What is Caffeinated Clint’s Greats?
I’ve had plenty of emails from you guys asking such questions as “Who were your favourite actors growing up?”, “Do you have a favourite movie?”, “You’re producing films now, any particular film that inspired you to take that road?” and “Hey man, Got Kristen Stewart’s phone number?”, and it gave my an idea – why not profile some of my favourite films? (It saves me from flaming a pimply, unintelligent publicist or another fresh-from-junior-high exec over some harebrained remake he’s just greenlit for a couple of weeks, after all) and in doing so, why not make contact with some of the people from these films?
Title : That Thing You Do!
Year : 1996
Director : Tom Hanks
Starring : Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler, Johnathon Schaech, Ethan Embry, Steve Zahn, Tom Hanks
I’m a huge fan of musical biopics (“La Bamba” plays on a permanent loop in my household) so no surprise that I’d fall in love with “That Thing You Do!”, a Tom Hanks written/directed dramedy about a A Pennsylvania band, The Wonders, that scores a hit in 1964 and rides the star-making machinery as long as it can, with lots of help from its manager (played by Hanks). It’s a wonderful film full of great performances, some lovely production design and some even better music.
Johnathon Schaech (pronounced ‘Shek’) was one of the few new actors to emerge in the ’90s that seemed to do just that – act. While so many of the performers at the time did more ‘magazine work’ than actual ‘movie work’ (I’m looking at you), Schaech opted to take the George C.Scott route, not the Tom Cruise route – by that, I mean he always put the performance first, not once did he let a little thing like ‘losing a few teenage fans by getting grubby’ or ‘only accepting roles that paid the most handsomely’. The guy wanted to prove himself- and I think has.
It was in 1996 when I first spotted Schaech. I was in radio school – on my way to becoming the next…er, Casey Kasem . He was about to make his big debut in a Winona Ryder vehicle. In 1996, all the cinemas in Victoria (well, the major chains anyway) dropped their admission price down to $6.50 for a “limited time” (Believe it lasted about a year) – so it goes without saying that I saw everything back then. … er, even syrupy Winona Ryder flicks. In fact, if I wasn’t working on my demo in the ‘Radio School’ headquarters, I was at the Airport West Cinemas (c’mon! $6.50 a ticket – you would be too!).
But enough about me.
Schaech was a guy seemingly only interested in learning as much about the craft as he could. And right off the bat, he was an actor determined not to be pigeonholed – and believe me, it could have happened. When a shirtless Schaech arrived on tractor to tempt the luscious Winona Ryder with fresh strawberries (and whatever else he had on offer) in 1996’s ”How to Make An American Quilt”, the editors of Seventeen Magazine no doubt did a triple somersault right there and then. “We’ve found our new Christian Slater!” one of the sub’s was sure to have screamed down the pastel-coloured hallways of the magazine’s office. But as soon as that job was done, it was done, and Schaech was off to find a role as far removed from Leon in the entertaining chick-flick as possible. He found that in the controversial indy flick ”The Doom Generation”, playing Xavier Red, a tattoo-clad adolescent drifter who hitches a ride with a young couple (one of whom Xavier will soon seduce) who’d soon find themselves – not literally (that plot was saved for a little-seen Kristy Swanson/Chad Lowe flick) – on the Highway to Hell. It was then, with his performance as the mysterious Xavier, that I recognized Schaech’s potential as an actor. Here was a guy that didn’t need to get by on his looks – he, unlike so many in Tinseltown, had talent to go along with the pretty boy exterior. I mean, shit, the guy follows up a lead role in a big studio flick with a rather unfriendly part in a film that, quite frankly, would be lucky to last a week in cinemas? That’s courage… that’s an actor.
