The multi-talented Paul Sampson is nothing short of a phenom when it comes to film. The light-hearted Sampson has had his hand in just about every aspect of the industry and is about to make a huge splash with his directorial debut, “Night of the Templar.” The film boasts an amazing story and an even more amazing cast. The exciting new film also features legendary actor David Carradine, his final role before an untimely death. Steve Johnson of Icon vs. Icon recently caught up with Sampson for a hilarious conversation that covers his influences, his relationship with Boondock Saints’ Norman Reedus, his thoughts on working with David Carradine, his reaction to the actor’s death, and, of course, all things to do with “Night of the Templar.”
When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
Who said I wanted to pursue a career in the entertainment industry? I’m just killing time while I wait for the results to come back from my Postal Service Civil (Servant) Exam.
Who were some of the influences that shaped you as an actor/filmmaker?
None that come to mind, I’m not easily influenced, unless of course there are drugs involved … then I’m like putty in ones hand … does the term coke whore mean anything to you? Ha ha. Seriously, I do admire a lot of actors, directors and writers for their work, but as far as shaping me, I think it’s safe to say I tend to do my own thing. It may be a little different, but I think that’s my virtue. At least I’m somewhat original.
You are an actor, director, writer, and producer. Is there one aspect of film making you prefer over the others?
Acting is definitely my favorite. I just like to go off into my own little world and then come back as an entirely different entity … and when you do it properly as an actor, they call you a genius or a thespian or an artist … as opposed to my doing a character transition while at the supermarket … then they just call me psychotic or a freak — people can be so mean. End of the day, you won’t believe the shit I get away with now that people think I’m an artist. Before I was crazy … but now I’m eccentric. Yep, got ‘em all nice and fooled … like lambs being led to the slaughter.
You’ve acted in feature films as well as on television. Which format do you prefer?
Film. I have a big head with big features, which means big expressions. It’s not even a choice …big screen! My head overlaps on a TV screen, it’s embarrassing really.
What is your typical screenwriting process like?
I don’t have a typical process. I didn’t buy that book on how to write a screenplay.
How do you think you have evolved as an actor/director/writer since starting out?
Well, “Night of the Templar” was my directorial debut, so the learning curve is still exponentially, perpetually, and unequivocally open on directing. How’s that for some grown up words that make even less sense when combined?
As far as writing, I’ve become really good at realizing exactly what works and what doesn’t when I write a script … after about the 18th draft.
As far as acting, well I have an acute case of psychosis and because I have no touch with reality, I’m able to escape into another character at will. Sybil has nothing on me!
End of the day, I want to continuously evolve — not just in the entertainment field but more so as a human being. I’m kind of the same idiot I was when I was 11 years old, and not in the sense that I’ve stagnated, but that my eyes are still open to new experiences, which helps me grow. Every day is an adventure, every day I get to learn, every day I evolve. I guess I’m kind of like a combination of Peter Pan and the Missing Link.
Tell us a little bit about your upcoming project “Night of the Templar.”
It’s a little different than most movies. It’s a well-crafted mixture of genres. There’s something in it for everyone. Everyone that has seen any part of it thinks it rings of a potential cult film, mainly I think because it’s different — difficult to classify as any one or two genres — and it’s a little off-beat. What can I tell you? I put my heart and soul into it, and I think the movie has legs. The cast is great, and I’ve been told that I have something special in my hands … and I’m talking about the movie, get your mind out of the gutter …
This is your first attempt at directing. Were you apprehensive about getting behind the camera?
I was the kid that would jump into the water without doing the toe touching temperature test thing, I would just jump in. I haven’t changed. As I mentioned before, I’m an idiot, I lack inhibitions. Always have. I learned how to ride a bicycle the first day I tried. Yeah, sure, I crashed like three dozen times, got cut up and bruised something awful, but I just did it. I took a crappy, wobbly Frankenstein bike with bent forks and warped tires into a junkyard by myself and just learned … by myself. I must have crashed into every junk car in that lot … twice. I didn’t have someone there holding my hand, or the whole family gathered around with a video camera cheering me on, or someone putting a safety helmet on my head … no, I just did it by myself. Directing was the same. No one offered to help me, and I didn’t think to ask. I just jumped in and did it. However, there was a lot less bruises and blood with the directing. Well, the first two days anyway. But don’t worry, none of it was mine.
