VETERAN CHARACTER ACTOR AND A CLASS ACT:
THE GEORGE STOVER INTERVIEW
by Robert Long II
Robert: George, thanks for granting me this interview. Can you tell out readers how long have you been performing as an actor? What got you involved with it, and what was your first project?
George: I’ve always been a movie buff, but it wasn’t until after I entered college that I decided to take some acting courses. And it was in college that I made my stage debut. But I didn’t work in any movies until years later. My first speaking role was as the prison chaplain in John Waters’ FEMALE TROUBLE. My scene was filmed in March of 1974. I had read articles in the newspaper about this local filmmaker who made these bizarre comedies and one article mentioned that he had trouble finding actors to play conservative
roles like parents and teachers because most of his friends had purple hair or whatever. So I contacted him and was hired to play a chaplain. It turned out that filmmaker John Waters was the same guy I knew in eighth grade homeroom many years earlier. I had lost touch with him and was never sure whether that guy from junior high school was the same person as the filmmaker I had been reading about in the Baltimore newspapers. On Monday morning back in eighth grade homeroom, John and I would often discuss the episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE that had been on TV the previous Friday evening.
Robert: That’s incredible! How many people can say they went to school with John Waters? But back to the business at hand; as an actor, how do you go about preparing for a role? Does the director or screenwriter supply you with a back story for your characters? Have you ever gone into a role feeling unprepared?
George: Well, the first big hurdle for me in preparing for a role is in getting the lines learned. After that, I might try to invent a back story myself, since one is rarely provided to me. But my characters are not usually too complex or deep, and creating a back story is a luxury, especially when time constraints are taken into consideration. Regrettably, I don’t do as much preparation as I should, as far as back stories are concerned.
Robert: Over the years, you have gone to auditions for various different acting gigs. How do you prepare for them? What do you bring with you? How do you dress for it? Are most auditions standard, or are they unique in their own way?
George: I try do some vocal exercises before I arrive at the audition to make sure I’m in good voice. Usually, I don’t see the script until I get there, so there’s no way to prepare in advance as far as learning lines is concerned. If the people holding the auditions are strangers to me, I’ll bring along my portfolio and resume in order to show them what else I’ve done. However, when auditions are crowded, the producers are often too busy to look through people’s portfolios, so I just leave a resume and photo behind. If I’m in the mood, I may wear a coat and tie. But most of the time, I wear casual attire. If I already know the producers, then I will definitely just dress in casual clothes. I guess you could say that every audition is unique in some way, but they all have several things in common: sign in, get the sides and study them, wait your turn. And then you get a couple of minutes to do
your thing before saying, “Thank you” on your way out.
Robert: Show business can be a crazy business; in your travels have you ever been approached with the “casting couch” in order to get a part? If so, how did you handle this kind of a situation?
George: It’s never happened to me. If a man made advances, I would turn him down.
However, if the casting person was an attractive woman, I might have trouble fighting the temptation! After all, an actor must be willing to make some sacrifices for his art from time to time!
Robert: George, how is costuming handled on a project you are involved with? Is it “everybody wear what you want to wear” or are the costumes actually cleaned and put back on the rack at the end of the day? Does the cast supply their own costuming, is it supplied to them, or do you have a wardrobe allowance for them?
George: It depends on the budget of the film. On some films with higher budgets or
when the clothing is a little out of the ordinary and not in most people’s wardrobes, clothing is provided to me and I usually have to turn it in at the end of the day. My priest costume in FEMALE TROUBLE was rented for me. However, I wore my own suit in DESPERATE LIVING. John Waters and Mink Stole visited my home one evening to go over my wardrobe and pick out what they wanted me to wear. In most of my other films, I just asked the director what kind of clothing I should wear and I brought along a
selection of clothing with me. On ATTACK OF THE 60 FOOT CENTERFOLD, a lab
coat was provided to me, but the pants and shirt that I wore were mine. I’ve never had an allowance to buy or rent clothes.
