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Vampiro talks ‘Nail in the Coffin’ film, WCW, AEW, Chris Jericho (Interview)

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Vampiro (Ian Hodgkinson) - Art by The Natural Aristocrat® - Photo Credit: Courtesy of Epic Pictures / Millennial PR
Art by The Natural Aristocrat® - Photo Credit: Courtesy of Epic Pictures / Millennial PR

Vampiro & Director Michael Paszt spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about new documentary ‘Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro’, the destructiveness of WCW’s backstage & lifestyle, not being fond of AEW, not caring if Chris Jericho or anyone else dislikes him, Mike Awesome being his friend, and being an avid gamer.

Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro illustrates the visual of a man who sacrificed his body to the fans, to the wrestling business, one brush of face paint at a time. Vampiro is both passionate about being a pro-wrestler and yet simultaneously wishes he could leave it all behind. But he must get back in the ring one more time, just to see if he can… The following interview reveals the journey of Vampiro, real name Ian Hodgkinson, and his thoughts on wrestling today.

Vampiro (Ian Hodgkinson) - Art by The Natural Aristocrat® - Photo Credit: Courtesy of Epic Pictures / Millennial PR

Vampiro (Ian Hodgkinson) – Art by The Natural Aristocrat® – Photo Credit: Courtesy of Epic Pictures / Millennial PR

The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: In Nail in the Coffin, one of the moments that stood out to me was your remarks (@ 20:07 in the film) on what appeared to be Jeff Jarrett. You commented, “I’ve been fighting with that guy my whole career. The reason I didn’t break in the United States & become the ‘MacDaddy Mega Champion’ is because he said I wasn’t famous enough. He ruined my career in the United States.’ I was surprised, considering Jarrett speaks highly of you in the film. Were you specifically naming Jarrett there?

Vampiro (Ian Hodgkinson): Yeah, it’s a true story but I’m not blaming Jeff, I’m naming Jeff. Because it’s the truth of what happened, and if I’m asked about that part of my career, I can only answer it honestly. I’m not doing it to start a feud. Jeff and I are very, very, very good friends. I don’t care about wrestling gossip so that’s not what that was about. But did it happen that way? Yes, it did.

Did you ever have a chance to speak to Mike Awesome after that traumatic injury shown in Nail in the Coffin? I know he’s since sadly passed away in tragic fashion. I understand you feel in many ways that neck injury was a turning point of your career. Steve Austin has commented before that it was important to him that Owen Hart reach out after that sit-down piledriver gone wrong, so I was curious if you felt the same at the time?

There was nothing really to talk about, it was an accident. I’d been friends with Mike Awesome for 15-16 years before that happened. We toured Japan together, we worked in other companies together. It’s a risky game when you’re two big guys doing those things that you shouldn’t be doing.

It just turned out wrong, I had a bad fall, and that’s that. It’s not like there was any animosity in any way, shape, or form. It was an accident, I know he felt terrible about it. I feel it actually was terrible but that’s part of the business we’re in. It happens. It’s not ballet! But it wasn’t my first injury and it certainly was not my last. I don’t hold anything against Mike Awesome in any way, shape, or form.

Nail in the Coffin showed what happened backstage at AAA Triplemania after the incident with Rosemary and Sexy Star. I couldn’t help but wonder if you ever mentored Rosemary in some way prior? There’s so many similarities from the face paint to the vibe of Decay in Impact Wrestling.

No, I only met her one time actually! I wish her the best of success but not at all.

I noticed you consider the years in WCW not exactly the favorite of your career. I was a bit surprised as I got to know Vampiro from WCW growing up and I’m sure many other U.S. fans did too. Do you feel those years weren’t the best primarily because of WCW’s booking side?

Anytime that a pro-wrestler complains about the booking, put your ego aside. You know what I mean? You’re hired to do a job, your job is not creative. They have a creative team for that. In Mexico they didn’t have creative teams, you had to kind of do things on your own. I have nothing but respect for anybody who works creative. Pro-wrestlers who really believe their importance in the industry is more than it actually is, are not on the team. The way I was educated, in my education growing up in wrestling, I was brought up a different way.

Vampiro (Ian Hodgkinson) and John Morrison [Hennigan] - Art by The Natural Aristocrat® - Photo Credit: Courtesy of Epic Pictures / Millennial PR

Vampiro (Ian Hodgkinson) and John Morrison [Hennigan] – Art by The Natural Aristocrat® – Photo Credit: Courtesy of Epic Pictures / Millennial PR

What really bothered me about WCW was that I felt like that was my moment. That’s where I was really invested in emotionally in becoming a great character. I was at the top of my game physically but the politics and the drug use behind the scenes and the he said, she said stuff… It’s almost like the American political system right now. What’s going on in the news. That’s kind of what it was like in the dressing room, just bulls**t. I didn’t want to be around that, I didn’t enjoy it.

It’s like everybody was committing suicide. Everybody was overdosing. The drug use was crazy. The million dollar baby club was doing a mutiny, every second that they could. It just wasn’t a fun place to be. I loved the fans, I loved being Vampiro, I loved being on television. I just did not like the experience behind the cameras. It was horrible.

