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Interview : Jonathan Breck

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Caffeinated Clint
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Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole.

Move over Freddy and Jason, there’s a new franchised monster ready to chillingly engulf the competition. He’s the Creeper, one of horror’s more unnerving cinematic creations, but behind the scary mask lay actor Jonathan Breck, who loves the anonymity as well as the character he brings to life. PAUL FISCHER spoke to the actor in Los Angeles.

Jonathan Breck may not be as famous as, say, Robert Englund of Nightmare on Elm St fame, or even Friday the Thirteenth’s Jason, but he has no doubt, that if Hollywood were to pit Breck’s chilling Creeper against either of those horror icons, the Creeper would win any battle hands down. “The simple answer is: the Creeper would fare very well, because the Creeper’s on young legs,” Breck says laughingly in a Los Angeles hotel room. You know, I was really pleased to see Freddy vs. Jason do so well, because they deserve to, as both of those characters are legends in the horror world. But the reality is, the guys are a little tired while The Creeper is new and fresh, so I think he would have an edge over those two guys, should we ever meet in a dark alley.”

Before he turned up in the surprise hit, Jeepers Creepers, Breck was a mildly successful stage actor who also appeared in small Indie films. He said he got the role of horror’s metaphysical monster, The Creeper, in the first Jeepers, “the good old fashioned audition way. They came to me three years ago, my agent called me and said there was this little movie they were making, and they’re looking for this creature. They sent me a little four or five line paragraph about who they thought the character was and it was the strangest audition I’ve ever had because there was no dialogue. They just said, come into the room and we’d like to see how you move, how he interacts with his prey, how he might stalk his prey and how he might eat, or they just gave me this wide parameter thing, said just walk in the room and show us the skit.” Clearly, writer/director Victor Salvo liked what he saw, and Breck won the role that on the outset may sound like an actor’s dream: Lots of screen time, no dialogue, essentially steals the film.

The challenge for Breck was to create a completely visual-driven performance without dialogue. “The specifics of the physicality of the creature is so important,” Breck explains. “As actors, we rely on words many times too much, to communicate what we’re saying. A lot of communication is non-verbal; it’s physical in the characteristic of the character, so I thought it was really important to create a specific way that this character moved. It said something about who he was which was really important to show the characteristics about how he might track his prey. Also you only have your eyes to communicate with, so, in many ways, it’s a lot harder than many of the other acting roles I’ve ever done before because I had to communicate in those moments.” Breck said that in order to elicit a sense of pervading fear, Breck needed to partially draw from his own experiences. “However, the acting’s still there, because it’s through the eyes and you have to do all that communication with the eyes.”

Breck had no interest in horror growing up, and says that as an actor, horror was never something from which he came. He insists that he never drew from any other famous horror characters. “As an actor, I grew up on the stage and, I think it really had a weird way of helping me out because I didn’t approach this character with any conscious or subconscious idea of any other horror movie great in my mind. I really approached him fresh like I do any other acting role, from the basic perspective of what does he need and how bad does he need it and for that reason I think, the Creeper came out of something a little different. He’s a little different character; who’s fresh, new and I think I contributed to that, I’d like to think.”

That contribution is further developed in Jeepers Creepers 2, in which The Creeper terrorizes a busload of teenagers returning from a high school basketball game. Breck says he was wary about doing a sequel but was surprised at what director Salvo ultimately came up with. “How many sequels do you see that actually measure up to the first movie, but with this one, Victor was attached, and I knew he wasn’t interested in making another half-baked Jeepers Creepers. Rather, he wanted to make a new movie, with a lot of fresh things in it, and that’s what I’m interested. Though there are no definite plans for a Jeepers 3, the actor says that “I’d be interested in doing a three as long as they keep going to the next place with the character.” Thus far, Breck says he is having a blast playing horror’s latest cinematic monster. “I had so much fun! I mean, having seen the movie you can imagine how much fun it is doing that. It’s like going back to the days when you’re a kid and you’re imagining – okay, you get to carry the thirteenth century battle axe, ok, you get to carry the throwing star.”

And in between Jeepers, Breck says he will continue to work in independent films, “Which after all, is my other love,” while of course preying on our deepest fears in Jeepers Creepers 2.

JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 OPENS THIS FRIDAY.

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