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Jim O'Rear

Jim: "DAY was great. I love Romero
and Savini".

Conducted by Phil Davies Brown
October 5th, 2004

Jim O'Rear may not be a familiar name to many of you but he soon will be, as he is the man behind new horror film The Demons 5 that brings together Robert Englund, Gunnar Hansen and Kane Hodder and pits them against many of the genre's finest talents.

Jim truly is a 'jack of all trades' with numerous credits to his name, and many wonderful stories about his experiences in the genre to tell.

Read on for all the latest news on the horror movie that everyone is dying to see!!

You started out as a magician that sounds very interesting. Was it a lot of fun?
Yes, I had a lot of fun. I toured as “The Youngest Professional Magician” and worked with a lot of great acts, like Harry Blackstone Jr., David Copperfield, The Pendragons, and The Great Tomsoni. It gave me a great opportunity to see and experience a lot of the world at a very young age.

I know that you toured with David Copperfield, I must ask you what did you think of his performance in 'Terror Train' and were you pissed that he got to woo Jamie Lee Curtis instead of you? You could've done that man!!
Well, I think David’s performance speaks for itself. We didn’t see him in any other acting roles after that, did we? Actually, I thought he did fine with the material he had to work with and not having an acting background. I really didn’t expect an Academy Award winning performance… his area is stage magic. I give him credit for giving it a shot, though.

You soon moved into the world of film and have worked on a number of high profile projects. Is it all down to hard work and perseverance, or did you get a lucky break?
It was a little of both, I guess. It’s definitely hard work. You have to aggressively market yourself daily… make phone calls, mail postcards, contact casting directors and agents, go to auditions, knock on doors, and deal with a lot of rejection. You really have to hang in there. Of course, luck plays into it, though. In my case it came through magic…. much like Copperfield’s acting opportunity. A television director saw my stage act, one night, and approached me afterwards for a role in a new commercial he was making. I didn’t accept it, but, after a week of phone calls from the director, I finally caved in and did the TV commercial.

You did stunt work on 'Day of the Dead' what was that like to work on?
DAY was great. I love Romero and Savini. I was a fan of their work before being cast as a zombie in Florida, so I was extremely excited to be a part of “The Holy Trilogy.” It was long hours but a blast at every moment.

Did you meet Romero?
Yes. George and I still keep in contact, actually. He’s a great guy and wonderful to work with. It’s odd how certain things come full circle in life. George’s original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, in 1968, was the film that got me interested and hooked on horror to begin with. I hated horror before I saw NIGHT. After viewing it, I couldn’t get enough. I followed George’s career through the years and then I got the opportunity to be in the final chapter of the zombie series that inspired my love for horror. I thought it couldn’t get any better, or that the circle couldn’t be any more complete, until I was asked (a couple of years ago) to be a guest presenter at a horror award show honoring George for his lifetime of achievements in the horror genre. Not only did I get to be in a chapter of the story that inspired my love for horror, but I also got to personally present the lifetime horror award to the man who inspired me to be a horror movie actor.

What was it like getting to work with Tom Savini?
Tom is great. He’s another one that I still keep in contact with today. Tom and I are actually working together on a few more projects coming up later this year. He’s a creative genius. His mind is always working and he’s constantly an inspiration on the set. This guy busts his butt and gives his all to everything he creates… and he loves it the entire time. His talent, enthusiasm, and dedication are fantastic.

What do you think about the 'Dead' remakes and cash in sequels currently happening?
You have to love them, really. Even if they’re awful. Zombies are classic horror creatures that just haven’t been given their due in cinema. We’ve seen vampires, witches, Frankenstein monsters, and werewolves everywhere. Sure, we’ve had zombies pop up here and there, but nothing to compare to the number of other classic creatures. Plus, overall, the more horror projects the better. Better for the fans and better for the industry, as a whole. It’s nice to see horror “creature features” making a comeback. I’m tired of “psychological thrillers,” ghost stories, and gutless dramas disguised as horror flicks. Bring on the monsters!!

You appeared as Chicklet in 'Psycho Beach Party' on the stage. Have you seen the movie and what did you think?
Yes, I have the movie on DVD, actually. The writer, Charles Busch, is hilarious. The play was a blast! Shaving my entire body every day for three months so that I could wear a tight, leather bikini was a bit of a hassle, but the reaction from the crowd made it all worth it. I thought the movie was great, even though it was different from the play. I think it still carries the humor, theme, and feel of the stage version, which is what makes it all work in the first place.

Jim: "..it’s great, escapist entertainment with an odd sense of humor".

Was the film version radically different?
I thought the film was extremely different. There were additional characters and A LOT of new story points and twists that do not exist in the play. But, the changes still worked. Let’s face it, the film is never going to win any awards… neither is the play, for that matter… but it’s great, escapist entertainment with an odd sense of humor.

