Monday, May 7, 2012

Film As Art: An Interview with Basket Case's Kevin Van Hentenryck

Conducted By: Justin Bozung
Host Of The Mondo Film Podcat

JUSTIN:  What was the driving force for you wanting to become an actor originally?

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:  The driving force was...I was good at it. I enjoyed it... Most of us are trapped in our own little sphere, and acting is kinda a way to escape that, even briefly you know. What got me into acting, was this girl that I liked, that I had a crush on, and I heard she was in plays. So I said "Well, I could be in play's" so it was a way to meet her and get to know her. And I did. The play we were in together was the last play she actually did, but I was hooked.

JUSTIN:  So basically you got into acting to get a piece of ass?

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:  To get close to the girl... And that never happened of course, so the rest is kinda history

JUSTIN:  So how did you originally become connected with Frank Henenlotter and get the opportunity to star in Basket Case?

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:  Well, the girl who actually played the social worker with the glasses in Basket Case, her and I were going out. While I was going to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, she was the register there. She had said a couple of times, "There is this filmmaker friend of mine you should meet." So I did, and we got along really well. I did several parts in an earlier short film of his that never got any distribution, called Slash Of The Knife. My memory of it now is that, Frank was using friends and people he knew in his projects, like "Hey, put down that light, and come in the door and say this!" I was trained as an actor, and I guess he liked the result. So I started giving him a hard time, telling him he should use student actors. I had said "You'll get better results, and they'll do it just for the experience."  Shortly after that, he called me up, and said, "I've got this other film, and that turned out to be Basket Case

JUSTIN:  When you read Frank's script for the first time, what were your initial thoughts on the character? Did you have a clear idea in regards to how you'd approach the Duane Bradley character?

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:  Well, I've never asked Frank about this specifically and I probably should, but it seems to me like it was written for me. Or for someone like me. It was very close to what I was like, or part of what I was like. It seemed really easy to me. When the fit is right, it works. And you don't have to labor it.

JUSTIN:  When you read the script, how did you feel about the nude scene. And looking back, how do you feel about it now?

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:  That wasn't in the original script. We spent a long time filming, cause we had no money. So we did half days, cause we couldn't afford to feed the crew lunch. We worked on Saturdays. We'd film some, and then Frank would put together a rough cut of the footage to show people to get more money. Then we'd do some more. And do it again. And, I'm not really sure of the timing anymore, but at one point Frank had this idea for that sequence of me running through the streets nude. As it related to my brother and his escapades, it seemed to me a perfectly natural thing to do. Frank, of course, was right about that and it worked very well.  That scene wouldn't be nearly as effective without that. We did it in February down by my loft in Tribeca, and it was cold as shit. So I was freezing, and it was in the middle of the night. Back then Tribeca was this abandoned derelict old factory neighborhood, so it wasn't too difficult to pull off. It was just very cold and uncomfortable.

JUSTIN:  I have a fantasy rolling around in my head that there is a secret outtake or blooper of you falling during the filming of that sequence.

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:  Ouch...fortunately no! 

JUSTIN:  Do you have a favorite memory or experience from shooting the first film?

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:  You know...Just that it continues to have life, legs, and it reaches people. That we, on almost no budget on 16mm were able to put together a film, that in spite of itself, continues to reach people.  That's the most amazing part of Basket Case.

JUSTIN:  With some time off between Basket Case and Basket Case 2, was it difficult for you to continue on with the Duane Bradley character so many years between them?

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:  Not really, cause even though I'm not Duane, Duane is me. Actually it was a lot of fun cause we had a bigger budget on two and three, then we did on the first film. We were able to give it a more professional look cause we shot it on 35mm. And, you know it was actually really good, that element of it.

JUSTIN:  Of all three Basket Case films, which one is your favorite?  And now that the story has more or less come full circle, would you consider doing a part four if that opportunity was available to you?

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:  The first film is my all time favorite... For a lot of reasons, you know one of the things that I tell people about my sculpture. Stone carving takes a long time. I often tell people, cause they ask me "Doesn't it bug you to work on the same thing for a long time?" We did a Rip Van Winkle that took us fourteen years to carve, it's at the top of Hunter Mountain here in New York state. We did it for the summer festival here, and people would watch us. So I always tell people, the longer I work on something the better it is. Because you have more time to consider it and you get to view it from different lights and from different emotional perspectives.  

Plus, the work itself teaches you how to do the work in a funny kinda of a way. Yes, I've often thought that I'd love to do a fourth one, in fact I have a treatment partially written for a fourth one. If I ever did it, it would be -- the twins now but my age. And how they're kinda settled into a life, and there is a set of female twins with their own twisted story.  And one of the primary elements of the fourth one, would be the fact that Belial was never really a character but a caricature.  I would play Belial in the fourth one and we would fully develop his character and the interaction between the brothers.

JUSTIN: In Basket Case 2 and Basket Case 3, your face is featured in the Belial character.  Was that a difficult process to undergo?

