About a month ago I had the opportunity to view a special IFC screening of a very interesting Horror movie called Maniac at the TCL Chinese Theater, formerly the Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Elijah Wood stars in this remake of a late 70’s underground Grindhouse Horror classic, originally shot on the gritty streets of New York. The story revolves around a disenfranchised young man who restores manikins. The movie dwells on the unique and disturbing way he connects with the opposite sex. The remake of Maniac covers much of the same story line of the original 80’s movie, with the exception of it being shot as a POV film, much like Enter The Void or Strange Days. The new Maniac had enough buzz to get a screening at Cannes in 2012. That buzz has generated a limited theatrical release for the US and a spot on Demand TV. Both Elijah Wood and Megan Duffy were present to introduce this Horror Thriller that night at TCL Chinese Theater. Megan Duffy has a particularly important support to Elijah’s character, Frank Zito, and she plays a critical roll to telling this twisted tale. The night of the screening Elijah and Megan shared their perspective on their filming experience of Maniac that set the stage for the movie I was about to witnessed. Elijah mentioned there were special and specific difficulties to shooting a POV film. Because of these difficulties a lot of special efforts goes in making the film work. Once Elijah and Megan finished their introductions the movie opening credits rolled on. From that point on the viewer sees the story unfold through Elijah’s character’s eyes. Elijah’s Frank Zito starts his journey stalking his victim in a dirty and gritty downtown Los Angeles. From there on the mayhem never lets up. It isn’t long before you are startled by the first murder only to find yourself sucked into the disturbing story line that is littered with the corpses of beautiful women. Soon you meet Megan’s fun loving character, Lucie. Lucie is a charming fun loving alternative party girl that finds Frank online through dating site. As a viewer I found the tention and expectation becomes more and more palpable as the romance progresses. After Lucie’s death, which takes place during the act of sweet love making, I was surprised to discovered her presence continues to play a significant roll throughout the rest of the film. Her and the other lingering phantoms heighten the drama of the murderous story. Maniac’s psychotic drama pivots this arty slasher on more than one occasions around some pretty crazy twists and turns. It’s a continuous thrill ride with many surprises that drives this story toward its grim unexpected end.
I met with Megan at Coffee + Food on Melrose near Larchmont Village for a special interview about her work in Maniac and the details of making this movie in Downtown Los Angeles. Maniac premiered in England and Japan before it’s US premiere in New York at the IFC Center on Jume 21st. It’s going to be available on Demand here in the US if you’d like to view now. From here on we settled in to questions and answers about the film and Megan’s party girl character, Lucie.
Jump to Interview
LA Beat: I enjoyed the film. I was surprised to see you were in the story longer than I expected. I didn’t see that coming!
Megan: Yeah, it’s like a solid 15 minutes. It’s funny I was reading an article this today. When I was released in Japan they really wanted it to get the 15 plus rating. So they edited in ways when the girls got scalped they would darken or blur the screen so you can actually see what’s happening. There was this (Japanese) Horror Blogger that was writing all about it. How he had gone on opening day and he was all excited about it. Then there were like these moments when the film would go to black and blur. He still loved it! He still thought it was a great film. He enjoyed the performances, but it’s the moments you go for in a horror film.
LA Beat: Especially, in a Horror film.
Megan: Yeah. yeah. So it was kind of funny to hear about it.
LA Beat: When was it released in Japan?
Megan: June 1st. Just about 3 weeks ago. It will open on the 28th in LA.
LA Beat: I wish I could be here for it’s opening here in LA.
Megan: It’s alright. By then we’re going to be so exhausted, we’ll be over it. Because we started shooting it in December of 2011 and then we went to Cannes last year. So it’s like a year and half later. When I shoot Burger King commercials it’s like two weeks and it’s on the air.
LA Beat: The turnaround is that fast, huh?
Megan: We usually shot them in a block. In the last round we shot 7 of them. I’m in 5 of them and they shot seven of them all together. They kind of release them slowly. My first one just came out. We shot them about a month ago. I was there for 2 days and there was 3 days total. In one day we shot 4 different spots.
