As a popular horror film leading actor, Jeffrey Combs is probably best known and remembered for portraying Herbert West in the cult horror film 'Re-Animator' from (1985). Jeffrey has appeared in 5 movies based on H.P. Lovecraft stories, stayed in the realm of cult films and has gone on to star in other genre classics. This interview was conducted before the release of 'The Attic Expeditions (2001) and 'FeardotCom' (2002)
How did you get into film-making, and why did you choose acting as a profession?
I suppose I gravitated to acting out of a mixture of instinct, naivete
and opportunity. When I was a boy I would always run off to my room and
re-enact what I'd just seen on TV or at the matinees. I was in a few plays in elementary school and then in high school I took a theatre class for an easy A. Or so I told myself and everyone else. Secretly, it was always my greatest wish to be an actor. College brought on a deeper and humbler appreciation for the committment and discipline it took to excel as an actor. I've been very, very lucky.
Throughout your career you have appeared in a vast number of horror and sci-fi movies. Is this a typecast problem you could never shake off or do you purposely look for this kind of work as an actor?
Of course, I've been typecast and, yes, it's been frustrating at times.
Every actor,to a lesser or greater degree, faces this problem. Being
typecast has brought me a lot of work and given me the chance to work in front of a camera and learn ever more. On the other hand, it's limited more than I would like my ability to do different styles of films. I try to find that variety in how I approach each role despite the fact that some of those roles may be in the same genre. I love horror when it's done well. I hate it when it's not. But my taste encompasses a much wider circle. I'm very thankful to the horror genre because it got me on the dance floor, but it's not my be all and end all. Horror found me, I didn't find it.
Are you a fan of horror, and would you ever consider writing or directing this kind of movie?
Writing has never been a driving force within me. Directing intrigues me and I hope someday to do some, but I've yet to find some material that implores me to do so. I'm still learning about the technical aspects of filmmaking.
Arguably, the most memorable character you've played to date is Herbert West from the Re-Animator films. Was it fun being involved in such an original horror movie?
Filming ReAnimator was a very enjoyable and intense experience. At the
time, it was only a little low budget flick. It was my first really juicy role on film. There were a lot of laughs on set. Bruce Abbott and I got along very well. We're still good friends. Stuart was a man on a mission. But, really, I never thought at the time that it would reach the high status that it has. I was too busy trying to bring Herbert to life.
And are you amazed at how successful the Re-Animator films have become?
I am amazed that as the years go by that ReAnimator's following grows
ever stronger. As I've learned that is a rare, rare thing indeed.
Jeffrey as Agent 'Milton Dammers'.
Personally, I loved your performance as Special Agent Milton Dammers in Peter Jacksons' The Frighteners. What was it like working with such an esteemed director, who now of course has gone on to direct the Lord of the Rings trilogy?
Peter Jackson is the greatest director I have ever worked with. I will
always treasure those times. Dammers was a plum role and I relished playing him and collaborating with Peter. It was the greatest experience of my humble, little career.
And what influences helped you create Milton Dammers in the movie, who is such an unusual character?
It started with the phenominal writing. Most of it is there. The look
was something that Peter and I arrived at together. The black eyes were his idea. The hair cut was mine. It was a truly collaborative and instinctual joy to come up with that character with Peter.
In 1998 you appeared in a small role in 'I Still Know What You Did Last Summer'. I just wanted to touch on this as I happened to live just around the corner from Danny Cannon (the director) before he became a director. What was it like working with him?
It was a pleasure working with Danny. Thanks to him that was an easy role to get. I met with him and the offer came in. He told me he wanted me in the film because of my work in The Frighteners. Bless him.
I've heard that a new Re-Animator movie is being made. How is the production going?
There is a lot of talk on the web about ReAnimator 3. imdb.com and many
other sites state that it's in pre-production or set to go or whatever. That may be true, but as I write this I do not have any plans to be in it. I have not been officially approached to be in it despite the fact that for a number of years now my name has been attached to the project without my permission. Bit of a sort spot with me.
Finally, what up and coming projects will you working on that fans can look forward to?
I just finished my third episode of ENTERPRISE, the latest installment
in the Star Trek franchise. It's a great show and I enjoy doing the series very much.
I shot a film in Europe last year with Stephen Dorf and Stephen Rae
entitled FEARDOTCOM - that name may be changed, I don't know. Warner Bros. bought the North American distribution rights and will be giving the film a pretty good release (2500 screens) sometime this year, perhaps in September. Sorry I don't have any info in regards to any foreign release dates.
I star in a twisted, nifty independent called THE ATTIC EXPEDITIONS.
It'll go to video, but it's very unique and clever. It also stars Seth Green and Ted Raimi. And then there's always the mystery of the yet to be known............
"Thanks ever so much for taking part in this interview Jeffrey!"
Special thanks to Cynthia D. Zimmerman (President, Official Jeffrey Combs Fan Club)
Visit the official "Jeffrey Combs" website: http://www.jeffreycombs.com/