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LARGER THAN LIFE: Jason Liles Talks Life, Career & Breakout Role In ‘Rampage’

LARGER THAN LIFE: Jason Liles Talks Life, Career & Breakout Role In ‘Rampage’

Whoever said dreams don’t come true has never met Jason Liles. Standing 6′ 9”, the young actor isn’t the dictionary definition of Hollywood’s typical leading man but truth be told, he wouldn’t have it any other way. While his unique stature may have been what opened the door to what is sure to be an amazing career, his hard work and determination are what have kept him in the room. A testament to his dedication is his role of monstrous proportions in Warner Bros. larger-than-life action flick, ‘Rampage,’ which hits theaters nationwide on April 13th, 2018! Jason Liles stars opposite of action legend Dwayne Johnson as ‘George,’ the extraordinarily intelligent, incredibly rare albino silverback gorilla who has been in his care since he rescued the young orphan from poachers. But a rogue genetic experiment gone awry mutates this gentle ape into a raging creature of enormous size. To make matters worse, it’s soon discovered there are other similarly altered animals. As these newly created alpha predators tear across North America while destroying everything in their path, Davis Okoye (Johnson) teams with discredited geneticist Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) to secure an antidote, fighting his way through an ever-changing battlefield, not only to halt a global catastrophe but to save the fearsome creature that was once his friend.

Before production began on ‘Rampage’ in April of 2017, Jason Liles dedicated himself to a full 6 months of preparation: studying gorillas’ physicality, their psyche, their modes of both vocal and non-vocal communication. His training as included the mastery of ape “arm extensions” in the Santa Monica Mountains at the hand of ‘King Kong’ himself, Terry Notary (who portrayed the greatest of apes in ‘Kong: Skull Island’). As an eager student, Liles worked diligently with Notary to perfect every nuance of the character which would be recorded using motion capture technology and rendered by some of the best digital artists in the business. The results of the collaboration are undeniable as Jason Liles, as George, delivers a performance destined to be remember by audiences for years to come!

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon caught up with Jason Liles to discuss his unique career path, the challenges he has faced along the way, his recipe for success, the making of ‘Rampage’ and what the future holds for this star on the rise!

You’ve been building quite a career for yourself in the past few years. How did the journey begin?

I was always a fan of movies. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be in Hollywood movies but I wasn’t sure what planet you had to be from to be in Hollywood! [laughs] I thought, “Are these normal people? Can I do it? I don’t know.” My brother and I made short films when we were kids and we went to the theater to see movie after movie and pop in VHS tapes one after another. It all started as a pipe dream. It really started to become a bigger dream when ‘Lord of The Rings’ came out. I became obsessed with Andy Serkis as Gollum and all of the effects Weta was doing in the Weta Workshop. When Heath Ledger passed away, I hadn’t been a really big fan, but I was working at Blockbuster at the time ‘The Dark Knight’ came out and I saw it six times the first week! [laughs] I was blown away and I rewatched every movie I had seen with him and even the ones I hadn’t, like ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and ‘Candy.’ I was so moved, I had to try this. I started studying in college and my parents supported me big time! My Dad and I looked at some places in New York City. He said, “Ya know what? I think this is the place for you to be.” So, he helped me move to New York. It was there were I started training and studying. I had always been told I was too tall — I’m 6′ 9″. I was told, “They are only looking for people this height…They don’t want to stand you next to a 5′ 5″ girl unless it’s written into the role.” I just didn’t listen to that and I kept going after it! I started in theater in college playing humans, but I eventually found my niche playing non-human characters!

Jason Liles is an unstoppable force!

On ‘Men In Black III,’ I played a bunch of aliens for Rick Baker and his whole team, which is comprised of some of the best makeup artists on the planet. That led to finding out who Doug Jones was! I was like, “Wow! This guy is my type. I need to steal from him!” Then I did a short film with Doug Jones and we became great friends and took me under his wing. A few years ago, he said, “You’ve got to come out to this convention in LA. It’s called Monsterpalooza! You’ll get to meet a lot of makeup artists.” I did! They were all over me asking questions like, “Oh my gosh, how tall are you? Where are you from? Why aren’t you out here? You need to be local to us, so we can call you in for stuff! You’d work like crazy!” I ultimately moved out here and, while working at Outback Steakhouse, booked Netflix’s ‘Death Note.’ I got to quit my job and haven’t waited a table since! [laughs]

Who were some of the influences and mentors who had a big impact on your career trajectory?

I’ve had a lot of mentors and a lot of help over the years. I still do get a lot of help and guidance. Andy Serkis, I didn’t meet him until a few months ago but he was indirectly a massive source of inspiration with his work from ‘Lord of The Rings’ to ‘King Kong’ to the ‘Planet of The Apes’ films. I accepted that I was too tall for most stuff but was pretty spot on for all of these creatures. Doug Jones is the living legend when it comes to that stuff and the roles that he’s gotten and what he’s done with them makes him the pinnacle! Especially now with ‘The Shape of Water’ and ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ where he’s blowing up more than ever. I just look at him and asked myself, “What did he study? He’s in world class athletic shape and he’s ripped, so I have to get ripped. He studied mime, he studied this and that…What was the trajectory of his career? How did he get started with his first couple of roles? Oh, a lot of that is relationships with makeup artists who recommend who’s going to be in the creature suit or makeup. I need to form relationships with makeup artists.” Really, Doug was always so helpful in answering questions and he still is when he has time and we’ll still get coffee or lunch. I learned a ton from him in so many ways!

Another great mentor of mine, who most people will ask, “Who the heck is that?” is David Patrick Green. He’s kind of my secret weapon that I’ve had for a few years. He has a website called Hack Hollywood, that I got on in 2014. It’s hours and hours and hours of audio and video files of the keys to success applied to acting. Now, he’s my private coach and we talk daily! He’s the one who gives me all of these whacky, outside the box ideas like, “Okay, try that…Let’s see what happens!” He talks about being a “Hack-tor” and hacking into Hollywood. In other words, “Everyone is trying to go in the front door and there is a long line but what if we go in the back door?” Arnold Schwarzenegger says, “Break rules.” So, let’s break some rules! [laughs] Those are just a few of the mentors that I’ve had. There have been too many people who have helped me get here and figure it out but I’m grateful!

