Mr. Beaks Concludes FRIGHT NIGHT Week By Chatting With Stephen "Evil Ed" Geoffreys!!
Published at: Sept. 24, 2008, 2:36 a.m. CST by mrbeaks
FRIGHT NIGHT week has come and gone, but, as promised, I've got one more interview to share with you.
Before we get to my conversation with Stephen "Evil Ed" Geoffreys, though, I'd first like to say a few words about the midnight screening at the Nuart last Friday (Sept. 19th). Thanks to writer-director-mensch Tim Sullivan, I got to co-moderate the afore-alluded-to guerilla commentary for FRIGHT NIGHT, which should be available for download sometime in the near future at IconsofFright.com. This was only the second commentary in which I've participated (the first being temporarily lost to the ether thanks to the fucktards at Fox), and it was an oddly intimidating experience. As I said to Tim before we dimmed the lights and got started, had you told me at the age of eleven that, twenty-three years later, I'd be revisiting FRIGHT NIGHT with Tom Holland, William Ragsdale, Stephen Geoffreys and special f/x wizard Randy Cook in a small, soundproof room hidden somewhere deep in the wilds of Los Angeles, I would've called you a dirty (yet strangely specific) liar. Being well aware of the film's fervent following in the horror community, I was beyond honored to be in attendance. I can only hope I didn't drag the discourse down to an unlistenable level.
And then there was the Nuart, which was filled to capacity with a throng of rabid FRIGHT NIGHT fans who seemed as excited at 3:30 AM (when the autograph-signing session began) as they were when the movie started (close to an hour late!). Their patience was rewarded by a tremendously entertaining Q&A featuring all of the members of our commentary track as well as Jonathan Stark, Chris Hendrie and the film's editor Kent Beyda (who, according to Holland, had the picture pretty well in hand by the time he got involved in post). It's my understanding that this will turn up on a DVD somewhere down the line; it'll be well worth watching if only for Randy Cook's story about Geoffreys's inadvertent brush with a rather powerful adhesive. (For more on the whole shebang, click on over to Ryan Rotten's account at ShockTilYouDrop.com.)
And with that, let's move on to Mr. Geoffreys, whose "Evil" Ed Thompson is undoubtedly the tragic heart and soul of FRIGHT NIGHT. It's such a fearless performance - and it could've been diminished in the early going had Holland taken the advice of a prominent Hollywood filmmaker who felt the young actor was way overdoing it. Being an astute director of actors, Holland trusted Geoffreys instincts. Without that manic portrayal, it's probable that none of us would've been at the Nuart last Friday night.
I'm not going to pretend that Geoffreys didn't get sidetracked in the 1990s; the record of his derailment is available at the IMDb. When I started the interview, I told myself that I would follow Geoffreys's lead: if he wanted to go there, we'd go there; if he talked past it, I'd stick to FRIGHT NIGHT. I wasn't trying to be Barbara Walters here. This was about celebrating a classic '80s genre flick and allowing Geoffreys to reconnect with his many fans who missed his talent. On the plus side, he'll be performing in two horror films over the next few months, and he's ready to do more. I'm rooting for him.
Mr. Beaks: FRIGHT NIGHT has really endured for horror fans because it spoke directly to their love for the genre. Obviously, a big part of that is "Evil Ed", who's the surrogate for the horror geek.
Stephen Geoffreys: It's funny how that character has kind of taken on a life of its own. I remember when the film came out, I'd go on the subway in New York and people would recognize me. But I didn't realize how much they identified with the character. I mean, I got the script and played the part as well as I could, but I guess I did connect with kids in some way. It's fun.
Beaks: When you got the script, could you sense that there was something special there on the page?
Geoffreys: Yeah. You get a lot of scripts that aren't that well written. It was obvious after I read it that Tom Holland had done an amazing job writing it and capturing all that he did. But you never know until you're sitting in the audience, and it definitely turned out well above anything that I could've expected. It's standing the test of time.
Beaks: Were you a fan of horror films before you did FRIGHT NIGHT?
