Jim O’Rear, start off by telling me about yourself. What made you want to get into the cinema industry as well specifically into horror?
I was never interested in getting involved in the film industry in any way, actually… especially not horror. I, kinda, fell into it by accident. I had always been interested in the art of magic, as a child, and started studying how to be a magician while I was in kindergarten. Before long I found myself traveling around the United States as “The Youngest Professional Magician” and working with people like Harry Blackstone Jr, David Copperfield, and The Great Tomsoni. Magic and music were my loves. But, one night after a magic show I was approached by a television producer who was interested in casting me in a television commercial. I turned him down because I was not interested in acting and really didn’t think I could do it. He was persistent, though, and after a week or two of begging me, my agent, and my parents, I finally caved in and did his television commercial. From there I started getting hired for other acting jobs in television, film, and live theater. So, like I said, I accidentally fell into the film/telelvision industry.
As far as the horror genre… I was never a horror fan. One of my favorite television shows was THE MUNSTERS, but I didn’t consider that to be horror of any kind. The theme music of THE TWILIGHT ZONE would send me running out of a room. I just didn’t like it. Again, by accident, my agent called and asked if I’d be interested in being a zombie in a low-budget, independent horror film that was being shot in Florida. I was not interested… there was no pay being offered, I had to be covered in latex all day in the hot Florida sun, and it was a genre of film that I wasn’t interested in being involved with. But, at the last minute, I decided to go ahead and report to set because they were desperate for zombies and I could add another credit to the resume. The film was George Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD. From that point forward I started getting offers to do horror films.
Can you tell me about some of your early work?
Especially your small role in “Day of The Dead” and the recent controversy behind it.
DAY OF THE DEAD was not a big deal. Like I mentioned before, it was a small, independent, low-budget film that everyone thought would be forgotten pretty quickly. Plus, I was just an extra in it… and we all know that all it takes to be an extra in a film or television show is just some free time in your schedule.
Regarding the controversy… some people just take themselves and the movies they love waaaaay too seriously. I was emailed by a guy who claimed to be writing a book about the making of DAY OF THE DEAD. He sent me a very aggressive email asking me to tell him exactly what I did in DAY. I told him I was a zombie. He told me that I was lying because I was too young to have been on that set as a zombie. When I asked him where he was getting the information about my age he said, “Wikipedia.” I told him, “There’s your problem. You’re using a site full of user-generated content to gather your ‘facts,’ which makes you a hack as a writer who doesn’t know how to do proper research.” My birthdate on Wiki was incorrect… as are many “facts” posted to that site. He again told me I was lying about my birthdate… as if I didn’t know when I was really born. That’s when I told him to go fuck himself and that I had no interest in helping him with his book. In turn, he threatened to do everything in his power to ruin my name and “expose” me as a fraud. Even when Tom Savini publically posted that he met me on the set of DAY… that still wasn’t good enough for this guy and his 6 or 7 buddies. They then turned on Tom and berated him and called his memory into question… which is when Tom basically said “whatever” and backed off. They are just a bunch of jealous and bitter keyboard idiots who have nothing better to do with their time… who eventually, in the end, turned on each other over the whole matter.
Really… anyone who wants to make that big of a deal out of a background extra role in a 30 year old movie has some mental issues going on. DAY is not what made me as an actor… it’s the leading roles in much larger productions that I did after that.
You’ve worked with several actors, among them who has been your favourite to work with and of these who has been your least?
My favorites have been Marin Sheen, Henry Winkler, Connie Britton, and Debbie Rochon. All extremely talented, kind, and down to earth individuals. My least favorites… Jonathan Frakes and Linda Lavin. These are very brash and egotistical individuals (or they were at the time I worked with them).
Is there any grand advice that you were given when you started out that you would like to share with the readers or any words of Wisdom in general for them?
I, unfortunately, was not given any advice, training, or guidance when I started. I was “thrown to the wolves,” so to speak, and had to figure out how the industry worked on my own. However, after working in all aspects of the industry I’ve come to realize that there’s no real, single piece of advice that sums things up… and the industry is always changing. I recently released a book titled MAGIC, MONSTERS, AND ME, though, that is a “how-to” guide, of sorts, for people wanting to get started in the industry and tells you what I’ve learned from my personal experiences. Yes, that was a shameless plug to buy my book… there’s a lot of information in there. Ha ha ha
Just recently, I believe, you wrapped up filming on you and Daniel Emery Taylors new film “Fat Chance”. Can you tell the readers about it and when it will be released?
FAT CHANCE can best be described as THE BIGGEST LOSER meets FRIDAY THE 13TH. It’s a horror/comedy about 10 fat guys who go on a reality weight loss television program being filmed at a “fat camp” in the woods. One by one they are picked off in humorous ways by a mysterious killer. It’s a lot of fun with some brilliant comedic performances by the entire cast and features Dick “Michael Myers” Warlock (HALLOWEEN 2, JAWS, SPIDERMAN), Bree Olson (THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3, KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS), WWE/WWF superstar Al Snow, Scott Tepperman (GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL), as well as Daniel and myself. It will have its international premiere in March, 2014.
How would you describe the experience on set working on it?
It was a tough shoot. We filmed it in the heat of the summer in Alabama, so we were covered up in sweat, bugs, snakes, and various woodland critters for 20 hours a day. The conditions were not grand, but fortunately we had a cast full of easy-going actors with fantastic senses of humor who kept everything light and fun regardless of the conditions.
