Read our exclusive interview with actor Larry Hankin, who portrays Granger in the new comedy ‘Buzz Kill.’ The film, which was written and directed by Stephen Kampmann, follows a once promising screenwriter, Ray Wyatt (played by Daniel Raymont), who refuses to get a job in advertising just to please his wife Sara (portrayed by Reiko Aylesworth), and moves into a run-down apartment as a result. His new landlord, Granger, hassles him for money, and is reluctant to fix the problems that plague the apartment.
Ray’s future improves when an L.A. producer wants to meet with him to discuss his new screenplay, ‘Great Shame.’ Having little travel money, Ray allows a young waitress from a local dinner, Nicole (played by Krysten Ritter), to travel with him. After Nicole leaves him in the middle of their trip because she’s become bored, Ray encounters the notorious Karaoke Killer (portrayed by Darrell Hammond), who steals his car and script. While Ray follows the killer to get his screenplay back, he’s reluctant to turn him into police, as he’s the first person interested in the new ending.
Hankin discusses with us, among other things, what attracted him to the role of Granger. He also talks about what his working relationship with Raymont was like, and how shooting independent films differ from big budget studio movies.
ShockYa (SY): You play Granger, Ray Watt’s landlord who insists he pay his rent, despite the negligent conditions of his apartment, in ‘Buzz Kill.’ What was it about the script that convinced you to take on the role?
Larry Hankin (LH): Well, I like Steve Kampmann, who is the director. I’ve seen him direct other things, another movie that he’s done. I like Steven.
Then when I read the script, I liked the character, he’s so out there. I love those kinds of characters, and that’s what I do. They fit into what I’m able to do. I thought it was really funny.
SY: How did you prepare for the role of Granger before you began shooting the film?
LH: I’ve lived pretty much like that for many years of my life. That’s about it. For that particular role, Granger, there’s not much research that you have to do. There’s serious roles where you do, but Granger’s just a natural. It was on page, what you would professionally say. It was in the script, how to do that guy was right on the page.
SY: Daniel Raymont, who plays Ray Watt in ‘Buzz Kill,’ has said the cast did some improvisation while shooting. Did you do any improv while filming?
LH: No, not that much. One was because I liked the way it was written. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But I didn’t have that big a role. My scenes were kind of quick. I didn’t think it was necessary, and I think we got the funny. It was pretty funny. So I didn’t do much, no. (laughs) I didn’t do much. But it depends on the moment, really.
SY:The main character Granger interacts with in ‘Buzz Kill’ is Daniel. So what was your working relationship with Daniel like?
LH: Oh, it was great, Daniel is really cool. He understands deadpan humor, which is the kind of humor I like, as does Steven. He’s very good. I liked working with him. When you’re working with some really good, it’s not work, it’s fun and easy. It’s not work at all. So big points for Daniel.
It’s comedy, which is very hard to find, especially dead pan comedies. I think they’re rare, not hard to do, but rare, and Daniel did it well.
SY: Steven Kampmann both directed and co-wrote the script, with Matt Smollon, for ‘Buzz Kill.’ Did the fact that Steven worked on the screenplay help in his directorial duties?
LH: I don’t know. I just show up and do my work, I don’t check if Steven did his homework. He seemed prepared. He had a really good working relationship with the cinematographer (Stephen Treadway), and that’s always a good sign.
My scenes were mainly hand-held, and they worked together to get the joke. I really liked that. They had really good focus on what was important, and they worked together well. So that was just a good sign to me. I took that as I didn’t have to worry about the director, because I saw how well he was working with the cinematographer and with Daniel. So I just relaxed, and went with whatever was happening.
SY: Since ‘Buzz Kill’ is an independent film, did the smaller budget place any limitations on what you could shoot?
LH: Oh yeah! (laughs) That’s all where you can film is based on, the budget. Give me $4 million, and I’ll get your shot for you. But I think it’s more creative. I’m not just saying that as a text-book phrase, but I’ve been in situations where we didn’t have the money on many films.
I shoot my own films, too, where we didn’t have the budget, and we had to solve it. Then when you go see the film, it was a great way to solve it. When you’re watching a film, you’re not worried about, as a viewer, the budget. You’re just watching a story, and you get involved, or you don’t get involved.
