Only a Mother Could...
For today's Twenty Questions, we return to a Matchflick favorite genre - horror, as we speak to Horror's Ever-Busy Actor, as cited by MoreHorror.com, Bill Oberst, Jr. Bill has been featured in over 55 feature films, among his most notorious being PRIEST and DISMAL.
Matchflick: Bill, thanks for taking this time to speak with me.
Bill: Thank YOU for being interested in a creepy guy, Mike! :)
Matchflick: First Question: Did you find horror genre, or did the horror genre find you?
Bill: It found me and I am delighted that it did. I love horror. Always have. As soon as I arrived in Hollywood 3 years ago people started telling me I was scary. Now I did stage on the east coast for 13 years and not once did anybody say "You're scary." But the camera is a different kind of audience. And it sees what it sees. I am blessed to have a very specific look. It keeps me working.
Matchflick: When you arrived in Hollywood, what did you envision yourself working in?
Bill: Oh you know, soccer dads and pastors, that sort of thing (actors are pretty self-delusional.)
Matchflick: Follow-up Question: How'd that work out for you?
Bill: At my first soccer dad audition in LA, the cameraman took a look at me through the lens and said Dude you look like the soccer dad who's gonna murder the whole team and eat the bodies. I was like, Ok, thanks." So I went dark. And darker. The darker I go, the more I work. And by playing dark, I show the light; in reverse. Does that make sense? Or am I being delusional again?
Matchflick: Not at all! What was your first break in films, and what movie would you say got you noticed?
Bill: I had never thought about film work at all, and was very happy on the stage, when I saw a 2007 casting notice for a docudrama about General W.T. Sherman's 1864 MARCH to the SEA. I am a Southerner by birth and I love history, so I thought it would be fun to shoot a video audition. To my shock, I got called in and booked the lead role in SHERMAN'S MARCH. Six months later I was on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Their TV reviewer, Dorothy Rabinowitz, said nice things about me. I sent her flowers and booked a flight to LA. When I got there I went to agents with copies of that Wall Street Journal article in my hand and got signed. Moving to LA was never in my plans, but the time was right, opportunity knocked and I jumped.
Matchflick: Let's talk about your project out now, A HAUNTING in SALEM. Where did you find Wayne?
Bill: Wayne was written as a hero struggling with the past. I'm not at all sure that I was right for that part or that I did a good job with it, but what I tried to do was to bring a little physical and mental stiffness to him, as if he was rusty inside.
Matchflick: Though the movie gave the other actors a lot of work to do, being such a lean cast, it still hinged on your making the audience as stressed as Wayne was for the entire movie. Was there any pressure trying
to drag the audience with you on your descent?
Disturbing Vehicle for a Disturbed Character
Bill: The pressure helped the character. I was uneasy the whole shoot anyway. Playing a family man is not my usual gig.
Matchflick: Was the movie based on fact, as it claims?
Bill: I'm not certain...I heard stories during filming that it was. But then again, actors love to talk, you know?
Matchflick: Do you frequent the movie conventions, and what would your fans be surprised to know?
Bill: I do hit the conventions and I love doing it. I'm usually in a bloody wifebeater with blood streaked on my arms and hands, as if I just chopped somebody up and didn't have time to clean up before coming to the signing table. Kids love that (why do kids love scary stuff so much?) As for something fans might be surprised to know; if I have any fans they might be surprised to know that I am a geek who loves alternative history and all all things science fiction. And I'm the least violent person you'll ever meet. Except when I am working.
Matchflick: Just from our brief conversations, you don't come off as who eats babies when not onscreen. Tell me about the off-screen Bill Oberst, Jr..
Bill: I think I am pretty normal. I mean, I'm ugly, right? So that colors your whole life and how people react to you...you learn to make fun of yourself before they can do it so you have the power and not them. But I'm a regular guy. I like to work out. I like to read. I like old hymns.
I hate cheese. I'm a Christian. I love dogs. I drive an old truck. I trust people who are a little odd more easily than the ones who seem perfect. I like underdogs. I like movies where stuff happens more than one's where people just talk. And I like monsters. My sympathies have always been with the monster.
Matchflick: How would you help Wayne if you ever met him?
Bill: I would tell him to turn in his badge and go to the desert for a month. Wayne needs some time alone. Without witches.
Matchflick: How could The Asylum cast you in two such diverse genres, one in the child-friendly The PRINCESS and the PONY, and then in this horror rollercoaster ride. Did you get any resistance for the former role, given your screen reputation?
Bill: Well, my character of Snyder in PRINCESS AND THE PONY was evil; comically evil but evil nonetheless; so it was in my ballpark. It was fun to play a Disney-like villain. But yeah when I told folks I was up for a lead in a kid's movie I got some weird looks. But kids generally aren't scared of me or my characters. They understand that it's all make-believe. Kids love villains.
Matchflick: You're obviously not a one-trick pony, but do you ever look over the fence and say, "Boy if I had the chance, I'd love to ______________________?" (and it doesn't necessarily have to be movie-related)
Bill: The grass is always greener over that fence, isn't it? No, I love my life and I love what I do. I love the struggles of this very tough business. I love the challenge. And I am grateful for the life I have. Of course, life can kick your ass. But eventually you learn to get back up and keep on. I'm so glad I was made fun of as a kid. It made me tough. And stubborn. Good traits to have in life in general and show business in particular.