Probably the number one thing I have learned is to be the CEO of your own business and not wait for other people to do stuff. You as the CEO can say, “Okay, I’m going to make the move!” Before you can have a big building and a bunch of employees, you’ve got to be in the mail room, answering the phones, calling people to set up meeting and be in those meetings. You have to make all of the decisions for your company before you can hire someone and pay them 10% to do this job or that job. That CEO mindset really changed my mindset on a lot of things, and that is something I learned from David Patrick Green.

‘Rampage’ hits theater on April 13th!

All your hard work is definitely paying off! We are together today because of you latest role in ‘RAMPAGE.’ How did you get involved with the project?

Colin Strauss, the special effects supervisor on ‘Death Note,’ and I became really good friends on the project. Since Ryuk’s face was always going to be performance capture with Willem Dafoe, any time I was on set, Colin Strauss was there! He was telling me that ‘Rampage’ was the next project he would be doing. I didn’t really think much about it at the time. I just said, “Oh, that’s really cool. I played the game!” [laughs] We hung out and when we got back to LA after the filming ‘Death Note’ in the summer of 2016, I’d go over to his house and we’d have barbeques. One time, he was telling me, “Ya know what? They are looking for somebody. It’s going to be Weta and they want someone to do the motion capture and play George, who is Dwayne Johnson’s best friend. He raises him from birth, teachers him sign language…I’m going to tell them you’re my top choice. So, start studying gorillas!” He said, “They might want to meet with you in a week.” Well, I thought they might want to meet with me, every day for 5 or 6 months! [laughs] He kept saying, “They’re going to call you! You better keep studying!” I was going to the zoo, I was watching behind-the-scenes features on the ‘Planet of The Apes’ movies, videos about Coco the Gorilla and every documentary I could find! [laughs] I wanted to do too much, rather than do too little! Finally, I got brought in to meet with Terry Notary, who is King Kong in ‘Kong: Skull Island.’ He trained everybody on the ‘Planet of The Apes’ movies as well as playing “Rocket,” who is Andy Serkis’ right-hand-ape. We met and he said, “Yeah, I can get Jason there. I can train him!” We worked together for several weeks in the Santa Monica Mountains, where we logged hours and hours on the arm extensions. I put miles on them and I’ve never been more sore in my life! [laughs] More importantly, he helped me shed everything that makes us human, as far as society, manners, keeping eye contact, smiling and thinking the way humans do to get down to a blank slate foundation where I could find George within myself. I was able to build from there, which was the most indescribable and life-changing experience, both as a person and an actor. What I learned from Terry Notary was like Rocky training me for the big fight! It was revolutionary for me in every single way! I couldn’t have gotten in the door without Colin Strauss letting me know about the role, but I couldn’t have played George without Terry Notary putting everything together with me!

You mentioned your work on ‘Death Note’ for Netflix. What were your biggest takeaways from working on that project?

Oh gosh! I try to compare it to a young quarterback who has never started in a game. At the time, I had done a lot of short films, but I hadn’t been in a feature film. It was like a freshman quarterback coming in who had never started a game, but they throw him, and he’s got to learn throughout the course of the season. By the end of the season, the amount he’s learned from every play, every quarter, and every game are too much to put into words! That’s how I felt going into ‘Death Note.’ I was terrified and thought, “Oh my gosh, I hope I don’t screw this up! I hope I can do this!” Then I came out of it with so much knowledge about what it really takes to make a film and what it really takes every day on set. The confidence I had in myself was so far different at the end than it was with my first day on set! The amount I grew as an actor is too much to even go into!

Tell us a little bit about the process of bringing characters like these to life through motion capture. Does the way you approach your performance differ wildly from what you would do as a traditional actor?

That a great question! I was asking that same question before I went on ‘Rampage.’ I was trying to find the tips and tricks for motion capture. What I learned from interviews and through experience is that for the actor, there is no difference at all. It’s the exact same. You are bringing a character to life physically, psychologically and vocally. The difference really lies in what you are wearing. I’m wearing gray PJs, basically, with dots all over me in performance capture. Whereas if I’m doing a period piece, I’m wearing clothes that fit that century. It really comes down to the wardrobe. It’s how the crew captures my performance, which is why it’s called performance capture. They use infrared cameras to track and pick up the dots on my body and then take that data and make magic with it! [laughs] That’s basically how it’s done but for me, as an actor, there is no change at all. It’s always acting, it’s just a matter of if it’s something in practical makeup and effects or something in digital makeup. With performance capture, it’s like you do the performance and they put the makeup on digitally in post-production. So, for the actor, nothing changes. It’s just playing a character and it’s what the people around you do that is different. It’s what Weta does with the performance capture data that they get every day.

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Liles on the set of ‘Rampage.’

That’s so cool that it’s all you up there on the screen. What were the most challenging scenes you had to perform in ‘Rampage’ as George?

