For whatever reason, almost every actor seems to find himself involved with a horror movie early in the onset of his career. I am no exception. Channeling my best Jennifer Aniston a la Leprechaun, with just a touch of himbo, I accepted a role in the zombie slasher Manje. Dear E! True Hollywood Story,this tale is my intro.
The most appealing part of this film for me was probably the thought of playing a character totally opposite of who I am as a person. For most young actors, your first five or so roles are often carbon copies of your actual self, because -- let's face it -- it's what you're good at. I, however, have never been one to follow this mold. (Vampire hunter on The Lair? I'm still questioning that one too. But I digress.) Anyway, this role was a total asshole alpha male jock who goes around spitting game at anything remotely female and all but refers to himself in the third person. He was the quarterback of the football team, an annoying jokester, and every bit as insecure as any guy who acts like that actually is under the surface.
All jokes aside, this role also held special significance for me because it would show the naysayers that gay men can effectively play straight males, even the most obnoxious, sleazy, Stifleresque of them all. I mean, there was even a sex scene (with a woman!) in Manje. However, this scene was focused less on my behind (for once!) and more on her ta-tas. Ah, straight people. So with my pants fastened tight and a political agenda ignited, I signed on for a torturous 10-day shoot in 2006 in the freezing cold mountains of Glendale for "deferred pay" -- code for "I hope money isn't important to you, because you sure as hell won't see any from this film, sucker." Mistake number 1. But the polite wording remains, despite my lobbying for a change in terminology.
The real adventure wasn't driving an hour to work at 9 p.m. and driving two hours through morning rush hour at 8 a.m. to finally go to sleep. No, no, no. That part was cake. The real kicker happened long after principal photography (which included such joys as having a machete duct-taped to my skin in my character's death sequence, getting my face prosthetically ripped off amid screams that would make Jamie Lee Curtis do a double take, and lying in a wet, muddy ditch that was essentially the evil zombie's human doggie bag) was completed. I'm talking about the DVD release and its price tag. Three years later, and for ... wait for it ... $7.99 (including shipping) you could purchase my first feature, packaged in a set called "Boneyard Collections: Urban 4-Movie Pack." And since production long since stopped responding to my messages about getting a copy of my work, I had to go out and actually buy it.
Aside from the initial humbling ego smash of realizing my first movie was valued at a whopping $2 (rounding up), I soon realized it was miscategorized. In film-marketing speak, the translation of "Urban" is "of African American interest." I assume this label is due in large part to the title, which according to the director meant "to eat" in Haitian Creole. So basically the distributors never even watched the film they were trying to sell. The whole thing is about a group of white kids (who couldn't be any whiter if we'd been eating Wonder Bread with Miracle Whip in a Mormon church) getting slashed to bits in the forest. I don't exactly understand the special interest here, but I admit I may be missing something.
At this point I'm wishing my name weren't on the cover, but a couple years back I still blindly and optimistically awaited watching the finished product. That was mistake number 2. Artistically equivalent to a high school musical performance of Pippin, Manje played out like an 87-minute nap on my television screen. There was even a line "You broke your leg, but who broke your heart?" said by yours truly. Yup, if the soap opera Passions mated with the Bride of Chucky, the resulting spawn would be more visually appealing than the video equivalent of grade-D meat that was Manje. It was bad.
I take some solace in knowing that by agreeing to do the film, I was right on track for an actor's standard trials and tribulations as he kisses ass on -- er, works his way up -- the proverbial ladder. It's one hell of a rite of passage that lasts about four years longer than it should. However, since Spielberg has yet to knock on my trailer, I suppose I still have something to prove. Perhaps Leprechaun 5 is casting?
Oh, and to add insult to injury, I never saw a dime. I'm still lobbying for a change in the term "deferred pay." It's just plain misleading.