Photo by: Syfy
Last year, Hollywood’s fallen angel Mickey Rourke had his big time comeback, scooping up awards for his performance in The Wrestler. And, having known what it was like to be down-and-out, he made this public plea as he accepted his Independent Spirit Award for Best Actor, "Eric Roberts is great actor, and you should all give him a break like you did me.”
Rourke’s Pope of Greenwich Village co-star seemed to wince a little, but he really could use a break. He was after all, once more than just Julia’s brother and Emma’s dad. And with some stellar performances early in his career, it seemed he could have been a contender. He could have been somebody.
So did Tinseltown big wigs listen to Mickey? Well, Roberts certainly has had an interesting year. He was in one of the biggest blockbusters of the year, the has-been-action-star filled flick The Expendables. He did a stint on the daytime soap The Young and the Restless. Heck, he even checked himself into Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab to deal with his self-proclaimed pot issues.
And, he starred in Sharktopus.
Okay, so maybe that one doesn’t sound like a step in the right direction career-wise. But the Roger Corman produced Syfy movie of the week is sure to find a cult status so common among the filmmakers’ devout followers.
In a recent conference call interview, Roberts and Sharktopus director Declan O’Brien, talked about the challenges of making the movie, their favorite moments on set, and where this falls in Eric’s resume (let’s just say, he’s not going to bring it up if you don’t).
Q: Eric, when you heard you were up for the role in Sharktopus, what was the first thought that went through your head?
ERIC: Well, it’s kind of a triple answer to that question. I got involved with this movie because of the fact that I had never worked for this producer before and I wanted to. And… because he doesn’t pay well so you don’t work very much for money, but, he’s the only stone I left unturned really in this realm of making movies.
So then when he came up with Sharktopus I laughed out loud, so did my wife, and it could be nothing by epically bad. So I got on board with total humor and ready to have some fun.
And the good thing about the experience for me was I got to meet Declan who was a groovy fun director and we had a great time together.
Q: Declan, as the director of a movie like this and one with a lot of CGI in it, do you have any say or any input into what it looks like, or did they just show you the end product?
DECLAN: Oh no, no… Roger and I were very, very much involved in going back and forth and doing the design of the Sharktopus creature. We went through several, several different iterations of it. So, yes, I was totally involved all the way to the end.
Q: Declan, please describe Sharktopus.
DECLAN: Sharktopus is… half shark, half octopus—all killing machine.
Q: Sounds like the tagline for the movie.
DECLAN: Hey you know I could do marketing if I needed to.
Q: For each of you, what was your favorite part about working on this movie?
ERIC: My favorite part was at the end of the movie, I have a big fight with the beast himself. And it was all CGI so I was fighting air. And that was really fun for me to do it and then watch it after the CGI. I look so forward to what they would do with it. And it was really fun for me.
DECLAN: Yes, that was a pretty awesome death I have to say. I was there watching it on the day and there watching it when the CGI was in.
So, I guess that the best part for me was I really enjoyed the water works. The underwater shooting… in the water scuba diving... That was a ton of fun.
Q: Eric, what did you find the most challenging about your role?
ERIC: The most challenging would have been to actually give real credence to somebody talking about and believing in a Sharktopus. Because Sharktopus there have already been big, big jokes made about it. It’s about a pimp and prostitute. So half pimp, half prostitute. So it’s hard to say it with a straight face if you’re playing in the character who like invented this beast.
Q: Maybe Declan can tell us why people want to take their time to tune in and watch Sharktopus.
DECLAN: Well… Eric makes me laugh. It’s like he said that joke half pimp, half prostitute. I mean that’s perfect. People will tune in to see this movie just because of the outrageous, outlandish nature of the movie. And we embrace it. And try to make a movie that is seriously entertaining for everybody involved.
Q: Was there something funny or maybe pranks people played on the set?
ERIC: The only really funny thing about for me working on this movie is everybody says, “Oh, you’re making a movie. What’s it called?” And the answer to that question was tough. When you say to total strangers your [best friends], “I’m making a movie called Sharktopus.” They look at you twice and jokes I know that is going around it’s about a half pimp, half prostitute. I mean you can really get caught up in the title.
DECLAN: For me, lets see, we’re shooting out on the ocean we have a boat that we’re shooting on. It’s the boat. It’s not very big but it’s like a motor boat. Then we have these other boats that are like pangas that take you back and forth to shore. So we break for lunch, we go to shore and then we all pack everything back on the panga to out to the boat. We all get on the panga, we go out to where the boat should have been anchored and it’s gone. Completely gone… the boat’s captain decided he didn’t want to work the rest of the afternoon, so he went back to the marina with all of our equipment on board. So yes, I would say there was plenty of crazy things that happened down there.
