John Dies at the End, a horror comedy from writer/director Don Coscarelli (The Beastmaster, Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep), follows John (Rob Mayes) and David (Chase Williamson), college drop-outs who can barely hold out jobs, but who soon find themselves on a journey to save humanity from an otherworldly invasion. The film also stars Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman and Doug Jones. For more on the film,watch the red band trailer.
At the film’s press day, actor Paul Giamatti, who’s also an executive producer on the movie, talked about what drew him to John Dies at the End, his most memorable experience of the shoot, working with such new actors, how he sees the industry now, and that he doesn’t think a film like Sideways would even get made today. He also talked about his upcoming role as Nikita Khrushchev for the HBO movie K Blows Top, the status of Bubba Nosferatu, and his role in Steve McQueen’s next film, Twelve Years A Slave. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
PAUL GIAMATTI: The whole thing spoke to me, frankly. I’ve wanted to work with [writer/director Don Cosacarelli] for awhile. I’m a big fan of his, with the Phantasm movies, The Beastmaster and Bubba Ho-Tep, especially. I was just eager to do something with him, and then this thing came along. I like that Phillip K. Dick type of thing, which is what this is, in a lot of ways. When I first read it, with that whole monologue about dreams that the Rastafarian guy has, I was like, “If I can be in a movie where that’s going to be on screen, and that’s so weird and disturbing and funny, I wanna do it. And if I can help, in any way, by producing it, then I want to do that, too.” He should be making movies, and making more movies, so I wanted to do whatever I could to help.
Was it difficult to wear the hats of actor and producer?
GIAMATTI: No, I didn’t really do any producing. I have a partner who did more of the actual producing. I just show up and I’m like, “How’s it going, team? Is everything okay?” That’s the hat I wear. It’s great to be a producer because that’s all you have to do.
What was your most memorable experience on this film?
GIAMATTI: One of the coolest things was the place we shot in. The exteriors for the restaurant was the decayed ruins of a youth prison. It looked like a neutron bomb had gone off. There was all this weird stuff scrawled on the walls, and it was super creepy. It was easily the creepiest place that I’ve ever been in. That was awesome! I love doing that kind of stuff. That was good stuff.
Did you have any reservations about being on a film with such new actors?
GIAMATTI: No, not at all. In fact, I was really happy to finally be in a movie with a turkey-headed man. I love that kind of thing! It was on my bucket list. This kind of thing is the sort of thing I grew up liking. It’s why I became an actor. I liked monster movies, when I was a kid. This was funny. I was like, “Finally, I’m at a point in my life where I can do a movie with a turkey-headed man in it! God dammit, I’ve always wanted to do this kind of movie, and I’m finally getting to do it!” I love stuff like this.
GIAMATTI: Well, the independent film thing has become next to impossible. It’s really hard to get the money, in the first place, and then it’s very hard to find [distribution]. There aren’t a whole lot of guys doing it anymore. Fortunately, Magnolia is doing it in inventive and an interesting way. Acting wise, it’s tricky. It has changed. There’s less work, generally, for actors now and the competition has gone up while what they’re going to pay you has gone down. All of this stuff will work out to be something, but I’m not sure what it’s going to turn into. It’s going to turn into something else, but I’m not sure what it’s going to be.
Would Sideways fall under that?
GIAMATTI: I don’t think you could make Sideways now. Certainly not with me and Tom Church in it. You couldn’t. You wouldn’t be able to do it now. I don’t know what it would be. It would be much more difficult to get that movie made now. A lot of those kinds of movies would be tougher to do now. You’d have to get bigger stars in it, but I don’t even know that that matters. I don’t think stars open movies that much anymore. It doesn’t even seem like that works. It’s really curious. It’s all about foreign sales and what’s going to sell overseas now. The first thing everybody does now is calculate how it’s going to sell overseas. Before anything, those are the numbers that are going to get crunched. And then, there’s the demise of the DVD. That was a nice base for guys, and that’s gone.
How did you end up signing on to play Nikita Khrushchev for K Blows Top?
GIAMATTI: It’s an HBO thing. It’s a really great script that’s based on the book [of the same name], about his trip to America, when he banged his shoe on the table and went crazy, all over the place. He wanted to go to Disneyland and they wouldn’t take him. It does have kind of a comedic take because he was clowning around. He was playing the crazy Russian for people. So, it has the absurdity of it, but it’s a fairly serious movie. He’s an extraordinary guy. Everything was on the verge of blowing up. You could say he was responsible for it not blowing up, almost more so than Kennedy was. He was very careful, not to let things explode, but at the same time, he had to play the scary Russian bear for everybody. He was an interesting guy.
GIAMATTI: The interesting thing is that a substantial part of it will actually probably be in Russian. I will actually speak Russian, in good chunks of it, which will be really fun. I’ll have to actually learn some Russian.
What’s going on with the Bubba Ho-Tep sequel, Bubba Nosferatu?
GIAMATTI: When I first met Don, it was just through funny circumstances. We got together and he told me he had the idea for a sequel to that, and I read the script, which was great. I don’t know how much I would want to give away about it, though. The part I would play would be Colonel Parker, who was Elvis’ manager, and it was always a sinister relationship between the two of them, with how he had such control over him. The movie answers that question. It’s a vampire movie, and that’s part of how he has a hold over him. It’s a fantastic script! It’s different from the other one, but it’s still all about aging and compromising yourself. The way Bubba Ho-Tep was about getting old, this one’s about being middle-aged, in a great way. I hope that maybe we can still get it done ‘cause it’s a really great script.
What was it like to do Twelve Years A Slave?
GIAMATTI: It was pretty wild. It was based on an actual slave narrative. He wrote it after the Civil War, but it’s about a guy who was a free black man in New York, and he was kidnapped and sold into slavery in New Orleans. He spent 12 years there, and then escaped again. It’s pretty terrifying. It’s a horror movie, in itself. It’s really bizarre.
Who did you play in it?
GIAMATTI: Most of the roles in it are real people. I play a guy who was one of the wealthiest slave traders in America, at the time. There are a million parts in it. But, I receive him and train him, and then sell him to this other guy. There’s a pretty harrowing sequence in a slave market that details how they actually processed him.
GIAMATTI: He was amazing! He is a really, really interesting guy. The way it was shot, he is a very interesting dude. This movie could be really freaky. His whole take on it is to take any kind of modern sensibility off of it and just create a world in which it’s completely normal that people get chained up and beaten and sold to each other. He wanted to create a sense in which it’s totally normal, so he’s not commenting on it, at all.
So, he doesn’t whitewash it then?
GIAMATTI: He doesn’t whitewash, at all. I couldn’t believe some of the stuff that I had to do to some of these people.
How hard was that to do?
GIAMATTI: It was weird. For me, it was actually oddly easy. For the people I was doing it to, I’m sure it was hard. I had to handle these people in weird ways, like they were livestock. These people were remarkable. They were okay with it, but it was very weird. You’re able to forget about it. It’s a movie, and they call cut and it’s fine. But, it should probably be pretty disturbing when it’s all put together.
John Dies at the End is available on VOD on December 27th, and opens in theaters on January 25, 2013.