|Louisiana's next hit could be a horror film from Dukes of Hazzard's John Schneider|
Without hesitation, Malcolm Denare says he's looking for a home in Louisiana. The statement is a bit surprising considering Denare had never been to Baton Rouge before shooting Smothered.
Denare is from Los Angeles. You might remember him as Moochie Wells in the John Carpenter film Christine. He is one of many iconic horror stars actor/writer/director John Schneider (a.k.a. Bo Duke of The Dukes of Hazzard) chose for Smothered, a film that was primarily shot in and around Baton Rouge.
Schneider's latest movie could be another hit for the Louisiana film industry.
Not only did producer Doug Blake say the film was green-lit the day after the script was finished—a rarity in the industry, according to Blake—but this movie also features actors from classic horror films playing themselves.
Some of those actors include Kane Hodder who played Jason Friday the 13th, Michael Berryman who played Pluto in The Hills Have Eyes, and R.A. Mihailoff who played Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.
In Smothered, these stars are asked to go haunt visitors at a trailer park to find a killer is stalking them.
Danare says playing himself was confusing at first.
"All these actors who played the man behind the mask have taken the masks off," Danare says. "It's hard to play yourself. You want to act like yourself, but then you think, 'It's silly to act like myself.'"
Mihailoff echoes Danare's sentiments on playing himself.
"It was difficult to switch my brain around," Mihailoff says. "If I were playing a completely fictitious character, well then, who cares? Since it's my name on that character, it was a little difficult to just abandon my perceived notions of myself and what I want my image to be. It's the polar opposite of the way I really am."
Besides getting these stars in one room, another big pull for the Louisiana industry is that 90% of the crew is from Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Blake says.
The film was also shot across Louisiana—in Denham Springs and St. Francisville—as well as in the haunted house attraction The 13th Gate.
It wasn't the first time 13th Gate owner Dwayne Sanburn got a call from a movie. However, the movie marked the first time Sanburn's crew of actors and makeup artists were used extensively for a film that was shot at the haunted house.
"About 40 of our actors were used as extras in the movie," Sanburn says. "This was the first time we were really more involved both helping with the movie and the actors side. We helped with the makeup and sets. It worked out great for us. John [Schneider] liked The 13th Gate. He was like a kid in a candy store when he first scouted us. We knew the minute he got here, he wanted to shoot here."
One of Sanburn's crew, Grace Emden, became the department head of makeup for Smothered. Emden had worked on films in props and other areas, but for this film, her days ran 15 hours or more.
"It wasn't just doing makeup from 5 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. then they go to set," she says. "We were working all day, changing makeup throughout the day. Some actors would come back to the makeup trailer and wash off completely become something totally different."
Emden was also able to implement her design and work closely with Schneider during the filming.
"We were going by his script, and he would either approve it or say 'That's not what I was envisioning, but it's perfect,'" she says. "We didn't have to change a whole lot. All of the characters ended up being interesting on their own. We were able to get really creative with design and makeup."
For Emden, the film was an opportunity to work where she lives, rather than down the road in Shreveport or New Orleans. She says it's always much easier to go home every night and get those five or six hours of sleep before the next day of shooting.
"There is so much film going on in Baton Rouge," she says. "Work is coming to you."
Blake says shooting in Louisiana has been great on several levels, citing the people and the food.
But, more importantly, he hinted at future productions: "I've been coming back and forth to Louisiana since January. We intend to do a couple movies here."
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