Nivek Ogre [Interviewed by Jori]

Nivek Ogre and Jori

Nivek Ogre and Jori.

For all the crap we give Canada for sending Celine Dion and Justin Bieber our way, we forget that they can produce some fantastic talent as well.  Yeah, Ogre from Skinny Puppy is Canadian.  But please don’t hold that against him, he is Pavi Largo after all.

I wanted to know what the transition was like, going from being in a band to making movies.

The biggest transition for me, I think, was somewhat of a fear factor.  In the sense that the stage and theater has a barrier between you and the audience.  Film is very close and impersonal.  On stage you have a lot of fans out there that are pushing for you and pulling for you.  Not that in film it isn’t a safe environment, but you have a lot of other activity going on around you that’s superfluous to the actual focus on filming.  For me it was an incredibly difficult transition. 

I had an audition for The Crow for the role of Fun Boy – who actually would have shot Brandon Lee.  Basically I went in for the audition, I had not been coached by anyone to run the lines.  I was reading the kind of sexy part with the girl that we were having sex with before the crow comes into the room and sucks the poison out of my arm and kills me.  I walked into a room with the assistant director reading the girl’s part, Alex Proyas was right behind him, and behind them in the darkness of the small room were all the producers and I choked.  I absolutely choked.  I just completely bailed on the whole thing.  I did it, but it was horrible.  I went outside, there was another actor outside who kind of saw my dejected face and went in, did his audition and it was brilliant.  (In fact, I think he was one of the actors who got one of the roles.)  Then he came out and just looked at me – I was still there composing myself – and said, “It didn’t go very well, did it?”  and I said no.  He was so kind, he sat down and talked with me and gave me a lot of support.  I left that thinking I have to put film aside, it’s not really for me. 

But then I had the opportunity to work on Repo!  It was an amazing transitional thing just because a month before I got to know the cast, we did a big reading and we did all the singing a month before in the studio and I was very familiar with that.  We then went up to Toronto, I was up there for two months so I got to learn as much as I possibly could about set etiquette and the goings on – the proper blocking, all these things I had a chance to learn and pick up on.  Doing a role without having to do any lines – since it was all pre-recorded – was a lot easier than jumping into acting and having to recite lines.  It was a great introduction to film. 

My second film was 2001 Maniacs with Bill (Moseley) again.  Bill has been someone who’s been a great friend and a mentor of sorts for me in learning about this business.  Even this business of conventions he’s been a great pal, and very gracious and generous.  I met him first in Los Angeles, and when we were up in Toronto we hung out a lot and got to know each other as brothers.  Which we still are in a way, we’re still brothers.  That was an amazing experience, just in itself.  He came with me on 2001 Maniacs where I actually ran lines, so it was a good, kind of slow transition into learning the ropes and overcoming the biggest thing in acting – that fear factor of being able to perform in small intimate places with a lot of other stuff going on around you and not letting it bother you. 

How have fans of Skinny Puppy reacted to your shift towards movies?

I think for the most part, anybody that is a true fan made the jump – they knew that it was something I was really interested in doing and had a lot of fun with, because I made that very clear – so they were very supportive.  Whether they like the movies or not, it’s an entirely different question.  I wouldn’t put that to a fan, I wouldn’t put them on the spot, and I appreciate their honesty.  Some have criticized things, such as why isn’t he in better movies or why doesn’t he get some meaty serious role.  They don’t really understand the movie business.  It isn’t as easy as it seems.  Even someone with a 30 year music career, it’s still a transition and you have to do work.  I just want to do as much work and learn as much as I can.  I think there’s going to be those few people that probably think – why is he doing B movies? – without understanding the full scope of the business.  But generally speaking, everyone has been very supportive actually.  It’s more about if he’s happy, I’m happy.  I haven’t been in any mainstream movies, Repo! is by far the biggest film I’ve been in.

It was a little film, a passion project of Darren Bousman, so they didn’t know.  They even tried to market it as a cult film, but it was a bit premature for that in my estimation.  When it did become a cult film, it was very gratifying for sure.  I think that’s what’s kind of kept a lot of this going for me in a lot of ways too.  I’m very lucky to have a role like Pavi.

There are those internet rumors about your audition being a parody of Paris Hilton.  Is that true?

It wasn’t a parody of Paris Hilton.  I wanted to have something that stuck in the producers’ and Darren’s mind.  Darren wanted actors that could sing, not singers that could act.  That was obviously one mark against me at getting the role.  At the time they were looking at people like Newman from Seinfeld for Pavi.  There’s two different character types!  Terrance and Darren Smith who wrote it, were really pushing for me and Lion’s Gate was pushing more for Newman, or somebody like that.  It was a bit of a tough sell in that way.  I had this idea of going in with a mirror, with a cut out picture of Paris just because I thought that if I’m looking at myself, I really want to be like my sister ultimately. (In the film.) 

