A truly distinctive and unique vision takes luck and a variety of factors to come together while swimming in a sea of uniformity. Perhaps the most unique, dirty and hilariously twisted film on this year’s film festival circuit comes from the minds of Jim Hosking, Toby Harvard, DRAFTHOUSE FILMS, ROOK FILMS, SPECTREVISION and TIMPSON FILMS. All banding together to tell a bizarre and connecting tales of three unusual characters and their uncanny style, flair for disco and fluid concept of relationships against the gritty backdrop of Los Angeles, the end result is the complete insane film, THE GREASY STRANGLER (hitting limited theaters on October 7th).
While we were at this year’s FANTASTIC FEST, we were able to catch up with actress Elizabeth De Razzo, who plays the quirky Janet and Big Ronnie himself, actor Michael St. Michaels. We sat down with De Razzo and St. Michaels in between packed screenings to talk therapy, the unsafe side of LA, personal influences and merkins.
Congratulations on the screening at FANTASTIC FEST with the hugely successful midnight madness screening. Talk about the classification of this twisted comedy as a midnight madness film versus a horror film?
ED: Oh absolutely I think that’s the only way that we would could fit within midnight madness is because it’s insane.
MSM: I think you could run it in mental institutions also. You sure it would go there!
ED: Would that be used for that therapy?
MSM: Instead of shock treatment you would show them THE GREASY STRANGLER.
ED: I think it will defiantly it would help some people sort their stuff out.
MSM: They need an example of something that’s gone further than most of them have.
ED: So true!
It’s interesting you say that because it’s kind of a therapy type of movie. Because there’s people out there where life was really awkward and hell so when you see characters in THE GREASY STRANGLER, trying to find an identity and connection and love in a very fucked up way, it’s definitely a connecting movie for people who watch it whether they want to admit it or not.
ED: Well, weirdly enough it’s such a relationship film whether you see it right off the bat or not. the relationship between Ronnie and Brayden has and what Janet has with each one of them as well. Even Oinker all these people are so connected and there’s almost endearing quality to all them in a very fucked up way.
MSM: Well someone once wrote that love is a four letter word for insanity and it’s true…
The aspect of original ideas and characters that something we see here. It’s very fresh and its very outside the box with what you need today. Everyone wants to be the same cookie-cutter to make it. This is something distinctively different and the last time I can see something that was similar to this was the TIM and ERIC SHOW as well as NAPOLEON DYNAMITE. Can you talk about the material and creating as well as cultivating these characters?
MSM: Well, it’s just in you. you’re bringing out aspects that you find similar in your life. I guess I never really fit in anywhere anyway so it was easier. The Jody part, I didn’t realize I had to do that until day before. The movie was full surprises for me like that because I’m really bad at reading scripts.
ED: That was great! You were really full surprises which really helped us sorta do different things with you in the moment. Sometimes he would do the things that were so Unexpected it while we were in the actual scene. It was just knowing to kind of go with it and a lot of it ended up in the film. I was like holy shit that started from something that Michael just randomly throughout there and we’re just gonna go with it! See were kind of goes and she how it gels.
MSM: That’s why really like working with her. Of everyone working in movie she was the most fun!
ED: We had a lot of fun together because we went with it.
Let me ask you this because it’s always very interesting, improv. A lot times improv is very difficult thing to do. It’s an extraordinary island that is very tough talent to develop. With material so far out there instead of structure within dialogue and script, is it easier to do improv on a project like the greasy strangler rather than something like TV?
ED: I’ve never trained in improv. I’ve learned as I’ve been on set cause on EASTBOUND AND DOWN when they had me come in audition for that, I called my friend and asked what the rules were for improv I had never done that. I went and just did it and I got to learn from Danny McBride, Steve Little from all these other people like Will Ferrell and stuff like that. I just keep learning on set because I never trained in it.
Those guys are comedians, so they have to be “on” all of the time.
ED: But then it’s like working Michael also as well. Some of the stuff he would throw out at times I would be like, “ha?”.
MSM: I never trained in that either. improv is a necessity, a survival.
It’s just natural for you. Again, with the material so far out there rather than more structured in characters and dialogue, is it easier to do improv on TV or film rather than a project like this with THE GREASY STRANGLER?
