ShockTillYouDrop.com: What put you on the map as a creature performer?
Nick Principe: My first creature job was Dead & Deader, that was the first legitimate, I-got-paid-for gig. Everything else before that was testing things out. I was in heavy appliances in Dead & Deader
Shock: And you were credited as the zombie wrangler too, right?
Principe: I did some background movement coaching, but for the hero zombie scenes I insisted it was me in those scenes. Just put more makeup on me and you can’t tell the difference. It worked, I guess, it’s not a great movie by any stretch.
Shock: Do you have to have experience in the stunt field to do the creature work you do?
Principe: Traditionally, [productions] do end up hiring a stunt guy because they don’t want to pay an actor to do it. It depends on who’s doing it. Sometimes they’ll happily stick any schmuck in a self-deprecating situation like that, and I’m the horror schmuck who would be like, “I’ll do it! Kane Hodder’s my hero!” Stunts…when I was starting out it was “fake it until you make it.” I had a fight background and I knew what I was doing, but I hadn’t worked professionally. When I found out it was usually stunt guys who do the monsters I was like, “I’m a stunt guy!” Then the phone calls came and I’m a stunt guy now. I’ve worked with a lot of great stunt coordinators but have never worked with a team package thing like Stunts Unlimited because I have too many obligations and don’t want to commit to one thing or I’ll send up in some Wild West stunt show in Northern California or something. I just want to stay horror-based unless I absolutely need a paycheck.
Shock: What does it take to do what you do – insanity, endurance? Break it down for us.
Principe: There’s a certain level of masochism that goes with it. Eight times out of ten, you can’t see [out of the suit] so you’re really reliant on people telling you which direction to go in. If you don’t know what you’re doing, by the end of the first week [on set] you’ll either learn quickly or be forced to hand the suit to the next guy. However, if it’s a good production, the suit will have been molded just to you. And if the FX company is good, they’ll know that they need to make the suit comfortable because they’re the only guys that sympathize with you. The director are just going to get the shot they need and get what they need from you. If you wind up getting broken, it doesn’t matter to them. At the end of the day, if you want to be a good creature performer, your priority is to just get the shot at all costs and with the least amount of takes as possible.
Shock: Has there been anything that you’ve been asked to pull off that proved to be too difficult?
Principe: Not so much as a creature performer, but there was a Paris Hilton movie called Bottoms Up where I had to be set on fire then hit by one car and then hit by another car. I’ll almost try anything once, but after being hit by one car, I had to roll out of the way of the second car because I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t so much the pain, I just wasn’t ready for that second car. They ended up scrapping the whole shot and I don’t get to use it for my reel now. It was a wild day. I had to stand up for my own personal safety because no one else was going to.
Shock: You play Anubis in Sands of Oblivion, how was that experience?
Principe: That was torture. I hated that movie when we were shooting it, and I hated that movie when it played on the Sci-Fi Channel, but it recently came out on DVD and I’ve learned to find the comedy in it. [laughs] It’s a bummer because Autonomous FX, they built the costume and they had a week to put that together and they did a rockin’ job on that. The movie is terrible, but the effects are great. There’s very little CG. There was this 60-pound servo Anubis head on top of my own with like a plastic medical fetish rig where I could only really move my head from side to side. I’d be in it fourteen hours a day. One day, it was twelve hours of just a fight scene. I’m fighting three guys, I can’t see and I’m completely reliant on the cues. It was pretty scary, because they didn’t have a stunt foam head for it. All of these servos are run by the three guys chasing me around with remote controls making Anubis snarl. The one thing they kept saying to me was, “If, for some reason, you fall, you might break your neck,” because it’s so top-heavy. And the whole time you’re fighting, you keep thinking, “Wow, I could die over this stupid movie.” You just trudge on and deal with it!
Shock: That said, what is your favorite “thing” to play?
Principe: Slashers and zombies. I will do that until the day I day. Luckily, my next projects are all slashers. I’m really pumped about that. That was the whole reason I got into this – to play the guy chasing the girl with the machete. The core reason of moving to Los Angeles – the chase, the babe and the blade. That’s what I’m all about.
Shock: Kane Hodder is an obvious influence on you – who else?
Principe: He doesn’t get much credit, and I know this movie gets shit on a lot, but I really like Donald Shanks in Halloween 5. I thought he was really cool. C.J. Graham, another Voorhees alumni. Not so much slasher, but I loved Rob Bottin’s guys in Humanoids from the Deep. Kevin Peter Hall in Predator. I remember my mom saying, “You’ll be his height someday, maybe you can do that.” He was good in Without Warning, too.
Shock: What’s next for you?
Principe: I’m going to direct a music video for the band Graf Orlock in the next couple of months. I think everybody out here would like to direct their own piece, so yeah, I have a couple of screenplays I’d like to do. But if they’re not going to get done right, they’re not going to get done at all. I’ve got a place as a slasher in the upcoming flick Hack/Slash which is going to be the end-all, be-all, made by a fan for fans. If you read the comic book, it’s totally for you. If Rogue Pictures truly gets behind it like they should, it’s gonna be epic. There are a lot of slashers in it and there’s a good chance it could spawn direct-to-DVD spin-offs focusing on the slashers. It’s all in Rogue’s hands right now. This could be their franchise. In two weeks I leave for Maryland to play a slasher in Rob Hall’s [of Almost Human FX, director of Lightning Bug] next movie Laid to Rest. It’s really something. An ’80s slasher throwback, uber-violent, it’s got it all for the gore fans. I’m really proud of that one. Dave Parker has a new project I can’t talk about, but I’m honored to have a place in all of them.