CHICAGO - Parker Lewis can scare the shit out of you.
It’s a chilling title performance from Corin Nemec in Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck. Nemec delivers the kind of homicidal action that makes me wonder why he wasn’t cast as either Dick or Perry in the numerous Truman Capote films.
Corin called the Party Favors to discuss going from a child actor traumatized on the set of Webster to the maniac that killed eight student nurses in Chicago on July 14, 1966. What did Corin do to get Speck’s stare?
“The stare?” Corin replied. “The stare that was coming from the character was a product of just finding the beingness of the character. Growing up in the South (Corin was born in Arkansas), there’s a different beingness in the South. It’s a much slower kind of place. When I read the script and realized it was more of a character study than a horror/slasher film, that excited me. Then I Wikipedia-ed him. And I was like, cool, I know exactly who this guy is. It was really just a matter of working with director, Mike Phiffer on finding the correct beats and moments to climax. And then relaxing into being that Southern guy again.”
Toward the end of Speck’s life, he made a videotape showing his party life behind bars. The movie features Corin as the transformed felon. How long did Corin study the tape to nail the nuances?
“I intentionally didn’t want to see it,” Corin said. “Mike said we don’t want to recreate it. We were just going to do our own version of what that was. Anything and everything we said in there, except for the one famous line, ‘If they only knew how much fun I was having, they’d turn me loose,’ was all improv. I certainly wasn’t interested in mimicking the guy.”
The centerpiece of the film is Speck’s gruesome attack on the student nurses. The scene took up most of the production. They spent three days - which is nothing for a Chris Tucker vehicle.
“This was a small independent film and we only had 11 days to shoot it. We made a film that can stand up against a lot of films coming out in theaters right now. We got a full length feature with no holes in the storyline.”
Speck took hours beating, raping and finally stabbing the student nurses to death. It’s an intense part of the film.
“The rape scene is the most disturbing in the film,” Corin said. “Outside of that, the rest of it is fairly palatable when you’re talking about genre specific. The fact that its based on a true story deepens the emotional impact of what you’re seeing. if you’re watching a movie like Saw, it’s not nearly as disturbing because you know its not real.”
How exactly can an actor like Corin, so known for playing nice guys in film and TV show, get into the role of Speck? And how did he get out of this mindset?
“I studied with Manu Tupou, He had his own theater company called the American Repertory Company. He was in the Actor’s Studio when Marilyn Monroe was there. What he taught was his own Method, which was creating the character as it was scripted,” Corin said. “Living the life of the character as the beats and moments suggested in the material. Then finding whatever new and original beats and moments come out of that by working with the director and living the life of the character organically in the moment. As it’s scripted, this is what the character does - not me. That’s how I separate myself from that. I don’t use the Method. I’m not going into my own past to create a psychological condition that would drive me as an actor to create that moment. When you can embrace the life of the character and the environment and the scene that’s taking place, the rest happens naturally if your instrument is tuned.
One role you shouldn’t be seeing Corin taking is himself on VH1’s Celebreality programming.
“I’ve been approached to do some of these VH1 things like I Love the 80s and Where Are They Now. I refuse to do it ’cause you can imdb.com me and see where I am. I’m a working actor,” Corin said. “Just cause I was on a hit show in the 90s and I got an Emmy nomination when I was 15 for I Know My First Name First Name Is Steven, doesn’t mean I stopped the process of being an artist. I was raised by artists and I was raised to be an artist. When the show ended, I went back into theater and started studying at the American Repertory Company and continued doing films, mini-series, independent features, television pilots, guest spots and on and on and on over the next 12 years. Now I’m actively writing, producing my own films as well as starring in them.”
Besides starring in Chicago Massacre, Corin came on board as an Associate Producer. Hen wants to make sure he takes roles that don’t typecast his talents.
“Doing a film like Richard Speck, as an artist, is along the lines of what my spine is. I want to do stuff that is original, deep, moving, shocking, that as an actor is challenging. On the flip side, to have another film like High Hopes, with David Faustino and Jason Mewes, which is a total comedy, that film is just as detailed in terms of character development as Richard Speck, but it’s a comedy. it’s exciting for me to have both of these films coming out one after the other.
“At 13 years old when I saw that I could make $9,500 a week, it was like, ‘Great!’ That’s when I went for money over art. When I finished my run on Webster, I chose to never make that move ever again. Because I have kids and bills to pay, I have made films that I might not normally do, but what I learned from Manu was that it doesn’t matter what the project is. It matters what you bring to it as an artist. No matter what the storyline is, whether it be as silly as SS Doomtroopers or Mansquito or things I’ve done from SciFi Channel, which were a lot of fun, I’m going to bring to that, everything that I have to offer as an artist.”
Corin is in the process of making his own movie for the SciFi Channel. Getting back to his early days on Webster, I pondered what sort of football tips did Alex Karras give a young Corin. Did they throw the pigskin around between takes?
“No. Absolutely not,” Corin said. Turns out that real-life married couple Alex Karras and Susan Clark, were going through a rough patch and playing a happy couple on TV took its toll. “They had to stop working in front of a live studio audience because of the terrible fights and arguments that would happen on the set.” Corin was shocked at the cuss words that were thrown around the set. He holds very few fond memories of the gig. “I didn’t enjoy the half hour multi-camera format. I didn’t enjoy the style of writing. It was forced,” Corin said.
The producers of Parker Lewis Can’t Lose wanted to cast Corin after seeing him in the pilot of What’s Alan Watching? that was produced by Eddie Murphy.
