Recently Woodhaven Pictures invited Dread Central to visit the set of their newest project, Army of the Damned, and the cast was so unique that we had to take them up on the offer. This is the conclusion of our set visit report.
Our first article on the Army of the Damned set visit contained interviews with Tony Todd, Nick Principe, Tommy Dreamer, Thea Trinidad, Maria Kanellis and Jackie Moore. Read on to see who shows up in Part Two.
He’s a newcomer to the acting business, but certainly not to entertaining audiences. Sully Erna, lead singer of rock band Godsmack, made his feature film debut in Army of the Damned. “This is my first lead in a movie and it’s cool,” Erna said. “It’s an action/horror and there’s some good sarcastic New England humor in it. They put me together with three other cops that play beside me. Everyone has such a different personality and it’s really, really cool how we play off each other. Bridge, who I play, is a lot more serious and intense and takes things a lot more seriously. He’s watching over the town his father used to be sheriff in. And then we’ve got two other knuckleheads that just come in and never take anything seriously because nothing ever happens in their town. The dynamics are really great.”
Sully talked about how he got involved with the project. “I knew Tom DeNucci from a few years back when he approached me about writing a screenplay for the autobiography I wrote,” Erna said. “And although that didn’t come to fruition, he always kept in touch and always felt I should be moving more toward TV and film and kept me in mind, and when he came through with this script for Army of the Damned, he said I’ve got a really cool role and I can totally see you playing it. I want a cop with an edge from the city, so I want the tattoos and I don’t want it to be a uniform, more like Bruce Willis in Die Hard, like a dressed down cop. I read the script and thought it was pretty strong. I called him back and asked, ‘Are you sure you’ve got the right role for me? A cop? I’m usually on the other side of the law.’ So I told him I was really interested and I came and read with him a few times and it kind of all came together and I was able to see myself in this character. So far, so good.”
As for his love of the genre, Erna finds himself drawn back to the dark films…and a member of his family is leading the way. “I used to be a huge horror fan,” Erna said. “I’ve got a giant portrait of Pinhead tattooed on my thigh. Then I kind of got out of it for a little while, but I’m bringing myself back into it. But now I’ve got an 11-year-old daughter who’s a horror fanatic and I’m trying to keep her away from those movies because some of them are really scary now. Paranormal Activity and those kind of things. But she wants to see them all. And I’m like, ‘…um, you’re 11. Wait a little longer.’ So she says, ‘Can I at least see your movie Dad, ’cause you’re in it?’ So we’ll have to see about that.”
Horror icon Michael Berryman is also in the cast. “I play Crazy Earl in Chad Verdi’s production of Army of the Damned,” Berryman said. “Bad stuff happens in this particular house and I dealt with these entities and this evil 20 years ago. I was retired out of the police force and ridiculed for a long, long time. But I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting. And there’s a beautiful scene where I’m sitting in my cabin, smoking a cigar and talking to my dog and giving the whole backstory. We’ve got a great special F/X team and we shot the movie in two weeks. That’s old school! That’s rock ‘em, sock ‘em!”
This being Berryman’s second go-round with Woodhaven Pictures, he’s enjoying watching the young production company grow. “I’m so happy to be working with Tom DeNucci again because he’s really growing as a director and the cinematography is getting better and better,” Berryman said. “He lets you work within the frame of your art with all these fine nuances, which to me are such a kick – and I’ve been doing this for almost 40 years! When you have the graciousness from your production to let you do those little nuances that tie it all together, it is just a ribbon of heaven.”
The veteran Berryman also remarked on the interesting group of players in the film. “We had musicians and models and wrestlers, and it’s very much an action movie; and to see people out of their element come together and take on the imaginative fantasy of the story, it just comes alive,” Berryman said. “The energy… we’re working long hours and everyone just comes together and that’s the beauty of being at home with a family of artists. And that’s what we are. We’re artists and we do this all over the world. I don’t care if you’re a musician, a sculptor, a jewelry maker, an actor, a camera person. It’s all art and we do it because we love it. And we tell stories and sometimes those stories are philosophically deep and sometimes they’re a little more on the surface. And all of those regions and realms are valid. We just love to take people for a ride. That’s what Dread Central does, that’s what the ‘zines do. That’s what the fans come to the conventions for and we love it. It’s exciting.”
Of course after he mentioned being in the business for nearly 40 years, we had to see how he’s holding up. “I’m feeling younger than ever,” Berryman said. “My good friend Lou Ferrigno says it’s a lifestyle. Eat healthy, let’s save the planet for our kids. Let’s have a future for our kids. Let’s try to get the meanness and stinginess out of the world. They’ll die off, but our kids and their kids’ kids, they’re the future. That’s the only reason we’re still here and still caring. Otherwise, I think I’d just ride that comet, but I’m not doing that. I’m right here. My feet are on the ground. This is home. And we need to come together and work things out. And sometimes we work them out in the movie theater.”
