Exclusive Interview: Nathan Baesel on the Mind of Leslie Vernon, the Upcoming Sequel and More!
Ever since a sequel was announced during the Weekend of Horrors panel this writer had the privilege of hosting alongside the crew from Scott Glosserman's Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon a few months back, we here at Dread Central have been giddy over the promise of more exploits from one of the newest iconic villains of the horror genre and seeing what happens next with those who have the misfortune of being mixed up in Leslie's twisted little world.
We recently caught up with the madman behind the mask (pun intended), Nathan Baesel, to talk about the fan-fueled and fan-funded project, the similarities between himself and Leslie Vernon and a tease of what fans can expect from the next chapter in this growing franchise.
While announcing a sequel is pretty much business as usual in the horror world, Glosserman's announcement regarding his plans for his upcoming sequel, Before the Mask: The Return of Leslie Vernon, was anything but ordinary. Rather than going straight to financiers to secure funding for the flick, Glosserman and company took it to the fans for a fundraising campaign that allows fans to donate to Before the Mask's production budget and in return score themselves some sweet loot (or experiences, depending on the donation size) and a vested interest in seeing a movie they're passionate about get made for the right reasons - for them.
Baesel spoke about how the changes in Hollywood over the last five years contributed to Glosserman's decision to take the fundraising route for Before the Mask. "The industry has changed so much since the first movie. It’s a lot more competitive and cut-throat so I think it’s really smart to take the funding in this direction. We really want to make the sequel for the fans so I think it’s really something unique to have them involved with getting the movie off the ground. It’s really their support over the years that has kept our momentum moving forward, and we certainly wouldn’t be wanting to make a sequel if the fans weren’t on board for it."
"Of course I initially had reservations about whether or not we should even be doing a sequel because I usually find them lacking 'something' or just feel really uninspired- like you can tell that people are just showing up for the paycheck for the second time around," added Baesel, "and I didn’t want to diminish what we created on the first one by making a sequel just for the sake of making another movie. Thank god that everyone else on board Before the Mask feels exactly the same way so this really will be a sequel for all the right reasons."
And while the actor isn't sure what the official latest word is on Before the Mask, he did discuss how important the fans of the original film are to the potential success of its sequel.
Baesel explained, "I’m not exactly sure what the official status on everything is- whether Scott’s waiting until we raise the full $100k before going forward in talking to investors or if he’s already talking with them based on the fundraising momentum we already have. But we all feel like it’s incredibly important to show backers that we have a lot of fans who really want to see the sequel happen, and because they’ve donated towards getting the movie made, fans have a bit of a vested interest in Before the Mask’s success."
"The thing I may enjoy the most about our little movie is that so many people have discovered it by accident over the years- whether on Netflix or maybe they overheard friends talking about it- but either way, I always love hearing from fans about when they first discovered Behind the Mask. I feel that speaks volumes to our work on the film and is a testament to the genre as a whole- we’d be nothing without the fans," added Baesel.
So how has it been for the actor to reconnect with many of his colleagues (at least the ones who survived!) in anticipation of and preparation for Before the Mask? According to Baesel it's been great considering everyone hadn't been together since Behind the Mask shot over six years ago now, and it turns out those six years in reality may somehow play into Glosserman's plans for the sequel.
"Yeah, it had definitely been a while since we had everyone together to make the first film so it’s been really great reconnecting during this entire fundraising process," said Baesel. "It’s hard to believe that it's been almost six years since we filmed the first movie. What's kind of funny, though, is that it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility that this one will somehow pick up in real time. Scott’s always tried to keep symmetry between real life and the world we portrayed in Behind the Mask so you just never know until the script is completely finished."
Baesel added, "I trust Scott and David (co-writer Stieve) implicitly with their vision for the sequel. The first draft of the script was incredibly impressive, and they really have a great handle on how best to keep perpetuating Leslie’s story. There’s so much room to play around this time with different sequel clichés and concepts within the genre that I’m really excited to see how the final script turns out."
The actor went on to talk about how his performance of the character Leslie isn't that much different than he is in reality. "I will be the first to admit that there are a lot of interesting parallels between myself and Leslie, and I think because he is a relatable character to me, it makes it easy to identify with both him and his motivations. As an actor you make yourself into the character rather than just only letting the character live inside you. That was my original approach to Leslie because I wanted him to be relatable and natural onscreen- if audiences felt like they were watching me as simply an actor and not as Leslie, which would have ruined the magic of Behind the Mask."
Even though fans can expect a lot of familiar faces involved with production on Before the Mask, Baesel did tease that there are plans for some casting surprises in the sequel, too.
"Even though I know that most of all the familiar faces fans are expecting to come back for the sequel are already on board, Scott is definitely working on a few surprises for fans in terms of casting as well," said Baesel. "I can’t mention anyone specifically, but I do know that Scott was looking at the latest draft of the script and was trying to figure out how to accommodate a certain actor because they could really raise some interesting perspectives on horror genre sequels in Behind the Mask. Usually when a director wants to make revisions for an actor, that’s when the story can get messy and lose focus, but in this case this performer will definitely add a lot of depth to Scott’s story, and fans will no doubt enjoy their contributions on the film if everything works out."
With Before the Mask: The Return of Leslie Vernon inching its way toward fruition every day, we asked Baesel his thoughts regarding the overwhelmingly positive fan reaction the sequel has generated since its announcement earlier this year. "I don’t even have the words to express how pleased I have been by the responses we’ve gotten to Before the Mask and our fan-fueled fundraising efforts so far- I’m absolutely blown away by everyone’s enthusiasm, and if this is the last film I ever do, I’d be happy with that for sure."
Let's hope this isn't the end but rather just the beginning of something remarkable for both Baesel and for the character of Leslie Vernon as well. Look for more on Before the Mask hopefully soon!
Special thanks to Nathan Baesel for taking time out to chat with us here at Dread Central.
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