Last week, Tyler Mane, who was Sabretooth in the first X-Men movie and a bunch of other big guys in a bunch of other cool movies, asked me to meet him at Voodoo Doughnuts for an interview. Since Voodoo Doughnuts doesn't actually have anywhere to sit down, we ducked into a nearby Italian restaurant (Via Tribunali, who were very accommodating of me blitzing them with an approximately 10-foot-tall film star and his entourage brandishing bacon maple bars) where they promptly ordered a meat platter and a carafe of wine. So already this was the most surreal interview of my admittedly brief interviewing career.
Mane is in town to promote Compound Fracture, which screens tonight at 6:30 at the Hollywood, and which is a movie I did not give... a great review to. I stand by that review, mainly because my duty is to give you guys the right expectations for a film, and getting chummy with the folks behind it is at most a fringe benefit. Compound Fracture is a low-budget horror movie, so it is what it is. That said, after talking with Mane and his co-writer/wife Renae Geerlings—both of whom will be in attendance at tonight's screening—I can honestly say that this low-budget horror movie was a labor of love—and I feel like those kinds of movies are often worth supporting, despite their flaws. While none of that changes the overall nature of the film, or my review, I certainly appreciate the time they've taken to coax this thing into the world.
Now then. Let's talk about flammable pee.
MERCURY: It looks like you shot Compound Fracture in a pretty remote place?
MANE: We were just outside of LA. My whole career, I came from Canada to be in the film business, and when you get the role they ship you out, so you're going everywhere but [Hollywood]. They ship you back to Canada, the ship you to wherever. For our first picture, we said we're going to do it in California and we picked a place that was like 10 minutes from the house.
It didn't look like that, it looked pretty far out there.
GEERLINGS: It was actually written to be a house out in the woods, and when we started location scouting in LA, what with the fires and the fire codes and costs of that and insurance, we were quickly like, "Yeah, maybe that's not the best idea." So we actually happened to run across this house that had never been used in a film ever before on a piece of land that had several locations [we could use]—like six locations, and thousands of acres. We actually had to rewrite the script a bit to work that out, but the house became a character on its own.
So you guys both worked on the script?
MANE: Yeah, Renae mainly. We did four page-one rewrites, over a year and a half, to get it the way she wanted. Renae's background is a comic book editor, she was editor in chief at Top Cow and worked at Radical [Publishing].
GEERLINGS: I had someone ask me recently, "What was it like writing this genre bender?" and I was like "We didn't set out to write a genre bender." We just wanted to write a story that hopefully doesn't have any holes. I personally prefer character driven movies. That was the most difficult thing—to do something very contained, to have a very small cast, but still have a horror movie. Which is difficult, because when you want to have a body count and you only have, say, 10 characters, how do you make that work? I said that writing this script was a little bit like writing a haiku. You can't just start with "the sky is the limit", it was mainly one location, very small cast, very character driven.
On the genre elements, were you specifically interested in Norse mythology or were you just looking for something that hadn't been done much?
GEERLINGS: Originally, we started looking at voodoo. The original story was about was a guy who owned a compound down in Tennessee or Mississippi. So naturally we gravitated to voodoo magic. But because [the main character's father] is paranoid and because he's going crazy I wanted it to be more of an amalgamation of a lot of things. So it doesn't look like he's, you know, crazy like a fox. He's just throwing a bunch of supernatural shit at the wall. And when I was trying to come up with a family name and figure out where Tyler would come from, well, he's a Viking really. He should be doing tons of movies about berserkers.
Voodoo Priest would have been harder to pull off, yeah.
MANE: Little bit.
GEERLINGS: But there's a little bit of everything in there. There's Korean spirit wards, Chinese wards, some Wicca stuff and there is some voodoo stuff in there.
MANE: That house was completely empty. We took it over and there was nothing in there. Our poor production designer! There are some photos from behind the scenes where he's just crashed out while we're shooting. They would stay up all night dressing a room, and we'd film while they were setting up another room. It was a crazy process, there were 18 filming days.
So I assumed there was going to be a lot of punching and throwing people through windows in this, but you actually have a lot of acting to do in this. Was that a fun change of pace?
