Hey folks, Ambush Bug here. I reviewed THE PERFECT HOST in last Friday’s AICN HORROR column, but I thought it’d be a good idea to repost that review before we dive into my interview with the film’s star. So check out my review of THE PERFECT HOST to find out what the film’s about and then enjoy the interview!
In select theaters July 1 / Now available on VOD!
THE PERFECT HOST (2011)Directed by Nick Tomnay
Written by Nick Tomnay
Starring David Hyde Pierce, Clayne Crawford, & Nathaniel Parker
Find out more about the film here and on the Facebook page here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
THE PERFECT HOST is a fantastically twisted little film. It’s one of those films I love; a character piece that could just as well be a play as it is a movie since most of the action takes place in one central location. But that’s not the main reason I love this film. It’s solely because of strength of the two lead performances; David Hyde Pierce’s Warwick and Clayne Crawford’s John. There’s a specific scene in the middle of the film where Warwick shows John a home movie that not only is bone-chilling, but it also highlights the skill of these two actors; Pierce reacting with childish glee while Crawford reacting with sheer horror in his eyes. At this moment in the film, it not only signifies the turning point of the movie, but it also shows how different and how talented these two actors really are.
Those of you only familiar with David Hyde Pierce from his role as Frasier Crane’s uppity brother Niles from the sitcom FRASIER are in for a shock when they watch this film. Pierce’s character starts out to be very similar to Niles, but soon, the crazy starts and it’s apparent that Warwick and Niles are completely different characters. Pierce plays Warwick with full conviction that results in moments both humorous and utterly frightening. The way Pierce switches from pleasant host to raving madman shows a talent I didn’t know the actor possessed. After seeing this film, you’ll never look at Pierce the same way again.
Clayne Crawford, the con man who happens into Warwick’s life offers up an impressive performance as well, matching wits with Pierce’s Warwick character. The role requires quite a range of emotion (from complete control to utter desperation) and Crawford handles it all gracefully. Though he might be written off as another pretty boy actor, Crawford shows a nice combination of charm and threat that reminds me a lot of Stephen Dorff.
Director / writer Nick Tomnay plays this story out magnificently. I hate to give anything away, but it has to be noted how many times characters in this film switch roles from predator to prey. This is illustrated right off the bat as John, after robbing a bank, walks into a convenience store just to be the victim of a robbery himself. Later the roles of aggressor and victim are muddled all over again once John tries to con his way into the home of Warwick, first out of desperation (John hurts his foot in the robbery and needs aid), but then out of the possibility of robbing Warwick as well. Things get nuts when Warwick shows his true colors and it becomes apparent very quick that John had stumbled into the wrong house.
Part dark comedy, part twisted thriller, part subtle horror; THE PERFECT HOST offers up true chilling moments along with some laugh out loud scenes and twists you definitely will never see coming. THE PERFECT HOST twists and turns into itself so many times, you’ll be left you’re your head reeling. I never thought I’d see David Hyde Pierce in such a light and you won’t be able to predict the horrors and chills you’ll experience watching this film.
@’s by THE PERFECT HOST’S
David Hyde Pierce!
DAVID HYDE PIERCE (DHP): Hi Mark.
BUG: Hi David, how are you today?
DHP: I’m good.
BUG: Congratulations on the film. I saw THE PERFECT HOST actually over the weekend.
DHP: Oh good, and you liked it?
BUG: I loved it. I thought it was a really fantastically twisted movie. What was your reaction to the film when you first read the script?
DHP: Well I loved it for basically what you just said. I thought it was really funny and awfully dark obviously and I thought it was smartly written and I loved all of the twists in the plot and then of course it’s just an amazing character to be able to play.
BUG: Definitely. It is almost impossible to categorize, would you think of it to be a dark comedy, a twisted thriller, maybe a subtle horror film? What would you call it?
DHP: That’s very good. (Pauses) I kind of call it a thriller, but it’s… You know what? I think what makes it a good movie is it’s hard to capture all of it in one quick sentence, because it is a dark comedy. It’s also bizarrely kind of a buddy movie.
BUG: (Laughs) Yeah, it is.
DHP: You know? So I don’t know, it’s its own animal.
BUG: It definitely is. I love films where I’ve never seen that type of film before and this is definitely one of those.
DHP: That is a great compliment. I will tell our director and he will be pleased to hear that.
BUG: Good and I am going to be reviewing the film later this week. It should show up later this week on the site, but did you specifically take the role because it was so different from previous roles that you have played?
DHP: Yeah with one difference which is that it was… The way the character is drawn in his early incarnation at the beginning of the movie he’s not that different than from say a character I played in DOWN WITH LOVE maybe or FRASIER or just sort of the world that people are used to seeing me in if they have seen me, that kind of upscale sophisticated… he’s hosting a party… he’s serving wine… That’s not far from the way people are used to seeing me, so that’s a great flip in the movie for me, because I get to remind people of that and then take them away from that all in the same picture.
BUG: Without giving away too much, Warwick is a pretty sick individual, what type of research or preparation goes into playing a role like that?
DHP: I would say I did less research on this part than any other part that I have played for the reason that it’s all on the page. It’s all in Nick’s script. Partially too, because it’s such a complicated character that you don’t really have to go looking for levels so much. It’s more about reading and rereading, then reading again the script to flesh out sort of the motivation and what he is doing when and why he doing it. So the work for me was not external, it wasn’t about finding out about crazy people or finding out about whatever except for some of the basics like he is supposed to be a really good cook and so I had to work on my knife technique for chopping vegetables and things like that.
