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Set Visit: Slither (3/3)

03.03.2006

Well, we've had a blast chattin' it up with director James Gunn on the set of his first movie SLITHER (read PART 1/ read PART 2), and it was a special treat to meet up with the star of this splatter fest, Michael Rooker! Yes, the man who would be HENRY has been a horror legend ever since his PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, and has been playing bad guys ever since. He was able to squeeze a few minutes in between make up chairs to chat with us, and here's what we had to talk about...

Note: This interview took place in April of 2005.

Michael Rooker

Your character is not your typical monster, there's depth and layers to him- can you tell us more about that?

You know, Gunn was the guy who's got all the answers, I'm just the actor. He hollers at me on set, and I do whatever he says. But we spoke when I first went into the interview/audition process, and we're both big fans of horror, especially the earlier flicks from the 70s, and earlier than that even like CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. All the creatures that end up kind of... they have a little soul to them, you almost feel sorry for them for whatever happens in their monster life. They're only really, truly doing stuff that comes natural to monsters. How can you really judge them form pursuing their own instincts? Right?

How difficult is it to find the humanity in a performance while you're buried under a ton of make-up?

I don't even think about it. I don't even think about the make-up. Make-up is sort of icing on the cake, as far as I'm concerned, the make-up and I hopefully, we work in unison, and not against one another. Physically we're working against one another, because it's just brutal, it's brutal to be in the make-up. Everyday you're discovering different aspects of the make-up.

This particular make-up has been real demanding. It’s real demanding make-up. It takes about four and a half, five hours. We’ve gotten it down to about four and a half hours and hopefully by this point in time - this is, I think, my last day in this particular make-up - and I hope, I cross my fingers that we’ve gotten it down and I’ve gotten it down to a science so that we work together, me and the make-up. Because I’ve got to tell you if you’re in the chair and you’re kind of sitting a little crooked in the chair, if the make-up is glued on wrong, you’re like this all day long. I’ve done that already, where like the second time through I found my neck and my head was a little [cocked] the wrong way and it was really hard. But I make it a point to stay erect and straight and allow them to do their work on my body so that when they’re done with the make-up at least I’m my spine is straight and my head is straight on my shoulders so that helps a lot.

How did you prepare compared to Henry, etc.?

McNaughton, it was McNaughton’s first turn as a director as well, and Mr. Gunn’s first turn doing it as well, and they both did their homework. They both knew their jobs and they both knew exactly kind of what they wanted and not only that, they know what they want, but they’re also willing to let go and when an actor comes up with a better idea, they go with the better idea and that’s always a good thing for a director to have, you know, because it’s a work in progress, no matter how well the script is written.

The two projects are totally different - they’re opposite ends of the spectrum - but I’ve never done anything that had, I don’t even use make-up in real life when I’m on a... in any of my other projects, there’s no make-up done to me at all. I go into the make-up chair, I sit down in the chair and I have a sip of my coffee, look in the mirror, get up and smile at everyone and leave. They really like it when you come in there the first day - at least come and say hello - but then I walk out and they’re like, ‘wait a minute. Don’t you want a base? Don’t you want us to fill in your eyebrows? Don’t you want us to do this?’ I say, no, I’m looking fine.

Now they’re paying you back.

Now they’re paying my ass back big time on this boy, I tell you what. They’re kicking my butt on this one; my neck will be sore for the next month, I think, but yeah - I think the two projects, Henry, did it in the early ‘80s, yeah, it started, it totally started my career. Henry took five years to be released. Yet, people recognized me from that project on the street before it was ever released, and I’d already done Mississippi Burning, Eight Men Out, Sea of Love, Days of Thunder - I hadn’t done Days of Thunder yet. But, uh, both projects are challenging in their own right.

This one’s challenging in many different, on many different levels. The character is not just your average, everyday run-of-the-mill monster bad guy. I didn’t want to do that, and Mr. Gunn didn’t want to do that as well, you know, it’s fairly naturally played, um, but the levels of the character are extreme.

The final scene between you and your wife. That kind of center in a movie like this.

Well, I think when we were talking about the make-up, sometimes the make-up, I’ve been told, I don’t know this for certain, I’ve never played a role that had a lot of make-up, but this time I have and luckily for me it really didn’t get in my way even though it’s a tough make-up, it’s a painful make-up to wear all day long. Sometimes the pain involved can fuel emotions that are going on inside your body at the same time. Sometimes you’ve got to just use what you’ve got.

I mean, you’re emotionally in pain, this last scene, and you’re physically in pain - they help each other. So the make-up and the actor sort of become copasetic and utilize one another in a way that unfortunately I wish I wasn’t in pain but I am usually in this make-up. But I don’t even think about the make-up. When I’m out there doing it, I haven’t been really concerned about it at all. I accept whatever the other actresses do, what the other actors are giving me, and you know, just work it, that’s all.”

Talk about Grant Grant.

Grant Grant is a former Marine. Grant Grant is not really too good with women, and he’s not really a romantic guy, but he is loyal and committed - or he should be committed (laughs). No, he’s a committed individual, he loves his relationship with his wife, she’s beautiful, she’s emotionally way beyond him, she’s a very romantically inclined individual and she’ll never get it from Grant Grant, of course, until Grant gets taken over by.... in essence, Grant Grant dies, and because he’s regenerated so quickly by the alien creature, in my opinion, the memory, the emotions, all of the things s that are inside the human being, Grant Grant, all of the love that he feels for Starla, he just doesn’t know how to show it, doesn’t know how give it properly, it manifested in a positive way in the creature.

So instead of becoming a creature that is ugly and mean and ferocious, kind-of creature, kind-of monster stuff, Grant Grant now enters the creature and the monster becomes a more caring, loving, human individual, more caring and loving than he ever was as a human. Because these are the first emotions this creature... telling a girl you’re so lucky to be a human being. I mean, you get to feel and do and taste and love, and then of course all of this right before he turns into a room, it’s quite interesting.

So kind of a family movie.

It’s a crazy... yeah, family, as long as you’re over eighteen.

A cure?

No, there’s no cure. No, once the creature takes over Grant Grant, the creature develops and has his own goals and instincts to follow. But even though the human Grant Grant is dead and passed on, those memories, those emotions and that love - I think love is the key, and it spans that distance and it connects, because the love for Starla is what keeps the creature semi-human, and it also is what, basically in essence at the end of the movie it destroys him because he’s got a heart. This guy is so desperate that almost all of his instincts are being focused in on her as opposed to taking over the world or whatever. But you know he’s created a shrine and he’s got to have her and all of his energies are focused in on getting her back.

Did you reference King Kong?

Those are exactly some of the images that come through. Creature from the Black Lagoon, King Kong, all of these creatures that have this human emotion of a passion for another being. There is a constant battle throughout pretty much. The creature has to follow its instincts, but there’s still this little tiny essence of Grant Grant’s humanity still there somewhere in his brain that is still going, turning around and going away, you know, when he’s about to get her. And he goes and gets someone else.

And there you have it folks, straight from the monster's mouth! I'd like to thank Michael Rooker for taking the time out of his hectic day to talk to us, as well as the entire cast and crew of SLITHER, who made this set visit one of the more memorable ones for me. Director James Gunn was particularly friendly and hospitable to us on the set, and judging from the passion and love for horror movies everyone involved in this film has, I believe we're gonna have a winner on our hands with this one!

SLITHER opens wide on March 31st
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