A Chat with Horror Icon Michael Rooker
Folks, I am not ashamed to admit that I LOVE Michael Rooker! And I'm sure many horror fans feel the same way. From his film debut as Henry in the horrifying Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer to being covered with goo as Grant Grant in James Gunn's hilarious Slither to his current role in three-time Oscar nominee Frank Darabont's adaptation of Robert Kirkman's "The Walking Dead" for AMC, Rooker (as he is known to his fans) never fails to deliver. Dread Central recently had an opportunity to speak with the hilarious and laid-back actor while he was at home, just chillin'.
Elaine Lamkin: So, what has your bad self been up to lately?
Michael Rooker: Girl, I've finished a couple of horror films: Hypothermia and Cell 213, where I play a badass mo-fo prison guard. Cell 213 is a horror film set in a prison where, as things get worse and worse, you just want to yell at the characters, "Are you NUTS??? Just LEAVE!!!"
Hypothermia was shot in Upstate New York...little town called Amsterdam. Tons of snow had to be brought in and THEN we had a blizzard (laughs). The director, James Felix McKinney, is really into The Creature from the Black Lagoon so some sort of monster has to figure into the plot. And my character is an ice fisherman sooo...
EL: I've interviewed quite a few folks from Glass Eye Pix (the producers of Hypothermia) - how did you get involved with them as they are almost strictly an East Coast outfit?
MR: After my availability was established, I spoke with Larry (Fessenden). Just a regular guy. And the Glass Eye folks are HARD workers. It was a nice, fun little movie. Reminded me of when I did Henry.
EL: According to the "ALWAYS reliable" IMDb, you have quite a few films as well as TV series in the works. How accurate is that?
MR: A few of the entries are accurate. I DID complete the film Bolden and its silent movie companion, Louis. "Matadors" is a TV pilot I did with Stephen Lang. but it hasn't been picked up yet. Cleburne is a Civil War film, but I'm not sure about the status of it or my role in it. I've decided that if I'm not a Canadian or an Australian, I can't get a series for shit (laughs)!!
EL: I’m pretty sure everyone has heard your life story, but for those few unfortunates, how about running it by me one more time. You were born in Jasper, Alabama…
MR: Yep, I was born in Jasper. The eldest of six kids and the only boy (although I did have an older half-brother). Moved with my mom and sisters to Chicago when I was about…13? I attended Wright Junior College, then taught PE in the Park District before transferring to the Goodman School of Drama, which is a part of DePaul University. After seeing so many TV shows and commercials, I just thought I could do much better. The rest, as they say, is history. Or in my case, Henry (laughs).
EL: Speaking of family, your brother-in-law is Saw III actor J LaRose. Would the two of you ever work together?
MR: Actually, I hired J as my assistant for one film, but we may very well work on a film together in the near future.
EL: I MUST ask as rumors are STILL making the rounds: What is this unnatural love/bromance you have with James Gunn?
MR: (laughs) Gunn is a big fan so we stayed friends after Slither. I know the whole family. And that thing about me causing impotency in any man who comes within a few miles of me - completely true (laughs).
Actually, there is a get-together every Sunday at the Gunns to watch sports, whatever. We've been shut down by the police twice because of the noise.
EL: I can ONLY imagine! How about Nathan Fillion? Does he socialize with you guys, too?
MR: Fillion has gone WAAY too Hollywood. He always travels with his entourage. He is not the "nice" Nathan he once was.
EL: Uh, are you serious? Fillion has gone "Hollywood"??
MR: DAMN, girl!! You are too gullible (laughs). I was just teasin'. Fillion is still the same good guy he was, and he does come by occasionally.
EL: You just LOVE to flirt, don’t you Rooker?
MR: I sure do enjoy flirting. It’s just fun for me (laughs).
EL: From the vault of trivial questions, here are a few for you: favorite color, favorite pet, favorite food, favorite beer, and would you ever be on "Dancing with the Stars"?
MR: Damn, girl! Those ARE trivial (laughs). Okay. Favorite colors would have to be red, blue, pink (my first racing bike was pink – I still have it but it has since been painted green, a British sports car green). Favorite pet – I have two dogs, a Westie and a Shitzhu, as well as two cats who are constantly harassed by the dogs. Favorite food: dessert [brief discussion of that staple of the South, the Red Velvet Cake, ensues]. Favorite beer: I don’t have a favorite beer. I’m really not a big drinker. As for "Dancing with the Stars", that ain’t gonna happen. I’m impressed with how hard those people work, but I like the kind of dancer who wears no clothes (laughs).
EL: Now you’re shooting "The Walking Dead" in Atlanta with Frank Darabont as your director. Any info you can reveal right now?
MR: I play a character named Merle…you know, the Southern name “Merle”…a new character to the Robert Kirkman graphic novel. And Frank is my new best friend. Actually, I’m currently on a break from "The Walking Dead" and am shooting an episode of "Burn Notice" in Miami with Bruce Campbell and lots of other friends, old and new. DAMN, but I love Miami!!
EL: Any final thoughts for Dread Central readers?
MR: I LOOOVE to drive!! I have a Lincoln Navigator with a CB and 278,000 miles on it. I really don’t like flying. If I can get somewhere by driving, that’s the way I go.
And you make sure to send me that Red Velvet Cake recipe. I got a hankerin’ for some good ole Southern cuisine.
[Author's Note: The recipe was sent to Rooker, who thoroughly enjoyed the cake.]
Our thanks to Rooker for taking the time to speak with us. It's always a pleasure!
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