Is the reason you’re not in AEW currently in a storyline role like Arn Anderson or as an agent because of past animosity with Chris Jericho?

Well, the reason I’m not in AEW or anywhere else is because I don’t want to be. And they don’t need me, and they never asked me. Plus, I’m happy to be a real man, working for a living, taking care of my daughter, creating other projects for myself in life. I’ve outgrown it! To be honest with you, I would love that million dollar paycheck. But the way I look at it, they’re not contributing anything impactful in society.

They’re a bunch of goofs. They run around, they look stupid. It’s very immature and I don’t support the product. I don’t believe in it. I probably just cut my throat but I don’t give a f***. You’re asking me, I’d rather be honest, you know? It’s not because I got trouble with Chris Jericho. F*** Chris Jericho!

Is there a time you consider the highest point in your career? When you felt everything was going almost perfect. I noticed you mentioned that in terms of physical prime & character development as Vampiro, it was in the WCW years earlier.

Yes! Right now! I’m in the greatest time of my life. I’m away from wrestling, the movie is impacting people. I can’t wait for them to see how I am now. I’m not that guy in that movie. I’m 100 pounds lighter I have my health back, I’m conquering the PTSD and the head trauma. I’m into other things, I have a different life. I got a TV show on the air right now, I’m doing another movie, I’m producing another show. Michael’s [Paszt] movie basically saved my life and saved my career! And it’s great to see that you can beat mental health, that you can change your circumstances if you put the work in. So, that movie was the greatest motivator for me to save my life and shape my career. The greatest moment of my career is right now!

I spent 39 years in front of stadiums not small arenas but stadiums. Twenty, thirty thousand people per night, six-seven times a day. I mean, everybody says, ‘Oh, how can that be?’ Uhhh, it’s right there! If you don’t believe me, I’ve got about 400 DVDs that I can show you. The fact that I’m alive and I got out of that, is the greatest moment of my career because I survived it. I was able to resurrect the relationship with my daughter. I’ve made friends, I had a really bad social phobia and I’m doing great. So, the greatest moment of my career is really right now.

Dasha Hodgkinson - Art by The Natural Aristocrat® - Photo Credit: Courtesy of Epic Pictures / Millennial PR

Dasha Hodgkinson – Art by The Natural Aristocrat® – Photo Credit: Courtesy of Epic Pictures / Millennial PR

Right now, today I’m doing an interview for a movie! I mean how dope is that? Who gives a s**t what I did 20 years ago in a wrestling ring when I pushed dumb-a** Sting off a jumbotron or when I broke my neck in that match with Mike Awesome. Who gives a f*** about any of that?! I’m alive today! And there’s a Coronavirus and the world is imploding but I got a movie coming out! That is dope as f***in’ hell! You know what I’m sayin’ brother?

I thought Nail in the Coffin was reminiscent of the film, The Wrestler. Was there inspiration?

‘Nail in the Coffin’ Director Michael Paszt: If you go back to Mickey Rourke and when they did their research, there’s so many elements. There’s so many other wrestlers out there that all have similar stories. It’s a tough road for everybody. I loved The Wrestler, I grew up watching wrestling, I’ve been watching wrestling since I was five.

Is there similarities? Of course, because that’s what makes our movie unique is how well it’s researched. I think the difference though is The Wrestler is a very a dark film, and it goes down a dark path. Then just when you think it’s getting kind of good, he just doesn’t get out. He goes down into that dark path, that dark side all the way into the end. In The Wrestler his relationship with his daughter falls apart, he keeps on screwing it up. With Ian’s (Vampiro) story it’s totally the opposite, he does everything he can to make sure Dasha (Vampiro’s real-life daughter) is taken care of. That’s what being a parent, and a father is. Whereas with Rourke’s character, he screws everything up right.

That’s the real story of it, I don’t think it has a dark ending. The positive ending is Dasha, she came through it all, and Ian juggling everything he’s doing, is on the road to recovery. He’s a changed person I think. That’s the beautiful thing about a documentary is it’s a journey, a journey for both of us actually. We come out on the other side of the tunnel to see the light, not the darkness like The Wrestler That’s my two cents.

How long was Nail in the Coffin in the works? There’s great personal footage from way in the past I noticed.

‘Nail in the Coffin’ Director Michael Paszt: Three years of filming I think it was. We had access to a lot of archival material, which was great.

Personally, for me, it was really hard to watch Ian (Vampiro) barely able to walk to his house at one point in Nail in the Coffin. To be unable to clinch his fists as his doctor requests during testing. As someone who watched Vampiro on TV for so many years, it’s a really difficult, tough visual. To know he gave his body and his health essentially to the fans, for our entertainment. So, even if it wasn’t intended to be a dark film, for me it was.

