Ezra Buffington Interview

Ezra Buzzington interview

Character actor Ezra Buzzington, who appears as the character Goggle in Alexandra Aja's remake of The Hills Have Eyes, has lent his comments to an interview with John Gray in which talks about his experiences on the set of that film as well as past features (including 1999's Fight Club) and upcoming projects. Many thanks to Ezra for his time, and we wish him the very best!



Did you have any second thoughts when you were offered the remake, or did you accept it straight away?
Ezra Buzzington Straight away. But, if I heard that Alexandre Aja was directing a remake of Mary Poppins I'd accept that straight away too. When I first read that Alex was directing Hills, I contacted my representation and made sure my name was in the mix. And I hadn't the slightest concern about the quality of the project. The guy's a freaking genius in my book. I'd seen Haute Tension at Sundance the year before and was still breathless from its relentlessness. In spite of any script concerns anyone might have with that film, the pure, unapologetic evil of the antagonist was so in your face that I thought, anybody who's got the balls to put that kind of energy on the screen is somebody I gotta get to know. And, I figured, with Wes's original script as a basis, and Alex and Gregory's modern re-visioning, it was a no-brainer. You always wonder, of course. Even the best mix of director/script/actor doesn't guarantee a good product. But, when I read the script, I was thrilled to see that my faith hadn't been misplaced. They were loyal to the original in the ways that mattered most and altered it in the places most appropriate for our time period.

Are you a fan of the original?
Yeah. I remember watching it the first time through my fingers and shrieking with delight several times. But, I'm really glad it was remade. I don't feel that a good remake, by any means replaces or usurps the original. I'm from the theater. And I can't imagine a play being done only once and never re-mounted. In a lot of ways I feel the same about film. But not all films. It depends on why the remake is being done in the first place. It should be on a case by case basis. And that case should be determined by the artists who are involved. Not just the studio. Especially not just the studio. Updating simply for the sake of updating or trying to make a quick buck off a franchise name is serving neither the art form, nor the remake, nor the original. But with Hills it was blatantly clear to me that all parties involved, from production on down really wanted to make a good film in a demanding and tricky genre. Why not go back in time and re-visit one of the seminal films of that specific genre? I stop short at saying it's an homage. Because it's not. It's definitely its own film that stand alone. But, Alex and Gregory always knew what to tweak and what to leave the hell alone. So, it's an homage in that they always held the original in the deepest respect.

How do you think the remake holds up to the original?
It's more frightening in different ways. The basic terror (surviving in an unknown place) is still there obviously. But it's shaded differently now. As it should be. The psychology of survival/killing is more upfront with this one. Primarily because we get to know the characters a lot better. And that makes it far more disturbing to witness the horror as they go through it. And far more fun. There's also the larger terror of what caused all this to happen in the first place? What was our part in the creation of this? Hills 2006 walks the "who's-really-the-bad-guy-here?" line better than the original, I think. There's more wallop behind why the Hill People are the way they are. Then there's the technical improvements our age brings to the mix. There can only be improvement in that department, I think. But again, this takes nothing away from the original.

How was it working with Alexandre Aja?
I love the French. They get me. And I get them. There is an ease to both Alex and Gregory that I found supportive and comfortable. Making this film was a mammoth task : 14 different languages spoken on set, unbelievably nasty wind/dust storms, hot freaking beyond-your-wildest-fantasies day shoots in the Sahara freaking desert, etc, and to have such calming, soothing (for me anyway) influences at the top of the food chain only goes to help build a more creative environment. It's difficult to find directors who are both text-loyal and open to improv. Directors who are known for casting well are also known for this tendency. Now, if he'd just quit calling me Google, I'd be happy.

Did you work with Wes Craven at all?
Sadly, no. But he owes me a beer.

You also got a great cast here to work with. Ted Levine, Emilie DeRaven, Michael Bailey Smith, Billy Drago etc....Did you all hang out much?
What's most interesting to me about your question is who hung out with whom. Almost immediately it happened that at the hotel in Ouarzazate the clans would stick pretty much to each other. All the actors were charming, sweet, open, gracious and exceedingly professional. As was the crew. (I'm not blowing smoke. I simply wouldn't say anything if it had been otherwise.) And there were times when beers were shared by everybody. But mostly the Hill People grouped together and the Carters grouped together. There was also so much to shoot that there was relatively little down time for most of the actors. My favorite memory is at the hotel: Robert Joy (Lizard), Michael Bailey Smith (Pluto), Billy Drago (Jupiter) and myself were finishing up a lovely dinner outside by the pool. (Sweet!) Evening was coming on and we started talking horror. About then, dozens of bats came out, as they do every night, and swooped the area clean of flying bugs. They did that for hours coming closer and closer to our table with each swoop. At times you could feel the wake of their wings as they zipped passed you. That's horror heaven to me. Ted also helped me not get lost in Casablanca. Big Bob Carter is the guy you want watching your back at a third world airport, believe me.