Robert: In your vast career, you have worked both within sets and natural locations. What are the pros and cons of both?
George: Well, there’s certainly more control of the environment on a set. No insects, no traffic noise, no outsiders getting in the shot and no worries about the weather. However, locations add a sense of realism to many scenes and with most low-budget films, having a set is a luxury. It’s usually easier and less expensive to go to a real location than to build a set.
Robert: You’re on the set, miles from civilization, and “nature calls.” In your experience, has your production team taken necessary measures to have proper facilities available, or do you have production horror stories of poor planning?
George: The most the production team might do on the films I’ve worked on is to point
out the nearest tree! Most of the films I’ve worked on never had a big enough budget that allowed for portable toilets. We just improvise!
Robert: George, what kind of food prep or catering is usually available to you on an
independent production? Does it vary greatly from company to company?
George: It varies, usually according to the budget of the movie. When I worked on
ATTACK OF THE 60 FOOT CENTERFOLD, professional caterers were hired to prepare lunch for the cast and crew. On some of the movies I’ve worked on that had lower budgets, someone would just go to the nearest McDonalds or pizza joint and get some food for everyone.
Robert: While they may have employed special effects artists and make-up artists
in productions you’ve worked on, have the various production companies ever used a make-up artist for the glamour of the actors and actresses, or is that up to the individual performer to do?
George: Well, make-up artists will often powder our faces to get the shine off. But other than that, it’s usually up to the individual actor to look his best. At least, as far as the men are concerned.
Robert: Have you ever had to do stage fighting or stunts in any of your features? How do you prepare for that? Have you ever been hurt?
George: Every so often I have to do something physical. I was in fight scenes in BLOOD MASSACRE and STAKES, for example. We just rehearsed everything a little bit in advance. I had to fall down in STAKES during a fight scene in a warehouse, so we placed a stack of cardboard boxes on the floor to break my fall. And since it was a warehouse scene, the boxes looked like they belonged there. In NIGHTBEAST, a stuntman wearing my clothing gets tossed around by the alien. He actually jumps on a small trampoline out of camera range and goes tumbling in the air. That particular stunt was definitely beyond my range! Fortunately, I’ve never been hurt on a movie set.
Robert: Have you had any formal training in acting or improvisation? What do you
suggest a person should do to prepare as an actor for independent genre films, or just acting in general?
George: I took some classes in college and enrolled in various workshops along the
way. I recommend that aspiring actors do the same. Not only is it a good way to learn something about the craft, but it’s a good way to make contacts. Networking with fellow actors is a good way to learn about auditions and what movies will be filming in the area.
Robert: George, do you have an agent? If so, how did you go about getting one?
George: No, I don’t have an agent. I often track down roles for myself. Lately, however, I’ve just been getting roles from directors or producers I’ve worked with in the past.
Robert: Was are the advantages and disadvantages of being a union or non-union actor?
George: Well, a union actor has a shot at working in big-budget Hollywood movies. But that shot frequently turns out to be just working as an extra. And that usually means being a background player in a crowd scene. It’s tough to get a speaking role in a union feature or TV show, if you’re not an established actor. A union, of course, can certainly protect its members when it comes to working conditions or getting paid. While those protections are not in force with non-union movies, it’s usually easier for actors to get speaking roles in a non-union movie. And it’s a lot easier to get a prominent role in a low-budget non-union movie than it would be to get a prominent role in a big-budget Hollywood movie.
Robert: Do you feel you are a leading role person or more of a character actor? What age range do you state you can perform within?
George: I consider myself a character actor. I’ve only been in one feature in which I was top billed. And that was BLOOD MASSACRE. And so far, I’ve only had kissing scenes in two movies. The first was in NIGHTBEAST, but the character was drunk at the time she kissed me! And in BLOOD MASSACRE, I had a makeout scene, but the woman was a psycho! So I don’t really think I’m cut out for romantic roles either and most of the scripts I encounter nowadays feature much younger people as leads. As a rule of thumb, I usually subtract five years and add five years to my actual age, and that’s the age range I tell people I can play.