Vampiro (Ian Hodgkinson): My daughter thought I had a stroke one time, and I didn’t want to tell her that’s what was happening. Yeah, it was… Man, I couldn’t even put my shoes on. I couldn’t even tie my shoelaces. I had to walk backwards, I couldn’t lift my foot to get off the curb. What was really scary is that everybody saw me dying but nobody told me, ‘Hey!’ You know what I mean? Now seeing the movie just like you I see that. I keep telling Michael [Paszt] every time I see the movie, I don’t remember those things until I see them on-screen. It’s heartbreaking to see me in that condition, it really is. I gave so much to wrestling. I really put my heart and soul into it.

I believe in the magic of wrestling, I love wrestling, and it breaks my heart that the wrestlers have forgotten where they came from. If it wasn’t for the fans, if it wasn’t for that magical moment, the connection between performer and fan, we wouldn’t be here. Looking at what they’re doing right now, it’s just really bad television. That’s why I really never was concerned about going to a big company in the United States.

Vampiro (Ian Hodgkinson) - Art by The Natural Aristocrat® - Photo Credit: Courtesy of Epic Pictures / Millennial PR

Vampiro (Ian Hodgkinson) – Art by The Natural Aristocrat® – Photo Credit: Courtesy of Epic Pictures / Millennial PR

Yeah, everyone wants to sell their soul to the devil to get that big paycheck. But I loved European wrestling, I loved Latin American wrestling, and I loved Japanese wrestling because there was a little bit more communication and interaction with the fans. It was a lot more built on emotion. And God bless the guys! Look I love the guys, and everybody has a right to make a living. I hope they’re making a great living and they’re saving their money and they’re doing the right thing.

Go ask them, they’ll tell you: Being told what to do by somebody who knows absolutely nothing about the business or having somebody just because they’ve been in it for a long time, think that they have the right to dictate their creativity… That’s a horrible environment to be in man! Just not my thing. And I can’t support it. I just can’t do it. I’m sorry.

But I love all the guys! When I go to all the conventions, ‘They’re like m*****f****r, why would you say that?!’ It’s because I believe it, that’s why! I’m cool with everybody but there’s guys like Chris (Jericho), and a couple of other guys that just don’t like me and that’s also cool man. It’s not a big deal. It doesn’t effect me in any way at all. I’m just blessed to be alive, blessed to be doing a movie, and this interview. This interview is more important to me than anything I did in WCW! How about that?

Thanks a lot for that! Just wanted to mention, I never realized Vampiro’s unique look with the dreadlocks was inspired so heavily from Milli Vanilli until I saw Nail in the Coffin!

Well yeah, take a look man! At that time a white guy with dread locks, no one had done that yet, right? There were only three guys with those kind of dread lock braids, there was Trent D’Arby and Milli Vanilli. Nobody else had them it wasn’t a thing yet. One time Milli Vanilli and me were touring in Europe and they knew I wanted to be a wrestler. They were like, if you ever become a wrestler you have to have long braids and do the long dreads. I said, ‘F***, I love that! I never forgot that. I always wanted to grow my hair long like The Ramones but I couldn’t because so many years I had my hair like Billy Idol.

So, you know with all the hair dye and everything. It was really hard to keep dying my hair once a week. And it was just too hard to get my hair long that quick to put braids in. So, I just kind of grew it out and put in the braids one day and left them in for about a year and a half, and when I took them out I had these long a** dreadlocks! I kept them in there for about 15 years. That’s how all that happened!

I noticed you’re (Vampiro) an avid gamer in Nail in the Coffin by the way. What games do you usually play?

Yeah man, Call of Duty! I get to relieve a lot of stress! I love Call of Duty, I love Doom, and Mortal Kombat. I’m actually getting into playing wrestling because I see all these cool Vampiros who are better than me when I was wrestling, and they look better! I’m having a blast man! I like playing Hockey, all that kind of s**t you know?

Did you play wrestling games as yourself back when you were in WCW? Maybe make yourself in WCW/nWo Revenge? I know a lot of actors say they don’t like to watch their own stuff, do wrestlers enjoy playing as their own videogame avatars?

That’s because all actors who say that are full of s**t! They’re the biggest liars in the world! They’ll watch that movie 200 times before it even comes out. I mean come on, man! Don’t believe those ego maniacs. Listen, the first time I came on a videogame, it was a WCW videogame (WCW Backstage Assault) and I was a secret character. You had to beat a few guys and then you unlocked Vampiro. I grabbed the garbage can and there’s a board & the boards lights on fire, and we fight in the parking lot. I remember watching it with my wife and I was married at the time and we were playing it… I was like ‘Holy S**t, I’m on a videogame!’ It was the coolest moment in the world, ever! And then uh… I lost the game! I got bored. (laughs)

Thanks guys!

Vampiro (Ian Hodgkinson) and Director Michael Paszt: Thank you!

Where to watch ‘Nail in the Coffin’


Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro will screen in limited theatres starting September 4th and will release on Blu-ray/Digital/VOD on Tuesday, September 8th. Pre-order the Blu-ray over at EpicPictures.com or at Amazon!

