Bill Oberst Jr. (The Man in Room 6)
The Horror Revolution: First of all, what’s your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most?
Bill Oberst Jr: The body-bag-dragging scene (in the school hallway) in the original Nightmare On Elm Street seared itself into the wet fleshy folds of my brain like a brand. It still lingers. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre made me (briefly) question the goodness of God and the sanctity of life. Of the two types of scares, I'll take the first any time.
THR: You were absolutely stellar in The Man in Room 6. Your role was an incredibly complicated one, playing the same character through different spans of time. Did you draw from any specific inspiration to portray the immortal William?
BO: You are kind. Thank you. It takes decades of doing this to realize that you never play another soul; you sift other souls through your own and you play the mix. William is the mix.
THR: I’ve mentioned in some of my other interviews with the cast of The Man in Room 6 that the film felt like artistic horror done right. Do you prefer your horror to be more artistically-oriented, or do you like the more down-and-dirty, grittier type horror film?
BO: I am SO into artistic horror, because cinema (all genres of it) is built for metaphor. The metaphor is the whole point - the only point. That doesn't mean it can't be gritty and brutal, a lot of great art IS gritty and brutal, but it does mean that there has to be a larger message beneath the blood. Hopefully a universal message. Otherwise you're just masturbating, and who cares.
THR: Is horror your preferred genre to work in, or are there other genres that you enjoy more?
BO: I swim in dark waters, always. The genre is secondary. We spend lifetimes and fortunes to sidestep the swirling darkness. No. Better we should dive in.
THR: I was pleasantly surprised by The Man in Room 6 because the production values were much higher than I’ve usually come to expect from indie horror films. What drew you to be a part of the cast in this film?
BO: 2 words: Trevor Juenger. I love him and respect him, both as a creative soul and as a human being. Those high production values, no matter the budget, are reflective of who Trevor is.
THR: How long have you known you wanted to be an actor? You got into the business when you were in your 40’s, is it something that you knew you wanted to do before that part of your life? BO: I never knew anything else. I made my living as a touring stage actor for 15 years before starting in film and tv, which I've now done for another 15 years. If there were an apocalypse (robotic, zombiefied or otherwise) I'd be pretty damned useless; I don't know how to do anything else. I can just do the one thing. Let's pray for no apocalypse, shall we? THR: You’re known for playing the scary guy in your movies. How different is that from your actual personality?
BO: I should lie and tell you that it is all an act - that I have not a shred of wickedness. But the truth is more interesting (as usual) so I'll say this: the malevolence I embrace onscreen is the same malevolence I struggle with in life. Every day I have to surrender it all anew. I just thank God that I don't have to fight the fight myself. I'd lose. All of us would. Some of us do.
THR: Every actor I’ve talked to has had that time in their life when it didn’t feel like they were going to be successful in acting. Tell me about a time like that in your life, and how did you handle it?
BO: I still don't feel successful. You know that old Mark Twain quote "The life has never been lived which was not a disappointment in the secret judgement of the one who lived it." True. But I know what you are asking and yes, I've had those times. I remember running out of food, and money to buy food, about a year after I moved to Los Angeles. How did I handle it? I swallowed my pride, ate food bank food and submitted for roles like a mad bastard until I got the next job, which happened to be as the online stalker in Take This Lollipop, which won an Emmy and led to a full fridge. For awhile. What is acting? Acting is a cruel mistress who occasionally gives you a deep french kiss, in between lashes, just for variety's sake. But don't get used to it.
THR: My first introduction to your work was with the short film Heir, a film that I think more people need to see because it is amazing. What are the different challenges between working on a short film and working on a feature?
BO: I am super gratified that you liked Heir! Zach Green and Richard Powell are, like Trevor Juenger, brilliant creatives and good people. I don't find the process of a short much different than that of a feature, if the short is written well, which this one so was. The work's the same, only the duration is shorter. And in both cases time is money, so know your lines and be on time. You'd be amazed how often one or both of those rules are ignored. I'm with Betty White on this one: "Knowing your lines is not an imposition, it's your job."
THR: If you could work with anyone in the industry, alive or dead, who would it be and why? BO: Tod Browning, who worked often with Lon Chaney in silents, and who did the 1931 talkie Freaks. He ran away to join the circus, had a sideshow act in which he was buried alive, barked at carnival sideshows, and understood human nature as I believe it to be in truth, not in our pretty lying mirrors. THR: What makes you interested in a project? Is there anything in particular that you look for?
BO: A relationship with the director or the producer. I am selfish that way. The more I know them as human beings, the more I want to work with them. If they won't open up, the story doesn't matter. I guess if I were in this for the money it would be the opposite but, aside from having food and paying my bills, I'm not. People and connections between people are what matters.
THR: What’s next for you? Anything exciting coming up?
BO: Yes, I think so, anyway: I've just created a new solo stage piece about Satan. It's called Adversary. I'm going to tour it. The material electrifies me.
THR: Finally, I’ve heard that you’re really into Star Trek. Why does Star Trek draw you in over the vastly superior Star Wars? BO: I see where your loyalties lie! Well, it doesn't have to be a competition, does it? I'm a Trek guy because of the way the earlier incarnations of the Star Trek universe told parables about ourselves; about our nature and our flaws and our glories and our fallings and our....possibilities. The planet and the plot were never the point - the parable was the point. Wrath Of Kahn is a parable. It's a mirror. It's us. That's what I mean to say (although I don't say it very well - where is a good script writer when you need one?!)