The first thing I noticed when I first got in touch with Lou Taylor Pucci for this interview was just how personable and outgoing he is. In this day and age, social media can be an artist’s (and a blogger’s) best friend, but rarely does said artist have the time to read over each and every one of the messages, comments and requests they are sent on a daily basis.
I sent Lou a message a few weeks back just to congratulate him on the success of EVIL DEAD’s SXSW premiere and to thank him for doing, what I had read all along, a great job in this re-imagining of arguably one of the greatest horror flicks of all time. In an era where remakes are churned out on a monthly basis and more often than not are utter failures, it was refreshing to finally hear of one that had- gasp!- lived up to expectations. Pucci plays a big part in EVIL DEAD’s splatter fest and he deserved the kudos.
Much to my utter surprise, a day later, I received a message back from Lou with a suggestion to get in touch with his publicist in hopes of setting up an interview. Needless to say, I was flabbergasted. Absolutely dumbfounded. Following a few texts back and forth with his publicist and a brief schedule flip flop, I had the chance to speak with Lou this past Friday morning. With sweaty palms and a rolling stomach, I made the call. What I was hoping would be a ten-question chat turned into an hour-plus long conversation with one of the most passsionate, hard-working and outgoing people I’ve ever had the pleasure of discussing film with. Having seen EVIL DEAD at the 10pm premiere the night before, with Lou still on the East coast enjoying a once in a lifetime premiere opportunity, we discussed EVIL DEAD, his love for horror and sci-fi and a film of his he is equally proud of, THE STORY OF LUKE, that coincidentally was released on the same day as EVIL DEAD but couldn’t be any more different.
MANGLED MATTERS: First of all, I would just like to thank you and Craig Bankey (Pucci’s publicist) so much for this opportunity. This really means the world to me.
LOU TAYLOR PUCCI: Oh man, it’s my pleasure. Thanks for getting a hold of him and I’m glad we were able to get this thing set up.
MM: You were able to see the movie at the premiere in your hometown last night. How special was that for you? (the premiere was held at Rave Cinemas Hazlet 12 before a number of Lou’s family and friends)
LTP: It was awesome. That was the first theatre I ever went to see a movie in. It was Tim Burton’s BATMAN. My dad took me. I have always been a fan of that dark, sci-fi, horror kind of movie. I’ve grown into loving them thanks to my dad. It was the coolest thing to be able to go to my old movie theatre and see it (EVIL DEAD) there. I introduced the movie, the studio sent over a bunch of t-shirts and posters to give away. It was just awesome. Especially to have my grandma there! She watched the movie! (laughs)
MM: I saw the movie last night and absolutely loved it. I thought it was just fantastic. Obviously, we won’t give away any spoilers, but why do you think this film will succeed at the box office?
(Mangled Matters note: EVIL DEAD took possession of the box office during its first weekend, grossing over $26 million)
LTP: This movie has all the necessary tools to give you an emotional arc on each one of the characters. That’s rare in movies these days. It’s (EVIL DEAD) also a total shock to the system. I mean, it’s almost a comedy (laughs)- things get so bad, so quickly, it really makes you laugh. It hits a lot of chords.
MM: As a huge fan of the original THE EVIL DEAD, how did director Fede Alvarez reel you in to making this film?
LTP: One of the biggest parts of why I thought Fede had this movie handled was, when I was brought in to audition, I asked him, “why do you wanna make this movie?”. I always ask a director that. He told me the scariest thing he has ever thought of is ‘what if the people you love the most are trying to kill you?’. That’s the scariest thing to think of, really. I was on board right away. My audition was terrible. I thought I did a horrible job! But then I get a call-back. The second meeting, Bruce (Campbell) was there. I had no expectations to get the part. Bruce was there and all of my attention was just on him, meeting him. (laughs). I asked Bruce what they wanted to accomplish with this film, was it going to be just some campy flick? Bruce goes, “People don’t realize that the original THE EVIL DEAD was supposed to be serious. Due to lack of funds and proper acting, it just became campy.” I thought it was funny to hear Bruce Campbell admit the acting was lacking in the original!
MM: What was it like working with Alvarez on his feature-length directorial debut?
LTP: He wasn’t set in his ways in any which way with the characters. He did a great job of leaving room for us to create our own stuff. Sometimes we could take advantage of it and sometimes we couldn’t, but there was always a lot of room for us to have fun. He kept that passion to make this film- “over the top, but not campy”. You want to make the audience laugh during a movie like this because it is just so insane. Make them laugh as we are going insane (laughs).
MM: What was your first experience seeing the orginial THE EVIL DEAD?
LTP: I definitely remember watching it at a friend’s house after a party. Just as dawn was breaking, my friend goes, “Wanna watch Evil Dead?” and I go “What the hell is Evil Dead?”. It is so demented! (laughs) And we definitely watched it on a VHS tape!
MM: Bonus points for watching it on VHS!
LTP: Oh yeah, man, just like records. Blu-Ray and DVDs are awesome, but there’s just such a different quality and experience with VHS.
MM: How do you approach your career as an actor? Is there a specific type of film or genre you prefer to work in or are you just ready to meet any challenge?
LTP: I’ve started to say I really wanna do movies that I’d like to see in a movie theatre. That’s what I’ve wanted to do in the last while. This is the first time I’ve gotten to do it. It’s so cool to be a part of that. In all I’ve learned as an actor, the most important thing to remember is if you’re not having fun as an actor, the audience can’t have fun watching you. You have to bring an energy. It needs to be there. With EVIL DEAD, people aren’t going to the movies to see a drama, they are going to have fun. It’s like a roller coaster. So I made sure to give it my all.
MM: You have an extensive background in Broadway theatre. What can you use from your training as a stage actor that translates well to your work on camera?
LTP: With theatre, you get that really good feeling for story. Everything is obviously real time, there are no cuts or edits. It’s all done in chronological order, which usually isn’t the case in movies, which presents a real challenge sometimes. To do that, you have to do your homework- you have to make sure your mood on camera is the same as it was two weeks ago when you were doing the scene right before this one, you know? So it’s a challenge.
From the theatre background, I learned so much, especially once I started working on Shakespeare. I was fifteen or sixteen, and Shakespeare plays are so much fun. There is all the depth, storylines and character arcs, just like in film. It’s just all there. But film is simply a whole different animal. It’s all about your voice and body language on stage. In front of the camera, you sometimes have to condense everything to just your face or your eyes. It can be difficult.
One thing that might not seem all that important but it is, is stretching. I take that from stage plays big time. Keeping loose, exercising during filming- it’s important to be able to keep your body comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and there were a lot of those in EVIL DEAD! (laughs)
MM: This film, (director Fede) Alvarez in particular, really prides itself on being almost completely CGI-free. Everyone knows corn syrup and red dye trump computer imaging any day. What was it like working on a film that required so much make-up and effects and all of it being practically done?
LTP: For me, it has so much to do with the practical effects. Sitting in a make-up chair for three to eight hours a day, sure I complained quite a bit in the three months that we did it (laughs), but I was just so excited, knowing I appreciated what was happening here. So many directors and studios don’t want to put money in things they can do easier anymore. Look at WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, the original, or EDWARD SCISSORHANDS. It’s the coolest thing to see- everything is so practical. The chocolate water fountains and the blades, all that stuff was real. It is so sweet! Nowadays, it’s all about CGI. It’s all so fake, like watching a cartoon. There’s no real feeling or texture to it. You can tell when it’s fake and then you are kind of taken out of the film a bit.
That is probably the biggest thing that seperates this film from ANY other horrror movie in the last several years. You can tell when it’s fake. People are smart- they know what they are looking for and that’s why EVIL DEAD is doing well, I think. People notice and get it. They know what is going on here. Practical effects is a huge part of this whole thing.
It’s really kind of like magic, taking the fantasy of old, nostalgic films and turning them into reality- what if this (the madness in the cabin of the woods during the film) happened today? Like THE DARK KNIGHT. It’s a surreal reality. As if Batman could be running around New York City today. It’s a cool, real thing. That’s what the good remakes are doing nowadays- taking the fantastic parts of movie making and grounding them in reality.
MM: I agree. EVIL DEAD really does a good job of giving you the heebie jeebies that maybe there really is a cabin out in the woods somewhere like this!
LTP: Yep, exactly. This movie does that. It’s gonna fix some of the plot holes from the original and it’s gonna get so gory, so fast, that you’re gonna wish this doesn’t happen to you and you are never going to wanna go into a cabin in the woods again! (laughs)
MM: What are your thoughts on remakes or “re-imaginings” in general?
LTP: As far as remakes go, I’m not a fan of them at all. If anything, they should only be remaking BAD movies into good ones. So many movies didn’t turn right, but had good ideas. If someone took the time to get better actors, a stronger budget or just a better damned director, there are so many ideas out there that are good but were just made poorly!
The only reason I think EVIL DEAD hits the nail on the head is THE EVIL DEAD was not a perfect movie. It was perfect in how flawed it was. If they had the money, they would have made a very different film. This is what they inteneded for, in some ways, in the original.
MM: You guys filmed for three months, just like the original film. What was it like to form that family bond with the cast during your time together out in New Zealand?
LTP: Being one of the oldest in the cast- Shiloh is a few months older- I sort of took the reigns of mediator, just bringing and keeping everyone together. I had the most film set experience, so I was able to just try and keep things loose. We were there to have fun and it was important to keep things that way.
What was great was, we had two weeks of rehearsals before filming began and Fede (Alvarez) really did a great job of getting us prepared. He even brought in a ‘zombie’ teacher- someone to show us how to act and move like a deadite! It was pretty awesome.
Then we had three days for Easter vacation, so I started calling around all over New Zealand, to try and rent a house for cheap for a few days. Everything was booked up, of course (laughs). I called like twenty different places before finally finding a house. So I bought a car- in New Zealand! I learned how to drive on the other side of the road and everything! (laughs)- and just took the whole cast on a road trip. We were staying at Coromandel Beach, out in the middle of nowhere! It was so cool. The craziest thing was, we got the house only because a family had a death in the family so they had to leave for a funeral! It was just like a movie! (laughs). It fit for us to stay there right before filming EVIL DEAD! There was drunken debauchery and just a lot of fun right before filming. We were all kind of freaking out, but it was like, “all right, fuck it- let’s do this!” (laughs)
MM: What was it like to deal with all of the pressure this remade had sitting on its shoulders for so long before the die hard horror community could finally see it?
LTP: I didn’t feel it as much from the fans as I did myself. I loved this movie as a kid. I didn’t even want to go to the audition in the first place (laughs). But once I heard Sam (Raimi) and Bruce (Campbell) were in, I was like “OK, I’ll go.”
MM: In an odd twist of awesomeness, you have another film coming out on the same day as EVIL DEAD. What can you tell us about THE STORY OF LUKE?
LTP: Oh, THE STORY OF LUKE is a film that deserves to be seen. I play Luke, a young man diagnosed with autism. It’s actually aspergers. I can’t think of two more different characters than Eric (from EVIL DEAD) and Luke. This role needed such a specific thing. I had to speak and look the same each and every day, every scene, every cut. I had to be a completely different person for an entire movie, where as when I was playing Eric, a lot of his actions were exactly how I would have handled things. Luke is nothing like me, so it was a really challenging metamorphosis. It is an incredibly well done movie and the best part about it is that it is a comedy. So many dramatic films focus on all of the pain and suffering of something like this, but there is never any focus on the absurdity of real life dealing with aspergers. Things can get awkward in a very comfortable situation and vice versa. The writing is so well done and Alonso (Mayo- director and writer) did such a great job. He lived with autistic people for a period of time to understand their story. It is really a great film.
MM: How do you reflect on your career up to this point?
LTP: The only reason I have a job is because of you guys. You guys go see the movies, you guys want me to keep doing this. I appreciate and love the people who love horror and sci-fi. Unlike other actors and actresses on the indie scene, I don’t shy away from this stuff. I love it. I grew up loving it. I am one of you. I am on your side. So, thank you.
I would like to sincerely thank Lou and his publicist, Craig Bankey, for making this interview happen. It was truly a privilege and I wish nothing but the best for Lou as his career continues to blossom!