The film will be available on the follow VOD and streaming services: Indemand, Comcast, Spectrum, Charter, Dish, Sling TV, Vubiquity, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Xbox, YouTube, Amazon, Fandango Now, DirecTV, Breaker, and Alamo On Demand.

Follow Vampiro on Twitter (@vampiro_vampiro), Facebook (@vampirovudu), and Instagram (@vampirovudu).

Follow Director Michael Paszt on Twitter (@Michael_Paszt). Learn more about the film’s production company Raven Banner Entertainment at this link. Nail in the Coffin is distributed by Epic Pictures.

Be sure to read The Natural Aristocrat®’s interview with Kenny Omega and more interviews with the entertainment industry’s top talent in the Interview Articles section

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Marc Menchaca on Alone: ‘Probably, the most physical thing I’ve ever done’ (Interview)

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Marc Menchaca talks Alone - Jules Wilcox and Marc Menchaca in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.
Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing

Marc Menchaca spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about portraying one of horror’s darkest, colossally twisted villains in Alone and the final, muddied fight being one of the most physically demanding things he’s ever done.

This interview contains spoilers to horror picture, Alone.

The Natural Aristocrat : Your character in Alone caught me off guard a bit because I was so used to Russ Langmore on Ozark. Russ was good natured but troubled, while The Man is pretty much entirely a monster. The sharp contrast was quite jarring. Did you have any outside inspirations for The Man?

Marc Menchaca: They both have some good in ’em! I’m sure elements of other characters were playing subconsciously but I can’t think of something specific off the top of my head. The film had a pretty quick turnaround, so I’d say my inspirations were still within the script.

There’s an intense scene in Alone where The Man is driving and ambushed from behind by Jess. What was it like shooting the scene? Was it primarily a stunt double there?

No, I did all the stunt work in this film outside of one thing. It was definitely intense and it was as fun as can be doing it! The whole film was taxing when it came to the physicality of it. Obviously, the car was controlled as well in that scene. We were able to have a good time with it and thankfully, I didn’t break Jules’ nose or anything in the process.

Jules told The Natural Aristocrat the last fight scene didn’t need any makeup applied, that it was all down in the mud for real. What was it like filming that final climatic 1 on 1 fight between Jessica and The Man?

I think it was probably the most physical thing I’ve ever done. It was raining that day… I’ve never been that muddy in my life, not even as a kid! I remember when I took my coat off at the end it was soaked, it was coated in mud. There was a layer that stripped off. My shoes weighed about 10 pounds a piece and we had these buckets with warm water that we’d place our hands in, in-between takes because it was so cold.

Jules Wilcox in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

For me, the strongest scene in Alone was when The Man tries to manipulate Robert into believing Jessica is his sister and is having an ‘episode’. Essentially, discrediting Jessica’s story by anchoring it to bipolar disorder. I asked Jules about this moment as well. I was wondering your thoughts, being on the other side of this pivotal scene?

I love that part of the movie because you kind of find out that he’s (The Man) actually a good actor as well. I felt I had to be so convincing in order to get what I wanted. I had to really play that card that she’s actually just off her meds or whatever. I loved that scene in particular. It was just another obstacle to what I needed to get.

Jules Wilcox in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Why do you feel Jessica doesn’t take the gun when The Man is offering her a chance or perhaps challenging her to take it? Despite being hurt, it seemed like it was Jessica’ only chance at survival at the time.

You know, that’s a good question! I think because I know that she’s hurt… I think there was a moment in there when he was at his breaking point in that scene. The last thing that can happen for him is to be exposed. There very possibly was an element of ‘Just take me now, and I won’t have to deal with it.’

I thought there were some definite Ted Bundy vibes to The Man when his arm is in the sling and you approach Jessica’s car early in the film. Did you watch any documentary or film footage of him for the role?

No, I didn’t. I know who Ted Bundy is and I will say there was obviously an element of Ted Bundy in this. But I can’t really say I watched him in something beforehand.

You mentioned earlier that you feel there was some good in The Man like Russ Langmore on Ozark. Certainly, The Man’s double life gave him some ambiguity in his other ‘real life’ so-to-speak. He was at a loss for words when Jessica turns the tables and dials up his girlfriend. What did you think about the mysterious nature of the character?

I think it worked for the film, I don’t think we needed to know anymore about him other than what we find out in the phone call. Because then the film would become a completely different film instead of focusing on just the chase. Which is what I really like about the movie, that it just kind of boiled down to the barebones would I think it would have become a completely different film. Instead of focusing on just the chase, which is what I really liked about the movie.

It was just kind of boiled down to this barebones film. This is who this guy is, this is who this girl is, and we’re going to show you this chase that happens! I think that was one of the great things about the film, that you got a little bit of information about both of them. Even though that does inform you about who the characters are, the film doesn’t majorly focus on that part of their lives.

