This year brought the incredible horror film The Void (review), which delighted audiences with its stunning use of practical FX. And as with any film that features fantastically crafted outfits, we have to remember that there are actual people who don these terrifying visions and bring to life these monsters. There’s a reason that horror fans know and love people like Kane Hodder, Doug Jones, Javier Botet, etc… These people don’t just put on a costume and go through the motions, they embody the character they become and create something memorable and amazing.
I’d like to introduce you to “Twisty” Troy James, who appeared in The Void as well as Guillermo del Toro’s “The Strain”, and may very well be the next big name when it comes to contortionists and body horror! Below is an interview with James, who discusses his incredible ability, what it’s like to be in a movie like The Void, and what’s next for him!
Make sure to give him a follow on Twitter.
Dread Central: Alright, I gotta know what’s going on with your body. How are you this flexible?
Troy James: I have no idea. I was born preternaturally flexible. I like to think it was because I was born 4-months prematurely, but otherwise… *shrugs*.
The physicians of social media have decided I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. That’s news to me, but maybe I should go with that.
DC: How long have you been able to do these amazing contortions?
TJ: I have always been this flexible. no training, or practice required. In fact, when I was young I took it for granted, thinking everyone could bend their body like I could – that it wasn’t abnormal. It wasn’t until the other kids started teasing me for it being weird/gross that I realized something was up. I got super embarrassed, and hid my ability until high school where it suddenly became the coolest thing, and everyone loved it.
DC: At what point did you realize this ability would be great for horror?
TJ: Hmm… To pay my way through undergrad, I worked as a ride operator at Canada’s Wonderland, a theme park in my city. Sometimes when ride were down, or lines were long, I would entertain guests with flexible tricks. One night, my ride crew forced me to show the managers my talent. They liked it so much that they asked me to switch jobs to act as a monster actor during their end of season Halloween Haunt. I got to dress up in a cool costume with amazing make-up artists transforming me into whatever they wanted before I was let loose to roam the park, frightening everyone I could find. Turns out I was rather good at it.
DC: You appeared in The Void, which has received a lot of acclaim from the horror community for its usage of practical FX. What was it like being in that film?
TJ: The Void marks my first time ever appearing on film ever. I was a complete novice and had no idea what to do. And this wasn’t even like a student film that you would make in your parents’ garage or basement for free pizza. They flew me out to Sault Ste. Marie. It was the real deal. I was super nervous, but luckily the cast and crew were the nicest people you could possibly meet.
Everything was tangible. Blood flowing down the walls; violently exploding bodies; squishy, gross-to-the-touch monster guts; oh, and the creatures…
When I first make my appearance in The Void, I am covered with a sheet, lying in a wonderfully contorted position. So, we are shooting this scene, I am chilling out in position, sans sheet waiting for the next take. One of the production guys comes over to talk to someone else. They are both chatting over my body for a minute or so when I decide to turn my head to get a look at them. The guy freaks out. He thought I was a prop all that time, and the sudden movement just ruined him. Score one more for practical FX!
I actually didn’t know what I looked like on film until I saw the release. Kudos to Steven and Jeremy and everyone else involved for their vision and technical skill. It was a blast working with everyone on set.
DC: When you’re wearing all of the makeup and prostheses needed to turn you into a horrific abomination, how does that impact your ability to contort and, furthermore, how does it help your performance?
TJ: At its core, I was wearing a custom-built body suit and mask, which fit pretty well, and allowed me free range of motion. (Thanks, Devon!) The magic really came from Nicola’s awesome paint job, and Steven’s skill at sculpting. I’m not even moving, and it’s terrifying.
The fact that the suit is skin tight enhances the effect because you get to see everything twisting and moving in ways that most bodies don’t. I felt a twinge of pride during the screening in Toronto when I appeared onscreen and the audience gasped audibly.
DC: It seems like this ability to contort your body is perfect for horror roles but if you could choose to venture into other genres, where would you like to go?
TJ: Motion Capture! I want to be in video games! Ubisoft! Hey, are you reading this?
DC: Both Doug Jones and Javier Botet are widely recognized in the horror community for the physicality they bring to their performances. Do you think we’re going to add the name Troy James to that list?
TJ: Ooh, they are good at what they do. People keep mentioning these two masters, but then they say my name in the next breath and I have to stop them because if they are Horror Royalty, I am more akin to a Slightly-Distressing Peasant. I did get meet Doug at a wrap party for Guillermo del Toro’s “The Strain” though. He’s so nice! Javier fills me with equal parts admiration and envy.
I’ve got some work to do, but don’t forget about me! When I’m upside down, I can open and close doors, zip up and down stairs, hop onto stuff… Oh! and I’m actually rather speedy when I decide to stop twisting about and get to it. You wouldn’t me haunting your house at night!
DC: What’s next for you?
TJ: I have a few Horror/Sci-Fi gigs coming up, and I’ve raised a few eyebrows in Japan. A trip there may be in the cards. Ah! I want to see Sadako and Kayako, from the Ring and the Grudge respectively. Can you imagine the three of us together? You haven’t seen the last of me yet.
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