Ghosthunters!! The Stephen Manley Interview by Richard Martin
Hello readers, this was my interview with acting legend Stephen Manley. I spoke with him a week before I sent him some questions for him to answer ahead of the release of Ghosthunters (2016) this week from The Asylum. Now available on VOD (watch the trailer below). Hope you enjoy.
Richard Martin: Hi Stephen, we meet again in the written form, big day this week with the release of Ghosthunters (2016). How excited are you for the release and what can we expect from the film?
Stephen Manley: Hi Richard, hope your well mate ! Very excited indeed. attended the première of Ghosthunters Sunday with the wonderful cast : Francesca Santoro, Liz Henning, David O’Donnell, Phyllis Spielmann and Director Pearry Teo. I am pleased to say that the film looks great and I am so proud of everyone’s work, in front of the camera as well as behind. The film is a dark, brooding experience. A very serious, dramatic horror film. Very character driven and visually quite atmospheric. A new venture for The Asylum. I think it will be well received by the horror community.
RM: Ghosthunters (2016) looks to be a very serious release from the ladies and gents over at The Asylum, who are largely associated with “mockbusters” such as Sharknado (2013) what was it like working with them as an entity and with a talent such as Pearry Teo at the director’s chair?
SM: The Asylum is a great company and many in the crew had worked together on other Asylum projects. As such they worked like a well-oiled machine. As producer Dylan Vox said during a daily briefing and rally: “ No easy feat when working on smaller budget films everyone is doing a GREAT job..!” The crew was fantastic, all of them very skilled at what they do. From Production, Costume, Make-up and Art Dept., to Camera, Grip and Electric, they were wonderful to work with. With Pearry Teo commanding the ship they realized however that this was not a traditional Asylum “mockbuster”, but a unique film unto its own and therefore the crew was very enthusiastic for the chance to help Pearry’s ideas become a powerful film. So standards were very high.
RM: You mentioned to me last week how you prepared for this role, would you be willing to share with our readers the preparation it took to become Dr. Henry Tanner?
SM: Dr. Henry Tanner had suffered terrible loss and I needed to bring that element to my performance. My wife is a cancer survivor and we are 3 years in remission, so after discussing the realities of this with Pearry, we agreed to use the emotions to set a tone for Henry. The other thing I did was to sit in my grandfather’s mausoleum with him to prepare the monologues for my in person auditions/screen tests. How’s THAT for going “Method”…! Pearry loved that…! I also used the darkest, scariest room in the macabre house location to do my solo prep work when needed. Some of us actors do this weird stuff.
RM: How much of your personal self and fears came to bear, to bring the character to the screen, and if this was in anyway therapeutic for you?
SM: It can get emotionally exhausting to keep the feelings at the surface for the duration of the shooting schedule. However, you need to be able to access these colors often at a moment’s notice. But I believe that is part of an actor’s art and craft. Over the years I have learned from many other artists that they go through the same process, be it painting, sculpture, writing , dance etc. I think that exploration is the only way to bring about an honest performance that connects with an audience and hopefully thus move them. Was it therapeutic……? I’m not sure….though I have been in therapy before…!!! But, there is a creative satisfaction that is achieved when an actor or actress can keep a character in touch and afloat believably. Like a magician who performs a successful “demonstration”, to quote Criss Angel.
RM: We’ve all experienced fear in our lives at some point in time, so do you feel that the rest of the cast tapped into their psyche or was it mostly just acting seen on screen?
SM: All of the cast came to the table and infused their characters with much depth. It is acting, but to be believable for a contemporary and critical audience, while playing the scenes and creating the moments, reality and fantasy can blur. One has stepped into a characters shoes and often, when you have done your homework, scenes can take you on a hell of a ride. And in a context such a Ghosthunters dealing with ghosts, loss, and the paranormal even more so..!! Francesca, Liz, Web, Phyllis and David appeared to me to be just as affected as I was. We strived to keep things believable and from falling into the easy trap of farce. But that is what makes for good theatre. If we did our job well under Pearry’s guidance, audiences should be moved by us.
RM: The location of most of the film is a very eerie old house, you mentioned to me how you yourself became a ghost (at least for one member of the crew), a story a found very amusing, would you like to share with our readers?
SM: The House was a real Tudor/ gingerbread mansion, built circa 1903-1906 in the West Adams area of Los Angeles. No operating power or plumbing. The rooms inside were large, beautiful and decayed perfectly with help from the Art Dept. The little room that I used as my “office” to prep was a windowless pitch black, octagonal shaped study, sunken below the main floor and accessed by a few steps leading down to its door ….it felt like a tomb. As I was rehearsing my stuff deep in the blackness of the room I saw our lovely production asst. Shelby as she ran to and from the production office and passed the room’s open door. When during a pass, she heard “whispers” emanating from this scary black room she stopped, her jaw dropped open in horror as she peered into the blackness. I saw what was happening and slowly emerged into the light trying not to scare her. But to no avail as terror stricken she slowly backed up into the wall behind her and when she saw it was me came out with a deep closed throated : “ …Whoa,….oh god….” and made for the prod office completely bugged out. I saw her at the premiere and told her this event has made her famous as the story is getting around……!!!! She was delighted..!
RM: Stephen, you’ve had a long career in the film industry, starting out as a child actor all the way up to now. What keeps you and has kept you motivated over the last 40 years in the business?
SM: The opportunity to play an ever increasing diversity of characters. I was told as a young actor that my “range” would open up for me as I got older. It took a bit longer than I had anticipated, but I am so grateful to have been able to do the work that I have been offered to tackle the last few years. And I hope, more to come.
RM: Is there any role you passed up that haunts you to this day?
SM: When I was a young teenager Bernardo Bertolucci offered me the role of Jill Clayburgh’s son in his film “La Luna (1979)” in which her character has sensitive albeit controversial and provocative themes with her son’s character. My suitcase was packed for Italy but for unknown bureaucratic reasons still unclear to me to this day, I was unable to commit to the film. To have worked with Mr. Bertolucci and Ms. Clayburgh would have been such an experience. Perhaps there is still time to have a Bertolucci film under my belt….!
RM: Last question from me today, Guinness or Murphys?
SM: When I make it to the Emerald Isle let’s go to the pub and get a Murphy’s mate….!!! Thank you so much Richard. Cheers man.
Photos used with permission, photos by RuCo Photography
Ghosthunters – https://vimeo.com/ondemand/ghosthunters/166139658
Shout Outs To –
Pearry Teo @pearryteo ,Phyllis Spielman, David O’Donnell, Liz Fenning, Web Crystal, Anna Harr, Dylan Vox, David Michael Latt, Scotty Mullen and Francesca Santoro.