Marc Menchaca in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

I thought the scene where you first captured Jessica and bring her to that basement was one of the most brutal scenes I’ve seen in any horror film. Everything from the one-minute-too-early 911 call to when you tell her to strip and mock her pleading with you… Jessica’s tragedy with her husband. You just get the sense there’s nothing she can do at all, no immediate escape routes. That’s difficult to accomplish properly for any horror film. How did you feel about the way that whole moment?

Jules Wilcox in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

I feel what happens in the basement is you’re seeing The Man be intimate, it’s another thing for her but that was The Man’s way of intimacy. I think he finds peace in that grotesque manipulation.

Would you like to make a cameo in the last season of Ozark? A flashback maybe?

I’d love to! Put the word out!

Thanks Marc!

Thank you!

Theatrical one-sheet for ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Alone Trailer and Where to watch the Film:

Be sure to follow Marc Menchaca @marcmenchaca and the film’s official account, @AloneMovie, on Twitter!

Alone can be seen now in select theaters and on Video On Demand services. Rent Alone on Amazon today!

Disclosure: TheNaturalAristocrat.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

– Be sure to read more interviews with the entertainment industry’s top talent in The Natural Aristocrat®’s Interviews section.

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Jules Willcox talks Alone, breaking her foot for real in film (Interview)

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Jules Wilcox in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.
Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing

Jules Willcox spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about portraying Jessica in Alone, one of 2020’s darkest psychological thrillers, and breaking her foot for real during shooting in a reversed ‘life imitates art’ moment.

This interview contains spoilers to horror picture, Alone.

Jules Willcox illuminates Alone with her portrayal of Jessica, a woman forsaken by fate. You never know when you’ll meet the wrong person that sets off internal alarm bells across your chest. When you can’t shake an icy gut feeling about an unsavory individual. What if every cloudy intuition, every ‘don’t talk to strangers’ childhood lesson you ignored ended up being true? Perhaps, no scene in Alone encompasses this better than when Jessica believes her car is being followed by the film’s unknown antagonist and dials 911. She informs the operator it’s a false alarm after the car behind her passes but it wasn’t… Jessica had just dialed a minute too early.

Thus, the audience can easily place themselves into Jessica’s shoes, their worst fears escaping the nightfall jail of their 3 AM nightmares. Forcibly shipwrecked on land via a slashed tire. Only the will to live, to survive, driving Jessica to escape her island, her captivity in an unmarked basement. After all, if you scream in a forest and nobody is around to rescue you, did you really make a sound?

Interview with Jules Willcox:

Jules Wilcox in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

The Natural Aristocrat : For me, the strongest scene in Alone is post-escape when The Man claims you’re his mentally ill sister and that you’re having ‘another episode’ to a third party. Naturally, the third party (Robert) is confused & unsure who’s telling the truth. There’s so many layers to this twisted interaction. It’s a commentary about society not explicitly believing those perceived to have bipolar disorder or otherwise. As if the label disqualifies their credibility instantly. What was it like shooting that moment?

Jules Willcox: It shows how manipulative Marc’s character is… He’s playing chess, you know? I don’t even think Jessica realizes how sick of an individual he is! He really took it to another level. In a way, it also presents Jessica as an unreliable narrator of her own story.

It was a tricky scene and it showed what depths The Man was willing to go down to. He was working on a physical level and on a psychological level. It’s not only ‘Woman Against Nature’ as we find with the river scene but ‘Woman vs The Physicality of a Man’ & also on a mental level.

When Jessica takes that big plunge into the river, was that you or a stunt double?

It was both, Michelle Damis was my stunt double and she is incredible! Michelle had to do quite a bit more than she thought she was going to do because I broke my foot in the second week of filming. So, two thirds or three quarters actually of the film I’m in a walking boot which you can’t see in the final edit.

You broke your foot while filming on-set?

It happened during filming, it happened during a stunt. It was just a freak thing! I was running barefoot in a cleared path, when I was running away from The Man and getting out of the house, and we went for a couple of takes. Then they’re like, ‘Let’s do one more and then we’ll throw your shoes back on,’ you know because they wanted to see the bare feet. The stunt coordinator was amazing and he had cleared everything, and we’d walked the path several time. And that one last time… I hit a root that was sticking up out of the Earth!

Jules Wilcox in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Wow, so it was practically just like what happens in the movie?

Yeah, we had to improvise because the really bad wound that Jessica was supposed to have, was the gunshot through the shoulder. But because I broke my foot, we had to put that limp in that I naturally had. That’s when they rewrote the scene of Jessica stepping on that.

I thought the opening of Alone was captivating. The film was really able to build this foreboding sense of being stranded just like its namesake. What was your routine to get into this anxious, panicked state for each take?

We were shooting in the Pacific Northwest and it was beautiful of course and it’s wide open. I was living in Manhattan at the time so I didn’t have a ton of time to prep on the film. It happened really fast! So, I flew out to Oregon, and I’d worked with the director before on a television show. They needed an actor who could do all the grueling physical stuff and also the emotional stuff, and so he contracted me to do it. I really connected to the grief that Jessica was experiencing. We’ve all experienced grief in our life and it’s such a universal experience. She’s really running away from her grief in the beginning with her husband killing himself.