Robert: What kind of roles, on average, have you been getting? Are there any kind of roles you wish you were getting? Are there any type of roles you will refuse to do?
George: I often play scientists, sheriffs or business people. But occasionally, I’ve played psychos or other off-the-wall characters. So actually I’ve played several different types of roles over the years, although most often, I tend to play characters one might encounter in everyday real life. There are no roles, in particular, that I’d like to be getting that I’m not
already getting–it’s not like I have a shot at any of the roles in classic literature, for example. I just don’t work in those types of projects. Well, I wouldn’t do nudity, mostly because I’d be self-conscious, as opposed to moral reasons. But then, I don’t think there’s anyone out there who would want to see me nude anyway!
Robert: How much importance do you put on proper diet, physical fitness, stimulating mental activity, and getting enough sleep? Do you find this a necessity for staying primed as a performer?
George: Unfortunately, I don’t put as much emphasis on these things as I should. And
that’s something I must work on. However, I think all the things you mentioned are very important.
Robert: George, what other skills do you have that you feel are important as a performer?
George: A lot of actors have a category on their resume called “Special Skills” and they list things like horseback riding, skiing, scuba diving, juggling, playing a guitar, and so forth. Every so often, one of these skills might come in handy for a particular role. Unfortunately, I can‚t do much besides swimming, riding a bicycle and driving a car! So I don’t have too many skills to offer! But so far, it really hasn’t mattered that much. Walking
and talking is about all that’s been necessary in most of the roles I’ve ever played!
Robert: Do you think a person should have many different skills, experiences and such to draw from?
George: It certainly helps to be able to do as many things as possible. And it also helps to have many life experiences to draw from. If one actor is “a man of the world,” so to speak, it makes him better able to handle certain roles than would have been possible had he lead a sheltered life.
Robert: To remain competitive, do you keep your head shot updated? Do you have business cards and promo slicks of yourself as your various characters? Do you have a web site?
George: I must admit I’ve been rather negligent the last few years when it comes to
keeping my head shot updated. However, most of the roles I’ve had recently have been offered to me by people who know me personally. So they’ve watched me grow older in person over the years and they already know what I look like and what I can do. I have several color movie stills that I sell at conventions and use for publicity purposes. Although I don’t have any business cards or promo slicks at the moment, I plan on having a web site soon. And I’m busy compiling an audition DVD to send out to various producers and directors.
Robert: Have you worn any other hats on the various productions you have been a part of? What were they?
George: Oh, yes. I usually take a lot of photographs on the set and many of my pictures have been published. I took some of the photos used in the article on ATTACK OF THE 60 FOOT CENTERFOLD that appeared in FEMME FATALES, Volume 3, Number 3, And I often send photos of myself to various magazines after one of my movies is released. I enjoy being a publicist.
I also help out wherever else I can. On lower-budget shows, this usually involves carrying things around or doing other miscellaneous chores. A couple of times, I’ve slated shots on the set when we were short handed. On FIEND, I helped Don Dohler log the edge numbers imprinted near the sprocket holes of the work print. These edge numbers enable the editor of a movie to conform the original camera footage to the work print.
Robert: George, while perhaps most of your acting gigs might be from your local area,
have you ever had to do films out of the area or state? Does the production company put you up in a hotel?
George: When I worked on DRACULA’S WIDOW in Wilmington, North Carolina, I was put up in a hotel. With respect to all of the other out-of-state movies I’ve been in, I was hired because I was a friend of the director, so I usually stayed at his house.
Robert: What genres do you enjoy working in the most?
George: Definitely science fiction and horror. These were the kinds of movies I enjoyed the most when I was growing up. I’d love to be in a western, however…but not too many of them are made anymore. Especially on the East Coast!!!