And from there on, Schaech continued to impress – he played the talented prick in Tom Hanks’ directorial debut ”That Thing You Do!” (a wonderful little film), gave Jessica Lange all he had in the underrated thriller ”Hush” (Jesus, I can relate to that movie – mother-in-law’s are just super, right!?) and made for a fucking marvelous Harry Houdini in a 1998 telemovie. To many, it’d seem Schaech has all but disappeared, merely popping up in the odd direct-to-DVD movie (He headlined the sequels to ”Roadhouse” and ”8MM”), but that’s hardly true. For a good part of the last decade, Schaech has turned his attention to writing and producing. He’s done that because he wants to further educate himself in the ways of cinema… the arts. You can never stop learning, as we all know. It’s going quite well for the actor too – he’s written a well-received screenplay based on a Stephen King story that he’ll also produce, and there’s buzz for another of his screenplays, ”Black House” based on the book by Peter Straub. Power to the guy – Schaech could probably chill and just live on the odd ‘big studio’ supporting gig’s that come his way (and he does accept them now and then – you’ll have seen him in the remake of ”Prom Night”, as the killer), but that doesn’t seem to interest him.
Caffeinated Clint : Before we get on with this Jonathan, what did you make of our fine Australia when you here a few years back filming ”Welcome to Woop Woop”?
Jonathan Schaech : I Love Australia! I love Bondi Beach and Alice Springs! I had to spend more there then we first agreed because the director (Stephan Elliot) got sick, so I really got a wonderful taste of the people there… and the food… and the culture! I really hope to get another film there one day. Aussies have surrounded my life.
Caffeinated Clint : Just when you think you’ve escaped them, a guy from ‘Melbourne’ leaves you a message on your machine, hey!? [Laughs] So you’re walking down the street… are you recognized by many people?
Jonathan Schaech : It’s funny, but I get recognized from a lot of the films – everything from The Doom Generation to Prom Night. But most people do remember me from That Thing You Do.
Caffeinated Clint : Fucking great movie.
Jonathan Schaech : But most of the time people think I’m a long lost friend.
Caffeinated Clint : “That Thing” was Hanks’ directorial debut. How was the Hankster as a director?
Jonathan Schaech : Tom is one of the nicest kindest smartest people and he is a true artist. He gave us so much freedom with our characters and so much confidence in our performances. And he knows how to make you laugh. No other director had the gift of laughter.
Caffeinated Clint : I love the music in the film – in fact, I think I have the CD single here somewhere. Now did you actually play and sing?
Jonathan Schaech : Yeah, I sang my butt off and played all the songs, however, that’s not me that you hear…and we should all be grateful.
Caffeinated Clint : Ha Ha. I gotta ask, why “Roadhouse 2″? Were you a big fan of the original?
Jonathan Schaech : Big fan…the studio brought it up to me and I was given the chance to rewrite it and star in it. I got to be a bad ass and kick people’s butts. Will Patton was my Uncle in it, too. It was an awesome experience.
Caffeinated Clint : So, in other words, the experience was better than the film?
Jonathan Schaech : I would have liked to have had a real chance to do justice to the original …the right way. With more money, more press, more theaters, but that’s not why the movie was made. The studio wanted a fun film that people could drink a beer and kick back too.
Caffeinated Clint : Which I guess is what the original is.
Jonathan Schaech : Road House was the greatest bad movie ever.
Caffeinated Clint : Acting-wise, you seem to be making a bit of a name for yourself in horror these days (“Prom Night”, “Quarantine” etc) – is that intentional? When did you earn your horror stripes?
Jonathan Schaech : My good friend Richard Chizmar owns a horror publishing company called Cemetery Dance. We write together and we got the chance to adapt Stephen King so that’s how I got into the horror world.
Caffeinated Clint : And speaking of, any luck on “From a Buick 8″? I’m so surprised it hasn’t happened yet…
Jonathan Schaech : Buick 8 has gotten so close so many times…I still think it’ll get made…people would really enjoy it. I’ve had George Romero, Tobe Hooper all set to direct at different times.
Caffeinated Clint : But the writing seems to be going well for you
Jonathan Schaech : I’m actually writing a comedy for Adam Sandler’s film company.
Caffeinated Clint : Now that’s cool. But from Stephen King to Adam Sandler!? Quite a jump! You definitely don’t want to be pigeonholed do you?
Jonathan Schaech : As a writer and an actor I’ve never wanted to be pigeon holed to one thing…I like my freedom and I believe that an artist needs to live in the creative world and believe good things will come.