Geoffreys: (Laughing) Not at all, really. It was a challenging part. When I first got it, I went to all these comic book stores and occult-type stores to try to get into what the character might be like. I hadn't been exposed to that stuff at all. And even beyond that, there was this thing... that I had to play a character who's bitten by a vampire and convincingly pull that off. I had never done anything like that before. I was like, "How am I going to believe that there really are vampires?" And, ironically, that's what the movie is about. (Laughs) That was the biggest challenge: really believing that that could happen. But it was so well written by Tom that it was all there in the words anyway. I just added a little bit of my stuff to it.
Beaks: Tom said someone, after watching an early rehearsal, thought you were too over the top.
Geoffreys: I could see that. There are definitely performances I've seen that were too over the top. But I think this was right; I don't think it was too big or too small. I don't really recall any times on the set where Tom told me to tone it down. In fact, it would've been the opposite: he would've told me to do it bigger. That's what the character is honestly about.
Beaks: What was it like to be a young actor working alongside Roddy McDowell and Chris Sarandon?
Geoffreys: I was so focused on getting to the truth of the character and wanting to do justice to the script that that part didn't really affect me that much. I'm definitely an admirer of all the actors who are in the movie; I'd worked with Amanda Bearse in [FRATERNITY VACATION] before that. I think that if I was in a star-struck kind of mode, I wouldn't have been able to concentrate on the set. I have all the admiration in the world for good acting, and those guys are just the tops. And the fact that they were so good made it a piece of cake for me.
Beaks: Tom said he was open to improvisation from the actors. Did you add any flourishes to your character?
Geoffreys: Pretty much with every scene there was something. It might not have been a big departure from the script, but that kind of direction keeps you open to a sort of spontanaiety. There was the scene where I'm in bed with the Raggedy Ann wig on my head; that was somewhat different from what was in the script - especially in the delivery of it. A lot of things just happened on the set; they came from where I was in the moment. It was such an exciting work experience. We did a lot of work before principal filming. We rehearsed for a couple of weeks - which is strange for a movie - and we did a lot of work on our characters. I'm not a huge person on doing improv-like stuff, but it just kind of took on a life of its own.
Beaks: The role also required you to wear a good deal of makeup, especially for your transformation near the end. What was that like?
Geoffreys: Looking back, I really don't know how I did it. It just takes a lot of patience to sit there and have all these people touch you and putting these things on your face for hours and hours and hours. It wasn't fun, that part. Obviously. After the scene was shot, and everyone was going home and on their way, I'd have to sit there for another hour or two and get the stuff taken off. That part wasn't too enjoyable, but I guess I knew the end product would turn out to be really good. The stake scene at the end was just incredible. I forget how many hours I sat [in makeup] for that, but... it was at least ten.
Beaks: And for that scene, it must've been a matter of physical and emotional exhaustion, given what your character is going through.
Geoffreys: Exactly. You're sitting all of this time, and then you have to pop into this scene in the movie. It was a challenge, but definitely a fun challenge. When you get a part that you really want to convey... you have a lot of fun doing it. Hopefully. This was definitely a part that I really, really enjoyed doing.
And this movie really touched a nerve with people. It's always good when the movie turns out nice. It's kind of depressing that a lot of the people who are coming out to see it weren't born when the movie came out, but... (Laughs) that's okay. It endures, and it's good.
Beaks: I saw that you recently did the movie SICK GIRL. Are you kind of coming back--
Geoffreys: Yeah, definitely. I'm going to be working in a film called NEW TERMINAL HOTEL, and we start our filming in about six weeks. That's going to be a lot of fun; I'm really excited about that one. And another gig I'm going to be doing is called SPLINTER; I'll be working on that in about three or four weeks. So, yeah, I'm starting to get the ball rolling a bit. It's great to be getting back into the mode of creating a character. It's what I love to do more than anything in the world, so I'm in heaven. I'm really excited.
Beaks: That's awesome, man. Have you thought about doing any stage work?
Geoffreys: Oh, my god, if somebody offered me a play today, I'd say yes on the spot. Theater is just... it's indescribably satisfying. There's just nothing like it.