, so I tried to give that to him and to the audience. I was excited to be able to do the Gettysburg Address in a zombie movie!
K: I liked your performance in this movie; in my opinion, you make credible a strange story like A.L. VS Zombies. Can you tell us some anecdote about the processing of the movie?
B: I spend much time alone away from everyone else during the filming, thinking about what Lincoln went through during the real war and praying that God would allow me to show a little of who he really was even in a zombie movie! I did spend a lot of time, though, with Baby Norman, the wonderful and gorgeous actress who played Lincoln’s long-lost love Mary Owens, who in the script has become a prostitute in Savannah, GA. We had a scene where Lincoln encounters Mary Owens in a cellar and Mary slaps Lincoln’s face for leaving her all those years ago. Baby Norman said “Bill, I don’t want to hurt you with the slap so let’s practice it.” I said “Baby, this woman is seeing a man who she loves and hates at the same time – it has to look real for the audience. You just let it go. Give it to me.” She said “Are you sure?” I said “Yes! Lay it on me.” Well let me tell you, she did give it to me! When the cameras rolled she pulled back her arm and slapped my face so hard I nearly fell down. My ears rang for the rest of the day. But it was worth it. It was real. I hate fake-looking stuff in movies! And later one when we did a tender scene together where Lincoln was telling Mary that he still loved her, the sting of that slap made it so real. Baby is great. I hope to work with her again. I always do my own stunts whenever I can. You are talking to a man who crawled naked on his belly across sharp rocks on a dungeon floor just to get a 5 second shot for a horror movie that will probably never even be released! You have to be a little crazy to be in this business.
K: Some days ago, I’ve seen Take That Lollipop. It’s incredible! Do not be offended, but when you look at the camera I got chills! It’s an avveniristic kind of movie: each viewer can have its own personalized movie. What do you think about this?
B: Ah yes, Take This Lollipop was good to me! Jason Zada, the director, is the genius behind it. I am just grateful that he chose me to play the Facebook Stalker. Take This Lollipop gave me the creeps when I ran the application on my own personal Facebook profile, even though I knew it was me! Very creepy Halloween concept. Take This Lollipop won a 2012 Daytime Emmy Award. Will soon be made a sequel.
K: You have role models? Which actor you feel more similar to you?
B: I love the work of any actor who plays dark, conflicted characters. My heroes go back to the silent movie days of Lon Chaney Sr. and go on through Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Vincent Price, Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe. I really like the work of Sean Harris. Michael Caine is my film God. There is an Italian actor of the 60’s & 70’s whose vibe I like, Maurice Poli. Harvey Keitel is brilliant. Jurgen Prochnow is fascinating to watch and I get compared to him often.
K: Which advices would you give to a young actor who moves his first steps in front of the camera?
B: Take chances. Be bold. Be willing to make a fool of yourself. Hold back nothing. Know where your light is. And don’t blink.
K: Can you explain us your future projects? Both theater and cinema, of course!
B: Thank you for asking. For those who may be interested, I would invite them to my IMDb page. In the horror genre, I have lead roles in two film projects coming up that I know will have international appeal. One will be filmed next year by the Australian director Mark Savage and is set in the world of a mysterious underground carnival filled with human freaks. It is called Circus Of Dread. The other film is finished and will be released early next year. I play a cult leader in the desert with a group of young people – it is called Children Of Sorrow, from director Jordan McClure, who directed Bill Moseley in Rogue River. Both of these films will be disturbing and, to some, shocking, but neither is gory. I think gore has been done to death, pardon the pun. I like horror of the mind much more, and body-horror, too. For those who enjoy the dark noir genre, I would invite you to spend 10 minutes with an award-winning short film by the talented young filmmaker Michael Bonomo. It is called Assassins. I play a veteran hitman. The short version is the featured video on the main page of my YouTube Channel. I am on set right now filming a lead role in a thriller called Deadly Revisions and go straight from that onto the gritty drama Coldwater.
My next television project will be hosting an a TV series called The Dark Cinema featuring short horror films from around the world. I’ll also be in The Hallmark Channel movie The Confession in which I reprise my role as an Amish father from Hallmark Channel’s The Shunning, both directed by Michael Landon, Jr.
In the theater world I am a huge fan of the late Ray Bradbury and want to start touring with a one-man show of some of his short stories. I am performing at the Ray Bradbury Storytelling Festival on Halloween weekend in his hometown of Waukegan, IL doing his short story Pillar Of Fire. If I can get permission to do the one-man show I will tour it around the world, maybe mixed with some Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft stories. I will come to Italy with it, for sure!
Finally, I have a demon project in development called Lord Bateman which is set in Europe and I would love to hear what Italian horror fans think of. You can read about it here.
I will stop there! I love what I do and could go on and on but I must not abuse your readers!
K: I finished with a desire: can you wrote a dedication for the readers of Cinewalkofshame, who agree about your excellent performance on A.L. VS Zombies and Take That Lollipop?
B: Yes of course. I will say that I love Cinewalkofshame and and am proud to be featured here! Acting is my passion and even if every movie I am in is not a winner, I always want to entertain people when I am onscreen. I am not ashamed to be on the Walk Of Shame. Thank you again, and I hope your readers will feel free to contact me with any thoughts or ideas. The audience is king and my job is to please the king.
In addition to answering the questions, Bill wanted to pay homage to the blog with a gift that honors us, and which we publish below. Thank you, President Lincoln!
Pubblicato il settembre 3, 2012, in Dall'altra parte del cult - Le interviste possibili con tag abe lincoln, abraham lincoln, abraham lincoln vs zombies, actor, american civil war, B-movies, Baby Norman, bill oberst cinewalkofshame, Bill Oberst Jr., bill oberts jr, cinema horror, cinewalkofshame, horror, interview bill oberst jr, intervista bill oberst, italian cinema, teatro, theater, theater actor. Aggiungi il permalink ai segnalibri. Lascia un commento.