INTERVIEWS

LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS

Exclusive Interview With Day Of The Dead Star Joe Pilato
By James Whittington, Monday 12th April 2010

Joe-Pilato-1George A. Romero’s masterpiece Day Of The Dead hit Blu-ray on March 29th thanks to Arrow Video. One of the films most memorable characters is that of Captain Rhodes played to scene stealing perfection by Joe Pilato. Joe took some time out to tell us about his acting career and how he came to be play one of horror’s most iconic creations.

HC: When did you realise you wanted to become an actor?   JP: Great question. First of all, hello to all my UK fans. I didn’t think I realized that I wanted to be an actor. When I was a kid I noticed that I would critique how other kids played. We would play ‘World War II army’ and you would shoot an invisible machine gun or broom handle and I’d look and I’d go, ‘That’s not the way you die - you die like this.’ Then I went to Catholic School and became an alter boy. The mass was a sense of performance and this was back in the Latin days of the mass and it was very mysterious and there was a lot of circumstance and candles, incense and costumes and pageantry, weddings and funerals and baptisms and a lot of symbolic action. I remember being very aware of being observed. And then I got to college where I was in pre-law aspiring to become a lawyer. One day I just figured out that I really had no notion of lawyering, but I was more fascinated with the people on television like Perry Mason, E.G. Marshal and Spencer Tracy in Inherit The Wind. I was more excited about portraying a person who was the lawyer. Unfortunately to this day, I have not played a lawyer.   HC: Did you model your acting style on anyone?   JP: If you mean did I model the character of Rhodes after anyone in particular, I would have to say no to that. My acting style is a product of the different teachers that I’ve studied with, Jerzy Grotowski the very famous Polish director, and of course the Stanislavski system. The character leapt off the page, George wrote it. That’s how Rhodes was personified.   HC: How did you get your first big break?   JP: I would have to say; my first big break was through my relationship with the Pittsburgh film family in a movie called Effects, which unfortunately after twenty years, was just recently released by Synapse Films. I was a local Pittsburgh actor and they were auditioning for this movie and I was not even supposed to audition. I drove an actress who needed a ride and it was the dead of winter and instead of waiting in the car, I went in. The person she was supposed to read with didn’t show up, so I read and got cast in the role of Dominic, the cinematographer. That’s how I got introduced to George.   HC: Did you have to audition for the role of Captain Rhodes?   JP: Yes. There were auditions in New York, L.A. and Pittsburgh. So, I did have to audition. Auditioning for George is always an enjoyable experience because he gives you a lot of feedback and adjustments to make. George was always very fond of Pittsburgh actors. I did three movies for him Knight Riders, Dawn Of The Dead - I had originally auditioned for David Emge’s character in Dawn Of The Dead, the helicopter pilot. But, there was just too much of a similarity between me and Scotty. And, so that didn’t work out. But, thanks to the Dario Argento release, my entire scene as the head officer at the police dock was put back in the movie because it was not in the American release. Then my number came up with my audition for the part of Captain Rhodes in Day Of The Dead. It took about a month to find out as they went to different cities. I got a call one day saying I got the role.   HC: How did you approach playing such an intense character?   JP: Well, I was pretty left of centre politically and was very influenced by my anti-Vietnam war experience. I was chased and maced in the streets of Boston and Washington DC by tactical police. So, Rhodes was everything antithetical to my political belief and it’s usually very easy to play an opposite or villainous character. And Rhodes was the epitome. Although, Rhodes’ point of view in the movie is correct, ‘shoot ‘em in the head.’ They’re dead people, wake up, shoot ‘em in the head, which is the military point of view. Rhodes thought, and I think that we all think, it’s kind of fruitless to domesticate the zombies.   HC: What was the atmosphere like on set as the movie has very little humour to it?   Joe-Pilato-2JP: That’s a very interesting observation. The movie does have very little humour in it due to the claustrophobic nature of the shoot. Most actors go back to their trailer between shots, but we had cubby holes with a cot, it was bare minimum. So, we basically entertained each other, both cast and crew. The camaraderie on the set was just magnificent. Everybody really bonded. I really hate to use that word, it’s so overused, but we basically did because we were under harsh conditions.   HC: The movie is known for its grisly effects, did you object to how graphic the movie actually got?   JP: Absolutely not. When you think about it there was a period, I think in the 18th century, there was something called the theatre of The Grand Guignol based on gore. I really have no objections to screen violence. What I do object to most is the ease with which they can CG the effect. These were really hands on masterpieces. Each special effect was like a work of art and to watch these guys - Savini, Nicotero, Howard Berger, I’m sure I’m forgetting some names - craft and sculpt the real thing as it were, was amazing. I have no objection as long as it works for the story.   