You’re off screen friends with actor Norman Reedus, tells us a little about your relationship with him and his involvement in the project.
Norman who? I don’t know who you’re talking about your Honor. We haven’t been drinking … wait … what do you mean by our relationship? What are you inferring, Steve? I took a vow not to disclose our sexual relationship. Just kidding. I don’t know. When we go out and get nutty, good things happen to bad people … or is it bad things happen to good people? I can’t remember right now, it’s all a blur … it’s always a blur …
People — because people do talk — have told me on several occasions that they’ve heard Norman talking about me when I wasn’t around and that he was saying that I was a real talented actor and that I did a great job directing the movie and stuff. So basically, even when Norman is talking behind my back, he’s got my back. It’s like he’s really proud of me, like a brother. Yes, we’re good buddies in real life, but I think, ultimately, if he didn’t respect me on other levels, he wouldn’t have done the movie because it wasn’t for the pay, that’s for sure. Ha ha! He even helped get Udo (Kier) on board.
Recently, he gave me a PR person (Wendy Shepherd) he’s involved with to get the ball rolling because he knows I’m finishing off the movie now and I’ll start to need exposure. He wouldn’t have done this if he didn’t believe in the project, or better yet, me. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I’m proud to have a friend and peer like Norman Reedus who respects me as both a man and as an artist. And yes, it’s a mutual feeling. We both respect me as a man and as an artist … ha ha! Seriously, I love that guy, he’s awesome.
What does Norman Reedus bring to the table on a project like this?
Not much, I mean he doesn’t do anything but complain. You know, like one of those diva actors. At breakfast he’s like, “Oh, my French toast is soggy.” If we’re shopping he’s like, “Oh, I look fat in these jeans.” If we’re doing a movie on location, he’s like, “Oh, why doesn’t my hotel room have a vibrating bed, too, like yours?” You know, typical Hollywood star bull crap … I hate that guy … who are we talking about again? Oh, Norman Reedus? Sorry, I thought you meant Paul Sampson … wait, that’s me. Hey, wait a minute … didn’t you just get done asking me a f**king question about Norman Reedus? C’mon, man, break it up a little here, what kind of interview is this? If I keep on praising Norman, you guys are going to think we’re dating or something fruity. WTF! We’re dudes who like chicks … hot freaky chicks … get that through your head!
Okay, I’ll be serious for a moment — btw, way too many serious interview questions and moments happening here … at the moment. Um, let me think, what does Norman Reedus bring to the table on a project like this? Well, he brings Norman Reedus … and that’s good enough for me … okay, next question.
You have assembled quite an eclectic cast. Tell us about them.
Yeah, most of them are freaks, especially the main guys. I mean, c’mon, look at ‘em. Could you picture any of them holding a real job down in society? For example, your babysitter shows up and it’s Billy Drago at the door … in drag … tell me you’re not going to immediately cancel your dinner plans. Or the housekeeper shows up, and it’s Max Perlich … like you’re not going to check and re-check the vault and fine jewelry inventory every five minutes. How about Udo Kier as your child’s psychologist? Yeah, I don’t think I even need to go any further with that one. Would you let Norman or me date your sister or daughter? Yeah, you might foolishly consider it, but your sister or daughter … seriously? And David, well, he’s passed on to somewhere better, so I’ll leave him out of this. But overall, what can I say? Freaks of a feather …
And coincidentally, they’re all great actors … and the rest of the cast, who no one ever asks about, is great, too. Everyone is exactly as they should be in the movie — no exception. I’m very proud of my entire cast! It was hard worked, but still, I was blessed with my cast. All of them.
What was the vibe like on the set?