You see it in the trailer. George is in a cave and he’s signing that he’s scared. He comes out of the cave, he’s grown and he’s much bigger. That scene as well as what takes place after, which you also see in the trailer, where he is in a big cage and Naomie Harris and Dwayne Johnson are both there and he hits the cage. It was really difficult because, for one thing, I had to physically embody a gorilla without thinking about it but then psychologically I had to get to a place that was really emotional for those scenes. You don’t see it in the film but those days I had tears and snot all over my face because George is basically having a panic attack. Imagine you got infected with something, it’s incredibly painful, confusing and you’re growing so you need hundreds of pounds of food to make up for that, otherwise you’re in intense pain. You also can’t communicate to anybody around you! You don’t know if you’re going to die, if you did something wrong to deserve this or if Dwayne Johnson’s character, Davis, is going to be upset. It’s all of these things! So, to get to this emotional place where I believed that as George looked out of my eyes and saw the world, and think or don’t think as George does were by far the most difficult scenes. They involved hours of crying and not faking but actually believing it was happening. Ya know, a 5 or 10-minute cry can be exhausting! [laughs] I was always George on set. It was important to me that people didn’t see Jason on arm extensions with dots on him. I wanted people to hear and see George. I would walk on set on all fours and I wouldn’t drop it between takes. When they said cut, I didn’t care! I just kept going! I would cry for 2 or 3 hours straight and then they would turn the cameras around on Dwayne and we’d cry for 2 or 3 hours straight before doing a new scene the next day. That might include physically trying to break down a wall! I actually broke part of the set one day because I was into it! They were like, “Okay, in this scene, you’re going to break this down.” Well, I broke it! [laughs] They had to replace it with visual effects later because I broke it! A lot of the scenes were physically exhausting, and they were some scenes that were emotionally draining. One of those days was a 19-hour day! It was all day and I’m not sure how I had the energy to keep going! It’s helpful when you look across from you and there is Dwayne Johnson! That gives you a little bit of energy, for sure!

Two larger than life actors — Dwayne and Jason having a blast at the premiere of ‘Rampage.’

The roles you could pursue in your line of work seem limitless. Are there any particular roles you are eager to take on in the future?

It’s interesting because you never really know what’s going to come your way as an actor. I didn’t know Ryuk in ‘Death Note’ or George in ‘Rampage’ were coming. I was just presented with them and I did my best to take advantage of the opportunities and show what I could bring! To be honest, 4 or 5 years ago, I didn’t even think I would be living in LA, so there’s no telling what’s ahead of me. It is an honor for me to have people to be talking about my work and the similarities between it and the work of Doug Jones or Andy Serkis because those are two guys out of a handful that I really, really look up to! While I love playing non-human characters because there is so much fun playing something so far away from who and what you are, I think next, I would like to channel what I’ve experienced as Ryuk and George into a human character. I would love to play a sociopathic, psychopathic antagonist villain! I got a taste of that in my previous projects because there are moments where George is like that. That was really fun to play! When you’re the highest status in the room, which both Ryuk and George see themselves as, that’s a lot of fun to play! That’s something I’m looking at. I’ve also had an interesting arc in my own life. I used to deal with anxiety, panic attacks and be afraid of a lot of stuff but I’ve overcome that and found a confidence and strength within myself. I’d love to play a comedic role, kind of similar to Ed Helms in ‘The Hangover’ — where a character is straight-laced, tries to play by the rules and avoid trouble, but then gets into a situation that is terrifying and he hopelessly digs himself in deeper until he’s able to face his fears and overcome them. That’s kind of my life arc! Really, I’m just a human, so I’d like to take a quick break from running around on all fours or wearing really heavy or tight creature suits for at least a role or two! I’d love to go on set and just get some quick makeup and be Jason! It would be nice not to have to take 30 minutes to take stuff off, go to the bathroom and come back! [laughs] I’d love to be able to just be me and sit down on set! I think that’s what I’m looking at next; what human role I can tackle!

There a lot of people out there who can be inspired by the path you are taking. What are the best lessons we can take from your journey?

That’d be amazing if there are people being inspired by my work because, like I said, I’ve been inspired by so many people along the way. If I can inspire somebody that way, I know what it can mean, so it’s a huge honor for me. I love loving people and helping people, so if I my advice can help, I’d love to put it out there. The “Be Your Own CEO” thing is a huge thing, no matter what you do. Seriously, dreams can come true if you go about it the right way. I never thought I’d be starring in a massive movie with some of the biggest stars on the planet or working with Weta or Warner Bros. or New Line’s creative teams. I dreamt about it and thought, “Gosh, that’d be amazing!” Dreams really do come true and it’s not luck. It’s about learning how to accomplish them. No baseball player got up to the plate for the first time and hit a grand slam. They have to swing and miss thousands of times to figure out how to hit!

Jason Liles

I like to follow the 6 tips for success that Arnold Schwarzenegger gives. Number one is “Trust yourself.” No one else knows you, what you want or who you want to be more than you. Not you parents. Not your friends. No one but you and you have to trust yourself. Number two is “Break some rules.” No one ever became an original or a true maverick by follow all the rules. You have to break some! Don’t break laws but break rules! Number three is “Ignore the naysayers.” I was told I was too tall. I clearly am not! For some things, yes, but to be in films and to be an actor, no! If someone ever says “Well, no one has ever done that before…” You can say, “Great! I’ll be the first one!” Number four is “Don’t be afraid to fail.” I think that’s one of the biggest ones because a lot of people think, “Well, I would but what if I fail.” Well, you have to. How many times did Edison fail before he got to the light bulb? How many record labels did the Beatles go to, like 50 before Decca Records said, “Yeah, we’ll try you.” You have to fail in order to succeed. There is a great line in the ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ from Yoda. He says, “The best teacher failure is.” It’s true! It’s necessary and it’s not a bad thing to fail, you just have to give your best! Number five is “Work your butt off!” One of the things Arnold Schwarzenegger says that sticks with me is, “It’s fine to have fun, party and horse around but when you’re partying, know that someone, somewhere else is working. When the opportunity comes — Are they going to get it or are you?” Number 6 is “Always find a way to give back. There are so many ways to do that, whether it’s charity, talking to someone else who is aspiring to do what you’re doing or just choosing to spread love to each person you come around to.

I don’t think you can go wrong by applying those 6 tips to anything and consistently saying, “I want to get better every day.” At some point, a phone call is going to come out of nowhere, you have no idea it was going to come, and you answer it…You can be ready or not! I had opportunities when I wasn’t ready, when I was younger, as far as acting roles. I learned that I need to be ready for tomorrow every day as if the Olympics are tomorrow! 99% of the time they won’t be but it’s that time the call comes through that you better have been working every day for couple of years or someone else is going to get it!

