DIFF 2014 Filmmaker Interview: Actor Scott Haze on his role in ‘Child of God’ and acting in general

scott-haze-slider

Written by: Bill Graham

If all you knew of Scott Haze was the character he portrays in Child of God, you’d be pardoned for thinking the man was unruly and partially psychotic. However, the Haze I found greeting me in the hotel lobby of the Park Cities Holiday Inn was charming and jovial. One of his friends was laughing before he came down, saying that he was sending her a slew of Emojis on the phone instead of using text. This is a man that had an opportunity to further his career and he took absolute advantage of it, delving into the role and living in a cave for three months by himself. During our early conversation he even mentioned that most people who see the film have a hard time believing he’s actually that same actor. They barely resemble each other.

During our conversation I asked him about the transition from preparing and living by himself to actually being on sent went, how he handles people asking him to help them get involved in the film business today, whether he likes being in front of the camera during a documentary, and whether he caught his beloved Kobe Bryant while he was uninjured recently. Find our entire conversation below.

Knowshi: You’ve mentioned that you spent three months in the woods of Tennessee getting in character for this film. I’m very curious about the transition from living in seclusion by yourself to filming on set. How was that process? Did they have a date in mind for when and where you would show up and be ready? 

Scott Haze: So it went down like this. I had a friend that lived in Tennessee and that’s where Cormac McCarthy set the novel. We didn’t film there. We filmed in West Virginia. So I moved from LA to Tennessee and that’s where I spent my time preparing. West Virginia wasn’t a far drive. So I drove to set and we filmed in West Virginia. So we were originally going to start at the beginning of January. I had planned on… Yeah, wow. I ended up staying there longer, basically. They pushed the shoot by about two and a half to three weeks. So it gave me more time. And at that point I felt like, “All right, let’s shoot this thing.” Then there was almost another month of waiting. I had never talked about this. Remembering that now, it’s funny. I recall thinking, “Oh man, I have to keep doing this? OK. Let’s keep going.”

Scott-Haze-Lester-Ballard-Child-of-God-Still

Knowshi: I’ll lose some more weight. Whatever!

Haze: It actually really helped. I really believe that in those three weeks, the craziest stuff happened. I was already kind of edgy. It added a different level of frustration. Just in general. I had to keep that going and it wasn’t the easiest thing to prepare for. I had already been doing it so long. It would be like moving your wedding day. I’m preparing for it like an athlete who is going to play in the Super Bowl. He works all season. And then they’re like, “Oh, you have to keep training for another month.” Then you start to think, “Is it going to get postponed to summer? I can’t do this til summer. I can’t keep living like this!” [Laughs]. But the transition was pretty simple. That was the only frustrating part when the movie got pushed a couple of weeks. But I just kept my focus. I knew that when I went to actually commence filming, I didn’t want to lose it. You see that all the time on set. Actors go out. I just filmed a movie in New Orleans with…

Knowshi: Jeff Nichols?

Haze: Yeah, Jeff Nichols. And we went to the NBA All Star game, my cast and I, and we had a good time. Not movie I didn’t need to sleep in a cave to prepare for. It was a whole different experience. This was one of those ones where hanging out on set or not staying with the accent or certain other things that I did do, would be kind of psychotic. To do all that work and then abandon it because people get uncomfortable hearing Lester’s voice on set? It’s not really about that. It’s about my job. This is suit up and show up. I’d already done that work so I kept it going.

Knowshi: I read a few profiles on you leading up to this interview. I wanted to get a sense of who you were and what you were about. You’ve got a lot of creative outlets now. You are a playwright, a director of documentaries, a producer, an actor, and you also own a theater. I imagine a lot of the people in LA and Hollywood would be the cliched person trying to become an actor and just make it in Hollywood. With that in mind, I would assume there’s a certain amount of interaction with people that when they find out who you are or what you do, ask for helping in breaking in. They want that lucky break. How do you handle those kinds of things and even balance those interactions? 

With people I know that want to get involved in stuff?

Knowshi: Yeah. 

Haze: [Sighs] Well, that’s the hardest thing. There’s this guy I’m doing a documentary on right now named Charles Mulley. He ended up becoming a doctor and he’s changing the face of Africa and he’s rescuing kids off the streets. He was an orphan turned multimillionaire through his own hard work. I’m going to circle back to the question. Now he’s saving kids from the streets. I’m in the middle of filming this. He’s like Mother Teresa. When we’re in the slums and I was seeing all the kids around. I felt, “How do you choose? How do you make the decision of what kid to take out of the slums?” What I’m saying is that a lot of my friends are very, very successful. They’ve had even more outlets and opportunities than me. But I also have a tremendous amount of friends that have never made money as an actor. They’ve never booked a movie. These are talented people. I think it’s one of those things where… I forgot who it was, but there was this saying that stuck with me: “If you can go do something else, go do that because this is not the business for you.” I couldn’t do anything else. This is just what I wanted to do. Over the years, many people have left town. A lot of the people I came up with. The ones that have stuck it out and really worked at it. So what do I do when those conversations happen? I say, I built a theater. I wrote plays before I had a theater. I wrote three or four plays that I did before I ever did one at my own theater. I had them produced at the Stella Adler Theater. I created a web show. I did whatever I could. It’s just now that I’m so grateful that I get to do it on this level.