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:  They always took casts of my face. And they would use those to produce the different Belial's, the stunt Belial, the hero Belial ect.. That's a cool process, watching the guys who create that stuff,

JUSTIN:  Well, I'll just be direct and tell you that I have an idea for the fourth Basket Case film.  I envision Duane and Belial going west!  Hear me out on this....The two brothers travel back in time to the old west.  Can't you just see them with cowboy hats on, and riding on horseback up a trail and into the sunset.  Or maybe Belial has a pistol duel in the streets with someone?  Or what about a montage of someone trying to teach Belial to lasso a calf?  I'm thinking we should call it... Basket Case 4: Giddy Up

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:  Oh my god..You're a sick man!

JUSTIN:  You're a full time self taught rock sculptor now. In a previous conversation, you had told me that you already had your mind set at becoming a sculptor before you even started to work on Basket Case, right?  

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:  Yeah, that's true.

JUSTIN:  You also mentioned to me that your inspiration for becoming a sculptor was when you saw the Ken Russell film, Savage Messiah (1972).  What was it about that film that inspired you?

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:   It wasn't so much that film, but during the course of that film they had that actor who played Henri Gaudier and in one scene he has to produce this piece of sculpture to show someone in the morning.  So they steal a gravestone, and they work all night.  In the scene they show a close up of actual carvers hands working a block of stone. I was so turned on to and by the idea of a rock as a plastic medium that for the next several weeks...I...the school I went to was right around the corner from Sculpture House, a sculpture supply place. So I spent a couple weeks, just walking by and looking in the window.  Then I worked up my nerve to walk in. I looked around, and walked out.

Finally I got some money together, walked in, and actually spoke to a sales girl and I started asking her every question I could think of about the tools, stones, and how you do it. I bought a basic set of three chisels and a hammer and I found a rock on the street somewhere and I just started banging on it! What really has propelled me since that moment is the first time I touched steel to stone. Epiphany is too light of a word for it. I had this incredible experience, that this was what I was meant to do. It's like I had angels swirling around my head. And it's a absolute certainty of something, that's really rare in life.  And that's driven me forward since.

JUSTIN:  You're also a musician as well. Have you always been interested in music?

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:  I've been playing guitar for a long time. I'm a singer and performer, but I could never find someone to play guitar like I wanted so I just ended playing the guitar as well. For years I did the club scene in lower Manhattan, never really got anywhere with it.  I did put together a lot of bands that never really went very far. I'm actually doing a thing up here where I'll be playing on the local radio station in the not too distant future. Plus I still play some small local gigs occasionally.

JUSTIN:  Growing up in Detroit, were you influenced by any of the famous Detroit musicians / groups that were around before you left for New York City for college?

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:  You know, I had a couple experiences early on, that I'm sure affected me. When I was very young I went to the Michigan State Fairgrounds. I went to meet girls. But there was a triple bill under the tent this one night and the first act was Bob Seger, but not the Silver Bullet Band  It was before. Then it was Alice Cooper's band, but they were just awful and everyone left. Then Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels came on and everyone came back and the tent was jumping. Another time I was dating this girl, and we went to see Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes at this VFW hall in west Detroit, and the stairs had these ramps on them.  So we walked in, and the whole place was filled with members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang and their motorcycles. We were the only non-bikers there. They gave us a hard time, but after a few minutes they left us alone. It was a good time. So I must have be influenced by Detroit.

JUSTIN:  When you moved to New York City, did you get into the music that was being produced there at the time?

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:  I wasn't too serious about my music when I was in Detroit. It wasn't until I got to New York City, that I got really interested in music. I started to go back and examine my early influences. What I do know, what I tell people is that my music is a cross between early Patti Smith, a hint of AC/DC with a pinch of Gordon Lightfoot to season. This should convince people that I'm outta my mind!

JUSTIN: You've got a CD of your music, that you self produced that's available on your website. Are there any plans to do another?

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK: You know if it worked out I'd love to do music too. As you get more into things, you discover how much time they take up. I used to try to do the acting, the music, the sculpting, but I had two kids and that was a wonderful detour. Now that my kids are older, maybe I can return to that. My oldest daughter is away at college, studying acting. She's a natural. I had to work at acting, but she's a natural..

JUSTIN:  Last question. Kevin, what's in the basket?

KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK:  Well, perspective is everything. Some would say the other self, the alter ego, the dark half. One of the things that makes Basket Case work is that it has these archetypes in it. Everyone has another side to themselves. There is a public side, that's socially acceptable and we all have that other side that we aren't comfortable with. Or, that others aren't comfortable with. That's -- what's in the basket! The parts of us that we keep hidden, that we feel that others won't understand or accept!

For more on Kevin Van Hentenryck please visit his official website here, and follow him on Facebook here.  For more interviews with Justin please visit his official website here.

No comments:

Post a Comment