7.15.2007

INTERVIEW - ACTOR RUSSELL SAMS

Russell Sams burst on the pop culture scene with his extremely memorable appearance in the film, The Rules of Attraction. Watch this clip:





Russell Sams: I looked at ForcesOfGood and I liked it, usually people who are into comic books have a certain intellect, I don't know what it is, but usually those readers are thinking people.

Garrett Faber: Oh definitely. Are you into comics at all?

RS: When I was growing up I really loved Vampirella, I can't help the sexual allure of female vampires.

GF: Her outfit was intense, it was just those two things covering her boobs and that was it.

RS: I'd let her suck my neck.

GF: Definitely, she's like the queen of the underworld or something.

RS: It would be hard to fight it. I also loved some of the models she was based on, and how she changed over the years. I didn't get a lot of her issues, but I picked up some here and there. I also liked Legends of The Dark Knight, Batman, and before that, when I was a kid I read G.I Joe and Ninja Turtles.

GF: I love the Turtles, I think I’m gonna get a Turtles tattoo.

RS: Oh really, would it have all their faces on it, or just one turtle?

GF: I think I'd have to go for the team, all four, however if I was gonna go for just one turtle I'd have to pick Raph. He was badass.

RS: I had this huge 6 foot tall cardboard cutout of all four of them. When the movie came out, that was it, Elias Koteas as Casey Jones, so cool.

GF: My friend and I were talking about how good the original movie was and how cartoonish the others were. When I was a kid I didn't realize how serious that movie was, like, the Foot was a gang that was recruiting kids off the street. They beat the hell out of Raph and throw his ass through a window, they're fighting in a burning building and the floor falls out from under them, they leave New York and go to the country, and it's one hell of a movie.

RS: I'm almost afraid to go back and watch certain movies now.

GF: Another good movie you should watch again would be Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It's better now than it was when I was a kid.

RS: I remember watching it and it was the first time I ever saw animated characters mixed with real life, and having them interact, I'll check that out now though, does it have a different meaning to you now though?

GF: Yeah, I never noticed that one company was trying to buy Toontown to turn it into a highway, and that Toons were treated as second class citizens with no real rights of their own. Toons were getting killed on the spot by the judge with the dip.

RS: That always bother me too, I know it was a cartoon but it was still a little gruesome. Also when the Judge's fake eyes fell out, that bothered me, I don't like to have anything close to my eyes or touching my eyes, so when his eyes popped out, that disturbed me a little.

GF: What are some of your favorite movies?

RS: One that I've seen many times, is Braveheart, I'm a big fan of the Scottish people and the British Isles, I love that time period, I'm a big history buff. I also love Platoon; I know a Vietnam vet and he said it's one of the most realistic Vietnam movies. All the young actors went on to do other great things.

GF: Johnny Depp was in it!

RS: I know man! Oliver Stone has done some great work.

GF: I had an idea for a movie that would take place during the time the Declaration of Independence was being signed, and it would have Johnny Depp playing Ben Franklin. It would show the drama and danger of what these men were doing in making America an independent country. It would have George Washington and all those cool people in it.

RS: That would be a great character piece, and Johnny could totally pull off playing Ben, he'd find a way to make to work.

GF: Did you see the Libertine?

RS: Yeah, that was one movie I went to see twice in theaters. I really liked that piece. I met this person who told me about this documentary called "Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride", I haven't seen it, but the guy who told me about it said that Johnny Depp got a call from Bill Murray where he said "Johnny, be careful, once you get close to Hunter S Thompson, he'll never leave you, he'll always be there in some way." So, in Pirates of the Caribbean, you've got a little bit of Keith Richards in Jack Sparrow, but there is also part of Hunter S Thompson that comes in there a little bit too. I haven't seen the new Pirates movie, but when I do I'll pay more attention to it.

GF: Hunter S Thompson was great, whenever I write anything I try to write in my own voice, the way Hunter had his own distinctive voice. He was crazy, but he wasn't crazy, but he was crazy.

RS: That duality, I think, is what separates the great from the ordinary, there is a fine line that people dangle on, if you go too far onto either side then you're too far up the stream, you're either socially defined as crazy or you become whatever normal is, I think the people who dance on that line become some of the greatest, most influential writers, teachers, actors, whatever in the art world.

