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– by Gig Patta

Oh, no! Giant bugs again.

Jake Busey has returned to battle giant bugs again in this comedy Dead Ant. However, he is a lead musician of a band on its way to a desert concert and stumbled across a vengeful army of giant ants.

The film also stars Sean Astin, Tom Arnold, Leisha Hailey, Michael Horse, Rhys Coiro and Danny Woodburn. The film is directed by Ron Carlson.

In an exclusive phone interview last week, LRM discussed with Jake Busey about the fun movie that has big hair 80s rock musicians battling giant ants. His involvement in this project brings him full circle from Starship Troopers, in which he battled giant bugs. He also talked about creating the look and attitude of Brett Michaels for a group of musicians on the run.

Dead Ant will make its premiere at world premiere at Scream Fest Los Angeles at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Tuesday, October 10. For tickets, visit https://screamfestla.com/tickets/dead-ant.

Read the interview transcript below:

LRM: You sound pretty excited for Dead Ant coming out really, really soon here.

Jake Busey: Yeah, I’m pretty excited. It’s a great movie. We really had a lot of fun making it. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.

LRM: Tell me on why you were attracted to Dead Ant and how you were approached to this project.

Jake Busey: I read the script. I thought it was hilarious and preposterous. It’s just absolutely delightful, funny and absurd.

As a musician myself, the idea of a rock band on an adventure on making a comeback and fighting giant bugs–I thought it was a great thing. In fact, I auditioned for the role of the guitar player, who Rhys Coiro played. So when Ron [Carlson] met me and saw me–he said, “Aw, Jesus. With long hair, we could have you as the lead singer and do a Brett Michaels kind of thing.” Which is fine with me since I can sing, and it’s kind of a promotion or an upgrade from being a guitar player. That was kind of cool.

It was a really great ensemble piece. When I finally signed on board, the only other person on the project at the time was Rhys, I believe. I didn’t join it for the cast. I didn’t join, because I knew on who else was in it. I joined, because I loved the script. I loved Ron’s pitch on what he wanted to do for the film. I think everybody else joined on board, because they knew I was doing it. No, I’m kidding. [Laughs]

LRM: When you first got a script called Dead Ant–was it on what you expected to be?

Jake Busey: Yeah, it was. I do read a lot of scripts. There are a lot of scripts with a lot of wacky names. For Dead Ant, as a musician, the first thing that comes to mind is to think of the theme from the Pink Panther. [Jake Busey sings the Pink Panther theme with the words “Dead Ant.”] There was a connection immediately on the first page that it’s an ant movie with music involved.

Now, it’s really a movie about a band. It’s a movie about a band making a comeback. It’s an absurd band with a one-hit wonder in 1989–right at the end of glam rock. It was the time when the hair metal bands were leaving, because everyone was getting tired of those types of bands. Everyone was done with the glam rock, tight black pants, poopy hair and the t-shirts all shredded to hell. With this band, Sonic Grave, it was like real. Sonic Grave came on and got their record deal–they were all excited with a song they did real well. It’s just one song. It was at the time when their one song did well on the radio–life didn’t go that well after. The Seattle explosion then happened. The music shift takes over and pushed them out.

They figured that it’s twenty years later–let’s see if we can make a comeback at Coachella. I thought this is a great journey. It sounded like a real fun thing to do.

I, myself, wasn’t real big on this type of music. I was a little young at that time to be my thing. I was more of a 90s dude. For me, it was a lot of fun to do that whole costume thing with the wig and the eyeliner. It’s all the stuff I saw when I was a little kid. [Laughs] We had a blast doing it.

LRM: How about channeling that Brett Michaels thing on to the set? You really nailed that look down. It was pretty awesome.

Jake Busey: No, thanks! A lot of that [credit] is with Lisa Rocco. Lisa Rocco is a brilliant makeup artist. She and my girl, another makeup artist, loaned me the hair stuff. We built the character at home. When we brought it to the set, Ron made some changes and Lisa made some changes. For what my girl had done at the house, we all refined it and really got the look down.

For Lisa, it was in her heyday when all that music was going down. She knew all those guys. She knew the look. In fact, her husband was the guy who started the whole three-day double-look on Don Johnson on Miami Vice. It was that whole shadow beard thing. It was her husband’s claim to fame back in the day.

We had the right people helping us to make the characters look authentic. We had people who were there when that music scene was going down.