Robert: Have you ever had to deal with the nudity of other performers on the set? What is the proper conduct and the way to deal with this matter so everyone involved is comfortable, and the company get the shots it needs? What are your views on nudity in independent genre films?
George: Usually, when there is nudity the director asks for a closed set and only essential personnel are allowed to be there. Such was the case during ATTACK OF THE 60 FOOT CENTERFOLD when I was visiting the set during some of J.J. North’s topless scenes. Visitors like me had to leave the immediate area of filming while J.J. was topless. And when there’s female nudity, there’s usually a female chaperone around to make the actress feel comfortable. Nudity is frequently a selling point when it comes to independent horror and sci-fi movies. Without it, many movies stand less of a chance of being released. Personally, I have no problem with nudity in movies, as long as I’m not the one who’s nude!
Robert: Do you shoot just on weekends for a feature, or have you had a scenario where everyone takes a week off to shoot the full week or two nonstop?
George: With a couple of exceptions, most of the movies I’ve made in Baltimore were
shot on weekends. However, when the budgets are higher and more money is at stake, filming takes place full-time during the weekdays. I’ve worked on both kinds of films.
Robert: Have you had to deal with unprofessional people (by that I mean people not taking the job at hand seriously) or prima donnas on the set? How was such a scenario handled?
George: Most of the people I’ve worked with have been very professional. Usually,
unprofessional behavior takes the form of being late on the set or not learning one’s lines. However, everyone is usually very pleasant even if they are late or don’t know their lines!
I often work with younger people who are just starting out and who have only done plays. So when they get cast in a movie, they are so grateful to finally have a role in a film that, with few exceptions, they are extra careful to be professional… especially if they are serious about pursuing acting as a career. Every once in a while, there may be a prima donna, but I really haven’t encountered too many of them. If there’s a problem, the
director or producer steps in to handle it. Other cast members don’t usually get involved. But it’s safe to say that “problem performers” don’t show up in a director’s next movie!
Robert: George, what has been your best experience on a film? What has been your
George: My best experience on a film involved my trip to California to be in Fred
Olen Ray’s ATTACK OF THE 60 FOOT CENTERFOLD. I had a great time and met so
many nice people. And despite being busy with the movie, Fred somehow found the time to show me some of the sights in Los Angeles. I have great memories of that whole experience!
My worst experience on a film has to be the night we filmed the scenes of me hanging upside down in BLOOD MASSACRE which was very uncomfortable. In addition, I had a lot of fake blood splattered over me and it turned out to be an all night shoot. A very exhausting and uncomfortable experience. Even more so than the extremely cold winter temperatures we endured during a couple of scenes in THE ALIEN FACTOR.
Robert: Is there anything else you would like to add to those who are trying to
get into the independent film industry?
George: Don’t get into it just because you think it will be a stepping stone to fame and fortune. You gotta do it for the love of doing it and because it’s in your blood. You will put in very long hours for low wages, or no wages, or perhaps the promise of money on deferment. And that’s only after you get the job! A lot of time is spent just trying to get hired in the first place. As they say, “The work is in getting the work.” So if your only goal is to make some extra money for the time you will spend working, it would just be best to get a normal part-time, hourly job in some other line of work!
Smash or Trash Independent Filmmaking would like to extend its heartfelt thanks to Mr. Stover for granting this interview. He is a character actor of fine caliber and has appeared in many motion pictures on both coasts. He has also made appearances in commercials, soap operas, and hit televisions shows such as HOMICIDE. A Baltimore native, Stover is a fan favorite at conventions, and has also had a prolific career as a publicist on many magazines. For more information or to contact George Stover directly, go to the links below.
To go to George Stover’s myspace page, click HERE.
To go to George Stover’s IMDb listing, click HERE.
To contact George Stover directly, his email is: firstname.lastname@example.org