LA Beat: Is this your first movie?
Megan: No, I’ve done a handful of other independent stuff and TV guest stars. It’s my first film that has gone to Cannes.
LA Beat: How was the Cannes experience?
Megan: Our Cannes was 2012. It wasn’t the most recent one. It was really an amazing experience! I really didn’t know what to expect. It exceeded my expectations for champagne. I was not a champagne girl or a rose girl. I came back and both of them are on my list of drinks to order.
LA Beat: Then you drank real Champagne?
Megan: I think so. It tasted real! It did the job. It didn’t give me a headache. I’d only had Korbel, the lower or persico before. You know you don’t feel good the next morning. Now I have an appreciation for Champagne.
LA Beat: So was there any particular moment during the Cannes experience or the screening of the Maniac that stood out?
Megan: We all were a little nervous because Cannes’ reputation for viewing films. I didn’t watch the dailies because I didn’t want to be starring at my nude body and being that picky. So I let it go. The first time I saw myself was when I went in to do ADR. I saw the full cut of my scene. I knew what we were shooting was graphic. I guess, I didn’t expect it to be quite that graphic. It was like, oh my gosh, what are my parent’s going to say?! But I didn’t see the rest of the film. So I was seeing the whole film for the first time along with the rest of the audience. I didn’t know if they were going to love it or hate it. There were gasps when I died. But then with the kills later on, Jan Broberg, the Art Dealer, when she dies, just because she’s so unlikable, her death got cheers! At the end of the film we got a standing ovation, which nobody expected. The standing ovation went on for 5 minutes. We sat there and didn’t know what to do. We just stood there.
LA Beat: Did you do a Q&A afterwards.
Megan: No, we just went to a party.
LA Beat: Was there only one showing at Cannes?
Megan: Yes, it was the last Saturday night with a Midnight screening. Maniac started around 12:15. It was a late night. There was a party afterwards. We ended staying up and hanging out: being excited. The Hollywood Reported review came in at 4am in the morning. They were there to review it and they released right away. The Variety review was really positive. Getting to see them come in was really fun!
LA Beat: When did you start the promotional leg for Maniac’s release?
Megan: For the last couple of months. The film opened in France on January 2nd. It was in the UK on March 15th. Before the Uk premiere there was a lot of press releases and bloggers started reaching out to me. They were finding me on twitter, wanting me to talk to me about it and do interviews. I obliged them. I say, why not? Anybody that appreciates the work that you do and their reaching out and want to talk about it, it’s good, within reason.
LA Beat: Is that why you became Megan Bacon?
Megan: Oh no, I, I shot a handful of commercials last year for Progresso Soup. There’s a line where someone hands me a cup of soup that was potato and bacon. I look at it and I say, “Bacon, oh!”. The take they used was where I’d done a real tongue and cheek take as a joke. When the commercial started airing 3 or 4 times a day I started getting text from people saying, “Bacon!”. Then I did a commercial for Berger king about a bacon cheddar burger. After that everybody started calling me Bacon. I decided to add “Bacon” on Facebook. Why not?! Also, bacon is delicious! I am not a vegetarian.
LA Beat: You’re not hurting my feelings! I was a vegetarian in 1994 for 6 months for the girl I was dating. It’s Okay, but it’s too much!
Megan: I love me some barbecue! I hate to give up barbecue. I hate to give up bacon and things like fried chicken.
LA Beat: There’s a certain amount of hubris associated with it. I dated this woman who claimed to be a vegetarian but she ate fish. I was actually being a vegetarian and I knew other real vegetarians, right?!
Megan: She was a pescatarian!
LA Beat: No, that term didn’t exist then.
Megan: But it does now!
LA Beat: I know! The term was in the developing stages at that point. She insisted she was a vegetarian, but all the vegetarians were, like, you are not! She had a running argumnet with a friend who was a real vegetarian. He’d tell her fish is meat! She would respond, no it isn’t, because you can’t pet a fish!
