Working in Hollywood can be tough. Ask Michael Worth. Born in Philadelphia, he’s had an interest in film from an early age and came to L.A. to pursue a dream of making movies. Taking small parts in film and TV and working construction to survive, Worth spent six months living in his truck with his dog while he tried to save money.
He finally got his first lead role in the indie action film FINAL IMPACT, for which Variety magazine called him “a promising newcomer”. From there he moved into the role of Tommy on the TV series ACAPULCO H.E.A.T. Finding that acting wasn’t enough, he branched out in the film world and has worked as a second unit director, stuntman, writer, director and producer, doing a number of films for the Sci-Fi (now SyFy) channel, including WAR WOLVES and SASQUATCH MOUNTAIN.
But lest you think him limited to only action and science fiction films, Worth got to show his true talent as a writer, director and actor with his independent film GOD’S EARS. Playing the lead role of Noah Connely, an autistic boxer, Worth gets to show off his talents both in front of and behind the camera. Now Michael is taking a break to talk with B-Movie Man Nic Brown about how he got his start in film, some of his latest projects, and why he has Tim Thomerson saying “Bring me the head of Lance Henriksen!”
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Nic – Michael when did you first become interested in cinema?
Michael – You know, I was so young I can barely remember. I do know it was Ray Harryhausen that really got me interested in doing movies and I originally wanted to be an animator. So I went out and bought a movie camera, one of the Super 8s, and I shot a film called THE TIRE about a tire that falls out of a rocket ship and hits the Earth and then goes rolling down the street, killing everybody! Then I just noticed, just the other day, that there is a movie coming out called RUBBER and it’s about a killer tire! Somebody ripped me off. [Laughs] That’s what happens in Hollywood! But seriously, that’s how it started and it just stuck. Before I even moved to Los Angeles, while I was in grade school and high school, I made 20 to 25 short films and then I came out here and tried to do it professionally and get paid for it.
Nic – I’ve heard you are a fan of B-movies and hearing about Ray Harryhausen’s influence on you just confirms that. What are some of your favorite B-movies?
Michael – Don’t get me started! My brother and I grew up in the era of the local horror hosts on TV and we had Creature Features out in the Bay Area. In fact I’m writing a script now that’s a fictional account of all the horror film hosts. But like I said, we had Bob Wilkins and he did this show called Creature Features and he showed films like ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS and INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN. Now my brother, he was into GODZILLA and the giant monster movies but for me it was always the weird, creepy, bizarre ones from America that I was kind of drawn to… you might even say I had an affliction for them. Ray Harryhausen’s animation was something I was really big on and I found it inspiring.
Nic – In addition to your work as an actor, you are also a writer and director. Tell how you got into that and about some of your work behind the camera.
Michael – Well as a kid, I was writing, directing and acting in my own stuff on the Super 8. Then I came to L.A. and I sort of got pulled into the acting side of it. Somebody found me and said “hey I want to represent you” and that really got me started acting. After that happened though, I started to realize that I was only some of my creativity was getting stimulated by just the acting and so I went back to what I was doing as a kid. I went back to writing my scripts again and the first film I had produced was GHOST ROCK with Gary Busey, Jeff Fahey, and Adrienne Barbeau. I wrote and acted in it and Dustin Rikert directed it. From there I’ve written a couple of films for Steve Monroe that he’s directed and then I did GOD’S EARS which wasn’t a horror film or a B-movie per se, but I did get to use John Saxon in it and he was one of my idols as a kid.
Nic – You just finished shooting another film out in Bulgaria. Tell us about that film.
Michael – Right now, the film is called JABBERWOCKY; that may change before it’s released. Steven R. Monroe is directing it. My character, Alec, who’s just returned from fighting in a war for two years, teams up with his brother and their village to take on this giant jabberwocky…which to me was a tennis ball on a stick so we’d know where to look before the special effects are put in. In the actual movie it will look a lot more impressive [Laughs]. I actually shot a movie called U.S. SEALS 2 out in the same spot in Bulgaria so it wasn’t my first time there, but it was definitely a lot of fun to work on.
Nic – On that note, what do you think about the changes in films as the industry moves away having rubber monsters in your face to tennis balls on a stick, from traditional effects and into more CGI and such?
Michael – That’s kind of the thing because the industry was actually getting to a point where the “rubber monsters” were looking really good, and then the CGI idea came in and everyone just sort of abandoned that kind of traditional effects. The problem is that the new B-movies are the CGI based films where a lot of times it’s like a cartoon, sort of like you just stepped into WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT. It can be done really well, but it just costs a lot. Look at KING KONG, TRANSFORMERS, JURASSIC PARK – it’s a fairly convincing use of it there. You have to remember though that it’s not just the CGI, it’s also the camera work and how you build it up. If you just set the camera up and have these things running back and forth on the screen that makes it look like a Bugs Bunny cartoon instead of a giant alligator. To me, it’s lost something with that. I get it; I understand why it’s needed, but I think there has to be a balance. People get excited by the possibilities CGI offers, but it can still take you out of the film sometimes if it isn’t done right.
Nic – Aside from fighting CGI monsters in Bulgaria, what else are you working on now?
Michael – I’m glad you asked that! The next thing I’m working on is a film called BRING ME THE HEAD OF LANCE HENRIKSEN. It’s an accumulation of sort of my experiences and the experiences of many of the people I’ve worked with in this industry. It’s sort of a low rent Entourage about ageism in Hollywood. The film follows Tim Thomerson as he’s trying to figure out why Lance Henrickson is getting all the best work over the age of 60. It’s got a flux of characters, people like Adrienne Barbeau and Cerina Vincent, the two of them and others will bring their experience to the project and all the crazy things one goes through to survive the Hollywood jungle. I’m excited about the project and we start shooting on it in two weeks.
Nic – So Michael, what do you do when you aren’t making movies?
Michael – [Laughing] God…I think I must be sleeping! Actually I’m working on a book right now that was kind of an accidental thing, but none the less, I’m committed to doing it. Besides that…I don’t know. I think I might be sick or something, but I’m stuck in movies [Laughing again]. This business is so competitive that you have to really stay ahead of it. If I’m not writing or working trying to figure out what the next thing is then you kind of fall behind. But don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy it! I’m not some kind of weird workaholic. I still read, watch TV, go to the gym, have sushi and stuff like that.
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