Culture Clash: The Adventures of CHILLERAMA's Anton Troy & DEXTER composer Daniel Licht at the Russian Horror Awards - Part 1
I last spoke with actor Anton Troy back in January along with his co-star Sean Paul Lockhart to discuss their roles in I WAS A TEENAGE WEREBEAR, Tim Sullivan's segment of last year's critically-acclaimed anthology film, CHILLERAMA. It was for that very role, as well as Troy's appearance in FILTH TO ASHES, FLESH TO DUST, that he was plucked right from the glowing sunshine of Los Angeles, along with DEXTER composer Daniel Licht, and dropped into the middle of Moscow in the dead of winter. The reason? To collect his award at the Second Annual Russian Horror Awards, also known quite simply as The Blob, which is supported by the Russian Ministry of Culture and the Russian Cinematography Union.
Troy and Licht were joined by fellow nominees from across the globe whose contributions to horror have all been well received by Russian genre fans. Those also receiving awards were horror legends Stuart Gordon (RE-ANIMATOR) and Lloyd Kaufman (THE TOXIC AVENGER), writer/director/producer Tim Sullivan (2001 MANIACS, CHILLERAMA), actress Jodelle Ferland (THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, SILENT HILL, THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE), HAPPY TREE FRIENDS creator Kenn Navaro, SAUNA director AJ Annila, and Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leanderson, the young stars of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. Last year's award winners include Robert Englund and Jeffrey Combs.
For Troy and Licht, representing the USA in Russia proved to be quite the hard task. With not only the extreme cold to deal with but the language barrier, mistranslations and impromptu music compositions, the award-winning young actor and experienced composer found themselves in a country they never thought they'd visit for an experience they'd never forget.
In this two-part look at their trip halfway across the globe, they share their stories, shedding light on a genre in a country with a film industry that we hear so little about in the Western world.
BRITGEEK: So, the Russian Horror Awards.
DANIEL LICHT: It was definitely an interesting trip. A once in a lifetime trip.
ANTON TROY: Yeah. It was crazy because we both got contacted, I mean Dan can tell you how he was contacted, but I got contacted because I have a Russian publicist and obviously he knew about it, and they flew us all halfway around the world, MORTAL KOMBAT style. They had quite a few of us on a plane, and Dan was on the plane … he was kind of walking around – 'cause it was a really long flight – like doing exercises or something [laughs].
AT: I didn't know who he was at the time, but I was like, 'Oh, that guy seems interesting,' and then Jodelle Ferland, who did SILENT HILL and was in TWILIGHT: ECLIPSE and also is in THE CABIN IN THE WOODS right now, she was there with her mother, sitting behind us. Same thing, I was like, 'Oh, she's interesting,' [laughs]. So basically they flew us halfway around the world, like six different I guess you could say actors, directors, composers, sort of like a mish-mash of people from all different places. So you had people from Canada, you had the people from the US being myself and Dan, and then Jodelle's from Canada, there was two Swedish actors from that cult film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, the original one, and then there was AJ Annila, who's the Finnish director of the movie SAUNA. And like I said, it was kind of like very MORTAL KOMBAT style, 'cause they took us all around and put us on an island to fight to the death [laughs].
DL: That's right. Yeah, we all fought over caviar.
AT: [laughs] And vodka.
DL: Yeah, vodka.
AT: But it's like Dan said, it was an interesting experience 'cause it's not something we would have necessarily done unless I guess they'd invited us. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to go to Russia in the dead of winter.
DL: [laughs] It's funny 'cause they approached me through my website. A lot of the time I was wondering if I was being scammed. Identity theft, you know. We ended up sending copies of our passports and thinking, 'Wow, this could all be just made up.'
AT: [laughs] New celebrity scam hits Hollywood.
BG: It sounds like HOSTEL, except they sent you into deepest, darkest Russia.
AT: [laughs] It kind of was like HOSTEL at times, I gotta admit [laughs].
DL: It was. You know, it was interesting because they contacted us they said, 'Oh, you're gonna have bodyguards.'
