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Ethan Embry Talks His Career, Role In ‘Late Phases,’ New Projects And More!

Ethan Embry Talks His Career, Role In ‘Late Phases,’ New Projects And More!

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Over the past few decades, film fans have watched Ethan Embry grow up on the big screen. With memorable roles in films ‘Dutch,’ ‘Empire Records,’ ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’ and ‘National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation’ on his resume, it is hard to believe there was a time when you questioned whether he still wanted to pursue a career as an actor. Embry found himself as a crossroads, took a look inside and discovered him falling in love with his craft once more. Since then, he as spent the past few years taking on projects that challenge him and allow him to flex his might as an actor. 

His latest project is just that kind of film; one that boasts a dynamic cast, collaborative director and strong creative team. Director Adrian Garcîa Bogliano’s ‘Late Phases,’ showcases Embry’s dramatic talents, alongside Nick Damici, bringing film fans a new dimension to this awesome tale of werewolf terror!

‘Late Phases’ focuses in on the town of Crescent Bay. It is not the ideal place to spend one’s golden years, especially since the once-idyllic retirement community has been beset by a series of deadly animal attacks from the ominous forest surrounding it. When grizzled war veteran Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) is forced into moving there by his yuppie son Will (Ethan Embry), the residents immediately take offense to Ambrose’s abrasive personality. But that take-no-prisoners attitude may be just what Ambrose needs to survive as it becomes clear that the attacks are being caused by creatures that are neither animal nor man, and that the tight-knit community of Crescent Bay is hiding something truly sinister in its midst…

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Nick Damaci to discuss his career in the entertainment industry, the process of bringing his latest character to life, his standout role in ‘Late Phases,’ his love for the horror genre and much more!

Ethan Embry

Ethan Embry

I know you got an early start as an actor. What can you tell us about that and what made you know acting was a career you wanted to pursue?

I’d say that I didn’t even know I wanted to keep doing it until my twenties. I did start really young. When I was a kid, I was just doing it because it was a fun thing to do, ya know? The places I got to go when I was doing certain jobs all over the world and the people I was working with were amazing people, so there wasn’t really anything calculated about it when I was younger. It wasn’t until my twenties when I sat down and asked myself if I wanted to keep doing it for reasons aside from the money of it. I thought, “Do I want to battle for this? Do I want to try to shape where I am going with it?” It was then I sat down and really saw the reason I really loved doing it. I discovered that, aside from loving it, I really didn’t have a choice! [laughs] When you find out you are good at something when you are that young and you love doing it, you have to be pretty stupid to not fight for it! I would say it is really just the past 10 or 15 years that I have really figured out what acting is and why I love doing it.

Lately, you made some very cool choices when it comes to film projects. How has focusing on developing your career impacted the roles you take?

I think the first time in my adult life that I really sat down and felt good about what I was doing was when I did the show “Brotherhood” on Showtime. Being around those writers, the directors they were getting and the cast they had was inspiring. Jason Clarke, who has deservedly found a lot of success, it was his first job. Sitting there watching how amazing he is as an actor, along with Annabeth Gish, it was really the first time that it became more of an art. Of course, there are always hiccups along the way but since then I have really wanted to do things I am really proud of and have each project be something that inspires me and there is something fun about it. I am trying to find jobs that will trigger as much emotion as possible from the audience. Whether it is laughter or fear, that has been a lot of fun lately. I have been doing a lot of thriller/horror films lately because fear is such a great emotion to trigger in people. It is amazing to watch an audience full of people jump! I don’t know if you saw “Cheap Thrills” but watching an audience full of people laugh and then be completely horrified is so validating! [laughs] It is horrible to say that I am finding pleasure out of triggering the emotions of people but that is the reason why I do it! [laughs]

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Your latest project is called “Late Phases.” What was it that attracted you to this project?