You and Daniel also have a film circulating called “The Hospital” where can people snag a copy of your film at?
Yes, THE HOSPITAL is very different than FAT CHANCE. It’s a dark, violent, ugly horror film filled with rape, torture, blood, and more, featuring John Dugan (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE), April Burril (CHAINSAW SALLY), Scott Tepperman (GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL), and Daniel and myself. Luckily, it’s been getting rave reviews and even won the “Scariest Movie” prize at a big show in Germany called MOVIE DAYS/THE DARK ZONE. It will be released worldwide on DVD and various movie outlets on January 21st, 2014.
The book that you have recently released, called “Magic, Monsters, And Me”… where can the readers purchase of copy?…You’ve been quite the busy bee.
The easiest place to pick it up is on Amazon. There’s an electronic copy available for Kindle, as well, for people who like e-readers.
As far as the genre goes, do you feel positive in the direction that it’s going?
Not at all. I’ve said many times that Hollywood doesn’t make horror films any longer. Every now and then a true horror film will slip out, but most of it is crap. It’s either poor original crap or a crappy remake of something.
Do you find that Hollywood is essentially feeding people consistent remakes as of late because it is out of ideas or do you feel as if it’s because it sells real easy?
There’s plenty of ideas out there. I’ve read a ton of great original horror scripts. But, Hollywood is all about the dollar. They know that it’s easier to capitalize on a proven title, easier to market and advertise something that people are already familiar with, and know they are taking less of a risk with something that’s already been proven as opposed to experimenting with something new. Hollywood would much rather make a crappy film that earns money than risk making a great original film that people will remember for decades to come. The days of the RE-ANIMATORs and PHANTASMs are over.
How hard is it working in the Indy film industry? Does this extensively effect your films budget and availability as far as what you can do?
Of course. There’s far less money to work with, so an indy filmmaker must rely on story and creativity to carry their film. There’s a lot of hard work and sacrifice that goes into making an indy production. In Hollywood you throw money at things to make them work or make things better… but, a good indy film requires talent because there’s no money to throw around.
Do you have any tips for homemade blood or prosthetics that are quick and easy for those young filmmakers rocking a budget at home?
The best blood is still corn syrup and food coloring. You can’t go wrong with it and it’s cheap to make gallons of it. As far as prosthetics… you’d be surprised what you can do with some liquid latex, pros-aide, cotton balls, and tissue paper. It’s all about how creative you are with your supplies.
Out of all of the horror films that you have seen or films in general, which would you consider to be your favourite?
I have 3 horror favorites…. the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, from 1968, the original HALLOWEEN, and the original PHANTASM. Those 3 films influenced my horror tastes the most… however, I love tons of them… RE-ANIMATOR, DEAD AND BURIED, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, THE THING, I could go on and on. As far as non-horror films, some of my favorites are STAND BY ME, PIECES OF APRIL, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, STAR WARS, RADIERS OF THE LOST ARK, and… are you ready for it?… PURPLE RAIN.
Do you feel that these films have highly influenced you as a filmmaker?
All of these films have influenced me in some way…. whether it be storytelling, lighting, camera angles, acting, editing, etc. I think all filmmakers borrow from their favorites.
Have you pulled any hilarious pranks on other cast members?
I tend not to pull any pranks for a few different reasons. While they can be fun, they can also be distracting and make an actor or crew member lose focus. When focus is lost on a set you lose valuable time getting the groove back… and time is what you really don’t have much of on an indy set. Time is money… and there’s very little money in an indy.
What are your tips in getting into acting? Do you have a hotline number to call for roles? 1-800-Jim O’Rear?
I give many tips in my new book, but of those some of the most important are to get a decent agent, audition for every legitimate project that they send you, don’t let the rejections from many of those auditions frustrate you, and be yourself during the audition process. The more you audition the more of an opportunity you have to get a “yes” from a casting director.
You seem to have several projects wrapping up as of late, can you fill us in on any upcoming projects?
Daniel Taylor and I are beginning to work on a new thriller called PRANK CALL, which we hope to film mid-2014 as well as a super-secret established property from the 1980’s that we are trying to obtain the rights to… not to remake it, but to further the story in a sequel. I’ll also be acting in and doing the stunt coordinating for the remake of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, working on TALES FROM BEYOND PART 2, and have several projects about to be released, such as POST MORTEM AMERICA 2021 and the campy superhero comedy THONG GIRL VS. XOLTA FROM OUTER SPACE.
For a final question, where do you see yourself in a few years from now? Will you have won academy awards? Will you have created the greatest film ever? Or will you have called it quits and settled down with your wife and family in a log cabin somewhere?
I’ve never wanted to be a superstar or a household name… I’ve just wanted to work. So, I don’t see Academy Awards in my future (I’m not drawn to those types of projects) and I will never create what the general public would consider “the greatest film ever,” because the general public and I have two very different views on what’s entertaining. I do see myself slipping away from the front of the camera and spending much more time behind the camera writing, directing, and producing. I’d also like to do more studio voice work and write a few more books. I am getting old, though, so eventually… in the not too distant future… I will just call it quits and go into hiding with my family. For now, though, I’m just happy to keep working in a variety of different aspects of the entertainment industry.