Jessica’s wanting to get a new start, she’s not wanting to talk her mom because her mom is going to want to talk about things and emotions… And she doesn’t want to deal with all that. When you’re alone, you’re confronted with the truth in your mind whether you like it or not. I think Jessica does whatever she can to try to push things away. But ultimately, having The Man show up, forces her into a very present state, where she has to be active. She has to fight.

I think I really prepared by being in nature, it’s such a beautiful place. You wake up really in the morning, 4 AM, whenever the call time wise and watch the sunrise. I’d just put myself in the circumstances of where Jessica was, having lost someone and trying to escape from that.

The scene where Jessica freaks out initially and calls 911 when she thinks she’s being followed really throws viewers into a loop. For a second when the car passes, you really think she’s okay. Then the film pulls the rug under out from viewers, before relief washes over the audience. What did you draw on outside of the script to craft that moment?

We question ourselves all the time when something really crazy happens or even just in an abnormal way. I find myself wanting to have the benefit of the doubt for the other person, probably because I’m mid-western! (laughs) Surely, they didn’t mean that! There’s a little bit of, ‘Am I blowing this out of proportion?’ There’s a little bit of her questioning herself and I can connect to that in my own mind. Can people really have such harsh, mean intentions? I’m a glass half-full person, so I hope for the best! I think in that scene there’s almost a disappoint when seeing, oh that wasn’t what I thought, maybe I am ‘blowing this out of proportion.’

Jules Wilcox in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Have you ever had such a gut instinct about person like Jessica does in the film? There was some definite Ted Bundy vibes when The Man approaches Jessica’s car with his arm in a sling and asks for assistance.

Gosh… I think probably in the early days of moving to Hollywood! (laughs) Again, being a midwestern girl, I had to be quite careful and skeptical of people’s intentions. We were actually shooting when all the Weinstein stuff was coming out, really the height of the Me Too movement. We talked about that a lot, all the gas-lighting of women and how they’ve been taken advantage of for so long. I’m from Missouri, the ‘Show Me’ state, ‘Show me who you are with your actions.’

Jules Wilcox and Marc Menchaca in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

I’m curious how were you able to film that final fight scene with a broken foot? Were the scenes shot in narrative order?

We shot in order, which was crazy! I was in the Whitewater rapids with a broken foot, with a boot on. (laughs) Our stunt coordinator would help me. I was in crutches most of the time with the boot, and the stunt coordinator who’s just a massive human being, lifted me up and put me in the water. (laughs) I knew he felt bad every time he did it because it was so cold, we were shooting in November in the Pacific Northwest.

Director John Hyams filming a scene for ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

That last fight scene was on our last day of shooting. We had rehearsed the fight in the fight coordinator’s jiu jitsu gym. We practiced on mats several times, and between me and Michelle my stunt double, we just did it all. It’s also choreographed to be very scrappy. We’re not professional fighters, Jessica doesn’t have any training. She is just relying on pure adrenaline and at that point, so was I. We were in our costumes, I also had layers of freezing cold mud.

So that wasn’t makeup on your face, that was legit mud?

(laughs) Oh, it was legit! That was legit! When I was crawling out of the car, they were like, okay are you ready? I was like ‘Oh jeez, I’m putting my face in mud!’ My skin has never looked so good, it’s like a spa treatment. But the mud weighs a lot, once it starts caking on to your clothing, so the movement starts to get so much harder. You’re like basically caked down in clay.

You’re rolling around on the ground, the kind of stuff that Michelle, the stunt person would be doing would be like kicking with both legs because I could only kick with one leg. We really went for it! Thank God it was all on the last day because I was exhausted after! (laughs)

Why do you feel Jessica doesn’t go for the gun when The Man offers her an opportunity to even out the playing field in the forest?

I think at that point, she didn’t trust him at all. There’s a perceived opening but why is that and why? She’s going by instinct, period.

The scene where The Man takes Jessica to the basement is one of the most brutal scenes I’ve seen in a horror movie because it looks like she has zero chance. Usually horror movies leave the door open a little bit but Alone makes it clear Jessica has nowhere to go, no immediate escape routes, nothing to plead with her captor… Then The Man tells you to “remove your clothes.” Viewers are definitely going to have strong, unsettling feelings about that whole section. What was it like filming such a traumatic moment?

Yeah, she’s caught in a trap, Jessica’s a helpless animal at that point! She’s just trying to do whatever she can do… You know, she asks The Man, ‘Can I go to the bathroom?’ to buy time. You’re left wondering, how many people has this happened to?

Jules Wilcox in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

A friend of mine, he’s a playwright, wrote a play about a person being held captive because he was so influenced and traumatized by those young women who were held captive in Cleveland. They were released several years later. Unfortunately, this happens, these things happen. I really had to put myself in this person’s shoes, what are you going to do? How can I manipulate in any way? Can I beg, can I plead? She does all this and there’s utter hopelessness at this point.