The thing with “Late Phases” that I loved when I first read it was hearing that they were doing practical effects for the creatures, meaning that it isn’t computerized creature horror. They planned on building the creatures practically in a very old school way like in “Phantasm,” which was one of my favorite horror movies when I was growing up. What I loved about the script was the perfect balance of absurdity, because there are some pretty absurd elements behind “Late Phases,” along with these classic, old school horror techniques. The nail in the proverbial coffin, I guess I could say, was to be able to work with Tina Louise [of “Gilligan’s Island”]. I mean, how could you not? [laughs] It was a combination of those things. Going back to the classic ways that they used to make horror movies with the craftsmanship of building these monsters combined with the people involved with making it made it a no-brainer. I was a fan of Adrián García Bogliano’s first film, as well.

'Late Phases'

‘Late Phases’

You worked with plenty of directors over the years. What does Adrián García Bogliano bring to the table that excites you?

With Adrián, we didn’t actually meet until I got out there to New York. One of the things that becomes immediately clear about him, because of where he is from, is the amount of heart he has. I love watching foreign films because they do have a lot of heart and many of them do not conform to the commercialism the American products do. They are far more artistic. I don’t think there is a better way of putting it. You immediately see that in Adrián when you first meet him. He is not looking at what will sell or the shiniest way of doing things. He wants to find the heart of everything. I think that benefited the movie quite a bit.

It’s clear you take your craft quite seriously and that comes through in your work. Whether it is this role or another, what is your process for bringing a character to life?

It really does change per project. Funny enough, the wardrobe really has a lot to do with who this guy becomes depending on the project itself. I just got done doing a new Netflix show, which is a comedy and a lot lighter. You do form the boundaries of the character, where he is from, what he has been through, but you don’t figure out what he has become until you put his clothes on. I guess it lends itself to the old saying about walking in another man’s shoes. Once you put those shoes on, you figure out who he is. That is kind of how I approach it.

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We watched you grow up on screen through the years and take on so many different roles. Is there a particular role or genre you are still eager to tackle?

There is a role I just finished this summer. Did you ever see the Australian film, “The Loved Ones?” It is the horror/thriller genre.

Yes, the Sean Byrne film. I really enjoyed that one.

Yes! Sean Byrne was the director and I did his first American film. That is in the can and being cut together. That involved quite a lot of preparation. I actually read that right when I finished “Late Phases” and spent the whole year getting the character together. I always think it would be so much fun to do a war film. I pray that I will never have to experience going to war but the amount of work that goes into just pretending you are in a war would be a challenge. I really like working and stretching myself quite a bit when I do work, whether it is physically, mentally or emotionally.

Ethan Embry

Ethan Embry

You spent much of your life in the entertainment industry and witnessed it changing quite a bit. What is your advice to those looking to making a career in the industry in today’s climate?

You mentioned the changes the industry has undergone. The great thing about all of these changes is that it is now possible for anybody to do this. You can make a short film or a full length feature film if you have the right camera and an Apple computer. The technology and digital technology has progressed, you don’t have to spend $100,000 to make a movie. You can go to Best Buy and buy one of the prosumer cameras on a credit card, make sure you don’t scratch it, shoot your movie on the weekends and return it on a Monday morning. [laughs] I know people who have done it! It has become accessible for everyone to do it. If this is something you want to do, the technology has advanced to the point where there is really no excuse not to do it. The reason I haven’t done it myself is that it is really scary.

Is that something you see yourself pursuing in the future? Where do you see yourself headed?

I would love to produce and direct. I really would love to do that but, for me, the thing that holds me back is my fear of writing. When I start to do it, I am good at it but I have this fear of being accepted. With acting, like on “Late Phases,” there are so many other elements that made this movie. It is not all resting on my shoulders. When you are writing, unless you have a writing partner, it all rest on your shoulders. That is it! You’re the only one. That is the only thing that has held me back from doing it, the fear of having to be completely self-sufficient, as opposed to the teamwork that I am so used to in the past. One of these days I will man up! [laughs]

Well, I certainly look forward to seeing what you have in store for us, Ethan. I am sure it will be well worth the wait! Thanks again for your time today and we look forward to talking to you again soon!

