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Gay of the Dead – MICHAEL VARRATI, Part Two

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In Part One, Michael and I discussed his involvement with the TALES OF POE anthology and Joshua Grannell, aka Peaches Christ’s ALL ABOUT EVIL. In Part Two, we touch on Caroline Williams (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, HATCHET III), Stuart Gordon (RE-ANIMATOR) and our own Debbie Rochon.
FANGORIA: We met at a BBQ hosted by Caroline Williams, who is one of the most gracious people in this industry I’ve ever met. (Grab a hardhat for that name I just dropped!) I want to hire her for everything I ever do in the future. If you could create a role for her, what would it be? I know she’s in your segment of POE, but this would be thinking of her before writing begins.

MICHAEL VARRATI: Well, the truth is, her character in POE actually was written with her in mind.  Adrienne and Amy’s parts were both written specifically for them, as well. I’m just glad they all said yes. As I mentioned earlier, the poem of “Dreams” had no existent characters for me to cull from in adapting the piece, so when I wrote the script, I would occasionally craft roles with hopes certain actors would accept them. Caroline had expressed an interest in the Poe project early on, and because of that, when I sat down to write the character of the Angel of Death, I always envisioned her in the part. I wanted the character to be as far away from what she did in TEXAS CHAINSAW 2 as possible, as I know Caroline has great range and it would give her the opportunity to show the horror community just what a force of nature she can be.  As you’ll see in the film, she plays this fever dream version of a Victorian governess, who is, as inferred by the name, a façade for Death. She’s brilliant and evocative, and I think fans are going to love her.

As for writing another role for her in the future, it’s funny you ask. I actually am just wrapping up a feature script that already has investors attached, and there’s a part I wrote specifically with Caroline in mind. However, I haven’t really talked to her about it yet, so I guess we’ll see what happens. Until that time, no spoilers!

FANG: I see you went to Kent State, which of course reminds me of a story about me: In my freshman year at University of Montana, I went to a costume party as a Kent State student, complete with bullet wounds. Didn’t go over well. Is there some sort of crazy faux pas from your past that still haunts you?

VARRATI: Neil Young would be very disappointed in you. As for a faux pas, I can’t think of anything too terribly awful that it has left a mental scar. I mean, there are certainly behaviors and attitudes towards people and things in my past that I regret, and wish I had treated this person a little nicer or done that thing a little different. But, I have a very zen approach to regret. I recognize the faults and mistakes, and I have to learn from them, rather than let it be an albatross. There are things in my past I don’t love, but they still comprise who I am today, and so I have learned to really not let things like that hang over me. The good shapes who we are in life just as much as the bad, and despite the fact that it occasionally sucks, if I lived through and it made me stronger or better, both for myself and others, then I can accept it as part of my life.

FANG: You’re in MODEL HUNGER, Debbie Rochon’s directorial debut! What is Debbie like as a director?

VARRATI: My character in MODEL HUNGER serves a very specific purpose to the story, so I really was only on-set for two days. Even in my short time there, however, I can tell you that Debbie was very much in her element. Look, she’s a pro. She may have never directed before MODEL HUNGER, but she’s been on hundreds of movie sets and has worked under both the best and worst circumstances. She knows what it takes to make a movie work, and more so, what it takes to make a movie move. Debbie is unmistakably punk rock in her approach, but behind that edge is also graciousness. She was a very giving and enthusiastic director, and I was more than happy to be part of her film. If I had any complaint to file with my work on MODEL HUNGER, it’s that I didn’t get to stay longer, because it was so much fun watching her chase that dream. Just like everyone else, I look forward to seeing the finished product.

Alan Hynes' NEVERMORE poster

Alan Hynes’ NEVERMORE poster

FANG: You have a bunch of IMDB credits as an actor, but when I think of you, I think of you as a writer. Is acting something you’re actively pursuing as well?

VARRATI: I am definitely a writer first and foremost. I’ve jokingly said in other interviews that when it comes to onscreen work, I’m an “accidental actor,” and while that’s a bit of an untruth, it’s a title I’ve somewhat embraced. I do have an acting background. I’ve done theater work, and I trained for on camera acting under Rohn Thomas (you may remember him as the Mayor in SUDDEN DEATH), but I don’t particularly seek roles out. I don’t do the whole audition thing, and any time I’ve been cast in a film it’s because I’ve been expressly asked to participate. I mean, I’m a total ham, and love getting to act in movies, so if the offer is there, I’m probably going to accept. However, it is important to know one’s limitations, and while I don’t think I turn in a bad performance, writing is my strongest suit, and it’s also my greatest passion. If I don’t act for a while, I’m okay. If I don’t write every day, I start losing my mind. I love the craft, and I am always at my most excited when I have the opportunity to tell a story. Writing is the main gig, and I think that’s how it will always be. So no, I’m not actively pursuing roles, per se, but I’m totally open to them if they come.

FANG: What’s going on with Stuart Gordon’s NEVERMORE? I saw that you’re involved, but wasn’t sure how.

VARRATI: I do have a penchant for getting involved in Poe projects, don’t I? [Laughs] I was brought onboard the NEVERMORE project by Stuart to help early media and publicity as they rolled out their crowd-funding campaign, with the hope that I would likely work on some aspect of the film once the funding/budget was locked. In addition to Stuart Gordon, I worked with Julia Marchese (a remarkable filmmaker herself), who was super instrumental to getting the word out to the community, and it was truly a gift to get to know these talented, hardworking people in the process. The crowdsourcing campaign ended under the goal budget, but I don’t think, in the long run, that means the project is over.  However, the status of NEVERMORE is ultimately more of a question for Stuart, as I would never want to speak out of turn.  What I will tell you is that I’ve read Dennis Paoli’s script, and it’s remarkable. Furthermore, beyond being an icon of the genre, Stuart Gordon is a man with incredible vision and passion.  I believe in him so very much, and whether NEVERMORE is the next project or not, if he ever needs my help on anything, I’m there.

NEXT UP – Part Three, where we talk about Troma, CHASTITY BITES and gay marriage! Fun!

Check out Michael Varrati’s webpage hereFollow Gay of the Dead on Twitter hereAnd like me! You really like me! (Seriously, like me on Facebook here)

Wanna buy my book, OUT IN THE DARK: INTERVIEWS WITH GAY HORROR FILMMAKERS, ACTORS AND AUTHORS? Just mosey on over to Amazon.

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About the author
Sean Abley
Sean Abley is a playwright, screenwriter, columnist and editor of OUT IN THE DARK: INTERVIEWS WITH GAY HORROR FILMMAKERS, ACTORS AND AUTHORS. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, Unzipped, and Fangoria. His microbudget, gay, sci-fi thriller, Socket, which he describes as “medium good,” was released in 2007. His two dozen published plays, which include Horror High: The Musical and The End of the World (With Prom To Follow), have been produced hundreds of times around the world. He lives in Los Angeles with his husband, Matt, and their two cats.
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