Interview with Virginia Newcomb

Matt J. Horn recently got the chance to talk to Virginia Newcomb about her leading role in “The Theatre Bizarre”.

What’s the general plotline surrounding the film? I understand it’s split into segments?

That’s right; it’s an anthology film that brings together filmmakers, each of whom directed a specific segment to be featured in the movie. All were given complete freedom, so long as it adhered to the general concept of “Grand Guignol” (which was an era in Parisian Theatre that focused on brutally truthful scenarios). Jeremy Kasten directed the wraparound film that ties them all together. That’s what Udo Kier and I were in.

How did you get involved in the project in the first place?

Casting director, Aaron Griffith called me in. The audition was unconventional in that there were no sides. It was largely improvisational. Jeremy led me through a series of scenarios to react to and then we chatted about my ideas on the character. I remember thinking how much I loved that meeting. Auditions are really an odd sort, so rarely an environment that truly showcases the actor, but Jeremy’s great and I think he and Aaron ran the audition in a way that made me feel free and collaborative. I actually knew very little going into the project. I had only read the wraparound segment, but it was so intriguing. I’m a sucker for theatrics and elements of fantasy and it was chocked full of it. The imagery, the metaphors, the characters – were all scrumptious!

Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…I understand she’s the main focus of the story?

Enola is the voyeur of the stories, perhaps even the instigator. She is obsessed by this old abandoned movie theatre across the street. She spends her days studying it, drawing it, and one day the doors slowly open… she’s drawn into a surreal world of automatons playing out her worst fears. As the vignettes unfold the audience experiences her reactions to them along with their own. Except as an audience you are safe, Enola is not.

How would you say this film is different from other horror movies?

When I first read Enola’s story it reminded me of nightmares I’d had as a child. You know those ones that you never seem to shake off, like, even though they were just in your head they somehow scarred you? Honestly, it didn’t even read to me as “traditional” horror at first, just bizarre. I think the other segments definitely make up for that. Though, the wraparound segment is more about how sometimes the way we see things is what’s really terrifying. I think a successful horror film, one that scares us, awakens those inner fears inside us all. Now, I’m no horror aficionado. I’ve just happened to be in a couple. It’s a serious cult genre and those folks may have a way better answer for you.

The film stars yourself and Udo Kier, with a variety of other cast members – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?

Udo is so fun! He just jumped into all that craziness and swam around like a kid. It was so great because we shot in the historic Million Dollar Theatre in downtown LA. It doesn’t matter what actor you’re dealing with – they all have a unique communication with a stage, and with theatre. So, when Udo was up there on that stage he just exemplified a true actor, the playful professional. We had a blast. Jeremy and I hit it off immediately. We sat for hours talking about dreams, the peculiar, good food, and playing harmonica (which we both do). We had an intrinsic relationship from the get go, it was easy and real. Everyone was great; it was a really terrific team. Actually this was funny; I hadn’t met David Gregory (the producer) before we started shooting, and on-set I saw him getting something for Udo and then kind of hanging out with him. So, when I met him I said, “Oh hi, are you here for Udo? Are you his assistant, or something?” He said, “No, I’m David, the producer… but I guess I am kind of assisting Udo, too”. Luckily, David is super cool and has a great sense of humor, but I did have to charm my way out of that one.

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