First of all, why don't you introduce yourself to those of us who
don't already know you?
My name is Michael Mili, I’m
a working actor, writer and producer. Ultimately,
I enjoy being a storyteller
who loves to write about the tiny details that comprise
our everyday lives, often drawing on my own life
experiences. I was born and raised
in the city of Detroit, Michigan to Greek Cypriot American parents.
Though my father was a factory worker he was also an
artist and sculptor like my grandfather Michael
Kashalos, a famous Cypriot Artist. My mom was a nurse but
was a writer and artist in her own right.
Acting, music and art lessons weren’t
hard to come by, even though my parents were far
from well off.
At a very young age, I had gotten cast on a couple of
commercials and did a couple of kids’
I attended Henry Ford College where I studied Graphic Arts
and Marketing, and the Detroit College of
Business. I worked for many years as a commercial artist,
but amongst other endeavors I was always
pursuing the film biz. It wasn’t till I was in my
forties that I received my first lead role in a feature film, a
hit man in Daniel Casey's The
Death of Michael Smith, which won the
Excellence in Filmmaking award
at the Slamdance film festival in Park City, Utah. I’ve
appeared in more than 30 films since, both small
and large since 1980.
Though I’ve worked as a writer & panel cartoonist
for many years, it wasn’t till 1990’s that I was
introduced to the world of screenwriting. With a little
training at from the Academy of Television and
Motion Picture Sciences, I penned my first screenplay with
my wife Miki and Johnny Anton called Five
Years in the Pit. The story memorialized my time at
Pharoh's Golden Cup, a Punk Rock Club & coffee
house I owned outside of Detroit. I have since written and
co-written, a couple dozen screenplays.
Finally, I teamed up with longtime friend and actor-writer
Rich Goteri. Together we've co-written several
screenplays including being hired by Frank Roche of Roche
Productions to co-produce and re-write his
story The Italy Boys. The Mafia action film is
currently in pre-production. I’m a
life time member of The
Michigan Actors Studio and Detroit Ensemble Theatre. I
also write and illustrate a weekly cartoon called
Tasso that can be found in various publications and the
You recently played the lead in Demon
Exorcism: The Devil Inside Maxwell Bastas - so what can you tell
us about that movie and your character in it?
I play a Greek American man named Maxwell Bastas who makes a living as
an actuary (a
analyzes statistics) whose very
organized life begins to unravel after his wife and son are tragically
killed. Max is pissed off at and blames God for letting
this happen to him. This opens the way for the
devil himself to take over Max’s soul
in a battle of Good versus Evil. Max’s
anger is so intense that it starts
to consume his soul as
he’s actually being tortured by Beelzebub himself,
plaguing Max to commit
suicide to end his torment. God intervenes when Max is hit
by a drunk driver whose wife comes to the
rescue by bringing a Priest, Minister and a Rabbi. The
holy trio try to kick the devil out of Max through an
exorcism. Thus the
battle for Max’s soul begins as he’s chased by demons and devils
leaving a path of
dead bodies in its path pointing to Max as the blame – real
light-hearted stuff, huh? lol!
you draw upon to bring Maxwell Bastas, a definitely less than perfect
character, to life?
The character of Max was a Greek American, so I had that covered, he
lost his wife and son so I
imagined how I would feel and reacted accordingly. Dealing
with daily conflicts is a normal part of life, if
you are normal. But, dealing with a horrific event,
especially if your screw is a little loose can be
devastating to yourself and everyone around you. I’ve
experienced many things in my life both good and
tragic; it was not hard to reach. For the several weeks we
shot I put myself in that crazy angry place,
and drew on those things. It was hard to shut off at the
end of the day, much to the chagrin of my family.
I was glad when we wrapped and I was done with Max.
How did you get involved with the
project in the first place, what drew you to it?
I had a small role in another one of Richard James films called Shadow
of Crime. He said he wrote a
film with the lead role specifically written for me. I was
very honored, read it and liked it. But, then I told
him I couldn’t do it because it
was a non-union project, a year later they made it union and I did the
You have to really admire Richard James and Melanie White’s
G. James and Melanie White interview - click here], to work,
strive and raise the money and go
the extra mile. It was humbling.
They are great Folks! A great creative team
who’ve produced together and
worked and saw their goal completed.
What can you tell us about the
shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
It was high paced but overall a fun and creative set. The most fun on
the set was working with Rich
Goteri (my boss in the story) we got to improvise and
discover our characters. We got to scream and yell
and fight. Not to mention Jamie Wheatly (Beelzebub) was a
riot to work with. FUN STUFF!
recently also been involved in the series Adventures in Speed Dating
in various functions - so do talk about that series for a bit?