HC: You must get asked this a lot but what was it like waiting on set waiting to be “pulled to bits”?   JP: It was horrendous. I spent five hours in that hole and it was very uncomfortable. They told me the morning when I walked on the set not to eat or drink anything, and I asked them why, and they said because you’re going to be laying in a hole for four to five hours. They had created this false floor and drilled a hole in it, and they actually put a toilet seat cover over the hole. There’s a picture of me somewhere in long underwear crawling into this hole like an astronaut. It was very painful, but the most horrible part of it was when the guts came out. The smell was just so putrefied and so rotten. It took about two and a half more hours to set that up. They had an aspirator on my face and people were spraying Aramis and whatever cologne they could grab that was laying around. Once they covered up the chest, the smell subsided minimally. But, once they reopened it, with three cameras rolling we shot the scene, and I think you can see it on scream greats, I immediately started retching and gagging. When it was over they were afraid I was going to aspirate and they pulled me out of that hole real fast. I was covered with all this blood. Thank God there was a shower on the set.   HC: Captain Rhodes is one of the most acclaimed and memorable characters in horror movie history; you must rightly be proud of this?   JP: Oh, I absolutely am. I owe it all to the fans. The genre fans are the greatest fans in the world. They don’t come to the table empty and they don’t come just as autograph seekers. I’ve never met an unintelligent genre fan. And without the fans, I would just be a piece of celluloid. But, thanks to George’s creation and George’s vision and the embrace of the fans, it makes me feel wonderful. I just spent three or four days in the UK in the fall and met some of my UK fan base in Dublin, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, and I was blown away by the reception I received. Thank you very much.   HC: The film has also become hailed as a horror masterpiece, why do you think it remains so popular some 25 years after its initial release?   Joe-Pilato-3JP: I think that the entire trilogy has stayed famous. The concept of the dead walking is so revolting and so repulsive. The concept that there is death after death, not life after death or immortality after death, but there is nothing but vicious cannibalism, mindless cannibalism. I think that whole concept was touched briefly in the forties with Zombie Island and White Zombie, I believe. I’m not sure of the titles, but I think I’m pretty close. I think DAY out of all three of them has stayed so memorable because it is very dialogue driven because the budget was cut and we had to compress a lot of ideas into words and descriptive analysis as opposed to action. I think that’s why people quote DAY more than any other movie. I think that’s what gives it its longevity. It’s like a lifeboat. You have these people trapped in this cave with really nowhere to go, all having different points of view.   HC: Was it hard to get work away from horror or did you become typecast?   JP: No. I wish I had become typecast because typecasting gets you more work than non-typecasting. But, I’ve done an array of things both in film and theatre. I’ve done the Soaps. I was in Music From Another Room with Jude Law, Gung Ho and Wishmaster, where I played a civilian human being. No, I have not been typed but I would love to be typed because the more you’re typed the more you work. So, you young budding directors out there in the UK, come and find me.   HC: How did you get involved in the animated feature Night Of The Living Dead: Origins?   JP: I had done a production that is still kind of in progress for Zebediah DeSoto called, War Dogs. Zebediah called me one day out of the blue and introduced himself. He’s a huge fan of Day Of The Dead and Captain Rhodes and that’s basically how we were introduced. He virtually just offered me the role of Harry Cooper. There’s some footage of War Dogs out on the Internet if you go to either my MySpace page or Zeb’s site. It’s been a great collaboration. I’m anxious for you all to see the final project.   HC: It seems to be something of a unique production, meaning one of the first ever serious horror cartoon movies, would you agree?   JP: After the footage I’ve seen, I would say absolutely yes. Zeb has created something that nobody has seen before. The repercussions are going to make shockwaves in the world of cinema. I can’t really explain, but it’s kind of like a living Monet, bleeding. It’ll grab and engross the audience, believe me. It’ll leap off the screen.   HC: What else are you working on at the moment?   JP: I’ve got four or five conventions coming up. I’m slated to do a movie in April that I can’t really talk about yet. That’s basically what’s happening right now. Zeb has some projects lined up that he’s interested in me for, one is a film about Vlad the Impaler. I’m also working on some projects with Red Maverick Publishing, which is a comic book company. So, I’m keeping busy my friends.   HC: Joe Pilato, thank you very much.