BUG: That was you chopping the vegetables at the beginning? It just showed your hands.
DHP: Yep, no that was me.
BUG: Great. Well how about your relationship with your co-star, Clayne Crawford? You described it as kind of a buddy movie, but it’s also pretty antagonistic. How did you guys react on set? Was it different when the camera was on or when it was off? How did you guys react to one another?
DHP: I really believe when you have that kind of neat antagonism between the two characters it’s really important to have two actors who can work together and I think in film a lot of times that doesn’t happen a lot of times, directors feels like “It’s important to have people who either really hate each other or get them to really hate each other, so you will get something that’s real on the screen.” Maybe that’s true, I don’t know, but because I’m theater based I don’t really believe in that kind of thing; I think “let’s act.” What happened with me and Clayne, we are very different… we are different styles of acting, we are different ages, all kinds of things, but we had a week of rehearsal with Nick before we started filming where we really got to work very closely together and not only routing out the characters and routing out the emotional arc of the script and a lot of the physical movements and everything, but also in recognizing that we could trust each other, that we could take risks with each other and that we would really be able to work together and not in spite of each other on a movie. I think that was really important and I think that’s why I say in a weird way “it’s a buddy movie.” I believe that in spite of the antagonism between the two characters, what you really get is a lot of chemistry, because I think we work well together.
BUG: Yeah, you definitely did. You mentioned things being a little more like theater and I definitely in my review I’m going to mention how it does play kind of like a theater play. You can sort of see this playing out on stage since it does have one central location. Did that attract you to the film or is that something that you thought of while you were making it?
DHP: Not at all, at least not in those terms. I was attracted to it. I liked that… You know I’m not sure if “theatrical” is the right expression for it, although you are absolutely right that you could take a piece like this, at least the core of the piece and put it on stage, because that would work, but I think the reason for that is that it essentially hangs on the relationship between the characters and the relationship between the actors and a lot of long sort of played out scenes as opposed to a lot of choppy editing and… That’s what I would say. It’s a character piece above everything else and that’s what attracted me to it, that I realized “This is really… I’m going to be able to, as an actor, just do my job and not have to compensate for the usual frustrations of doing film work,” which is tiny little bits of things where you are talking to someone who is not there or you are talking to a green screen or you are… I don’t know, all of the other things that happen in a lot of filmmaking, so I didn’t recognize it as theatrical, I just loved that you could really, as actors sink your teeth into these scenes and just go at it.
BUG: Yeah, there is a specific scene in the film where things get really dark, the scene where you are showing the home movie to John. What was it like filming that scene?
DHP: That is an example of how much I trusted Nick, which was totally, because I feel I saw that bit of footage and of course we had to shoot it earlier so that we could actually show it in the scene where we see it, so I did get to… It’s pretty out there and I just trusted him, he was directing me… It’s silent, so he could say whatever he wanted to me as he’s talking be through it and so yeah it wasn’t hard in a sense like “Okay, you go there,” but it was something where you really had to kind of find the psychological space of the character, so that it really is kind of real and not cheesy.
BUG: Yeah. It’s a really chilling scene.
DHP: I think part of what makes it so chilling is Clayne’s reaction, because you not only see this awful thing that you are seeing, you get to watch this guy who up to this point you feel like has… even if he’s lost control of the situation literally, he’s kind of on top of things and you can see in his face that he’s starting to think “Oh shit… I have gotten into something way beyond anything I expected.”
BUG: Definitely. Both of your reactions to that scene are telling just of how… just the way the story is going to go and yeah it really takes a dark turn there, but also in the film you show off some pretty smooth dance moves.
DHP: Thank you.
BUG: What was it like there when you were sort of dancing alone on the table? Were you asking yourself “What the hell am I doing?” at this point?
DHP: No, you know what I had this woman, Kate Kaplan, who was the choreographer. She is an old friend of mine. She’s the person I went to when I was first going to go to Broadway and do musicals. I coached with her for years and so I knew her very well and I trusted her and fortunately it was very late at night and we were all very tired anyway, so I didn’t have any inhibitions about doing that, I just thought “I’ve finally arrived.”
BUG: (Laughs) Yeah, well have very many people seen that? If they only know you as Niles Crane or only know you from your film appearances and everything, what do you think their reactions are going to be like? Have there been many reactions so far?
DHP: The reactions I’ve heard have been great, because they’ve loved the film. They have been nice about my work, but also particularly that thing of getting to see me do something completely different. We are going to a screening tonight and my 16 year old niece is going and she’s terrified, because she thinks she may not want to hang around me much after she sees this movie.
BUG: It is a fantastic film. I just wanted to let you know as a little side note, my day job is I’m a therapist and I watched FRASIER religiously a lot of times, because of all of the psychological aspects of that show, so I’m a huge fan.
DHP: Oh how cool. Well you know I’ll tell you one thing that was really important to us, we didn’t get into a lot of technical detail about therapy, but right from the beginning both Kelsey and I and the writers felt it was very important that whatever else went on, these guys were good therapists that they were bad at dinner parties and everything else, but that was something we felt for the integrity of the show was really important, so I’m glad to hear that.
BUG: Great and just as kind of a send off, why should folks check out THE PERFECT HOST? It’s in theaters on July 1st, right? And it’s available on Video On Demand right now, right?
DHP: Yes. They will have a good laugh and a good scream, sometimes both at the same time.
BUG: Great. Alright, well thank you so much for taking the time out. I know you are very busy, so you have a great day and congratulations on the film; it’s a fantastic film.
DHP: Thank you so much, it was great talking to you.
BUG: You too. Thank you.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!
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