AT: And private cars.
DL: I was like, 'Wow, bodyguards,' I guess it's rougher than I thought it was.
BG: [laughs] Yeah.
AT: Yeah, that was my thought when they first said bodyguards, I was like, 'Oh, what do I need a bodyguard for?” and then I thought, 'Well that's really cool,' [laughs]. But who would try to kill me, you know?
DL: I presumed it was for the throngs of soundtrack fans [who would be] storming the cars.
BG: I guess you should be flattered if anyone tried to kill you.
AT: What else did they promise us, Dan? Oh yeah, luxury apartments.
DL: And all meals.
AT: Oh yeah, we got to go to this cool private restaurant that looked like it was ran by the mafia or something like that, and we could order what we wanted, but the downside was for breakfast they gave us all this card for a continental breakfast at some place we couldn't find. And I guess Dan actually went, what was that like?
DL: It was okay. It was like their McDonald's, kind of. Like a bagel house. But not to complain too much, it was a great trip. It was interesting, it was fun. The fans are very loyal there, wouldn't you say, Anton?
AT: Yeah, well, the thing was, when we first got there, the actual awards ceremony was three days. We had to do a combination of press conferences, the awards ceremony [and] a master class with the press and fans … The master class was really interesting 'cause it was probably like in the blingiest [sic] theatre I've ever seen, supposedly they charge like 100 dollars a seat to sit in this theatre.
AT: And there's these really huge, cushy reclining chairs with like full-size TV dinner tables [laughs] and they sent us to a table with water bottles like monkeys in a cage while everybody kind of just asked us questions. But the awards ceremony itself was quite fascinating 'cause once we got there, we were all extremely jet-lagged and they were pretty much rolling us around in freezing cold, like, you can't believe how cold it is in Russia to begin with, I mean it's kind of like the perfect place to hold the Russian Horror Awards 'cause it's got old creepy buildings and it's really cold and overcast and [has] a lot of interesting looking characters … They just kept running us the whole day, so when we got there we were jet-lagged and whatnot and they took us straight to a club that night where we had a pre-party. And all our names were in Russian on the poster and they had this whole extravagant circus act, right?
DL: That was after we had done the interviews [laughs].
AT: Right, right.
DL: We got off the plane and they took us to dinner, then they took us to do a panel, and this is after we had been on a plane for 28 hours, I think. Everything was in Russian so we were all kind of nodding out until we got a question to us, you know. We had no idea what anyone was saying.
AT: And they had us at this little tiny table inside of a Hyundai dealership or something like that, I don't know why they picked that, but they took us downstairs, there was this little panel just packed with press and then, like Dan said, we don't know what's going on half the time because we can't understand anything, and you have the moderator speaking Russian, blah blah blah blah, and people would laugh and we were just kind of like, 'Haha... we don't know what they're laughing at,' but we'd sit there and answer questions and just get like these hordes of fans bringing stuff up afterwards like pictures of us I haven't even seen [laughs].
DL: I thought it was funny 'cause they were having me sign bootlegged downloaded CDs [laughs]. Why not?
AT: Well I guess that's huge in Russia as far as I understand. While we were there we found out there's like these shops in a lot of the tram stations and stuff and that's all they have, bootleg DVDs and things like that. So it's like you go in there and try to find your movie and then you get kind of angry about it, but then you're like, 'Ah, I'm not going to say anything 'cause someone will pop me off here,' [laughs].
BG: You're big in Russia.
AT: Well, I think Dan's a lot bigger than I am in Russia, I'm kind of like the newbie, especially with CHILLERAMA and stuff like that. CHILLERAMA's sort of a new concept and it's kind of a niche film anyway, so it was interesting to see how Russians react to that film. Tim Sullivan is actually pretty popular in Russia 'cause 2001 MANIACS, I believe, screened in Russia – actually had a theatrical release – like five years ago or something and was one of the top five films.
BG: Yeah, it reached number five at the box office.