MORE INTERVIEWS
Interview with Michael Mayer and Guy Ayal from the acclaimed movie Happy Times
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
thumbnail_HT_set_Marie Alyse Rodriguez

Happy Times, which is showing at Grimmfest Online, is a movie that takes the home invasion genre and turns it inside out! Directed by Michael Mayer and co-written with composer Guy Ayal, the movie is a bombastic, bloody and hilarious piece of cinema. I chatted to them both about this dinner party from hell.

HC: Where did the idea for Happy Times come from?

MM: The idea for the movie started forming when I was invited to a Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year's) dinner in Los Angeles. It was the first year of Trump's presidency and wherever you went all people wanted to talk about was politics. One thing to know about the Israeli expat com...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with D.M. Cunningham, writer and director of The Spore
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
DMC_SetPic copy

If you like your horror with a huge lashing of gruesome effects and a strong story then The Spore is for. Showing at Grimmfest Online, the movie from D.M. Cunningham is a smart take on the body horror genre. Here he chats about this movie which is guaranteed to get under your skin.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a director?

DM: I started out wanting to be a makeup effects artist. After seeing Night of the Living Dead and discovering Fangoria magazine I was hooked. Tom Savini was a huge influence on my trajectory toward becoming a filmmaker. It wasn't until later that I discovered that you could boss the monsters around on set being the director. That's...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Ben Charles Edwards, co-writer and director of Father of Flies
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
Father of Flies director

A vulnerable young boy finds his mother pushed out of the family home by a strange new woman in Father of Flies, and he must confront the terrifying supernatural forces that seem to move in with her. This intense and chilling movie is showing at Grimmfest Online Edition so we chatted to director and co-writer Ben Charles Edwards about this movie.

HC: Where did the idea for Father of Flies come from?

BE: It came from my childhood experiences. When my good friend and journalist Dominic Wells was talking to me about my next project, he told me to draw on real life experiences. So, I did. My own experiences were neither as heightened nor as traumatic as they may...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Marcel Sarmiento co-writer and director of Faceless
Posted on Friday 15th October 2021
Faceless Director

Showing at Grimmfest Online Edition is the incredibly inventive horror/sci-fi hybrid Faceless. Here, co-writer and director Marcel Sarmiento speaks about this superb movie.

HC: Have you always been a big horror movie fan?

MS: Definitely as a kid. My first movies made with my Betamax were all about scaring one other and how gross we could push makeup effects. We mostly strangled, stabbed, and threw each other off buildings. I think as I got older, I appreciated what you could do with horror more than horror for horror's sake. I love that you can make characters do things that in any other genre you couldn't make them do and still come out the other end liking them and routi...

SHARE: READ MORE
Tom Paton, director of G-LOC chats about his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman
Posted on Tuesday 14th September 2021
Tom Paton on the set of G-Loc-3-1

Ahead of the Horror Channel premiere of his sci-fi action thriller G-LOC, director Tom Paton reflects on why making movies is like solving a puzzle, his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman.

Horror Channel will be broadcasting the UK TV premiere of your Sci-fi adventure G-LOC. Excited or what?

It's honesty so strange to me every time Horror Channel debuts one of my movies. The channel has been such a big part of my life growing up and informing my taste in films, that it's always a "pinch myself moment" when I see something that I've made appear on their TV listing. G-LOC is much more of a SCI-FI adventure than any ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Alexis Kendra, the writer and producer of The Cleaning Lady
Posted on Tuesday 15th June 2021
Alexis Kendra-4

Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of The Cleaning Lady on June 26, the film's star, writer and producer Alexis Kendra talks about playing a 'Goddess', coping with lockdown and why she can't watch horror films on her own.

HC: The Cleaning Lady is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?

AK: I love you guys. Always have, always will. I'm honoured.

HC: It's a very disturbing film, dealing with abuse, addiction and hidden rage, yet the characters are sympathetic and have real depth. It's horror with a twisted heart. As a co-writer, alongside your director Jon Knautz, what were the main challenges in getting the balance right between acting and writing? <...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Jen and Sylvia Soska, directors of Rabid
Posted on Tuesday 1st June 2021
Soska sisiters-WEB-1

Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of Rabid on June 12, Jen and Sylvia Soska reflect on the challenges of re-imagining Cronenberg's body horror classic, meeting the great man and their new monster movie, Bob.