MANE: It was a great change of pace. I've always wanted to do that, you know? That's a reason why I set up Mane Entertainment, and start my own projects. I wanted to show what I can do and to have that range. We just got to writing and creating these characters and ended up there.
GEERLINGS: One of the things, as Tyler's business partner and wife, over the years I've seen him prep for auditions, and I have seen him tape for things where his size ended up kind of precluding him from being able to do it because he has a specific look. It's hard for somebody that tall to be cast in a leading role. That was the main thing I wanted to do, was to showcase what I know he can do. And to that end, to make him look like more of an average height, the rule on the film was you had to be 5'9" or taller. I was the shortest person on the film and I'm 5'9".
I have to ask, did your wrestling career prepare you for a career in acting?
MANE: Oh, totally. I was wrestling for 11-and-a-half years, I started my career here in Portland. Christmas Day '86, I was 18 years old. It's kind of nice to come full circle and come back here with the film. I want to go see where we used to stay, the Bomber Motel, see if it's still there in Beaverton. So I'm gonna go by and check that out. But yeah, it's definitely prepared me. I've done a lot of physical roles in my career, from Sabertooth to Ajax in Troy to having Rob Zombie let me do what I want and know that it's gonna be safe in the Halloween movies, and have the ability to do that physicality and be in control.
So you could do all the stunts and stuff in Halloween?
MANE: I draw the line at falling off of buildings and getting lit on fire. I don't like that. So in Joe Dirt they had another guy do that. I'm the guy at the oil rig who pees on a fire and gets burned up.
You don't want to do that yourself, no.
MANE: That was some pretty toxic pee, too.
So they actually had a rig that shot out fake flammable pee?
MANE: Yeah, they had a guy and they covered him in fire retardant gel and lit him on fire and run around.
So I imagine Rob Zombie was pretty fun to work with after that?
MANE: Rob is amazing. With him being an artist himself, he understands its best to let an artist do what they came to the table with, and then chanel it if you have to, instead of trying to say "get inside that box and do what I want you to do."
So you had some freedom then?
MANE: Oh yeah, I would come to work in the morning and be like, "Okay, Rob, what are we doing today?" [And he'd say] "Okay, we're going to kill somebody this way, this way, this way, how do you want to do it?" He knew I had the expertise, and we'd talk it through and figure out what the best way for cameras and we'd just go in and shoot it.
Was that your approach for Compound Fracture? Or did you have specific shots in mind?
MANE: You know, in doing indie films like this, you've got it laid out but you're flying by the seat of your pants. Thank god for Derek Mears, he was Jason in Friday the 13th, he is a fantastic actor and a fantastic stage fighter. So we just got in there, and we had maybe four hours to shoot that. So we were like, "What do you want to do, what's going to look cool?" And we came up with the fight scene. We would have loved to have had a couple of days to work through it, but when you're running out of time you just do what you gotta do.
GEERLINGS: The other thing is with an 18-day shoot and budget restraints and a house that your renting, you don't have a lot of options to break a bunch of crap and then reset to one and bring in the next table. You've got one table. so when you break it, you're done. We had to film a lot of the movie in sequence. What's really cool for the Portland show on Sunday is that Derek is going to be there. What a lot of people don't know is that he looks really mean but he's one of the funniest people you will ever meet. He's a seasoned improv actor and comedian.
MANE: That's actually how he started his career. He was a tall skinny kid, and he moved to LA to be a comedian. And they said "you put on some size, you can make a lot of money being the bad guy."
So this movie tour, was that inspired by comic conventions at all?
GEERLINGS: I would say it's a duel thing. I did 15 years of comic conventions, and then when Tyler got into Halloween, we started doing horror conventions. And that's a completely different world. The people in the horror world, from the actors to the fans, are so wonderful and loving and supportive. It's kind of ironic, because these are the people get torn apart on screen, but they're wonderful in person. I think that was a part of what made us really excited about taking this movie on tour.
MANE: And someone from the tour is going to win a walk-on role, where I kill them in the [next] movie, and we've also got my Halloween jumpsuit and props from the movie, screen-worn clothing from the movie, we're trying to create an experience for the fans—meet us, have fun with us, see what we're all about, and possibly get a chance to die in a movie. And who doesn't want to get killed in a movie, right?