Exclusive Interview with Nick Damici for ‘Late Phases’

– by Gig Patta

Werewolves should never mess with a blind Vietnam veteran.

From Dark Sky Films, director Adrian Garcia Bogliano (“The ABCs of Death”) presents a different kind of werewolf movie that takes place in a retirement community.

Here’s the synopsis:

Crescent Bay is not the ideal place to spend one's golden years, especially since the once-idyllic retirement community has been beset by a series of deadly animal attacks from the ominous forest surrounding it. When grizzled war veteran Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) is forced into moving there by his yuppie son Will (Ethan Embry), the residents immediately take offense to Ambrose's abrasive personality.  But that take-no-prisoners attitude may be just what Ambrose needs to survive as it becomes clear that the attacks are being caused by creatures that are neither animal nor man, and that the tight-knit community of Crescent Bay is hiding something truly sinister in its midst...

Latino-Review had an exclusive phone interview with actor Nick Damici earlier this week. We talked about the preparation in playing a blind character, werewolves and the attraction of older seasoned characters in movies.

“Late Phases” will be playing in limited theaters and will also be available on VOD.

Read the interview below.

Latino-Review: So tell me on why you were attracted to “Late Phases?”

Nick Damici: It was a chance to get to play something that I normally don’t play. It’s a big stretch for me. I wanted to play someone who is about twenty years older than me. I also fell in love with the character and the setup of the script. It’s this old blind guy who had his dog killed by a werewolf. And it’s that obsession to get after the werewolf. That setup is what I really liked. It definitely hooked me.

Latino-Review: What specifically about the character, Ambrose, that made him so special?

Nick Damici: I know it’s a werewolf movie, but it’s really a character study of a man facing death. He’s at the end of his life and he’s coming to terms on what he did and on how he wants to go out. It’s kind of like that American-Indian film “A Good Day to Die.” It’s sort of like that Viking with a sword in the hand as a passage to Valhalla.

The only thing he was good at was being a soldier. He had his chance to go out that way. It really appealed to me that it was that homage to arch-type like the John Wayne’s The Greatest Generation. I’m not saying John Wayne is like that in real life—I don’t know. It might have been bullshit, but he played it. [Laughter] I thought that was kind of interesting.

Latino-Review: I do have to hand it to you that you were carrying that Charles Bronson look throughout the movie from the 1980s.

Nick Damici: I’m a big Bronson fan too. I do kind of resemble him a little bit. I always get Bronson all the time. [Laughter] I have no problem with that. It’s better than looking like Woody Allen. [Laughter] Don’t quote me on that. [Laughter] Quote me if you want. Fuck Woody Allen. [Laughter]

Latino-Review: I watched the film and one of the things I found remarkable was with the blind character. It’s probably a tough character to play for especially for many actors. How did you prepare for that role?

Nick Damici: The blind things never really phased me. I know it can be done. I’ve seen it done. I’ve seen it done well and I’ve seen it done badly.

I made the silliest mistakes starting out. I went back to grade one acting to got to know what it is to be blind. I was trying to do this method thing. I tried blindfolding myself and committing for three hours a day for a week. It was really getting to know what it’s like to be blind. Then I realized I was burning my nose with my cigarettes or spilling coffee. So I said, “That’s enough of this shit.” [Laughter]

I didn’t need to be blind. I just needed to appear blind. So I went with a different approach. I just looked up blind people on YouTube and the Internet. I watched the moving images of blind people. I watched their eyes.

So then I realized that Ambrose went blind and wasn’t born blind. Those types [of blindness] are two totally different things. [A person born blind] had their eyes muscles that never developed so they would flutter. They can’t focus in any way and they can’t control the muscles. Their eyes bounce and flutter—it’s very disturbing to look at.

Ambrose wasn’t like that. He was more like Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman.” He’s the guy who went blind. The eyes don’t move around and they can stay in one spot. So it’s about learning on how to look peripherally and not focus. Once you focus and move your head, the eyes will stay there. For a blind person, it’s almost like their eyes are like a camera on wherever they go. You’re looking peripherally and it’s a technical thing.

If you think about it—anybody could do it. It’s a trick. It’s a technique. It’s not this big acting thing really. I’m also trusting the director if they see my eyes move so they’ll tell me if I have to shoot it again. It happened quite often.

Latino-Review: Did you try to aim for a particular spot then?

Nick Damici: Basically, what I realized was that people who can’t see ever look down. They always look straight out or up. Like I said, you can do it right now on the phone. Just focus on whatever that is in front of you across the room. Just focus on it. Look a little above it. Put a wall up. And then try to see on what is outside of your peripheral vision. You’ll get this thing, “Oh, I can everything, but I’m not focusing on anything.” That’ll be the closest on appearing to be a blind person.

It’s just a physical technique that you had to practice. And with enough practice, I’ve got pretty good at it.

Latino-Review: Would you say performing like this was the greatest challenge on this production?

Nick Damici: No. Not at all. The physical stuff is always [the challenge]. I’m not getting any younger. The physical stuff is always grueling. That fight scene with the werewolf was tough. It was like with three minutes of wrestling, fighting, falling and getting back up to fight him again. Then you do it again for thirty times. [Laughter] One more take! One more take!

