Kerr Smith may be best known for his teen-dream roles (Dawson's Creek, Final Destination, Cruel Intentions 3) but that ought to change with the release of his newest film, My Bloody Valentine 3D. Kerr plays Axel Palmer, a mining-town sheriff trying to save the mine from being closed, save the town from a pick-axe-wielding maniac, and save his ass from being caught with his knocked-up mistress. Yep, the guy's he's got a lot on his plate. But he squeezed in some time at last weekend's LA press junket for My Bloody Valentine 3D to tell us about his character, filming in 3D, and his love of movies that open with sasquatch rape. Hey, don't look at us – we just report this stuff!
Did you see the original My Bloody Valentine before shooting this one? I saw it in 1981, when I was about nine. But I did not watch it again until after we wrapped shooting. I had some semblance of what it was about from twenty-five years ago, but I didn't want to get any preconceived notions – I just wanted to do my own thing.
Did you see the original My Bloody Valentine before shooting this one?
I saw it in 1981, when I was about nine. But I did not watch it again until after we wrapped shooting. I had some semblance of what it was about from twenty-five years ago, but I didn't want to get any preconceived notions – I just wanted to do my own thing.
Have you ever seen yourself in 3D?
No, that is a first. It's quite interesting. We have the HD, then the 3D… it's a very different experience, but it is very cool. It's not just the moments that punch out of the screen at you. Every frame becomes interesting. There is a can of peas in the background, and the 3D makes it look interesting.
What was the appeal of this role to you?
Initially, it was the character himself. Axel is a dark, conflicted guy. He's got a lot of things going on: he's the sheriff, so he has to find out who is behind these killings. A lot of people think Axel is behind the murders. He has a bad relationship with his wife; he is cheating on his wife with a younger woman; his wife's high school love is back in town… he's got a lot to deal with. That was a very attractive part.
Which is interesting, because normally in these kinds of movies, the sheriff isn't as involved. Usually he is just there to prod the plot along.
Yeah, Axel is the glue in this movie. He keeps everything moving – even the chaos.
Are you a horror movie fan?
Oh yeah. Love them.
What are some of your favorites?
Aside from the obvious Michael, Freddy, and Jason movies, I would say An American Werewolf in London, The Thing, The Beast Within. I remember that on the VHS box for The Beast Within it said, "We guarantee you cannot watch this movie without screaming, covering your eyes, or running out of the room." There is sasquatch rape at the beginning. It's disgusting. I was nine or ten at the time, and my parents wouldn't let me watch this stuff. I had to sneak it in to the house – that little caption on the box sold me. I had to see it.
Did you know going in that My Bloody Valentine 3D would be such a throw-back to the old slasher movies?
Yeah, I did. I talked to [director] Patrick Lussier at the beginning. He wanted to make it look like the 1981 version. If you look, you will notice that the grocery store looks pretty much the same. The inside of the mine looks pretty much the same – given rock is rock.
Did you have any idea how gory the film would be, just based off the script?
No. You never do. It's the director's choice, how much blood he wants to throw at the audience. In this case, it was quite a bit. But blood is part of a horror film, and I enjoy it. I don't enjoy working with it – it's sticky and it tastes like peppermint.
What was it like working with Tom Atkins, veteran genre actor from the 1980s?
I was so excited when he signed on – and Kevin Tighe as well. Those guys are legends! It was really fun. I enjoy working with guys who have been in the business a long time, because you always learn something. I think he has the best death scene in the movie.
How do you approach a role where your character is supposed to be both sympathetic and a suspect?
You just try to keep it up in the air. There are certain points in the film that I make the conscious decision to look evil. There are parts where I have decided to look innocent. Our main objective was to keep the identity of the killer a mystery as long as we could.
What do you think is the appeal of slasher movies?
I think people enjoy being scared, knowing they are in a safe environment. People love being terrified. It's an emotion that most people don't experience in life, to that degree. Knowing, in the back of your mind, that it's not really happening to you. It's a fun ride.
Do you notice a difference working with a director who is also an editor?
Definitely. Most editing-directors are very precise, and not very flexible. But Patrick is flexible. He knows exactly what he wants. It's a good thing too – if we didn't have a director who knew what he wanted, we would have been screwed. It was difficult to put together technically. In addition to that, he's an actor's director, which is unusual for an editor. He had fantastic notes. He helped me bring life to Axel, and he let me run with the character.
How does shooting in 3D differ from 2D, from an actor's standpoint?
With regards to performance, it doesn't. But 3D requires an enormous amount of light. So you are dealing with huge 25Ks, three or four of them right in your face. It's bright, it's hot, it takes a little acclimation. When they are pulling convergence – bringing stuff out of the screen – you have to hit your mark dead on. There is very little margin of error there. And the process of setting up shots is a little slower, just because of the amount of equipment there.
It was kind of like we all went back to film school for this. We learned how to make a 3D movie on the fly. It forces you to look at filmmaking in a different way. We used two Red cameras. One shoots directly at you, and the other is on a rig that shoots directly down, into a 50/50 mirror glass lens. The two lenses are then off-set slightly, one for the left eye, one for the right. Red cameras shoot at 4k, which is an enormous amount of information, so we are pulling 16 gig chips out of those cameras every five minutes, throwing them into a computer with 10 terabytes of storage. There is no more checking the gate; there is checking the media. Someone actually watches the scene to make sure we didn't miss anything before we move on. So we could actually see it in 3D while we were shooting.
Are you more comfortable on TV or film?
It doesn't matter. I enjoy both. TV gigs keep getting thrown at me, and I will always do it – TV has been very good to me. My main focus, my entire career, has been film. I love movies. So I'm just going to do whatever comes.
What is the worst audition you ever went on?
I remember it like it was yesterday – it was probably 12 years ago. I was out in New York, and I don't remember what I was going in for. But at that time I didn't have a whole lot on my resume, so I needed to make some things up. My first job was as an extra on 12 Monkeys, along with 499 other people. I was in that futuristic airport scene. I put it on my resume with a character name – I gave him the name Chris. So I go in for this audition, and the casting director asks me about my 12 Monkeys credit. I said, yes, I was in that movie. She said, "That's funny. I cast that movie, and I don't remember you." [Smith mimes taking back his resume and slinking out the door.] "Thank you very much." I couldn't afford to waste the resume then, so I took it! That was brutal. I don't think I ever auditioned for her again.
Do you have a favorite kill from this movie?
I'd have to say it was the jaw getting ripped off. Although I have to say the one where the guy is getting his head pushed down on the pick axe, that was good. The footage of Selene Luna getting killed and tossed up into the ceiling – that's not really in the movie. It's only three or four frames. When we shot that, it was just wrong. I'm glad it's not really in the movie.
Any comments on Betsy Rue's [Irene] extended nude scene, where she has sex and runs around outside naked for a good seven minutes?
Hats off to her. For an actor to be able to pull that off, and give a good performance, and be naked all that time… that is pretty impressive. She's all-out. She doesn't care. It took at least two days to film that. Transpo guys came out of nowhere to watch that scene!
What scares you the most?
What do you do when you find a spider in your house?
Run! My wife has no problem with them – she picks them up. Anything more than four legs, and I am freaked out.