If you are a wrestling or UFC fan, the name Phil “C.M. Punk” Brooks might sound familiar, especially considering he is one of the longest reigning WWE Champions. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about wrestling or UFC, but what I will say is that I was incredibly impressed with C.M. Punk’s first film role in Travis Stevens’ debut movie, GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR. In the film, Don Koch, played by Punk, begins renovating a rundown mansion for his growing family. While working on it he begins to uncover a sordid history of those who once previously lived at the establishment. In over his head and under an immense amount of stress, he soon discovers that the house has much more in store for him than he could ever imagine.
For the release of the film, I had the chance to chat with C.M. Punk where we discussed everything from what attracted him to the project, working with Travis Stevens on his debut film, and his experience working inside a haunted house with a sordid past.
How did you learn about the project and what was it about the role of Don Koch that attracted you to the film?
C.M. Punk: What attracted me to this movie was, man, you talk about a perfect situation and the planets aligning. I was approached by MPI and they gave me [the] script. Before I even read the script, I saw the name Travis Stevens attached to it. I did my homework and googled Travis Stevens and saw that he had this pretty amazing portfolio, stuff that I’ve seen, other stuff that I hadn’t seen. I’m a guy who goes on recommendations and if a director or a writer has written or directed something in the past that I’ve liked, chances are I’ll give it a watch. I was excited that Travis has a bunch of stuff that I’ve watched and loved already. Also, it’s a Chicago movie, so I wouldn’t have to travel. That’s the truth, I was like: Oh man, I don’t have to travel, I can just see my wife and my dog everyday. Then I read the script and found it to be really good. I just feel pretty fortunate that I was thought about [for this].
Don Koch isn’t necessarily the smartest guy on the block so can you elaborate on the character and any type of research you did to get into his head-space?
C.M. Punk: I played it kind of subtle, but the guy is an idiot. The way he dresses, he’s got his dog off his leash all the time, this guy is just outrageous with everything across the board, just from my perspective. I know people like that, I’ve observed people like that, so I just drew from real life experiences while sticking to playing it subtle. Coming from wrestling, where I have to emote and almost over act so that people in the cheap seats can see it, I really just trusted Travis and tried to dull [my performance] down a little bit. Having now watched the film, I think you can really almost see me coming out of my shell. When I start I’m a little subdued and then as the movie goes on, I think you see me get way more comfortable and just overall better as I get lost in the character.
One of the reasons I loved this film so much was because that house is a character in and of itself. When I spoke with Travis he had mentioned that the house was haunted. Did you have any experiences while there or felt that it was haunted?
C.M. Punk: There’s definitely a history and a story behind the house. Two women were killed in that house so the story was kind of an off-shoot of that. Travis used his imagination and adapted the true parts of the story to it and then went wild. I don’t know if I’m a believer but there is definitely something about that house. The house had personality, if that makes sense. I think everyone has had an experience where they know they’re not alone in a room or house or wherever they are and they just don’t feel like their alone. That happened in that house to me constantly. Anytime I was alone, I was looking over my shoulder – I would have sworn someone was in the corner of the room or something.
That must have been pretty wild and correct me if I’m wrong, but you did actually work on the house, right?
C.M. Punk: Oh yeah, I mean all the heavy lifting was done by our production team, but I’m smashing walls, I’m putting the dry wall up, I’m painting (laughs). I think we were fortunate enough to have that house and to own it. That house is probably going to get flipped and sold but it was nice to be on a set where you didn’t have to worry about leaving it in the same condition as you found it.
We’ve mentioned Travis a couple of times in this interview so what was it like to work so closely with him on the film?
C.M. Punk: It was unbelievable. Far and away the best part of the entire experience. Showing up to work everyday surrounded by not only Travis but by so many talented people that the world doesn’t know about yet, but I think they are going too based on this movie, it was the time of my life. It’s almost criminal that you get paid for such an endeavor, but I’m not going to refuse the paycheck (laughs). Travis, as I’ve gotten to know him, is one of the most genuine and creatively sharp people I’ve ever met. It was super cool not knowing him before and then being thrust into working with him, so our relationship started professionally and blossomed into a healthy friendship. This movie has given me so many great memories and friends. Like I said, it’s almost criminal I got a paycheck.
When it came to filming, what were some of the challenges you faced and how was it working with all the practical effects?
C.M. Punk: That can get brutal. I think Dan Martin is a genius and if you saw Lords of Chaos you know what this guy can do. He’s a practical effects guy that can borderline make you question what you are watching and it’s unsettling, which is a big part of the movie. I feel like everything is pretty subtle in this movie until we give it to you and when we give it to you, it’s a big deal, and Dan’s a huge part of that. It’s not an easy work day, you know? Sitting in a chair for 10-12 hours, getting makeup applied to 50% of your body, and then hitting all the marks and making sure all the gags and spurts and everything works. There was one particular scene where we literally had like one shot in getting it done because we were approaching the sun coming up and losing our night. Tensions were high and it was the only time our set people were screaming at each other – it was wild. I had an application on my forehead that was a one and done. Dan told me that once I ripped this thing that was it. We nailed [the scene] – it was unbelievable, everyone was nervous that it was either going to look like shit or we were going to blow it somehow, but we nailed it. Those nights there were a lot of screaming – I was always on the verge of losing my voice and it was much more physical compared to all the other days. There were some days when it was just me and the dog and I would just give the dog a look and he would give me a look and I’d be like, “Wow, that was a really tough day.” Then the next day I’m covered in slop and I’m crawling on the floor screaming bloody murder – so those days were a little hard (laughs).
GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR is now in theaters and available to own on digital platforms. For more on the film, read our review here.