These solutions that we came up with, because we had no money, we said we’re so creative that it just helped move the story along. There wasn’t any glitz, or oh, they didn’t have enough money here. It was great, and we liked the way that we solved it. You go, wow, you don’t need money to solve some problems. Sometimes you do.
But with my scenes in ‘Buzz Kill,’ no, it helped. It was hand-held, it was fast and in a real place. It wasn’t on a sound stage. So it didn’t affect what we were doing. I think it helped not having a lot of people and money around, and suits. That’s another thing that money brings. (laughs) It’s like, the suits are here, everybody be good. (laughs) We didn’t have enough money to have suits around, I guess that’s the upside. (laughs)
SY: How did shooting ‘Buzz Kill’ compare and contrast to the bigger comedies you’ve appeared in, including ‘Home Alone’ and ‘Pretty Woman?’
LH: Well, I can’t complain. In ‘Home Alone,’ which was a huge budget movie, they treated me well, because they had money. There were no worries. The director (Chris Columbus) had a track record, everybody had track records. They used it well, and they were intelligent, good people.
They had a lot of money, and they spent it well. Not all on me, but here was a situation where it was big money, and there were suits there. But they were making a movie, and I went and did my part. Everyone was intelligent, and used their time and their money and their talents well. That’s all you could ask for. In that particular instance, it didn’t affect my performance. It kind of helped, because there was a lot of help around.
There was a joke I was trying to tell, and I had to eat like 72 doughnuts. (laughs) In ‘Home Alone,’ I eat a doughnut. They shot it every time I was in the shot. For some reason, I always had to eat the doughnut. There was a lot of rehearsal, and a lot of let’s get it perfect. That’s another thing that money does. It allows you to get the perfect shot, which is not a good thing.
They didn’t shot it 72 times, but they did shoot it like 10 times, my scene, that particular shot. The reason was there were technical difficulties. It wasn’t a waste of time or money or talent. A technical thing happened, or someone forgot their line, the usual.
But in a low budget, you shoot it once or twice, and you move on, that’s it. I had to eat the doughnut as many times as they shot it. (laughs) So that was a result of money (laughs), on that particular shot.
I have seen ways where money was wasted. You go, I wish all these people would go home, because it wasn’t being used well, the budget. You go, you could do that with hand-held and a couple of people. On the other hand, I’ve seen it very difficult when people don’t have enough money. They were very sincere, and they try to get the shots, and they did. But they didn’t have enough money, and it was hard.
But you muddle through, and it’s amazing what crews can do. Crews are amazing, I’ve got to say that right up front. They’re the most amazing people on any set. They just come up with answers to technical problems.
SY: Besides films, you have also guest starred on such shows as ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’ and ‘Monk.’ Do you have a preference of appearing in films over television, or vice versa?
LH: Only in the long run. They’re kind of all the same, you memorize your lines, you do your part, you do your homework. You go, there’s a camera, you film it. There’s a director there, it’s all kind of the same. Nowadays, television series are shot outdoors, where you don’t even have that as a specialty for movies anymore.
Movies, you do one or two or three a year. If you’re in a series, you work everyday for a season, and television is 9-to-5. Movies are like 5:30 in the morning until you either lose the light or do a night shoot. I mean, movies just go on until you get it. Television is 9-to-5, where you can drive to work. Movies, you have to fly, and it’s out of town and hotels.
But once you get on the set, it’s about three cameras. But for me personally, it’s just different, it’s not better or worse, just different. It kind of mixes it up, for me it’s kind of cool.
SY: Are there any details you can share about any upcoming projects you’re working on?
LH: Yeah, I’m writing a movie for myself, I want to start writing, and acting in, my own movies. On YouTube, I have ‘The Outlaw Emmett Deemus,’ which I want to make into a feature. I’m raising the money now. We’re going to film it maybe in March or April. But you can see the film shorts where the idea came from on YouTube. I think there’s two of them. The last one is ‘The Outlaw Emmet Deemus-Willy Jones.’ That’s pretty much what I’m doing, and I think next year, I’m going to do a college tour, and tell stories (laughs).
Written by: Karen Benardello