George McCluskey has been called “the busiest movie actor in the Midlands” and that claim probably holds true with George having over seventy movie credits to his name as an actor and is tirelessly adding to the list. Several of the films he is starring in are horror films and he has some very interesting ones coming out over the next couple of weeks. There is, for example, filmmaker Angie Bojtler’s horror film ‘Jacob’s Hammer’, in which George portraits Father Brian, filmmaker Jon Pegg’s thriller ‘The Quiet One’, currently in post production, and last but by far not least, the horror comedy ‘The Zombie King’, directed by Aidan Belizaire and co-written by George, who stars as Ed Wallace alongside Edward Furlong and Corey Feldman. Our Carsten Berg caught up with George McCluskey in between his busy schedule to talk about the man and the movies.
Carsten: Hi George, how are you?
George McCluskey: Hi, I’m not too bad thanks Carsten. Looking forward to talking with you about some pretty cool upcoming releases.
Carsten: Many people will probably not recognize your name, but you are not exactly a newcomer right?
George McCluskey: No, you’re right, I’m not really a newcomer. I’ve been film acting for around eight years now. I worked the circuit doing lots of short films, promos, and features. I did this primarily to establish myself as a lead or lead support actor, rather than taking smaller roles in bigger films, but maybe just being cast as a hench type guy or whatever. Hence why I’ve also dropped bodywieght, to ensure that I can fit other character types too. Versility shouldn’t by governed by the physicality of an individual, but unfortunately in film it often is, so it is down to the individual to make a conscience decision on how they want to be perceived.
Carsten: So you have been in over 70 Films and have recently been called “the busiest movie actor in the Midlands”. You are not a guy who hit his midlife crisis early and decided to become an actor. You have classic acting training but chose to do something else for a while…
George McCluskey: [laughs] I’m not sure I’m the busiest actor in the Midlands, but I was certainly busy at the time that article was published. And yes, I am a trained actor, for both Theatre and Film some years back. I had a young family and the kids came first so the acting career was put on hold.
All my children are doing fantastically well. They are passionate kids and pursue and follow what they want to. I’m very proud of all of them. One of my sons is a boxer, the other a DJ. My eldest daughter has formed a charity organisation for injured victims of war in Palestine called “Globally One”, and my youngest daughter is pursuing… Yes, you’ve guessed it, a career in drama.
Carsten: You have acted in a wide scope of movies like comedy, action and adventure. We are of course all about horror and you have two films due out very soon which are dead center in our favourite genre. The first one is the horror comedy “The Zombie King”, you also co-wrote. What is “The Zombie King” about?
George McCluskey: The Zombie King is a story about a man Samuel Peters, played by Edward Furlong, who loses his young wife and can’t accept the fact she’s gone. So in a desperate attempt to bring her back from the grave, through the practice of voodoo, he contacts the dark God of trickery, Kalfu, portrayed by Corey Feldman, who has his own agenda for the dead to inherit the earth. Peters enters into a pact with Kalfu to become The Zombie King, raise the dead, and together with his wife, walk with the dead on earth forever…
And so the beautiful county of Somerset, England, suddenly becomes a stomping ground for the undead, with no escape for the locals as the army have surrounded the county and employed a shoot on sight policy…
Enter our three unlikely heroes, Ed Wallace, played by myself, the Postman, Munch who is David McClelland, the Milkman, and Boris, played by Michael Gamarano the Traffic Warden… Three municipal workers and the saviours of Somerset…
These guys provide the comedy element while all around them is falling to pieces…
Carsten: The “The Zombie King” combines two genres who have evolved much over recent decades. It has the elements of a classic comedy, but today that genre is mostly perceived as laugh out loud funny, while horror spans a wide range from suspense to blood and gore. What can we expect from “The Zombie King”?
George McCluskey: You can expect a really well put together story, some great great characters, fantastic action sequences, some moments of gore and, yes, some great comic moments.
Carsten: How did you guys come up with the idea for “The Zombie King”?
