INTERVIEW: DAVID LEE HESS – PART 1
Recently, Fear Forever got the chance to speak with up and coming genre actor David Lee Hess as a part of the Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival. Although he’s no stranger to acting (with roughly 55 credits to date), he’s recently made a name for himself within the horror community. David has spent plenty of time in front of the camera with such genre hits as FRAZIER PARK RECUT and DERELICTS, and he most recently stepped behind the camera for his directorial debut FETISH. We had a chance to talk with David about his roles in these films as well as his love of the horror genre.
Fear Forever: So David, let’s get into your film background. Did you go to film school, or how did you get into acting?
David Lee Hess: No I didn’t. I count the first day I started acting as the day I started improv comedy classes. It’s not technically true, but it feels like it is, because improv had a major role in me getting into acting. I got cast in a feature film out of the improv theatre where I graduated. That was about 10 years ago in Austin. I started working in Texas doing student films and indie films, and 3 years ago this week I moved to LA.
FF: How has that transition been for you?
DLH: FANTASTIC!! Shockingly there’s a lot more work here than there is in Texas. I’ve met a lot of great people, and it’s been great.
FF: Looking at your resume, it looks like you’ve done a lot. Most recently, you’ve done two horror films being FRAZIER PARK RECUT & DERELICTS. Are you attracted to horror films, or are they attracted to you?
DLH: (laughing) I think it’s a little of both actually. This may be controversial in your camp over there…but most horror films are bad. There are just so many that get made, but I love them. I love horror films. I have been afflicted or blessed with “resting murder face”. It’s actually been pretty fruitful for me, and I wasn’t aware of it until I started acting. If I’m not actively trying to look pleasant, I look scary or creepy or whatever.
FF: (laughing) Whatever works, right?
DLH: I was just interviewing with a new agent and out of nowhere they said “you have a great creepy face!”
FF: That’s always good to hear…
DLH: Now I’m comfortable with it, so it works good for me.
FF: How did you come aboard those projects?
DLH: Both of those projects are Texas born. Most of the people involved in DERELICTS were from the University of Texas where I had done a lot of work in what we’ll generously call the early stages of my career. The very first project I did at the University was a project with Sam (Hanover) from FRAZIER PARK. We did a scene from AMERICAN BEAUTY, where I was playing Kevin Spacey in my first acting gig, and it was horrible! It may actually classify as a horror movie. Fast forward many years later, and we both ended up in LA. We had coffee and that’s kind of how FRAZIER PARK was born.
FF: With a film like DERELICTS, was it difficult to find levity while filming?
DLH: There was a lot of levity, and a lot of fun people doing fun things. But there are two sides to that coin. I hope they don’t hate me for saying this, but IT WAS GRUELING!! We were in Texas, in the summertime, in a house with no AC for production reasons. We’re filming in a small place, not just doing a movie, but a movie with a family in one room and the invaders in one room, and all the crew in the room filming scenes. So you’ve got 15 people in one room, in Texas, with the AC off. It was so hot and uncomfortable that there were moments of real tension. On the other hand, it was super fun. We had some good times with special FX and we bonded in between scenes. There was a lot of camaraderie. Often times it felt like how it looked on screen though (laughing).
FF: So those roles were pretty different. You play more of a silent murder-y type in FRAZIER PARK and then a patriarch of a terrorized family in DERELICTS. What were the differences in your approach to acting?
DLH: Improvisation. We didn’t really improvise too much during DERELICTS for the reasons I described and because of the complicated nature of the shoot. FRAZIER PARK was very much improvised. There was no need to stick to a script and it felt more natural that way. There were only three of us in a lovely air-conditioned cabin in the woods. As far as the characters, I was mostly playing myself in FRAZIER PARK…to an extent (laughing).
FF: How has the reaction to DERELICTS been?
DLH: It’s a fun movie and fun to see how people react. There was so much going on during production, I had no idea how it was gonna turn out. Brett (Glassberg) gave us reference material, but I wasn’t sure until I actually saw the finished product.
Read part 2 of our interview with DAVID LEE HESS tomorrow!
You can catch FETISH playing at THE TELLURIDE HORROR SHOW on Saturday October 13th during the “SOMETHING WEIRD THIS WAY COMES” SHORTS BLOCK.