Whilst the Saw was slicing its way through the noughties, there was also whispers of the return of the spirit of the splatter-filled slashers of the 1980s.
With a cast loaded with genre stars, Director Tim Sullivan went for the jugular and beyond in 2005’s 2001 Maniacs. A modern-take on the ‘Godfather of Gore’ Herschel Gordon Lewis’ 2000 Maniacs from 1964.
Actor Jay Gillespie was one of the fresh new faces of 2001 Maniacs, portraying all-American jock Anderson Lee.
We caught up with the actor to discuss his role and working with horror royalty in Robert Englund.
Tell us how you got involved with 2001 Maniacs?
A friend of Tim Sullivan’s saw me in a short film at Sundance. This friend sought me out in New York City where I was living at the time and suggested Tim and I meet. At the time Tim was living in Los Angeles and we had a bunch of phone conversations and he expressed that he had seen the short film that I was in and wanted me to audition for 2001 maniacs. That’s how it all started. I eventually flew to Los Angeles and auditioned for the film. The producers wanted someone else. Tim really had a heart for me to be in the lead part. I never actually signed a contract to be in the film because the producers were actually looking for someone else. In a crazy twist, Tim told me to just drive from New York City down to Georgia and just show up on set. His thinking was, the producers would have no choice but to sign me up for the lead part once I was there. I took a risk got in my car and drove down there. And it worked.
Were you aware beforehand about the ensemble of horror actors in the cast?
I was aware of Robert and Lynn being in the cast and was really excited to work with them. What most people don’t know is that John Landis was also on set. John and Tim are friends, so John was wandering around talking to everybody. That was exceptionally cool. He was even in a scene that later got deleted. I think you can see it on the DVD extras.
It’s now been 15 years since the film’s release, are you surprised at the cult following it has amassed?
I’m not so much as surprised, but I am grateful it gets recognition. I think Tim was always trying to create a cult movie with this. He wanted it weird, he wanted it different. And I think he accomplished that with this movie.
Why do you think it was so popular with horror fans?
I think there’s some originality to it that lends a hand to it being a popular one. Having Robert and Lynn in there definitely helps. It’s fun to see Robert as someone else than Freddy. I also think to have an openly bisexual character helped.
Did you Dylan Edrington and Matthew Carey bond on-set?
We did. We were all coming from very different backgrounds. I was this theatre trained, Shakespeare loving nerd, Dylan was a beaming personality. I mean, you can’t help but love the guy. And Matt was the experienced one. He had already worked professionally for years, whereas Dylan and I were relatively new to being on set. I learned a lot about being on set from Matt. He was so relaxed. We’re friends on social media and he’s doing great. Unfortunately, I lost track of Dylan.
What is your fondest memory of filming?
Definitely filming the fight sequence with Robert at the BBQ. I got to spend a few all-nighters with him and that was incredible. We bonded – talked about books, favourite movies, characters, and of course he had many amazing stories.
I also just loved the fight choreography and working through all that with Robert. It was a dream come true for me. We had doubles for the wide shots, but in the close-ups we really did some fun work.
A fun moment in that scene was also Eli Roth telling me they had to dump bugs on my face again because they didn’t get it right the first time.
Tell us about working with Tim Sullivan?
Tim was a super passionate director to work with. He always gave a really great direction for an actor. Definitely the opposite of a George Lucas “faster, more intense” style. I think that was a really hard set for him to be on, there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen so to speak. I think there was something like five or six separate producers for that one film, who all wanted to put in their two cents. That was a really hard thing for Tim to juggle with this movie.
How hands on was he in terms of direction?
He was pretty hands-on. He wrote and directed the film. He also was responsible for getting it kicked off the ground so he was really invested. He would get these really specific ideas about how he wanted the scene to be, and he would get pretty hands-on in those moments. But it was not a bad thing, he was just really passionate. He was also very spontaneous, a lot of moments in the movies came from small things that happened that were mistakes, that he later built to be part of the movie.
How many stunts were you able to perform yourself?
Well, I learned how to ride a motorcycle for the movie. But I was pretty bad at it (laughs). Marla Malcolm’s husband actually rides a motorcycle for real, and she always laughed at me in those scenes because I barely had any idea about what I was doing. As I mentioned before though, I had a stunt double, so a lot of the really crazy stuff was done by him.
Do you think it was a shame your character was killed off at the close of the film?
No I thought it was awesome!
Would you have been interested in coming back for the sequel?
At the time I was totally interested because I wanted another acting job (laughs)! I remember saying to Scott Spiegal who is a producer on the movie, something like, “Hey I can come back as a ghost!” he would just laugh and say “yea maybe.” I think it’s great that the character died at the end though.
How long did it take to make a mould of your head?
There’s a lot of steps to it, and I’m not really sure how long the entire process took, but the portion where they put the clay on my head took about an hour or so. Maybe two, it was so long ago I can’t really remember. After that, I’m not sure how they did the rest.
Did Robert Englund share any stories on-set of his time in the makeup chair as Freddy?
Robert has a lot of stories about Hollywood even beyond all of the Freddy stuff and they are all really fascinating. But I remember him telling me that it was so difficult to put on the Freddy mask and take it off, like it was such a tough experience on the skin of his face, that he would just sleep in the mask in between nights where they were shooting.
He had another one about being Mark Hamill‘s roommate, or something like that, and Mark Hamill telling Robert Englund that he just came back from an audition for a weird movie called Star Wars.
2001 Maniacs is available now on DVD.