GF: Are you a big fan of art?


RS: Oh yeah, when I get a chance, I love to go to the museums, I backpacked for three weeks through Europe with my girlfriend, and of course you want to see everything so you don't want to spend too much time in museums but there were a couple that we just had to go in because they had such amazing work. I love paintings and busts, we saw Queen Nefertiti's bust in Berlin, and you realize how much an object holds it's weight when it's in a room with a Picasso and a Matisse, and the first thing you see is the bust, you fly by everything else and go straight to the bust. You go back to the other paintings too, but that bust definitely holds its own. I like the German artists in between World War 1 and World War 2 because they had so much to say.

GF: The Dada movement?

RF: Yes, you had the soldiers coming back from World War 1 absolutely devastated and depressed about losing such a major conflict and them trying to repair themselves as a country. Which I think is another testament to honor because that was way for them to express themselves and leave a note for later on. You can look back at some of those paintings and some of that literature and realize how these people felt. That is what's great about the art world.

GF: What did you think about Andy Warhol?

RS: I saw the movie Factory Girl and that gave me a different perspective on Warhol because I didn't know much about him, it gave me some food for thought, about his work. The cool thing about art is that you can look at it and go "I don't get it" and another person can look at it and go "That is really powerful". One of the things Siena Miller says in the movie is that Warhol takes the industrial line and makes it into a statement, with the Campbell's Soup, or the movies he put out, he made them statements. I don't know what I think about Warhol sometimes, he did something that no one else was doing at the time and he made people stop and think, so that has to mean something. Guy Pierce was great as Warhol, I really like his work, he's very committed to his roles, he's a very stellar actor and brave in the roles he chooses.

GF: What are some of your favorite books?

RS: I really like The Idiot, Siddhartha and Fight Club, those are a few off the top of my head, I do enjoy reading though, there is so much to read out there, they can totally change your perspective on things, that’s why I love the Russian and German writers.

GF: Do you write at all?

RS: I do have a journal, I have almost six full journals right now, especially when I moved to California I kept a journal. I had one before I left Tennessee, especially being out here, I wrote a lot. When you first move out here that's really all you have, so you read a lot more and you write more. I have a couple of ideas I'd like to use for short film, one day I graduate into being a writer, write something to make people laugh or write something to make people think.

GF: That's the most important thing a writer can do, is inspire someone else, write something to touch peoples lives. Who were some of the people that you admire that you got to meet?

RS: You see a lot of people out here, but you don't really get to talk to them. One person I've got to talk to was Tom Petty, I got to tell him how much I appreciate his music. My manager used to do artist development for Warner Brothers; he's had a hand in helping a lot of musicians. His name is Paul Scott, he's part of Simmons and Scott, my management company, he's got some great stories that you would die to hear. So, I saw Tom Petty at this function and I’m like "I gotta tell him that I love his music!" His eyes were so kind, and so warm, for a guy who's been around and had all these business things coming at him from all angles, it was nice that he took that little moment with me and say thank you. Another person is Frances de la Tour, she is a British actress who won a Tony for History Boys, she's an older lady, but when I was having trouble out here, acting and being an actor, you go through times when you get really discouraged man and the thought of quitting sometimes sneaks into you. I was at that crossroads where I wasn't sure what I was going to do. She sat me down in her garden and she gave me a lot of her wisdom on acting on stage, film and TV. She's also in the Harry Potter movies; she's really talented and really funny. I also go to meet Marilyn Manson.

GF: Marilyn Manson! How was he?

RS: It was at the premiere of The Rules of Attraction, it was my first red carpet, you're walking down, talking to people and I bumped to him, we didn't really say much, but after the film at the premiere party, I walk past him and he goes "Dick!" I turn around and Marilyn Manson is standing there, I tried to maintain cool. He said he appreciated my performance and he said a lot of nice things and I said to him, Marilyn, I loved your biography when you said "the less people know about you, the more they think you're a genius". I think he was kind of surprised that I read his autobiography, and that’s what was great because I am such a fan of his. For me to be a fan of his music and his book, and me to meet him and get that compliment from him will always be a highlight for me. You should check out his book, the Long Road out Of Hell. I also got meet Dita.