Megan: But you can have it as a pet!
LA Beat: Yeah, but she was looking for an out!
Megan: I bet you could pet a fish if you tried!
LA Beat: Oh, yes you can!
Megan: Have I told you I make my own beef jerky? I have a dehydrator. Sometime I’m fiending for protein I’ll go buy a roast and slice it up. I have a special spicy marinade. I’ll marinade the meat for a day or so and dehydrate it. It’s pretty amazing! I make it with no preservitives and it’s grass fed beef. It’s organic. I brought it to a barbecue once, where half of those who were there were vegans. I converted some of the vegans. Some said, “we haven’t eaten meat in 15 years! It smells so good, let us try some!” Then they wanted another piece! Mission accomplished!
LA Beat: That’s the way it should be! I’ll have to report to meat central about this.
LA Beat: When does the junket end?
Megan: I have no idea! I’ll be in New York the 17th through the 21st doing a handful of events to promote it’s release.
LA Beat: In Maniac you were quite the little tiger. You were very cute! I mean, you were lovable.
Megan: Did the Tattoos surprise you?
LA Beat: No, because I saw some photos you put up on Facebook. I wasn’t completely surprised, they were good tattoos though!
Megan: Lorrianne Martin, was the key make-up and hair artist. Every day we’d spend 3 hours together in the make-up trailer where she would apply these transfers. Then she’d color them in with tattoo markers. She then would set them and airbrush them so they would look flesh tone. It was a 3 hour process. It made the days super long.
LA Beat: How long were they?
Megan: Depending on what we were doing: the apartment scene we were doing… We had the location for one day. That was a 17 or 18 hour day for me. I don’t mind though. I’m used to commercials, where you’re there for 14 to 15 hours anyway.
LA Beat: How was it being naked that long?
Megan: It was so cold. It was the middle of December when we started shooting. But everybody was really nice. There were heaters they would bring to me in between takes.
LA Beat: Did the clothes mess up the tattoos?
Megan: They weren’t that sensitive. Just to put blankets to drap over me they were fine.
LA Beat: I’m interested in the tattoos durability. Are they water soluble?
Megan: Well, yes. There was a couple of days they were on the front. Those I could remove myself. With a little bit of Baby Oil and something in the shower, they would rub off. Also, just natural exfoliation in a day they’d come off. Those 2 little stars I had. I wanted to keep them. I thought they were the cutest!
LA Beat: I wish I could remember them specifically.
Megan: Yeah, nobody was looking at the stars! (Giggles)
LA Beat: Was Elijah Wood on board when you were cast?
Megan: When I was cast, yes. But when I went to audition, no. I auditioned at the end of July of that year.
LA Beat: Was that 2011?
Megan: Yes, I went in for 2 auditions. It was at a point where I had 14 different jobs I’d auditioned for that didn’t come through in a row. Horror was not something I had an interest in working on. When this audition came through I was going to turn it down. I didn’t want to be the girl who dies topless in an apartment. Then I started looking at everyone who was involved. I was a big fan of Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D. Alexandre Aja is a producer as well. That’s when I thought I’d audition. They brought me back in to read for Frank (Khalfoun). The following week they called and asked if I had read the script. They wanted to know if I was okay with the nudity. I had and I had watched the original Maniac. This was like a 4 month process. It wasn’t till early October that I got word I had gotten the part. It was in late October that they announced Elijah Wood.
LA Beat: At the IFC screening Elijah mentioned that there were difficulties shooting a POV Movie. I was interested in what types of difficulties you encounter shooting with a POV perspective?