Thanks, Jason! I really appreciate it! Take care!

Don’t miss Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s top-nothc thriller, LATE PHASES, starring Nick Damici & Ethan Embry! The film opening in select theaters & on VOD November 21st!

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Nick Damici On His Evolution, Standout Role In ‘Late Phases’ And New Projects!

Nick Damici On His Evolution, Standout Role In ‘Late Phases’ And New Projects!

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Nick Damici has spent the past few years turning the heads of fans and critics alike with powerful roles in films like ‘Mulberry Street,’ ‘Stake Land’ and ‘We Are What We Are.’ He has even impacted the world of film through screenwriting; teaming with Jim Mickle and Joe Lansdale for the critically acclaimed flick, ‘Cold In July.’ His latest project is no less impressive and as he breathes life into a character in a way few others do. Teaming with director Adrian Garcîa Bogliano for ‘Late Phases,’ he has easily cemented his status as one of the most impressive actors working in the horror industry today (or any other genre for that matter) and adds new dimension to this awesome tale of werewolf terror!

‘Late Phases’ focuses in on the town of Crescent Bay. It is not the ideal place to spend one’s golden years, especially since the once-idyllic retirement community has been beset by a series of deadly animal attacks from the ominous forest surrounding it. When grizzled war veteran Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) is forced into moving there by his yuppie son Will (Ethan Embry), the residents immediately take offense to Ambrose’s abrasive personality. But that take-no-prisoners attitude may be just what Ambrose needs to survive as it becomes clear that the attacks are being caused by creatures that are neither animal nor man, and that the tight-knit community of Crescent Bay is hiding something truly sinister in its midst…

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Nick Damaci to discuss his career in the entertainment industry, the process of bringing his latest character to life, his standout role in ‘Late Phases,’ his love for the horror genre and much more!

Nick Damici

Nick Damici

What inspired you to become an actor early on in life?

I was very young when I fell in love with movies. My father was a bartender on the West Side and, in the summertime, he would take my brother and I to work with him a lot. He worked nights and we ran the kitchen. It was a real working man’s bar. Late in the morning, we would lock up the bar and pull out the cots to go to sleep. The TV was above the bar on a phone box. We would watch the late late shows and the old movies. I just fell in love with them and thought, “Man, I would love to do that!” I knew when I was very young that it was something I wanted to do, become an actor.

Who were some of actors who impacted you?

From that era, the old school era, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Edward G. Robinson, Jimmy Cagney, all of them! You name it! Later on in the ‘70s, it was young Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, Gene Hackman and Jack Nicholson. It was the second golden age of Hollywood, you could say. That era really instilled something in me and reaffirmed that acting was something I wanted to do.

Your latest project is “Late Phases.” What was it about this project that made you interested in pursuing the role?

Number one, it was a paying job! [laughs] That is always good for an actor! [laughs] I’m just kidding! Greg Newman had sent me the script a year to a year-and-a-half before it actually happened. He asked me if I was interested. I read the script and I thought it was terrific. I thought the setup was terrific and the character would be a stretch for me, which is something all actors love. The fact that he was older was a concern. I thought about it and said, “There are ways of working around it and we can do it.” We did it!

What type of preparation goes into not only this role but any role you take on? Do you have a particular process of bringing a character to life?

It really depends on the role. Honestly, I don’t think acting is rocket science. It is a job just like being a garbage man, a plumber or a carpenter. Ninety percent of acting is yourself. It is what people really see. It is the small nuances that make it a character that is not you. A lot of that has to do with the script and the actions of the character that affects how the audience perceives it. If it calls for changing my voice, I do the best I can with that. If it doesn’t, then I don’t bother. I saw this kind of that way. It is mostly me but projecting that I am 20 years older. I had his history, which isn’t my history but that is what acting is. It’s like being a little kid where you just pretend. You hope people believe it! [laughs]

'Late Phases'

‘Late Phases’

Well, I have to say you really brought something special to this character. It brought to mind my father who is of that generation with a similar background.

