I've been saving this one just for the 31st of October. It's a special Halloween post for all you ghouls out there that are back home after a night of revelry and are stuffing your face with all that cheap-assed candy...
Anthony D.P. Mann is a Canadian performing artist that is continually making his mark on stage, screen, and radio. A consummate showman with a taste for the macabre (and a touch of camp), Anthony brings to mind the actors and voice performers of a bygone era...and I mean that as a high compliment. Had be been born many decades earlier, he would have most certainly been a suitable foil for the likes of Vincent Price, John Carradine, and Basil Rathbone. I shit you not. I first became of aware of him via as co-host (along with Kings Town Ted) of one of my favorite horror-themed podcasts, HorrorEtc. They're at 108 weekly episodes and still going strong. Long may they run, 'cause it's one show I never get bored with. Anyhow, that's enough rambling from me...enjoy our thirteen questions with a fine talent and true gentleman.
For a person of your young years, you're a true Renaissance man in the entertainment field. Stage, screen, TV, even radio - you've done it all. How did you get started in show biz?
A renaissance Mann, with two "N"s, of course! You know, it's amazing - I just had this conversation with a dear friend. Like any good thespian, I occasionally sit about getting mopey with melancholy... "Oh, I wish I'd done this -- " or "Why haven't I done that -- " ...at which point it was pointed out to me that, when I look back on all that I have done so far, I'm very fortunate. You know, I grew up with a love of movies - genre films, especially horror... and especially classic horror - and on PBS at home, so my childhood was full of monsters and mysteries and frock coats and cheeky humor! I think I have always excelled when left to the devices of my own imagination, and there was a sort of natural evolution from playing dress-up and Superman with my friends in the schoolyard to presenting it in a larger forum. I learned earlier on that if I want to play the characters I love at my age - although at thirty-one, I'm growing nicely into some of them - like Sherlock Holmes or Dracula or Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, then I had to make it happen for myself. So, while my fellow classmates in high school were playing soccer and joining garage bands, I was writing and producing my own stage plays to present in the school and on radio. I was actually appearing as a regular on a weekly radio program in Montreal when I was twelve years old...writing and performing parodies of Poe, no less. In 1994, I produced my first stage play outside of school as a summer project and have been continuing in that same vein ever since. Of course the material is much better now (I hope), and I am delighted to have a wonderful portfolio that includes stage, radio, television, and film to my credit. Much of it is self-produced, but in many cases I have also been a ham-for-hire. So, although I can't quit the "day job" just yet, I have accepted the fact that I am a very lucky Mann.
For a guy of thirty-one, you are very rooted in the classics - Dracula, Arthur Conan Doyle, Poe. It seems a lot of that genuine sense of dread and foreboding provided in the films and novels of yesteryear gets lost in the shuffle of blood and guts these days. Has that ever been a stumbling block for you in trying to get your works produced?
Very much so. I think the finest horror films are those where the horror is never or seldom seen, rather hinted at. Films where your imagination is coerced into filling in the blanks. For example, my favorite film, The Changeling, or the stark contrast between the original version of The Haunting as compared with the remake. In the original, the audience is left to their devices to decide if the titular haunting was real or just a figment of the anti-heroine's imagination...and it's terrifying! In the remake, we are presented with the ghosts in full, visceral CGI, and it feels like little more than a romp through an almost family friendly funhouse. And, as a result, it is almost entirely ineffective. That being said, modern audiences seem to want - or studios and distributors seem to think that audiences want or need - everything presented on screen and spelled-out, which I think is terribly disrespectful of your audience. I have long upheld that movers and shakers in the industry don't give their audiences enough credit. Give me Poe or Val Lewton or M.R. James any day over Saw 13! I certainly do feel that most of my work would never see the light of day, as I don't do gore and certainly can't afford CGI, if I didn't self-produce those projects closest to me. I'd like to think I have the audacity to consider myself a storyteller first, rather than a shock or gross-out artist.
Care to shed a little light on your latest foray into the world of Sherlock Holmes? Is that an intimidating role to play?
