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Michael Bailey Smith

Michael: "Can I believe how lucky I was?
Hell, yeah".

Conducted by Phil Davies Brown
April 3rd, 2006

Michael Bailey Smith is currently terrorising audiences with his excellent portrayal of Pluto in the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, yet he is already a familiar face amongst genre fans, thanks to his work on Charmed and Buffy, as well as a sinister turn as the titular beast in the 2003 cult hit Monster Man.

Read on for an in depth discussion on life as a working actor and hear what Michael thinks of the petition to make him the next jason Voorhees.

An even longer version of this interview (which will confirm if Brenda Carter was raped or not) will appear in issue 8 of GOREZONE magazine which will be on sale towards the end of April.

I would like to thank Michael for taking time out of his very hectic schedule, to talk exclusively to me, in the week that The Hills Have Eyes was at the top of the UK box-office.

You reportedly went along to an audition with a friend and left after securing the role of “Super Freddy” in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5. Can you believe how lucky that was?
I think the different events that happen in your life steer you in one direction or another. When you're taken on a path and a positive opportunity is presented, then I think you should embrace it. That's what I did with "A Nightmare on Elm Street 5." When the casting director asked me if I wanted to audition too, I could have said no, but I didn't. I don't know why, but something inside of me said I should do it.

Can I believe how lucky I was? Hell, yeah. Every time I do a movie or a TV show or a commercial, I feel damn lucky.

The film was made just around the time that Freddy was at his peak. What was the atmosphere like on set? Was everyone under pressure to meet fan expectations?
Not really. I didn't know what the hell was going on. Remember, it was my first film, first everything. I was pretty nervous. I look back on that performance and cringe. I wish I could do it over again. I was pretty stiff. But it was fun as hell. I got to wear the famous prosthetics, the glove and the hat. I even got to sit down with Robert England and talk to him for a while. Talk about awesome.

Did you know that it's my body in the beginning of the film when you see two people making love? When I was getting ready to do Freddy one day, the producers came up to me and asked if I wanted to get naked with the body double for the lead girl. They explained the whole scene to me and I was like, “Where do I sign up”?! You gotta love Hollywood!

You caught the acting bug whilst shooting ANOE 5 and continued to work on a number of projects, before being cast in the abandoned Fantastic Four movie. What can you tell us about the production which never saw the light of day? I actually noticed looking at your pictures that you resemble Michael Chiklis which is weird in a roundabout way.
When I did the "Fantastic Four", I had hair. So, it is kind of strange that they cast an actor in the new film that's bald, like I am now.

Shooting F4 was very fun. It was my second film and I was the new kid on the block, compared to everyone else. The characters portrayed in the movie were pretty much like the actors in real life. Alex Hyde-White, who was Reed Richards, was the leader, the most seasoned of the actors. Jay Underwood, who played Johnny Storm, was the young fiery actor. Rebecca Stabb, who played Sue Storm, was the sexy intelligent type. Joseph Culp, who played Dr. Doom, was the brooding quiet type. And me, well, I'm the jock, a bit sensitive but can kick ass when I need to.

Unbeknownst to all of us, it was a production that was doomed from the start. We all thought and were told that it had a chance to get to the theaters. Alex and I really promoted the film, going to conventions and such. Then a few weeks before Christmas, we were told that it was shelved.

I was pretty devastated. But things like that happened everyday in Hollywood, deals are made and films get shelved. It's all about the money and how much you can make. Someone felt that they could make more money with the fancier high budget film.

I haven't seen the new one. I don't know if I ever will. I just don't have the desire. But I hear it looks great. But I also hear that the story told in the first one is better.

The funny thing is that with the film being shelved, we've received more publicity from that happening, than if they were to have released it.

I still get people asking me about the film and when I'm at a convention, I see bootleg copies everywhere.

You worked incredibly hard for the next 10 years with parts in many of the nation’s favourite TV series and cult films before playing in Buffy. How did the role on Buffy come up?
Like with most of the roles I get, I had to audition. The character I played was Toth. It was a cool role and I got to wear some pretty cool prosthetics.

