- Interviewed by Michael Juvinall – Horror Patch
I recently had the complete pleasure to speak with actor/producer Michael Pare’. Michael has had a storied career in Hollywood and has been working since his debut in the 1981 ABC TV series, The Greatest American Hero. During his near 40 year career in the industry, Pare’ has starred in some iconic films & TV shows including Eddie and the Cruisers (1983), The Philadelphia Experiment (1984), Streets of Fire (1984), Village of the Damned (1995), Bad Moon (1996), The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) and too many others to mention.
I spoke with Michael about his most recent film job, where he plays a Los Angeles detective in the horror film, Reborn. The film is sort of a modern take on the Frankenstein mythos.
Michael Pare’ is a genuine, down-to-earth, regular guy who is fascinating to talk to and a real joy to interview. You can read the full interview below where we talk about his film Reborn, producing films, being a werewolf in Bad Moon, and what’s ahead for him.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.
Horror Patch: You star in the upcoming horror film Reborn. The film has elements of Frankenstein and Carrie in a modern setting.
Michael Pare’: Yeah, it’s a very clever script. Julian (Richards) is a very cool director. He’s very calm, he knows exactly what he’s doing, he knows exactly what he wants. I was very excited to work with him. I wasn’t familiar with his work but when I spoke with him – there’s a thing that British people have with organization and direction. They don’t get lost and things may develop when we’re shooting but they have the target in mind and I really enjoyed that.
HP: Yeah, he’s a super nice guy.
MP: Yeah, he’s got two kids that he brought on the set one day. He’s not one of these crazy Hollywood people. He’s very level headed and grounded and a great storyteller.
HP: I agree. In the film, you play an LA police detective trying to stop a string of bizarre murders.
MP: Well, I’m following them. The murders happen and the detectives show up after the crime. It’s not like I’m trying to stop them, I’m trying to catch whoever’s doing it because there is a pattern, Right.
MP: They die by electrocution. It’s not like they’re in an electric chair or they’re holding onto a lamp standing in the bathtub. Somehow they’re getting electrocuted.
HP: Yes. You star alongside Barbara Crampton in the film. You recently worked with her on Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. What is it like to work with Barbara?
MP: Yeah, that’s actually where we met. We worked with a lot of the same directors. Barbara – Babs, she’s a great gal. We had fun, we went out to lunch a couple of times with the cast in Texas. She’s a horror icon.
HP: Yes she is, for sure. You also had the chance to star with relative newcomer, Kayleigh Gilbert.
MP: Yeah, what a professional young girl. She is a relative newcomer. Obviously she’s had some great training or a great coach because she was very focused. There was no hesitation. She knew exactly what she was doing. It was fun to watch her. You know when you do these monster things, you really have to believe it because otherwise, the camera catches that you’re not really in it. You’ve got to believe what is supposedly going on.
HP: Of course. You’re playing another cop again. You’ve had such a long career. You seem to play a lot of cops and detectives. Do you ever get tired of playing that type of role?
MP: Well, you know – it’s a very popular genre. There’s always so many – there are cop shows, there are westerns, there’s horror, there are thrillers, it’s one of the most popular genres this cop stuff, right? Even from the very beginning, way back in the theater – the detective. It’s a classic story. Do I get tired of it? Not really. Every movie is a different story, a different taste. It’s a different director, it’s a different take on the story. I mean you’re a writer, you know how many plots are there – there’s like 7 plots. It’s not so much as what’s new, its what’s your take on it. It’s not so much the story that’s new but the storyteller changes.
HP: Yeah I agree. What was it about the film Reborn that attracted you to the role in the first place?