Is there much to do in Morocco?
Yeah, a helluva lot. But I couldn't do any of it because of the schedule. I plan to go back as soon as possible. I sure see why cinematographers love the light there. It's very special. It makes things look as if they're lit from within.

Your character of 'Goggle' is not in the original, but I would have to guess he is a representation of the character Mercury from the original, is that correct?
Yes. Goggle is the watchdog of the Hill People. He likes to traverse the rocks and is very dog-like in his mannerisms and vocalization. Being nearly featureless, he's hard to read. Definitely a loner but in need of the group dynamic. He was the youngest till Ruby came along. His job is to protect, scout and advise Jupiter on escape and attack routes. Mercury was played by an uncredited Peter Locke (Producer on both pics.) While I'd met Peter at the original audition, I didn't see him again until my first day shooting in full make-up. At lunch I hunkered down at his table and was talking with everybody. I pretended to not know who he was. Someone asked about Goggle and I said : "Goggle is based on Mercury in the original film. But, Man, whoever the hell they got for that part totally sucked. So I've go nowhere to go but up." I had him going for awhile. Then he fired me.

There’s a line in the film where one of the characters says, “You did this to us. You made us what we are." Is there a strong political context in this film?
That's one of the shades of terror I was trying to get to earlier. I think, because there's a clearer connection in this version between the Hill People and their origin there's a more subliminal horror that encompasses the entire film. And the Carter Clan are a little less guiltless in a way. I'm not saying they "deserve" what they go through, but, as I've said before, on one level, they have a direct responsibility for the Hill People's current state. We all do. What we create, what we do, what we are currently doing in this world will, undoubtedly, be brought back upon us. In spades. I don't think that this socio-political viewpoint is the overriding point of the new "Hills", but it's definitely there. And it makes it even more horrifying to me. The Hill People are Americans too, you know. They're not just cardboard cutouts representing unbridled evil. They're SURVIVING. As the Carters soon discover they need to do themselves. Some are simply better at it than others. And hey, that's the American way, isn't it? The Hill People are the Cunninghams from "Happy Days" but with a twist: The Hill People are more honest about their cannibalism.

Do you have any other projects happening right now?
Just finished working with David Fincher again. Fight Club was my first film in LA and he found a spot for me in his new film Zodiac. I'm a kind of nerdy, nervous, speck of a man who thinks he knows who the Zodiac is. Next month I get to work with Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) on The Prestige. I'm a guy who guides one of the leads (can't say who) toward a new "wonder of the age". I just finished locking picture on my first feature as a director. It's a "fockumentary" chronicling the inexplicable rise and predictable fall of a middle-aged boy band. It's called Outta Sync. And there's other stuff in the works I'm not at liberty to divulge. Watch this space: www.ezrabuzzington.com. Oh, and check out www.goggleseyes.com. It's a work in progress.

So are you game to stay in this genre for the moment? Any buzz on a Hills sequel?
I don't plan to stick to any single genre. But I now am in love with horror. I'm blessed and cursed in that I change with every role. Blessed in that that's excactexactlyind of actor I strive to be. Cursed in that it's sometimes difficult to sell yourself to the peeps with the power. "Who is he again? Oh, that guy? Nah. He looks all wrong for this. Oh, he did that too? Still not right. Wait, THAT was him as well? Huh. I'm confused. Pass". You get the idea. I've been told that I have a face that's worth either millions or nothing. We'll see how that all shakes out. The only thing I definitely want to do is work with good directors. And I've been incredibly lucky thus far. Buzz on a sequel? Why do you ask, have you heard something? I'm available....

What are your top five horror films?
In no particular order:

The Haunting
The Innocents
Halloween
M
Ringu
Freaks

And there are others.

Oh, and The Hills Have Eyes.

THE HILLS HAVE EYES REVIEW --EXCLUSIVE!
THE HILLS HAVE EYES OFFICIAL SITE
DISCUSS ON GUTS AND GORY
ALEXANDRE AJA INTERVIEW
MICHAEL BAILEY SMITH INTERVIEW

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