I knew she was auditioning for Amber Sweet, but I didn’t know when.  As it turned out, she was in the studio right before me, without me knowing it, doing her audition.  I was outside practicing my lines with my mirror by my side, kind of looking back and forth and then there’s a bunch of applause and the doors open.  She comes walking out and I’m looking at her and she’s like, “Hi! Bye! Nice to see you!” to everybody and walks away.  There’s paparazzi lights flashing outside and I thought do I do this now?  I went and did it anyway.  I went through basically a character description of Pavi and then at the end I yelled out to the director – “Hey director, do you want to know who Pavi is?!”  I said “This is fucking Pavi!” and turned the mirror to the audience (after the whole time keeping it away) and everybody went up in a roar of laughter.  Had I not gotten the role, it was me overcoming that fear of auditions.  I left the studio that night, just happier than a pig in shit.  I wasn’t doing a parody of Paris Hilton necessarily, it was just the idea of vanity.

Drudgie wanted to know how it was to work with Paris – is she as snobby or ditzy as people make her out to be?

No, she’s definitely conscious of everything around her, but she was wonderful.  She was actually really sweet and was a real team player.  Wonderfully self-conscious, in a nice way.  For the record – she did a great job as Amber Sweet.  She did a really good job in that role, she really put everything into it.  She always came down for drinks (when she could) at the end of the night and sat with us.  She was one of us basically.  The cutest thing she did, she made for all the family – myself, Paul (Sorvino) and Bill (Moseley), she made for all the cast too – she made collages while she was off set.  She made a little Pavi collage, she made a Luigi collage and a Rotti collage and she gave us all a picture of the family.  A family portrait.  For me even, you hear a lot about – there’s always two sides to the story, but I even went into it with a bit of ideas…. I’m sure it exists, I’m sure it happens, but they’re still people, wandering through life like we are, stumbling and making mistakes.  It’s just that theirs are more publicized. 

The make-up for Pavi is very detailed, I wanted to know how the process was for him to get into make-up.

It was between three and four hours.  But it was fine, I had a really good rapport with the make-up guys.  They’re fellow Canadians and we were all into conspiracies so we had lots to talk about.  It was a dream come true for me.  I always hoped to be in a make-up chair.  The one dream that I held on to, that got me to this was the fact that I had two fantasies as a kid.  One was to sing in a studio and I was really into when they started doing prosthetics and foam make-up, those kinds of applications.  Planet of the Apes was the main start of it.  I was just obsessed with that whole process.  I would read in magazines about actors being so pissed off, having to wake up at four in the morning for their pick up to go down and be in the chair for three or four hours before anybody else came in.  I found myself in Toronto, my first day of shooting, up at 3:30 getting in the bath giddy as all hell.  The only time I had a problem, it was a bit of a Paris (Hilton) story.

Paris went away for the weekend unexpectedly.  There’s three stages to the make-up, even underneath there was full scarring.  I was in the full scarring underneath which is basically silicone glue that they freeze and turn into kind of reverse tattoos.  I was actually in full make-up all day, waiting to go on set but then I got released because she was going home unexpectedly.  I didn’t have a chance to sweat under the lights or move around so the make-up was solidly on and they use a medical grade adhesive so if you try and pull it off, it will pull your skin off.  I was in the make-up chair that night I think from 12:00 until six in the morning taking it off.  That was the only tough time for me. 

Was it ever a problem playing a role like Pavi where no one could see your face?

Oh no!  I actually loved it. Because in Skinny Puppy I’m responsible for all of the production as far as conceptualizing the stage show, the lighting and the content of the films and then performing.  There’s a lot of stuff there that I have to be responsible for and it’s a bit overwhelming at times.  To be part of an ensemble cast, and be a supporting character, and be under make-up (which I love) was the biggest kick for me.

The one thing I did study within acting when I was younger was masks.  I took a mask class with a professional troop in Canada.  Unbeknownst to me, my art mentor threw me into a class saying I want you do this class, it’ll be fun for you – and I got about  halfway through the class when I realized this was a professional group in their pre-production training.  Somehow I got into this thing.  It was a bit overwhelming, but it taught me a lot.  That was the one thing I had some training in and I love performing behind masks.  I have no ego when it comes to that.

Would you ever want to do any of the effects work?

Nah, I’m not a good sculptor and certainly I leave it up to the geniuses that can do it.  I just love wearing that shit and being in the moment with it.  I’m a real in-the-moment person when it comes to everything.  Doing that and having deadlines where I have to finish a prosthetic and working all night – I think I would crash.  I’m just the guy you put it on and he goes out and he dances like a monkey. 

I had to ask: What was up with the guyliner in Field of Screams?