DL: Jodelle was the star among us.
AT: Yeah, Jodelle Ferland definitely had the most fans. She's done a lot of stuff like TWILIGHT, obviously, and movies like that, and even SILENT HILL is really big. Dan did the music for the new SILENT HILL, right, Dan?
DL: The video game. Two new video games, yeah. Jodelle was in the first movie.
AT: Yeah, she was in the movie, so everyone wanted a piece of Jodelle, and when I got there I think people were really intrigued by me and also some people were familiar with the film, but it was more so like I was the new guy, which I was okay with. But when we actually got to the awards ceremony, which was the second night, one of the things that was really interesting about the whole Russian experience is the language gap, 'cause they hurdled us into cabs and were driving us around, and then once we actually got to the awards ceremony itself it was in this really old, cool building and they had this whole full-on awards ceremony with a host and hostess and they were telling jokes like at the Oscars, but you have no idea what's going on half the time until they're like, 'Blah blah blah, Anton Troy!” and everybody's clapping and you're like, 'Oh crap, I gotta get up!' and then we'd run to the stage.
AT: So that was a little hair-raising. But there was a lot of funny stuff that happened as far as the actual translations, 'cause even when I went up to accept my award, I had a translator up there and you kind of have to speak and then you stop, they translate what you say, which is sort of interesting, and you keep talking, going on this huge monologue, but one of the things I said was, 'I'd like to thank my Russian publicist whom I call Mikey Moscow,' to which she translated to the audience, 'I would like to thank Russian Mickey Mouse,' [laughs]. I can imagine what they were thinking, 'Who is this new guy thanking Russian Mickey Mouse?' And the ceremony was really weird 'cause we were sitting there and it was sort of surreal and then you had people [from] the year before us like Costas Mandylor from the SAW movies and things like that, and Dan and I are sitting there with our families and whatnot and then they had these really elaborate acts in between. At one point, there was a chihuahua pushing a cart across a table, like randomly.
DL: [laughs] Yeah, a bird stand thing. There were circus tricks, like THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW all of a sudden. But it was completely normal, evidently this is very common in Russia, to have a circus act come in during the intermission.
AT: Yeah, it was like Cirque du Soleil or something, and then there was this almost like striptease act in the middle, too, which I enjoyed [laughs].
AT: But it was so wild. Another thing about it, too, was like... I said the immense cold was very challenging at times, but it was really amazing how I guess excited these Russian horror fans were. You go halfway across the world for something like that and they're so enthusiastic and they know who you are and are really hip on the culture and stuff like that, it's really interesting.
DL: It's exciting for them because horror films were not legal during the Soviet era. You could only make happy films. I guess they were worried that horror films would be too analogous to any kind of oppression, so the horror film industry in Russia is fairly new and so there's a lot of excitement among the youth about that, kind of in the same way that rock 'n' roll became exciting when [people] were allowed to play it.
AT: Yes. There were a lot of young people at the event, you get all kinds of different people, like Dan said. I had the pleasure of seeing some of the classic Russian, probably Soviet-era, films on the bullet train [laughs]. There was some kind of Peter Pan theme or something like that.
DL: That's right.
AT: So they showed us around for a couple of days and on the very last day, when we did the master class, we were sitting in there answering questions for the press and a couple of interesting things happened. You did an on-the-spot composition, right, Dan?
DL: I did. Someone said, 'Oh, you specialise in making music with odd instruments. Can you make some music with something that you have up on stage?' So I ended up beating on something and blowing in a bottle.
AT: [laughs] Well, he did it totally on the fly. I was impressed.
BG: From when you were first invited, how long was it before you were on the plane? I remember reading it on your Facebook page, Anton. You suddenly posted a random update like, 'Oh, I'm going on a plane tomorrow, to Russia to accept an award,' and I was like, 'Oh, okay!'
AT: [laughs] My Russian publicist was trying to bribe me to go for a while, 'cause originally he was like, 'Oh, you should go, there's this awards ceremony and I think it would be awesome and people would be excited to see you,' and all that, and at first, this idea of going to Russia was kind of like, yeah right, you know [laughs] ... I would say it was... gosh, Dan, you can probably help me out on this, what, like six months at least?
DL: Oh, yeah, they contacted in the summer, I think. It was June.
AT: I found out later on in the year, I was the last addition to the celebrity guests. It was definitely a while and it took me a while to confirm, but it came down to [it being] a once in a lifetime opportunity to go somewhere like that, and Russia as well is a really interesting country to visit, especially for something like an event like this 'cause it is quite different... the alphabet is different, the extreme weather, things just operate a lot differently. It is harder to do some things in Russia, for instance Dan and I had a lot of trouble getting tickets for the train 'cause the website wouldn't work, or we'd have to go a lot of places on foot, so it really was sort of like going to a safari in ice [laughs].
DL: Yeah, but we even had a Russian person go with us yet it still took all day to get a train ticket. It was crazy [laughs].
AT: Yeah, if we didn't have somebody that was following us around all the time, I think we might have died [laughs].
BG: You wouldn't have made it back.
AT: And people would be like, 'Whatever happened to them?' [laughs].
DL: It's not tourist friendly. It's challenging because a lot of the signs are in a language you can't even read, and even if you had a book it wouldn't help you.
AT: Yeah, you couldn't figure what they said.
DL: It keeps you on your toes.
AT: It was a really great experience because a lot of us became good friends while we were there and got to see not only what's popular in the US, 'cause Dan and myself know the US game, but going somewhere like there and learning more about the other people, like AJ Anilla and people like that from different parts of the world, and seeing what's popular in Russia and Europe as far as horror films go and sci-fi, and also how fans sort of relate to that, but how they crave this American cinema and they crave these imports from a faraway land.
DL: Stuart Gordon won an award in absentia, right?
AT: Yeah, that's true. It was also Tim Sullivan who won an honourary award and also Lloyd Kaufman received an honourary award, but they all sent video submissions 'cause they couldn't make it in person, but it was really like an honour in some ways because it was like sticking what they felt was the best from different regions of the world and sort of bringing us all together.
BG: Yeah. So did you receive your awards for specific projects or just generally your contributions to horror?
DL: Well, I got my award for SILENT HILL, but also just in general for Stephen King's THINNER … Horror Composer of the Year Award.
BG: Oh right, excellent.
AT: And mine was an honourary award for CHILLERAMA, but also same thing, just recognising me as a rising star in the genre.
BG: The new blood.
AT: New blood, exactly.
BG: Obviously you have become good friends with your fellow recipients, but were you guys familiar with any of their work beforehand?
DL: No, not really. I wasn't familiar with Jodelle, except I had seen the pictures of her on the SILENT HILL movie poster. She was the little girl on the SILENT HILL movie poster.
AT: Obviously I know DEXTER, the television show, and when I found out who Dan was I made a connection that way, but the other people like AJ, that was a first for me. The LET THE RIGHT ONE IN kids were new to me. Jodelle I knew, even though it didn't register at first, I'd seen SILENT HILL a long time ago and actually thought it was really cool, I really liked that movie, but she was a lot smaller [laughs]. She's like a woman now, so I didn't put it together that way but it really was amazing … When you get brought together with all these different people and you're sort of learning about each other, kind of like a film, sometimes you'll do a film and then you'll learn more about the director and what he's done, and be like, 'Oh, he did that? I loved that movie,' or something like that, and we're all together and we started to take more interest, I think, in everybody's work, like opened our eyes, so I really want to see LET THE RIGHT ONE IN now and it's been remade, that's cool. It must have been really good to have been remade, right? [laughs] So you kind of get interested that way. It was cool because I got to come back to the States after cultivating these friendships and I go to Dan's studio and listen to DEXTER music in the studio [laughs]. Which was the ultimate guilty nerd pleasure.
Part 2 will be posted this Friday, which includes details of Troy and Licht's trip to the creepily-named The Church of Spilt Blood.
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