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Exclusive Interview: 'Pirates of the Caribbean' Star on Boarding Sam Raimi's Ship 'To Hell'!

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Seems like the pirate genre that once ruled the high-sea is getting the short end of the wooden leg lately. With Gore Verbinski bailing on Pirates of the Caribbean 4, those modern-day Somali pirates getting such negative media coverage (to be fair, they are, well, criminals), and Pirates star Reggie Lee jumping aboard Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell. Nevertheless, we caught up with Lee, sans pirate attire, to chat about his latest a role as Stu Rubin in Raimi’s upcoming return to horror, and he let loose on the film’s special effects/make-up, the MPAA’s recent PG-13 rating, and more. Read on!

There’s been a ton of speculation on the web lately about the R versus the PG-13 versions of Drag Me to Hell. Have you seen either version?
I haven’t seen the finished product. It’s interesting, I just went in to do some looping with Sam Raimi several months ago, so I kind of know what’s in store for the film but I haven’t seen the final product. I’ve been keeping up with the horror fans and I’m seeing what they’re saying about it.

There have been several different unfinished screenings that have been done in several places, and horror fans always want the R version. I don’t know what the big difference is. I guess there would be a little more blood and gore in the R version. From my understanding though, it’s the PG-13 version that’s going to be released on May 29th. But who knows what Sam has in store.

Whatever comes out though, he’s such a man of the story. If anything holds this film together it’s certainly that. He’s so intense. You feel for the characters because they are so real and that’s the way he directs us. This becomes scarier because it’s so real. Whether it’s the PG-13 or the R it will stay intact in terms of story. If they do end up going for the R there will be a little more blood and gore. I was part of one scene that was pretty bloody which was actually really fun [laughs], but that’s all I got to see.

Since this film is being heralded as Sam’s “return to horror,” was that a pressure or sentiment conscious at all on set?
Not really. Sam is probably one of the best directors I’ve worked with, in the sense that he emits a certain calm and a collaborative feel to the entire film. We actually had rehearsal, which is really odd for a film. We rehearsed a week before so it would go smoothly. It’s considered really an independent film, even though Universal is putting it out. It’s independent in nature so we didn’t have as long as most studio films have to shoot. We had to really be on our game in terms of that. It was never directed towards “Oh God, we have to make this really good because everything is riding on Sam’s shoulders in his return to horror as the horror king.”

A lot of the crew had worked with him before, which was interesting. I guess he tends to use people over and over again. I can see why. They love him so much and don’t care what he does. I have to say that I’m on that bandwagon right now.

So if there was any chance of seeing you in a Spider-Man film you’d be willing?
Oh yeah! I’m so down for it! [Laughs.] So down…

Tell us a bit about your character…
I actually play a character named Stu Rubin, and I’m happy to have a name that’s not Asian. What’s great is that Sam never even once questioned changing the name. That’s really great, so I applaud him for that. But I play the competition to Alison Lohman’s character in the bank for a promotion. I try to do everything in my power to get that promotion, and in many ways conniving. She does the same but in a more noble manner [laughs]. It was actually really fun because I got to be conniving which is really my strength. [Laughs.]

How much of the make-up and special-effects did you get to experience?
I got to experience Lorna [Raver] make-up, who is Mrs. Ganush, who is in charge of the curse. But everyone that Sam cast tended to be an actor first. They were really into making it as real for themselves as possible. I’ve done stuff like Pirates of the Caribbean, where I had to wear excessive make-up and teeth and a contact lens. In the end, when it comes to the scene, you kind of forget all of that. It kind of becomes a natural part of you if you’re really into it. All the special-effects stuff and blood became really real.

With a promising director, cast and release date how do you think the film will fare in theaters?
I hope it does great. I think because it’s Sam and he has such a name not just in the horror genre but also because of the Spider-Man films, I think that there will be a wonderful cross-over. If it were someone just making a horror film, the horror fans would go see it. But because of what he’s done in the past I hope there will be an influx of people who don’t necessarily go see that genre on a normal basis.

