Ezra: "I'm a total celebrity whore".
Conducted by Phil Davies Brown
March 9th, 2006
It's almost here!! I have been highly anticipating Alex Aja's remake of Wes Craven's classic 70's shocker for some time now, so to say I was excited to chat to this next guy is a big understatement.
A character actor for our generation, Ezra Buzzington has made numerous appearances in many of film and television's most loved creations and remains down to earth, despite the fact that the man has twice worked with David Fincher.
Ezra plays Goggle in Aja's Hills update, so I grasped the opportunity to quiz him on the film. Read on to hear all about the making of one of the years most promising horror movies.
When did you first become interested in acting and how did you go about getting into the film industry?
Assbackward. My folks were actors in Muncie, Indiana. This meant I got to see my mom and step dad up on stage doing all sorts of mad things. My step dad played Mephistopheles in a college production of "Faust". He looked just like Sean Connery and scared me titless. (Suffice to say I did my chores obediently.) I also got to see my mom play Alma Winemiller in "The Heiress". To grow up seeing these two brilliant actor/poets never reach any kind of recognition for their work they really deserved planted a seed in me. I also got my name from my Grandfather who was a vaudevillian comic/bandleader. So there's a family history. My first audition was at the age of 9 for the role of Winthrop in "The Music Man".
(I didn't get it.) I got into films late. My first film was "Fight Club"
for David Fincher. I had no clue who he was at the time. I'm the luckiest guy on the planet. It's not like I knew anybody. I auditioned, I booked it. Pretty straight up stuff.
Reading previous interviews you have done, you seem to be very modest. In my opinion you think of yourself as a guy who acts, sings, directs and writes, you don't seem to be phased by some of the people you have worked with, or the films which you have appeared in. Do you think this is because your family was in the business and you just feel comfortable in a creative environment?
Wow, really? What have you read? Because I'm a total celebrity whore.
When I first moved here I would see Shelley Winters, Robert Forster and Werner Kelmerer at my favorite local restaurant and it was all I could do just to eat. However, now that I've been at it a while I've managed to mask my admiration somewhat so I don't embarrass myself like I used to.(Though I think Steve Allen still thinks I'm stalking him. But that was years ago in New York.) Anyway... what was the question? Oh, right. I really do do a lot of stuff so that does make me feel more well-rounded I suppose. But it's also cool because on set I'll sometimes see what's not working with a scene and quietly work my own way around it to avoid the problem. Being involved with a lot of disciplines has helped a lot. And now that I'm directing it really comes in handy. But you're right, the only place I ever feel completely comfortable is in a creative environment. That and a 1972 Riviera convertible.
Your resume has such an eclectic mix of projects on it, with the majority of genres and mediums covered. What do you look for in a project?
The heart within the script. Ghost World, Secretary, Fight Club, all of them, really. They blew me away. When you're reading a script and you can feel the heat shooting up at you from the page, if it takes you to a world that you'd not been in before, then you really want to be attached to it.
And for me it rarely matters what the role is. I just want to be a part of the overall world. That's why I'll accept a two line role when a lot of actors won't.
"I saw that they were going to remake it and thought: that's a good idea".
I'm just curious how a guy who works with David Fincher can have episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Party of Five on his resume?
Heeheehee. Yeah. That kills, huh? TV is, like, a totally different world.
I look at TV as a job. Plain up simple. I'm not a snob about it. Really.
I like crap TV. As far as acting goes I'm totally a film guy. All this to say, I'm far less picky when it comes to television. Because, frankly, television is far less picky about itself. Both of those gigs were really great, though. You picked two examples that were good experiences. And it's not always, believe me.
Surely you must have enjoyed yourself when you worked on an episode of Buffy?
The Buffy crew was wonderful. They were a clean machine that didn't waste any time at all. I was hoping to see James (Marsters) but he wasn't on set that day. James and I worked together in Seattle in the theatre but I haven't seen him in a while. Our paths will cross again soon.
As every horror fan worth his salt knows, The Hills Have Eyes is scheduled for release next week and you play Goggle in the film. How did you first hear about the project and how did you become involved?
I actually read about it in Variety. I saw that they were going to remake it and thought: that's a good idea. Time for that to happen. I didn't think much about it until I found out that Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur were attached to it. I burned up the phone lines getting my reps to get me in. These guys are special. And I knew the project would be as well. And it is. I originally read for Big Brain. Didn't book it. Wept bitter, bitter tears. Then they called with the offer for Goggle and I leapt at it. And I love Goggle. He was the baby of the family till Ruby came along. Now he stays mostly out in the hills watching for incoming visitors.
I have to ask, as an actor, is it disheartening to hear that someone thinks you look like a mutant?
It's just that Hollywood seems so obsessed with appearances and many actors and actresses pride themselves on their looks, so I just wondered if it's a compliment to hear that you've been successful at portraying a mutant?
That's great. Nah. I've always looked a little odd because I have HUGE ears (which they wisely utilized in the design of Goggle's look). That tends to set you apart. Especially in middle school. People have stared at me all my life. It used to bother me when I was a kid and all I cared about was getting laid. Now I just don't care as much. Except about the getting laid part... well, you know. Anyway....
Speaking of Hollywood bullshit, would it be fair to say that Hills is anti-Hollywood in that it is essentially an independent film that was picked up by Fox Searchlight?