Remember that anything is possible! I just want people to realize that, seriously, DREAMS COME TRUE! I can’t even describe how surreal this feels with ‘Rampage’ coming out! It’s a literal and metaphorical dream come true! I’ve had dreams of this happening and then woken up and thought, “That will never happen.” Now, it’s happening! Follow those 6 tips to success that Arnold gives! Dwayne says it too — “Consistent, hard work brings success.”

That’s is amazing advice! I know our time is short, so before I let you go, I wanted to touch on Rule 6! Are there any organizations or causes you might be involved with that we can help shine a light on?

Specifically, associated with ‘Rampage,’ there are only about 880 gorillas alive. They are incredibly endangered and there are lots of ways you can help. The research Dian Fossey has done and the organization she has created, The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (www.gorillafund.org), is saving gorillas every day. It’s something we have been promoting in association with the film. Dwayne actually adopted a Gorilla! It’s his first son and he did that through sponsoring it through the foundation. That’s a great way to give back. I feel in love with these creatures. The best way I can describe them in a few words is that they are mute humans. Psychologically, intellectually, emotionally, it’s all in there. They are such beautiful, gentle loving creatures — even though we are rampaging with this one! [laughs] You will see why! [laughs] He’s a gentle, kind, loving and funny gorilla before that! These creatures need our help and humans are not loving them as much as they should! There is also the Gorilla Foundation, which is San Francisco, where Coco the Gorilla has been for 40+ years with Dr. Penny Patterson. The work they do there is amazing! See what you can do to help out these creatures because it’s really up to us. It’s our fault that they are endangered, so it’s up to us to help save them!

Absolutely! We will definitely be out here spreading the word! Thank you so much for your time today, Jason! It’s been a true pleasure and I’m sure our paths will cross again in the future!

It’s been so much fun to talk to you today, Jason! I can’t wait for the movie to come out, so I can go see it every day! [laughs] If you’re in LA, keep an eye out for me when you go see it because I might be sitting there! [laughs] I want to see this thing nonstop! It’s such a fun ride!

Awesome! We will keep our eyes peeled, for sure! Best of luck with everything you have going on!

Thank you so much, Jason! Take care!

Catch Jason Liles in ‘Rampage’ when it takes over theaters on April 13th, 2018! Follow his continuing adventures on Facebook and Instagram!

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The Cult of Cool: Director Don Coscarelli Discusses ‘John Dies At The End’

The Cult of Cool: Director Don Coscarelli Discusses ‘John Dies At The End’

don-coscarelli-2013

Director Don Coscarelli established himself as one of the most intriguing filmmakers in the horror genre. He exploded onto the pop culture landscape in 1979 with his terrifying film, “Phantasm”. Featuring a horde of death dealing silver balls and Angus Scrimm as “The Tall Man,” the film became an instant classic. To this day, his ghoulish creation haunts the nightmares of horror fans, old and new. His other works, such as “The Beastmaster” and “Bubba Hotep,” are no less impressive and garnered him more notoriety in the world of cult cinema. A true master of horror, Coscarelli’s most ambitious film to date was unleashed to warp the minds of moviegoers around the globe! “John Dies At The End” is a wild and twisted ride. At its core, it’s all about the Soy Sauce, a drug promising an out-of-body experience with each hit. Users drift across time and dimensions, but some who come back are no longer human. Suddenly, a silent otherworldly invasion is underway and mankind needs a hero. What it gets instead is John (Rob Mayes) and David (Chase Williamson), a pair of college dropouts who can barely hold down jobs. Can these two save humanity? No. No, they can’t. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Don Coscarelli to discuss the making of the film, the challenges of bringing it to screen and much more!

Don Coscarelli

Don Coscarelli

I am a fan of your work, Don. I was curious to learn what about the world of filmmaking intrigued you early on and made you pursue it professionally!

Well, making movies is fun, generally! [laughs] It is a great way to communicate and a wonderful way of expressing yourself creatively. As to making it a career, I sort of fell into that. My student projects just outgrew one another until I finally made a semi-feature film. Then I made another one and another one. Pretty soon, I was making a living at it. It’s not a great answer, I guess, but I was really inspired by some great directors. When I first saw, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it blew my mind, literally. It made me aware that movies could be art. All these years later, I still enjoy making them quite a bit!

You are doing a fantastic job, especially with this new one, “John Dies At The End.” It is a lot of fun!

Good! I am glad to hear you liked it! That is great to hear!

What was it about this piece of work that made you want to bring it to the screen?

I liked the audacious nature of it. I mean, what’s not to like? You have a talking dog, a monster made out of freezer meats and an inter-dimensional drug that chooses you! These are all themes and concepts that are so out there and strange! I liked the way David Wong centered it all with these two guys and their sense of humor. This was his first novel and his attitude toward the younger generation and the way in which he wrote the dialog was wonderful. All of those things conspired and, when I first started, I thought it would be a really simple film to make! I started making it and realized I had made a mistake there because it was pretty difficult! [laughs]

That leads me to my next question. Where do you start when it comes to taking on a project like this one?

The thing was that from the first time I read the book, I thought that there were sections of it that would work completely well as a conventional motion picture. Then there were the other ones that were so insane that I couldn’t get anywhere close and I knew there was no way I could make them. The first third of the book almost read like three quarters of a screenplay and then it took a hard left turn and went into very strange areas but then it came back with a relatively traditional type of ending. I just figured I would cut that chunk out and do the others and have it serve as a screenplay. That is how I started.

A Must-See Film For 2013!

A Must-See Film For 2013!

What was the biggest challenge in putting this film together, Don?

One of the big challenges was maintaining the right tone. I say that because you have a book where on one page it is hide under the bed scary and on the next page it is laugh out loud funny. How do you serve both of those? You want the comedy to work but you also want the darker sides of it to work. That is something I was always grappling with on this film. The other big challenge was in whittling down that book. Even to get the smaller part of what was in my screenplay, I always had to whittle it down and keep it moving, moving, moving. The movie plays at break-neck speed and that was another challenge.

You have directed for so many years and make it look easy. How have you evolved through the years as a director?