That is very sweet to here. I think that was part of the thing that brought me to the character, the fact that someone was pulling that kind of guy from the greatest generation out of thin air and making a hero out of him. We haven’t done that in a while and I thought it was interesting.

One of the biggest things you had to contend with in this role was the fact that the character is blind. What goes into playing a blind character?

You know, I had no idea going in the difficulty. All actors want to play a blind character at some point, if they can, because it is really fun and impressive, from Audrey Hepburn in “Wait Until Dark” on up. I did the typical actor way where I did my method thing and blindfolded myself. I said, “OK. I will do four hours this morning where I won’t be able to see. This will teach me how to be blind.” After lighting my nose on fire instead of my cigarette, spilling coffee on myself a few times and breaking several dishes trying to wash them, I said, “This ain’t working!” I realized it wasn’t about me knowing what it is to be blind because I will never know what it is to be blind unless I go blind. I realized it was about how do I appear blind? So, I approached it from a different level. I started watching videos of blind people and realized there are two types. There are people who go blind and people who are born blind. People who are born blind can’t control their eyes because they haven’t developed the muscles because they have never seen. People who had sight and lost it have developed their eye muscles. There is a different look. People who are born blind, their eyes tend to roll around a little bit and it is disconcerting. It is why they wear sunglasses, not because they are ashamed but because they know their eyes are disconcerting to people. The other people have that blank stare like Pacino had in “Scent of a Woman.” That is just a technical thing that I had to learn. I can’t focus on anything and I can’t move my eyes. You have to do this kind of peripheral thing where you just focus on the whole picture instead of just the center of the picture. When I showed the director, Adrian Garcia Bogliano, we did a few tests. It looked really good. It was just a matter of me trusting them to tell me when it didn’t work. Sometimes the lights would catch my eyes and they would move, which they are going to do. They did a very good job of catching all that and I think it worked.

Nick Damici in 'Late Phases'

Nick Damici in ‘Late Phases’

“Late Phases” has a great cast of characters who are portrayed by some terrific actors. What was it like working with these different generations of actors?

It was just wonderful. I was just tickled pink to be working with all of these people, I mean, Ginger from “Gilligan’s Island!” [laugh] Lance Guest and Ethan Embry were great. It was completely generational and very, very interesting. It was funny. I was at the IFC premiere the other night and none of the cast had ever seen me without the makeup! [laughs] It was like they just knew me as this old guy! They were all like, “Holy shit! You are a young guy!” [laughs] I said, “I don’t know if I am that young but I am younger than you!” [laughs] It was really funny! The entire cast was really terrific and very easy to work with.

Nick Damici

Nick Damici

You mentioned Adrian Garcia Bogliano. What does he bring to the table as a director for a project like this?

Adrian is a sweetheart of a guy, ya know what I mean? That is number one with me. I like liking people. He was very easy to get along with and very collaborative. He has a lot of good ideas and he knows what he wants, which I love, but he is willing to listen to people. He will argue with you until you are blue in the face. We had some arguments about stuff in the script, the character and how it should be played. He actually enjoys that process. I am very passionate about what I do and I defend my character to the bitter end. If I don’t think it’s right, I don’t think it’s right. You have to convince me. We banged heads a few times but in a good way, not a bad way. He loved it when we got into these heated discussions. In the middle, he would stop and say, “This is why I make movies! I love this! It is passion!” I’d say, “It’s not passion! We are making a fucking movie here!” [laughs]

Over the past few years, you became closely associated with the horror genre. It has certainly given you a lot of opportunities to have an impact on audiences. What has been the most rewarding part of these films?

It is a very accessible genre and horror movies are much easier to get made than anything else at this point, unless you are a big Hollywood company. In the independent world and on smaller movies, you don’t need the big stars. People love horror movies. For me, I look at them as character pieces and the horror is just there. It is a chance to actually act more often. I love the idea that I have found some kind of a niche in the horror world because while it’s not a guarantee but it is better chance of getting work.