I'm a good fighter but when they hired me, they didn't know that. So, they brought in a stunt double for me to do the fight scenes. I was a little upset about that because I like to do my own stuff. I tried to tell them that, but they wouldn't listen. So, I kept my mouth shut. I figured they knew better than me so that's why they brought in a stunt guy.

On the day, when they had to do the big fight with Buffy, the stunt guy came in and started doing the scene. I was there for the close-ups. Well, when the stunt guy was doing the fight, things were not working out with the shot. You could really tell the difference between the stunt guy and me. So, they brought me in, really explained the fight scene as if I had never fought before. Again, I kept my mouth shut.

So, with everyone all nervous, not knowing if I could do this, they called, "Action!" I then proceeded to execute the fight scene to perfection. When I was finished with the first take, the producers and everyone came up to me and said, "Wow, that was awesome! I didn't know you could fight." Without saying, "I tried to tell you”, I just smiled and shrugged.

So, for the rest of the day, the stunt guy sat down and watched as I did the whole fight scene. It turned out pretty well.

What was the show like to work on?
The show was fun. It's always great to work with people who are on a hit show. I got to do "Desperate Housewives" and "My Name is Earl", in the past few months. Both are top shows, so it's cool to be a part of it.

You also worked on an episode of Roswell. Do you enjoy working with young up and coming talent? There must be a great energy to work off of?
Did you know that before HILLS, Emilie De Raven and I worked together on "Roswell"? Pretty cool. When I got back from Morocco filming HILLS, I went and looked at the episode of "Roswell." Man, she looked so young.

This business is very small. There's not a show where I don't run into someone that I've worked with, either crew or other actors.

Michael: "There's not a show where I don't run into someone that I've worked with".

You found fame amongst fans of Charmed when you played Julian McMahon’s alter ego. What was that particular show like to work on?
Did you know that that gig started out as just a Co-Star? I was playing a Grimlock named Janor and doing pretty well. On the last day, the producers came up to me and said, "Hey, the guy that's playing Belthazor is not working out. How would you feel about taking over?" I'm like, "Yeah!"

So, I had to go back and re-shoot the scenes the other guy did and then continue from there. Then for some reason, they had me playing all of these other characters as well. I got to play Shax who killed Prue off the show and the Source. Plus another Grimlock. It was a great gig. Everyone was nice.

The stuff they said about Shannon, well, from what I saw, she worked hard and is darn good actress. I respect that.

Was it intimidating to have to work with three very powerful women who are instrumental in the decision making which goes on in the running of the show?
No. Not at all. I just came in, did my job and went home. It was cool to hang out with Julian. He's a great guy. It's funny how I was in the original Fantastic 4 and then he was in the new one.

Many of your roles have required you to wear prosthetics and or special effects make-up. Is it uncomfortable to work in/with and do you feel it hinders or helps your performance?
For me, it doesn't bother me to wear prosthetics. I guess if I had a choice, I would choose not to wear it, but if the job calls for it, then I'm all in. I’ve seen some actors get all weird and start pulling the stuff off. Man, talk about making the producers mad. But for me, putting on the prosthetics puts me into another world. It really allows me to become the totally different person. The funny part is that once I take the stuff off, people that recognized me on the set, don't recognize me without it. They just walk right past me. It's like I have to re-introduce myself again.

Many of your roles have required you to be evil or a big bad ass. Do you one day hope to play a role such as Michael Clarke Duncan's John Coffey in The Green Mile, which would show a softer side to you as an actor?
Yes. I know roles like that don't come very often. And waiting for "that" role will just drive you crazy. So, in the past 3 years, I've been screenwriting. I've just finished my 4th screenplay and it's getting a lot of attention. 3 out of the 4 screenplays I would sell, no problem. But I have one, called, "The Promise", which I want to do. It's a little like "Of Mice and Men." It shows my true self and it's a great role. But I have to wait a bit, sell a few scripts and hopefully get a chance to make this one.