MP: Well, you know…I had worked with John Penny before. When he told me about Julian and I spoke to Julian and I read the script, I say yeah. Hey man, this is kind of cool, he’s like a serial killer with a horror twist on it. Chaz Bono’s in it. There were a lot of fun things and we’re shooting right in L.A. and John Penney is hooked up with a film academy, so we had all of the equipment. I thought, yeah, this is going to be a well-produced, it’s well written, well-directed. So what did I like about it? It was a new case like I said…people are being electrocuted but there’s no obvious way they’re being electrocuted. How the fuck did these people get murdered by electricity when there’s no electricity around?
MP: Rae Dawn Chong – I’ve almost worked with her several times earlier in my career. We used to bump into each other in these metaphysical places. I was like God, what a great cast you’ve put together.
HP: For sure. Yourself included, it’s an incredible cast.
Julian Richards the director, what kind of director is he? Did he give you any latitude to do what you wanted?
MP: He took some of my input about wardrobe. He was thinking California detective – loose shirts and I said, you know Julian, detectives like to wear a blazer to hide their guns. He said, yes that’s true. He saw there were things I had experience with. It’s not like I came in like I was going to play it like a joker. I was going to play it straight like a cop. I’ve done so many cop shows that he knows I know a lot of cops and I know a lot of law enforcement and FBI. They get excited about a case they’ve never been on before. There was no reason to rewrite anything, the dialogue was pretty straight forward.
HP: Was there anything about the shoot that was especially challenging for you?
MP: Not really. You know shooting in L.A. it’s really easy. It’s not like you don’t have problems with location – oh, there was a fire. The fire happened in the Hollywood hills while we were shooting. We had to shut down for a couple of days because there was a smoke problem. One of the locations was up on Outpost I think. The fires were right there, so that was kind of challenging. But physically, Nah, there was no big fight scene or anything.
HP: As you said, it was a straight forward role.
MP: Yeah, yeah it was a thriller/horror/mystery. You’ve got three popular genres in one.
HP: I realize everyone has to work, how picky are you when choosing your roles?
MP: Well, I choose the best ones available. You really don’t know who’s going to tell a good story. It’s like when you go to a comedy club and you don’t know if the guy is going to be funny until you heard the joke. You don’t know if the movie’s good until it’s already done.
MP: Then you don’t know until the edit. How choosy am I? Of course, I look for the best project that’s available. I don’t know, that’s a tough question. Of course, I would like to wait for Martin Scorsese to call me but I would have to get a second and third job then, you know.
HP: I think you’re doing just fine.
MP: Yeah well, I have fun and when I’m not working, I work out of the actor’s studio and I substitute teach at the Joshua Barnes Institute, so this is my life and no matter what I enjoy my work.
HP: That’s great, I enjoy your work as well.
MP: Great, I’m glad. Where are you? What kind of phone number is this? Is that Chicago?
HP: Yes, I’m in Chicago.
MP: Oh cool, great. We shot parts of Streets of Fire there. I shot two television pilots there, it’s a great town.
HP: Yes it is. Are you a fan of horror movies? Or is it just a genre that you work in often?
MP: Yeah I am, I am. When you have a visual reaction to a movie, that’s really cool. I’m really excited to see Brad Pitt’s new movie about in space. My wife and my son and I will go see that this weekend. I’m a movie fan, I like going to the movies. We went to see Quentin Tarantino’s movie. I didn’t think it was long, I thought it was a lot of fun. I love movies and television. I’ve been doing it for a long time and you can’t do it this long without really loving it.
HP: That’s true.
MP: I’m actually producing a little horror film that we’re going to shoot in Fresno in November. I work with this guy Billy Butler who directed Furnace, which had a star-studded cast. Danny Trejo, Ja Rule and myself and Tom Sizemore and Jenny McShane. A friend of mine who is a screenwriter and he says, Mike, I’ve got almost half a million bucks, do you know a director who can make a movie for that? I said yeah, Billy Butler. We all met and we’re going location scouting Thursday up in Fresno. We unload the trucks November 1st and we’ll be done by Thanksgiving. I’ve tried producing before but never this hands-on from inception to delivery.
