Michael Bailey Smith interview
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
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?
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
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
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!
THE HILLS HAVE EYES REVIEW --EXCLUSIVE!
THE HILLS HAVE EYES OFFICIAL SITE
DISCUSS ON GUTS AND GORY
EZRA BUZZINGTON INTERVIEW
ALEXANDRE AJA INTERVIEW
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