You understand that it’s not just brute force he’s after… He’s playing this sick mental game by leaving her there, and confronting her with her emotional trauma, as opposed to physical trauma. I truly think The Man is one of the most evil characters I’ve ever seen, just how twisted and dark he goes. And Marc Menchaca is the most lovable person on the planet!

Marc Menchaca in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

I was definitely surprised because I was so used to Marc Menchaca’s character on Ozark!

I know! (laughs) He does such a great job. That monologue when I’m in the bog in the forest is just pure evil!

Did you enjoy Jessica’s final revenge on The Man, when she calls his girlfriend?

Oh yeah! I think what was so shocking is when Jessica escapes, she can hear The Man talking on the phone and his life is totally normal. He’s making a sandwich. It’s like ‘Hey Buddy, you know that normal life you think you can have? No way! That doesn’t exist anymore!” At that point she thinks ‘I’m going to die. Hopefully, someone will come to get me but if this guy is coming after me, I’m definitely going to try to kill him.

I’m going to try to survive! But odds are… I’m not going to make it. So I need somebody to get my body and get Robert’s body and let Robert’s wife what has happened to him.’ Jessica’s an ethical person, she’s not like The Man. She’s trying to escape at the beginning but she’s moved by the kindness of strangers, by Robert taking her in and helping her. Even though she’s skeptical because she’s been through so much.

At first, when Jessica gets in the car with Robert post-escape, I thought he was going to drive her right back to The Man. That Robert was in on it. Did you think that’s where the story was heading initially?

Oh God, I’m glad you think that because I thought that too when I was reading the script the first time! (laughs) ‘Oh no! He’s in on it!’

I felt The Man’s civility while on the phone with his girlfriend, preparing the sandwich was part of what made Alone work as a film. It was just so convincingly real, you’re left wondering, ‘How many people like this live double lives?’ It reminded me of the film The Strangers a lot, that film also didn’t give direct names to its antagonists, preferring Man in Mask, Dollface, Pin-Up Girl like The Man in Alone.

Yeah, it’s this alter-ego. It’s not who he is in ‘real life’ but what he does on the side ‘anonymously’. There was the documentary recently on HBO about the Golden State killer (I’ll Be Gone in the Dark) and The Man reminded me of that. That somebody could have this kind of evil double life.

I feel Alone’s grounding in reality will hit people harder because they can picture the possibility of it happening to them. No matter how low the percentage of that is… The situation is not impossible and that stays in your mind. It resonates with a person’s core fears of random strangers.

I think during this time in quarantine, when people are feeling isolated and alone the film is timely in a way. As if we’re confronting ourselves.

Thanks Jules!

Thank you!

Theatrical one-sheet for ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Alone Trailer and Where you can watch the Film:


Follow Alone star Jules Willcox on Twitter and Instagram! Be sure to also follow @AloneMovie on Twitter!

Alone can be seen now in select theaters and on Video On Demand services. Rent Alone on Amazon today!

Disclosure: TheNaturalAristocrat.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

– Check out The Natural Aristocrat®’s exclusive interview with one half of tomandandy’s composing duo, Tom Hajdu, on The Strangers soundtrack.

– Be sure to read more interviews with the entertainment industry’s top talent in The Natural Aristocrat®’s Interviews section.

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Film

Fantasia 2020: Kakegurui is a Flashy Joyride, Cult Classic (Review)

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Minami Hamabe as Yumeko Jabami in Kakegurui - Photo Credit: GAGA International Sales
Photo Credit: GAGA International Sales

Kakegurui is dripping with personality, its ‘gambling meets private school’ premise an instant conversation piece. Actress Minami Hamabe shines as calculated, seemingly reckless gambler, Yumeko Jabami. While Murasame’s struggle to never gamble again, shows the low points of moralistic Solipsism when faced with external stimuli. When you take the higher ground all the time, there’s nowhere to go but down…

This impressions review contains spoilers to the live-action film adaption of Kakegurui. The film screened at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival.

Kakegurui leaps into its high stakes rollercoaster immediately from curtain open, no waiting around for long winded narratives, the way a good bet should be. Instant gratification. The film introduces a private high school where students either gamble away their lives with a misplaced wager or prosper off the misery of others by reigning victorious. In Kakegurui’s ultra capitalistic hierarchal system, for someone to enjoy immense wealth and a great life, someone else must sit at their heel.

Students that gamble and lose, sit in debt, while being humiliated by their classmates as servile “Doggies” & “Kitties” (as they’re called in the film). They find themselves working under the boot of their richer & higher status superiors, while being mocked for it. A subtle allegory to current society perhaps, and a cruel twist of fate. Or Lady Luck, depending on how you look at it.

There is no ‘fairness’ in Kakegurui, in fact, one character named Itsuki Sumeragi pays her peers to let her win and buys student electoral votes. Sumeragi even has a pricey humanoid robot as her partner, showing that those who came with means to the school have a clear advantage. Circumstances do not reset to zero upon admission and this has a linear impact on the student’s success in Kakegurui. Even the odds can be shaped in one’s favor through various means of manipulation, either through currency or deceit.

