2006 interview with actor Stephen Wozniak of the brutal true-crime feature film CHAOS, re-posted on HORRORSOCIETY.COM.
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Take a look to learn more about Stephen, his work and experience on and off the set of CHAOS.
1. Q: "I just finished watching one of your latest movies, CHAOS, loosely based on the murders of notorious serial killer Pee Wee Gaskins. In it, you play 'Frankie,' the title character's sociopathic left-hand man in crime. Was it difficult to get into this character? How did you manage to master the more evil aspects of this character so well?"
A: That's an interesting question. I have played a number of what audiences would call 'bad guys.' They seem evil and do evil things, but they don't necessarily interpret it that way. In fact, they often feel that their deeds, or even simpler daily acts, are necessary and that they are right, in the larger sense of the word. To answer your question more directly, it does take time to get into character. I researched methamphetamine users - a drug the entire CHAOS gang was very likely using - and their habits and lifestyles. I also know first-hand about other related drug use, although I am pretty straight-edge in my real life and have been for years. Because the film takes place over a short period of time, it is better to focus on character habits and motivation, than anything else. 'Frankie' is someone who does not connect well to people and when he does, it is volatile. I thought about those things and my own past experiences, isolated from human contact. You use all kinds of stuff: anger from an old fight, grief from loss, you-name-it. You wear the clothes of the person you are playing - in my case, greasy cargo pants, an old Member's Only jacket and fucked-up boots - and you begin to sit where they sit, stand how they stand and do what they do. It is a building process that gets driven by the scene or the duty at hand.
2. Q: "Now, I was only able to see the R-rated version of CHAOS, which is actually officially unrated. What can people expect to see that's different in the more controversial Director's Cut?"
A: The Director's Cut does reveal the more gruesome aspects of the film. Short of giving away exactly what those extra minutes of footage contain, I will say that it is worth the exposure for fans who enjoy that kind of, well, 'strong,' material. It is pretty realistic and gritty stuff. I don't think the cuts dramatically change the overall movie themes, but certainly change the impression it leaves you with when you have finished seeing it. This is not always the case. My friend, director Nick Palumbo, directed a feature entitled MURDER SET PIECES, which is such a screwed up NC-17 horror film. There is a great deal of gore and murder that happens in that film. As an Rated-R film, MURDER SET PIECES loses a great deal of important plot. This, in fact, happened when Lion's Gate released Nick's film on DVD recently. They cut over 22 minutes of footage. It is a shame, really. I understand that they want to sell more copies in more mainstream markets, but it alters the fabric of such a film almost beyond recognition. Funny enough, I just heard about how the MPAA board is seeking to legitimize the NC-17 rating so that more audiences will see these unusual films. I only wish that happened a few years ago.
3. Q: "I've read about all sorts of mishaps that happened to a lot of the people involved in the making of this movie. Everything from cars exploding to actual murder. Could you tell us a little about that?"
A: Strangely, a lot of what you mention is true. One of the producers owns a very nice foreign sports car, among his other luxury vehicles. One day it caught entirely on fire, I think, shortly after the film picture-wrapped. Honestly, I don't know what kind of omen that indicates, but it scared more than a few people working on the film. I did hear that it left some vaguely Satanic image burned into the hood of the car. Who knows. Another producer - and this information is available publicly, so I am not divulging anything too controversial or liable-driven - had beaten his girlfriend to death, I understand. He now is in prison, of course. My friend and lead actor, Kevin Gage, who played 'Chaos,' was also imprisoned federally for selling pot, which is ludicrous in my opinion. He was able to do so legally in San Francisco for AIDS and cancer clinics. Somehow, U.S. Federal agents got involved and he was sentenced to 3+ years, but served like under 2 years. A waste of time and tax money. Plus, that meant two years without Kevin Gage in movies, which is a loss, since he's so great. There are other stories that are pretty freaky too, but luckily most of us are alive and well.
4. Q:"I also read that director David Defalco freaked out his fellow gym club members and was forced to find a new gym to work out at in Los Angeles, where he lives. Why were people so intimidated by him?"
A: I was told the same thing from DeFalco. I'm sure he got upset with someone and his muscular appearance scared that someone. He can be a mean looking dude. I understand somebody wanted to 'cut in,' as the gym lingo goes, and he wasn't havin' it. He's actually a pretty nice guy, despite these stories that emerge. But he's also human and gets upset like we all do. It comes out in different ways for everyone.
5. Q:"Did the shocking content in this movie have any personal affect on you? Were you haunted at all from the horrible scenes you had to act out?"