I felt like I was going to have a heart attack and wished I don’t smoke. [Laughter] I survived. I was sorry for the kid in the suit. It’s a rubber suit, man. I thought the poor kid was going to die.

Latino-Review: Oh, wow. I was going to ask if you were fighting someone in a costume.

Nick Damici: The best part of it was that not only was playing blind—they gave me these contact lenses this opaque look. They were these smoky, cataract lenses. I could see through them, but everything was fuzzy.

With night shots, I couldn’t see anything. I was really blind. The poor kid in the werewolf costume was in a mask, so he could barely see. It was like two blind people fighting. It was kind of funny. [Chuckles] It was the best fight sequence cause none of us could see. I said, “You better get out of the way, kid. Or else I’ll shovel you.” [Laughter]

Latino-Review: That was another thing that was kind of odd in the film. You walked around with a spade in your hand. Didn’t you find that kind of unusual?

Nick Damici: No, that’s one of the things I loved about the script. I told Arian [Bogliano] right off the bat that [I loved it]. In the script, we weren’t sure on what it initially was. It was like a big garden shovel. I envisioned right away that it was a military shovel. It could be a weapon. I thought it was kind of cool. So we came up with this short [device] that could be used as a cane and as a [prop] for self-defense. It’s an entrenching tool, which I thought it was unique.

There were some imagery there, but I didn’t plan it that way. It’s a guy looking at tombstones and digging graves. And he’s carrying this shovel the whole time. It was kind of interesting to me.

Latino-Review: When you first read the script and came across the werewolves, didn’t that threw you off? It did when I watched the movie.

Nick Damici: No, I knew going into the script that it was a werewolf movie. I was fine with that. I thought it was a great setup for a werewolf movie.

I also loved the idea that it was about an older crowd rather than a bunch of teenagers. I don’t think [teenagers] are that interesting anymore. They think they’re interesting. It’s just nice to see more seasoned people. It’s like watching BBC television on an American TV set. We usually cast these model-looking people or the prettiest people for these roles. BBC just cast these normal-looking people. I like the reality of it.

Do you think that Dustin Hoffman could be a star today if he was a young actor? Get the fuck outta here. [Laughter]

Latino-Review: So you’re saying it’s more grounded to use these regular people to face these challenges with fighting werewolves or mythical creatures?

Nick Damici: It’s not just the actors themselves, but the characters. They are more seasoned, older and with more life experiences. They would bring more to it. I’m not picking on young people, because they only have so much experience. If you watch some CSI episode, then you’ll see some twenty-year-old playing a detective. It’s ridiculous! Those guys are at least forty-years old. They have to go through years of medical school and become a detective—that takes time. It’s just unreal to me.

There are plenty of great movies about young people with incredibly good young actors. I have no problems with that. I just thought this [film] has an interesting take. The commercial way to go is with young people running around with their tits hanging out. That will sell. This film takes a very different approach. We’re going to do this character piece with werewolves.

Latino-Review: And you liked the look of the werewolf in this film?

Nick Damici: It’s a werewolf movie. It’s a guy in the werewolf costume. That’s the fun of it. I liked the fact that we didn’t do CGI. This was all practical effects. I’m willing to endure any of the hokeyness of this. There’s a guy in a werewolf suit and we know at least he got a soul. I don’t like that CGI shit knowing that it’s not real.

I’m saying CGI is entirely bad. “The Lord of the Rings” stuff is terrific. Those CGI characters are almost believable as people. Generally, it turns me off. Maybe it’s just that I’m old fashion.

Latino-Review: Let me start to wrap things up here. Could you talk about your future projects and anything future challenging roles you like to take up in the future?

Nick Dimici: I’ll do the challenges first. As an actor, I would love to do a western and stretch [my talents] a little bit. I do Latin, but I’m terrible with Latin accents. I’m much better with English, or with the European accents. I would love to do something completely different like that. Basically, any period pieces would be great. I would love to do a medieval piece, samurai piece or anything like that. They seem to be very fun.

As for working, Jim Mickle and I, who we worked together on “Cold in July,” “Stake Land,” and “Mulberry St,” we’re doing a series for Sundance called, “Hap and Leonard.” It’s based on a novel by Joe Lansdale, who also wrote “Cold in July.” It’s pretty interesting story with crime elements and adventure. It’s about these two characters, best buddies, who get into all these situations. So that’ll be an interesting process. It’s very early, but it’s starting. We’ll see what happens.

Latino-Review: One last question, if you are inside a house and surrounded by a pack of werewolves—what would you do?

Nick Damici: Shit myself. [Laughter] I start looking at my balls and hope that they don’t notice me. [Laughter]

Latino-Review: Thanks for the conversation, Nick. Good luck with your projects.

Nick Damici: Thank you so much.

“Late Phases” will be playing in limited theaters and will also be available on VOD.

Source: Latino-Review


Interviews, Film, LRM Exclusives Nick Damici, Late Phases