You know Robert LaSardo; some of you just don’t know you know him. If you’re a fan of horror or action movies or television, you’ve seen LaSardo’s work, probably multiple times. In the new movie Parlor, LaSardo is finally getting his chance to be the leading man and carry a film.
He recently sat down with Dread Central to talk about it.
Although LaSardo has over 100 acting credits on his resume that spans nearly three decades, he’s never been the main character in a film.
“Parlor, the way it was written, with me in mind, represents a renaissance because I was introduced to something that, in the 28 years I’ve been in entertainment, I’ve never been introduced to before,” LaSardo said. “To stare at 2000 words of dialogue that was written for me, to some extent, and channeled through the writers, Kenny Gage and Devon Downs, was at first a bit overwhelming, but something that I’ve hungered for for a long time.”
Using a creative process a bit out of the ordinary, the filmmakers Gage and Downs met with LaSardo regularly and the movie cropped up around these sessions. “The way Parlor came about was through a series of conversations I had with the Kenny and Devon,” LaSardo said. “They took the time, which is very rare in the Hollywood industry, to actually get to know the artist and sit down and dialogue back and forth. We have a friendship that we’ve cultivated over the years, and it seemed almost vicarious that there would be something to entertain professionally from the relationship and the sharing of ideas.”
LaSardo continued about the connection between himself and the writers/directors of Parlor. “There are systems of belief without it being fundamental,” LaSardo said. “Devon Downs has a few tattoos, and so do I, obviously. And just through that alone we had a lot to talk about. And Kenny, on a certain level, represents the gladiator. He was formerly a boxer. So these meetings of the minds, these meetings of gladiators…we’d have conversations about how we felt about the industry, how we felt about life, any number of things. Just three guys talking and discussing stories that affected us. In time, they found a way to create a story around those conversations, the ideas, the principles, the beliefs, without necessarily being preachy, but it was something they felt that needed to be communicated, and something I had not been allowed, as an artist in Hollywood or in the creative realm, to communicate. I’ve been kind of limited by the structuring and perception of entertainment. They felt, after speaking with me over time, that it was appropriate, that it was time to communicate many of the things that we had talked about within a fiction, within a story that could bear some intelligence and be very radical in the way it does that.”
LaSardo spoke more on his past career and why he’s so excited for Parlor. “I don’t know that I’ve been allowed to communicate on that level,” LaSardo said. “There are a lot of lessons in aggression and barbarism I’ve been asked to communicate and audiences have been affected by that. But I don’t know if there’s ever been [that] combined with a character that has insight or intelligence, that shows up on the stage in a grey area where you can’t really pin him and say, ‘He’s the bad guy,’ or ‘He’s the good guy.’ He’s just there and the stage is set in the realm of horror because it is a horror film, so it’s up to the audience to decide, based on the content of the story, what he is.”
LaSardo spoke more on his character, simply referred to as “The Artist.” “He’s an artist; that’s the title, Artist, which I like,” LaSardo said. “I like it because it evokes the idea of something that’s a creative entity as opposed to a character that tears things down, destroys stuff. So he’s an artist. He runs a tattoo parlor. We filmed in Vilnius, Lithuania. I think it was very important for Kenny and Devon to authenticate the experiences of the subculture of tattooing. We went to various tattoo shops where I apprenticed and learned a little bit about tattooing so I could live and breathe the character. So he’s a tattoo artist. He runs the tattoo parlor. He also comes from a family bloodline of men who have a particular talent and this craft has been passed down through the family bloodline and that’s another aspect of The Artist that’s not revealed until you see the film and it’s also part of something that will be intriguing and also could be bizarre for some people to observe. It all depends on who’s looking at it.”
Not only is this film important to LaSardo because of his leading role, but also for his input during the creative process. “I was invited during the early stages to participate and creatively be involved on that level, which is something that’s very rare,” LaSardo said. “Writers and directors are very guarded about their creations and the actors are kind of the last to know. They’re allowed some flexibility within their instrument, but I don’t know if they’re allowed to affect the piece the way the creator or director envisioned it. In this case, I’ve been allowed to communicate feelings and suggestions to Kenny and Devon about that process. So, in that sense, I’ve become very attached to the project.”
And LaSardo wanted to be sure the faith put in him by Gage and Downs did not go without reward. “I’ve never been allowed to be a lead in a film,” LaSardo said. “I’ve never been allowed to carry a film in my entire career. So it’s quite a compliment from Kenny Gage and Devon Downs to me to trust me at the helm of it. In that way also I’m attached to it because I wanted to deliver something, produce or creating and conjure the spirit of the character how they envisioned it or how I envisioned and then collaborate and make impact so when they look at it, they go, ‘Wow, we’re affected by it. You did it, Rob.’ Here’s a chance to finally, after all these years. What are you going to do with it when you’re finally given that chance to stand up at the plate and hold that bat and stare that ball down? It’s like, okay, do or die.”
Finally LaSardo spoke on the unique experience of shooting in Lithuania. “After about a week or so I felt this incredible sense of déjà vu,” LaSardo said. “Looking at the old city, ruins, buildings from the 14th Century… someone showed me a brick building where there had been machine gun holes from World War II where the Nazis had come through and shot up the building and it’s still the way it was then. The city itself conjured a lot of emotion for me. I felt a sense of belonging there. I have traveled around the world and found that my spirit was waiting for me there. I felt a sense of connection to the landscape itself. There’s a mysterious aspect to it because a lot of the city is still preserved since World War II and not touched by the war. That also lends to the spirit that was necessary to communicate this piece that is an allegory and has a mythological aspect to it. So being in the city, walking the streets and the cobblestones and looking at the buildings and looking at a church that was built in the 14th Century, just feeling the vibrations through the brick and then moving on to the movie set, which wasn’t even something that was created, it was already there. So a lot of the buildings we shot in on location had this incredible history and spirit to them.”
Although they were from two very different lands, LaSardo felt the two film crews meshed together very nicely. “There was a little bit of a gap between the two cultures, so we had to learn very quickly to work together, the American crew and the Lithuanian crew, and basically complete the film, the goal,” LaSardo said. “Once we got in there together, it wasn’t necessarily about Americans and Lithuanians; it was about getting deep into the trenches of Parlor and people understanding what we’re trying to communicate and how powerful that could be given the subject matter.”
Keep an eye out for Parlor. Coming soon!
The new face of horror! The writing/directing team of Gage/Downs brings you their depraved Lithuanian vision… Parlor. Shocking, disturbing, a fresh new take on the American horror genre, the film follows six young college hopefuls vacationing and partying in Eastern Europe who get more than they bargained for when they unwittingly get caught up in a maniacal tattoo artist’s fiendish side business.
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