You never seem to settle in one area of the industry, are you very ambitious or very restless?
I think it comes down to survival, actually. I love all aspects of film and theater and wanted to learn as much as I could about them. My mind craves knowledge of the industry and does become restless if I’m not learning anything new. But, here’s where the survival comes in. I never wanted to be famous; I just wanted to be able to work. I thought that if I learned about everything, I would have more job opportunities. Do you need a makeup artist? I can do that. Do you need a stuntman? I can do that. Do you need am actor? I do that! I think you can see where I’m going with that. It opened up a lot of other job opportunities that I normally wouldn’t have been offered.

You also do a lot of writing, and haunted attraction work. Out of all of the fields you have worked in, which area is the most fulfilling?
I think writing and acting are the most fulfilling. Writing is a good release because you get to empty your head of ideas and get things on paper and on screen that were once inside you. Acting is an emotional release. It purges the soul.

How did you enjoy working on Charlie & Sadie a.k.a Miss Maniac?
Although MISS MANIAC took up about a year of my life, due to rewrites and recasting, it was great fun. It’s a quirky story that relates to Charles Manson in a darkly humorous way. The cast and crew were great. Everyone on the set was working to make the project the best it could be with no egos involved. It was a family atmosphere. I’m anxious to see how the final product looks.

What was Linnea like to work with?
Linnea Quigley is a real professional. She shows another side of her talent in MISS MANIAC. It’s not the typical, cutesy, scream queen part you’re used to seeing her play. She’s extremely easy to play off of, as an actor, and she’s willing to do what it takes to make a scene work… even if it means spending 20 hours on the set on a particular day (which happened on MANIAC). I’m looking forward to working with her again in a couple projects coming up at the end of the year.

Can you tell us what to expect from 'Vampire Wars'? Apparently you were injured on set?
I guess the question should be, “Do you expect VAMPIRE WARS to be released?” I don’t know what to expect, actually. The cast was fantastic… Robert Englund, Chris Sarandon, Amanda Plummer, and Maximillion Schell. The sets and costumes were great and the stunt work was brutal. It has the potential of being a wonderful vampire flick. Unfortunately, we may never see it, as it is rotting away on the shelves inside Universal Studios. Rumor is that it’s tied up in a lot of legal red tape and may never see the light of day. I’d love to see how the stunt scene looked that I was injured in. It was a fantastic battle scene set during the Holy Wars with swords and staffs on horseback. Almost all of the stuntmen obtained some sort of injury that day, but I was lucky enough to have my entire spine knocked out of place and had to have it reset. OUCH!

What was it like to work with such a talented cast?
It made life on set a breeze. It’s great when you have an entire cast of film veterans to work with because they instinctively know what to do. It makes things roll along much more smoothly and you can really build strong scenes.

And what about 'Skarecrow'?
SKARECROW is an indie film that comes out this summer about a six foot tall, cursed scarecrow that kills kids in the woods. It looks like it has a lot of potential on the indie market and the trailer is very good. I think you can view the trailer online at www.skarecrowthemovie.com. I play an old, crazy, blind preacher and do some stunt work. I was the veteran on this set. It was a cast and crew of “newbies,” but they all showed a lot of professionalism and were great to work with.

Your latest project 'The Demons 5' has got me extremely excited as it has possibly the best genre cast ever.
Me, too. Being a horror fan, I wanted to see a film that featured an all-star horror cast of actors and key crew members. I wanted that talent to be compiled of people who have had a major influence on horror over the past 25 years as well as up and coming horror actors…. people like Robert “Freddy” Englund, Gunnar “Leatherface” Hansen, Kane “Jason” Hodder, Bill “ChopTop” Mosley, Tom Savini, R.A. “Leatherface 3” Mihailoff, Jacki “Miss Maniac” Lynn, Debbie “Toxic Avenger 4” Rochon, and more. There’s never been a cast like that before. Luckily, these actors wanted the same thing and came together to form, possibly, the greatest horror cast ever for THE DEMONS 5.

Can you tell me how the project came about?
Initially, it all came about by chance, actually. I’ve consulted several years for the Haunted Attraction industry… teaching haunted house actors, giving marketing and advertising tips, showing how to set up scares, etc. A friend of mine in the Haunt Industry, named Myron St. John, heard about a vampire screenplay I’d just had optioned by some producers at ABC. He was interested in reading it, so I gave him a copy. When he had finished he said, “I really liked the flow, feel, and pace of that screenplay. I’ ve got a story idea about a group of demons that trap some kids inside an abandoned prison.” Myron asked me if I’d take a look at his idea and see if I’d be interested in writing a screenplay based on it. I read over his brief treatment, pounded out a 110-page screenplay, and we were on our way.

Jim: "It was, basically, a Hollywood “who do you know” scenario".

