Vincent D'Onofrio Talks 'Don't Go In The Woods' with CultureMob
Vincent D’Onofrio has been in more than 50 feature films and the showÂ Law & Order: Criminal Intent (since 2001). He’s aÂ gifted actor who has shared the big screen alongside Jodie Foster (The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys), The Salton Sea with Val Kilmer, Men In Black with Will Smith, and many know him from his role in Full Metal Jacket.
He first came to my attention as Dominic in the 1993 filmÂ Mr. Wonderful;Â As a matter of fact as I am writing this article a song from the movie is playing here at Starbucks. In the film, he’s the rival love interest competing with Matt Dillon and even though he wasn’t the star of the movie, he nonetheless made an impression on me. See the scene and Vincent singing at the end of the article and let me know if you loved that as much as me. He sings alongside Annabella Sciorra.
Vincent also has acted in two of my favorite science fiction films, including Strange Days, and a movie based on a story from writer Phillip K. Dick,Â Impostor. Both films were well written and I have liked him as an actor from way back in the day. So when the interview came up I jumped at it.
The list of notable talent that he has shared the screen with is long and spans more than 29 years as a professional actor. Not content with just acting Vincent is also producing, writing, and directing other projects. He even recently had a small gig on an audio show called Man on the Ledge by Joe Maggio (Bitter Feast) which appeared on a CD set entitled Tales Beyond The Pale (sample on Amazon).
I recently spoke to Vincent about his new movie, Don’t Go in the Woods, which he not only wrote but directed. The interesting thing about this movie is that it’s an unlikely combination of a musical and horror story. Rarely a combination that pulls big numbers. After speaking with him I got the impression that he seems to care more about trying new things, satisfying his own creativity, and having fun within his career, which is quite admirable in this era of commercialism and the overwhelming self-centeredness that is Hollywood.
Allie Hanley: So you’ve had tremendous success as an actor, tell me about what it’s like going into the writing and directing avenue of movie making vs. being in front of the camera, in your new film Don’t Go In The Woods .
Vincent D’Onofrio: It’s interesting because a few years ago I did a short called Five Minutes, Mr. Welles that did very well and traveled around the world for a couple years. I had a lot of fun doing that, and it was a story that I thought up along with a friend of mine. Then we shot it. So this is just another idea that I thought of as a kind of a fun experiment that is just pure entertainment. It’s some sort of absurd idea of a slasher/musical where everybody sings and everybody dies. One of my friends, Sam Bisbee, is a singer/songwriter/composer… We pitched the idea… and ended up shooting it for $100,000.
We shot it in 12 days and there was no casting director. We just casted off the streets. I used all non-actors, just people who could play and sing. So we knew that we would be writing a “B” type of movie with a horror film structure. [We] put really good melodic music to it, like pop music, and wanted to see if it would work.
AH: So did you have an artistic hand in creating the music?
VO: I would say we all had a little hand in it, but I wouldn’t say that I am the full writer of the music. Sam Bisbee is the writer of music.
AH: So you’ve combined a musical slash horror genre. That’s a cool mash-up right now as both are really popular. What kind of success would you like to see this movie have that would make you happy.
VO: I’m happy now. Before Tribeca I took it around to different colleges and universities. I got to screen it for as many as 500 students in one shot, on a big screen with a great sound system… and they loved it… and that’s great and good enough. The movie is definitely geared towards that age group and those kind of fans, and that’s the kind of music that’s in my movie. We really had nothing else to do, and we knew it was kind of an absurd idea. You can’t really expect but for people to be entertained and that seems to be happening; so we’re pretty happy about that.
AH: A few months ago a package showed up in my mail and when I opened it I saw your face on the cover of one of the CDs. Â I was surprised as I typically get novels, films, and even comic books to review. As it turns out, this is like a film but just the sound only. It’s in small 30 minute bites that you can listen to in the car. The first one I slid into my CD player was of you voice acting in a story Man on the Ledge with Joe Maggio. It was cool, well done, and different. Tell me about the unusual role.
VO: They just asked me to do it, and I liked it, so I did it. I knew Joe a little bit through a friend of Sam Bisbee’s. I just went in and did it in a few hours. It was fun and I love doing the kind of stuff. It was fun to do.
AH: The sound effects and and sound production was really fantastic. You’ve done an impressive amount of quality film and television acting, as well as some producing, directing and are really well known. As it turns out I mentioned to my mother that I was going to interview you. She never knows anyone that I am interviewing. I even sat down with Gary Oldman about a week ago, and she didn’t know who he was, but when I mentioned you her eyes lit up and she told me about “how clever you are” and went on and on about you. In actuality she was telling me about the character you play on Law and Order: Criminal Intent and was confusing who you play, with who you are. Does that happen frequently to you when you meet fans?
VO: I don’t know… not really. I don’t know if it’s a confusion; But when you commit yourself to acting in a role you are either going to be liked for it or disliked for it. So, you might as well commit yourself 100% to it because there is only two outcomes. When I travel the world, there are people that come up to me and see me from these different roles, whether’s it’s Criminal Intent… some people hate them and some people love them [the characters]. It’s not really that they are being confused, it’s just that they are really talking about the character. It’s not confusing to me – really because I know that they are talking about the character. They are just so happy and entertained that they need to talk about it.
AH: You have five films in post right now and two in pre-production. Tell me about one of them.
VO: The Jennifer Chambers Lynch film that I did (Chained), is a really distubing film, but I really enjoyed working with her. Hopefully people will get to see that one soon. I’ve done some other things too. This past summer I got some really good acting experience, so all these things that I do, I am really enthusiastic about. I hope everyone likes them too.
AH: You’ve had ride-ranging success in severalÂ entertainmentÂ venues, is that attributed to the way you were raised?
VO: I think it might have to do with the fact that I was raised to appreciate art in a very legitimate way and to know the difference between Pop and the Fine Arts. Now that I have been doing it for so long, there are a few people out there that sort of get me as a performer, and I think that I have been just lucky to grab the attention of those few and they’ve given me jobs in all different aspects of the business of story-telling and entertainment. It’s basically luck that I’ve drawn the attention of the few, and as you know there are so many people out there creating this type of entertainment. A lot of it is not really my style of stuff, but I have been fortunate to attract the attention of a very few that do kind of get my style and will employ me.
AH: So with that in mind is Don’t Go In The Woods your style?
VO: It was at the moment. We wanted to make this little film, and we knew it would be absurd film, but the trick was to make it really entertaining for a certain age group and have it geared to an age group with the music. It was an idea that I committed myself to and it just sort of took off. So in that moment it meant everything to me, but now I just sort of see it as something that I did and I would like people to be entertained by it.
Don’t Go In The Woods is playing on Video On Demand currently and opening limited in theaters. Â There is a review running on CultureMob of the film entitled Low Budget- Don’t Go In The Woods Makes for Distinguished Slasher Musical from writer Jeremy Kibler. He basically sums up the movie giving it a B- which I would have to agree with. His article does a nice job of laying out the film and some of the key points. However, I would like to say that I was impressed with the music (and lyrics) and expect to see more down the road fromÂ Sam Bisbee. Bottom line, Vincent D’Onofrio is a genuine talent that comes across unaffected as an artist. He is creating pop art in his new movie and isn’t concerned what critics think and how much money a project makes. He’s on the right track and is enjoying life on his terms and creating what works for him.
One of my favorite musical scenes of all time. Comment me if you liked it too.