GF: Dita Von Teese?! Whoa, what was that like?

RS: The speech kind of left me, because she's so lovely, it was pretty cool, it was a highlight.

GF: The Rules of Attraction is one of my favorite movies; I've seen it at least a hundred times.

RS: Oh, that's cool, that movie was a highlight for a lot of people, I know it didn't do too well in theaters but a lot of people picked it up and it has it's own following now, I give a lot of credit to the director Roger Avary. He allowed to people be free and try stuff, some of that stuff was great. I didn't know any of the other actors at the time it filmed, I only met them at the premiere party, and now look at what they're doing, a lot of those actors and actresses have gone on to find great success. I got the callback and I got to audition for Roger, that dinner table scene, and we did it, I couldn't get my shoe back on, so I got frustrated by it so I kicked it, and the shoe flew over and hit Roger in the shin. We just kind of stared at each other for a second and I kind of made up something and said "Okay, fuck you all very much, I'm outta here." I started to leave and he was like "Wait!" He guided me and helped me have freedom, and made it possible to do those scenes really well. With the "Faith” scene, I didn't know we were doing that until right before we did it and he says to me "Here's what I want you to do for me, I want you to get on the bed and strip, and I'm going to play a song for you to strip to." and I go, "Oh my gosh, are you serious?" He says "Yeah, it's an initiation into our club. Trust me; you'll thank me for this later on." And I go "What song?" he says "It's a George Michael song". I say "What, Faith or something?" and he says "Of course." It was in this small little hotel room in Pasadena, I felt this surge of energy come over me and we did in one take, Ian Somerhalder jumps right in on his own will and we're just there doing it. It was one take and Roger's like "Okay, you're in the club."


GF: You guys didn't plan that dance or anything?

RS: No, I didn't even know it was happening I felt my stomach churn like "I don't know what I’m gonna do, or what's gonna happen." I've never done anything like that before and then bam, there it was in the movie.

GF: A lot of people said those scenes, the dinner table and the Faith scene were their favorite parts of the movie.

RS: Thank you, that's a huge compliment, the way the movie is, in the first few minutes of it, anytime you have a girl at a party getting taken from behind and puked on, you know you're in for an interesting movie. That movie wasn't for everybody; my Mom wasn't a big fan of that one, to be honest. Rightfully so, I told her ahead of time, about it. I think that part of the movie gives everyone a chance to laugh out loud a little bit, the movie is kind of heavy in a lot of ways, it leaves you with that feeling like, "I have to go shower, or have a beer or something." That's also the writer of the book; he leaves you like that sometimes.

GF: Bret Easton Ellis is my favorite writer, whenever he writes, it seems like he's speaking to me. I think he's a genius. Have you read any of his books?

RS: I read Less Than Zero, and I didn't read Rules of Attraction, because I didn't want it to influence anything. I have a copy of the Rules, Less Than Zero and American Psycho, have you read a lot of his stuff?

GF: I've read all of them except The Informers, I think Glamorama is his absolute best work and my favorite book of all time.

RS: I think Roger wanted to do a Glamorama movie, Roger is a huge fan of Bret Easton Ellis, and he wanted to do it with Kip Pardue to be in it, I don't know what's happening with that.

GF: Are you still cool with any of the cast members?

RS: I've seen Ian a couple of times, the guy who did Wonderland with Val Kilmer, Josh Lucas, Janeane Garofalo, Christina Applegate, and Timothy Blake Nelson, damn talented cast, at the Rules of Attraction Premiere party, the director was like "I don't have a part for you in this movie, but do you wanna come and be in it? You can hang out on the set for a week and you throw you in when I can, you can improvise." I'm like "Yeah man!" If I get to be on a set with people like that and watch and learn, I’ll do it for free. I'm in it in the middle, for like a minute in this one scene with Dylan McDermott at a party. Besides that I haven't spoken to any of the cast of the Rules, that's the way it is. You do this project with people and have a good time, but then when that project is over, you move on to the next thing. You never forget them, but sometimes you lose touch with them. This town is small in a lot of way; you'll run into them again, one way or the other.

GF: Do you ever do theater?

