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Frankie in Blunderland (2011) Movie Talk

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 Location: All Movie Forums / Movies / Frankie in Blunderland (2011)
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Aspiring Actor

Actor John Christopher Morton stars in Caleb Emerson’s latest film “Frankie in Blunderland,” which recently released on DVD. I had a chance to catch up with the actor to find out about playing an alien disguised as a Human Mormon.

DUDE: What was your first impression of the script after you read it?

JOHN: My first impression was that the script was insane! That wasn't surprising to me,
though, since I had seen (director) Caleb Emerson's first film, Die You Zombie Bastards! and I was expecting (and hoping for) something weird.

The script was written by Marta
Estirado who I think met Caleb on the set of the Troma film Poultrygeist. There were a few sections that were pretty confusing when I first read it - scenes or lines that seemed to repeat, sometimes with different characters, sometimes with the same characters, a little bit like some of David Lynch's films.

When we were on set, Marta told me that she had written many drafts of the script, and then she loaded all of them into Final Draft simultaneously and made this crazy layered version of the script made up of multiple drafts, like a collage. Apparently the first version that she sent to Caleb was pretty long and dense, and he edited it down into something more manageable. She also said that she had been inspired by a German fairy tale about a man on a quest to find his wife.

Sadly, Marta passed away just as the film was being completed, so she never got to see the final piece. But she seemed to be really happy with how Caleb was bringing her script to life during the shoot.

DUDE: What do you think audiences can expect from this film?

JOHN: That's tricky; I've had a hard time describing the film to people.

Caleb and a bunch of the people who are in the film, including Debbie Rochon, Tom Devlin, and John Karyus are all connected to Troma and horror films to a certain extent. But this is not a horror film. The movie is funny, but it's not a comedy. It really has more of a weird melodrama kind of tone to it. And it's also totally surreal. So it's very unique, and it’s hard to put it in a box, which is great, but I’m sure it also makes it hard to market the film or find an audience.

A bunch of people have said that it reminds them of Repo Man, which makes total sense to me. Other people have said that it feels like an obscure 80s movie that you would find on TV at 2am, or watch hungover on a lazy Sunday, which I think is totally appropriate as well.

DUDE: Was this an easy or difficult role for you to create?

JOHN: Very easy! My character is called “Human Mormon,” and he is an alien who has disguised himself as a Mormon missionary, thinking that this disguise will help advance his plot to repopulate the earth by accumulating multiple “earth wives.”

It was a really fun role to play. For whatever reason, playing an alien comes naturally to me. When I told my friends that I had been cast as an alien, nobody was surprised. I emailed with Caleb before the shoot to get some direction from him, and he said that the alien was sort of an earnest, slightly naive character and the only character like that in the world of the film. Most of the characters are pretty horrible to each other in the film. It was really fun to come up with the way that the alien walked and talked, I even came up with a way that he ran. I inhabited a specific awkward physicality, and everything sort of flowed from there.

I also took some inspiration from Caleb’s first movie Die You Zombie Bastards! - all of the characters are really pitched and over the top in a really funny way, so I tried to bring some of that to the role as well.

DUDE: Is there anything you would do differently now that you’ve seen the film?

JOHN: I would have learned how to do origami! There is a scene in which my character makes an origami crane, and I didn't actually make it myself. Sadie Blades, who plays Isabel Nape in the film made the crane and I sort of fake it. It actually ends up looking pretty funny, which might ultimately be more interesting than me making a paper crane for real, but as an actor, I really like to be able to do everything in real life that my character does in the movie.

I guess I get a little bit of leeway when I am playing an alien. I didn't eat real plutonium, for example, in the scene where my character eats sticks of plutonium. I'm almost that much of a method actor, but not quite. I draw the line at eating radioactive substances.

DUDE: Can you share something from behind the scenes that we wouldn’t know from watching it?

JOHN: Hmm, maybe that the scenes that take place in the "Cow Shed" were shot in a space with no air conditioning in the sweltering Los Angeles heat? I feel like dealing with extreme weather or circumstances is common on shoots, though, it comes with the territory.

Actually, there is a weird story about the Cow Shed location. We were originally going to shoot that scene at a place called Singing Springs in Angeles National Forest. It was a huge wooded space with these great old cabins that Caleb had shot at before. But a week before the shoot, the location was totally devastated by the Angeles Crest fire. So we ended up with a different location. The owners are still using the site to rent out for film locations now, it just looks a little bit different and they are now advertising the "charred,
post apocalyptic" landscape and the burned structures. At least they are making the most of a bad situation.

Something else that might not be obvious is that the prosthetic black contact lenses that I wear in the film actually match my prescription, which was pretty awesome. A few times I wore them out in the world during the
shoot, and went into some stores dressed in my wardrobe, as a Mormon missionary with completely black eyes. That was fun.

And I really don’t think that anyone will get from watching it that it was made on such a small budget. It doesn’t look like a big budget movie by any stretch of the imagination, but I was blown away by how much Caleb accomplished with minimal resources. Nowadays, I think it is difficult for anyone to get funding to make a movie. I read that Steven Spielberg even had trouble getting funding for
Lincoln, and that there was a point in time in which it was going to go to cable instead of having a theatrical release. But the more indie films I’ve worked on the more impressed I am with the people who are able to make it happen, it is no small feat. I’m so glad that Frankie In Blunderland is finally out on DVD!

Frankie in Blunderland
4:33 pm CT

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