Q: Would you say that this movie differs from the other Syfy weekly movies?
ERIC: In a word—yes.
DECLAN: Yes. I mean I think so. The characters take themselves seriously within the movie but I think the tone of the movie certainly embraces the title and is fun.
Q: Eric, where does this project sit in your resume next to The Expendables and films like that?
ERIC: Well, I have to be honest with you, this project doesn’t really fit in my resume. This budget was done for fun. And this project isn’t in my resume any more than going to the gym does. Everybody knows they go to the gym, everybody knows I made this movie.
But I don’t brag about it. If it comes up, I don’t pretend it didn’t happen because I made the movie because I wanted to, because you don’t work for Roger Corman for money, he doesn’t pay people.
So you work for him because you want to or you don’t. And I wanted to make this movie, and I had worked with Declan before. I love Declan and he is a groovy guy and we had a lot of fun.
So all sarcasm aside if you bring it up I’m going to talk about, and if you don’t I’m not going to bring it up. That is where it fits in my resume.
Q: Okay fair enough. And Declan, what was the most challenging part of putting this together?
DECLAN: Well, I mean its 18 days to shoot a movie with a language barrier. Those 18 days you’re on the water. It’s just really challenging just shooting on the water itself. You have people getting sick, left and right. And it was a very, very vicious movie.
ERIC: And the language barrier, you brought it up earlier, about [the fact that] a language barrier was hard too.
DECLAN: Yes, yes, [the] language barrier was very, very hard. And so you’re shooting really quickly and so you’re trying to do all this as ambitious as it was shooting a water movie in ten days in the water and eight days out—it was tough.
ERIC: Declan [made] this movie in spite of everything possible going wrong. Everything was going wrong. I mean language, to location, to everybody being late, boats taking off when they weren’t supposed to. I mean everything went wrong on Declan. And he just grinned and bore it.
DECLAN: You got to smile. What are you going to do? You’re not going to cry about it.
Q: What was the language barrier?
DECLAN: It was Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish. We shot in Mexico.
ERIC: You’re so lucky I’m fluent. I saved him every day.
Q: How did the fabulous [doo wop-esque] song that is in the trailer for Sharktopus develop?
DECLAN: Well, that song is by a band called the Cheetah Whores which is Rochester, New York and they are my two nieces. One is on lead vocals. The other one is on guitar. And so I come from a musical family, the youngest of seven. We all play different musical instruments. I called my brother up and I said, “I’d like a theme song for this movie.” He was like, “Oh great, my band will do it.” I’m like, “No, no you’re too old. I want your daughters to do it.” So they did it and they did a great job.
Q: Is there any part that was in [Sharktopus] that was cut that you wish they hadn’t cut out or maybe something in hindsight you wish they had?
ERIC: Well, I was kind of pissed off that Declan cut the love scene out.
DECLAN: What? The Sharktopus love scene Eric… that one?
ERIC: That wasn’t funny at all. I just don’t think it’s funny because I got buffed for it, I got ready for it then you know. So anyway.
ERIC: I’ll let you explain why then.
DECLAN: Well… it had to do with sensors and putting it on the TV.
ERIC: Yes, right. It was heavy handed.
DECLAN: It will be in the DVD extras. Let’s just put it that way.
ERIC: In the directors cut. Yes, right.
DECLAN: In the directors cut, exactly. As you can see, Eric and I took ourselves very seriously.
Q: Yes, I can tell.
ERIC: We had fun. We had real fun.
DECLAN: We did.
Q: Eric do you usually watch yourself in your projects?
ERIC: I’ve seen everything I’ve ever shot. And I have to say Declan it’s not your fault it’s your DP’s fault. But I have never looked worse in a movie than I do in this movie it’s really bad. But to answer that yes, I see everything I should shoot. I love my job. I just have the best time watching them.
DECLAN: We did have some, shall we say, challenges behind the camera.
Q: Do either of you have any new projects coming up you can talk about?
ERIC: What can you talk about Declan?
DECLAN: Well I got something at Fox but I can’t really talk about it yet.
ERIC: I’m going to go to Pittsburgh next week and I’m going to shoot a thing called New York Heartbeat. And I play something new and different for me—I play a gangster. That’s a joke.
DECLAN: Yes, dark knight. Yes.
Q: Are you surprised by the response before the movie premieres?
DECLAN: Right, it’s an epic title, come on. I tell you, I was shocked. I was shocked… I cut the trailer together for Comic-Con. And I thought they were just going to show it at Comic-Con. I didn’t know they were going to release it on the internet. I was on vacation with my kids in Laguna and my phone just blew up. It was amazing.
Q: There were a lot of great kills in the movie which was your favorite?
DECLAN: Eric’s death—Eric’s kill. I mean...
ERIC: Yes my kill.
DECLAN: ...you can’t get better than that.
Q: How did you both get started in your profession?
ERIC: I was once upon a time a very serious actor. And I started at the age of 4 1/2 in the theater—grew up in the theater doing eight to twelve repertory plays every year of my life. Was educated at Royal Academy in London, and the American Academy of the [Dramatic Art] in New York, that’s a studio in New York, and was a very serious actor. Made my first movie at the age of 20 called King of the Gypsies, and made a lot of great movies. I guess really the pinnacle being Sharktopus in a nutshell.
DECLAN: I actually started off being an actor as well. I went to the New York State School of the Arts—NYSA. And studied acting and moved out to California and… was in plays in New York.
And when I came out to California and went on my first cattle call. I decided I wanted to be the guy behind the table making the decision. So I switched to focusing on producing and directing. And… worked for a great director early on. His name was Brian Gibson and I learned a lot from him. And from there just worked my way up.
Q: Eric, you were always the voice of Mongul on Justice League Unlimited. How do you prepare for a role like that?
ERIC: I’ve been after that kind of work forever only it’s a very tight knit club and they don’t allow strangers in that they don’t know. And they’re very selfish with it and I finally had an engineer say, “Bring Eric in for this because he is fun to work with I know him.” And they brought me in and it was just sheer luck in knowing the right guy. It was not all about talent or voice or anything. It was just about a guy knowing me saying Eric is fun to work with, bring him in.
And so because they are the tightest knit, most selfish group of artists that are out there they don’t let anybody in. And because they can all do 150 voices so why add somebody else new to the mix, and they kind of resent us actors.
Q: Do you have any other voice over roles coming up?
ERIC: Not coming up, no because, it’s just who you know, and if they’ll call you because they are a tight knit club.
Q: Eric, what would be your ultimate role and Declan what would be your ultimate movie to direct?
DECLAN: Well I know I’d love to do a Bond. I’d love to do a James Bond movie. Don’t know if that is happening any time soon—but.
ERIC: I just want to work with Nora Ephron. Yes, that’s one of my dreams and or [Soderbergh]. And I don’t care what they’d ask me to play I’d go play it. And, of course, Declan.
DECLAN: I’m right up there with [Soderbergh] and Ephron, I love you.
Q: Eric, would you ever be interested in writing or directing? And Declan would you ever act again in his show?
DECLAN: Yes, I’d do a little cameo maybe. But that is about it.
ERIC: To answer that question where I’m concerned, I love my headache as an actor. I don’t want everybody’s headache as a director. And to write is the loneliest sport there is. I love my headache. I have the greatest headache on the planet. And that’s what I enjoy doing. So the answer is no.
Q: Eric, can you talk a bit about working on Heroes?
ERIC: What you want to know baby?
Q: Just the experience.
ERIC: Well, it was kind of anticlimactic because I was brought on there because they wanted to surpass another show in the ratings. And then they did surpass the other show on the ratings after I was on the show.
And… you’re not supposed to say anything that is all negative so I’m not going to say anything at all negative. But the writing is uninspiring and I was uninspired. And I tried every week I was on that show to make it fun but it was a lot of work for me to make it fun because... for me it was boring.
Q: Eric you’ve had an interesting year this year, you’ve worked on Young and the Restless, Celebrity Rehab, Sharktopus—what has been the best part of the year for you?
ERIC: Oh, it would have to be the actual fighting Sharktopus himself that was the highlight of my year I think, because I have never fought a CGI monster before and it was intriguing.
Q: And what was it like making love to him—because you had said the sex scenes…
ERIC: I didn’t say I made love to Sharktopus… You got to get it right doll, you got to listen.
Q: And Declan if they ask you to do a sequel would you?
DECLAN: Son of Sharktopus. I’m on. I’m there.
ERIC: That is so zealous of you because I can’t be in it. I’m dead.
DECLAN: Yes that does suck. Well we’ll have to do a prequel.