Your new movie Bag
Boy Lover Boy - in a few words, what is it about, and what can you
tell us about your character in it?
Bag Boy Lover Boy,
directed by Andres Torres, was made in 2014
but recently has been issued on BluRay/DVD from Severin Films. It is a
kind of meditation on the horror genre, perhaps more ontologically a
meditation on the horrors of exploitation, specific to a kind of New York,
particularly among the creative class, that seems to breed this swath of
success on the backs of others; which the film takes to some rather
gruesome lengths, as only a good story can. From the perspective of its
overall premise, a lowly hotdog vendor is seized by a manipulative
photographer who represents the kind of oddity with whom this photographer
can make a new series of provocative work; but when the photographer takes
an assignment in Italy, the lowly hotdog vendor--fortified by his newfound
acclaim and a certain adulation of his mentor--suddenly goes berserk. I
play the manipulative photographer, called Ivan, who preys upon the
vulnerability of this somewhat deranged young man, called Albert, so
expertly rendered by Jon Wächter. Ivan is an archetype of a certain kind
of successful artist, for whom the confluence of fame and money are always
the propellants of drive, ambition and a strong dollop of hauteur and
condescension. Given such an unflattering character assessment, I tried to
make him somewhat redeemable.
What did you draw
upon to bring your character to life, and how much Theodore Bouloukos can
we find in Ivan?
actor uses his personality to inject a certain amount of the je ne
sais quoi required of the action and dialogue to render the composite
of a person, I suppose. In Ivan's instance, I have several successful
photographer friends who began their careers, as many artists do,
apprenticing the famous, among whom have been a couple of notoriously
arrogant, even abusive, types. Ivan needed to be likable enough for the
audience to appreciate him before the claws emerged, so I just attempted
to strike that balance, as I said. I hope it succeeded. As for his look,
Bruce Weber was sort of the inspiration. Minus the bandana.
How did you get involved with the
project in the first place, and what were your initial thoughts when you
heard about the movie's content and theme?
had made a short film that fell apart, for which our director Andres
Torres had assisted as DP, and he remembered me when he had an idea for
another short. We developed a good working rapport after that, and have
since become very great friends. When he mentioned the feature he was
writing, we discussed my participation. I had no hand in the actual script
itself. I love a good social critique as much as the next fellow, so the
script, which he co-wrote with Toni Comas, was conceptually intriguing
from the first; and I liked the idea of it being more so a genre
rumination than simply outright horror and gore for the sake of it. I also
appreciated his intent to film it in a kind of grittier way that would
expose the audience to the interiority of the work, to its soul. In that
vein, the sort of "grindhouse" aesthetic played out well,
recalling for some another era in New York filmmaking, especially the
early indies; as well as the aesthetic of a New York before 9/11 and an
enveloping gentrification that has sanitized what used to be a tough town,
as best depicted in many films of the early 1970s.
What can you
tell us about your director Andres Torres, and what was your collaboration
He's a wonderful soul and a very dear friend, so I'm
biased. But even before we got to know one another, he exemplified a
professionalism that I think is often too rare among younger indie
filmmakers, who tend to be unseasoned as business people. And, make no
mistake, this is, above all, a business. Andres is respectful yet
forthright: he makes clear what he wants and expects, and in that sense
pulls no punches; but he's an absolute dream to work for, and I feel very
fortunate to have such a fecund personal and professional relationship
with a director I trust completely and whose sensibilities are consonant
Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set
This was one of my favourite sets ever. We shot much of it in a large
Soho loft, as befits a famous photographer who has everything from
wardrobe to makeup on premises; in our case, almost a set within a set.
But the joy of rising each day for the better part of a fortnight was
unbridled: I could hardly wait to get to set. Everyone got on
beautifully, the crafty was abundant and superb, every element was given
its due and consideration, and while it wasn't always easy, given some
of the subject matter, one knew he was in a safe space to explore the
more lurid moments in a way that insured against camp and derision.
Especially since Andres allowed me to improvise a good deal of my dialogue.
The atmosphere was extremely professional and extremely fun. There was
so much harmony because we were all having such a good time.
Any future projects you'd like
wrapped a film in which I served as the narrator (and ringmaster, of
sorts, to an ensemble of about 25 actors) for a very prominent
international artist that will go up shortly as a four-screen
installation at the Biennale de Lyon in France. What else? Charlie
Williams, a young British filmmaker who edited Bag Boy Lover Boy, has been at work these last months making a documentary about
me as a working actor in New York; the highs, lows and vicissitudes of
this profession. I was a little hesitant at first, but Charlie has
been just the greatest partner in crime. We have so much fun together.