I am co-producing the series through Crazy House and distributing
through Amazon. The story is about
an overly dramatic church lady named Claire, who has a
propensity for wearing too much cheap cologne
and she’s a bit of an airhead. That being said she’s
raking in the bucks and owns and operates a popular
speed dating service called Love Is in the Air. She fills
her pockets with lots of cash by selling hopes and
dreams to lonely people looking for love. Two of her
employees, Dan and Seton reluctantly smile and do
her bidding for a paycheck, while gossiping behind her
back. I play Plato, a drunken Greek bartender
serves the daters while lamenting about his sorrows
openly. John (Rich Goteri), the bell ringing referee,
can’t wait for the dates to be done so he can ring his
bell and stop the misguided match-ups that Claire
has brought together. An ex-con sanitation engineer, a
speech impaired school teacher, a sex crazed
speed dating addict and
a scarred mama’s boy are just a few of the characters that make this
did the show come into being in the first place, and where is it heading
It was born out of the Michigan Actors Studio and the brainchild
of Rich Goteri and Rachel Bellack, who
brought me in as a co-producer and writer. As
far as where it’s heading I’m not really sure where it will
lead to, though I remain optimistic. I am very excited
about the new markets like Amazon, Netflix,
Google and other streaming VOD.
Do talk about your partner on Adventures in Speed
Dating, Richard Goteri, for a bit, and what's your collaboration like?
We have been writing together for years. Rich is more like family then
a writing partner, even our wives
and families are friends. We have written a boatload of
scripts together. When we write, it
isn’t like we
are two separate people, we become one mind. Not to
mention we have worked in many films together.
future projects you'd like to share?
We have been contracted by director Jason Hull [Jason
Hull interview - click here] to co-write the feature
film Krampus 2 and we are in
development for another film called Nickel and Dimed to Death. We are also about to start
on a film called The Italy Boys, that we are co-producing
and writing with the talented Frank
Roche. The mafia epic is sure to make some noise.
Let's go back to
the beginnings of your career: What got you into acting in the first
place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
I had done a couple of commercials and a role in a TV movie in 1980 and
then I stopped for a while. I
went to school for graphics and opened a couple of
businesses. I dabbled in and out of the business
gathering credits along the way until the year 2000 when I
worked on the HBO movie 61* directed by
Billy Crystal. Since then I have been working steadily in
the industry. My training was and is still with
Detroit Ensemble Theatre and the Michigan Actors Studio.
you still remember your first time in front of a camera, and what was that
Nyaaaa! It was for a kids’ show and I was only six and the star, a
drunken clown verbally abused and
tried to choke me. Lol! Since
then I’m not a fan of clowns. I kind of don’t
blame the poor clown; after all I asked
him on live television why he smelled like my uncle's liquor cabinet… He
snapped! It was also the first
time that I got fired.
I believe you played your first lead in
The Death of Michael Smith - so obviously you have to talk about
that movie and your character in it for a bit!
It was absolute honor to play the role of Michael Smith. The director
Daniel Casey who’s
his young years, first came to me with his script about
three men with the same name whose life
intersect. The part I played was a hitman with issues of
guilt and remorse. At first I thought Dan was
asking me to gather some of my acting friends who look
like hitmen but much to my surprise he wanted
me to play the role. He directed me with a sense of
realism not as a Hollywood hitman but more
realistic. I used people from my own life that lived in
that world and was able to show the glib nature of
their lives. The film went on to win numerous awards
including Slamdance in 2006. Unfortunately,
awards don’t get distribution.
acting, you have also written quite a few screenplays, right? So what can
you tell us about those, and your approach to writing?
You write, you option and hopefully you produce. When Rich and I write
we try to method write, trying to
get into the characters heads while we create them and the
world they live in. That means using the
words we write and the characters to their fullest extent
to present a good story. Deepening every
character, scene and making it as real and interesting as
other past films of yours you'd like to talk about?
It was great working in Tim Crockett’s Intent
with Eric Roberts due out this year. It was great to
several scenes with Eric and Brett Rice of We Are Marshal
and Forrest Gump. I loved working with Fifty
Cent in the movie Setup, we trained half the day for an
articulate fight scene that after the editing was
about 30 seconds. He was a very cool guy to all of us. My
favorite experience on set was To Kill an
Irishman – with
a huge cast of characters. I was hired as a featured extra and bumped up
to a principal
role and back to a floating head… But I got to spend
fourteen hours with Christopher Walken. He was
great, what a blast!
also written a novel, right? So what can you tell us acout that one, and
how does writing a novel compare to writing for the screen?