That is a good question. I think as a technical filmmaker, I feel like I am a little more comfortable making movies. I don’t sweat it as much when things go wrong because I know there are all kinds of tools to fix problems. I used to agonize over poor choices I made or errors that scened. Many times when I get into editing or special effects, I can fix so many things. There are so many tricks — a filmmaker’s Band-Aid kit! I now know those are there and I think it has made me a little more confident. I think I am also better with actors. I think I used to be afraid of them in the early part of my career. I treated them more like tools back then and I think as I have gotten more mature I respect actors because I realize how much pressure is on them. When you understand how much pressure is on them, when they act out, do strange things or yell at directors, I don’t take any of that personally. I know they are going through a really difficult process. I am at a point where I can help them more. I am much more collaborative and I try to help them give their best performance. We spend weeks and weeks preparing a movie, years even, and then we get out there on the set, you point at the actor and say, “Action!” That is such an overwhelming responsibility that they really do need to be treated with care. That is one big lesson I have learned along the way.

don-coscarelli-1-2013

You assembled a wonderful cast for the film. What did they bring to the film that helped bring the script to life?

For me, it was awesome to work with actors who I have admired throughout their careers. I have been following Clancy Brown since his early days, with “Highlander” and those sorts of things. I loved him in “Starship Troopers,” “The Shawshank Redemption” and that “Carnivale” series was just awesome! To work with these powerful screen presences was just a joy from Doug Jones to Glynn Turman and, of course there is [Paul] Giamatti. I will tell you one thing I learned from them, I can see why the big shot Hollywood directors want to work with these guys. It is because they make your life so easy! These guys can take whatever you have and make something good out of it! That is a real asset to have when you are making one of these movies. It was just an awesome experience for me!

'John Dies At The End'

‘John Dies At The End’

You have done amazing movies, which tie together stylistically. Is there a particular type of project or genre you are keen to tackle in the future?

Oh yeah! I would love to do a straight action picture, like a Bruce Willis movie. I would absolutely love to one day do a World War II film. I love World War II films and I would also love to do a straight comedy one day. The problem we get here with my particular situation, and with some of my contemporaries in the horror world, is that when you make a movie that is even halfway successful in this genre, you tend to get stuck. The only kind of funding you can get is for movies that have some type of genre element attached to them. I think that may be why the last couple movies I have done, “Bubba Hotep” and this one, I have tried to branch out from just straight horror and go into some of the other areas that they inhabit.

As a seasoned veteran of the film industry, what is the best piece of advice you can pass along to aspiring writers and filmmakers?

Number one is that everyone has their own story. Try and tell your own story if you have nothing else. Number two is to be prepared when, after you finish a movie, you are out of work and you have to go out and sell yourself. Number three is you need to be a salesman and be able to pitch your ideas. There are a host of other things I have learned through the years but a big one is that the writing is so important. I think that everybody should learn how to communicate with words. Try to write your own screenplays and tell your own stories. It will simplify your pre-production process because you won’t have to buy a book or hire a writer. It also allows you to make adjustments to it when people don’t like it. Writing is super important in my mind. Then of course, you need to school yourself on all of the tools that are available on your desktop right now. Everybody needs to learn an editing program, so that you can edit your own stuff. At the very least, everybody has to understand After Effects, Photoshop and programs like that. Those are just a few, meager words of advice.

I am sure they will be helpful to someone out there, Don! We appreciate you taking time out to speak with us today! “John Dies At The End” was a lot of fun and we look forward to spreading the word!

That is so nice for you to say, Jason. I really appreciate you supporting the movie because with these movies, we don’t have the big advertising budgets, so anytime we get a kind word here or there it really helps! I want to thank you in advance for that!

It is my pleasure, sir! Hopefully we will catch up with you again soon!

Absolutely! Thanks, Jason! I will see you soon, man!

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No Ordinary Monster: Doug Jones Gives Us A Look Inside His World!

No Ordinary Monster: Doug Jones Gives Us A Look Inside His World!

Doug Jones is a rarity in today’s entertainment industry. He is a man known less for his face and more for his exciting body of work. Chances are you likely encountered him as one of the Gentleman in the award winning episode of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” Abe Sapien in “Hellboy” and “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”, Pan and the terrifying Pale Man from the multi-Oscar-winning “Pan’s Labyrinth” or a legendary title character in “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.” Most of his roles require this dedicated artist to endure countless hours in the makeup chair to bring these unique characters to life. However, he doesn’t rely on the prosthetics alone to sell a performance. His acting ability hearkens back to the days and talents of movies greats like Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff, who put every ounce of their body and soul into a performance.

How did he get to that point, you ask? It started simply enough. Doug Jones was born in May 1960 in Indiana, where he grew up in the city’s Northeast side as the youngest of four brothers. After attending high school, he headed to Ball State University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications and a minor in theatre. During his schooling, Jones donned the costume of the school mascot, was part of a mime troop, and honed his skills as a contortionist.

After a theater run in his native Indiana, he followed his dreams to Los Angeles. His breakout role came in an unusual form, as he captured the role of a McDonald’s character, Mac Tonight, that was destined to become an iconic pop culture character around the globe. Since then, it has been a non-stop roller coaster ride establishing him as one of the hardest working people in show business. With an ever-growing resume running the gambit from film, television and web series to commercials and music videos with the likes of Madonna and Marilyn Manson, Jones continues to gain critical praise as well as new legions of dedicated fans with each new outing.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with this amazing actor to discuss his start in the entertainment industry, how his unique skill set established him as one of Hollywood’s most interesting artists, his process for bringing a character from script to screen, and what new projects lie in store for him!

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. I am a good ole fashioned, mid-western boy!

They say the entertainment is not for the faint of heart. I am sure this especially holds true for a mid-western boy like yourself! How did you get your start in the business?

