Your new movie 73
Minutes - in a few words, what is it about, and what can you tell
us about your character in it?
I wouldn’t call it so much of a “whodunnit”, but more of a
“who-is-it”. A lawyer gets a threatening call from my character who only gives her 73 minutes to deliver a file. This caller threatens her
family, and it’s up in the air as to what he’ll do with her after the
file is delivered.
What did you draw upon to
bring your character to life, and how much Mike Stanley can we find in him?
a big dude (6’5), so playing the baddie has been in my wheelhouse for
quite some time. I worked as a bouncer in my younger, dumber days, so
that’s definitely something to draw from. As for how much of *me* you
can find? I hope not a lot. This guy is horrible!
How did you get involved with the project in the
first place, and what drew you to it?
Simon interview - click here],
of course, had been working on this script around the time of the
pandemic. She told me she had a role for me, if I was interested. I
said, “absolutely!” We were all locked down and not working, so I was
on fire to do something. I also thought the concept was original and just
fantastic. I was also thrilled to be able to do something with her and
Aniela McGuinness [Aniela
McGuinness interview - click here] again.
What can you tell us about 73
Minutes' director Lou Simon, and what was working with her like?
love working with Lou. In this instance, it was all via phone calls, Zoom
meetings and even using Zoom, FaceTime and just our cell phones on this particular project. So, VERY
different. I had it easy… I just sat at home on the phone and followed along with the
script, for the most part.
Minutes wasn't your first time working with Lou Simon - so what
can you tell us about your previous collaboration, 3, and how did the two of
you first meet even?
met Lou when I met everyone else: The first day on set. Our mutual friend
Chris Ethridge had suggested me for the role of “It” in 3, so I sent
one or two auditions (I forget, now) and then she sent me the script. I
absolutely loved it. So many great twists and turns! Everyone was coming
up from Florida, so I was the odd man out. It was shooting in Chattanooga,
so I worked local since my father lives there. The cast and crew seemed
extremely tight knit. Darla Wrigley, our make up artist, also lived in the
area and I met her first to do some pre prosthetic work about a week out.
But, from day one, I was made to feel welcome. By day 2, I was part of the
family. Working with Todd Bruno was a joy. Except for my last day, he was
my only scene partner. We were spitting out 8-12 pages of dialogue a day.
Sure, it’s indie film, miserably hot and all of that, but it was worth
it. I’m extremely proud of all of our work. I only got to work with
Aniela her first day, my last day. I feel like Bill Schweikert, our DP,
had a wonderful, eye and Lou absolutely knew what she wanted as a director.
I respect the fact that Lou could just say to me, after a take, “I
dunno… I didn’t believe you.” I love that. We’d make suggestions,
then try the scene again. I jokingly call Lou my “favorite ex wife”.
She was the stand-in “wife” in our picture on 3, and I’ve called her
that since. I loved the group effort and camaraderie. After it was all
said and done, we enjoyed doing press and podcasts for the film. I was
blown away when I won Best Actor for 3
at HorrorHound Weekend in
Indianapolis. I made great friends and colleagues on that film. Actually,
I just had drinks with Alan Hanna (Producer of 3 and
73 Minutes) a week or
so ago. He was in my hometown on a project.
Back to 73
Minutes - as the film was shot under lockdown conditions, what was
the shoot actually like for you, and how did that influence your acting?
this was one of my easier shoots, because most of my character was on the
phone. Lou came into town and we shot one day for a handful of shots that
you’ll see in the film. One of my best friends and production partner,
Kelly Burke, shot those for her. I work in radio and I’ve also recorded
a few audiobooks for a company out of Indiana. So, focusing solely on
voiceover was pretty second nature, for me. In fact, we shot around the
radio station area. It’s up on a hill that overlooks the city, so no
traffic, at all. I had a lot of technical stuff to keep up with. I
recorded with an audio app on my phone, a lavaliere mic that was attached
to my computer, and a separate audio recorder that I had borrowed
from Kelly that I plugged a studio grade mic into. So, after we would
“film” (I put that in quotes because *I* wasn’t ‘on camera’), I
went through and labeled all of the different audio tracks so Lou could
keep up with what was what. Voice acting IS acting. So not really
different or a stretch in my opinion.