Writing a novel was in some ways a lot harder than writing a
screenplay, but allowed me much more
freedom to delve deep into my past. A script generally has
three acts and is confined to 95 to 105 pages,
leaving you at the mercy of the producers, investors or
director who want to change the story. Whereas
writing a novel you have the freedom to tell more of the
story in much more detail only at the mercy of
your publisher and/or editor. For obvious reasons, my
Money had to be listed as
fiction; as I drew
on my own struggles and life experiences, providing the reader a snapshot
of my life in
a long forgotten time gone by. I first wrote Cigarette
Money as a
feature-screenplay describing a bad thing I saw
when hustling cigarettes to a bunch of wise guys. After
optioning it a couple of times, I decided to keep it
and possibly produce it myself. So in 2012 on the advice
of an industry insider, I decided to expand the
story into a novel.
I was able to turn my
script into a poignant mid-1960’s
coming of age story which chronicles the life of a
young boy from Detroit named Michael Paphos, and his
with Detroit’s underworld. The
story centers around Michael and his Uncle Gus' Greektown
restaurant called The Grecian. During that
wondrous but turbulent decade, the restaurant was known as
the “best of the best” of what Detroit had to
offer. It was a hangout for movie stars, politicians, and
athletes. It was a stopover for
“The Rat Pack”
along with the “who’s who” of Hollywood royalty. Oh
yeah, let’s not forget the infamous backroom, with
its private top act shows. Not to mention, it was a
gamblers paradise; with its well hidden poker rooms,
crap tables and roulette wheels. Add a little off track
and sports betting and you've got yourself a mini
Las Vegas, Greco-Roman Style. It was a well-kept secret,
because even the cops, judges and politicians
liked to play there on their nights off. On one night,
Michael literally bumps into mob boss Dominick
Parazano, marking the beginning of an unlikely friendship
that lasted for years. The story follows young
Michael’s introduction into Detroit’s underworld,
where he witnesses some life altering events.
At Dom’s request Michael and his
friends Johnny & Gino start selling cigarettes to the boys in the
backroom and start raking in the cash. At the same time,
Michael’s home and school lives begin to clash
with his life as a would-be mafia cadet. After witnessing
a horrific murder, that ultimately occurred to
save his life, Michael and his friends get caught up in a
situation that they never saw coming. Plus, they
had to deal with a maniac trying to kill him, a
psychopathic teacher and his neighborhood gone mad after
being destroyed by a
race riot. Dominick tries to discourage Michael’s adoration of the wise
while watching that Michael doesn't get burned, earning a
little “Cigarette Money” - available
in paperback and e-book at Amazon. In late 2014 the first
graphic novel instalment of Cigarette Money will
hit the shelves.
would you describe yourself as a writer and as an actor?
As a writer and as an actor I try to make it as real as possible, I try
not to act, but portray. As a writer I
create for the director, as an actor I try and bend and be
molded to fulfill the director’s
vision of the
actors, writers who inspire you?
Filmmakers - of course Scorsese & Tarantino, I love character
actors: Ray Winston, Mark Stong, Alfred
Molina, Stellan Skarsgard, Helen Bonham Carter, Ron
Pearlman, Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke,
Christopher Walken, Paul Giamatti, Holly Hunter, Stanley
Tucci and Robert Downey Jr.
Your favourite movies?
Unbreakable, Sexy Beast, Raiders of the Lost Ark,
The Godfather, Reservoir
Goodfellas, Die Hard, Grandma’s Boy, Pulp
and of course, films you really deplore?
I can’t stand boring … when nothing is happening, the camera needs to
hard to handle long and
boring with no depth. Though they are needed, I am getting
a little tired of political correctness and
cause related films. Yes,
I support anyone with a proper message for their cause, plight or need. It’s
that the best way to get an important message out is
through the media. You go to school, work, church
and other originations or groups where you talk about the
issues at hand. You talk about the needs of
others and things that you can do for your community and
society to make it a better world. That’s great ... but sometimes, I just want to laugh, cry, have
the shit scared out of me or just be mindlessly
entertained for two hours and forget about the real world.
That’s what going to the theatre and
were supposed to be about; escaping from the real world
and fly with Superman, cause havoc and
mayhem with Krampus or pull off a heist with some
Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1102023/
My novel: http://www.amazon.com/Michael-Mili/e/B00B5H4TD6/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
Anything else you are dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Keep watching for new content from Rich and I and Crazy House Films. We’ve
developing Cigarette Money for episodic television and
have been talking to a couple of
networks. Keep your fingers crossed. Hopefully everyone
will be able to laugh, be scared or just
be entertained as well.