HP: That’s interesting. It sounds like a promising project.
MP: Yeah. It’s a step towards directing mostly.
HP: Is that something you’re looking to do in the future?
MP: Yeah, actually I’ve been waiting until I got another television series so I could get my directing bona fides. I could wait another year but this is a definite step in the direction of directing yeah.
HP: You have such a great long career in Hollywood for many years is there any film or project that you’ve done that you like more than others?
MP: Well, I really liked making the Greatest American Hero. It was my introduction to Hollywood and my first time on the set with a camera. It was such a fun time. I had a supporting role. I think I had 17 out of 22 episodes. It was like not a lot of responsibility but a real opportunity to learn and understand. It was an exciting time, I was a kid. Umm, a favorite? For different reasons, for different reasons. I loved working in Africa and in Israel. Making movies there was a lot of fun. They were straight action movies but it’s the same process for the actor. You hit your marks, you give your performance and you mean what you say.
HP: For me, the Greatest American Hero, Streets of Fire, Eddie and the Cruisers, are some of your best. I too loved Greatest American Hero, I watched it when it aired, it was one of my favorite shows of the time. But my favorite role of yours is “Uncle Ted” in Eric Red’s Bad Moon. I’m a huge fan of werewolf films and that’s one of my favorites.
MP: Ah, Bad Moon yes. That will always be a favorite movie of mine, man. Eric Red and I met on the Warner Bros. lot. I had read the script and he wanted to talk to me about playing the werewolf. All I could tell him was like that transformation dialogue is just fantastic. How many hoops do I have to jump through to get this? He said, just say yes, and I said yes and he said one more thing. For the transformation scene, it’s four days that you’ll have to stay in the motorhome overnight and I said why? It’s eight hours of prosthetics and then you shoot for 12 hours and then you sleep in the motorhome for four hours and then you get up and you start it again. I said no problem, and he says ok, and we shook hands. Eric was a lot of fun. We had like three weeks rehearsal with Mariel and the kid, I forget his name but he’s a grownup now.
MP: We did it like you always hope you can do. I’ve done it maybe 7 or 8 times in my movie career. You actually get a full rehearsal of the whole script. It was my first time working in Vancouver, which is a great town to work in but it was a long time ago. Eric trusted me but he had to see my performance in the rehearsal space. You know he could’ve fired me if I couldn’t give that performance without the prosthetics. Because prosthetics can do so much but you have to feel it. As the prosthetics are added, it’s a physical change in your body and all kinds of fear wells up and you don’t know what’s happening. It’s like – I kind of remember that movie they did called Altered States. You remember that movie.
HP: Oh yeah, William Hurt.
MP: William Hurt goes in the isolation tank and he transforms into that primitive man and he runs around like a maniac. That’s kind of the same thing but he was in the tank. So he didn’t get close to the pain and suffering. Imagine your bones changing and you’re growing and all that stuff happening. It was a great exercise as an actor. That will always be one of my favorite roles.
HP: Mine as well. What was harder – working with the kid or working with the dog? You know the old acting adage about never work with kids or animals.
MP: I have a connection with dogs. I have a lot of scenes with the dog and Eric is shooting over me onto the dog. He was hoping to get a performance from the dog and I started making these little noises and blowing in the dog’s nose and he started reacting to that. So it looked like he was listening to me and understanding what I was saying. Their sense of smell is like 200 times more sensitive than a human being. When they get a smell it’s like wow, what did he eat. I was doing that and the dog was reacting and it was a wonderful thing. Eric said that the dog is reacting to your fuckin’ dialogue. It was a very fun moment. Yeah, the dog was fun.
The kid was great, very professional. His mom and dad were with him all the time. I’ve worked with a few kids in my career and they’ve been really well prepared. I never worked with a crybaby or a kid that threw a fit. I’ve been blessed in a lot of ways.
HP: Was the makeup for Bad Moon the most grueling you’ve had to go through so far?