Minami Hamabe as Yumeko Jabami in Kakegurui – Photo Credit: GAGA International Sales

The system is mostly unfettered and runs unrestricted outside of the whims of Student Council President Kirari Momobami . Who did a great job of portraying the school’s sophisticated, untouchable queen bee, reminiscent of Erina Nakiri on anime series Food Wars!

Those that abstain from gambling in life, end up doing so indirectly

For every standard bearing culture and pecking order, there’s a counter culture brewing by those disfranchised by their position in the hierarchy. Enter ‘The Village’ a group of students led by Jueri Arukibi , a cult-like group dressed all in white who’ve declared abstinence from gambling. Arukibi attempts to recruit the best gambler on campus (outside of the Student Council’s President), Yumeko Jabami to their cause, an important point later in the film. Arukiba promises to rescue those who’ve fallen prey to their gambling debts, shielding them through sheer number against their ‘debtors’ inside ‘The Village’. Wearing all white Arukiba appears to be morally righteous at first.

The Village’s true leader however is Amane Murasame, who secretly once defeated the Student Council President Kirari Momobami and left gambling behind. Murasame’s driving force was his sister’s debts, which he wiped clean with a victory against Kirari but it was not enough to save his sister from her own shame. She jumps off a staircase with Murasame desperately trying to grab her, falling himself. Murasume receives a permanent scar from the event.

Yumeko Jabami goes into a confessional-like area to prod Murasame to return to gambling during a visit to The Village but he stays silent. The wildly unpredictable Yumeko Jabami comments earnestly that all she wants is some good desserts in the school cafeteria. That it is ‘such a shame a fine school would have such mediocre desserts’, one of the only times in the film Murasame smiles.

Minami Hamabe as Yumeko Jabami in Kakegurui and Hio Miyazawa as Amane Murasame – Photo Credit: GAGA International Sales

The Student Council decrees new elections through a combination of votes and gambling duels to those seeking power. While at the same time, threatening to throw a wrecking ball at The Village. Forced eviction. Thus, The Village has two choices, go down as pacifists, or gamble to change the culture and direction of their school by gaining power themselves. In Murasame’s words, he would just become another kind of monster should he gain power.

Eventually however, he comes to Arukiba’s ‘rescue’ fearing The Village will be destroyed without his intervention. Only to be betrayed in one of the film’s biggest twists. Arukiba, who loses to a game of Blackjack to Kirari (21) at the onset of Kakegurui, was intentionally throwing their paired game against Yumeko Jabami and her plucky, always worried sidekick Ryota Suzui . Arukiba believed humiliating Murasame in front of Kirari would win her favor… But Jabami accurately saw the move as cheating the thrill of gambling, deciding to play to lose herself to nullify it. Murasame takes the ultimate victory and with the blank life slate/book, writes Yumeko Jabami’s wish for better desserts as his only wish.

Minami Hamabe as Yumeko Jabami is a definitive highlight

Actress Minami Hamabe is exceptionally charming as Yumeko Jabami, frankly taking the spotlight of every scene she’s in. It’s of no surprise there’s already a 2021 sequel in the works for Kakegurui because Minami Hamabe can carry this live-action adaption of the franchise to new heights. Excellent facial expressions, a lot of likeability factor you can’t teach in acting class. Minami’s high point comes with a monologue to Murasume about no one ever actually wanting to be ‘saved.’ That there would be no fun in having someone else have that level of control in your life.

Yuma Yamoto as Jun Kiwatari was also a standout in the film, doing a lot of physical acting, noticeably advanced body language work when he’s on-screen. He added a lot of humor to Kakegurui.

Keep in mind… Kakegurui is quite faithful to an anime structure on-screen, meaning there are some exaggerated mannerisms by some characters. Depending on if you’re a fan of Anime, you’ll either see it as entertaining or overacting.

Kakegurui’s appeal is in its Japanese presentation and flashy style. From the clothes, sets, art style to even actress Yurika Nakamura (Sayaka Igarashi) saying “Open” a certain way at every card set.

Conclusion:

If you’re looking for a fresh premise with a twist, are a gambling aficionado, and constantly in-motion, high stakes entertainment. Kakegurui is a sure bet. A cult classic in the making.

Minami Hamabe as Yumeko Jabami on Kakegurui Film Poster – Photo Credit: GAGA International Sales

– Follow the film @kakegurui_jp on Twitter and visit the official website, kakegurui.jp to learn more about the film. The film is directed by Tsutomu Hanabusa and distributed worldwide by GAGA Corporation.

– Follow lead actress Minami Hamabe on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and her official website.


– Learn more about the films that screened at Fantasia International Film Festival 2020 at this link. Kakegurui screened at Fantasia Fest 2020 on August 26th at 19:00.

Be sure to read Fantasia Fest 2020: Tezuka’s Barbara is a stylish, decadent elixir of dystopian cool (Review) and more coverage of Fantasia Fest at The Natural Aristocrat®’s Fantasia International Film Festival 2020 section.

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