Frosty Interviews Desmond Askew

     March 4, 2006

Just like my interview with James Duval last week, this interview with Desmond Askew was cheating as well. Although Desmond might not remember it, I actually met him on the set of Go where he played the character of Simon. I think they were filming a scene off of Franklin (a street that runs in Hollywood) in a building, the one where a certain character gets shot. He was friendly with Jimmy, who was my friend, so we all hung out. Since then Desmond and I have become really good friends, and I can honestly say there is no better person in Los Angeles to go drinking with than Des. I think we have explored every nook and cranny of the Los Angeles underbelly, from Boardners in Hollywood to the bars down on the beach, if they serve Guinness or Vodka, chances are they have seen us.

But getting back to the movie Go for a moment.

Go will always have a special place in my heart, as that was the first movie premiere I ever got invited to (once again, thanx Jimmy). I remember they did the premiere in the Cinerama Dome, before it became the Arclight. I was sitting in the theater, looking around at all the actors and all the “celebrities”, thinking how cool it was to be there. I also remember when it ended seeing Desmond in the lobby. He immediately asked me what I thought, and I found myself stumbling for words. That was my first experience watching friends on the big screen, and I found it difficult to answer him, as it was weird to try and judge a friend. Since then, I look on Desmond’s performance as something memorable. The character of Simon was such a key component of the film, and he really hit a home-run with it.

Since then Desmond has been in a number of films and television shows. I have always watched his work, and I am constantly amazed by his charisma on both the small and large screen. While you might not recognize him under all of the makeup as Big Brain in “The Hills Have Eyes”, it takes a certain type of actor to be able to work with that kind of handicap. I think once all of you see the film, you will know what I mean.

For the interview I tried to keep it as professional as I could, not trying to work in embarrassing stories or personal stuff. So without further ado, let me introduce Big Brain…I mean Desmond.

photo credit Lacey Terrell

Frosty – First of all congrats on the film. I saw it the other day and really loved it. I really dug the level of violence and the gore. Did you know going in that the film would be that graphic?

Desmond – When I first read the script I thought, “They’ll never get away with showing that”. They definitely proved me wrong! I don’t remember having seen anything this explicit before.

F – How did you first hear about the film? Did your agent tell you? Or did the filmmakers come after you?

D – Actually, the Casting Director, Mark Bennett gave the script to my agent to see if any of the mutant roles appealed to me. I loved ‘Big-Brain’ because despite his physical handicap, he enjoys absolute power over ‘Doug’ when they meet.

F – Do you have any Alexandre Aja stories?

D – Not really. I arrived in Morocco about 2 weeks before shooting ended, and it was pretty busy. Alex seemed to be working every minute of the day, completely focused on the movie and how to make it better.

How hands-on was creator Wes Craven? Did you feel any pressure when he walked onto the set?

I understand he was all-over pre-production but when shooting started, it was Alex’s show. Wes had already left Morocco when I arrived.

What’s your favorite Wes Craven film?

‘A Nightmare on Elm Street‘ scared the piss out of me. It had me leaving lights on all over the house.

Do you think your character, Big Brain, could be as iconic as, say, Freddy Kruger?

I don’t know about that, but collectively, these mutants will appear in just as many nightmares.

Are there any plans in the works with a toy company to make Hills have Eyes collectibles and figures?

I think there have been talks. That would be so cool. We joked on set that the ‘Big-Brain’ toy would be an IN-action figure, maybe with a rev-up wheelchair.

When you went into meeting the filmmakers, did they tell you they wanted you for the role of “Big Brain”? Also did they ask you how you felt about


The week I met with them the financier of the film changed, so it was a couple of weeks before the offer came through. Alex asked me if I’d be ok with the make-up and I loved the idea. It’s something every actor should try if they get the chance. That much physical transformation really helps you get into character.

Do you think Big Brain will be back in Part 2?

I don’t know if there will be a sequel. If the script were this good, it would be hard to turn it down.

About how many Hills Have Eyes sequels do you predict they’ll be able to squeeze out of this new franchise? And is it a franchise this time out?

It’s definitely not made with a franchise in mind, but business is business and if the studio thinks these characters have mileage, it’s not out of the question.

Speaking of makeup, how long did it take you to get into character and who did your makeup… I heard it was KNB? And who mainly worked with you… K, N, or B?

I would be in the chair for about 4 hours to apply the prosthetics and spray-paint my entire body. Greg Nicotero (the ‘N’ in KNB) oversaw all the mutants but every bit of my make-up was done by the extremely talented Scott Patton and Clare Mulroy.

Was this your first experience working with makeup?

It was my second. I had just finished another movie where I had a gunshot wound, but that only took about an hour each time.

Could you move around with the makeup or were you stuck in that chair?

I could walk around fine because the body make up was all airbrushed on, but I did have to tilt my head up slightly all day to keep the prosthetic pieces in place. I really got some stares in the commisary at lunchtime.

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You spend all of your screen time nearly naked and stretched out. Did this make you uncomfortable at any time?

If anything, I was the comfortable one. It was very hot. My modesty was preserved, so I was fine. I’ve done nude scenes before though, and they’re no fun.

How long did it take you to get it off after a day of shooting?

An hour and a half. We’d have a couple of beers and take it slow, so as not to damage my skin. I had some of the latex-type stuff in my fingernails and toenails a week after we finished.

Were you ever tempted to go out in public and scare people? Or would it have been too difficult?

There wasn’t much ‘public’ in Ouarzazate and it would have been very difficult. If we’d have filmed in the U.S. it would have been irresistable.

