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Exclusive: Michael Rooker Talks Pennhurst, His Directorial Debut

As promised, we’re back with Part Two of our recent chat with Dread Central favorite Michael Rooker (click here to check out Part One, which is mostly about “The Walking Dead” and his character Merle). This time Rooker provides us with details on his directorial debut, Pennhurst.


Michael Rooker Talks Pennhurst, His Directorial DebutDread Central: Not to change the subject TOO abruptly, as we ALL love talking about Merle and “The Walking Dead”, but I’m curious about your latest project, Pennhurst, and how you came to be sitting in the director’s chair. For those not already in the know about Pennhurst, here is one of the synopses:

For decades Pennhurst psychiatric hospital has been haunted by turbulent supernatural forces. When a local TV reality show embarks on a mission to capture this paranormal activity, they discover something completely unexpected. As restless souls from the past torment the crew members, they fear for their lives as one by one they are gruesomely murdered. In a surprising revelation, they discover something more terrifying than ghosts is responsible.

Michael Rooker: Pennhurst is an ongoing project that was shot at the real Pennhurst State School and Mental Hospital outside of Philadelphia.

DC: Why did you choose your directorial debut to be in the horror genre (not that anyone is complaining)?

MR: I started my career in horror with Henry so it was a no-brainer. And the project chose me as well. I was already attached to the film when I was asked if I would like to direct it. And I did NOT know how much bullshit directors have to put up with! I will never give any director ANY trouble after seeing what they have to put up with! Directors need “idea bodyguards” so they don’t have everyone from the producers on down to the caterers offering how THEY think a scene should be shot. As an actor, I could just retreat to my trailer until needed on set again. Directors have to be there almost 24/7. Still, it is a fun project: spooky, scary and violent.

DC: Violent, huh? What sort of rating can fans expect from a Rooker-directed film?

MR: I don’t agree with MPAA ratings. I am doing the film the way I want it, not to get one rating or another. This little indie film is a labor of love for everyone involved, and if its gore effects get a little too gory, well, that’s just how it was meant to be.

DC: You are acting in the film as well as directing. What can you tell us about your character?

MR: My character is a survivor of Pennhurst. He owns a little business in town and pays Pennhurst a visit every once in a while. A reality paranormal show, desperately in need of a good story, goes to Pennhurst to get hard evidence; and all hell breaks loose.

DC: What is the status of the film now? And is there a release date?

MR: Right now the film is in post-production hell. I am definitely no expert in post-production, but the film is in editing although I reserve the right (hopefully) to film some pick-up shots and add some more gore. Depends on money and friends willing to do favors at this point But once I know a release date, you will be the first to know, darlin’.

DC: I’m holding you to that promise, Rooker. And how about the cast? I read that Haylie Duff and Saw II’s Beverley Mitchell are on board. Any other names?

MR: Actors are cattle to me – beautiful cattle (laughing). No, we have a bunch of theater people among the cast along with Amanda Dunn (look for her in Dan Pritzker’s Bolden and Louis as well), the very talented Robb Pruitt who made me laugh every time he opened his motherfuckin’ mouth as well as his sidekick, Jimmy Palumbo. Michael McKiddy and J. LaRose from Saw III rounded out our cast. They were all great to work with and brought their “A” game to my little movie. There is so much potential with “small” films.

DC: And how would you feel about stepping into a director’s position again?

MR: I would direct again ONLY for a LOT of money (laughs)!!

Check out some photos of Rooker in full-on director mode below, and keep it here for more on Pennhurst soon! In the meantime stay entertained by following @Michael_Rooker on Twitter.

Michael Rooker Talks Pennhurst, His Directorial Debut

Michael Rooker Talks Pennhurst, His Directorial Debut

Michael Rooker Talks Pennhurst, His Directorial Debut

Elaine Lamkin

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