Friday, February 21, 2014

INTERVIEW: Actor Wings Hauser talks about his 1991 dark Hollywood noir THE ART OF DYING

Actor Wings Hauser talks with TV STORE ONLINE about the making of his cult B movie film noir THE ART OF DYING...

TV STORE ONLINE:  This was the third film that you directed...The first two films being COLDFIRE (1990) and LIVING TO DIE (1990)....With this third film THE ART OF DYING (1991), what was your process for casting?

HAUSER:   It was pretty simple...We put out a casting call, then we got a bunch of head shots and then we called in some people that we liked and we took it from there.  It wasn't like a studio film where we had someone breathing down our necks telling us that we needed to cast someone in particular...   A interesting story behind the casting of the film....Actress Kathleen Kinmont...You remember her from the film?

TV STORE ONLINE:  Of course.  How can one forget some of those scenes that you share with her in the film...

HAUSER:  Right, well, Kathleen is such a wonderful woman.    The role that I cast in her required some partial nudity and when she came in to audition with me she mentioned that she had a bad scar on her breast and she was concerned of how it would look on film.    So she showed me her breast right there in the audition and she did it very technically.  I mean, what a professional actress.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Of course, the film has a very notorious sex scene that involves a  gallon of milk!   Was that something that you had written into the script?

HAUSER:  God No.   In the script it said something like, "They have sex".   Somehow the sink in the kitchen came into play and then we both thought it would be fun to play around with food and the only thing we had available was that gallon jug of milk and so we started to pour it over each other.    That was a tough day...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:  There are some great actors in THE ART OF DYING....Michael J. Pollard and Sarah Douglas...

HAUSER:  Right.  Michael J. Pollard was a human being all to himself.  He's just an amazing guy.  He insisted on being picked up every day before shooting by me because I was the director.   He had a lot of thoughts that went into that character.   When Michael Pollard stops talking on film and he starts thinking it really is the most amazing thing you'll ever see.    As for Sarah Douglas, I had first met her on BEASTMASTER 2: THROUGH THE PORTAL OF TIME (1991). She did THE ART OF DYING for me for almost nothing.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  Your character "Jack" in the film.....Who was that guy?  He's very hard-boiled, but there is also a another side to him that isn't spoken about....

HAUSER:  Well, I think that other side has a bit to do with me.   Growing up in Hollywood myself, I've seen actors come out here and get chewed up and spit out.   I think that's why he was so comfortable in helping out that little girl throughout the film.    This is a tough town, and you really have to love your work otherwise you're done for.  There is a least ten broken hearts out here for every star down on Hollywood Blvd.   I think Jack really cared about those kinds of things in Los Angeles. I think he had seen so much of that, and that is what drove him to drink.

Then there's the girl who is told that she'll become a star if she goes and gets her photos taken.   Shooting that  scene...That was as real as it could get.  I knew a guy once who was a drug dealer and a photographer.   He would tell girls that they would be star if they'd go with him and shoot some photos with him.  He's take them up to his loft, and the cocaine would come out and then he's get them naked and he'd shoot photos of them and then sell them off to a magazine.  He was a master at that.  I thought that was a total degradation of women, and that was what that scene was about.   But that stuff actually happens out here in Hollywood. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  The film has such a strong visual style about it..   What kinds of prep do you do as a director by the time you begin on THE ART OF DYING?   Are you a believer in story boarding?

HAUSER:   No, I don't storyboard.   I just try to put it together all in my head.  I read the scene and then go to bed and try to dream on it.    I do the same thing as an actor, and I think a lot of it also has quite a bit to do with confidence.   We really wanted to go with that jazz side of Los Angeles and I wanted to use a lot of reds and greens in the shading in the film.

TV STORE ONLINE:  There's a great tension in the film between the characters, and not just because one is good and one is evil, there's something unique in that the villain plays with the hero by visiting him at his own home for a chat for an example...

HAUSER:   Right, that was fun.  Gary Werntz is a great guy and a great actor.  He played that scene beautifully.   That character probably wanted to be a filmmaker, but it didn't work out for him and he got frustrated.  That happens out there in Hollywood.   I thought that Gary's character offered a great examination of bitterness and frustration.

TV STORE ONLINE:  And he's got a great sidekick in "Latin Jerry".

HAUSER:  Oh Yeah, He's a great actor that Mitch Hara.   I came up with the name "Latin Jerry" because there was a L.A. Rams football player that went by the name "Latin Barry".   He's a great character, and Mitch was great to work with.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Of course, the killer mimics some great Hollywood films with his killings... Who came up with those movie that he uses like THE DEER HUNTER (1978) and PSYCHO (1960)...

HAUSER:  I did.   I loved that aspect of the story.  Gary Werntz and I actually came up with the PSYCHO sequence together. I do remember that because his daughter would come to the set with him often and I remember that the day that we were going to shoot that, he had told me that his daughter wouldn't be coming.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love the juxtaposition there between the sex scene and the murder.   There's something there to that whole orgasm sex and death thing...

  Right, that was a fun sequence to cut in editing.  I thought those murder sequences really helped as anchor points to go back and fourth to in the editing.

Interview Segment By: Justin Bozung
Watch the Trailer for THE ART OF DYING (1991) HERE: