Co-starring in BJ McDonnell’s first directorial effort as a Southern sheriff in way over his head, Zach Galligan has seen almost everything throughout his career. But he’s never seen mosquitoes quite as big as the ones swarming across the swamplands down in Louisiana on the set of Hatchet III.
When I spoke with Zach recently, thankfully, both of us were quite comfortable and indoors.
Dread Central: I know you grew up in the New York area as a big horror fan when you were a kid. You watched the Universal monsters growing up, then basically got to act alongside them in Waxwork, and you’ve also been a part of the new breed of classic monsters with Gremlins and now Victor Crowley in Hatchet III. Would that little kid who loved Chiller Theatre be pretty impressed with how things turned out?
Zach Galligan: Well, you know, I really hadn’t thought about that progression until you put it that way and yeah, I think the little kid would be stunned at the progression. It’s almost kind of like a dream come true. It almost really doesn’t even compute or make sense. But yeah, it’s cool! It’s really cool now that I think about it. Yeah, it’s funny because I remember when I was seven, my Dad’s secretary, her name was Denise, and I would go and visit my Dad at the office because he was a lawyer. Denise and I, she was a horror fan, too. And she and I would make lists of like our favorite monster movies and I can just imagine that that seven-year-old kid, if he ever had an inkling that he would make a list of horror movies that he would be in on that? He’d be pretty stunned by that.
DC: Absolutely. I wonder if you at a young age watching Hatchet III would have been a little overwhelmed, though. It’s pretty violent.
ZG: Yeah, it is pretty violent but my Mom took me to see The Godfather when I was eight, and when the horse’s head scene came along, she said, ‘Just look down, sweetheart.’
DC: Yeah, it’s definitely a far cry from Mad Monster Party, which I know that you liked growing up.
ZG: God, I loved that movie when I was like four years old, I loved that. That was basically the diet I grew up on as a child: Mad Monster Party, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet … all that stuff.
DC: Yeah, I would like to see a claymation follow-up to Hatchet III. Maybe even Waxwork, actually, a Waxwork III in claymation with you doing the voice-over. I would watch it.
ZG: (laughs) I would love a claymation Waxwork! That would be hilarious.
DC: You’ve worked with a first-time director before (Anthony Hickox), most notably on Waxwork. Was there any concern working with a first-time director again with BJ McDonnell on this film, or do you like the energy that comes with that?
ZG: Well, you love the enthusiasm. And the thing about BJ is he’s been on so many different sets. He’s shot everything. He’s been a steady-cam operator on films like Killer Joe and Jack Reacher … Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. So many different projects that I didn’t think there was going to be the same level of intimidation of being on the set or anything like that. But, by the same token, it’s the first time that everyone looks at you and you’re in charge. Ya know, like all people, he was probably a little bit spooked the first day or two, especially when stuff started going south. Like, the second day we had this massive rainstorm that just basically got rid of three hours of shooting out of a ten-hour day. And [BJ] was there just kind of smiling, saying, ‘Yeah, we’ll make it up. We’ll be okay.’ God knows what he was thinking on the inside. But I also knew that Adam [Green] was also going to be right there ninety percent of the time so if BJ had a question, Adam would sort of go, ‘Don’t do that, do this!’. That’s a huge kind of safety net behind you.
DC: It sounds like the shoot was pretty brutal. When you were first on the set of Gremlins, did you think you would always have it that good? Did you ever find yourself on set in Hatchet III thinking what the hell did I get myself into?
ZG: Not really because moviemaking is pretty brutal; I mean, Gremlins had some brutal moments, too. The night we shot the movie theater blowing up, that was a six thirty p.m. call and we left at eight in the morning. So when you’re nineteen and you’re trying to act and remember lines at six fifteen in the morning and people are like, ‘Come on, we’ve got to hurry, the sun’s coming up,’ and you’re like freaking out. I mean that wasn’t very comfortable. I remember the first movie I did, too, that was called Nothing Lasts Forever, and we had to do a dawn shot outside Carnegie Hall in New York. And so my call time at the makeup trailer was four thirty a.m. so I had to wake up at three fifteen in the morning. Waking up at three fifteen in the morning when you’re seventeen years old or eighteen years old, it’s like the strangest experience. It’s so disorienting. It’s pitch black out, everything’s quiet, get in a cab and go to the set and you think, ‘What am I doing?’. And the next thing you know you’re like acting and the sun is coming up and you’re in New York City. It’s insane.
DC: Yeah, that does seem pretty unnatural.
ZG: I’m pretty used to the insanity of the film business, you know, from basically my senior year of high school.
DC: Well, you’re actually a very relatable presence on screen and there’s a certain comfort factor in seeing you perform, but the likable Zach Galligan isn’t really inHatchet III, is he?
ZG: Umm, not really because my character is basically, with the exception of the first ten seconds of seeing me, my character’s under a ridiculous amount of pressure the entire time. So, there really isn’t any kind of jocular moment to kind of be amused by anything. You look at my poor character, he’s harried at every turn. He sits down to relax for a second and then he’s off dealing with Danielle [Harris]. And then dealing with his ex-wife and then dealing with the reporters outside and then dealing with Derek Mears’ character. And then dealing with Victor Crowley. It’s just a mountain of problems for him. There’s not much for him to kind of be relatable about. The other thing, too, is that I’m playing a Southerner. I’m playing a character, I’m not playing myself like I usually do, so there’s an extra layer of detachment, you know? He looks like the guy who used to do this but he’s really not the fun, friendly guy we’re used to seeing.
DC: Yeah, it does seem like the sheriff is usually the most stressed out person in horror movies, for sure.
ZG: Well, also because the sheriff generally tends to go, even in Gremlins this happens, he always tends to go from non-believer to the, ‘Oh shit, I guess I’m forced to believe’ person.
DC: Oh, that’s a good point. Do you normally like playing against type? Are you seeking roles where you can kind of go against the kind of character you usually play, or at least the character we know the most?
ZG: Well, I’ll be honest, I’m just seeking out roles, dude. Period. Adam was just like, ‘Do whatever you want to do.’ That’s a lot of freedom right there. So, I didn’t want to just play me being a cop because just me being a cop from Louisiana strikes me as completely not credible, personally. Why would a guy like me who’s very East Coast be suddenly put in a position of authority down in Louisiana? I just didn’t buy it. And because I had really short notice on doing the picture, maybe like ten days, I didn’t do the Cajun accent because that’s one of the trickier ones there is. Quite honestly, it’s kind of like a Houston, Texas, kind of George W. Bush kind of an accent is what I’m doing. In fact, Caroline Williams, who’s from Houston, she was a huge help because I basically would just chat with her and mimic her. In the scenes that we do together, it kind of sounds like we’re from the same place. We were together, so we kind of fit together.
DC: Yeah, I’m actually from Austin, Texas, and every time I hear Caroline, if I closed my eyes, it would sound like my aunt.
ZG: Right, exactly.
DC: So, I’m not saying you die in this, but there are a lot of victims and the body count is heavier than ever before. Forgive me for not knowing the exact number, but how many films have you actually died in?
ZG: Good lord. A bunch. Let’s see, there’s “Surviving” and then a TV war movie in the Battle of Bull Run. So …
DC: What was your favorite death scene?
ZG: … One, two … Oh, it would have to be in “Surviving” where Molly Ringwald and I kill ourselves on screen. That was pretty good. And I die in Legion of the Dead; I get my face melted off by the mummy.
DC: Oh, that’s good.
ZG: Yeah, that’s pretty good. I die in Cut, the movie I made all in one take, that horror movie. But it didn’t a hundred percent work. I get stabbed with, like, scissors. I don’t know, half a dozen times? I believe I die in Storm Trooper. Does Carol Alt kill me? I’m the bad guy in that and the bad guys usually die.
DC: If you’re going to be killed by somebody, it might as well be Carol Alt.
ZG: That’s for sure.
DC: What do you think has been the toughest shoot of your career and why?
ZG: Well, in terms of physical discomfort, Hatchet III I would say was right up there. I would say it was probably the most uncomfortable one. The only thing that comes close is a movie I did up in Toronto called The Psychic with the lovely Catherine Mary Stewart and Michael Nouri directed by George Mihalka, who directed My Bloody Valentine, the original movie. When we were up there it was December or January. I don’t know if you’ve been to Canada during the winter …
DC: I’ve been to Vancouver but not during the winter.
ZG: Yeah, it’s fuckin’ cold. There was one scene that I was shooting with this great actor Albert Schultz. We were shooting it in a park in Toronto and it was minus ten degrees out. And it had to look like summer so we were just in sweatpants and a sweatshirt like we were jogging. And we were jogging along into the camera and then we have to stop and act like it was a tough run. We had to do one of those scenes where we’re taking some deep breaths and we’re talking for a few minutes and then we run off camera again. We probably had to shoot that from three or four different angles, and by the third setup my face was so frozen that literally my lips weren’t really working. My mouth just wouldn’t work, it was just too cold.
DC: Well, you are human, after all.
ZG: So that was a rough one, and just the swamp, it’s kind of impossible to describe it if you’ve never been there.
DC: All the insects, it’s unbelievable.
ZG: You get there and think, ‘Oh, it’s not that big of a deal,’ and then as night falls … clouds, clouds of mosquitoes. I’m sure you’ve played softball one time and there’s a cloud of gnats around your head or something like that, yeah they’re annoying. No, clouds of mosquitoes the size of a quarter.
DC: I’m surprised they didn’t really show up on camera and on film.
ZG: I know! You can see a few of them around Danielle a couple of times but I don’t know why.
DC: Well, of course they all wanted to be by Danielle.
ZG: Maybe she was wearing perfume or something, you know, some things attract them. If you watch, there’s a lot of movement, so when you’re moving they would kind of move away from you and they would be much more to the crew members on the outside that weren’t really moving. They would sort of settle around you. And certainly with the gunfire it kept them away, no question about it. We would fire all those weapons and the noise … you really remembered you were in the swamp because the noise from the automatic weapons going off, the ground would tremble. It was incredible. The only thing I can compare it to was that scene in Gremlins where the gremlin jumps into the pool and the water sort of erupts, that sequence they put liquid nitrogen in. They pumped liquid nitrogen into the swimming pool and it creates a really violent chemical reaction. And when they did that the entire pool, the whole ground, it felt like there was an earthquake. The entire ground was shaking from the violence of the chemical reaction.
DC: I’m sure they weren’t expecting that.
ZG: They didn’t think it was gonna tremble quite that much!
DC: So, what’s next for you? Maybe an acting gig on a tropical island somewhere?
ZG: (Laughs) I’d be happy doing 12 Angry Men where I’m just in an air-conditioned jury room. I would be thrilled.
DC: I would watch that, too.
Check out our Hatchet III reviews!
HATCHET III is playing now in select theatres. Look for the flick on VOD as well.
Danielle Harris and Kane Hodder return in HATCHET III and are joined by Zach Galligan (Gremlins), Derek Mears (Friday the 13th 2009), Caroline Williams (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Sean Whalen (The People Under the Stairs), and others.
HATCHET III continues the tale of the now-iconic villain Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). As a search and recovery team heads into the haunted swamp to pick up the pieces and carnage left behind from the first two films, Marybeth (Danielle Harris) hunts down the true secret to ending the voodoo curse that has left the ghost of Victor Crowley haunting and terrorizing Honey Island Swamp for decades.
The sequel, which was filmed outside of New Orleans, Louisiana, from late May to mid-June, 2012, is a co-production of MPI/Dark Sky Films and Hatchet III writer/executive producer Adam Green’s Los Angeles-based ArieScope Pictures.
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