Doug Jones

Well, I am going to go back to my time in Indiana where I spent time on the high school stage. In college, I was the mascot for the school. I was in a big bird suit as Charlie Cardinal and I was also a part of the mime troop there. We were called Mime Over Matter! So that was some early training that I did that I didn’t realize that I was getting for the career that I have now, wearing big costumes and learning the art of mime where I communicate with my entire body, not just the verbal dialog that comes out of an actors mouth. That was the early training that got me started. Then coming out to Los Angeles in 1985, a long, long time ago, I took a job at a bank just to make the excuse to move. The bank fired me after eight months! [laughs] Which they should have because I sucked as a banker! The favor that they did me that day was pushing me out into the L.A. market as an actor, much earlier than I had planned on. I took a television commercial acting workshop that I saw advertised in “Backstage” magazine. It turned out that the class was taught by an agent. That agent, after my second class, said, “Here’s my card, please call me at the office.” So that is kinda how I got my first agent. Then I was on my way doing TV commercials within six months of that. My fourth TV campaign booking was the Mac Tonight campaign for McDonald’s. That was the crescent moon head that sang at the top of a floating cloud with a piano. That was the campaign that kinda marked me as, “Tall, skinny, goofy guy who moves well. Wears a lot of prosthetics and costuming and doesn’t complain in the makeup!” That was the big one for the creature effects makeup people! A lot of actors are known to be divas, we are very selfish people! [laughs] I had said yes to doing something not human, therefore it comes with a cumbersome costume or some time in the makeup and that was fine. That was extraordinary to them for some reason! That is where the mid-western part of me came in. I had a work ethic that was as simple as, “If you say yes to something, you do it and don’t complain.” You just shut up and do it! [laughs] Apparently, that wasn’t done here at the time I guess! I was very surprised that I got the reaction that I did from that arm of Hollywood-land. The creature effect makeup people were the ones who then referred me to the next job and the next job and the next job. Before long, the roles were getting bigger and I was more acquainted with the directors, producers and writers that I was working with, so the referrals started coming from all ends. Here I sit today with the crazy, wacky career that I have had!

Who were some of the influences who inspired you? You have been compared to Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff of our generation. Did they factor in?

Oh yeah, yeah! Early childhood, haunting memories are staying up late on Friday night to watch Sammy Terry, the local Friday Night horror host, who wore a ghoulish vampire costume and would say, “Hello, I am Saaaaammmmy Terrrrrrrryyy!” [in a low vampire-like voice] He would introduce the horror movie of the week. I stayed up every Friday night to watch whatever the movie was. “The Mummy” was the first film of Boris Karloff’s that I remember seeing and he haunted the poop out of me! Those close ups where he opened his eyes wide was enough! How he physicalized walking around as a mummy was great. Of course, I saw “Frankenstein” after that. “Phantom of the Opera” with Lon Chaney was enough to sell me on him! They were absolutely early influences of mine. That is why I have been holding a torch, campaigning and hoping for a return of that Golden Era, where monsters were movie stars. The era where the actors playing them were press worthy, would have their name in the opening credits and that kind of thing. We lost that for a long chunk of time. Guillermo del Toro is one of those directors who took me on and made me a part off his family, so to speak, and he would write monster parts for leading men. He writes monsters as those old Golden Era monsters were, where they were the highlight of the film, not just something that came in to scratch up the lead actors, but ones who had a sympathetic cause or he might be a bad guy but it is against his own will or he is stuck in a conundrum himself or something sympathetic. That is where an audience wants to know who is playing that role and find that actor intriguing. I owe Guillermo del Toro just an awful lot for writing and directing me in roles that brought about those comparisons to those old Golden Era actors that I admire so much!

Absolutely! Having worked with Guillermo del Toro several times now, what have you learned from his direction?

Guillermo del Toro & Doug Jones

I have learned that my owns fears of my own shortcomings are stupid! [laughs] He is one of those directors that directs every actor that he has in front of him very differently. I saw that the most when I was on the set of “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” where I had way more on-screen time with Ron Perlman and Selma Blair. All three of us were handled very differently by Guillermo. He knew how our buttons pushed and he would find the space that we needed to be in, communicate with us in that space and then get out of us what he needed. It was fascinating to watch! He is such a studier of people and that is why he writes people so well and that is why he writes monsters with people issues so well, because he really knows people. That carries into his direction. It really inspired us as actors. He is amazing and knows more about my strengths and weaknesses than I do from an outsiders point of view, who has really absorbed and observed me. So when he says that I can do something that I really feel like I will fail miserably at, when Guillermo says I can do it, I have to trust him. And I do now! I learned that on “Pan’s Labyrinth.” When he told me that I was the only actor that could play the Fawn in the film, I was sure that someone else could have played better, perhaps even someone that could speak the Spanish as a native language, let’s just pretend there was someone there already. He kept assuring me that, no, I was the right choice. I was fighting him on it even! I am really glad that he won that fight! [laughs] Because that has become one the benchmarks in my career that I am so honored and grateful to have.

What is your typical process for bringing a character from the script to the screen and does that process differ when prosthetics are involved?

It does. I do like to physicalize any character that I play, even if it is a guy in a T-shirt and jeans. I think when you take on a character, you take him on physically from head to toe. Each human character might walk differently, talk differently, jester differently, run, squat or jump away from things in fear differently. So, I do bring that to my human characters as well. But when I am playing a character that is not human — actually, I just signed a contract for a new movie yesterday, which I can’t tell you about yet because the official announcement has not been made yet but I just signed on for a major studio film where I will be playing an other worldly creature. I knew this was coming so I have been back at the gym for a little over a month now. I have been doing some weight training, get my aerobics health back up and my heart rate back up to an athletic range because it is going to be very physically demanding for me. That is number one for me. I have to think like an athlete as well as an actor when I am taking on something with prosthetic layers and athleticism built into the role. After I get off of the phone with you, I will be headed over to the creature effects shop to get my first life cast and fittings done. I will see the creature designs today! At the meetings that I have had before, you have everything from “tall, postured and skinny” to “heavier, leaned over and groveling on all fours.” So I don’t know what design they picked but I will find out later today! When I see what the posture the drawings are and the girth of that suit, I will be more specific at what I am doing at the gym. It will include me going to the aerobics floor after all of the classes are done. I will use the mirrors and the big wood floor to learn my walks, my squats, my tosses, how does he crawl and what does the script call for. That is also very important. This role is going to call for a lot of tension and fight scenes and that kind of thing. I need to find some physicality with myself and the mirror. As I go back to the creature shop for more fittings, I will see if what I worked out at the gym is going to be feasible or not, can I move or not, will the costume or the makeup restrict or enhance what I have already worked on. It is a multi-step process! Then of course, the director comes in at some point and says, “I hate all that. Let’s try this instead!” [laughs] or says, “I love what you are doing!” We will have that discussion with his notes. So it is a multi-step process to get this to filming day.

