Welcome back to Evil Axel’s Den Of Iniquity! While this may have started out as a place for me to unleash my shenanigans in the “genre” arenas, we’ve decided to open it up a little and let everybody in on the fun. So now the Den Of Iniquity, while still falling under my evil supremacy, will feature items by any of our writers who provide a worthy piece. With that in mind, I turn things over to our Fearless leader and his awesome interview with The Creeper himself, Jonathan Breck. Get it on, Shane-O Mac, Get it on…
I know I’m not evilaxel, but the Den is the only place this interview seems to fit. In a few short weeks the sequel to the year 2000 horror sleeper hit Jeepers Creepers, aptly named Jeepers Creepers 2, is going to hit store shelves in an all new Special Edition DVD (review to come). I recently had the opportunity to interview the star of the film Jonathan “The Creeper” Breck about being Hollywood’s latest horror monster icon, life on the set, the Creeper, his upcoming projects, and the DVD. Plus, I somehow managed to stump him.
EyeCraveDVD.com (ECDVD): How did you feel when you found out that they were going ahead with the sequel and you knew that you were going to get to play the Creeper again?
Jonathan Breck (JB): I was excited, because we didn’t get to fulfill a lot of our ideas for the first one. We ran out of money and time. It was a fairly small budgeted movie. We were excited that we got to come back with double the budget and got to do all the things we weren’t able to do in the first one. So, I was excited, personally, to play the Creeper and I was excited for the project because I knew we were going to be able to take it to the next level.
ECDVD: With the success of the first film behind you, was there more pressure to succeed, and did this make it more difficult to shoot the film?
JB: You know, maybe it should have, but it didn’t. [laughs] I mean, we were just having fun. Victor [Salva] wrote a great script. It wasn’t just a half-baked retread of the first movie. It was a new movie unto itself. And, so, we were all excited to get back to work on it. I didn’t really feel any pressure at all. The first day when I walked onto the set and put the Creeper back on it was like putting on an old pair of jeans. When you do something once there’s a learning curve. It takes a while in the shooting to find your stride as an actor, but when you come back and do a sequel you’ve already gone over that learning curve. So, now, you can just take it from the point you left off and add to it. It was a real joy as I was operating on a higher level for this movie.
ECDVD: I enjoyed the second movie. It was actually quite different from the first. You know, it was the same character, but really a different movie.
JB: Right. Exactly and I was really pleased with that. I see sequels and rarely do I see sequels that I’m pleased with, but I really enjoyed the second movie too.
ECDVD: What was your reaction when you saw that Jeepers Creepers 2 opened number one at the box office that first weekend?
JB: I was really proud. Very, very proud. You know it’s an interesting thing that the box office doesn’t translate necessarily to a good movie or a bad movie. It’s kind of a queer phenomenon. A lot of times you can make a great movie and you aren’t rewarded at the box office and vice versa. So, I really didn’t know how we’d do, but I knew we had a good movie. I was proud of the movie and I was pleased when the public reaffirmed that for us and went and to see it.
ECDVD: With aging horror icons such as Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, and Jason Voorhees, genre fans are billing the Creeper as the next “big” horror icon. How does it make you feel to have played “THE NEW” creature?
JB: Pretty amazing. It never really dawned on me. I just go to work and I do my job, and one of my friends said the other day “You know when we were growing up Freddie was the guy that terrorized us when it was dark and we were in our bedrooms alone at night. Do you understand that you’re going to be the guy who’s going to be terrorizing this new generation?” [laughs] That was the first time when it kind of hit home. It’s a big thrill. That’s all I can say. It’s a big thrill and I’m honored that I’m able to do it.
ECDVD: What was it like working with Victor [Salva], and are there any plans to work with him again on other projects other than Creeper films?
JB: Absolutely, ya, we have plans to work together on a few other things. It’s great working with him. It’s great because he’s a writer and director. So, he’s kind of a one-stop shop. I mean, if you have any questions you go to him. The writer’s right there on the set with you and he knows exactly what he wants, but he’s really open to letting the actor interpret things. He’s really open to what I bring him. Every scene he’s like “let me see your ideas” and we talk about it and we arrive mutually at a decision on how to play a particular scene. As an actor you feel a part of the whole creative process, and that you’re taken seriously, and that’s nice.
