The second of our set visit interviews conducted for director Chad Ferrin’s new film, The Chair, is here, and it’s with two of the genre’s favorites: Ezra Buzzington and Bill Oberst, Jr. Read on for the skinny!
Dread Central: Tell us a little bit about The Chair and how you guys came on to the project.
Ezra Buzzington: I signed up for The Chair the second I was told that Chad Ferrin was directing. I think Chad’s way ahead of his time and, if left to his own devices, will help reinvigorate and, possibly, redefine modern day horror. And, while The Chair doesn’t strike me as your standard horror fare, it has, without a doubt, horrific elements. It’s more of a surreal, prison psycho-drama in my book. It’s fucking crazy is what it is. It’ll make Someone’s Knocking at the Door look like “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
Related Story: Exclusive: Director Chad Ferrin Talks The Chair & Debuts New Images
Bill Oberst, Jr.: The Chair is a dark tale of Death Row based on the graphic novel from Peter Simeti and Alterna Comics. Peter wrote me last year that he was planning a screen adaptation and was thinking of me for The Warden. I ordered the comic, and I tell you, I only had to pull it out of the envelope before I was saying, “Yes!” The Warden is a great role; I’m lucky to have the opportunity.
DC: Ezra, how much was on the page for Tudley, and how much was enhanced? He seems to be fervently religious and also just plain insane… how do you see him from the inside out?
EB: Tudley has, pretty much, only one line that he’s constantly repeating. While I was given free rein to add whatever I wanted in terms of text, which is a thrill any good improv actor lives for, I was insistent on keeping true to the line as written. As you’ll eventually see in the film, there’s a very specific reason for that line being said over and over again by my character. I did add a few things here and there once I felt it wouldn’t take away from the true text. But, for the most part, Tudley’s a man of a few dozen well-chosen words. Given that limited text, playing Tudley was a challenge.
There certainly wasn’t much I could do in terms of research so I decided to let the character find himself (and me) on set. A risky move, perhaps, but, when it pays off, it pays off in spades. Many, many discoveries came out of gut-driven instinctual moments while playing out the scenes., especially the ones with Roddy [Piper]. Tudley’s behavior, as you see it in the film, is a direct result of playing off what he was doing. He was the top. He took the lead, and I followed it in the most logical and emotionally connected way I could. And what culminated was a huge surprise to all of us. But it’s appropriate and, I hope, intriguing. I know it’ll be disturbing. Is Tudley religious? He has faith, certainly. Faith in his belief that he knows more than anybody else about what’s going on in the prison. Faith that it will all work out. Faith that he’s where he’s supposed to be, terrible as it is. Is he right about this? We’ll see. Crazy? No. Not crazy. Deluded. Afraid. Lonely, certainly. But not crazy.
DC: Bill, I remember when you were a guest on our show (“Dread Central Live”) and you were talking about all that you put into each character – all the backstory you can, traits, etc. So how much was on the page for The Warden, and how much was enhanced?
BOJ: A lot was on the page. Those who have read The Chair comic know that it is a dual role, and the two are very distinct. I drew much from the comic. What director Chad Ferrin helped me to do was to find the bridge between these two disparate visions of the same person. Chad was crucial to making it work.
DC: The first time I went to the set, I couldn’t get hold of anyone… so I had to leave without talking to you two guys on-site. It was a scary neighborhood! I’m assuming the set inside was just as scary? Was it all a set to look like a prison, and what was “The Chair” like? Do you have a fun story from set or a favorite scene you can talk about?
BOJ: What?! You should have come to a window and screamed (which would not have been out of place in the neighborhood). The inside of our sound stage was moody — there was a dank Death Row hallway and an execution room dominated by an oversized Gothic electric chair. As far as scenes go, I did one with Roddy Piper as a prison guard which was brief and quiet, but Roddy’s screen presence is so powerful that he made it intense. I felt a good chemistry. I did not tell him that I still have his wrestling action figure, although I’m sure it would not be the first time he’s heard that.
EB: Really? Scary? Hmm. You know that the studio we shot on is backed by “Ezra Street,” right? How could that be scary? Sorry you couldn’t get hold of anyone. Can’t imagine why. We were all around. My stalker even managed a visit. Briefly. The set inside was definitely creepy. It’s a prison after all. It was also stinky. The art department (which did a bang-up job) would be spray painting the next setup sometimes while we were shooting scenes 20 feet away. But, hey, what’s a little brain damage when you’re creating art, right? The bloody scenes were, without a doubt, crazy disturbing. There are some great kills in this movie. Things you’d never expect. And some other things that are so surreal you’ll be left with your jaw hanging open.
The prison cells were built by production and looked great. Prisons are singularly horrifying in and of themselves, and the art department succeeded in recreating that vibe. I’m choosing not to describe The Chair itself. I’ll leave that to more producorial responsibilities. And the most fun scene is one that I, unfortunately, can’t talk about because it’s a spoiler. But suffice to say that my chiropractor is grateful for the extra work he’s getting, and I’m buying stock in Arnica.
DC: The producers sent me the script so I know a little. Tudley seems really attached to that one phrase he says over and over! Was it kind of fun to be such an irritating character?
EB: I often play characters that are like gnats in your ear. They’re fun because you need to find a way in and justify their annoying behavior. I did that with Tudley by realizing that with this one line he keeps repeating and repeating, he’s actually trying to warn Sullivan. So he’s doing a good thing. It’s just that he’s going about it wrong. Later he uses the line to try and comfort himself when things are getting bad. He also uses it as an accusation of the prison guards. There’s a lot of color there. I hope I managed to bring the various shades out. And that they’ll read. You never know til you see it, of course, but Chad seemed happy. And ultimately, that’s all that matters.
DC: You have both done a lot of horror movies – please explain what fans of the genre can look forward to in regard to The Chair.
EB: Judging by only what I’ve seen and not having been on set for the entire shoot, but knowing what Chad can deliver, I’d say they can look forward to being stunned, annoyed, thrilled, pissed, disgusted, scared, perplexed, and, probably, turned on. Which will annoy, thrill, anger, disgust, scare, and perplex them. So. Good luck.
BOJ: The movie is in post-production now so I’d anticipate a 2016 debut. Thanks for the chat, Staci! If I may, I’d like to invite folks to visit my IMDb page and say hello on the message board there; I read all, and I respond. The audience is my boss, and I always like to know what the boss is thinking.
Richard Sullivan (Timothy Muskatell) is an innocent man struggling to escape his fate on Death Row. Witnessing the murders of his fellow inmates at the hands of the prison’s sadistic and psychotic Warden (Oberst) and his crew of guards, Sullivan decides that the only way to survive is to fight back. With the body count rising, the Warden and his guards close in on Sullivan. As he matches the brutality occurring in the prison, Sullivan starts to lose his grip on reality. Memories of the childhood abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother combine with vivid hallucinations which push him to the very edge, forcing him to question his sanity at every turn.
For more information and updates, visit the official The Chair website and follow the film on Twitter @theCHAIRhorror or on Facebook.
The post Exclusive: Ezra Buzzington and Bill Oberst Jr. Talk The Chair appeared first on Dread Central.
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