Wow! That is really amazing. As you said, it all comes back to your early days as a mime. You have a very cool new project coming out in regard to that and the challenges that presented themselves along the way.

'Mime Very Own Book'

Oh my gosh, the book! This is one of those projects that took me out of the film and television world for just a minute to explore my roots as a mime. We talked about that mime troop that I was in, Mime Over Matter, right!?

Right!

It’s a big ole catch phrase! Did ya catch that catch phrase?

Oh, of course!

Yeah, see! That is funny! That is humor! [laughs] This book, which comes out in December of 2011 and it is pre-orderable on Amazon.com right now, is called “Mime Very Own Book” — another little play on words! This book, as the title might suggest, is just full of punny, pun, pun humor and is kind of a send up of all pop culture. Famous artworks, famous movie posters, iconic photos or moments captured in time in history, we redo with me as a mime, pose for pose, pun for pun! We have everything from me with my arms PhotoShopped off as Venus De Mime-lo or me with boxer shorts on and gloves with me on the floor as well, having been knocked out as Mime-hammad Ali, right?! Yelling, “Get up! Get up, sucka!” [laughs] That is one of the famous photos that we re-did. We also did old movie posters like “Say Anything” with John Cusack only ours is “Don’t Say Anything.” It’s a mime thing! Come on now! [laughs]

[laughs] That’s great!

We do other catchphrases too, like “A Mime is a terrible thing to waste!” or “Once Upon A Mime … ” right!? And what would that look like in photo! We also did a multi-page section where we told the story of “Little Red Miming Hood” where I play Little Red Miming Hood and the grandmother and the wolf, all as mimes! It is really the most ridiculous book I have ever imagined! The publishing company is Medallion Press in Chicago and they approached me about doing this a couple of years ago. Publishing takes a little bit longer than movies even. We had a three-day photo shoot where we took thousands of pictures, once the ideas were conceived. There are four co-conspirators that have authorship of it, including myself. Scott Allen Perry came up with many of the ideas and directed the photo shoot. Our publisher Adam Mock, who was also conceptual and had tons of ideas. All the tomfoolery that I just mentioned to you had to come out of someones brain and these two are nuts! You need someone who is really kooky to figure this book out! Our photographer Eric Curtis does the most brilliant things with light and capturing the moment, more than any photographer that I have ever worked with. The four of us are all listed as authors of this book. I cannot wait! We have an eight page flyer promo thing that just has a few images from the 250 pages that you will see in December and even this eight pager makes me laugh my little butt off!

It sounds great and I can’t wait to get a look at it to see what you guys have come up with!

We have an official website that just went up at www.mimeveryownbook.com!

I know you have many new projects going on. What can you tell us about those?

Doug Jones

Right now, this week, my second episode of “The Guild” comes out. I made my first appearance on “The Guild” last week, which is a very popular web series with Felicia Day, of course! As web series go, this one is among the most popular ever and she is kinda paving the way for this new medium. This is Season 5 of “The Guild” which means that it has been going on for five years already. Season 5 takes place at a gaming convention. At this convention, as you learn last week, one of the members of The Guild, who is played by Robin Thorsen, a hilarious, platinum blonde, lovely woman, stumbles upon the steam punk booth at the convention. In the steam punk booth there are three very snooty people dressed in period clothing, goggles and futuristic gadgets and I am one of those three people. I have been having the most raging ball with this! We affected fake British accents and the whole thing! For the steam punk lovers out there, we are not making fun! I swear, I promise! We are celebrating all that is steam punk and taking it to another degree! “The Guild” is one of those shows where everything is irreverent anyway, so we love steam punk and that style. I wear steam punk clothing on the red carpets all the time, so it was really fun for me to delve a little bit farther into a caricature of a steam punk person. Every new episode of “The Guild” starts on Tuesday on Xbox, if you are a game player and that same Thursday, that same episode will show up on MSN and Bing. There are all of these portals that I am only slightly aware of because I am not tech-savy! [laughs] You can easily find links if you follow Felicia Day or “The Guild” on Twitter. So that would be @feliciaday or @theguild on Twitter about where you can find them! I show up in about four or five episodes, so that is very exciting!

Speaking of Felicia Day, we also have “Dragon Age: Redemption” which is another web series based on “Dragon Age” the video game, where I play the main nemesis, bad guy in. As of Comic Con, I can tell you who I am now! I am Saarebas who is a Qunari mage. The gamers out there, especially those who play “Dragon Age II,” that will make some sense to them. Hopefully that will be starting sometime this Fall. They are being kind of gray about what our start date is with that web series. Then I am in a third web series, which is also based on a video game, called “Fallout: Nukabreak.” It is from the same people who brought you the short film of the same name on YouTube. It was a fan film that ended up with a couple of million views. It has now developed into a web series and I play a very colorful and fun character in that! That series just started last week and I believe that they have a new episode every two weeks. I show up at the end of episode 3 and take up the entire fourth episode. That is another fun thing to look for! I believe you can find that one on YouTube by searching “Fallout: Nukabreak.”

Then there is also, oh my gosh, I am such a promotion pig right now! [laughs]

It can’t be helped! You are very busy man!

Doug Jones: Jumping For Joy!