Well, Tim Sullivan is gay.  He was kind of pushing the part of Harper to be more of … you didn’t know if I had a crush on Buckman or not.  I felt like he was pushing it towards that a little bit.  They definitely made me more of a dandy.  For some reason, I always get turned into dandies.  Even in my next film – it’s a similar sort of thing.  But it’s a lot meatier of a role.  I grew up in a family with a repressed gay brother so I think a lot of that rubbed off on me in a lot of ways.  It’s very easy for me to go to that place, and I think within Field of Screams, because of Tim’s direction there was a lot of homoerotic overtones in it a little bit.  When I look back at it now, I think it works ok, but there was that ambiguity to Harper Alexander within that movie.  Even when we did our scene with Christa (Campbell) – we didn’t actually like sex with each other, we got off more on the fact that we were going to torture and saw somebody in half. 

I wanted to know more about his newest film The Devil’s Carnival.

It’s going to be a trilogy apparently.  It’s all based on Aesop’s Fables, so there’s a gold mine of stuff that they could go from with that.  It pits Hell against Heaven and follows the stories of three Aesop’s Fables stories.  Three people who have sinned on earth and die are sent to hell – to us.  The carnies put them through their paces to see if there is any redemption left in their pitiful souls.  My character is the twin who’s an empath and someone who is able to take on the characteristics –physical and emotional – of anybody that they come in contact with. He’s a trickster, but at the same time I think he is one of the most empathetic characters in hell because he’s able to feel all of your pain, all of your troubles and all of the worries that you have.  But also all of the secrets and the nastiness.  That’s where it turns dark for him.  He does show empathy, but he’s still, at the very heart of it very sociopathic and reptilian almost – in a way, cold blooded. 

Paul Sorvino plays God.  Emilie Autumn is in it.  Bill Moseley plays the magician who has a small part in this first segment but his role is amazing.  When he came on set and created the magician it happened very suddenly.  He had everybody in the cast and crew in stitches.  Maybe it’s not as funny to people, but when he did it live everybody was just laughing their brains out.  It was all him improvising and creating his character on the spot.  There will be more of the magician in the second one and hopefully more of the twin.  I think the second installment is more about heaven and maybe the third installment will be about the battle between heaven and hell. 

Will you continue to stay in the horror genre, or would you like to branch out into other types of films?

Acting is acting.  It’s all fun to me.  I would do whatever.  But I love horror, and especially with a name like Ogre I’ve probably typecast myself.  I don’t think I’ll ever be in a romantic comedy as Nivek Ogre per se, but you never know.  There’s always a first!  I’m open to anything, I’m just starting out with this so we’ll see what happens.  I certainly enjoy doing horror films. 

Before we had started the “official” interview, we were chatting and he had mentioned that he loved Fulci films.  I wanted to know if there were any other horror directors he particularly enjoyed.

I like (Dario) Argento, a lot of John Carpenter’s stuff obviously is genius.    Current film directors of horror, probably one of my favorites is Alexandre Aja – he did High Tension and the remake of The Hills Have Eyes.  He did a movie called P-2 which is in a parking garage, I didn’t like it as much but I still have hopes for him because High Tension was just brilliant.  I really like the remake of The Hills Have Eyes.  I auditioned for that! [Which part?] Lizard.  I was in all their faces, I went way over the top and they were scared of me, but they sent back really good feedback to the agency I was with at the time. 

What is your favorite breakfast cereal?

I eat steel cut oats.  I don’t eat breakfast cereal because it’s got acrylamides in it and I think it’s poison.  I do the slow cooked steel cut oats, it’s my comfort food and I have it almost every morning. 

I’m not going to lie – I swooned like a school girl.  He looks incredible in person and his quiet charm is quite endearing. He’s not just that guy with an industrial band acting on the side for kicks.  He was charming to all his fans and spent most of the convention just chit chatting with people like they were all buddies.  He even grabbed a chair for me so I wouldn’t have to crouch during the whole interview.  (How could a girl not swoon over that?)  He has a successful, and more importantly – long lasting career in the music industry.  I think horror fans will be pleased to see that he translates just as well on film.

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About Jori

Being a stubborn girl, Jori insisted on watching scary movies as a little girl and proclaiming "I'm not scared!" from behind her oma's rocking chair. Much sleep was lost in the early years due to paralyzing fear, and her uncle Albert deserves a special mention for unwittingly showing her Monkey Shines. Jori spends her adult life trying to recapture that initial feeling of terror that she experienced as a child. Follow her on Twitter at @fvjori.
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3 Responses to Nivek Ogre [Interviewed by Jori]

  1. Aimee says:

    Let me start by saying how exceptionally jealous I am that you got to meet someone like Ogre. Secondly, what a great interview I really feel like his personality comes through.

    • Jori says:

      To be honest, I was giddy meeting him. The man doesn’t have an ounce of ego at all, I can attest to that. This is one of those times I wish we could have kept going, he was really interesting and honest – which makes for an awesome interview.

  2. tina says:

    I love him!!!

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