Any future projects you'd like to
I’m in a short film that’s in post production called Duel, with Jordan
White, who you may recognize from The Black Phone. It’s written and
produced by John Martin and directed by Nick Crockett. I also have a
really cool scene in the film Breakwater with Mena Suvari and Darren
Mann. I don’t really know the status of it. We shot it in October of
’21. They asked me to do some ADR on it almost 5-6 months ago, and
haven’t heard any more about it. Darren killed it on 1923, so I’m
surprised it’s not been scooped up. I play a fun, goofy uncle in the
kids movie Treasure Trackers that’ll be out around Halloween.
Lastly, I’m writing a family crime drama that I’d like to get made
within the next year. It’s something that’s been on my mind that I
want to do with my friend and acting teacher from LA, Duane Whitaker.
Mike in 3
What got you into acting in the first place, and
did you receive any formal training on the subject?
always a ham in high school. So I had an English teacher, Ann Gardner (I
just said hello to her via FaceTime, back in January. A friend ran into
her at the grocery store, and called me. I was thrilled!), who started a
drama class my junior year. She encouraged me to take it, so I did. We
ended up going to the State level for the One Act Play Festival
and I won Best Actor. So acting was in the back of my mind after that. I
was accepted to Milligan University on a Music Scholarship. But, I
switched to Humanities with an emphasis in acting after the first year or
so. I was heavily involved in the theatre while in college. Our professor,
Richard Major, was a working actor so we benefitted with him teaching an
“audition” class. It’s amazing to me how many actors never got that
in school. So I auditioned for an equity dinner theatre (they hardly exist
anymore, if at all) and swept floors and did children’s theatre for $20
a week. I eventually left school… I was bored… and auditioned for the
Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA. I worked there as an intern for a couple
of seasons. Jason George, of Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19
fame, was my roommate. I devoured their library of plays. I was constantly
reading when not working. I was eventually let go from there. Again, I got
bored. Yes, I was acting, but as an intern you tech and build things more
than act… that’s the nature of it, especially when you’re 22. I went
on to continue work in the theatre, but was cast in my first film, Box
of Moonlight, later that fall. I worked with Catherine Keener, Dermot
Mulroney, John Turturro and a young Sam Rockwell. That whole experience
just changed my world. I also took a job in the art department a few weeks
before I shot to get some set experience. It was grueling work, but a
valuable lesson. Tom Dicillo, the writer and director, is a social media
friend and we've sent each other messages from time to time. He was an
amazing mentor for a first time film actor. All of that said, I knew
nothing about the business. I had no idea how to market myself for the
film. Obviously, this was WAY before the film industry really hit in the
having both performed on stage and in front of a camera extensively, how do the two
compare, and which do you prefer, actually?
behind the scenes of Box of Moonlight
with Sam Rockwell and Tom DiCillo
is the actor’s medium. Film is the director’s. I love theatre. I loved
doing theatre, but unfortunately, I’m still a journey man actor. I’m
still carving a career for myself. I’d love to do the whole “do a
movie, then do a play” thing, but unfortunately I’m not Liev
Schreiber… yet. Haha. I love both versions of the craft. I get a high
performing live for an audience. Especially when it really hits. But, I
can say the same when you feel an audience moved by a film that you’re
in. The reality is, stage is not only more concentrated for the actor
(depending on the role), but audiences, especially American audiences,
don’t take to the theatre like they did just 15 years ago, or so. And I
partially blame current actors for that. Why do a play when you can make a
5 minute YouTube video? Or, more currently, a TikTok? I saw that change
coming when I lived in LA. Used to be, actors would join a house, pay
monthly dues, send out postcards to casting directors and hope they bring
you in for a read. It certainly still happens in the UK. But, sadly,
that’s not the norm anymore (domestically). Sure, it happens. But not
like it did. I feel somewhat guilty about that. I just don’t have the
time for rehearsals anymore. Shoot 2-3 days on a film? Great. Done and
done. 6 weeks of rehearsals and then 4 weekends of performances? Sadly, I
can’t do that right now.