Animosity! Passion! Lies! Loyalty! Jealously! Unbridled sex! Deceit! Backstabbing! Betrayal! Drugs! Tom foolery and shenanigans! And revenge! And that was just in the makeup trailer! Those bastards have all the fun … and man, what gossip! What the hell do I know? I was busy trying to make a movie. The vibe? Is that what you’re asking me? … It was hell, man, pure hell!
You are involved in just about every aspect of this film. Did you find it difficult to juggle all of those responsibilities? Were there any other challenges during filming?
Drugs take all that pain away. Just kidding, I don’t do drugs. I’m just being an idiot. The only responsibility that got in the way was that I had to raise money while shooting. For a kazillion reasons I can’t get into the details of that, but trust me, it was a hassle having to constantly go out and fetch money in the middle of a shoot. I’m good under pressure, but this totally eliminated any sleep I had planned on. Not sleeping is not good.
Besides the money flow situation, the lighting set ups and scheduling of the castle shoot could have been much faster and more efficient. This cost me time and money and resulted in some lost opportunities. Other than that, for me personally, or better yet for me creatively, no, I had no problems juggling anything in that regards — creatively.
This is David Carradine’s last film. What was it like working with him?
We both really enjoyed our scenes together. It was fun. He knew I was a serious filmmaker, but that I wasn’t taking the whole thing seriously as far as our characters. He kept telling me two things: that I really knew how to pick my moments and that I was a lunatic. I’m not sure if he meant this about me as an actor or director or both … I never thought to ask. He liked me a lot, he respected me. He gave me a 1922 silver dollar as a token of his appreciation for being in the movie. I wrote about this more in another interview so I don’t want to be redundant, but we got along really well while shooting and it shows in the scenes. You’ll understand when you see the film.
But I have to say, he really cared about the movie a lot more than I expected.When things weren’t going smoothly one night on set for me — lighting was slow … again — it really bothered him, like shockingly and, as a result, he had a bit of a moment because of all the unnecessary waiting around. And not because he had that big star attitude and he didn’t want to be kept waiting, he knew the business better than anyone and knew there’s a lot of waiting around. But he felt the delays weren’t necessary and he wanted to keep the momentum going — for me. If he was my A.D., he probably would have decapitated slow crew members with his sword. Overall, David was one cool mother f**ker!
How did you react to the news of his untimely death?
It saddened me. It still saddens me.
When can audiences expect to see the film? Will there be a theatrical release?
I’m taking the movie out to show in a couple of weeks — to sell — and I’ll see what shakes. To be honest, my goal is exposure. I’m not concerned as much about the money. Yes, I’m flat broke and I owe the entire world money, but that will all work out fine.
Can it go theatrical? Yes. It can definitely hold its own on a big screen. It actually looks even better on a big screen. I shot on film and it looks great, the story is very interesting and original, the acting is on point, the sound and score are spectacular, there are a handful of classic songs in the film, the movie flows at a nice pace, etc. It has what it takes to go to the theatres.
In the end, I’d like one of two things: either a decent theatrical release or a major cable network premiere. I’ll know in a month or two on everything.
What path do you see your career in the entertainment industry taking? Would you like to strictly stay behind the camera or be in front of it as an actor?
Right now, I need to focus solely on my movie and make sure that I get a befitting distribution deal, and while I’m waiting, I’ll hit a (film) festival or two. After that, I’ll re-enter the world and probably just act for a bit, either on stage or in a film. It will be therapeutic to just check out for a bit and fall into a character.
As far as behind the camera, well, truthfully, I’m not in much of a rush to direct another movie at the moment. I’m still focused on this one. It’s like asking an 18-year-old kid at his senior prom with his sweetheart, who is he going to date next. I mean, at least let me take this one to the prom first, and see if I can get lucky … then we’ll talk.
What do you consider the defining moment of your career so far?
I don’t think it happened yet … or maybe it’s happening right now.
Do you have a dream role you would like to play as an actor?
Without getting into an exact acting role, let me just say this, I want to work with a director who captures the human element. Most of them just get coverage. I’m kind of over that. It would be nice to work on a project with integrity from top to bottom.
What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you along the way in your career?
“Don’t kill anyone unless you really have to, and try to stay out of jail, you f**king nut!”
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