George McCluskey: It was really the brain child of Rebecca Claire Evans and Jennifer Chippindale who together created the film force known as Northern Girl Productions. They had this idea to create a zombie movie, then Edward and Corey came on board and took the whole experience to another level…
Carsten: You play the part of Ed Wallace, one of the leads in the “The Zombie King”, what is his part in the plot?
George McCluskey: I guess Ed is basically the hero of the story, he’s a natural leader, well in his own mind anyway, but he’s willing to put his neck on the line if need be, and deep down, even though he would never admit it due to his macho persona, again in his own mind, he cares…
Carsten: Edward Furlong stars as the Zombie King in the film, a guy who faces some seriously difficult choices. Edward is beyond busy filming right now, including several horror films. How was working with Edward?
George McCluskey: Well first off, what a nice guy! Very unassuming, and very professional. He was working his character constantly whilst on set, and I really enjoyed working with him. Very giving actor. It’s no surprise to me that he is so busy at the moment.
Carsten: “The Zombie King” also stars genre regular Corey Feldman, who stood in front of a camera pretty much before he could walk. He plays the role of Kalfu, the God of malevolence. How was working with an already famous actor whose career spans 35 years and 100 films, when you put him in the role of a god on top of all that?
George McCluskey: Corey, again, very nice guy, and like Edward gave a great performance. He took time out to have a little chat with me and he was again, very professional and very polite. I think you will see just how well Edward and Corey bring their characters to life when you see the film. It was an honour and a pleasure to work with both of them.
Carsten: You had a very diverse cast for “The Zombie King”; seasoned actors alongside absolute newbies, actors who are used to big budget Hollywood productions alongside actors who have exclusively done low to no budget independent films. Does that make things more difficult? Does that have any effect on set?
George McCluskey: Of course, yes it did, you could see how some people were obviously in awe of Edward and Corey. But that said, they were both so humble, and on set filming it was business as usual, and everyone got on with the job in hand professionally as you would expect.
Carsten: How did you find working with “The Zombie King” Aiden Belizaire?
George McCluskey: Aiden did a great job. He was under immense pressure during the shoot which he handled superbly. He was very friendly on set and got across what he required very clearly and concisely which made our job as actors all the more easier, if that is at all possible. [laughs] It was a good experience working with Aiden and I’d definitely work with him again if the occasion arose.
Carsten: You co-wrote the script for “The Zombie King”, which is a horror comedy. What appealed more to you, the horror aspect or the comedic aspect?
George McCluskey: That’s an interesting question. I love comedy because I think it is the hardest thing in the world to do, and it’s a very brave thing to do as well, because ultimately you’re there to make people laugh. Stand up comics have to be some of the bravest performers on earth.
Horror, done right, can be quite psychologically damning. I do prefer horror that is psychological, as opposed to gore for gores sake. Psychological horror, done right, can be very terrifying indeed.
To be honest with you, even though the horror aspect and the zombies are great, I think personally, the comedy wins it for me.
Carsten: What is your personal favourite horror film? And why that one/those?
George McCluskey: I think I have two… The Exorcist and The Changeling (1979). The Exorcist was one of those films that changed the face of cinema. At the time no one had ever experienced anything like it in cinema, and the hype was incredible. There have been many films since that have taken from it, but The Exorcist was a pioneer in its own right, and deserves to stand alone.
The Changeling is just the most incredible psychological horror film out there, and also so emotionally sad when all is revealed. It’s an incredible story. That compounded with the brilliant George C. Scott… Well what more can you say really?
Carsten: Is there an actor or a specific performance that really inspires you and influences your own work?
George McCluskey: I’m inspired by many different actors, and also individual performances that stand out in their own right. I think Daniel Day Lewis is an incredible actor period. He absolutely encapsulates every character that he plays. I like Richard Dreyfuss because he tends to play his characters from an emotional standpoint, he is a very emotive actor. I also like Bruce Willis, because he plays on the strength of charisma, and he has lots of it.