LRM: Since this is another bug film that you’re familiar with since Starship Troopers, did it ever come across your mind that “I’ve already done this?” Or did you basically say, “You know what? I want to do this again.”

Jake Busey: That’s an interesting question. This movie was more of a tongue in cheek with a wink towards that I did a bug movie once before. Never thought about it too hard. A couple of people did make jokes. Of course, every now and then someone on the set would comment, “Hey, you fought some giant bugs before.” It was never something I analyzed.

It was definitely noticed by other people. I think that Ron was a bit more inclined to hire me. It may be one of the many elements or reasons on why I was cast in the role for that humor. The film, itself, was a tongue in cheek campy comedy. So the fact you got a guy in a big giant bug movie that wasn’t a success at the box office, but now is definitely called a success for Starship Troopers.

I think it’s the tumblers all falling into place. It made sense in a funny way or maybe in a coincidental way or even in a serious way. Life just has its interesting similarities I supposed.

LRM: You also got credit for a few songs in this film. Was all this on the fly for the funny lyrics that you created for the songs on this project?

Jake Busey: Yeah. We did have a framework and guidelines. Basically it was, “You guys are going to come up with a song while doing your peyote experience. We got to write a song and since you guys are musical…why don’t you guys get together and write a song?”

Rhys came over to my house. And another friend came over, who is a great singer-songwriter, guitar player named Nate Moore. Nate, Rhys and I worked on the material. I wrote about sixty percent of the lyrics that ended up in the song. I wrote all of Side Boob and came up with a lot of verses in my trailer. Our music supervisor did wanted to get into this to have his own changes and to be a part of it. Everybody was cutting and pasting to be switching things around. Ultimately, it wound up being a great collaboration for what it is.

It’s not going to win a Grammy. But, for the movie, I think it was pretty funny that the fact this guy is singing about boobs and a chance to seeing this girl’s breasts from the side in a convenience store. It’s a slapstick adventure. It is really a film more about a band trying to make a comeback than anything. Then there are these ants who get in their way.

It is an interesting surprise that the movie did took shape like that in the editing bay. The film did change itself in the edit. It went from being a movie all about the ants to really a movie about the band. So when you get done watching it–you’ll feel like you just got done with a concert. It was really cool.

LRM: Was there a lot of improv in this movie? Are you more of an improv actor or more of a script actor?

Jake Busey: I’m a script actor. Sometimes I will paraphrase things. I’ll add some things. But only a small percentage of what I do is improvised. The way I see it is that the writer put it on the page–it’s there for a reason. It serves the story. It serves the greater cause than what I might be thinking of at the moment. It’s quite often on where your head is at while you’re filming–you may be at an entirely different place than it would serve the story in the long run.

Recently, I watched Starship Troopers. I remembered that film being an ensemble piece of a bunch of young actors. We became a band of merry idiots. We were a little squad or a little military group. We had all of our little jokes with inside jokes between us. And there were even the little sayings that were popular or cutting edge at the time.

I remembered that they would always shut us down. They’ll say, “Hey, hey, hey! Stick to the script.” We thought we were being clever by trying to slip in these modern colloquialisms and phrases of speeches. I looked back at Starship Troopers, they were smart enough that they didn’t use any of the stuff. They only used two lines of dialogue that were improvised. One was by the character of Kitten Smith and one that I did. I kind of cringed when I saw it in the movie. It stood out of not fitting in with the overall narrative of the story, because it was relevant to us in 1996. However, it wasn’t relevant to a timeless piece of art that’ll be around for a long, long time.

That’s why I got this rule of trying not to improv too much. It’s trying to respect on what the writer had put down. Unless, of course, the writer is asking me to improvise or asking me to have fun with it. Or even asking me to make some shit up. Most on what you see me do is right off the page.

LRM: Thank you very much, Jake. It’s been a pleasure for having this conversation with you.

Jake Busey: Likewise! Thank you.

Dead Ant will make its premiere at world premiere at Scream Fest Los Angeles at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Tuesday, October 10. For tickets, visit https://screamfestla.com/tickets/dead-ant.

Source: Exclusive to LRM

  • Kindofabigdeal

    For a minute I thought he was playing Vince Neil in The Dirt.

  • Raoul Duke

    One, this is a terrible transcription. Two, Pink Panther? Seriously?

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @mrgigpatta.