PLAYING AGAINST TYPE WITH ACTOR PHIL LUZI IN HELLMINGTON
If you are in a foxhole, surrounded by combatants, you likely want to be in that situation with someone who is well trained and has your unending trust. While being on a film set is a world away from the dire situation previously mentioned, there is one common aspect…who you are there with makes all the difference in the world. Just ask the cast and crew of the upcoming film Hellmington and they will confirm this. In addition to being a hit on screen, actor Phil Luzi cultivated quite a fan base behind the scenes. For those unfamiliar with modern horror film production, it consists primarily of nocturnal hours, the omni presence of fake blood (like sand at the beach, you find it in places and wonder how it got there) and a lot of screaming. As with an amusement park, that can be fun for a couple of days or so and then it can become irritating. A glimmer of light can add so much to the darkness. A little cream sweetens your coffee. A little Luzi makes everyone laugh. Phil is known primarily for his comedy work at Second City Improv, or in films like “The Devil’s Tail” and “Chinatown” but he was excited to make his horror film debut in Hellmington. Having the inverse effect on Phil, this production brought a bit of the macabre to his realm. It was far from a negative experience however for this actor who has an eclectic set of skills and list of productions in which he has been involved. For Luzi, it’s about finding which crayon in the big crayon box he wants to use.
If you’ve seen Luzi as Alejandro, the Latin wisecracking bartender in “Terrific Women”, donned in amazing and somewhat sexually overt attire, it’s hard to imagine him as a father who is at the center of a horrific and brutal murder in Hellmington. Keep in mind that Phil has made a lifetime pursuit of avoiding labels. His professional career started serendipitously. Walking in downtown Toronto, he was ushered into a theater by one of the producers of a production of “Grease” who mistook him for an actor wanting to audition. After clearing up the confusion, the producer asked him to audition anyway and cast him as Kenickie. Acting decided that if Luzi would not pursue it, it would pursue him. After honing his skills at the iconic Second City, Phil has made numerous appearance on film, TV, and the web. Hellmington is Phil’s first foray into the realm of horror films and is evidence of his efforts to prove his wares in a variety of different projects.
In the role of Vic Owens, Phil portrayed the father of Katie Owens, whose disappearance is the catalyst to uncovering a small town’s horrifying secrets. Phil’s character eventually becomes the victim of one of the most grotesque and brutal deaths the town of Hellmington has ever seen. The circumstances of Vic’s murder meant not only several late night hours setting up and working in very bloody conditions, but also required Phil to spend hours in the chair as makeup artists created the most intricate and detailed work on his face and body portraying the savage ways in which his character was tortured and killed. Karly Madill (Key Make-Up Artist) acquired a particular fondness for Luzi and notes, “It was no surprise when I learned that Phil is a stand-up comedian as well because his time with makeup and wardrobe was non-stops laughs. The makeup and special effects applications became so real during his intense performance on set that even I was struck by the realism and horror of the bloody mess I created on his face and body. I knew Phil was someone to watch for. He has this star quality that you recognize as soon as you see him. He can do drama and comedy, and everything in between. He’s brilliant and mesmerizing.” The caliber of the talented cast is top-notch in Hellmington including: Michael Ironside, Yannick Bisson, & Nicola Correia-Damude. Phil’s talent and skill fits in perfectly with the level of performances of this dynamic cast.
While his performance frightens the audience, what frightens Phil Luzi? As with most of us, failure in a public forum. Phil relates one amusing and simultaneously terrifying story. He communicates, “I was hired for a TV series produced by and starring Harvey Keitel. My scene was one-on-one with him, just me and Harvey. I had worked with an accent coach on my lines and prepared for that day. I was nervous, honored, and afraid of looking like an amateur on set next to him. It was Harvey Keitel, I love that guy! This was such a dream, and I wanted to nail that performance. He wanted to meet before shooting and that definitely calmed my nerves. When we did roll, we did our scene, and Harvey yelled ‘cut.’ I was devastated. What did I do wrong?! He turned to me and said, ‘Tell me your lines again’. So I did, of course. He didn’t like them. He thought the lines were inaccurate and inauthentic to my character. He rewrote my lines, right there on the spot. All the work I had put into my lines and the work with a dialect coach to nail the nuances of the words on the page, were shot out the window. I was starting from scratch and I had to master it all right then and there, with no preparation. It was trial by fire and I did it! It was awesome! We nailed that scene in only a few takes. As nervous as I was, being prepared as I was didn’t matter because all that preparation of the script and the words was really preparation for the role, for the character, and this world. Even though all the words I prepared were thrown out the window, I could use whatever I had learned and adapt it to changes that were made in the moment. It taught me that preparation is good, it’s responsible and it’s required as a professional but being a professional also means being able to roll with the punches, to live in the moment. It allows you to inhabit your character so purely that, regardless of the script, you can say anything… even if those lines are fed to you by Harvey Keitel a minute before rolling tape. It was the perfect lesson for me that by facing your fears you not only survive but become stronger…of course, that didn’t really work for Vic Owens in Hellmington. Hey, we can’t all be winners.”