Thursday, 14 November 2013

Bill Oberst J.R. Speaks to Patrick Challis: An Interview With the Hardest Working Man in Horror

The hardest working man in horror, Bill Oberst Jr., has kindly taken the time out of his busy schedule of scaring the hell out of us all to talk to Patrick Challis about his career, inspirations and much more.

PC: Firstly, welcome to our own little corner of the Internet, it’s an absolute honor to have you here today.

BO: Thank you so much Pat, and I want to thank you for the very kind piece you ran on my work on Nov 7, too. It's a thrill to be mentioned on a popular UK blog like yours; I have family in London so the UK is close to my heart. I am very eager to do a film there. The Pendle Witches case in particular interests me...have talked about this a lot with Amanda Norman, the gothic horror photographer in Manchester. So hello!

PC: As an actor best known for his horror work, what made you want to be involved in that particular genre?

BO: Pat, I have loved horror since I was a misfit kid in the rural South. I wonder, were you also a misfit growing up? I ask because I find that most of us who love the genre were. I've always made my living as an actor, but did not realize that I was suited for horror professionally until moving to Los Angeles to pursue film in 2008. For the 15 years prior to that I was a professional stage actor doing historical pieces and comedy. I had no idea I was terrifying! It was a joy to discover that the camera saw me as horrific. I am in love with the genre. 

PC: You are best known for playing some truly bizarre and sometimes even incredibly evil characters in your movies but what would you say has been your favorite role to play? 

BO: To date my favorite film role has been that of Father Simon in 'Children Of Sorrow' (your readers can see the trailer on the film's IMDb page.) It was also the most difficult role I have ever done. The director, Jourdan McClure, took me deeper into darkness than I have ever been and forced me to essentially play myself. I lived off the grid and very isolated for that shoot. I still have bad dreams about the character, and I hope viewers will, too. 'Children Of Sorrow' will be an After Dark Films release in 2014.

PC: You were recently Abraham Lincoln in the movie ‘Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies’, a movie that looks like it was an absolute blast to film. How did it feel to be the hero for once? 

BO: It felt great! Lincoln was a boyhood hero of mine and I never dreamed I would have the chance to play him (I'm not unusually tall and don't really look like him) but I jumped at the chance when Asylum offered the role. If it worked, perhaps it was because Lincoln was a very dark hero, beset as he was by war and depression. That's the kind of hero I can plausibly play. 

PC: Have you ever found that your faith has clashed with any of the roles that you have been offered? 

BO: Yes. In fact, I just turned down a very good role which was being written specifically for me by a writer/director whom I desperately want to work with again, because the character (who suffers from a religious mania) professes a Christian faith while committing horrendous murders. I know that such people exist but I don't want to add to their cinematic ranks. I told the director "Ironically, I would have no problem if the guy were a Satanist." So that's my one line in the sand as an actor: I won't play a man who professes a serious and specific faith in Jesus who is a murderer. It may be a weak spot as an actor but as a follower of Jesus it feels right. I'll rape and murder and creep and dismember all day long, but not in His name.

PC: What has been the best advice given to you that you would pass on to anyone wanting to enter the acting world? 

BO: It came from Robert Loggia, the consummate Hollywood tough-guy. I did a film with him in which I played a demon tormenting him in ancient Rome (your readers can see a clip of it here.) I asked him for advice on relating to the camera. He told me to get him a sandwich. I did. Then he said "The camera is your Father Confessor. You have to tell it everything." Best sandwich-run I ever made. 

PC: Who would you say has been the biggest influence or inspiration on your career?

BO: Without a doubt, Lon Chaney Sr. has been. He died decades before I was even born, but thanks to Forrest J. Ackerman, editor of the old Famous Monsters Magazine, boys of my generation grew up knowing who Chaney was. Ackerman wrote about him in almost every issue. So even though it would be years before I would see a Chaney film, I understood the importance of what he had done. Even today, the unmasking scene in his 'Phantom Of The Opera' thrills me. My favorite author, Ray Bradbury, wrote that seeing that scene in 1925 imprinted it on his mind for the rest of his life. Chaney is my acting idol. I consciously emulate him. I hope and pray that he won't kick my ass when I get to heaven.

PC: Horror can be a pretty brutal genre but on the flipside of that, what would you say has been the most beautiful thing to have come out of your acting career? 

BO: What a very, very good question, Pat. The most beautiful thing to come out of being an actor has been, for me, the awareness that no matter how we hurt or what we feel, millions and millions of other humans have gone through the exact same emotions. We are not special. There is no new thing under the sun. I find that very liberating. Self-pity, it seems to me, is a devilishly seductive dead end. Better to read and study the nature of mankind, and to understand that if others have made it through, we can too. Studying human nature and human history invariably leads one to a less selfish and a more egalitarian view. 

PC: With the legendary Maria Olsen known as ‘The Hardest Working Woman in Horror’, what do you think when horror fans call you ‘The Hardest Working Man in Horror’? 

BO: With apologies to the great Maria Olsen (whom I have killed onscreen twice now; prompting Maria and I to agree that it is high time to turn the tables) and to the great James Brown, I will accept the mantle of 'Hardest Working Man in Horror' with gratitude. I do like to work. To be honest, Pat, I am rather boring in real life, so I like to get in as much reel life as I can. Work is not work if one makes a living doing what one loves.

PC: You are very personable with your fans and will quite happily stop to chat with them, has that lead to any funny stories arising from those incidences? 

BO: That's the most fun part of this business! The best moments are when children who have seen me as The Facebook Stalker on spot me in the grocery store or something and say "Mom, that's the man that stalked me on Facebook." Or the woman who wanted to know if my creepy ribcage was a prosthetic because "nobody could really look like that" (ironically, just after that I actually did have a prosthetic ribcage applied for a film, so she proved prophetic.)

PC: You also make an appearance in the fantasy film ‘Princess and the Pony’, how did it feel to step out of the horror world?

BO: Loved it! My character in that was a ridiculously over-the-top carnival owner whose moustache deserved a credit of its own (your readers can view a clip here.) He was my little nod to the Disney movie villains of my youth, who were evil but inept. You have no idea how much fun it is to act opposite both a child and a pony. That pony hated me. You know, the film has run on cable so much now that I get these mails from moms of 6 year-olds who say things like "My daughter watches you get run over by the pony all the time. I am really sick of seeing you get run over by that pony" or "my daughter loves to hate you." It's nice. 

PC: Where can your fans look forward to seeing you next? 

BO: Most immediately, I have two films coming out in the spring that I think have a chance of being wide releases and popular ones:
'Children Of Sorrow' from After Dark Films, in which I play a cult leader (watch the trailer here) and
'Circus Of The Dead' from Texas director Billy Pon, in which I play a necrophiliac clown (no trailer yet but here's a still.)

I'd invite your readers to drop by my IMDb page to see what is new. Right now I have about a dozen films in post and another dozen in development, including a demon project I'm excited about entitled 'Lord Bateman' from director Joe Hendrick. Follow me on social media, too. I follow back. (here's my Twitter  and my Facebook.)

PC: Once again Mr Oberst, thank you for visiting here at Curiosity of a Social Misfit and we look forward to seeing you on our screens again soon.

BO: The pleasure was all mine. On behalf of the social misfits of this world, I thank you for giving us a voice.

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