A: Yeah, the content is pretty shocking and it is more shocking seeing it live and performing it. The reactions of the victim girls were pretty realistic too, so it was a little strange. We ultimately had a hug-and-kiss party after every heavy scene to reassure the girls that we weren't such awful people. They caught on fast though and even one-upped us, acting pretty tough between some takes. Good sports for sure.
6. Q: "The Gaskins character, 'Eddie 'Chaos' Cooper,' wasn't the only scary guy in this movie. You thoroughly creeped me out too. How were you so damn convincing?"
A: Well thanks for that, I guess! Of course, that's one of the points of my work in that film: to be this relatively creepy guy, so if I succeeded on any level there, I certainly take it as a compliment. I wonder how convincing I really was. I tried not to try, as it were. While actors work a lot on character - and I certainly do that - you have to slither through it naturally after a while, so audiences believe it. I also got some good feedback from the people I work with, which helped me on the day, as they say.
7. Q: "Out of all of your films, which role was the most difficult to portray?"
A: I'd say 'Frankie' was one of them for sure. Between the actual playing of him and the ice-cold, late-nights of shooting, it took a little bit out of me for certain. I also played 'Jesus' in a TV special documentary called BEYOND THE DAVINCI CODE. Dying savior figures can be challenging roles to play. Everyone worked very hard on that project and the results were worth it. Gorgeously shot and well-received, it was nominated for two primetime national Emmy Awards. So, we were pretty happy with that.
8. Q:"You were on the list of creative people, actors and celebrities who award-winning director and artist Steve Balderson had in his documentary movie, PHONE SEX. You were asked to join in on the discussion on the definition of sexy. What do you find unbearably sexy?"
A: There were so many great answers in that film. Many were funny and dead-on. I almost wish I hadn't thought mine out and just spit it out instead. Anyhow - and I'm paraphrasing here - sexy, I said, is how you hold it and that it is also in the eye of the beholder. It is pretty subjective stuff, which is why Balderson's work is so interesting. The movie is a simple juxtaposition of some the imagery alluded to in the responses, coupled with the responses themselves. Spare but truly interesting. I think Steve and I will work together on something else too in the future.
9. Q: "Acting isn't your only forté. You also have been dipping your hands into directing. Could you tell us a little about that?"
A: Yeah, that's true. I've also done some screenwriting too, including a biopic on David Bowie, in which I plan to play Bowie. But I've written and directed a handful of music videos, most recently one for this funky Russian solo eletronica/dance musician named Eugene Yes! I did another music video last year for a band called Celebutante, a splinter group of the 80's New Wave band Berlin. My buddy Mitch is the ringleader of that project and is a super talented guy. I heard a few tracks when he was mixing them down and kinda' just saw the video in my head as I heard it. That's a testament to his work, which is pretty visual stuff to me. I like the way it turned out. Next, I will be directing a music video for the ska band, Fishbone. They are a pretty kinetic bunch, so it should be a blast when it happens.
10. Q:"Finally, my favorite question of all, "What's your favorite horror movie and why?"
A: Hmmmm. Soooo many to choose from. I'd say it is a tie between William Friedkin's THE EXORCIST, John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN and David Cronenberg's DEAD RINGERS, even though that last choice is really a psychological thriller. All of those films are rooted in here-and-now circumstances, even THE EXORCIST. You could easily interpret THE EXORCIST in ways that describe the demonic possession scenes as sickness - spiritual or otherwise - sin, hurt, loss-of-faith, victimization, retaliation, you-name-it. In fact, many of those issues are offered to describe the horrible things that happen throughout that story before the supernatural aspects inevitably strike and are identified as such. HALLOWEEN was made in the pleasant suburb in Pasadena, CA, like many, many others. It seems like it could have happened anywhere and everywhere, despite that the Michael Myers character launched a ridiculous group of imitator boogeyman in horror movies that followed, which were far less believable. DEAD RINGERS is just a great film. Period. You have to see it in order to get into those twin doctors' skins. And when you do, you can't wait to get out. Brilliant, top-of-the-line Cronenberg. I hope to work with that guy some day. Him and David Fincher.
11. Q: "So what's it like being the founder of the world-renowned home computer company, Apple Computers?"
A: You're pretty funny. That was a nice one to break up the fine litany of spooky film questions that I have to answer, isn't it? Just kidding. Trying to counter your duly-needed joke.
12. Q: "Where can we find you in the near future?"
A: I will be likely working on a Civil War film later in the year with a friend of mine. It is a pretty dark story of a small band of bandits who have very good reason for what they do, despite the general consensus then and now, which considered them heathens, outlaws and murderers. That and a few other projects. As dorky as it sounds, you can always check my website, www.stephenwozniak.com, to find out what's goin' on. Information gets there about what I'm doing and sometimes what I am about to do. You never know what you'll find.