Continuing from where we left off in part one, I recently spoke with actor Anton Troy (CHILLERAMA, FILTH TO ASHES, FLESH TO DUST) and composer Daniel Licht (DEXTER) about the time they spent in Russia back in January when they visited as guests of the Second Annual Russian Horror Awards in Moscow, where they both won awards.
BRITGEEK: What I like is that it's almost a motley crew of people from entertainment. There was clearly a lot of thought put into the nominations.
ANTON TROY: We're the horror Avengers.
DANIEL LICHT: Yeah, that's right.
BG: [laughs] Exactly.
AT: Dan is like The Hulk, you just don't want to make him angry [laughs].
DL: That's true, yeah. I scared our bodyguard every once in a while. Actually, the bodyguard was pretty funny, he used to be one of [Vladimir] Putin's bodyguards.
BG: Oh really?
DL: Yeah. He would point his fingers at us and mow us down with machine guns.
AT: [laughs] It was kind of scary. He'd be standing around stone-faced and then he'd be like da-da-da-da-da!
BG: A little unnerving.
AT: And the cab drivers, too, a lot of them don't speak any English so you don't know where you're going half the time. It would be really cool to knock us off. Or not cool, but easy.
DL: Speaking of not knowing where we were going, they would gather us in these caravans of taxi cabs 'cause they didn't want anyone to get lost, right?
DL: They'd pick everybody up and it'd take like an hour to get anywhere. Towards the end of the trip, I finally realised that the restaurant was only like three blocks from my apartment. So we'd be getting in these cabs and waiting when you could have walked there in like two minutes.
AT: The interesting thing, too, was the whole election thing was going on while we were there, so you had the protests and all these people with these white banners hanging off their cars, protesting Putin.
DL: All those guys are in jail now probably. Putin put a bunch of them in jail.
AT: [laughs] Yeah, I'm sure. They're probably dead in a frozen lake somewhere. We also did a really cool video while we were there; a little fan video back to the States in front of the Church of the Spilt Blood, which seemed really fitting, and that was in St. Petersburg.
BG: The Church of the Spilt Blood?
AT: They've got cool names like that, like Church of the Spilt Blood.
DL: It actually is called that. I guess a tzar was killed there and they put a church up. Church on the Spot of the Spilt Blood or something like that.
AT: Well it's like that other beautiful church in Moscow, I forget the name. Do you know what the name of it was, Dan?
DL: Which one?
AT: The one with all the gold and all that. The really, really sweet one.
DL: Nah, I don't remember.
AT: Anyway, the communists turned it into a swimming pool 'cause it was bombed in World War Two and then they turned it into a swimming pool for years and years, and then when communism went up they rebuilt it as this magnificent church that’s there now.
DL: Yeah, that's right, it was a swimming pool. And then the big church in St. Petersburg they turned into a museum of atheism [laughs]. They couldn't have done that in another building, right?
AT: There was a lot of crazy stuff like that. In St. Petersburg, I had the pleasure of taking a picture with a real Russian bear. It was a big guy in a bear suit and I thought that was kind of fitting for fans to send back, a Russian bear photo.
DL: I don't know if it's a spillover from the Soviet era, but people who work behind counters and stuff seem to go out of their way to be unhelpful. I found a music store after searching for hours. I wanted to get some Russian instruments. So I spent maybe an hour selecting a bunch of instruments and then I got ready to go and pay and the guy says, 'Oh no, too late. The credit card machine is down. We're closed. Do you have cash?' I'm like, 'No, I don't have cash. Why didn't you tell me you were closing? You know I've been here looking, I just want to buy them,' [He said,] 'No no, too late. Have to pay cash now,' … 'Do I have time to go out and get cash?' … 'No, no time, we're closing now.' It's like the only place I've ever been where they're not interesting in making money. Okay.
AT: [laughs] Even the cab drivers were kind of hit and miss. We were supposed to be these celebrities in Russia and the cab drivers would look at you like, 'Load your own friggin' bag,' Thanks a lot, you know. But it wasn't all like that. There were different polarities. We were treated like kings and queens in some places, and other places we were kind of roughing it, you know. Which made it exciting. But I think the whole experience has cultured me more. It sounds really cool when I tell people I went to Russia, which is kind of fun 'cause it's not a place where a lot of people have been, at least in America that I know, unless they're Russian or from somewhere on that side of the world.
DL: It was also kind of cool to go there in the middle of winter. I mean, we went there in the coldest month. The end of January is the coldest month in Russia. So it was cool because there were no tourists. It was just us. We'd show up and there would be no lines or anything and there wouldn't be a bunch of people from all over the world. It was all Russians and then the four of us.
AT: I took my mother who decided to wear a cowboy hat, so we really stuck out like a sore thumb.
DL: Oh yeah. People wanted to come up and take pictures with her.
AT: Yeah, we were told we didn't fit in, any of us, too well. We had ransom written all over our heads.
DL: It was funny, in St. Petersburg we saw some crazy things, too. We were just like hurrying trying to get from one restaurant into the museum as fast as possible 'cause it was freezing, so we ran across this huge festival and picnic. I swear to god, the Russians had a stage with banners and they were having a picnic. They were having a barbecue. I was like, 'Are you guys crazy? Do you know how cold it is out here?' [laughs]
AT: It was so cold that I was wearing a scarf over my face and the moisture coming from my breathing was freezing my eyelashes. It was really interesting from that standpoint because we didn't do the wussy thing. We went to Russia in the dead of cold for the Russian Horror Awards. No prima donnas.
DL: That's right.
BG: You braved the cold.
DL: Yeah, braved the cold.
AT: And a lot of us have other projects going on as well that we came back to. You just wrapped up SILENT HILL, right, Dan?
DL: Yeah, I just wrapped that up, yeah.
AT: I also have a TV show coming out in the fall with Adam Rifkin … I have a reoccurring part in his new Showtime show called THE WATCH, and that's going to be really cool when that comes out.
DL: I'm just about to start on the next season of DEXTER, too, starting in July.
BG: Yeah, I wasn't too sure if you were going to be coming back for the next season.
DL: Yeah, and the next season after that.
BG: Oh, excellent!
AT: [laughs] Yeah, he's crafty. I've been to his studio and he's impressed me with making noises with glasses and all kinds of things that I didn't know were possible, so he's definitely earned that job and he does a great job on DEXTER.
DL: Thanks, Anton.
AT: You're welcome.
DL: And I guess I should plug my show, even though it's almost sold out … I'm doing a live concert of music from DEXTER June 10th at the Largo [in Los Angeles]. They can go to my website to find out about it [HERE].
AT: And my fans, like I said, can see me on Adam Rifkin's fantastic new comedy.
BG: Absolutely. Did you see Rifkin's last show, LOOK?
AT: I personally haven't seen LOOK yet, I know that a lot of elements were built into the new one. But Adam Rifkin's got a very twisted, very brilliant mind, so I think anything Adam does generally is guaranteed to be hilarious.
BG: And on the subject of Russian horror, one of the things you touched upon earlier, Anton, was that Tim Sullivan's first feature that he directed, 2001 MANIACS, reached number five at the Russian box office. It's pretty incredible that a low-budget independent feature can get such exposure over there, but, on the spot, I can't name a single horror film actually produced in and by Russia.
DL: Well, there was NIGHTWATCH, that was sort of horror. Timur Bekmambetov is their big star.
BG: Oh yes.
AT: There was one that they honoured at the ceremony [VIY] that was like thirty years old or something I guess it was one of the first Russian horror films and it's considered a classic over there and they had a couple of the original actors.
DL: There were some Russian directors there as well. Guys came … almost as far as we came … There are definitely films being made in Russia, but they're not really going to an international audience so much.
AT: I think the Russian cinema base has probably craved that type of cinema – horror films and edgier material – for a long time, because even [VIY] … if they made that that long ago and it's still considered popular and people know what it is, obviously they were wanting that a long time ago, so I think it's great that they can now experiment with more of that. It's still not as open as it is in the US and maybe some other areas, but I think that's what also makes some of the material like 2001 MANIACS or even DEXTER or something like CHILLERAMA even more sought after because it's kind of like, as Dan said, rock 'n' roll music, the youth wants to see stuff, and especially Americanised things like Dunkin' Donuts and Chili's, which are a restaurant and a donut shop in the US, and are extremely popular in Moscow, and extremely expensive. They want, I think, to be Americanised in a lot of ways and they want the same freedom of choice.
DL: The young people that we talked to, we asked them if they wanted any vodka, they were like, 'No! We don't drink vodka, are you kidding me?' It's a big myth about Russians drinking vodka [laughs].
AT: [laughs] Yeah, that's true, there were a lot of misconceptions that I think we had going into Russia and it was totally the opposite.
DL: I also think that they wanted to not be too Russian, they were trying to break out of the stereotypes.
AT: There are a lot of cool people in Russia too. A lot of very warm, accepting, enthusiastic types.
DL: Oh yeah. What I said before about people in stories is very different. People behind counters in Russia are very different when you meet them in social settings, they're very friendly and warm. I do think it's a holdover from the Soviet era that people behind the counters have power over the people waiting and they use it. 'I'm gonna mess with you. I can make you wait, so I'm going to make you wait!' It's pretty unbelievable, right?
AT: [laughs] Yeah, even when I went to the Dunkin' Donuts shop, it took forever to get coffee. They kind of like take their sweet time, but I mean, as far as the audience goes and people that were there, the thing that still boggles my mind is just the fact that they have access, especially with all the bootlegs and things, to what they have, which I wouldn't think they would.
BG: So we may see Russia emerging as a horror hotbed as far as production goes in the years to come. Italy, of course, is very famous for its horror, and more recently, France has become quite well known for its more extreme genre films.
AT: Well the award ceremony there, I think it was the second or third year that they'd done it, it was kind of a new concept, this whole recognising people in the genre, but it's become very popular and I think it's just going to continue to become more popular.
BG: If you could sum up your Russian experience in three words, no, five words actually, how would you describe it?
AT: You first, Dan!
BG: This'll get you thinking.
DL: Damn cold good time. How many words do I have left?
AT: I think you only had three to start with [laughs].
DL: Oh three? No, he said five. Damn cold but great time.
BG: And Anton?
AT: Five or three words?
BG: You can pick!
AT: Incredibly cold but amazingly sweet.
BG: That works.
So there you go. The chronicles of Russia, as told by Anton Troy and Daniel Licht. Many thanks to them for their time. You can catch the both of them on TV this fall on Showtime. Troy will be appearing in Adam Rifkin's THE WATCH, while you can listen to Licht's work on the the seventh season of DEXTER from September 30.
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