HC: Rabid is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?

SS: The Horror Channel has supported us and our work since the beginning, so it's a special treat to have the newest film premiere there!

Js: We are so excited. Having Rabid on Horror Channel feels like coming home. They've been very kind to us. We are happy to have so many of our films on there.

HC: We all, of course, remember that Rabid was one of David Cronenberg's earli...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Mickey Fisher, creator of sci-fi series Extant
Posted on Thursday 6th May 2021
Mickey Fisher 1

Horror Channel will be continuing its commitment to bringing cult and classic sci-fi to its audience with Seasons 1 and 2 of the CBS Studios/Amblin Television production of Extant, starring Halle Berry as astronaut Molly Woods, who returns home to her family, inexplicably pregnant after 13 months in outer space on a solo mission.

The series begins on Horror May 11th so, we decided to chat to its creator, Mickey Fisher about how the series came to be produced and what it was like working with Hollywood royalty.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a writer?

MF: From the time I was maybe five or six years old I wanted to be an actor. Going to see Star...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Gary J. Tunnicliffe, writer and director of Hellraiser: Judgement
Posted on Saturday 20th February 2021
Gary J. Tunnicliffe doing SFX make-up on the set of Hellraiser Judgement

Director and long-time Hellraiser franchise SFX artist Gary John Tunnicliffe has a new entry into the Hellraiser series for us all to enjoy, Hellraiser: Judgement. Here he chats about this gritty horror.

HC: Was there one person or film which inspired you to want to be in the effects industry?

GJT: I can't remember one film that directly inspired me to be in the effects industry, it would definitely have been around 1982 (when I was 14) when The Thing AND American Werewolf in London came out (as well as a mass of FX laden movies) but more than anything it was when s...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Chee Keong Cheung, director of Redcon-1
Posted on Wednesday 17th February 2021
Director Chee Keong Cheung

Fast-paced British zombie thriller, Redcon-1 will be having its UK TV premiere on Horror on Saturday 20th February so we decided to chat with its writer and director Chee Keong Cheung about this acclaimed movie.

HC: Where did the idea for Redcon-1 come from and are you a fan of zombie movies?

CKC: I'm a huge fan of the zombie genre and in particular, Danny Boyle's '28 Days Later', Zak Snyder's 'Dawn of the Dead' and of course George Romero's original works which helped to pave the way for the genre and was a real inspiration for me growing up. I remember watching 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Black Hawk Down' on TV and had always been drawn to the men on a m...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Scott Reiniger star of the original Dawn of the Dead
Posted on Sunday 15th November 2020
DAWN_OF_THE_DEAD_3D_BD_SLIPCASE_PACK_ (1)

On the eve of a stunning new 4K box set of George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead from Second Sight Films, we chat to one of its stars, Scott Reiniger about this incredible film.

HC: How did you first become involved with Dawn of the Dead?

SR: Well, I was in New York, I was a stage actor in New York and I went to college with Christine Forrest, who later became George's wife and she asked me if I wanted to audition for this film called Dawn of the Dead, she wanted to know if I knew who George Romero was and I said, "Yeah, he was the guy who directed Night of the Living Dead". So, they sent the script over and I read it and it was pr...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Steve Speirs, star of Concrete Plans
Posted on Sunday 1st November 2020
Concrete Plans poster

Welsh, Scottish and Ukranian dialects clash in Concrete Plans, a stand-out movie from Will Jewell which has just been released by FrightFest Presents via Signature. Its a super and very dark thriller with an outstanding cast headed up by Steve Speirs. Here he chats about this amazing piece.

Be warned this interview contains some spoilers about the movie. If in doubt watch the movie before reading. You have been warned!

HC: Was there one actor of one film you saw when you were younger that made you want to be an actor?

SS: Oh, I've never been asked that actually. When I started to get into watching films, I'd always wanted to be an actor for as long as I can ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interviews Archive: 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
PICK OF THE WEEK
Echoes of Fear
ECHOES OF FEAR
Thursday 21st October
9.00 PM
Legion
LEGION
Wednesday 20th October
9.00 PM
Identity
IDENTITY
Tuesday 19th October
9.00 PM