Huh. That's interesting. I suppose so, in a way. Fox picked it up from Miramax who walked. Not sure what the details are in all of that but whatever. I wouldn't say "Hills" was "anti-Hollywood" though. (If I understand what you mean by that.) I think the only thing that's really "anti-Hollywood" would be something that would be made to specifically NOT make any money Ďcos that's mostly what "Hollywood" is about. The bottom line.
As I mentioned earlier you play Goggle. Would it be fair to assume then that you are the one who watches from the hills much like Mercury in the original?
Yup. That's me. Peter Locke played Mercury (uncredited) in the original.
He also produced both films.
Were you sceptical about signing on for a remake after so many of them had just been pissed on by the critics and had been considered flops, such as the truly awful remake of The Fog?
No. We had Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur. I was never worried about that. Not for one second. They could crap something out of their butts, throw it on a screen, light it and charge money and it's going to be far better than most of the drek one finds at their local cineplex.
Was the creative team a major factor in your decision to join the project?
They pretty much were the only factor.
Had you seen High Tension before meeting Alex Aja?
I saw the original cut that premiered at Sundance. That's when I fell in love.
What were Alex and Greg like to work with?
Open, funny, specific, daring, brave, supportive and often hungry.
"I missed the 'Lost' bus".
How did you enjoy shooting in Morocco?
I melted into Morocco. It's the most beautiful light I've ever seen. No wonder cinematographers like shooting there. It was July and it got a wee bit hot. Ouarzazate, where we shot, is called "The Gateway to the Sahara".
So you can imagine. Sometimes a dust storm would kick up and you'd have to sit it out. The ants were a bit unpleasant when you're covered with fake blood that's made of Karo syrup, but the people were lovely and accommodating. I also really dug the bats that would come out by the hundreds at twilight and dive right at you. And the food is erotic and yummy.
I'm concerned about a few things at the moment and wondered if you might clear them up for me/our readers? Not much has been mentioned about Ruby as of yet. Is the character radically different here?
No, not at all. Rest easy. You'll dig her.
I also wondered if Emilie de Ravin is going to be assaulting our eardrums when recreating that oh so screechy climax, which saw Susan Lanier scream her head off and no doubt blow out a few speakers in the process?
I confess to not having known Emilie's work on "Lost". I missed the "Lost"
bus. So when I saw Emilie's performance in the finished product I saw it without any baggage. So I can say, without any bias whatsoever, that she's fucking incredible. She has a really, really tough journey. The character goes from whiney self-indulgence to powerful self-preservation. Quickly. I don't remember any screeching on her part. That's a subjective call, I suppose. I think the main screams you'll be hearing will be from the audience.
Much has been made of the films rating and the talk of gore is getting many horror fans excited.
How gory do you feel the finished film is?
I saw the director's cut. And Alex told me the other night exactly what it was that they made him cut out, and it just seems so fucking random and arbitrary. So, I guess the cut that'll go out won't be as "gory" as the cut I saw, but even if they took half of it away, it still wouldn't disappoint.
Many people were shocked to learn that Ted Levine was to play one of the Carter clan as opposed to one of The Hill people. Would you say this was a wise casting decision?
Brilliant. For several reasons. He's a great Big Bob. More sympathetic, more human and more loving too. The original felt too cardboard cut out for me. Ted also has a huge following in the genre, so it was a good business decision as well. Only here he's playing against type. So, since he's so good, and you'll see just how good he is, it'll up his fan base considerably, I think. Which is already huge. It was truly an honor to get to know him. All of them. Billy Drago is my new hero and Robert Joy has always been an amazing actor and Kathleen Quinlan... gee. Again. Luckiest guy. Me.
Have you heard any rumblings about a sequel, which would obliterate any memory of the original part 2 which isn't held in high regard by many (including Wes Craven)?
Love the way you say that. "...isn't held in high regard." It's crap.
Everybody knows it. No secret there. People hate that film with a vengeance. In my mind, there'll be a sequel. And it'll be called "The Hills Have Two Eyes: GOGGLE'S REVENGE!" Only kidding. And wishing. God, how I'm wishing. Nothing's been said. Nothingís not been said. I'm sure, like with every film ever made, they'll wait and see what the box office does and then make a decision. But if Alexandre and Gregory don't do it, what's the point? This was a match made in Hell. And that's a good thing.
You'll be seen in Zodiac pretty soon, was it nice to be asked to work with Fincher again after Fight Club and how do you think the film will turn out?
Speaking of perfect matches. Fincher + Zodiac Killer. No brainer, man.
It was great to see David again. He's the best, as a director and as a person. The script for Zodiac is palpable with tension. Again, leaping off the page kind of thing. Not a bad cast, either. Gyllenhaal, Ruffalo, Oldman, Downey Jr., I mean, come on.
Where else can we expect to see you in the near future?
"Art School Confidential" premiered at Sundance this year and will open on April 28th. It's my second merry-go-round ride with Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes. "Ghost World" being the first. I'm very... ahem.. exposed in this one. (I play the naked art school model, Lesley). It kills. I shoot Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige" starting this month. And the feature I directed last year is finishing post-production and should roll out in September. It's a "fockumentary" about the inexplicable rise and inevitable fall of a middle-aged boy band. It's called "Outta Sync". You can check it out here www.outtasynctheband.com. Also, I understand that Goggle is going to be making some convention appearances this year so look for that. You can check out that info at www.goggleseyes.com I guess that's about it. Except for my run for President in a couple of years. We need a new horror in the White House.
"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview Ezra.
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."