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Mile High Horror ’15: Larry Fessenden talks “BODY”

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2015 serves to be a big year for filmmaker/actor/indie horror guru Larry Fessenden. With a book coming out in November, a best-selling horror video game (UNTIL DAWN) on shelves now, and a Blu-ray box set from Scream Factory commemorating the filmmaker’s 30-years-and-counting run with Glass Eye Pix,  2015 also sees Fessenden in front of the camera no less than 12 times, including  upcoming genre pics THE MIND’S EYE and DARLING as well as recent FANGORIA favorites WE ARE STILL HERE and BODY.

In the latter film, which will be following its rave showcases at Slamdance and Stanley Film Festival at the upcoming Mile High Film Festival, Fessenden takes the role of an ill-fated groundskeeper who finds himself at the mercy of three anxious and desperate women caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. Earlier this summer, FANGORIA sat down with Fessenden to talk about his turn in BODY and working with up-and-coming fright filmmakers Dan Berk and Robert Olsen…

FANGORIA: So how did you first get involved with “BODY”?

LARRY FESSENDEN: Well, I had gotten a call from the team over at BODY. I knew Dan [Berk] and Robert [Olsen], as well as [producer] Chadd Harbold, and I knew all the girls from the picture. I assume they thought I would be a good genre flavoring on top of what was already a great cast. All the girls are awesome in the film, and what I really loved about the movie was the first hour where they are all just hanging out while the directors laid the groundwork for what’s to come. Lauren [Molina] is a pal, and Helen [Rogers] as well, and Chadd brought me in, thinking I was a name of some sort, so I played the old guy.

FANGORIA: In a lot of your recent genre performances, you’ve really been playing more lighthearted characters or the comic relief. In BODY, you’re pretty much playing this tragic role completely straight-faced. What was your approach to taking the role of the titular BODY?

FESSENDEN: That’s actually why I took the picture; they named it after my character! But quite honestly, I take every one of these jobs seriously because I grew up in the days of Robert De Niro where it was like, “He’s different in every role!” Back then, there was a real gold standard of acting where you would lose yourself in the performance. I know that I have enough of a look with the tooth missing and the rings that I don’t necessarily disappear in the roles, but as far psychologically, when you take on a job, you really want to disappear into the assignment.

For this character, he was stuck in this horrible dilemma and I felt his pain. There’s nothing more claustrophobic than being paralyzed, and that’s what is going on with this guy. He just wants to get through to the girls and say, “Let me go! Why are you complicating things? I had an accident, we’ll tell the truth and you can get out of here.” The fact that they can’t process that information is so terrifying. I found it to be a very distressing situation for my character to be in, and I took that very seriously.

I take every role seriously, no matter what the role is; I always say “you don’t play a villain by playing a bad guy. You have to play as if everything your character is doing is right and justified.” So any role I take, no matter how trivial it is or even if I know I’m only there so that they can say “Larry’s in it!”, I love that I get to briefly create a character that’s a sculpture and I get to make an impact as that character. That’s the most fun thing about acting.

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FANGORIA: Considering the script had you sort of stuck in a compromised position for the most part, was there anything about the character that you wanted to bring to the table that wasn’t necessarily on the page?

FESSENDEN: No, but I do think I had a sincere empathy for the situation and the character. I wasn’t going to be mugging; I really had to get into the zone, which is what any genre actor will tell you. When you’re in a genre-type film and you’re doing a cameo-esque thing, the presumption by people is that you’re phoning it in, but I took this role seriously, and every stress or strain in that tassell scene was something I really had to commit to. Even when I do silly little roles, I look at it as “What would it be like to be this guy?”

So BODY, for me, was about empathy, and I took that seriously because that was my job. There’s no part of me that goes, “Oh, this is a B-movie, so I’m not going to do this [role] real.” But what was fun is that the character does exist in flashbacks, where he’s sort of a different guy. We got to stage those scenes and have a bit of fun to play these short versions of the character where he’s a bad guy.

FANGORIA: What was it like working with Dan and Robert, especially considering this was their first film?

FESSENDEN: They were great! They were very organized and were very clear about what they wanted, to the point where they were cutting for the edit, which I certainly appreciated. They were very precise, but they had much more work to do with the girls in terms of staging and direction; I was just lying there! [laughs] I didn’t have a lot to do with the blocking!

FANGORIA: You’ve played so many different and unique genre roles in the past, and this one certainly takes the cake. What was it like to have to convey everything you normally would through just your head and face?

FESSENDEN: I was just in the moment. The nicest thing was that the D.P. kept the set very dark and the lighting was very subtle because the cameras could see in the dark. So the atmosphere was very genuine. They would say, “Action!” and the girls would run over to me, and it almost felt like I was one of the cameras because I was just staring at them. There was no amount of acting or physical performance sometimes; I was just stuck there, looking at them, looking at me, and they would react.

Also, and I do this on every film, I like to be there to provide eyeline and so on. So I would often lie there even when the camera was on them. It’s a great way to sink in a role, and since acting is a privilege, I had to sell that I was in someone else’s trauma. It’s all about the experience, and when you commit to a role, you commit to the whole endeavor.

BODY will be playing at the Mile High Horror Film Festival on October 1st – October 4th at the Alamo Drafthouse in Littleton, Colorado. You can get tickets to the festival HERE.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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