Megan: Well, just figuring out the camera lens. It’s not a hand held camera. It’s a DP operating a camera on a rig. So to get that from a POV of a human being is always a tricky thing. There were shots with the Lucie and the Frank character on her bed. I was there! I still don’t know how they shot it! All I needed to know, was knowing when to change my focus from Elijah to the camera lens. Maxime Alexandre was a real genius! He was absolutely genius: he went above and beyond to make sure we got the shots. My very first day on set was the van scene. Basically, how they shot it was with this creepy looking van. They cut a hole out of the top. The camera rig was hanging down through the hole in the top in the drivers seat. Elijah was behind the camera. Maxime was on the roof of the van. Hanging upside down operating the camera with his camera crew on top of it as we drove around downtown LA. You could hear him in some takes where you could hear him breathing. Because it was so physically difficult and uncomfortable for him. But he just nailed it! It was the same night that they were evicting Occupy LA. So it was a really, really intense night.
LA Beat: Your were trying to do your work and there was Police Action!
Megan: We were driving around with our own Police entourage.
LA Beat: That’s intense! It must have been cold too.
Megan: We were inside a van, so it was less uncomfortable.
LA Beat: Were they using a Canon or?
Megan: It was a red.
LA Beat: So it was a Red Camera?
Megan: Yeah, yeah! It’s the real deal big camera.
LA Beat: That’s like another human being right over there.
Megan: Yeah. He really went above and beyond to make sure it worked. Doing everything he could. There is a really funny photo I should send you from the bed scene. Where I break the bone and stuff. There’s a really funny shot where you see the camera set up and there’s all this plastic. Maxime is standing behind it operating the camera. There’s all this blood and special effects is flying everywhere. That was my last day of shooting and it was the funest! It didn’t mater who you were in the crew and the cast everyone was completely covered in blood. People were stepping off set and pouring blood out their shoes. It was a bonding experience.
LA Beat: Was it the ooey gooey blood?
Megan: There were all different kinds of blood. I feel like there’s like 5 or 6 different kinds of blood. There’s was the liquid blood, the corn syrup sticky blood and a thinker blood, I believe. But that mattress was soaked!
LA Beat: How many production days for Maniac?
Megan: I was there for 8 or 9. The whole shoot was for 4 weeks. I think it was 6 day weeks. It was most of the month of December.
LA Beat: I like the part in Maniac where Anna, the artist, rams Frank with the mannequin’s arm. It was a feel good moment, because he’s finally getting what he deserves.
Megan: Yeah, somehow when you watch it you almost feel bad for him a little.
LA Beat: He’s confused.
Megan: He just want to keep her. He has this confusion of, “Why is she so mean to me?!”
LA Beat: That is what makes Maniac so interesting. I also, like the part where Anna gets away and then she hits that column. You thought she was going to get away. That was one of the most shocking elements. You think it’s going to go a certain way and then bam! Then it totally turns around. That was really good!
Megan: I’ll have to tell Frank you like that part.
LA Beat: That made it different from other movies. It’s a thinky film. Yeah, there’s slasher but there’s still thinky elements. It has a retro feel.
Megan: It has a 80’s through back feel to it. The original was released in the 80’s. They shot it in New York. They likely shot it in 78 or 79. It’s in New York. It really nasty, and dirty and gritty. I believe the new Maniac did a good job paying homage grittiness of the original shooting in the dirtier parts in downtown LA.
LAB: I liked your roll. I related to your character. Because it relates to my experience with dating.
Megan: Online Dating?
LA Beat: Not so much with online dating. But the whole dating experience. I knew girls like you. That were really fun and kind of naughty!
Megan: That are DTF?! Yeah, the opposite of who I am in real life. I don’t know. Maybe, I’m changing.
LA Beat: You’re not really like that. I’m not going to try to find out.
LA Beat: Nervous laughter. You became very sympathetic. He murdered you differently than everybody else. That was kind of interesting too.
Megan: It was kind of like an orgasmic murder.
LA Beat: Yeah, it was sad, oh no, because that’s another “Party Girl” down!
Megan: Oh no! Yeah, she was so fun!
LA Beat: I was like, Noooo! The world needs more of that!
Megan: Well, also, I have girlfriends after seeing this film took a break from their OkCupid accounts. It’s so strange, so many people are willing to meet strangers online like that. So, I think it’s like a cautionary tale as well. I have so many girlfriends that do that. Just because someone has an online presence doen’t mean it’s anybody you can trust, you know. Elijah is so cute you’d never think in a million years, would…
LA Beat: Off you!
Megan: Maybe, the bloody knuckles might give something away.
LA Beat: Maybe, he’s a mechanic?
Megan: He’s a mannikin repairist. So maybe that’s a dangerous job. I think it was so interesting about her as a character. Because in real life I couldn’t bring myself to go and meet a stranger that I would meet online. Then let me drive me home. I don’t let my friends drive me home sometimes. I’ll just call a cab, it’s cool…
LA Beat: Yeah, I like to meet people.
Megan: And see if they check out! Mutual friends and is that person cool.
LA Beat: Yeah, and that…
Megan: Oh, he kills cats. Oh, never mind. It’s so easy to stalk people today. It so weird. I had situations where I’d be out somewhere. I would run into someone. And then I run into them the next time I was out. It’s a little weird.
LA Beat: How was it working with Elijah?
Megan: Oh, he’s so nice! He’s the nicest person ever! Second only, to maybe, David Beckham. David Beckham is super nice. Elijah, he’s smart, funny, cool and professional. I think having him in the film made the difference for everybody on the set. There are some actors who are really dedicated to be on set every single day. I think some actors wouldn’t. He was there every single day. He was there to deliver dialog. That was really helpful for me for the performance. Instead of trying to imagine or getting some really cold line readings from someone who’s not an actor. It was already challenging to act with this person who is really a camera lens. A lot of the times I’m doing my lines and all I’m seeing is my reflection. Luckily I’m pretty vain. So to look at myself or talk to myself wasn’t that hard. But it’s already this artificial experience then to actually have the actor there to engage in the dialog was really helpful.
LA Beat: He’s kind of in our friend circle. I’ve seen him around. But you see him more.
Megan: Yeah. He’s a really good DJ. A couple of times we’ve gone to see him DJ.
LA Beat: Really?!
Megan: He spins a lot of 60’s music. Kind of dancy stuff.
LA Beat: Is it more Motown or more Garage?
Megan: More Motown, when I’ve seen him. Well, you know how much I love to dance. Anything that has a good beat.
LA Beat: Do we want to let everybody know where he DJ’s?
Megan: I don’t think it’s my place to say. (Giggles) You just have to luck out!
LA Beat: So sometime he pops up?
Megan: Yes, sometimes.
LA Beat: Oh, I understand. He’s a popper-upper! I was at the Short Stop one night. I turned around and I was staring right into his eyes. I couldn’t continue to stare back. So I turned around.
Megan: He’s really difficult to look at in the eyes because he has these really blue eyes where you’re seeing into another dimension. It was probably for the best that I had to deliver my lines into the camera lens because I’m unsure I could have looked him in the eyes.
LA Beat: Yes, his eyes are like this huge nexus void you look into and wonder how far do you go! I’m really glad he DJ’s. That’s really cool!
Megan: He’s really passionate about music.
LA Beat: Do you know how big his music library is?
Megan: Well, I know in the make up trailer it was always his i-Pod we had plugged in. At some point,we said, let’s switch the song and there was so much there. I couldn’t make a decision. I ended up on Abba because it was like the first thing. Then we were listening to Disco music that then put us in a strange mood. His knowledge of music is pretty immense.
LA Beat: Do you have another project you’re working on?
Megan: I wrapped recently on a indie movie called Juke Box Hero by the Director Sherrie Roberstson. It’s a story about a girl who’s struggling with mental illness. I play one of her friends.
Megan and I finished up our coffee. We closed out this interview with some additional chit-chat and anecdotal stories. She has a few more weeks of working the indie film junket on Maniac, where she’ll spend some quality time in New York. Then she’ll return to LA for the Los Angeles premiere of Maniac on June 28th. You can see it now by finding in on Demand. If you can wait for the limited theatrical release at Arena Theater at 1625 North Las Palmas Avenue in Hollywood on a large screen. Horror fans should find lots of twisty and dark fun in this indie thriller.