You have been definitely hitting the ball out of the park with stuff like “Stake Land” and “We Are What We Are.”

Thank you. That is what I want to do. I mean, if I was the next Vincent Price, I’d be the happiest guy in the world! [laughs]

Nick Damici

Nick Damici

Is there another genre or specific role you are eager to tackle in the short term?

I like period pieces. I would love to do a western or pioneer piece, one of those sort of things. I love to stretch as an actor. I love to do a medieval piece, I really like that world. I like changing the world and I am not a big fan of the contemporary world that we live in. I think it is kind of mundane, boring and over-technicalized. It doesn’t interest me that much and contemporary stories don’t interest me that much. It has been overdone at this point.

Looking back on your career, what is your biggest evolution as an actor?

I don’t know. I don’t know if I have evolved. I think I have gotten better. I have done film which was important. I think you are either a good actor or you aren’t. You learn more along the way. Like I said, acting isn’t rocket science. It’s like being a little kid and having the ability to say, “I’m playing here. I am just playing like this is what it is.” I think if you are willing to do that it can take you places. It’s a lot of fun, I have to be honest. For me, the most fun I ever have is when I am acting. I am not prejudice about it. I don’t think it is any special talent and we certainly aren’t brain surgeons. We are fucking actors! It’s entertainment. Not that it is a small thing but it is just a thing. For me, it is just fun. It is all about learning. Every time I go out there I try and start fresh. Otherwise, you become a parody of what you’re doing, which is something that happens to a lot of actors. That is kind of sad in a way. They start doing the same thing all the time, even if it is a great thing, you feel like you have seen it before. I just want to keep it as fresh as possible.

You also had considerable success as a screenwriter. What do you have cooking in regards to that aspect of your career?

I have a lot of sticks in the fire. The latest thing is working on a TV series for the Sundance Channel with Jim Mickle. It is based on Joe Lansdale’s series of books, the “Hap and Leonard” novels. If anyone knows Joe Lansdale, they will obviously know those books. Joe wrote “Cold In July,” which we did last year. That worked out and they greenlit the project and that is what I am working on right now. It will probably have me tied up for a little while. That is a nice little paying job.

Nick Damici and Jim Mickle

Nick Damici and Jim Mickle

What has been the biggest challenge of the project so far? Any obstacles that jump out at you there?

Television is a completely different beast and not one I am familiar with. I never went to college. I never went to school for much. I took a few acting classes here and there and I kind of learn as I go. That has just been my way, even in writing. This is kind of a new process where there are a lot of people involved. Normally, it is just me at 4 o’clock in the morning banging away on my computer, then giving it to Jim. He gives me some notes and I bang it out some more. This is kind of interesting. It is a little disconcerting but it is good! It is good to be challenged and to do something different. Outlines, you have to know what you are going to do before you’re going to do it. Typically, I never make a note and I just keep it all in my head. I start with a blank page when I start writing. I go back to the beginning and read what I wrote and then I continue by doing the same thing until I get to the end. I do that every time I sit down to write. So, with television, it is a much bigger process but it is nice to have that long canvas to tell a story, rather than the small frame of an hour-and-a-half movie. We are talking a series, so it is kind of new and interesting. I can’t bitch about the money! It’s good! [laughs]

If there is a lesson to be learned from your story, what would it be?

Do what you love, man. My father told me that years ago. Like I said, he was a bartender and never really knew what he wanted to do. He would tell me all the time, “You know, you are lucky because you know exactly what you want to do. Most people never really know what they want to do. If that is what you want to do and you love doing it, do it!” That is what I recommend people do. Do what you love because life is short.

Solid advice, Nick! Thanks for your time today and we look forward to spreading the word on everything you have going on!

Thank you, man! I appreciate it!

Don’t miss Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s top-nothc thriller, LATE PHASES, starring Nick Damici & Ethan Embry! The film opening in select theaters & on VOD November 21st!

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