[laughs] Yes! Last weekend, my French movie, that I did a couple of years ago, “Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life,” was finally released in the United States. The film is based on the life of singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourgh and I play his alter-ego. He is a very famous and iconic French singer/songwriter from the 1960s and ‘70s. This year marks the 20th anniversary of his death, so it is very timely that the film is being released now. It is a biopic but it also has a fantasy element to it and that is where I come in! Being his alter-ego, I am a very extagerated, cartoony version of him. It was a five-hour makeup application, which was done by the makeup artists, Oscar winners, from “Pan’s Labyrinth” that created this very cartoony looking and big beaked — I have a huge nose, huge ears, everything that Serge Gainsbourgh hated about his own face. The call me, my name in French is La Gueule, which means ugly mug. That was kind of a fun character to play! “Oh, I get to play Ugly Mug? Great! Mom will be proud!” [laughs] As biopics go, this is one of the more creative ones that I have ever seen. It is in the French language with subtitles. It just started in New York and L.A. last weekend and it will be inching its way across the country to other cities throughout November. If you go to my personal website, which is www.thedougjonesexperience.com, there is a little box on my homepage that will show you all about “Gainsbourg” the movie and has click-ables, one with more info on the movie itself and another with what cities and dates. That will take you to our distributor’s page, which is www.musicboxfilms.com. They will tell you all about when you can look for it in a city near you.

You truly have an amazing story to tell. As busy as you are, have you given any thought to writing an autobiography about your journey in the industry?

Yes! It is funny that you would bring that up because now that I have a relationship with Medallion Press in Chicago, I did briefly discuss with them an autobiography. A lot of actors do autobiographies but I want mine to be different somehow. If I do one — Guillermo del Toro has talked about doing “Frankenstein,” his own take on Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” as a movie. It wouldn’t be a remake of the 1930s one with Boris Karloff but his own imagining of what the book should be. In my own mind, I decided that if I get to play Frankenstein’s Monster, as he has told the press I will be doing, that experience needs to be in the book. For sure! That is a couple of years away from happening, so I think that somehow tying in a monster, becoming one and feeling like one in my own real life, like “The Road to Frankenstein” or something about being a monster would be the theme of it where you get glimpses of my gawky childhood and my career under rubber, actually playing monsters. I somehow want to tie all of that together with a sympathetic twist on how a geeky kid’s dreams can come true!

I am sure you received great advice along the way on your journey in the film industry. What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to someone who has been inspired by your work?

Doug Jones: The Man Behind The Mask

Well, golly! I get asked all the time by actors who want to do the specific type of acting that I do if I have any advice. The first thing that I tell them is that you need to think like an actor first, don’t think like a monster or a creature. You need to have acting skills to where you can take on a character, feel his needs, his wants, his desires, his fears and be able to analyze the script and figure out how your character plays into that script, how the character interacts with the other characters in the story, just like any other actor would do. Then you can take on the physical traits that we were talking about earlier. That is where it all starts. My inspiration for that is actually not someone who is in the movie industry. He was the man who taught me how to do mime back in college, a guy by the name of Reed K. Steele. He was a tall, skinny, goofy guy just like me! Watching him work an audience silently and learning how to feel, he had an audience laughing or crying minutes away from each other. I have been translating that into the film world and into the roles I play now, he was the biggest inspiration that I have had as a mentor. Otherwise, I also got a good piece of advice from a director once. I was complaining one time about my agent, this was years and years and years ago, more than 10 years ago. Ya know, actors will always complain about their agents and managers! They are, “never doing enough for us” or “we don’t get out enough” or “I am not seen by casting people enough,” blah, blah, blah! We always want to complain about that! So, I was having one of those day! [laughs] A director friend of mine who had done a short film that was Oscar nominated that year said to me, “Doug, I know that your agent probably isn’t doing enough for you BUT your success as an actor does not rest in the hands of your agent or your manager. It rests in the hands of your relationship with directors.” That is a piece of advice that has come absolutely true for me! It is the directors that I meet and that collaboration between director and actor that proves to be what snowballs into the next job and an actual career that moves in a direction. You know what I mean?

Absolutely! Is there anything you want to say to your fans before I let you go?

Hellboy's Abe Sapien and Doug Jones

Oh my goodness! Well, if anyone calls themselves a fan of Doug Jones or as I dubbed them years ago, Fan-sabiens, I love you, I love you, I love you! Thank you for giving me the career that I have! Without you, I don’t have a job or nor would I have a house! Please come out and see me if I am going to be in a city near you at the convention appearances that I make. That is another bit of info you can find on www.thedougjonesexperience.com, my appearances page that will show you what cities I will be in with dates, times and click-ables to take you to the event websites to get tickets and all of that. I love, love, love coming out into the middle of the country and meeting fans. Meeting the people who have watched the TV shows and films that I have appeared in and have been supporting me all of these years is amazing! That is why I am such a hugger! I feel that I owe all of you such a huge hug! So, come on out and hug me if you see me coming to a city near you!

Thanks so much for your time, Doug! I hope we get the chance to speak with you again very soon! You are such an inspiration!

You are extremely kind! Thank you so much for having me today! Big love! Bye bye!

– –

Additional Photos by J. Regan Hutson – Check out his work at www.jreganhutsonphotography.com!

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Scott Stewart’s ‘Legion’ – New Character Poster Unveiled!

Scott Stewart’s ‘Legion’ – New Character Poster Unveiled!

A bunch of new character posters for director Scott Stewart’s directorial debut, Legion, have hit the web. The posters feature Dennis Quaid, Adrianne Palicki, Paul Bettany, Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson and Kevin Duran.

The story of Legion begins when, God loses faith in humanity and sends his legion of angels to wipe out the human race for the second time. Mankind’s only hope lies in a group of misfits holed up in a diner in the desert who are aided by the archangel Michael.

The cast includes Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson, Doug Jones, Charles S. Dutton, Lucas Black, Kate Walsh, Adrianne Palicki, Kevin Durand and Willa Holland. The film is slated to hit theaters on January 22, 2010.


Check out the trailer for the film below:

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