ECDVD: So, it gave you more ability to define the character as you thought he should be?
JB: Absolutely. He had me in on early meetings – pre-production meetings, and he would ask me my opinion on the character. I would obviously have a gut reaction to what he would do and wouldn’t do. So, I really felt part of the process because he included me all the way. He’s a great director that way.
ECDVD: How did you enjoy working with genre stalwart Ray Wise, who plays your nemesis Taggart?
JB: Ohhh! God. [laughing] He’s an old pro man. It was great, and not only did I get to enjoy working with him on the set, but I enjoyed getting to know him outside the set. He’s such a terrific guy. Somebody who’s work I’ve admired for a long time. Somebody who just kind of helps pull everybody else’s work up. You know when you’re working with someone with that caliber; at that level you pull up your game. It was a nice opportunity for me to get to work with him.
ECDVD: Even though your character used a lot of makeup and some effects you were able to express an obvious sense of malice through the eyes that no amount of makeup could convey. Was there a particular person or character you were attempting to channel or use as a template, or were you just trying to look as mean as possible?
JB: I used different things, absolutely. I go back to my actor training. It’s no different than when I’m playing a character without the makeup. I mean, you draw on that huge well of experience you have, bad experiences you have, and people you want to kill [laughs]. There is a lot working under the surface of that. So, I think I really tapped into the right things, especially with that scene on top of the bus.
ECDVD: That’s the scene that sticks out in my mind.
JB: I think I found the right source material for that probably [laughs]. It’s amazing to me, you know, fans from time to time and they notice, these horror fans are the best fans in the world as far as I’m concerned, they notice everything.
ECDVD: Indeed they do.
JB: Which is really rewarding as an actor because our business is subtlety. At least I consider it to be subtlety. You communicate through the way you walk, you move, to the way you sit, maybe to the way you cock your head sometimes, and horror fans appreciate that. Especially, when you don’t have words to rely on they have to look at other ways to communicate. I had some fans come up to me and say what you were thinking in this moment and it was amazing to me that it translates. They get it, you know.
ECDVD: I hear you’re not a big fan of the horror genre, true?
JB: Well, you know that’s one of the quotes that you say earlier in your career that you’re sorry for. It got twisted up and then you spend the rest of your career trying to live it down [laughing]. What I said was that when I grew up I wasn’t a fan of the genre.
ECDVD: Ahh, OK.
JB: I’ve since became a big fan of the genre and watch all the movies, and get great joy out of them. What I said in that particular question was that I think it really served me in playing the Creeper to not have watched them and not being a horror fan growing up, because I didn’t really have a character in my mind either consciously or subconsciously when I set about to play this character, the Creeper. I wasn’t thinking “gee whiz I wanna do it like this guy or I want to do like this monster or that monster.” I really came at it from a fresh place. So, I think that helps me create a character that’s somewhat different and distinct, because I never want to copy somebody’s performance. It’s hard when you’re an actor and you’re a huge fan of a certain style of movie you have got these certain indelible imprints in your mind of performances. Sometimes even subconsciously they sneak their way into your preparation, and that didn’t happen for me. So, I’m glad that I wasn’t a really big fan of the genre before.
ECDVD: What other genres are you a fan of? It seems most of your other experiences are in the sci-fi area.
JB: Right. Ya, I’m a huge science fiction fan now. I also wasn’t a science fiction watcher when I was growing up, but I became one [laughs]. I’m a big action fan. I like all movies, I really do. I like comedies, I like drama, if it’s an interesting story with interesting characters involved, and I’m interested.
ECDVD: Did you draw on your days of playing football to assist you in preparing for the physicality of the role?
JB: It really helped. It really did. I have to say that I played football for 13 years. So, I’m not afraid of physicality and showing physicality. It helped because the Creeper has to be portrayed in an all-powerful way. So, it helped me. I looked at the character as a super athlete. He’s able to ingest the best part of anybody so he is the crème de la crème as far as I’m concerned. Being an athlete really helped me arrive at how he moved. ECDVD: Does that athleticism have any relevance to the types of roles you approach?