I've gotten to show a sensitive side a few times. It's always great to show that side.

Horror fans know you as the titular beast in Monster Man which was something of a cult hit back in 2003. How did you first hear about the project and what was it that attracted you to the role?
Again, I auditioned and got it. I came in and I guess I floored the director. After I read, he actually hugged me. I guess I did a pretty good job. It was a fun role to play. I had to do all of it with only one eye to see with, much like Pluto in HILLS. Then at the end of the film, I get both eyes knocked out. So, I was acting totally blind. That was an experience.

What was Michael Davis like to work with? He is a seriously underrated talent in my humble opinion.
Michael is a great guy. When he's in front of the monitor watching the scene unfold, he's actually acting out the scene as the actors are doing it. It's pretty cool. He's a real passionate guy. I have a lot of respect for him.

When an actor books an audition to play a monster or a mutant what happens when you go in? Do you introduce yourself and chat briefly before auditioning, or do you just burst in and try to scare the shit out of the casting directors?
If an intense part, playing a monster or even a bad ass, you have to walk in with some of that. Well, at least I do. When you walk in, the casting director, producers and director all have to feel that tension.

I walk in very professional, all business, simmering with rage just underneath the surface. There's not much chit-chat going on. You introduce yourself but that's about it. It's serious. And then when they call "Action", it's time to let it go.

When I finished auditioning for HILLS, the casting director and producers all stared at me. When I walked out, I thought to myself that I either sucked so bad that they were in shock, or I scared the piss out of them. I'm glad they pissed their pants!

You are currently starring in the remake of The Hills Have Eyes which is number one here in the UK just now. How does it feel to be in a number one movie?
Great! I love it! I hope everyone sees the movie and it stays #1 for a while.

How did you first hear about the project and how did you become involved?
Not to sound like a recording, but I got the audition, went in and read and the rest was history. I actually didn't read for Pluto. I read for Lizard knowing that I was auditioning for Pluto. Strange? Well, Pluto does not have a lot of dialogue, so they had us all read for Lizard. I just made Lizard like Pluto; intense and dangerous with a touch of childlike innocence.

Had you seen the original and if so, what were your thoughts and feelings towards it?
I thought the original was great. I thought Michael Berryman was great too. I purposely did not see the original until after I finished filming. I didn't want to be influenced with the way Michael did Pluto. I wanted to bring a fresh approach. Plus, I had to match the director's vision. That meant something totally different than what was done in the original.

I actually met Michael Berryman at the premier. He's a real great guy.

Are you a fan of horror movies?
It depends on what kind. To tell you the truth, I get too scared. I'm a big baby. It's true. My wife loves them. She laughs when I jump. I loved "Alien" and the first "A Nightmare on Elm Street" the most.

Pluto is probably the most widely recognised character from the original films thanks to Michael Berryman. Were you worried about comparisons between the two incarnations?
Yes. But I knew my performance would be totally different than what Michael did. It had to. I think I made Pluto pretty cool. It fits the mood of the film.

I've scene some posts on IMDB saying, "He's no Michael Berryman." Well, I'm not. And I don't what to be. I'm Michael Bailey Smith. Different kind of actor and Pluto is a different kind of character.

Michael Bailey : "During filming, I knew he was digging what I was doing".

How much discussion went into how the role should be played? Was Alex clear on what he wanted to see or did he want to see how you were going to play the role?
Yes, very clear. But he wanted me to bring a lot of my stuff as well. He was a little worried about what I would bring. I guess all directors are like that to a certain extent. Because Pluto in the original was so iconic, he was a little more worried.

During filming, I knew he was digging what I was doing. At the end of the shoot he hugged me and said that I exceeded his expectations. He said that people would love the new Pluto. That made me feel good.

What was the process of getting moulds made and make-up tests and things like?
We had three make-up tests in LA. Photos and video were taken to show the director. They had to do four life-casts. One of my entire head and neck. One with the make-up on, I forgot why. They had to do one of my teeth and one of my back for the hump.