RS: Oh yeah, I'm doing a play right now actually. It's a contemporary play set in LA, it's written by a guy Gardner McKay and it's called Toyer, it's two person piece about a guy who seduces woman, makes love to them and then lobotomizes them. He meets them, charms them, makes love to them, drugs them, and then he lobotomizes them by cutting the fibers in the back of their skulls. He leaves them wheelchair bound in a vegetable state. I'm doing it with a talented actress I met at the University of Tennessee, great stage actress Jennifer Pennington. I haven't done a play in a while, I've gotta find a way to do more plays because I love them so much. I started out onstage, but it's hard because when you move out here, you have to keep your days open for auditions, plays are usually at night and you've still got to pay rent and eat, you've got to figure out some way to do it, and it's hard.

GF: Do you like plays better than movies?

RS: I like them both man, they're both beautiful beasts, the constant thing is you get to create and you get to act. A great character is a great character no matter what medium it's in, it doesn't matter to me; I'm in it to win it. There is something about live theater that is amazing, last weekend, one of the lighting cues didn't work, it was kind of an important part in the play, you've got to somehow, decide what you're going to do and move on, because there is no "cut", no stops, or editing, it's live. I love it for that.

GF: What did you do about the light cue?

RS: We just kept going, the light was supposed to go out, but it didn't go out all the way, then the lights were supposed to go on and they didn't go on all the way. We just kept going until finally the lights worked out, sometimes that stuff happens. A funny story was about this actress who was playing Helen Keller and the scene was, this guy was going to attack her and she was going to defend herself with this knife, the thing was, the knife wasn't where it was supposed to be in her kitchen. She couldn't find it during the scene and the guy was getting ready to attack her, so she picks up the bowl of sugar, hurls it at him and says "Poison Sugar! Poison Sugar! Poison Sugar!" That shows how crazy and spontaneous it can be.

GF: What other talents do you have besides acting and writing?

RS: Not many, [laughs] theirs a lot of things about people that I love. I like people and I like the things that surround us. Not to sound too weird but, I love nature and I love the human condition. I love a lot of art forms, I sketch sometimes, I'm not good at sketching people but I love landscapes, and trees, things that tie into nature, those are the things that I love to do. A lot of the other things I don't have, I think I just haven't tapped into them yet. I love to play the harmonica.

GF: Are you on Myspace?

RS: No, I'm not, I get weird about that stuff, once I figure out everyone is doing it, then I don't want to do it. It took me a long time to get email, and a cellphone.

GF: It's a good social networking tool.

RS: I agree, I guess I'll weasel my way into it eventually, just not yet. It's good for bands.

GF: What was highschool like for you, were you acting then?

RS: No, I didn't know anything about acting until two or three years after highschool. I went to the University of Tennessee and at the time they had an awesome undergrad program, the young actors and undergrads worked so hard and we did everything from lighting to set dressing to costumes, we did our own thing man. That's when I realized how great it was, we had a great space at the Clarence Brown Theatre, it's awesome. After college I realized that acting was what I wanted to do, although I’ve never been west of the Mississippi, I packed up my car and came out here, I've been fortunate on some things. I wasn't very popular in highschool, I just tried to get good grades and worked at McDonalds to try and buy a car.

GF: What was it like working on CSI?

RS: I was nervous because it's such a big show, I had to audition for it for different parts, eleven or twelve times, finally I got this part in this episode and it was a good win for me. That's an example of good relationships; the lady who cast the show championed me and believed in me.

GF: How do you learn how to act? How can they teach that to you?

RS: I don't know, I don't know how you do that, I think there has to be a combination of different things, it's gotta be in you. Like drawing, everyone can draw, it's just that some people can draw really well and others can't, same as singing. It has to be in you a little bit, and you've got to have that passion to want to do it, and want to be better at it, and work hard at it and learn. That's what passion does, it makes you want to work and learn. You've also got to be committed to it, you can do all those things but if it's not in you, if it's not some type of gift then you probably won't get it. It's like public speaking, some people are naturally good at it, but others are always bad at it, no matter how hard they try. It can be a combination of things.

2 comments:

B Dub said...

Great interview man! Thanks for taking the time to talk to one of the best undiscovered talents in Hollywood!

Loulou said...

Thanks for this interesting conversation! I'm a huge fan of Russel Sam's work and I think it's a shame he doesn't get more roles in movies!