GREASY WEEK: “THE VIDEO DEAD” Actor Michael St. Michaels talks “THE GREASY STRANGLER”!Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
It’s Greasy Week here at FANGORIA.com, which we’re celebrating by offering specially curated content leading up to the release of this year’s most hilariously demented horror-comedy, Jim Hosking’s THE GREASY STRANGLER. Yet to truly understand the method behind the madness, FANGORIA had to dig into the brains of those behind THE GREASY STRANGLER itself. Today, FANGORIA picks the brain of The Greasy Strangler himself, actor Michael St. Michaels, who goes from stealing scenes in THE VIDEO DEAD to providing one of the most odd and hysterical performances of the year…
FANGORIA: So, how did you get involved with THE GREASY STRANGLER? It’s been awhile since we’ve seen you in a genre-oriented project.
MICHAEL ST. MICHAELS: A company offered me work. That was it! I never really gave up acting. I have been sort of under the radar after THE VIDEO DEAD, but I read for Jim [Hosking] for a project that didn’t happen. Then, a year later, Hosking came back and cast me in THE GREASY STRANGLER!
FANG: How did you react to the script? It’s such a crazy, singular film.
MICHAELS: Well, the script was sent to me in a PDF file, which I am unable to download because I’m a complete idiot when it comes to computers. So I really didn’t know anything other than the part that I read, so I just went along with it. Jim Hosking didn’t tell me much about it, outside of a few questions, like if I would do nudity. I think my answer was, “Well, I don’t mind, but the people watching me might.”
FANG: How did you first get involved with Jim Hosking?
MICHAELS: I had no idea who he was! I was retired; I had built a career and I got lucky so I have a pension from the Screen Actors Guild. But somebody asked me to do a film called MARK OF THE WITCH, which I really enjoyed working on, and then I did another one called FRESHWATER, which I really want to see because I get eaten by an albino alligator. But I was on this casting website and I tapped on this thing, but I admitted they wouldn’t probably call me. They did call me, I went in there, got my validation, and got called back and read again. But nothing ever came of that. A year or so later, a friend of mine did a short for Jim Hosking, and said they were looking for me.
FANG: Can you talk about the prosthetics and FX work of THE GREASY STRANGLER?
MICHAELS: It was gross. They used this thing called Ultra Ice and that stuff will give you frostbite in the Sahara Desert in the summer. After a few hours of being under it, you’re really going get the hypothermia, but I survived.
FANG: Can you talk a little bit about the costumes in the film?
MICHAELS: Christina Blackaller, who co-designed the costumes with Jim, did an amazing job. Plus, she kept making adjustments for me, which I really appreciated, like with that one with the mesh V’s in the front. That was incredibly painful at first, but she saved me from that.
FANG: What was your process like working with Jim Hosking on the film?
MICHAELS: Jim was amazing. I told him that I was a can of worms when he hired me- and I guess I proved it- but he kept coming back and made it happen. I really have a lot of respect for that.
FANG: What was it like working with Sky Elobar, who plays Brayden in THE GREASY STRANGLER?
MICHAELS: At first, we were very adversarial, and many times, we were like Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. I was much like Lorre, in that I’d have trouble remembering lines and Sky was just pitch perfect every time. That led to a few problems at first, but eventually, once we got into the groove of things, he was great to work with.
FANG: Elizabeth De Razzo really steals so many scenes as Janet. What was your experience like working with her?
MICHAELS: Elizabeth was wonderful, but out of all of us, she was the best. She was the easiest to work with, and she was very supportive of my work. She helped me a lot, although I assume it was very awkward for her. [laughs]
FANG: Did you have any on-set interactions with the producers, whether it be from Drafthouse, SpectreVision, etc.?
MICHAELS: They were there quite a bit at first, but then after a while, they left us alone. I didn’t really have a lot of interactions with them because I was really trying to focus on the film. Plus, every time I had on the grease make-up, it took two to three hours to get out of it. Then I had to prepare for the next day and I would try to get some sleep also. By the time we got to the end of it, I was really relieved. But they crew, including the producers, have been incredibly helpful. I feel blessed that I got involved with these people, and some of them even still talk to me!
FANG: Where was the film shot? It really captures such an odd, across-the-tracks atmosphere.
MICHAELS: Well, the houses were in a section of L.A. near U.S.C., and we also shot in Downtown L.A. near some open sewer thing, which I remember because the odor was quite prevalent in that location. But it wasn’t far from Union Station, then we went near the middle of L.A. for the Beach Scenes, and then down to the Angeles National Forest.
FANG: THE GREASY STRANGLER premiered at Sundance. What was it like witnessing the audience reaction to this film at Sundance of all places?
MICHAELS: Well, I was in shock the minute they said it was going to Sundance. When I got there, it was just this whirlwind and, frankly, I was in shock. We all have these self-images and I’m nude for a bit of the film, so I was like, “Oh my God.” But then I started thinking, “Well, yeah, but in 10 years, you’re going to wish you looked that good.” But I do remember on the first night, when we were doing the Q&A, Jim went, “Get that microphone away from him!”
I remember seeing it for the first time at Sundance and a light going off in my head, going, “This is pretty good.” When we were doing the film, I remember thinking we were doing something like Fellini. The film was just so off-beat and a lot of fun to do.
THE GREASY STRANGLER hits select theaters this Friday, October 7th, from FilmRise.