I remember seeing Ray Liotta play a dying man in an episode of ER, and it hit me that day what an incredible actor he is. Jack Nicolson in The Shining, Denzil Washington in Philadelphia. I could just go on and on… Also, I admire actors who break boundaries…
Bruce Lee broke every boundary known to man… Not just in his Martial Arts… In 1972 if you would have announced to American cinema goers that a Chinese man was going to be the lead actor in following years Hollywood blockbuster, people would have just dismissed you to put it mildly. In 1973 Enter the Dragon smashed it! And Bruce Lee was the reason that happened… Bruce Lee is one of my greatest inspirations…
Carsten: Another film, in which you star as the lead, is “The Quiet One”, the feature debut of Birmingham director and author Jon Pegg with Gillian Mac Gregor, Louis Murall and upcoming actors like Val Monk. “The Quiet One” is a Thriller, so still within the realm of horror. What is the story on “The Quiet One”?
George McCluskey: “The Quiet One” is a latter day revenge movie based on concepts such as The Unforgiven, Pale Rider, and Dead Mans Shoes. It’s set in Birmingham, England, the home town of Director Jon Pegg.
I nearly never got the role, because the film makers felt I looked too young, but when I turned up with overgrown grey beard for my audition that worry was dispelled immediately.
The story follows my character Lenny Parker, who takes over as landlord of a troubled public house, and just seems like, on the surface, a meek old man who wouldn’t say boo to a goose. Lenny reluctantly builds a relationship with a younger woman, played by the brilliant Gillian MacGregor, who also has a daughter played by the equally brilliant Kia Pegg, Jon Peggs daughter. But Lenny has a past, and finds as things begin to descend into chaos due to a jealous ex-boyfriend played again by the equally brilliant Louis Murrall, he reluctantly has to become, again, the violent person he once was in order to take on the ex-boyfriend, the ex-boyfriends father who he has had past history with, and the fathers firm.
I know I keep saying these people are brilliant, but when you see the film, you will see why. There is award winning talent right throughout the cast.
This may have been Jon Peggs Directorial debut, but make no mistake, he is without doubt one the best Directors I have ever worked with, and will be a name to remember for the future.
Carsten: When will both films be released? I know “The Zombie King” is complete and ready to go, “The Quiet One” is currently in post…
George McCluskey: The Zombie King will be released in December, and The Quiet One is still in post has a way to go yet, but is looking really good by all accounts.
Carsten: With those two films wrapped, what are you working on right now?
George McCluskey: I took a break, as I needed to focus on other things for a while, but have started auditioning again and will probably be filming very soon all being well.
Also, I am rewriting a script which a funding house have shown interest in for possible consideration. I am awaiting the script proposal from them with the amendments they require, and will be rewriting that this year. All being well, I’m hoping it can go into production next year. But that is a long way off yet.
I’d like to mention as well, the release of feature film “Jacobs Hammer” which you will be pleased to hear is a terrifying psychological horror. The film is the brainchild of the incredibly hard working and superb writer/director Angie Bojtler, who is another one to watch for the future. Jacobs Hammer has a limited cinema release in the UK beginning October 30th 2012. I play Father Brian in this one, and am also Executive Producer. I would just like to mention as well the brilliant Helen Holman who plays the lead in this film. I worked with her on another horror in France a few years back. Helen is as versatile as they come, and it was an absolute pleasure to get the chance to work with her again.
And I’d just to make a final mention for Ben Hylands globally multi-award winning Frontman, a comedy buddy movie with an ensemble lead cast, which includes myself, which has a UK release probably beginning early next year. Frontman was really successful on the festival circuit winning awards in America, Europe, and the UK.
That pretty much wraps up the four film releases I have coming up over the next twelve months.
Carsten: Thank you very much, George, for taking the time to chat with us.
George McCluskey: It’s been a pleasure Carsten. Thank you for having me.
‘The Zombie King’ will have it’s UK release on December 1, 2012. ‘Jacob’s Hammer’ will have it’s limited UK release on Halloween this year, October 31.