Joe Zaso: Getting Possessed with Beast’s Productive, Grizzly Lead. By Brian Kirst
Bloody film regular Joe Zaso certainly qualifies to be the horror scene’s resident Mr. Show Biz! As a producer (and co-founder of Cinema Images) and actor, this guy just never stops moving. Having gained premium buzz and essential exposure for the recent films Barricade and Darkness Surrounds Roberta, Zaso is eagerly awaiting the debut of the gruesome Beast. Directed by frequent collaborator Timo Rose, Beast seems like a true hairy wonder – one that will push the audience’s limits and friendly, bustling Zaso was nice enough to give us a little background information on its transformation before its toothy onslaught begins in rabid fans’ homes, worldwide!
Brian: Who were your first performance inspirations – Steve McQueen wiping out Alcatrazin The Great Escape – Captain Kangaroo’s summer morning escapades with Mr. Green Jeans – The ever charming David Bosley leading the Angels through their weekly adventures on ABC- Others?
Joe: No one person or thing inspired me to become a performer. I think it was a hodgepodge of everything that gave me to buzz.
Brian: What does it take to become a Pine Valley Resident as you did in ‘93? Do you need the goods on David Chandler, an “in” with Erica Kane, a good casting director?
Joe: Just send your head shot into the ABC offices, go in for an interview with the extras casting director and hope they someday give you a line to say, even after 50+ appearances on the show as an extra – or “male atmosphere” as they called it.
Brian: What was the impetus behind you founding of Cinema Images Productions? -A need to control your career? – The desire to tell a good story? – Both of those and more?
Joe: I had always wanted to work in film – behind and in front of the scenes. I made many amateur films as a teenager and I majored in Communication Arts (Film & Advertising). After graduating college, I really had the acting bug more than anything else, so I began pursuing an acting career both in New York where I live and in L.A. Discovering how hard it is to land agents and good legitimate work, I decided to join forces with my old film school classmates and produce my own feature through my production company, Cinema Image Productions. I had used this company name back in my teens. The film we produced was “5 Dead on the Crimson Canvas” with the director being Joseph Parda. Although this film didn’t land us the kind of success people like Robert Rodriguez or the Blair Witch people had, it did start the wheels spinning for more features which started establishing me as an indie horror regular. Flash forward thirteen years and I have found myself working on many European productions which have garnered cult appeal. My company has also acted as the US distributor for our productions because no satisfactory domestic distribution deal has yet to be found and made.
Brian: 5 Dead on the Crimson Canvas features the beautiful stylization techniques of the Italian Giallo. What was your experience like on the set of this well received gothic mystery?
Joe: I produced this movie and it was a tough haul because of the ultra-low budget and the ambitiousness. It was hard work, but it holds a very special place in my heart – The variety of people who worked on the film (including actor Eduardo Ballerini, who is probably the most famous person to come out of this project)! There were many bizarre mishaps and a comedy of errors always awaiting us each day, but I was very proud of the overall film.
Brian: Awesome. What did you determine was the exact type of demon that possessed your character John in 2000’s Addicted to Murder 3: Blood Lust? There was much speculation, but no exact determination in the finished project. Personally, I’m thinking it was some kind of other worldly green goblin who’s-it – but I am generously allowing myself room for error!
Joe: Quite honestly, I barely remember that movie and even filming it as it was only one morning of work. I remember having salt shaken on me for some reason. I do remember the fact that I met co-star Santo Marotta on the set who a few months later would cast me in “Rage of Werewolf,” a cheesy werewolf movie that would actually open quite a few doors for me.
Brian: There ya’ go! Your vampire Simon Magus was all creepy awesomeness in the teen horror flick Adventures of Young Van Helsing. (In fact, I thought you were just as creepy as the vamps in 30 Days of Night – if not more so.) Do you have any darkly charming tales to tell about your adventures on that production?
Joe: If ONLY I could appear in 30 Days of Night! J Young Van Helsing was a fun project to work on. It was three weeks in North Carolina working on a kid’s movie with horror scenes savage enough for an Evil Dead sequel. Walmart was producing this movie and rushing to get it out one week before the big VAN HELSING movie came out. I only had to wear the intense make-up for one long chilly night, but for the most part, it was enjoyable working with the locals.
Brian: You truly got to work the emotionally slimy vibe as duplicitous Dr. Mark Reibolt in And Then They Were Dead…What depths did you have to sink to in order to get underneath Reibolt’s poisonous skin?
Joe: My director Ray Schwetz just told me to let loose, so I went whacko with the role. -Maybe a bit too camp, but appropriate for the character and his devious actions.
Brian: The enjoyably bloody Barricade allowed you to work the Wrong Turn-Hills Have Eyes crazed country folk quotient. What was it like to able to play, Michael, who was actually the hero – and actually how rough were the bleak looking outdoors working conditions?
Joe: It was actually refreshing to play a “good guy” for once – as I’m always portraying some instrument of evil. I played him very naturally, in the mode of my own personality. The conditions weren’t really rough at all. Except for one slightly chilly rainy day, it was quite comfortable. – Even the blood-soaked attack scenes.
Brian: One of your latest projects is the role of Mark in Darkness Surrounds Roberta. Is there anything that you would like to divulge about this ominous sounding project?
Joe: It’s a throwback to the 70s gialli (Italian-style murder mysteries) that people like Dario Argento and Mario Bava made popular. It was shot on location in Italy (Caserta, Florence and Naples) and full of all the salacious things that made these movies so fun (kinky sex, debouched cosmopolitan characters, red herrings, fancy locations, haunting music and stylish murders – and a plot that’s way out there!) I play a blind American police detective who tries to trap a killer who has been kidnapping and eviscerating society ladies. The music was done by Marco Werba, and I guess it was so well-done that Dario Argento himself hired Marco to score his new movie, “GIALLO.”
Brian: Awesome! Lastly, any words of advice (IE: Don’t flip your fangs at a carload of jittery teens on a deserted mountain road without a back-up plan) or future projects that you’d like to talk about? And – thanks – it’s been fang-tastic!
Joe: Look for me in a few new projects. First up is Timo Rose’s BEAST which debuts on DVD in early March and at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors in Chicago. Secondly, I just got back from freezing cold Liverpool where I produced and acted in a savage medical procedure-gone-mad thriller called “BRAINCELL” which debuts in August. Thirdly, for those who haven’t already checked it out, look for me as The New Jersey Devil in their promos at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUOHL4xTo78 Lastly, I’m supposed to star in a new thriller called “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep” with British actress Eileen Daly (who has appeared in many of my productions). The director has been announced as Bill Hinzman (The Majorettes and the zombie who attacks Judith O’Dea in the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD). Filming in Boston this April.