Matchflick: Are there any actors you would kill to play with? (sorry, I couldn't resist)
appreciate the pun! (Willem) Dafoe, (Christopher) Walken, (Johnny) Depp, (Michael) Madsen, (Harvey) Keitel are the short dream list. Oh, and Rutger Hauer. And if I could time-travel, (Lon) Chaney Sr, (Boris) Karloff, (Vincent) Price & (Peter) Lorre. These kinds of lists are endless, aren't they?
Matchflick: Are there any films that you would have loved to have been given the opportunity to be in?
Bill: Yes, many. But those are yesterday's films. I'm more interested in tomorrow's. Although I cannot tell you the number of times people have said some variation of "Dude you totally should have been the new Freddy Krueger" to me. I just say "Thanks."
Matchflick: I almost have to agree on that issue. But like you said, that's the past. Would you do other genres, like comedy, if given the opportunity?
Bill: One of my favorite films of all times is JESUS OF MONTREAL. It's an allegory. I'd love to do a film like that. And I do love comedy. If I got cast in a comedy it would probably be something like Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow in The HANGOVER; something wild and shocking. With my look I don't blend into a background well. My characters are always the weird ones. Which I love.
Matchflick: How about directing?
Bill: I would love to direct and I hope to do it.
Matchflick: What script would you like to plop in your lap, or is there a treatment you have in the back of your mind that you would love to do?
Bill: I went to see a triple feature of the first three FRANKENSTEIN films at the Egyptian Theater here in Hollywood last night. They are not all great films, but there's a moment in the 1931 original that sums up everything I aspire to in film: the monster is revealed for the first time and he reacts to the light streaming in from a skylight. It's just a short sequence and it is almost silent, but his expression as he reaches for that light, which he cannot touch, cuts across time and cultures. It is universal and it is iconic. I'd be so grateful to do something that has that kind of power to touch the soul 80 years later. I'd like to do something iconic.
Matchflick: What is next for Bill Oberst Jr.?
Bill: I have about 10 films in post-production. If folks are interested they can check them out on my profile page at Internet Movie Database I'm especially excited about a feature with director Jourdan McClure which is working-titled CHILDREN OF SORROW. It's a lead role and it is the most disturbing thing I have shot; emotionally disturbing as well as visually so. I have high hopes for that film in particular.
And Michael Emanual's horror anthology film, called
SCARY OR DIE with Corbin Bleu is getting ready for release. I play a xenophobic border-crossing vigilante. Very fun role. Got an epic period-piece horror short with director DREW DAYWALT (who did several episodes of of MTV's new DEATH VALLEY series) coming out soon. Got a little role in Brandon Slagle's VIVID with Devanny Pinn, which is also set for release soon. On the non-horror front there is a sequel in the works to Michael Landon Jr.'s TV-movie for Hallmark Channel THE SHUNNING in which my character may appear again. And I get to do some theater again this December when I go on tour with my A ONE-MAN CHRISTMAS CAROL as I do every year.
Guy Next Door by Day....
Matchflick: In your bio-pic, who would play you, and who would you want to play you? (don't laugh - actors with shorter careers than yours have had bios done about them!
Bill: I am laughing! But if you are forcing me to accept the possibility, I choose Sean Harris. He's a remarkable actor with an unconventional look. I loved him with Michael Caine in HARRY BROWN.
Matchflick: When your bio-pic is done, what would you what the audience to remember you as?
Bill: Again with the bio-pic, Mike? :) It seems highly unlikely but OK I'll go with it...I would want an audience to remember me as a guy who tried to bring humanity to the monstrous; to show that the real monsters are inside of us and that they will dominate us unless we recognize them. And fight them. I really believe that. Man, I am sounding way too earnest here, aren't I?
Matchflick: Not at all - Honesty is always a good read! Lastly, you're on your soapbox, and the World is listening, What would you say to them?
Bill: Be sparing with your cruelty. It is fun to make fun but it hurts. And it lasts. Oh, and eat spinach. A lot of spinach. It's really good for you.
Bill has a full plate in the every near future. Catch him in LEGEND of the RED REAPER , NEFARIOUS: MERCHANT of SOULS, SCARY or DIE, CHILDREN of SORROW -
And that just until the end of the year!
And as an exclusive, Bill informs me that he is unveiling a brand new site, launching on Halloween - this Monday! The address is It will be very horror-centric with fun stuff like this section called The Anatomy Of Fear.
The name of the site is Bill Oberst.com, and it's his Halloween Treat for all his fans!
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This column will explore my taste in film. I watch all kinds of movies - all kinds - but likes science fiction/fantasy - action, animated, funny, even stupid. He will speak of his experience and his encounters with science fiction and the way it colors his - and our - everyday life.
Mike Thomas was introduced to science fiction when he first watched 2001 - A SPACE ODYSSEY, and was hooked ever since. But he doesn't just watch the gee-whiz, gollee-gee special effects. He watches the costumes quirks, evaluates the musical scores, even identifies favorite actors of directors. He collected comic book, but has moved on to weapons: he currently owns the Mj?llnir - the Hammer of Thor, Electra's Ninja Sai's, Mace Windu's Light Saber, and a couple of Batarangs.|
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