If you are not familiar with Jake Busey, then shame on you! He’s played some of the most iconic characters within the horror genre, playing such roles as Ace Levy in the sci-fi horror film STARSHIP TROOPERS, Johnny Bartlett in horror/comedy THE FRIGHTENERS, and more recently, Professor Aiden Tanner in the television series “From Dusk Till Dawn”. This Friday, you can see Busey in his latest role as a shifty hunter in Patrick Rea’s ARBOR DEMON. James had the opportunity to chat with Jake to discuss his latest role and what it’s like to work on an independent film.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Jake! Thanks so much for talking with us today! To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about your character Sean in the upcoming horror film ARBOR DEMON?
Jake Busey: Yeah, I play the character of a guy named Sean who is a hunter, or so we think. He’s out in the woods with a few of his compatriots and crosses paths with a couple who is out on their camping trip. During this time, a demon creature strikes and I’m attacked and as the film goes on the audience will soon begin to realize that my character is perhaps a bit nefarious and is possibly up to no good. It makes for some interesting drama because the three of us (myself, Fiona Dourif, Kevin Ryan) are all inside a little camping tent. Pretty much my entire experience on that film was in a tent with Fiona and Kevin. We were never farther than 2 feet away from each other so it was quite an interesting and intimate experience. With that intimacy we find out what the true reality of my character’s existence and involvement with the forest and the area is.
NC: The film was shot in 12 days, what was it like working in those time constraints and what kind of challenges did you face?
JB: It was extremely challenging. It was one of those things where you say to yourself at the end of the day, “my God I’m not getting paid enough to do this!” (laughs). It’s a lot of dialogue, a lot of repetition. You gotta remember that every word that is uttered on screen when you watch a film, that actor has said it numerous times prior. I one time did the math of all the different angles and all the different takes and of course the more actors the more dialogue and the more takes it is. At the end of the day, you are averaging five or six takes on each actor and they are doing 4 or 5 angles, which means you are least doing the scene between 20-30 times. It’s a long process and it’s just the way it’s done and that’s what we do as actors; that’s our job so it’s really nothing to complain about. But when you only have 12 days and they say we are going to accomplish 12 pages per day, well, you watch a movie like a Jerry Bruckheimer film or a Ridley Scott film, those guys do 1-1/2 – 2 pages a day. On a big day, they might do 3 pages. On STARSHIP TROOPERS, we had one sequence that was an 1/8 of a page, basically it was just screen directions and perhaps 4-5 sentences, and it took us 3 weeks to shoot. 3 weeks to shoot an 1/8 of a page. When you are doing 12 pages a day, and that much dialogue, it’s great, it’s almost scholastic in a sense. It’s really about honing your chops and having the opportunity to explore your character because you get so comfortable with the material. You start pushing the envelope in different ways and trying different things and hopefully at the end of the day, the director can take all that stuff and find a happy medium by putting it together in a cohesive manner that tells the story correctly resulting in a good movie.
NC: Let’s talk a little bit more about your character. He has a bit of a “can’t trust him” vibe with a tinge of humor. Do you always try to bring a little humor to the roles that you play?
JB: It’s interesting that you ask that and yes I do, I do always try to bring humor to the role. To me it’s the most important thing because even in the most dire circumstances, we as human beings will always use humor as a stress relief. Even when you are a kid, you do something that is embarrassing and then you laugh it off. I think on the fan side of that, when you are watching a movie you are looking to be entertained, so there’s nothing wrong with making the folks laugh and having some fun when you are doing it. I guess it’s maybe part of my nature, I always try to find the humor in things I suppose and it seems to be my go-to when I’m breaking down a scene and when I’m working material out with fellow actors or friends of mine.
NC: You’ve done a lot of work in horror films, is it a genre that you have always liked? What is it about horror that keeps you coming back?
JB: The money, I’ve got a family to feed. If it was up to me I would still being doing studio films, but I think I’m just too outrageous. Although, that being said, we are in discussions with 20th Century Fox right now for the upcoming PREDATOR movie. When it comes to independent films you get to do more, you get to bite into a larger portion of the apple, you get to express yourself and be a little bit outlandish. Whereas with the big studio films, you do have to somewhat fit into a mold. I do love the big studio films and I had a pretty good run there doing Sony and Universal films. Independent and studio films are both wonderful mediums but I think the fanbase of these small independent horror films is a very passionate fanbase. When you meet the people who watch the films, it’s very gratifying. It’s like a band playing to a good audience, you get a good round of applause and that’s really satisfying.
NC: Besides what you just hinted at with PREDATOR, what else can fans expect from you next?
JB: Right now I got a movie that is in the final stages of computer animation called DEAD ANT. Tom Arnold, Sean Astin, Rhys Coiro, Leisha Hailey and myself are a 1989 glam-metal band trying to make a comeback at Coachella and we get attacked by giant ants while we are on a peyote drug trip at Joshua Tree. It’s a little bit like SPINAL TAP meets STARSHIP TROOPERS. I have another film that’s out called SWING STATE starring new-comer Alex Beh, Ted Levine, and Taryn Manning from “Orange is the New Black.” The film is a political comedy and it’s very timely with whats going on politically in our country right now. I also did a film called SAILBOAT with J.K. Simmons, my friend Lew Temple, and Noel Gugliemi about a little kid who’s name is Sailboat. The film, which is a coming-of-age film, is kind of like a Mexican version of “Napoleon Dynamite” that takes place in a very impoverished small town outside of Albuquerque. I did another one similar that’s a coming-of-age about a little Indian boy called GROWING UP SMITH, and it did really well in the film festival circuit and won a lot of awards. The film is based on a true story about a buddy of mine, Anjul Nigam. In the film, this Indian kids dad gives him the first name of “Smith” because before moving to America, he sees that Smith is a very common name and he figures his kid is going to fit in. And then there is DEAD AGAIN IN TOMBSTONE, which is a zombie Western that stars myself and Danny Trejo battling it out. I’m a Civil War Confederate Colonel who refuses to believe that the war is over and is traveling West to find “The Book of Satan.” Danny Trejo’s character and his family are the chosen ones tasked with watching over this book that could release Hell on Earth. Then, of course, we are in talks with the PREDATOR movie so hopefully things will continue on from there.
For more information on Jake Busey, make sure to follow him on Twitter @TheJakeBusey and to purchase the film go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/arbor-demon/id1192109808