The guys at KNB are great. The best I've worked with.

It was several weeks before the whole process was done.

It's fun going to these make-up effects shops, because they're always working on several shows simultaneously. Plus they have a whole museum like collection of past projects they've worked on. It's really a "house of horrors." Very cool.

How did you prepare before each day?
To me, there was no extra preparation. I just went to work like any other actor. You know what you have to do and you get ready. It's just that for me, I have to spend 3 to 4 hours a day in the make-up chair as they put on the prosthetics. You're normally at the set before everyone, even the crew. And you are the last one to leave. It makes for a long day.

Robert Joy is wonderful in the movie, what was he like to work with?
Robert is awesome. He's been to my house a few times since filming for a BBQ. My wife is a great cook. We hung out a lot in Morocco, probably had dinner together almost every night. The family members and the mutants hung out in their own separate groups. It's weird how it turned out that way. It's like we were bonding in our own little groups.

Robert has some great stories about the movies he's worked on.

In later scenes Pluto was especially terrifying thanks to the way you made him move. He was relentless and frenetic. Was this because Alex wanted the fight between Pluto and Doug to be so fast paced, or did they just have to keep up with the action as it were? I'm guessing it would have been rehearsed for blocking and so on?
I rehearsed with the Doug stunt double for two weeks before we shot that scene. But all of it was pretty much just walking through the different actions that needed to be made.

The Doug stunt double did all of the crazy stuff and then Aaron stepped in for some of the safer stuff and the close-ups.

I don't know what they were expecting when they hired me, but when I have to do action stuff, I'm pretty quick and agile. Remember, I play a lot of football and went as far as Dallas Cowboys. You don't make it to that level without being pretty athletic. I guess because I'm big, everyone assumes I'm slow. But I'm very fast. Very quick.

When I did the Van Damme film, "In Hell", everyone thought the same thing too. But the moment we did our first fight scene and I came at Van Damme, everyone was shocked as to how quick I was.

Well, for this film, it was almost the same thing. The moment I blasted through the glass door, they knew they were in for a ride.

I told Doug (Aaron Stanford) that I was gonna come at him. I don't know if he believed me or not, but he did when we started shooting. I kept it safe, but I pushed it to the edge.

The director, the producers, the crew, everyone loved that scene.

From what I understand, they're going submit that scene to the MTV Movie Awards for Best Fight Scene. That would be cool!

Of all the mutants, I felt that Pluto and Lizard were the most effective. Have you had a positive reception from people who have seen the movie?
Some people on the Internet, before the movie came out, said that I looked like some muscle bound guy who probably couldn't act. They kept comparing me to Michael Berryman. But now that the film has come out, I don't get that anymore.

Most people really like what I did. Some even say that there should have been more of us. I agree!

Many people have been outraged, disgusted, horrified and even mortified when watching the film. Do you take this as a sign that you all did your jobs correctly?
Yes! If they're cheering when I die, then I did my job. I've even heard that some people felt a little sympathy for me. Deep down inside I wanted a little of that as well.

Pluto was famously resurrected for the sequel after having most likely been killed in the original. Would you like to return to the role if a sequel was made?
Yep, in a heartbeat. I loved Pluto and I miss playing him.

I see that some of your fans are hoping to start a petition to have you be the next Jason Voorhees in the new Friday the 13th film. Is that something you would be interested in pursuing?
It's really nice that I'm included in that petition. I'm flattered. I would be interested. It might be fun.

What's next for Michael Bailey Smith?
I'm doing a film right now called, "Careless" with Colin Hanks. He finds a severed finger in his kitchen and he thinks his creep neighbor, that's me, is the one responsible. It's a fun role. I'm also doing a new TV show called, "Pepper Dennis" and another movie in April.

I've also been writing and I hope to get one of my projects off the ground.

Other than that, just auditioning and hanging out with my family.

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

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