Thank you so much for bringing-up Sherlock Holmes! He is a character very near and dear to my heart, and I doubt I'll ever exorcise his demon from my life - happily. I don't think many people realize this, but I am perhaps the youngest actor on record to have portrayed the adult Sherlock Holmes on radio and TV! Ish...
I was seventeen when I first played Holmes on radio in Montreal and enjoyed a run of a good handful of stories on CKUT and CJAD radio over the next few years. Not a regular series, but we'd return to it whenever we were invited back in to perform. This was followed by four episodes on a very small town TV station in Chateauguay, Quebec with literally NO
budget, but lots of heart. I also appeared as Holmes in a couple of stage plays - and American "Holmes" actor William Gillete in a recent production of Ken Ludwig's Post Mortem - and then, in 2005, I produced a film version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, which has done moderately well - for one of my projects, anyway - on DVD. Unfortunately, I was incredibly heavy during the filming of the movie and don't look the part one bit. Now that I've lost over one hundred
pounds, I'd love to give it one more shot on film. Until that time, however... I am very happy to officially announce a brand-new series of short audio plays based on Conan Doyle's original stories. The first five episode series of The Fantastic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is currently in production. It features myself as Holmes, with a wonderful actor named Terry Wade as Watson. We'll have these available on CD and online at iTunes, etcetera in time for the Guy Ritchie film's release, and I'm hoping people really take to them. They are action-packed, exciting, and occasionally creepy. They focus on the development of the immortal Holmes and Watson friendship, right from their first meeting in A Study in Scarlet. I've a website ready to go shortly (http://www.sherlockholmesadventures.ca/), along with some incredible cover and promotional art featuring Terry and I in character, which was done by a fantastic artist and illustrator in the States, Dave Bryant. I'm so delighted with the prospects for this
series and hope that radio stations might be interested in picking them up for broadcast! Ah yes, the game's afoot!
That's great! I love Sherlock Holmes and I will be looking forward to that. I assume there must be a market in Canada for audio productions of that type? Here in the States it's the same old right wing talk show crap, "classic" rock, "new" country, and nerve-shattering hip-hop clogging up the radio waves.
As far as a market's concerned, I think pop culture, or perhaps retro-culture, is in the same dire straits here in Canada as in the US. The UK seems to still have an appreciation for radio dramas. Thankfully - and this a testament to the power of the internet - we should be able to reach an appreciative audience by making the stories available online affordably, so hopefully those folks who still enjoy radio plays and the Sherlock Holmes mysteries will be able to find their way to these new productions. I seem to have this terrible desire or need to want to leave my mark on this character. I would love to one day find myself mentioned in one of the main books discussing Holmes in the media!
You also starred in Canucula!, a very Canadian take on the vampire legend. How did that come about? Can you tell us a little more about it?
Ah yes, Canucula! You see, at the time I wrote it, I was really looking for a role to sink my teeth into...
Actually, the story is about Dracula finding himself alive, or undead, and well in the twenty-first century... except he's in Canada. The film grew out of my love for the old Universal classics. It's shot in black and white, and the length, score, lighting, and special effects are all very reminiscent of that era. It's best defined as a comedy-horror. There are some very comedic moments in the film, but there are also some very dramatic elements. I love watching Canucula! with people, as they laugh at all the right places and jump or say "hey - that's pretty neat" when they should, too! Above all else, there is a love triangle in this flick, which I think comes across rather well.
Dracula returns to find the descendant of his love, Mina Harker. She turns out to be a TV reporter in small town Kingston, dreaming of the big time in Toronto. Wonderful performance by Pamela Tomsett, I might add. Enter Michel Richard (Mike Pontbriand), a disgraced, former hockey star - hey, it's Canada, right? - who fumbles his way into the plot by falling in love with the reporter and throwing a wrench into Dracula's plans. Then there's the werewolf, a deadly vixen, a crazed accountant, and a vampire hunter from the Black Forests of Moosejaw. I'm very proud of this silly little film! One of the several projects I'm working on right now is a musical version of Canucula! for the stage. I think it would do rather well in Toronto.
Well, we're getting on to the halfway mark in our interview, I guess now would be a good time to bring up the Horror Etc. Podcast. That's where I first became aware of your body of work. How did you hook up with Ted and what made you guys decide to do a podcast?
I can honestly say that the podcast was the brainchild of my dear friend, King's Town Ted. And yes, I DO actually know Ted's last name, but he enjoys a certain anonymity, unlike his co-host.
Ted has been listening to podcasts for years and has been a huge proponent of the medium. He'll often talk about some of his favorite programs on our show, and there are links to several through our website. As for me, I was a podcast virgin back then. I had never really listened to one when Ted suggested we should try and start up our own. At that time, I had just finished hosting a weekly television program for four years and a radio show for a period of time as well. Plus, I own some very good recording equipment. So part of the initial concept was: let's put out a podcast that is well-produced technically and content-wise and approach our themes from an intelligent and insightful vantage point. Ted and I work together in the same office and have spent, from the very beginning of our friendship, so many hours discussing horror films. It seemed like the natural evolution of things to just introduce a microphone into the whole business. So, we set up a cheap website, came up with some show ideas and a rough "format," and set about recording our first episode.
I shudder when I hear those earlier shows, as it took a few weeks for us to hit our "groove," but it's us doing our thing, "warts and all" as they say. Truth be told, I thought we'd be lucky if we could get through ten episodes, now here we are approaching our one-hundredth episode, and there's no end in sight! We're still having so much fun recording the show every week, and there are still so many topics to cover. We went from a listenership of twenty-five downloads for our first episode to literally THOUSANDS every week. So I guess Ted's "little" idea really panned out, and I'm so delighted that he invited me to be a part of it. He works so hard on the show, from doing the final mix to maintaining the website. For the first time in my life, I'm happy to step back from the spotlight and give someone else their well-deserved moment to shine.
I don't know, I was hooked from early on. I don't think you guys have much to be ashamed of for any of the episodes, early ones included. It's a fresh format. You guys don't act like you're superior to everybody else, which seems to be the downfall of so much shit in the horror world. It's just a nice "let's-have-a-chat-and-a-brew" feel. Not to mention, you guys play perfectly off of each other. How much work goes into that or does it all just come naturally?
The concept for Horror Etc has always been that the listeners are sitting with us on the sofa, just chilling and chatting about a subject that we love - horror flicks. We're all friends, and it's usually all incredibly friendly. Now honestly, what better gig could I possibly have?
Actually, after two years, the show is truly a comfortable fit now, but a lot of work still goes into it. We're very adamant about maintaining a certain degree of polish and quality content, and we've yet to miss an episode, although things came very close recently. We record the program over the course of a two to three hour session each week, then Ted meticulously edits the program, cleaning up lots of the guffaws and "inappropriate" material (usually my fault). Then he does a mix, sets-up the website, and so on. He's let me have things easy and does such a great job each and every week.
It never feels like work; that's key to the process. If it ever starts to feel like a chore, then it's time to wind things down. We are very respectful of our audience and fellow podcasters. We do what we do well, and we're proud of it, but we're also fans of some other great programs. Just take a look at our links on the website.
Do you guys ever have trouble agreeing on something to cover? Are there some subjects you'd like to do that Ted just detests to the point of not wanting to talk about it and vice-versa?
Oh yes. It gets down to fist-fights sometimes!!
No. NEVER. I'm just kidding. Everything is always fun. We have the occasional disagreement over a topic, but it's so incredibly rare!
I'd like to think that we are both rather well-versed in horror flicks, and that together, and occasionally with our guest-host Doug, we can speak to just about any topic. There are two shows I would still like to do that I have yet to get Ted on board with - a Sherlock Holmes themed episode and a discussion on horror in Doctor Who - but I think I'm wearing him down.
Usually if we disagree on a week's topic, it's because one of us has to catch up on certain films and do our "homework." But we generally make our way through material and cover each other's ideas respectfully. It's a great working relationship and a fantastic way to discover films that we may never have seen otherwise.
Maybe Ted can be persuaded to do a Holmes episode once the new movie hits at Christmas. I'd love to hear that. I enjoyed the interview you did with Sid Haig at the Rue Morgue Festival of Fear last year. That must have been a nice surprise for you. Anybody else you think you might wrangle up to interview in the future?
We've...I've been fortunate with being able to interview some really high-profile folks over the years, either with the podcast and my earlier TV work. Sid Haig was such a fantastic fellow to speak with - a very warm guy, considering he often plays the "heavies" on film. Earlier this year we did an extended interview with Robert Englund of Freddy Krueger fame. That was incredible. Another very sweet man. It was surreal to answer my home phone at the pre-arranged time of the interview to hear Robert on the other end asking "Hi - is this Anthony Mann?"! On a non-genre related note, I was able to interview my musical hero, legendary singer Roger Whittaker, on TV in 2005. That has, so far, been the highlight of my career.
Other folks I'd like for us to chat with? Well, we're heading to the Festival of Fear this weekend and some great names will be there, including Roger Corman, Udo Kier and Bruce Campbell. I think any of those guys would be great interviews. I would love to chat with Christopher Lee, as he is the last man standing of the classic horror maestros. We're trying to get Lance Henriksen, as part of an all-Lance episode, which would be a hoot! Tom Baker, of Dr. Who fame, is my favorite actor of all time, and he's a brilliant wit. Now there's a chat I would love to have!
How do you see the podcast progressing in the upcoming year or years? What about the genre itself?
Well, I for one, can see no end to Horror Etc in sight. And neither can Ted. There are still so many topics to cover, and so many films yet to see. I'm confident that our best work is yet to come. We have a comfortable formula that has worked for us for two years, and I don't think we'd ever consider changing it. We're doing more phone interviews now and hopefully bringing some bigger names onto the program. Oh, and we have some incredible new film music for the show produced by Michael McCormack, a brilliant musician and listener of the show. Aside from that, I think we're going to keep things business per usual.
As for the state of the genre, I think the world of horror cinema is in dire straits. We recently watched and had a detailed discussion around a film which hails from Japan called Grotesque. It was banned in the UK and is a perfect example of how depraved and cold so much of the horror scene has become. When I was growing up, horror films were fun. Sure, they were frightening, but most of the time, it was a SAFE fear. There was always a twinkle in the eye. That's why I still adore the old Universal or American International flicks. So many horror films just take themselves so seriously these days, and many productions are out there simply trying to one-up the last gorefest. Having said that, there is still a lot of great material being produced in the indie market, which is where so much of my interest lies, as of late. Then, every once in a while, we'll see a gem like Let the Right One In or The Orphanage, both hailing from overseas. Mind you, I just saw Drag Me to Hell the other day and thought it was fabulous. Great fun! That, to me, is what horror movies are all about -a spook, a scream, a jump - and, above all, great fun!
Anything else you've seen lately that you really dug? See the new Halloween yet?
I have yet to see Halloween 2, but am looking forward to it. And I'm also going to see Final Destination 3-D; I'm a sucker for gimmicks! I'll tell what I am really excited about - The Wolfman! I'm prepared as always to be let down, but if the film lives up to the trailer, it's going to be great. Now if Universal would only make that Dracula sequel they've been talking about (Un-Dead starring Javier Bardem).
I think The Wolfman looks great, which is a good lead in to our next to the last question...in a world of remakes and reimaginings, what horror franchise or classic character would you most like to see re-booted, and who would you cast if you were directing?
I would love to see a reboot of the Dr. Phibes films. There is no way one could ever replace, or even try to mimic, the late, great Vincent Price. But wouldn't it be brilliant to see what Jim Carrey could do with the character, if they played-up the really tongue-in-cheek - or plug-in-neck - elements of the films? Yes! I would truly like to see those made. I'm quite confident it will never happen, of course. That being said, I wouldn't mind having a go at Dr. Phibes myself...
Alright Anthony. Thanks so much for your time and insight. Any final thoughts before we go?
My pleasure! As a final thought, I would like to thank everyone who has been so incredibly supportive over the past few years - faithful listeners to the podcast (you mean so much to us), those who have checked-out my solo work, and those who have written such kind words. All this culminates to encourage me on those dark and dismal days of self-loathing - and they do occasionally occur - to keep pursuing my dreams. I thank you, and I will.... cheers!