The opportunity presented itself for a lengthy and deeply interesting interview with stage and film actor John Speredakos, who stars in the latest Joe Begos’ film The Mind’s Eye (2016) releasing on August 5, it was a wonderful interview originally scheduled for 10-minutes but lasted over 20-minutes, and discovered much of passion for acting.
BC: What was the most challenging aspect of filming the Mind’s Eye aside from the weather issues?
JS: Just the physicality of the role would be hard to shoot at 22 but I’m 52 being in wires, thrown over tables, crawling out of an upside down positions and banged on a black top. It was a very physical shoot, everyone got banged up, and Graham even got a concussion.
BC: Did you have a love/hate relationship with your character?
JS: I was just excited; I wouldn’t say it was a love/hate relationship… I was just trying to be him; I wasn’t trying to judge him and wouldn’t see him as a bad guy.
BC: Do you believe in psychokinetic and how did you prepare yourself for the role?
JS: There’s an awful lot out there that we can’t comprehend, I remembered when psycho-kinesis and ESP first came out back in the 70s. I’m not sure, if I do but maybe it’s possible, they’re always finding out stuff on the brain – I wouldn’t be surprised if they revealed something. I was the last to be cast, so I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare just dove right in with help of the great make up people.
BC: This is at least the seventh time you worked with Larry Fessenden how do you keep the freshness on set and with your work?
JS: We’ve worked together in different capacities, he’s directed me and acted with me even been a producer when we didn’t have a scene with Larry. We first met in 2000 where he wrote and directed Wendigo and didn’t perform in that at all, it was awhile before we were actually acting together – we enjoy each other’s company. As performers we complement each other Larry has tremendous range and charisma, I do enjoy working with Larry as an actor, as a director and writer he’s top of the line. On The Mind’s Eye we didn’t have a scene together, weren’t on set together either. I do hope to work together another seven times.
BC: Would you agree or disagree that the Horror Genre goes further than just scares and jolts and has other genres in it such as like dramatic sequences?
JS: Of course, they are more than scares and jolts or they wouldn’t have lasted for all this time. It’s the story telling, there have been ghost stores and all kinds of stories and it’s the story that makes the film. You can eat popcorn and then all of a sudden get scared – a good story has all aspects in it to make it a good film and of course, for horror more scares. A good horror film will have all of the elements so the person get be so into it, for example the film The Exorcist with demonic possession or Jaws for the scares… we all share the scares and jolts of this but these are also great stories that keep you hooked. We all have these fears with the history of horror Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein fear of science and then Bram Stroker’s Dracula it was fear of blood. A good horror story reflects what’s going on with the people.
BC: It sounds like you like the classic horror versus the redone/redo horror. What classic horror character would you play and why?
JS: Oh, what a question, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, if you’re an actor why wouldn’t you. I have read it and seen the movies as well as Frankenstein, though I wouldn’t want to play Frankenstein, Karloff owns it no way to improve, [hence] not to touch it. I did played Dracula in the Passion of Dracula on stage, as a performer with Jekyll and Hyde you can play both sides of the coin.
BC: It’s interesting that you picked Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde your character [Dr. Michael Slovak], in The Mind’s Eye kept ramping up the intensity level. How did you maintain that for a fresh day/time of the film?
JS: It was exhausting to try to maintain it but you’re not as acting out of manual, you also rely on your fellow performers and one of the things that Joe Begos did very well is that he really got his company of actors unified, everyone working on the same movie unified. So, when you get on set it’s tough to the intensity when you’re doing it on your own, but working Lauren [Lauren Ashley Carter] knows that when I looked at the people I worked off of what they were bringing it works out very well. Hence, not be in the corner thinking of what to do – whether they’re on camera or not – it does make the job easier than doing it on your own.
BC: What is your favorite genre & why – is it horror films?
JS: To watch, I’m more of a fan of adventure stories, my favorite is Quest of Fire (1981) by director Jean-Jacques Annaud, about cave people, I love sweeping historical epic kinds of films and would love to be in them as well but rarely get the opportunity to do so.
I also loves classic westerns, I was in the sequel Return of the Lonesome Dove (1993) and it was so much fun as an actor you get to do it all, you’re riding, shooting in Montana, fighting in the dust and dirt you’re wearing chaps and turned down hat, to be in westerns is a great thrill. Also, I just love to watch a sweeping epic like Life of Pi (2012).
BC: I definitely understand the scope and sweeping epics such as Silverado (1985) or Dances With Wolves (1990).
JS: They’re both gorgeous beautifully filmed loved Silverado, Dances With Wolves and anything Clint Eastwood, additionally loved The Last of the Mohicans (1992) stars Daniel Day Lewis and Madeline Stowe films.
I live in a New Apartment and besides Rosemary’s Baby (1968); there are not many movies about NY apartments so just loves the epics. The epic films really take you somewhere.
BC: What were the most extreme changes you made for any acting role you did?
JC: I haven’t had to do too much extreme stuff besides growing hair, for this movie. The movie I did, called I Sell the Dead (2008), had an Irish accent, mostly changing my hair, losing or gaining weight, never doing anything extreme, not because I limited myself. I was heavily made up for a lot of roles including Ti West’s The Roost (2005), lots of makeup for that role, was in the makeup chair for 8-hours and then they went to the set and worked on my hair for another 2 hours, then worked on my hands. It’s all extreme, but still fun – the makeup artists are just great.
BC: Which do you like more as an actor performing in a play on the stage or a film?
JS: They fall on such different skills, when I was younger loved theatre so much and loved performing in front of a live audience and still like it. I have done a lot of work on stage, which I’m very proud of, but as you get older you would like to leave some kind of a legacy on the camera, something where my daughter can see my work, and pass it along.
I still love the live performances, because one day I could be great then the next not so great and then the third day can perfect it even more. But in film you only get one shot at it, you may get do that segment a couple of times but once this scene is done you don’t get to go back and make any changes unless there’s a major problem. I’m so grateful, that I get to do both, love theater, watching others stars, but also loves permanence of the camera.
BC: Yes, Al Pacino does both, and seems to enjoy the stage so very much –
JS: Pacino started out doing both standup and magic all on stage, Christopher Walken, a dance man, bringing the talent into everything he does. Then going bad, to James Cagney, who did Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), using the skills of stage as a vaudeville guy. I do feel bad for actors that only know acting on camera, now I live in NY, but used to live in LA and was amazed that some actors that never even saw a play and then only thing they know of acting is front of the camera, which is sad because they’re missing out on so much. However, not every actor wants to work in theater, they’re not comfortable.
I admire Pacino have seen every performance he’s done on stage whether in Connecticut, Broadway, LA, etc –the same with Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, and John Malkovich. I like to see them all multiple times to see the choices that they make, for example I went to see one of Pacino’s first performances three times to see his process.
BC: Thanks for the opportunity for the interview, good luck of future projects.
JS: Thanks Baron!