“When Parker Lewis got the green light at Fox, I had just finished a huge $48 million feature film called Solar Crisis with Jack Palance, Peter Boyle and Charlton Heston. I was one of the lead actors in it. I thought that was going to be my film career. I thought that was the way to go,” Corin said. “When Parker Lewis was offered to me, I turned it down a total of six times before I finally sat down with them and they told me they weren’t doing multi-camera. It was going to be shot like the feature film Three O’Clock High. After that meeting, I was in. We did the show and it was great.”
The show lasted three seasons on Fox and has enjoyed a long syndication life across the Atlantic. “I’m more famous in Europe than I am here,” Corin said. According to some reports, Corin is approaching Hoff levels in Prague. For those fans of Parker Lewis Can’t Lewis, there is sad DVD news.
“I was actually working with Shout! Factory to license the rights from Sony for the DVD set,” Corin said. Sony wasn’t willing to license the rights because the didn’t want to share the profit. My excitement was to be able to work with Shout! Factory and be hands on making the extras and be the actual guy to interview the producers, the writers and the cast members. We couldn’t get the nod from Sony so now we’re in a holding pattern.”
Parker Lewis came out the same season that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was adapted as a series. Small screen Ferris died after 13 episodes. While TV critics at the time called Parker a knock-off of the series, Corin knows better.
“They created the concept of Parker Lewis before Ferris Bueller ever came out in theaters,” Corin said. “A lot of people don’t realize that Parker Lewis wasn’t because of Ferris Bueller.”
With High Hopes on the release horizon, I asked about working with Master Thespian Jason Mewes.
“Having the opportunity to work with him in a buddy film with David Faustino is just perfect. When people see the movie, they’ll see that the relationship seems very real and believable and not forced at all. It’s a kind of a slice of life film. It’s not really your general approach to the marijuana mayhem comedies. You’re watching these guys struggling to get ahead and they come across a million dollars in government weed which they decide to sell to make their own independent film. Jay is the slacker who doesn’t do anything. I’m a struggling actor. David’s a struggling writer. Together we come up with this great plan.”
The film features numerous cameos including Andy Dick, Edward Furlong, Edward Bunker, Danny Trejo, Robert Rodriguez, Ted Raimi and for WCW fans - Diamond Dallas Page.
This isn’t the first dope comedy on Corin’s resume. “I did another one with David Faustino called Killer Bud.” There’s a lot of people hoping this twosome complete the trilogy.
Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck is out on DVD from Lionsgate. High Hopes will also be coming out on DVD from Lionsgate.
After my report from the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, a few people wrote to ask why Albert Maysles was missing. The Party Favors wrote Albert. Turns out that he’s doing well and being kept extra busy on various projects so that he didn’t have the time to visit Durham. He’s also become the toast of Broadway with Grey Gardens being up for nearly a dozen Tony Awards and winning Best Actress and Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Who knew that the movie he and his brother David made would dominate the Great White Way?
According to rumors, producers are developing the Maysles brothers biggest hit for the 2009 season. Gimme Shelter will be presented in “Beat Around.” During the recreated Rolling Stones performance at Altamont, the actors playing the Hells Angels will come out into the seats and attack audience members with pool cues. You’ll remember to turn off your cellphone after your wife gets stomped into the carpet by Sonny and his crew. Like Will Rogers’ Follies, each show will feature a celebrity playing almost assassin Meredith Hunter. With the excess of reality show stars that want to remain in showbiz, they’ll beg to be the one to attempt to shoot Mick Jagger. What’s a molar to claim a legit stage credit? Imagine that, in one week, we can eliminate the entire cast of Real World: Newark.
The only problem right now is lining up enough hospital beds to treat the audience after each show.
GREATEST COMPETITION SHOW EVER
All bow down and worship at the intense insanity that is Ninja Warrior on G4. It’s MXC for the hardcore desiring a serious obstacle course. A hundred people attempt to tackle these courses that test the skills that only a great ninja warrior can accomplish. Why do the Japanese come up with kick ass gameshows while we’re stuck watching people open suitcases?
Normally this is where I’d blast G4 for running a show that has nothing to do with video games, like The Man Show. But Ninja Warrior is a live action video game. These guys are pretty much performing Pitfall and Super Mario Brothers as they race across the swampy course. I’m hooked.
Here’s a little environmental conservation tip that you never hear from Leonardo DiCapio: Instead of wasting gas driving to a movie theater to see his new blockbuster, wait for it to appear on TV. Don’t buy the DVD. Producing DVDs involves mining of metal and the evils of plastic. Plus think of all the fuel used to ship that little box to the store or your post office box. Just wait for it to appear on HBO. And if you have a pedal generator to run your TV set, that would be best, so you are making your own electricity.
Every so often, I get bugged that my local cable company refuses to carry Bravo. Normally when they’re hyping a new reality show. But then I visit someone with a dish and get so deflated at their programming. During Memorial Day weekend, I clicked onto the channel in the evening. Instead of interesting and freakish programming, they were running Waterworld. Why the hell should I make a scene to get this channel? I’m better off just waiting for the DVDs of their original programming to get listed on Netflix.
Why is Twin Peaks on Universal’s Chiller channel when it’s got enough cops and FBI agents in the cast to be put on Sleuth?
For the longest time, I swore Tony Sinclair of Tanqueray Gin fame was the DJ on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. He seemed like the kinda guy who could give Ellen a case of happy feet. Was I wrong. Not that I bet money or caused a bar fight based on this misconception. But damn it, how can it be that Tony Sinclair is a creature completely conceived on Madison Avenue? Who thought he’d be like Steven, the Dell Dude? Tony is played by actor Rodney Mason - who doesn’t have too many major credits to his name. He hasn’t even appeared as a witness on a Law and Order or CSI. Hopefully that will all change with The Case of the Missing Limes.
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