An adaptation of the novel by Deborah Robillard, “The Crickets Dance” tells of a Southern attorney who searches for the rightful owner of a journal recovered from an antebellum home she inherited. The journal is full of mystery and history that just may lead her to the future she has always dreamed of.
Bill Oberst Jr, better known for his roles in genre entertainment like “The Devil’s Rejects” and “Circus of the Dead”, yaks to Moviehole about a refreshing change of pace.
Bill, where do we find you at the moment?
Los Angeles, city of angels
The one and only…
Tthere are a few – they just don’t get the coverage the devils do.
Ain’t that right. Was the pandemic as punishing on you as it was on most actors?
I’ve been to Covid funerals, so all things are relative, you know. I didn’t die. But I got sick and I lost work. Like everybody else I know.
Long as your healthy, right? Was there any sort of work you were able to do through all the shutdowns?
I used my shutdown time to create a podcast called “Gothic Goodnight;” a bedtime podcast which I absolutely positively guarantee will put you to sleep! But you must listen in the dark. No sunlight cheating. Dark is our friend.
What about The Crickets Dance? Was that something that was in the can before the virus hit?
Yes, it was. Wrapped just a few months before hell broke loose.
Lucky! Such a very different film for you… or is it?
I appreciate the question mark there. No, it isn’t unusual but it’s not what I’m generally known for. My face plays as “period” so I’ve done my share of 19th century portrayals – The Retrieval, Sherman’s March, even Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies. Human nature doesn’t change; only the wardrobe.
I love that. What appealed to you about both the character and the piece?
The character: He’s an overseer, which is really not a prestige position, so he has to continually prove to himself and to his own masters that he is worthy, while, paradoxically, ignoring the worth and humanity of the enslaved peoples he supervises. The piece: it was beautifully-written and based on a beautifully-written book. The message was one I think we need: love is love. Love is of God. Love is sacred, especially self-sacrificial love.
Did you give the book a read too? I imagine it’s quite different, as they usually are?
Yes, the author, Deborah Robillard, was on set with us every day. I availed myself of her many times, especially on the emotional nuances of this seeming bastard I was playing. I’m a book guy. Cinema is a visual medium, and I love that language. But my hope is always that, when there is an adaptation of a book, enjoying it will lead us to want to read the book.
Indeed. It’s a very different film – in the most refreshing of ways, isn’t it?
I thought so, too. I like the way it draws similarities between the emotional lives of people we consider a part of the dusty past and people we consider of the here and now. There’s really no difference, of course. I’ve long believed that if we were dropped into almost any time period other than our own, we would have no trouble recognizing the emotional lives of the people there. Only the trappings change; the unimportant stuff.
It’s hard to compare it to any other films. Can you think of any?
Not contemporarily, no. I think it is the kind of film that might have been made in an earlier period of cinema, before we came to expect crash-and-boom from everything we watch. It’s a genuine love story and a genuine tragedy – the good love stories are always both.
I’m guessing you probably won’t be able to say much if you are, but has Rob Zombie enlisted you for a role in The Munsters movie yet?
He has not.
Oh come on, Rob! I have to ask, because some might consider Rob an unusual choice for that film – I feel his sensibilities really do lend itself to the property – feel the same?
Rob Zombie is horror royalty and horror family – he loves monsters with all his heart – but his talents extend well beyond the horror genre. The Munsters is a perfect bridge project. He won’t give those characters a strictly farcical treatment. He’s a strong director and an intuitive student of human nature.
The one thing most people don’t know about Rob Zombie is that he’s an absolute sweetheart. Just the nicest guy. Were you surprised to discover that yourself when you first worked with him?
I was. I am continually surprised to find this being the case with high-level directors and producers. Most are very good human beings. But “very good human being” is not a very clickable headline, is it? So we concentrate on personas instead of people. That’s the business of the business.
I imagine not everyone you’ve worked with has been a teddy bear though? Ha!
I have not been, in every instance, a teddy bear myself. More than once I’ve snapped and had to apologize to cast and crew. Like a military command center, a movie shoot is no place for the emotionally fragile. The team and the mission are what matters. You learn this and succeed or you refuse to learn it and fail.
I can’t imagine, it Bill! How about Veronica Robledo? How would you describe Veronica?
A strong leader. She reminded me of Jamie Lee Curtis in her smiling-but-firm control of her set. A good director is simultaneously respected and (just a little) feared. That’s a tough, tough combination to pull off. You have to have something about you that makes people want to do your will. Veronica has that.
The Cricket’s Dance is Now Available On Demand