Another unique name who’s making his second appearance in a Woodhaven film is singer/actor/entertainer Joey Fatone. Fatone appeared in Woodhaven’s first film, Inkubus with Robert Englund, and now returns in Army of the Damned. “I play Dave, who is a very cool film dude,” Fatone said. “We do a show called ‘The Force.’ It’s kind of like a cop show. and we go around and we’re following these cops and all hell breaks loose.”
Fatone compared this film with his first outing with Woodhaven. “A lot more blood in this one,” he said. “A lot more. It’s been fun. Inkubus was our first film under the belt of Chad Verdi’s production. And I got to play with Tommy DeNucci in the film. But now Tommy is directing, which is very cool. And it’s been a blast seeing familiar faces and new ones.”
Finally we got to speak with some of the cast and crew who regularly work under the Woodhaven umbrella. Tom DeNucci wrote and directed Army of the Damned. He’s continued to grow, moving from a supporting actor role in Inkubus to director just three films later. All the cast and crew rave about the quality of DeNucci’s direction and how easy it is to work for the young filmmaker. “The difference between this and my last film, Self Storage, is that I was acting in Self Storage and it was a pretty big role,” DeNucci said. “So this was the first time I took my acting cap off and was just able to concentrate on the vision of the film based off the screenplay I wrote and making this movie the best possible movie I could make. I loved being in Self Storage and directing it, but there’s definitely an element of devotion to one side or the other, whether it’s acting or directing. You can’t give it your all unless you’re doing one or the other, and it was nice to see what could happen if I just concentrated on directing this one. And I think we got something we’re all really proud of.”
Just as the cast had nothing but positive comments for the director, DeNucci also loved working with this eclectic team. “These guys make my job incredibly easy,” DeNucci said. “Guys like Tony Todd and Michael Berryman, just to name a couple. They’ve been consummate professionals for so many years. They show up, they’re on time, they do their job, they know their lines. They bring something to the character that I never could have dreamed of when in the writing room.”
Continuing on about the cast, DeNucci said, “When I wrote the role of Crazy Earl, that’s the Michael Berryman role, I had already worked with Michael and been friendly with him and I knew what he’s really great at and I was able to tailor-make this role for him. Having the opportunity to work with these guys, it ends up making my game better. Tommy Dreamer was a guy I had worked with in Self Storage. He came in, he was so cool. He had very little prep. I gave him the role last minute and he killed it. And I thought, what if I could get Tommy in a bigger role? And with a guy like Tommy Dreamer, you get a stuntman-combo-wrestler deal. I knew the stunts would come second nature to him, and I knew he could handle the intense stuff as an actor.”
An additional producer brought onto the film by Chad Verdi was David Gere. He spoke about bringing in cast members from different backgrounds. “One of the things we wanted to do was just have a very interesting cast that would have people scratching their heads,” Gere said. “It got pretty layered right off the bat, and Sully was the first part of that. We’re super proud of the film. There were a lot of production details we felt we had to nail down. There were certain dynamics we wanted to bring in; for example we got the H1 Hummer that looks like The Tumbler from The Dark Knight. Because when a guy like Tony Todd rolls into a scene, you’ve got to have him in something like that. I think horror movie fans are going to be very satisfied. It’s got all the things people hope for.”
Another actor making a return appearance with Woodhaven Pictures is Billy “V” Vigeant. Billy V said, “Tommy (DeNucci) and Chad (Verdi) are doing a bang-up job. Tommy is being very creative with the story itself. This team is very unique, a mixed bag of nuts I call them. To work with Tony Todd is a real treat. And I get killed three times – there’s a little trivia for you – three times in one movie. That doesn’t happen every day!”
As for working with this crew again, Billy V said, “It feels like a family. We bring it all together and come on set, give it 1000 percent. I think for the fans out there, we’ve got a lot of surprises and I think you’re going to find it very interesting.”
Finally, the actor that producer Chad Verdi said was the best he’d ever worked with, Tom Paolino, gave us the final word from the set. “I have the best time on horror films because they deal with spiritual warfare, and that’s my thing,” Paolino said. “Good versus evil. The war inside. And sometimes that means blood.”
As for working with DeNucci again, Paolino said, “Tom DeNucci lives in the field of possibility and I think he has more fun than anyone I know. That trickles down to everyone, including me. My goal in this film was to scare people and have fun. In Inkubus and Infected I was scaring people, but I wasn’t sure I was having fun. In this film I said let’s try to do both. Tommy actually inspired me to have the level of fun I had.”
Paolino is known throughout the Woodhaven family for bringing an incredible level of intensity to his roles. He spoke on that. “I’ve been acting a long time and I’m like a mule. I show up and sometimes the spirits join me,” Paolino said. “My dad died recently and that opened up a huge treasure trove of inspiration. Sometimes in the universe, the stars line up and you’re able to use something to propel your creative work, and that’s the case here.”
The principal filming for Army of the Damned has been completed and the film is due out later this year. For more, ‘like’ Army of the Damned on Facebook.
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