Moving on from the makeup questions… you were in Doug Limon’s “Go” and played a very interesting character named Simon. Do people still want to talk to you about that role, or more specifically, do women still want to talk to you about that role?

I’m so happy to have been a part of that film. It seems that everyone I meet has seen it. ‘Simon’ just careens on down this path of debauchery with no regard for the consequences, but has the exuberance to be charming. Doug would often compare him to a naughty puppy. I think the women that like ‘Simon’ are attracted to that innocence.

You filmed “The Hills Have Eyes” in Morocco. What was it like to film over there? Any interesting stories?

We were in a tiny town called Ourzazate, which is an 8-hour drive from anywhere. Most of the best stories took place at the hotel – but I’m no snitch!

Were the actors given a crash course in how to avoid certain dangers, like scorpions, etc?

I wasn’t! To be fair, my scenes were all inside. I think they told the guys what to look for and I believe they even had spotters on set.

How did the locals treat you? Did they care you were making a film?

A lot of Desert epics have been filmed in Ouarzazate. I think the locals are quite unimpressed now. It’s hard to top seeing Brad Pitt down at the local Kasbah.

One of your fellow actors in Hills is Dan Byrd. For such a young actor he gives a pretty amazing performance. Although you two didn’t share any scenes, did you get a chance to meet him or watch him work?

I think Dan gives the outstanding performance of this movie. We hung out socially a few times and he’s a cool kid. He has a great mix of talent and

temperament. This movie will do great things for his career.

What is the biggest misconception you have found about making a movie?

Really, just that most people don’t think about the details and how long it can take to get them right. Everything you see on screen has been filtered through sometimes hundreds of pairs of specialist eyes… Art dept., Set design, Lighting, Costume, Make-up etc. All of these people keeping an eye on their contribution and imagining how it will affect the film as a whole.

Would you like to do another horror movie? And if yes, are you more interested in doing another makeup role or would you like to play one of the “normal” guys?

I’d love to do a horror movie again. Seeing people covered in blood, missing limbs or looking like mutants and chowing down at craft service gives me a

tongue-in-cheek moment to appreciate the absurdity of my job. I’d be happy to be made up again or to be a ‘normal’. It’s a good time either way.

I was surprised how much violence there is in the new The Hills Have Eyes. For an R rating, it’s pretty damn hard. Were you surprised by this? And were you surprised it got and R instead of an NC-17?

I heard it got an NC-17 and was going to be cut to an R and at first I was really disappointed. Now I’ve seen Alex’s cut (the NC-17) and I know how little they’ve cut for theatres, I don’t think it’ll hurt the movie at all – it’s still nasty!

Is there anyone in your family who might be too squeamish that you’d warn against watching this film?

They’re all aware of the subject matter, but that doesn’t mean they won’t call me, disgusted by what they saw. My agent was covering her eyes at the

screening we saw, and even found it difficult to look at me afterwards. I think my 16 year-old niece will love it the most. She loves horror and is a huge Wes Craven fan.

There’s an infant in the middle of a fairly insane attack/rape sequence in this movie… were you shocked by how crazy it gets?

It’s extremely disturbing, but that’s why people pay money to see it. They go to the movies to have theire motions provoked. Nobody is twisting anyone’s arm to go and see it. The only argument worth listening to is that of a possible effect on the child. Maisie (‘Baby Catherine’) had her parents on set the whole time, and I’ve rarely seen such a happy baby.

So you were on the show Grange Hill over in England. I know that is a huge show over there. For the average American who has never heard of it, what is the show all about and why is it so popular?

I, like most British kids, watched ‘Grange Hill’ growing up. It’s been on air since the late 70’s putting out 20 episodes per year. The show is known as being a training ground for young British actors. It takes place in a high school and the principal characters are all aged 11-18. It has also produced an oscar-winner in Anthony Minghella (‘The English Patient’, ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’), who was once a script editor on the show.

You were on the show for a few years, what was that like? Was it weird to be on a show so popular when you were that young?

I did the show for 4 seasons from 1990-93. I started at age 17 and finished at 20, so it was kind of like my college. I learned so much of my technique in those years, had a great time and still got paid. It also teaches you how to handle public recognition and fan attention on a smaller scale (the show is still more cult-viewing than a ratings winner) which is invaluable as you become more recognizable.

I know you have another film coming out later this year called “Turistas”. Can you tell me a little about this film, also who else is in it?

‘Turistas’ is the story of 6 backpackers who get kidnapped in the Jungle by a madman who has some sick plans for them. It stars Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas,’Win a Date With Tad Hamilton) and Olivia Wilde (‘The O.C.‘, ‘The Girl Next Door’). Although it’s not strictly horror, it’s very dark and just as suspenseful as ‘Hills’.

Do you know when is it coming out?

It’s slated for a fall release, but I don’t have anymore information than that right now.

Where did you film “Turistas”?

Brazil. The most beautiful place on Earth. We were down there for about 10 weeks all over the country. The people, culture and natural beauty just make you thrilled to be alive every day. The only negatives I found all had 6 legs and were hungry.

Was it before or after Hills Have Eyes?

We finished it 5 days before I was due on set for ‘Hills’. It took me 2 days to get from Lencois, Bahiato London, England. Then I had to fly to Ouarzazatevia Tangier, Casablanca and Marrakech. After last summer, I never wanted to see another airport.

I want to say thanx a lot for taking the time to sit down and answer some questions.

No problem.

Once again The Hills Have Eyes comes out March 10th.

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