You are taking on multiple roles; does that ultimately make your life easier or your job harder?
Both. It’s, obviously, harder to be a producer, writer, casting agent, and actor on a film project than to just take on one aspect of the production. There’s A LOT more work involved, creatively and business-wise. But, what makes it easier is that I know EVERYTHING about what is going on with the film. Many times an actor or writer is left in the dark about projects they’ve devoted a great deal of time to. That stresses me out. I’d rather have my hands in the mix… even if things are not going well. At least I know what’s happening at all times and can make decisions that I feel are right for my work.

How did you get everyone involved?
It was, basically, a Hollywood “who do you know” scenario. Because of my association with the horror film entertainment industry for so many years, I knew and kept in touch with a lot of industry talent. I made many long lasting friendships with people like Robert Englund, Gunnar Hansen, Tom Savini, Ben Chapman, Butch Patrick, Dick Warlock, and TONS more. When I finished writing the screenplay I just picked up the phone and personally called the actors and other talent that I felt would be right for the project and asked them if they’d read the script and consider being involved. Because they were friends, already, they all agreed to read DEMONS 5. I never imagined, though, that they would all agree to work on the project. After reading the screenplay, not a single person I approached turned me down. They all agreed to be attached to the project. I’m hoping that’s a sign that the screenplay is very strong.

What can we expect from the film?
Blood, carnage, and brutality! It’s a cat and mouse game. A group of college students organize a school research excursion to an abandoned prison that once housed five of the most brutal serial killers in history, known as The Demons 5. Unfortunately for them, the students become trapped inside the steel maze by the killers, who have returned seeking blood and have been granted supernatural powers by an angel of death. The kids have got to fight for their lives if they want to find a way out. Expect a lot of action, dark humor, plot twists, and special effects. I’m not talking about CGI special effects, though… I’m talking about “in your face” effects that happen in front of the camera lens, like in the good old golden days of horror films. The type of effects that Tom Savini and his crew are best at, with DAY OF THE DEAD realism and quality.

Is everyone confirmed to appear?
Everyone is committed and has agreed in writing. We’re trying to lock down a firm shooting date and then organize everyone’s schedules. Everything has fallen into place very easily with this project, so I’m hoping the same luck holds true for scheduling and we can retain our original casting vision. Of course, if there’s a major scheduling conflict, we may have to recast a couple of characters, but I don’t think we’re going to run into that problem.

Is everything on target to start rolling by years end?
We’re hoping to shoot before the years end. We’re pushing for a firm date that will work well for everyone. I’m not opposed to putting it off until the beginning of 2005, though, if it’s best for the project. I’m not one to rush a good thing. I want it to be a high quality project that will please the army of horror fans out there.

Jeff Burr is also a great director how did he become involved in the project?
That was another lucky break, actually. Jeff happened to be looking for another horror project to become involved with. He did great work with TEXAS CHAINSAW 3, PUMPKINHEAD 2, and THE STEPFATHER 2, among others, and enjoyed horror films. When R.A. Mihailoff played “Leatherface” in Jeff’s CHAINSAW 3 film, R.A. and Jeff became good friends. I had already cast R.A. as one of the demons when he called me up at home one day and said that he had mentioned the script to Jeff over coffee one day and that Jeff was interested in reading it. After reading the first draft, he signed a commitment letter to be the director.

Are you worried about any rivalry between Gunnar Hansen and R.A. Mihailoff? After all Gunnar isn't said to be happy with anyone else's performance of the character he created.
Those are all rumors. Gunnar and R.A. are friends and have made multiple appearances together. They get along fine. I’ve never heard either of them say a negative thing about each other. I’ve heard Gunnar say negative things about the way the “Leatherface” character has been written and changed over the years, but those comments have never been directed to an actor’s portrayal of the character. He understands that the actor is just doing what he’s been told to do by the script and the director. Gunnar and R.A. are excited to be working together on this project.

I assume you are aiming for a wide theatrical release?
A wide release would be ideal and lovely, but that hasn’t been my goal. Being realistic, I wrote it as an original cable movie for HBO or Showtime with secondary distribution to DVD stores. I think it has extreme appeal for the horror crowd, but I don’t think it is commercially appealing for the mass public looking for another CGI action / adventure film with monsters. The stars and story behind this project are aimed at a specific target audience. It’s not a typical, “safe” Hollywood project.

How long is the shoot expected to last?
We’re looking at a 6-8 week shooting schedule… and we’ll be busting our butts doing it in that amount of time.

Any idea at this early stage of a potential rating or distribution deal?
It will definitely receive an “R” rating. The demons are brutal and must be dealt with in brutal ways. There’s lots of violence, lots of horror, and lots of bloodshed. Distribution deals are currently being negotiated, but it appears as though we’re not going to have any problem getting it out internationally. A lot of people want to see this movie and are already talking about it in various trade papers and websites… and nothing has even been shot yet! That kind of early “buzz” always helps the distribution talks.

"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview Jim.
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."

Check out his official site here: http://members.aol.com/sarcophagi/

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