you tell us about your filmwork prior to 73
it’s all over the place. I’m old! Haha. I took a break for a few
years, but I’ve been doing this for roughly 30 years. Lots and lots of
short films. Whether they’re competition or state festivals… horror,
drama. I did work on a Terry Zwigoff film in LA for a day. I did an
independent Christmas comedy and even shot an entire horror film that I
wrote that we filmed in Seligman, AZ. I have a whole trilogy mapped out
for that story. I’ve done quite a bit of TV. Most notable and recent, I
recurred as a Foreman for the Snell family on Ozark and was on the first
two episodes of the Hulu series Dopesick. Both were amazing experiences.
How would you
describe yourself as an actor, and some of your techniques to bring your
characters to life?
photo by Jeffrey Hass
It’s funny. I think how *I* would describe myself and how others would describe
me are very different. I like playing the second banana, the strong
supporting type. In theatre, I did a LOT of comedy. I love comedy, but
I’m rarely cast in those types of roles, professionally. I’ve done a
few of those roles, but not many. And most of the time, when cast in
comedy, it’s because the writer or director was a friend or knows me. My
goal, however, is to always be present. Listening to the other character
is so important. Reactions are genuine. One of the simplest ways I can
explain acting comes from a dear friend and mentor that I had in my
theatre days named Bill Counts. We lost him to cancer in 2011. He would
say, “The key is, how do you look like a guy talking?” That made so
much sense to me. How DO you stand there, looking like a regular person,
talking to someone? Reacting realistically to someone? Can acting be
taught? I think some. But in the end, I think you really have to have that
instinct. That’s how I approach it. Are you listening? Are you reacting?
Are you there? It’s not as easy as it sounds. Or, maybe it is? I could
go on and on about that… Haha.
Actors (and indeed actresses) who
I like those second bananas. I love character actors. The entire cast of Deadwood.
Brad Dourif is always a joy to watch. His portrayal of
Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is an absolute Master Class. Sydney
Sweeney is someone who I think gets overlooked because she’s so
incredibly beautiful, which is a shame and shouldn’t matter. Her
performance as the reluctant wife in Handmaids Tale just blew me away.
I’m also mad over Mia Goth and will watch anything she’s in. She’s
on another plane. Especially in Pearl and Infinity Pool. Barry Keoghan
broke my heart in Banshees of
Inisherin. His awkwardness was so genuine.
I’d probably throw the entire cast of 1883 in there, too. Sam Elliott?
Isabel May? Just phenomenal. I know I’m mentioning more modern, recently
working actors… I’ll always love Gene Hackman and those types of
character actors. What a great career and body of work.
Your favourite movies?
The Shawshank Redemption, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,
Amadeus (yes, I realize three of those films
are about a guy wanting to escape). I’m a Tarantino fan. Rodriguez… I
was a young teen in the 80s, so Spielberg, early Ridley Scott… I watch
all of the Universal
horror films around the fall of the year, every year.
I collect Universal
memorabilia and T shirts.
and of course, films you really deplore?
that tries too hard. Don’t tell me something is artistic when it’s
obviously not. Also, not a big fan of modern comedies. Too many of the
actors want to riff and the director lets the camera roll. It usually gets
too stupid and silly… and add dance sequences because they ran out of
ideas. Why does this happen so often? And, movies that are over 2 hours
that don’t need to be. 90 minutes to 115 is the sweet spot. I don’t
count Infinity War or Endgame… they took 10 years to build up to that.
They’re allowed. Same with Lord of the Rings.
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for the interview!