ED: We didn’t veer off so much from the script however we had our own little quirks and with little things we would do here and there. So we were allowed to play with it on projects like eastbound and down or idiot sitter we get the script but we get a couple scenes to just play and be as crazy as we can. So I think in my experience with both television and film, I got kind of to do the same sort thing that I do except for Janet she’s is the opposite of anything I’ve ever played. so I had to actually really create a character Because I’m not as confident and also not as also sexually confident as she is as she bears at all. I had to put myself down here so I can bring it up there and Just own it and it was a little difficult at times.
Was it difficult for you Michael?
JK: You seem to have a comfort level for it Michael but Elizabeth I can also understand your point of you for putting your inhibitions aside. When the funniest scenes are the disco club in the film as well as the disco tours where you see so committed and so confident in your approach to them. Can you talk about the dancing if you brought any personal love of the music to it?
MSM: I have no idea. I just did when I felt I should be doing. as far as the movement goes, Jim gave us that.
ED: I was trying to teach him that at the club so different movements turn into different things for him. So I looked at him and said close enough!
MSM: Not really, I have two sons and I was total non-parent. I have no clue on relationships and how they’re supposed to work.
That experience makes sense, it fits. It’s perfectly dysfunctional like the film. What about you Elizabeth with relationships and building them, did any of your experience reflect them?
ED: It was natural. I know with Michael it was very easy to build that sort of tenderness because we had such a really good Rapport whenever we were together. I just want to take care of him and make sure he’s ok. With Sky and I we had a chemistry so we kind of had a rapport built from that and it was carried over. When Michael I knew it was naturally instinctual because he’s a good guy.
MSM: I’m just really needy.
Michael, what about the aspect of the practical side of the film with the makeup? It looks like hell but I can see from the look on your face it was so much fun.
MSM: It’s called Ultra Ice and it will give you hypothermia in the summer in desert. That’s one scene where I do Oinker, I was sitting there for hours I was shivering. Literally my whole body was icy cold. I can back in and I was like, “Hey! I’m back. Let’s get this done.”
ED: I remember your hands were icy cold. You know that acting is the art of waiting.
What about the aspect of wearing the wig Elizabeth?
ED: I was more worried about wearing the merkin I think for me. The wig, I was like was it really going to go with my complexion, a little Latin with the red head. As soon as I saw oh my god I was pervy Annie like orphan Annie meets Velma from SCOOBY-DOO and totally perverted. The merkin was toughest thing for me. I had to get a Brazilian and I had to get it on the day before the merkin went on. She had to glue the hair onto my bare skin and then she had to take it off she had to use this alcohol. Then the next day, it was so painful people were hearing me scream so Theo one of our producers went out to go get me tequila be used I was screaming and crying cause it was so painful. It was no fun!
When you see it up on screen do you feel vulnerable and bring back those memories?
ED: Yes! It’s like oh my god! It’s definitely a memorable thing. We were in LA and it was hot as well as that thing was coming apart. Want to thank and give props to Lex!
The locations in the movie are based within Los Angeles. Having that background where it is not so glitzy or glamorous, more gritty and realistic. How much did it affect you, the characters and performances?
ED: Not to sound like we are complaining but we were really roughing it. The house that we were shooting in, that was not set dressing, that was the house! That’s how it was. I mean a lot of places you could have gone through if you did not walk right. We were talking about this that when we blew our nose, it was black stuff would come out. Even in the street in the scene when I was walking completely naked in heels that was in downtown LA under a bridge. People had to sort of stand in a line around so it so people could not see because there was a fashion shoot right across the street from us and I was completely naked except for my merkin.
MSM: Then we also picked the best locations for truck noise, helicopters and airplanes. So many scenes took so much longer because of that. I can screw long enough for anybody but when you have to add…
ED: He is a nut ball. I think that is one thing that really stuck with us. He is a guy who walks to the beat of his own drum.
MSM: I’ve seen some of his earlier prices and he is brilliant. I feel very honored to be part of one of them.
ED: Also a shout out to Christine who did the costumes because she brought that world to life with the costumes. I think they were really another part of that world. Her eye for things was phenomenal.
ED: BULLSHIT artist!
Thank you so much for the time here, chatting with us for ICONS OF FRIGHT.
ED & MSM: Thank you.