FRIGHT fans, you're in for a treat! We caught up with actor Oz Perkins, most recently seen in the gory horror, slap-stick comedy 'DEAD & BREAKFAST'. He talked to us a bit about his experiences in both film & television. He also, mentions his brother Elvis - a musician who fronts the band Elvis Perkins in Dearland, and of course he shared with us a few stories about his father, the late, great Anthony Perkins. Read on & enjoy! - by Robg. 3/06
What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre? What was the first film you remember really having an effect on you?
It's funny because, like most people I'm sure, there are a couple of horror films that worked their way pretty deep into my unconscious as a child. It's what they are built to do, after all, and I think that the genre's unique access to our subconscious, our secret fears and unspeakable desires, is largely the reason that horror films continue to attract such persistent audiences. Because of my dad's notoriety in the genre, we got a lot of things sent to our house. This was in the days before swag, so I'm talking about the occasional courtesy Fangoria subscription.
A director who wanted to do something with my old man sent him a copy of "Cannibal Holocaust" which even my old man thought was too much and so he threw it into the outside garbage bin. My old man was often pretty disturbed by effective works of horror art. I know, for instance, that upon finishing the novel "Red Dragon", that he had to get it out of the house, had to physically walk it out of the house and get rid of it.
You come from a family with a background in the entertainment industry. Was it always a conscious choice that you would pursue a career in acting? Or was there something else that you thought about thru-out the years?
My parents did a very fine job of making me feel good and loved, but even the most willing and capable adults are going to let some things slip through the cracks. And, of course, some adults in the industry are there in part because they didn't get everything they needed as children. Nobody really gets everything they need anyway, but in the case of my family, we all went looking for some of those missing pieces in the dreamy promise of the business. In the same way that a person can inherit high cholesterol from their folks, the desire to be magnified in the eyes of those who see them can also be a hereditary trait. I guess I have some of that.
Can you tell us a bit about your educational background? Is it true you majored in English? How'd this lead you back into acting?
Also, the moment at the beginning of "Beetlejuice" when the camera tracks over the whole town, finally settling on the little local church when a giant spider crawls over the roof and the camera pulls back to reveal that we are looking at a model of the town built by the Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis characters. That moment was also hugely impacting for me for the same reasons. I saw, in this case quite literally, the giant hand of the director reaching down and forming what we saw on the screen. I was very into that. So when it was time to apply for colleges, I tried for early acceptance to NYU film school and was lucky to be accepted. I did a year there, and then two non-consecutive semesters at USC film school but got thrown off when my dad died in 1992. As anyone who has ever lost a parent knows, and I've lost two, it's a uniquely mysterious and disorienting thing to have happen. For a million reasons. Fortunately for me, our family had a lot of great friends who were more than ready and willing to help move us all along. Among them was Mike Nichols who, in case anyone doesn't already know it, is perhaps the most intelligent man in the country, certainly among the funniest and absolutely in the top tier when it comes to unrestricted generosity. He recognized that I was a little lost and he offered me a job as his assistant on a film called "Wolf" that he was preparing to make. He already had a bevy of eager assistants, and so it was more like he was just bringing me along for the ride. I had nothing to do but watch one of the greatest American film director's work. After four months of that, I found that returning to a classroom setting was a little out of rhythm. I think I ultimately made a good decision when I chose to try for an English major instead of pursuing film school. I figured movies would always be there for me and that we could reunite sometime later. In the meantime, it seemed a better use of my youth to read a whole lot of all the great works of all the great authors, and to learn the very underrated art of writing a good paragraph.
Do you remember anything about the Psycho 2 shoot or director Richard Franklin?
A couple of times I did have to bear the beginning of the Hermann score, and the screeching of the violins before the doors swung shut behind us on our way out and that was more than enough for me.
Speaking of, when was the first time you had actually seen the original Psycho film? And what did you think of your father after seeing it?
After Psycho 2, you didn't do any official acting until Six Degree's Of Separation & Wolf, both in the early 90's. How'd you come to be involved in those projects?
