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Kris Lemche: Proving “THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY”

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Found-footage movies tend to be cast with unknown, unrecognizable actors for that realistic feel, but the lead in the new THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY will be a familiar face for many horror fans. Kris Lemche, whose credits include GINGER SNAPS and FINAL DESTINATION 3, toplines this Mary-Shelley-meets-BLAIR-WITCH project, and discusses it in this exclusive Fango interview.

THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY, directed and co-written by Andrew Weiner with THE LAST EXORCISM scripters Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland on board as executive producers, and debuting on VOD and in limited theatrical release today from Image Entertainment, casts Lemche as young professor John Venkenheim, a descendant of a scientist whose real-life exploits, John believes, inspired Shelley to write her classic novel. When he takes a documentary crew with him to the Arctic to prove his theory, they wind up on the stalking grounds of the still-living monster. It’s the first genre lead for the Canadian-born Lemche, whose characters suffered horrible fates in GINGER SNAPS and FINAL DESTINATION 3 as well as the early surveillance-camera shocker MY LITTLE EYE.

FANGORIA: How did you become involved with THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY?

KRIS LEMCHE: It was a pretty typical process; I met with Andrew Weiner through auditioning, and he was pretty specific about what he wanted. It was kind of a long audition process, and bizarrely intimidating. The first time I went out, he had seven pages of pretty much monologue—a lot of talking. I met with him and did these ridiculous amounts of lines, and every time I thought it went well, he kept bringing me back. And every time I went back, there would be fewer and fewer people in the room, and eventually he called me one afternoon and said, “Hey, let’s go to Alaska and make a movie.”

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FANG: Other actors who have done found-footage movies have talked about the veil of secrecy hanging over the auditions; that wasn’t the case here?

LEMCHE: It wasn’t a top-secret kind of thing, no. It wasn’t a case where they kept the script from me; I’m pretty sure I knew everything. I could have leaked it all right away. If I didn’t get the part, I could’ve put that script on-line instantly and absolutely screwed ’em!

FANG: Your character is a professor, a part that would ordinarily be played by an older actor. Was that something that was discussed when you got the role?

LEMCHE: Yeah, I thought it maybe should’ve been an older actor, but that’s also my own delusion about how young I am. I think actors are encouraged to foster this belief that you can still play a teenager, even though I’m in my mid-30s. I still feel like a kid a lot of the time, and I guess it’s possible that had I chosen a different path in life, I could have actually been a professor.

For Andrew, it was never an issue; he thought it was totally appropriate. I did ask him a couple of times whether we should do something to make me seem older, but I believe this was part of his idea of presenting a character who has something to prove, in terms of mimicking the Dr. Frankenstein character in the novel—someone who is brash, maybe a little top-heavy ego-wise and has a bit of a vendetta in terms of proving his self-worth. His personal life has suffered from this mission he’s trying to accomplish, and I think that’s something that happens to young men more often than older men. He wanted somebody younger, that kind of egocentric, a little bit crazy and wild type of person.

FANG: Did you attempt to draw specific parallels between John Venkenheim and the novel’s Victor Frankenstein in your performance?

LEMCHE: Yeah, absolutely. My character is based on Frankenstein in a number of ways, primarily in the sense of these people driving themselves to a point of blindness, basically—blindness to their own personal situation, to the moral implications of what they’re doing and to the safety of themselves and the people around them. The similarities between those two lie in the fact that the implications of what they’re doing are lost on them. Those implications are kind of background noise in the face of this all-consuming passion, which is to prove that what they know is possible is actually possible—a kind of intellectual vindication.

FANG: How much of THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY was scripted, and how much were you allowed to improvise?

LEMCHE: In my recollection, almost none of it was improvised. Especially not my character, because a lot of what I’m saying is precise information about the Frankenstein monster. Other people might have been ad-libbing—people who didn’t necessarily have half-page monologues [laughs]. As far as I remember, we stayed on script pretty heavily, much more so than in most found-footage movies. I know that when you have that loose camera, you feel can do whatever you want. Maybe sometimes there was a bit of fudging the lines and connecting the dots when there would be a blank space, but we were pretty solidly on book a lot of the time.

FANG: How was the experience of shooting in Alaska?

LEMCHE: Spectacular, spectacular. I loved Alaska. I’m trying to figure out what I can say that’s not gonna just sound like a clichéd description of Alaska, but it’s like a different universe out there. In many ways, the people you meet are similar to anyone you could meet in Los Angeles in terms of the fact that we all speak the same language and everyone’s eating the same fast food and watching the same television shows. But—and I don’t want this to sound condescending—there’s something about that place that feels very, very powerful, and it draws a specific kind of person. It draws people who want to be in a area that remote and challenging, or the people who were born there have grown up in an environment that’s very remote and challenging, and it breeds a very specific type of person.

Beyond that, just landscape-wise it’s an absolute knockout. It’s such a beautiful place. The first morning I woke up there, I went wandering out into the snow totally improperly dressed, wearing my hipster peacoat and a pair of fingerless gloves when it was seven degrees outside. And the sun was rising with the mountains in the distance, and the snow had been kicked up to make this kind of foggy haze. It’s staggeringly beautiful. It felt like being on an alien planet.

It was kind of a rare experience, at least for me, having lived in Southern California most of my life. It’s strange when you cannot see any evidence of human civilization anywhere. You’re just standing out there in a field, and every which way you look, there’s nothing but snow as far as the eye can see. To be honest, I feel like I would move to Alaska in a heartbeat, if I could find something to do out there. I loved it. It’s an amazing place. I’m from Canada originally, so I think I’ve got that snow in my bones.

Originally posted 2013-03-01 21:05:54

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About the author
Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold has been a member of the FANGORIA team for the past three decades. After starting as a writer for the magazine in 1988, he came aboard as associate editor in 1990 and two years later moved up to managing editor, the position he holds to this day while continuing to contribute numerous articles and reviews.
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