JB: Ya, if I can use my athleticism to find a way in, definitely. It’s part of everything I think, but I’ve also been taking dance in the last few years, and that’s a whole different side of athleticism. In sports, football particularly, you beef up and you tighten up, and in acting a lot of the time it helps to be loose. So, dance has brought in that other side of agility, mobility, and relaxation – the kind of a calm that you need to be a good actor. ECDVD: I’m sure that [dance] also came in handy when you were hanging in the wires with movement?
JB: Oh ya, [laughing] Oooh ya. ECDVD: Was it fun to be harnessed up? JB: It was great. The first time they put me in a harness we were at this hanger doing a stunt rehearsal. I started at one side of the hanger, I don’t know how high I was, maybe a hundred feet, and they set lines to make me swoop down to within about 10 feet of the ground and then swoop back up. I bet I traveled about 100 yards and I was just flying. It was such a thrill. I had such a f#*&$ blast doing it.
ECDVD: Did you partake in other types of training in preparation for the shoot?
JB: I did. I do something that’s kind of become a ritual. Before the first Creeper movie I went to boot camp. These marines here in town run a boot camp, a marine boot camp, here on the beach at 6am every morning [laughs]. I started going to this boot camp, usually about 2 months before we start production. I did for the first movie and it really saved me. Not so much in terms of strength, but in terms of stamina. Because you’re in that costume and you’re totally incased in latex. The makeup process is 5-7 hours then you have to work for 10-12 hours, and lots of times you’re doing strenuous stuff. Being able to maintain your energy after 8-9 hours on the set is key. And, the boot camp really helped me, so I did it again for this one, for the second movie, I went to boot camp again. It was great, it’s painful, but it’s great.
ECDVD: Do you try and perform most of your own stunts?
JB: I do. I perform as much as they’ll let me perform. The producers disagree with me quite a bit [laughs] with what they want me to do and what they don’t want me to do. There were a few stunts on Jeepers 2 that, quite honestly, were dangerous, and they hired pros for that. I had one of the best stuntmen in the business, Darrin Prescott, to do those stunts for me. That’s what he gets paid for. He’s a pro, so I decided to back off and let him do those [laughs].
ECDVD: I imagine he was the guy who went through the windshield then?
JB: Absolutely, he went through the windshield, and there was another one that I was really impressed with. That stunt where Taggart fires the tarpon, and he hits me off the bus, and he goes twisting off in the background. That was him too, and that was a difficult-difficult stunt. I was glad I wasn’t doing that one.
ECDVD: Sitting in the makeup chair for nearly 5hrs each day must be mentally draining. What did you do to pass the time?
JB: You know, it wasn’t really mentally draining; because when you know it’s coming you just resign yourself. You say, “OK, I’m going to go to this quiet relaxed place.” To be honest that time would help me fall deeper and deeper into my character. Each piece of the Creeper mask was applied independently. In other words, my chin, my cheek, an eyelid, the nose, everything was applied piece by piece. A kind of interesting thing was happening as I saw each piece on my face I fell deeper and deeper into the character. I really used that time in the chair to meditate and focus on the days work and get into character. By the time I got out of that chair I was completely in costume and I was ready to go. Really, it wasn’t that bad. Maybe I’m a freak I don’t know [laughs].
ECDVD: What was your favorite sequence to shoot and what was the hardest thing about making this film?
JB: I never worked in front of a green screen extensively and I had to work in front of a green screen a lot, and that’s hard. When you’re not working with an actor or other actors – it’s like they shot Star Wars, like they shot Lord of the Rings, and like they shoot all these movies now – it’s very difficult. I come from a stage/theater background where you’re interacting with other characters. It’s kind of tough because you go to work, put in a hard days work, and you’re not really sure what you’ve got at the end of day. That was tough, really tough. My favorite sequence was probably when I was hanging upside down on the bus communicating with the kids. I had a lot of fun doing that.
ECDVD: On the commentary track for the upcoming DVD you mention that there was discussion that the origin of the Creeper comes from being cursed during biblical times or that he was created by a wizard, which do you think would make for a better origin story?