Scott-Haze-Lester-Ballard-Child-of-God-Still-2

Knowshi: You were being creative beforehand. 

I was already doing it. You can kind of tell the people who are in it for the money. But you never know. Some people get into acting and start and then they realize they don’t have it in them. I believe that the best actor in the world isn’t Daniel Day-Lewis or the guys that everyone says. I think the best actor in the world is some guy we don’t know, in Ireland, who does plays. You’re really fortunate to be blessed. When preparation meets opportunity. When you are prepared and the opportunity arises, if you can capitalize in that moment and deliver. It’s with what you do, it’s with what anyone does. If you have a firefighter who is not ready to do it when he suits up and shows up to save a life. If he jerked off and didn’t take his training at the academy serious, that person is going to die and he wasn’t ready to do his job. Even that job. It’s hard to become a firefighter. People apply all the time. Some people just give up or move on. Who knows? It’s a very hard thing for me. What’s cool about this is that I have a theater. In the last two years I haven’t been as involved in the theater. I’m not in the theater, creating, right now. It’s doing better than it ever has, though, with me just overseeing it. And I tell people, “you want to do something? OK. There’s a whole weekend where you can create whatever you want.” Those are the people that have come to the theater and worked hard and I’ve seen them work hard. Another thing is that I’ve created a film festival.

Knowshi: Oh, the 120 Hour Film Festival?

Yeah, the 120 Hour Film Festival. I brought in people that I know. I brought in the Weinstein Company, I brought in ICM and Through Line Entertainment. These are people that can create opportunities if they see talent. And I let them create five or six movies in five days and we have a premiere and give out awards. It’s like this festival here. But it’s on a very small and crazy scale. But, I don’t know. I imagine the Weinstein Company had people here. I don’t know. But they were at my theater with these kids who were busting their ass making movies in five days. That’s a huge opportunity and some of those kids got deals out of that. So I’ve seen one of the directors got the short film he did optioned to do as a feature film from that small theater. From that opportunity. I’m completely committed to doing that. To try and create opportunities for people who are hungry and just haven’t had the opportunities that I got. And my opportunities didn’t come for 10 years. So it’s not like it was overnight. I just stuck with it.

Knowshi: Documentaries are a funny type of movie because there are usually two kinds. There are observing documentaries where you, as a director, try to keep your distance and opinions away as much as possible. Then there are documentaries where the director is very opinionated during the movie. What do you see as your style and why?

That starts with the creation of the actual project. With documentaries, it’s a story-telling device. It’s the same as a feature film. If you look at Michael Moore and the way he does things, from initial start, whether it’s Fahrenheit 9/11 or these movies that he tackles, he becomes the voice in the movie. He is now a role. There are films with plenty of characters, like Exit Through The Giftshop. You have these characters, so whether it’s told through the character’s point of view or the director’s involved like Michael Moore or it’s a documentary on a sports doc like 30 for 30, you have to find your characters. If Michael Moore becomes your main actor, in a way, he’s now the director’s speaking a voice. I believe you have to have a voice as a director. Or you have to have an opinion. For me, I fell into this thing. I never thought I’d do documentaries. I think every documentary is different and I think the way you tell the story is vital. Sometimes the director is more present because it’s how you get into the storytelling process.

Knowshi: Last question, but have you seen Kobe Bryant when he was briefly back? 

Haze: You know what? [Sighs]. He came back and I was at a film festival. And I was like, “Awesome, I’m going to get to see Kobe.” Then he got hurt. He was out when I was in LA. Then he came back in Decemeber, when I was in Africa. He got hurt in December before I came. *Slaps hands on table.* And! I was at the All-Star Game this year. He was selected to play the All-Star Game, and he sat it out because he was hurt again. When the All-Star Game was in Dallas, Texas, in 2010, Kobe didn’t play that game either. So I’ve been to all these All-Star Games and I haven’t seen Kobe play. I saw him play last year. Yeah, Kobe is great. I get into a lot of discussions about that guy. He’s doing a lot for the homeless in Los Angeles.

*screened at the 2014 Dallas International Film Festival*

Similar Stories: