Ezra Buffington Interview

Michael Bailey Smith interview

Michael Bailey Smith Those who remember Michael Berryman's spine-tingling turn as "Pluto" in the original The Hills Have Eyes know that whoever assumed the mantle for the remake would have his work cut out for him. That "whoever" is Michael Bailey Smith, an accomplished character actor with dozens and dozens of television and feature film credits under his belt. In a new interview conducted by John Gray, he gives us the scoop on filming the high-profile remake, those pesky Jason rumors, plus anecdotes on some of his past projects including the recent Monster Man and his appearance in A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child as the manifestation of "Super Freddy." Many thanks to Michael for his time and for becoming a part of the Pit.

Coming into this, you had big shoes to fill. Michael Berryman did an excellent job as the original 'Pluto'. How do you measure up?
Wow, talk about starting off with a tough question! First of all, I feel that Michael Berryman is the reason why they were able to do a remake. He made the original film great. He made Pluto iconic. I hadn't seen the original film when I got the role. I actually was going to rent it but decided not to. There were a couple of reasons why. First, I didn't want to "try" to do an imitation of what Michael Berryman did. That would have been impossible. Second, Alex, the director, and I wanted to bring a different approach. The first film has some camp to it. The remake has no camp. It's in your face, raw and brutal. If you saw Alex's High Tension, you'll know what I mean. Well, Pluto had to match his vision of the remake. And that's what I did.

So what ultimately won you the role?
To tell you the truth, I don't know. I auditioned, scared the crap out of them in the audition room and got the role. Because Pluto does not have a lot of dialogue, I actually read for the Lizard role played by Robert Joy. All of the actors reading for Pluto had to read for Lizard. When I finished the audition, everyone in the room just stared at me. In my head I was thinking that I either suck so bad that they were in shock or I scared the piss out of them. Well, I guess they pissed their pants. During filming I asked Alex how he knew I could play Pluto when he is so much different than Lizard. He said he could tell by just looking at me. Hmmm....I don't know if that was a compliment. Have you seen Pluto? Alex had told me that he was a little nervous on how Pluto was going to turn out, seeing how Michael Barryman had made him so great. On my last day of filming, he came up to me and said what I did was incredible. I felt good about that, but I guess the true test is what the audience will think. All I know is that I gave it my all. Spilt a lot of blood and did a lot of damage. Pluto was so much fun to play. I was sad to let him go. You know the saying, "It's not a party unless someone's crying"? Well, for filming, I say, "It's not film making until someone's bleeding." I seem to do a lot of bleeding in my films. Not that fake blood. The real thing. A gash to my head, a broken nose, cracked ribs, busted up hands. Ninety percent of the time no one knows about it. I keep the bleeding to myself. I'm a quite bleeder. The only time they had to stop filming was in the movie, In Hell with Van Damme. I had picked this guy over my head and smashed him down on top of a bunk bed. One of the legs of the bunk bed whipped down into my skull and left a deep gash. Blood was everywhere. Producers and AD's were passing out from all of the red stuff. I went to a Bulgarian hospital (that's a story in itself), got glued shut and was back on the set in about three hours. Remember, I used to play a lot of football, so I'm used to that stuff. Put a band-aide on it and get back in there!

With all the fan backlash on remakes, were you nervous taking on such a role?
No. Not one bit. I had seen High Tension and with Alex as the director, I knew he was going to "bring it." And he did. I'm telling you, and I've said this before, don't expect this film to feel like the original. It's not. It gets ugly. It's shocking. And man, do I kick some butt! The opening sequence is awesome!!!

You are looking a lot scarier than the original 'Pluto.' Did you frighten your co-stars at all?
Yes, I scared the hell out of the co-stars, the crew, everyone. The first words out of most people's mouths when they first saw me were, "Oh, my God." A lot of people couldn't even look at me. Then when I added that creepy childlike laugh that you hear in the trailer, well, that made them run! The only people I could hang out with during filming were the KNB guys that did my make-up. I got to know them pretty well.

Did you get to work with Wes Craven?
Nope. I didn't see him and I have never met him. We're having a premier on the 9th. I'm sure I'll get to meet him then.

The remake has an incredible cast. Did you enjoy working with them?
Pluto just LOVES his axe.... What was weird and yet kind of cool was that the "family" cast members hung out together and the "mutant" cast members hung out together. There were some intermingling at times, but it stayed like that pretty much throughout the film. So, I got to know Robert Joy and Billy Drago pretty well. Robert has a tremendous film and TV history. It was great talking to him about the films he did with Woody Allen and all of the other cool shows he's worked on. Billy is just plain cool. He has tons of stories and just a very interesting and engaging person. I spent some time with Ted Levine as well. Silence of the Lambs? Come on, talk about cool. Kathleen, Venessa and Emilie were great. Robert and I had to really rough Emilie up in the trailer scene and she hung right in there. She's a real trooper! There's a scene in the film were Aaron Stanford and I really go at it. It's a very intense scene. Well, before the scene, I told him that I was going to "really" come after him. I carry this nasty looking axe and I'm pretty handy with it. I remember him looking at me and I'm sure he was thinking, "Man, I hope he knows this is just a movie." If he only knew....

Alexandre Aja's has made quite a name for himself in the horror scene with only one US release. Did you enjoy working with him?
Alex is awesome. Loves making movies. Loves the whole process. When I get ready for a scene where I got to do some intense stuff, I have to get in this space both physically and emotionally. To do that, I get pretty crazy. Well, Alex really dug that. He knew that when I was getting crazy, some cool stuff was going to happen. I also like that fact that Alex was open to suggestions. A lot of directors aren't like that, but he was. I thought that was very cool.

Did you enjoy High Tension?
Yeah. When I book this job, and knowing that Alex was directing, I knew I was in for a ride when I got to Morocco.

Are you a fan of the original Hills?
I am now. When I got back to the states after filming, I rented the original. I was pretty cool to see the similarities and yet all of the differences as well. Again, Michael Berryman was great.

Here's a little fact most people may not know. You were the only other guy *ever* to play Freddy Krueger. How did you land such a prolific role?
Wow, I didn't know that. How did I land that role? By accident. I just moved out to San Diego from Michigan after graduating from college. This guy I was working out with in the gym asked me if I wanted drive up to Hollywood. He had an audition there and thought that after the audition, we could work out at Gold's Gym in Venice Beach. I thought that was a cool idea, so off we went. Well, we got to the audition and he did his thing. When we were leaving, the casting director asked if I had auditioned yet. I told her no and she said, "Well, why don't you come in and meet the director." So, I did. I walked in, met Stephen Hopkins and he asked me if I could laugh like Freddy Krueger. I let out this big hideous laugh and got the job. Crazy. I know. But that job got me my SAG card and that's now I got into the business. My first day on the set, I sat down with Robert Englund and went over the stuff I was going to do. I remember being in his trailer, talking to him, thinking, "Man, this has got to be a dream." He's was great. A little unknown fact about that film is that the opening scene, you see two people making love. The camera is real close, so you don't see much. Well, the guy on top of the girl is me. Yep, that's right.

AWESOME! How did that happen?
Well, I get to the set one day and they ask me if I wanted to get naked with the body double of the lead girl for the opening love scene. The first thing I said was, "And you're going to pay me for this? Where do I signup!" Actually, I was wearing flesh colored underwear and so was she. But still, the rest was there. Man, you can't beat Hollywood!

One of my favorite roles that you played was 'Fuck Face' in Monster Man. Any plans on re-visiting that role?
I haven't heard anything about a sequel. I get pretty run over and smashed at the end of that film, so I don't know how I could come back. That was a fun role to do. The story to Fuck Face is that he gets thrown through the windshield of his monster truck. His sister sows his face back up, hence the "fucked up face." So, I figured he's got to be pretty messed up in his walk and probably the way he breathes as well. I had just finished about two years on "Charmed" playing 4 different character on that show, so I was pretty good with coming up with some different character traits. I ran it by the director, Michael Davis, before filming and he loved my ideas. So, thatís how I come up with the messed up walk and sick breathing. I have to tell you, the scene were I'm stalking the Eric Jungman in the house with pencils jammed in my eyes was a little tough. I had to do that totally blind, really. I even had to charge the camera blind as well. I love that character though. Very fun to do.

Any plans for a Hills sequel?
I don't know. I remember after doing this one kick ass shot, Alex turned to me in a crazed smile, "You're gonna be in the sequel." But I'm like, "How?" I think Alex was just caught up in the moment because of the stuff I had just done. I just heard a few days ago that there's "talk" of a sequel. Will Pluto be in it? Don't know. That would be cool, though.

Any other projects you would like to let the fans know about? What's this rumor I hear about you playing Jason in the next Friday the 13th?
I heard some talk about Jason and it's just talk....that I know of. I see there's a website dedicated to who should be playing Jason. I'm not doing very well in the voting polls. That's okay. I'm just honored that fans of the movie would even consider me for the role. Did you know that Kane Hodder and I have worked together? I did the low-budget action film with Don "The Dragon" Wilson called Whatever it Takes. In that film I'm the lead bad guy. Well, I get in a bar fight with a lot of tough guys and he's one of them. He's a cool dude.

And one last question... a little bird told me you almost played Leatherface? When, where, how, and why? The fans are dying to know!
Ha! My plan worked! That "little bird" fell right into my evil trap! Andrew and I know each other pretty well. We've done three projects together and have hung out, and worked out together in some pretty strange places in this world. We have a good respect for each other. Well....when that "little bird" emailed me, I knew that he posts on your website. And seeing how Andrew has a forum there, I figured I would stir up a little gossip. And guess what, it worked! I was kind of hoping Andrew would hear about it and that would get him wondering. So, to answer your question, "No," I didn't almost play Leatherface. That Andrew's gig and he's done an incredible job. I think without him, the remake would never been as great.

Well, you can bet Andrew will see this interview! Thanks so much, Michael....see you real soon, buddy!


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