It's been exhaustive and we are still at work on it, seizing footage
and telling a story, but he makes what could be a fearsome enterprise
feel very natural. And of course, Andres and I are developing his
follow-up feature, in which I'll star, the details of which I'll
reserve from expanding here, but I can promise you an even wilder ride
than Bag Boy Lover Boy. I have some other projects in the
What got you into acting in the
first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
I was a journalist who wrote about art and culture, society and its
array of personages. I knew and continue to know many artists, and as
the digital medium emerged I found myself asked to perform in various
video art pieces and in live-performance works; much of it dovetailing
with a then-concurrent emergence of indie film in New York, specifically
shot on digital cameras. The tools and technology enabled a
proliferation of filmmaking to become a legitimate force, burgeoning
with my own interest in a full-time pursuit of this profession. I
happened to be there at the right moment, I suppose. I have since
studied with some wonderful teachers, but I have found I'm often too
busy working to go to school, so I pick up a master class when I can, I
read a good deal, and of course I watch a lot of movies. And there's no
better practice of the craft than working.
you still remember your first time in front of a camera, and what was that
I can, and I felt right at home. I ignore the camera just as I do
everybody and everything else except for my scene partner(s). Unless, of
course, someone is blatantly in my eyeline, at which point I will
request s/he be moved.
What can you tell us about your
filmwork prior to Bag
Boy Lover Boy?
too many films to mention, to say nothing of the art world projects,
commercial work, from print to voiceover. It's rather gluttonous, but
I'm happiest working.
Besides on-screen acting, you've also done
your fair share of voice-overs, right? So what can you tell us about that
aspect of your career, and how does it compare to being in front of a
like to do more of them. It's very tense, very immersive, exhaustive
work. One is in a sound booth for hours at a time, listening to
himself record dialogue at a specific moment, keeping track of
inflection and cadence, while taking direction and repeating the text
until it no longer makes sense sometimes. All while the booth itself
becomes a sauna. Very hard work. Very physically demanding. It doesn't
compare with onscreen performance because the aims of the latter
require a physical action as well as the dialogue, and because outside
of a monologue, most cinematic roles require interaction with another
actor. Being alone in a recording booth is a singular experience for
which the monotony of concentration is intense.
Going through your filmography, one can't help
but noticing that there's an indie, avantgarde vibe to it - any
explanation for that?
Yes, those are the kinds of films I enjoy making most because those are
also the films I elect to see as a consumer of film. I rarely find
satisfaction in contemporary studio pictures. I'm not interested in the
entertainment side of cinema.
You've also been involved in
numerous off-screen art projects of all kinds - so do talk about these for
I've done so many, and they aren't offscreen, per se; they are simply
not traditional cinema projects. Most of the time the venues are
galleries and museums. They are probably best described as
project collaborations with
established visual artists who work in video, voice, painting, sculpture,
photography, live performance and tableaux vivants;
who have been internationally exhibited at
events like the
Venice Biennale, Art Basel, Documenta, Art Basel
Miami, Performa, or a festival category like Sundance New
Frontier, among many others; too many to count.
How would you describe yourself as an actor, and
some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?
I would say that I am an actor who leans on subtlety, for the most part.
Drawn to the depraved, the damaged, an undercurrent of mischievousness
and humour. Patricians and perverts seem to come handily. I don't know
that I can articulate a technique because it varies from role to role. I
can say that I'm rather intellectual by nature, a serious reader,
interested in a life of the mind, so dialogue is something I scrutinize
carefully; and within the given syntax of a character's dialogue, I find
the character, which then enables me to divine his history and adorn him
with other attributes, both visible and invisible. I don't mean to sound
opaque, I just don't characterize my immersion into a role as "a
technique", or worse, "a process". It's truly a very
visceral, very instinctual exercise for me.
(and indeed actresses) who inspire you?
Rampling, Isabel Huppert, Melissa Leo, Viggo Mortensen, Kevin Kline,
Anjelica Huston, Jeremy Irons, among the living. Numerous actors
among the deceased, probably too many to mention, but among those
foremost, Peter Sellers.
I'm far too
ravenous to have a favourite of anything.
... and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
have any particular interest in superhero films, for example. I'm not
wild about animation as a consumer, but I certainly wouldn't say no to
a voice job on an animated feature; nor would I say no to some Marvel
Comics sequel, despite the aforesaid lack of interest; though I think
it's safe to say I'm safe from that opportunity in casting.
website, Facebook, whatever else?
Anything else you're
dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
think we've covered the waterfront. Thanks very much.
for the interview!