JB: I don’t know if I really went into it on the audio track about what his origins exactly were. Maybe Brian [Penikis], or maybe Brad [Parker] did, but I don’t believe I did, and that’s because I think it’s better to, and Victor agrees, to leave his origins more of a mystery, more of an enigma. I believe that’s better because as soon as you begin to define a character, in other words, exactly what he is, where he’s from, and what he does then you put a fence around him. Then if you make a movie he can’t do certain thing and people start to say, well, he can’t do that. We really wanted to leave the canvas blank and wide open. You find out more of what the Creeper can do with every movie – with every scene. The origin is specifically not defined. Everybody asks that question. Everybody wants to know, and it’s a cool story that it’s not defined. We don’t know exactly where he came from and how he came to be.
ECDVD: That ends up causing a lot of speculation on fan sites. That must be nice to read what their thinking?
JB: Ya, exactly. I think if you define it exactly you limit yourself, and I’m not saying that at some point we won’t define that. There is talk of a prequel with another movie, which means we would show the beginning or something closer to the beginning of his inception, but we don’t know for sure. We might do that at some point, but at this point he is intentionally left as an unknown.
ECDVD: Did the studio allow you to keep any of the movie memorabilia, such as the Creepers coat, masks, weapons or anything else?
JB: Man, I wish. They didn’t. They archive all that stuff because there is a good chance that they’ll want to do another one so they keep all that stuff together. They seal it, archive it, and put it under lock and key. Some of the prop guys make copies of certain things and I have copies of certain weapons and things like that, but none of the big wardrobe.
ECDVD: Tell us a little about your upcoming projects… You’re to appear in BEAT BOYS, BEAT GIRLS and also Jefts-D.
JB: Jefts-D was a military movie actually, and it was a lot of fun to do. We had full cooperation from the military so we had all the equipment, the toys, and that was great. I did a movie called CABLE MONKEY, which I just did two months ago. It’s a movie about rock n’ roll roadies. I just finished a movie called DREAMLAND. Keeping with my science fiction theme it’s about Area 51. Just wrapped that last week. Matter of fact, I’m just now recovering. I don’t know when exactly that will be out, probably sometime in the early summer. I’ve got a couple of projects I’m looking to start, but not till the end of January. I haven’t made up my mind what’s next, but I’ll probably be doing something by the end of January.
ECDVD: A few questions about the DVD itself… Were the video sequences that were used when the menu loads up and when you click play shot during principal photography or did you have to get dressed up again to shoot those?
JB: We came back after principal photography and did all those. Just an idea that MGM had. Instead of just putting regular place cards on there why not have some new action? That was all their idea and they had me come back and do a day of re-shoots to do all that stuff. Actually that was just done just a few months ago.
ECDVD: Did you have a good time recording the commentary, because it sounded like you did?
JB: Oh ya. Those guys, Brian and Brad [laughs], we’re like kids when we get into a room together so it was fun. I’ve never actually done an audio. So, through the first 5-10 minutes I’m like, what the hell am I going to say for the next hour [laughs]. Once you get talking and warming up it’s just like three kids in there getting excited. You can kind of see how passionate we are for the movie and for the project just by the way we talk about it. It doesn’t take anything for us to get excited about it.
ECDVD: Last question, if you were stranded alone in space with a plasma TV and home theatre setup, which 5 DVDs would you want to have with you? Which would you avoid at all costs?
JB: Oh my God! Nobody’s ever asked me that question. That is a great question man, and that is a very hard question. It might take me sec so bear with me.
ECDVD: No problem. Take your time.
JB: [lots of typical pondering noises] I would have to say – I would like to have APOCALYPSE NOW with me. Hmmm! CHINATOWN. I’d like to have the EXORCIST [laughs]. I’d like to have 2001: [A SPACE ODYSSEY]. Ummm, what else? A good old one that I could watch over and over again – Oh! SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. And what would I avoid at all costs. Oh shit! There’s about a million things I would… PEARL HARBOR. I would shoot myself if someone put that on a loop and made me watch it for a day. It would be over for me [laughs]. I have to say it’s not the worst movie I’ve ever scene. The action sequence when they [Japanese] actually bomb the harbor was pretty cool, but the rest of it they could have just done away with.
Special Thanks to Jonathan Breck and Mary-Margaret Jones (Media Profile – MGM Rep.)