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!
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]
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.
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.
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.
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!