I really should get someone, maybe one of the minor gods at IMDB, to take "Wolf" off of my resume. That was just Mike saying, "hey, you have a SAG card, how would you like to make an extra seven hundred dollars today". I'm actually in there twice, once as a dude with one line (hilariously dubbed by some other twerp) at Jack's publisher's office, and then again at the end I'm one of the mounted policemen who arrives after the big showdown. They used my actual voice for that one, but not an angle of my actual face. "Six Degrees of Separation" was another nice little piece of nepotism in which the author of the play, John Guare (the other smartest guy in the world) was a friend of my old man's and had met me at my dad's last birthday party in New York a few months before he died. They couldn't cast this part so they sent me the sides and asked me to film myself doing the little monologue. I had never auditioned for anything before but got it together to videotape myself doing the pink shirt bit, sent it to the casting office in New York and, curiously, got the job.
After another short gap, you came back to do a few comedies including 'Not Another Teen Movie' & 'Legally Blonde'. From your experiences, what's it like working on a production for a "comedy". All fun & games or more difficult then it appears?
The director and producers kept liking it and kept calling me in to do more coverage, more reaction shots so I just kept giving them more of what they wanted. I guess they like it plenty because they ended up sticking me in the money shot of the film, the moment where the camera pans up from her feet to her face when she walks into the courtroom, the moment that really cements the conceit of the film. And there I am, every time they use that shot in a promo. It's actually kind of the shot that made Reese Witherspoon into the huge star she is. I wonder how she feels about having to share that particular frame with my goofy mug all the time.
'Secretary' was one of my fave films of the past few years. What's the one thing that stands out to you about working on that picture?
Nobody knew anything about this and likely would not have given two shits if they found out, but it seems to me that little private games like that are part of what make acting interesting, especially when you have no lines and are going to be cut out of the final print anyway.
How'd you get involved with 'Dead and Breakfast'? Wasn't it originally titled something else when you first came on board?
'Dead and Breakfast' has a really interesting visual style, switching between comic book panels and actual film, and including musical numbers. Were you aware early on the vision that director Matthew Luetwyler had for the film?
'Dead and Breakfast' features a pretty fantastic all-star cast - Ever & David Carradine, Gina Phillips, Jeremy Sisto, Erik Palladino. How'd the entire cast get along during the production and who caused the most trouble? Our bet's on Erik!
Introduce a pack of Hollywood types with all of their booze and weed that we had driven down to us from Humboldt County, tied to a completely ass-backwards schedule (we shot all nights, so everything was reversed. eggs and bacon at 7am for dinner, that kind of thing) and you can begin to see what was going on. We were mostly just wrong all of the time and the second floor where most of us had rooms smelled like Trenchtown, Jamaica with visibility rarely exceeding three or four feet ahead of your nose. The hotel staff was into it. It was a good time.
You start out as the quiet, sympathetic character in 'Dead and Breakfast' and then become the lead zombie villian. How'd you go about created the character of Johnny?
On low budget movies like this, or on any fast-moving production like a weekly episodic television shoot, there is no time scheduled for rehearsals or for any exploration of character. There just isn't any time or money for that kind of thing.
Once you have one clear idea, the rest falls into place. Knowing what I now knew, I could make educated guesses what his reactions would be to given situations. Being picked on was nothing new to him and at the same time, plenty of the offending people were going to get theirs.
You recorded a DVD commentary with Matthew and members of the cast. What was it like to revisit the film again for a commentary?
I kind of think that unless it's Walter Murch or something, or someone like Robert Altman, it's not that fascinating to hear people talking about their films. The films, especially the best ones, are perfect versions of themselves and don't need any extra footage or snappy explanations. Maybe I'm alone in this kind of thinking.
Your younger brother Elvis is an accomplished musician. What can you tell us about his musical background & have you both always been supportive of each other's careers?
You've done a lot of recurring roles in television. ("Alias", "Close to Home", "She Spies") What are the major differences in your experiences between work in films and television?
Television, if you do these guest star things like I have, is less personalized, somehow less intimate, especially because you are in and out of there in a week and the regulars practically live together.
For me, and I know it's a useless point of view to have in this day and age, television still feels disposable. I know that it isn't, but the work feels a little disposable, like a single-serving razorblade or something, and that I just did it because someone had to and why shouldn't it be me who gets paid to perform this service, to be the serial killer of the week or the defendant of the week, or both, or whatever the script calls for. TV feels like a business to me, a little impersonal or something, and that most television is made just to fill in the spots between the commercials. That's extreme, I know. I probably sound like a real asshole. I just feel a permanence in making a film, like it's an actual experience, like it's actually something I'm creating.
Thanks for talking with us Oz!
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