And horror is doing really well at the box-office…
It’s wild. I’m one of those actors that keep track of numbers and I like to see how films do on certain weekends. It’s funny that horror movies do pretty well.

Especially in terrible economies…
[Laughs.] Exactly. Anything that is out of the ordinary and takes you out of a depressing mood…

With horror doing so well it’s only natural that there’d be more sequels, remakes and prequels than original concepts. Has there been any talk about a sequel or prequel to Drag Me To Hell?
[Laughs.] Not officially. I keep track of the film and there has been speculation from fans and they are putting scenarios of the next film together, as to who is going to be the lead in the next film and how it will all happen. I think that Sam is such a man of the people, and he loves his fans and respects the people who made him what he is. He tends to listen really well and feel out what people are thinking about his films and if they want another. Hopefully this will be another franchise. That would be great for him and everyone involved. Officially no, but I’ve heard stuff on the internet.

You’ve done a ton of films within the genre, but this is a definite horror film. Are you a fan?
I used to be more as a kid. I think what I tend to gravitate towards more is the psychological horror films. Rosemary’s Baby is one of my favorite films because it freaks the hell out of me, even now. I think everyone loves that feeling of being scared. It’s kind of a little bit like a high. With Sam’s films, there’s the infusion of comedy where things happen but then there’s this mega-laughter. That releases the tension so I love that kind of film. It keeps you at an even keel. There are times when you’re scared to death and other times where you’re like “Okay, I need to see that again.”

Were you familiar with Sam’s Evil Dead films?
I started watching them only after he asked me to do this role in Drag Me to Hell. That’s kind of what that whole genre is about. It’s so ridiculous that you laugh. I wasn’t involved in too many of those scenes in Drag Me to Hell [laughs], but some of the ones that he did I was like “brilliant.” It’s just so good.

So there’s definitely a lot of that Raimi a la Evil Dead element in Drag Me To Hell?
Oh sure. I don’t think that it’s possible to take that out of him. Nor do I think he would ever want it to be any different. That’s what he stands for and that’s what he is. When you first meet Sam, he comes to work in a suit because he respects the work. But there’s this inevitable wit that comes out of his mouth and you just go, “Oh my God, where did that come from?” [Laughs.] I didn’t expect that at all. You just fall in love with the man, and, even though it’s work, he’s here to have a good time. That’s what his films are like.

What do you have coming up?
I just finished shooting a TV series in Mexico City for Fox Studios called Person’s Unknown. I was in Mexico City since the end of October until the beginning of March. I can’t say too much, but it is created by Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote The Usual Suspects, so it’s very much in that vein. He’s just a brilliant man and everyone involved in the series was really brilliant. There’s no release date yet.

Can you talk about your character at all?
Oh God. It’s so hard with this one. [Laughs.] I can’t talk about my character, but I can tell you that it’s about these people who wake up in an unknown town and can’t get out of the town. It’s a deserted town and it all revolves around why they’re there and how they’re going to get out.

And I’m actually shooting a few episodes of American Dad.

Any idea what character you’ll be voicing?
If you’re familiar with the show and you know Toshi, I’ll be playing Toshi’s dad. [Laughs.] I met one of the creators of that series, and he said I should come and do a voice for them, and I thought, “Why not?” I just got this call, “They want you to play Toshi’s dad”. I wasn’t familiar with the show, but all my friends who are fans told me he’s hysterical and that he doesn’t speak a word of English, just Japanese. I don’t speak Japanese at all. But I don’t have to speak Japanese for the part. So I think it will be fun.

Will the episodes air this season or next?
They work on stuff about year to a year and a half out. I’m not sure, but the script that I got seems like a Valentine’s Day script, and it’s May, so I have a feeling it’s for next Valentine’s Day.

Any chance we’ll see you in Pirates 4?
Who knows. They’re trying to work that out, and we’ll see. All I can say is I didn’t die and I’m still on a ship, so we’ll see what happens.

What is your biggest fear?
I’m a hypochondriac at heart. I’ll admittedly say that. [Laughs.] That’s my first thought -- that my biggest fear is everyone gets infected by some disease. Chemical warfare!

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