MP: No. I played a vampire in Croatia. The makeup team didn’t have as big of a budget. When they made the cast of my head – they didn’t speak English, very little English and they did it in a hotel in a small town outside of Amsterdam. They covered my whole head in plaster and this is the way they were doing it in the ’50s, right. They put the two little straws in my nose and if I freaked out – which other actors have done in the past, and tried to break it off, I could’ve given myself a concussion trying to smash the plaster of Paris. That was grueling because you feel the anxiety and the panic coming on and your heart is racing and you start to get really warm. The plaster of Paris gets warm as it’s setting.
HP: Yeah, it heats up.
MP: I knew if I freaked out we were just going to have to go through it again. So I had to sit there for 45 minutes – I meditate, I was able to control my heart and my breathing and calm down. That was grueling because there was nothing I could say getting in and there was nothing I could say once I was out. I’m going to do the same thing and they have this new technology – surprise. They take a 3D picture of my head and then a 3D printer makes the positive and they’ll make a negative with the gel, then they’ll make the mask.
HP: Yeah, the makeup effects technology is evolving like everything else these days.
MP: It’s amazing man, it’s amazing. You know what – when I came to California for Greatest American Hero, they still cut the film and hung it on a clothesline and they taped it together for the movieola and now you can almost edit a movie on your iPhone.
HP: In your opinion, has Hollywood changed for the better or worse since the olden days?
MP: Well, we won’t know until the future. They do things so much faster but they can do so much more with CGI. We didn’t have CGI on Bad Moon. We had a little bit but not like it is now. Now, you wouldn’t even have to put a mask on. Is it for the better? Some people say because it’s becoming a global audience like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Tubi and all these other things that the common denominator is going down. The potential of reaching – between China, India, Europe, and the United States, you have a potential of 3 billion viewers. So, that’s why horror is such a popular genre. Well, I guess it’s action, horror, and thriller but thriller means dialogue, right. I just did a movie in China. I was over there for a month. I think the whole schedule was about maybe five weeks or six weeks. I’m excited about that because it has the potential of half a billion viewers. I did a television series for China and the lead actor had 100 million followers on his wechat or something like that. When he tweeted out something or whatever they call it over there, 100 million people are interested in what the fucking guy says. It’s amazing, right.
HP: It’s crazy. You are extremely busy, what do you have coming up that you would like to promote?
MP: Well, that movie I’m going to be producing is called Halloween Club. I just finished doing a movie called Penthouse in North Carolina. We were there for the hurricane when it blew through. It’s a lot like Rear Window. I’m also doing this one in Vegas called Bridge of the Doomed. It’s a new spin on the zombie thing. All the zombie stories never have the military involved or if they did, the military were bad guys. If there was some zombie apocalypse, the federal government and the state militias would be ready. In Walking Dead and all these things very rarely do you see the military – I haven’t watched much of that stuff. This will be my first adventure into the zombie genre, I don’t know why I just never got a gig in it before. It’s a new take on a very popular genre. Then I shoot my thing in November and that pretty much takes me to the end of the year.
HP: Well it’s good to be busy.
MP: Yeah. There’s a very small percentage of the acting community who actually do this for a living. I think three or four percent actually make a living at doing this. So, I’m blessed, I’m very fortunate. You know what, I’m pretty good at what I do. I love being on the set – nobody has to fuckin’ chase me down – I”m there early – and I give a performance, I’m easy to direct, it helps a lot.
HP: Well, Michael I’m a big fan of yours. I like so many of your movies – Bad Moon is my favorite. You do such great work and you’re a consummate professional. I want to thank you so much for taking the time out to talk with me about Reborn and some of your other stuff.
MP: Alright, when Halloween Club is done, I’ll give you a callback, okay?
HP: That sounds great. Have a great rest of your day.
MP: You too, take care, Michael.
Watch the trailer for Reborn here: