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Set Visit: Interview with Devil's Rejects actor William Forsythe

07.23.2004

Rob Zombie & Intro / Sheri Moon
William Forsythe / Sid Haig / Bill Moseley

Joining the cast of THE DEVIL’S REJECTS as the gun toting, smooth talking, hard-ass Sheriff John Quincy Wydell, is the incredibly talented and ever-so-kind William Forsythe. Dressed as any other Sheriff from the country (boots, vest, facial hair, etc.), William answered our questions regarding his philosophy on acting, getting the crap beat out of him by Steven Seagal, as well as what his character had in store for the Firefly family in THE DEVIL'S REJECTS.

WILLIAM FORSYTHE

Now compared to everyone else we’ve met thus far, you have a really nappy look to yourself…

A nappy look? (chuckles)

I mean you’re not covered in blood or anything… Tell us a little about your character and how he differs from the rest.

Well, I play Sheriff John Quincy Wydell, who’s a legend in his own mind, an icon, a bigger than life guy, a bigger than life sheriff, and you know besides the fact, what the rejects have done, all the murder and mayhem they’ve committed, his brother was one of the victims of the devil’s rejects in House of 1,000 Corpses. And he’s basically a no nonsense kind of guy who’s after them. He’s the main drive behind getting them and capturing them and killing them, and he sort of takes it an extra step along the way.

So he’s the flip side of Otis in that he’s the evil working behind the guys of the law?

No, he’s sincerely and truly after these guys at all costs. He’s going to bring these guys down; he’s the hero, more or less in that respect. He just, at a certain point in the script, he just takes it very far.

Tell me about doing this film and the difficulties?

There really hasn’t been anything really difficult. The most difficult thing has been coming out to the desert everyday (laughter). This movie has been a real pleasure to make. The entire time we’ve been out here since the very beginning, the atmosphere on the set has been very creative, very open. Rob is, you know, he’s just a very gentle, you know, against whatever his image is… (Picks up Rob’s Past, Present, and Future CD and laughs at the cover, which is a picture of Rob in his “Zombie” makeup). He’s just a very well spoken guy who knows what he’s looking for, knows what he wants, but he’s truly a collaborator, and the entire time I’ve been here… this is actually been one of the best times I’ve had in a long, long time.

When you read the script was there anything that you thought, “Whoa, what am I getting into?”

The irony of ironies, is that one late night I happened to catch HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, and the next day I got a call, and it was like, would you be interested in doing THE DEVIL'S REJECTS which is the sequel, and I had just seen it, and within a couple days, Rob and I were on the phone together talking, and we had about an hour conversation about Robert Shaw and Lee Marvin and all these guys that we all love, and basically that’s what sold me on the movie. It’s not exactly my kind of film. I might be one of the last people to buy a ticket to see a film of the genre, but when I saw HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, one of the things that really stood out to me was the style of the film, and Rob really had a real handle on a certain kind of style for this film, which I thought made it a good film.

Do you think being a fan of the genre has helped you at all in terms of getting into the character in terms of the movie?

In my world, I’m a great one for suspense. Those are the films that I always liked. I mean, I’m a Hitchcock lover. I love suspense and I love films that are of that nature. I’m not exactly what you would call the average horror fan, but I do love something that’s scary, and as far as being able to help me in the character, I don’t think it’s had any influence at all. I mean, I open up, and I’m standing there, and you know I’m talking about “We’re going in here boy, we’re going to take these guys at all costs don’t even think about dying, we’re going through that door. You a Lee Marvin fan son? Well that’s too bad because Lee Marvin’s the man.”  (laughter) You know, where he’s coming from from the start. He’s hard. He’s an interesting character to get into. Rob’s given me a lot of freedom, a lot of creative freedom, to bring a lot of extra along.

What have you gone through with your character that wasn’t in the script?

You know, it’s really all in a certain style. I think I brought in something that’s very hard. He is absolutely determined and passionate about what he’s going after. And believability. The key to acting, I think, in all acting, is that no matter how absurd the situation may be in reality, you put yourself two feet away, “What the hell is this, a bunch of clowns?” you know, “And them running around…”. It’s believability, once you really believe, and that’s what I try to really market, is if you believe the situation at all costs, and anything that gets in his way, and of course, we have many obstacles along the way… a movie critic shows up to help, an expert of all movies, running off at the mouth about Groucho Marx and all this…and I just bring what I bring, which is passion, and I try to make it as real as possible, and still try to keep always a little bit of a sense of humor somewhere in there.

It sounds that even though this is essentially a horror film, what your bringing to it is not anything typical of the horror genre. It sounds like the aspect your bringing has a western element to it…

It is. I think it’s exactly that. It’s like their world, their horror, their rejects, their whole thing, and yeah, definitely bringing a sense of…  In fact, Rob and I had a laugh… I was supposed to go up to the office and talk to them, and I called up to the office and said, tell him I’m downstairs, ask him if he’d come down and meet me outside, and right where there office is, is that statue of John Wayne right on Wilshire Blvd. And there was John Wayne on his horse, and I looked at Rob when he came down and I said, “That’s him. (chuckle) That’s Wydell”. And he is, he really is, at least in his own mind, he’s certainly every bit of that.

Bill Moseley mentioned that there were a couple scenes that they shot where he, as an actor and a person, was genuinely disturbed by them, having to do them over and over again, a number of takes…

It’s very disturbing. Last week was my week where I was basically laying into everybody. Without giving away any details I basically took the devil’s rejects and put them through living hell. And after awhile, we’re people, we’re actors, but for ten days straight I was making them pay.

Is it physically demanding?

Normal. It’s normal in that respect. It’s physical at certain times, but not really.

You mentioned a couple times, Lee Marvin, and Robert Shaw as famous tough guys…

Much more than that.

Of course, Lee Marvin was a veteran also…

Much more than veteran tough guys. Manly men. Not like the kind we’re allowed to be anymore in Hollywood.

What do you take from their legacy as a performer?

Depth. Absolute Depth. We talk about believability, when Robert Shaw did a scene, you look into those eyes, and there isn’t one second that you don’t believe every word that this guy says, I don’t care what film. He did a lot of great films, and then he did films that were not so great. He was always like a rock.

Whether he was drunk or not…

Yeah. Well, yeah, take that Jaws monologue…

Are there experiences from your life that you draw from to get into…?

I’ve had a lot of experiences that you draw from. Basically, that’s all you do. You start out from places you know, places you’ve researched, places you go. And just believe and let it happen.  I mean in the case of something like this, I’m chasing a clown, a dancer, and, I believe, an artist (laughter), the devil’s rejects.

Were you familiar with Rob, as a musician, his work at all, did you researching him?

Yeah, to some degree. I knew who he was, and I was aware of the film. And like I said, I happened to catch the first film, and of course, I found out all I could. I mean within the course of, I think, 48 hours, we were on the phone together. And in the phone conversation, I was in New York, he was in L.A., and we agreed to do the film on the spot on the phone and we hadn’t met.

Did you do any character research? I mean, talk or meet with Tom Towles?

The Forsythe end of my family are, you know, like there’s some deep southern, western roots that go very far back. If we had a family reunion, you’d become an alcoholic. (laughter). So, in terms of that kind of thing, no. But I’m a big research person period. I’ve done all kinds of research for things. I research something when I’m not even doing it. I’ve certainly spent my share of time with a lot of the boys from all over the country, and certainly put my time in that way.

How does Rob differ from other directors you’ve worked with in regards to communicating the mood of the scene or the characters frame of mind?

They’re all vastly different. All directors are different. Everybody has a different way of expressing themselves. Everybody has a different amount of collaboration. Rob is…  What makes him outstanding as a director, and why I think he has a future in other kinds of films, and other things, if he wants to pursue that, is that he has a real strong sense of clarity about each scene, of what he wants to do, but he’s completely open about how we get there. It’s almost old school, and greatly appreciated. It’s a great way to work. You can ask any of the actors on the set… We’ll walk in, we have our dialogue, or outline, but he’ll allow moments to happen, he’ll allow things to happen, we do different takes, which has been my favorite, and we’ll go out and just try something different. He’s very accessible, and the atmosphere here really I think shows exactly what kind of person he is, because everything here is sweet.

Can you maybe describe the sort of entrance to your character, how he’s introduced, without giving anything away, and how that sort of foreshadows what that character is about?

Well yeah. Like I said, he comes out of the gate, he comes driving up with the entire police force surrounds the Firefly house, but manages to take the time to do a two page monologue on them (laughter) and what he’s going to do to them, and how and why, before he gets home and fucks his wife (laughter). He has a very strong entrance into the film, and you know immediately who he is, and where he’s coming from, and it’s a real strong entrance.

Do you prefer a movie like this where it’s more collaborative and more infinite than say The Rock, where it’s a bigger…?

The Rock, I think, is an example of that kind of film that actually worked. There are a lot of examples in films where it doesn’t work, and sometimes I feel that in a lot of the bigger films, more lately, their big, and they can be a little impersonal, a little lesser, a little more formula. This film obviously has its own style, and I believe that this particular film is going to be different than the last one. I think it’s really going to have a slightly different hook to it. But, yeah, they’re all different.

What kind of characters do you like to play? Do you like to play the “heavies”, or do you enjoy comedic stuff like Raising Arizona, etc?

Honestly. My favorite kinds of films to do… I love doing comedy. I love it. I’ve always tried, in this business, to be as diversified as possible. Inevitably, in the course of all the years I’ve been in this, I was typecast eleven different ways. And finally, one day, people went, “Oh. Oh. Same guy.” You know, it finally dawned that I would do different things. I don’t particular love to play “heavies” or anything like that, a lot of times, let’s face it, the crack of the door opens, it opens, and you step in and play the part. This particular one, I like it because it’s got a lot of dimension to it before we go into the flash finish.

Can you talk about fighting against Steven Seagal?

(laughter) There wasn’t much of a fight, was it?  I got my ass kicked through five rooms, it took about a week, and I wasn’t permitted to get a blow in (laughter). No, I actually brought it up. I said, “Any man that takes a beating through five different rooms is going to get a shot in”. They informed me that there was no way I could touch him, so it never happened.

Do you have anything lined up after this?

Right after this I’m going to cut out for a bit. I’m basically going to go down to Costa Rica and trip out for a month or so. As far as what I’m going to do next, I haven’t made a decision. I have a couple things lined up, but I haven’t really made a decision yet.

I would imagine that doing a movie like this, you gotta be laughing under a tree half the time…

Well, yeah. That goes back to believability again. That’s where you find yourself; you want to break up laughing every moment. I mean, it’s pretty absurd, when you think about it. But you don’t.

Is this one of the more absurd films that you’ve done, as far as extreme?

Oh god. I’ve certainly done my share of extreme things. I’ve never done one like this, and I don’t look at it much different. I mean, my job in this film is just a straight on path of a guy that’s hard riding and looking to bring down the bad guys.

It’s such a great character, you’d almost be sad to see him get killed off; do you think you’ll be around for a part three?

(Laughter) To be continued.

Does your character have an accent? Do you really play that up?

Oh, yeah. Texas all the way (laughter).

Have you created a back-story for him, beyond what you’ve read in the script?

Yeah. Any actor that tries to create a character… The stronger your world, the stronger your character.

Can you give us hints?

No, that’s the private stuff. (laughter)

Have you done a western before?

I did only one western. I did a film called DOLLAR FOR THE DEAD, which was kind of a tribute to Sergio Leone. We went to Spain, we shot in Almaria, it was cool. I got to work with some of the Italian crew that I worked with when I worked with Sergio Leone. That was my only western. We had Marconi’s son doing the music, and it was a spaghetti western.

Even though this is not really a western, does it get you looking to do another one soon after your vacation?

Yee haw (laughter). They just don’t make ‘em. If they did, I’d love to.  You know, Sid [Haig] and I got into a conversation. Sid, I think, when he was in college was a fencer, and I used to do fencing, and sword fighting, and quick draw, and I do all these things, and I’ve gotten to do westerns so briefly, and I’ve never ran someone through in a movie, and I just think in a different era, you know, that would have been put to use over and over again.  It’s just a different time.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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