Actor James Wilder (Model's Inc., Melrose Place) talks with TV STORE ONLINE about the cult classic ZOMBIE HIGH (1987) and his starring role in 3 HOLES AND A SMOKING GUN (2014).
WILDER: Oh my God...That had Sherilyn Fenn and Virginia Madsen in it...I was on the Conan O'Brien show once and Virginia's brother Michael was on there as well, and because I have this history as a street performer where I used to juggle running chainsaws...Conan asked me to juggle machetes on the show, and I really didn't want to do it, because I had never used those knives before. I said, "I'll do it only if someone lays underneath me..." I said that because I figured that in doing so --no one would agree and I'd get out of having to do it. But Michael Madsen said, "I'll do it." It was psycho bad boy actors night on Conan's show--which explains why I was there too. (Laughing) What was I supposed to do? Madsen laid down in front of me and I said to him,"I hope this goes well, because you're one of my favorite actors." He said, "No problem."
TV STORE ONLINE: It's a fun film that pre-dates all of these high school horror movies that trended in the late 1990s and early 2000s....
WILDER: You know I've never actually seen that movie. I've never liked to watch myself, but I think I'm gonna go back and see it because it's been so long.
TV STORE ONLINE: This character you play "Bobby Blue Day" is a sort of washed up screenwriter. What went into realizing him for the film?
WILDER: You know...There are parts of different writers and actors that I know that have been in similar circumstances in their career. They were darlings and then they just self-destructed. It's a shame when it happens. But it happens in this business. It doesn't matter if you have talent or not--you have to be team player out here in Hollywood. I had a couple different people that I used for the character sketch and I blended those two together. I was trying to make a hybrid out of them with that character.
TV STORE ONLINE: The film, in a way, feels like a series of vignettes--yet there is a complete story that runs across it for the entire duration...
WILDER: Yeah, it's because it's broken up into those really long scenes. It wasn't quite Cassavetes style--where the actors were allowed to go where they wanted--those scenes were actually really close to the writer's heart.
WILDER: It was one of the things that attracted me to this script, and it's not very often that a actor gets to do a 6-7 page scene. It reminded me of one of those true character pieces, like Sam Shepard's True West for example. The opportunity to do that is really few and far between and I think that's because people's attention span has waned. Today is all about the quick fix. It's a digital and superhero world today.
It's funny, because the writer of the film came up to me at a bar named Hemingway's. He say, "I have this script, and I had you in mind while I was writing it." I had to go to the set with 78 pages of dialogue that had to be off-book. With the crazy shooting schedule there was no time to memorize your dialogue. It was a fun experience in that way.
WILDER: Sure. I've encountered people that don't know who Paul Newman or Marlon Brando are. It dates you in a way, but it's shocking too. I can understand people from the current generation not knowing who Errol Flynn was, but James Dean or Marlon Brando? I think it comes out of the growth of outlets for media today. There used to be just the three networks on television and now people are producing web series for YouTube. I recently started a Facebook profile, and man, trying to navigate through that is a full-time job.
TV STORE ONLINE: What are you working on now?
WILDER: I'm putting together another project. Before THREE HOLES AND A SMOKING GUN, I wasn't really interested in acting much more. I had become an architect and so to take that step back with a great film like THREE HOLES AND A SMOKING GUN--it's reminded me that my heart is really in independent film.
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung