Ever since talking to charming, eternally positive actor Benjamin Lutz, Big Gay Horror Fan has been whistling pink flowers and skipping along to a happy tune. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, the theatrically trained Lutz has recently entered the film world with understanding grace. One of his first roles off of the boards, sexually confused trucker Brewster in 2011’s vastly admired Bite Marks, has endeared him to terror fans across all blocks of life, as well. Here, the congenial, openly gay Lutz regales us with behind the scenes stories and thoughts on his place in the world of cinema – all while reveling in the eternal majesty of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, of course!
BGHF: Hey, Benjamin! I hope all is well.
Benjamin: It’s the first day that I’ve had off in awhile – and I’m exhausted. And – it’s actually a beautiful day today, so I’m going to go out and enjoy the weather.
BGHF: I would think awesome weather would be a common occurrence in California.
Benjamin: Actually, it can kind of be a crapshoot, here – just like anywhere else, I suppose.
BGHF: The grass is never greener, I guess. So, you’ve kind of got a bit of a horror buzz going on due to your participation in Bite Marks.
Benjamin: You know genre wise horror was not the first thing I always went to. So, jumping into my first film in horror I really had no idea what was going on. I quickly found out just how all the elements fit together. And once you kind of become part of a horror loving family, you are sort of forced to watch every single horror film with your friends. I spent so long in school studying so many Shakespeare type things but, then once I got out of school, all my studying was done watching this really shitty, awesome 70’s horror.
BGHF: Cool! Was this all in preparation for Bite Marks?
Benjamin: Actually, with Bite Marks I was just kind of jumping in before I really knew much about horror. That’s why I have to always kind of call myself a freshman. Mostly everything I’ve known has been gained from all the directors I’ve worked with. Specifically, I became really good friends with Mark Bessenger, the guy who directed Bite Marks. After filming, he’s the one who has pretty much showed me every classic horror movie that I had, previously, never seen.
BGHF: Is there something that sticks out in your head as a favorite?
Benjamin: Well, my favorite movie forever, which I never really thought was a horror movie, is The Shining. I can never get enough of that movie. So, I think it’s the psychological ones that get me. I can watch The Shining every year and still get frightened. But, I didn’t know how much I would love some of the tongue in cheek-comedic ones. I can’t believe how much fun I had with the original Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead and things like that. In fact, I am kind of happy that I never saw a lot of them before I got Bite Marks. While we were making it, people were referencing things like Night of the Living Dead and I was kind of shaking my head. I really didn’t know what they were talking about. When they did some really crazy ass shit that might have been a throwback to an old movie – like quotes from Fright Night – I just didn’t know it. But I went with it. Consequently, all I could do was be an actor in the moment – (Laughing) which sounds so stupid to say out loud – but if I would have known all of the things that we were making illusions to and the things that we were making fun of, I might have sucked at it. But, believe you me, I learned afterwards!
BGHF: Too much knowledge sometimes spoils the blood in the cinematic soup, I guess.
Benjamin: (Laughs) I was completely unaware of any homage’s going on. Besides, from being told, that is. But it didn’t ruin it for me. I was just completely in the moment. You know, this is happening to you right now! Get the fuck out of there! (Laughs) Run away from the fucking vampires!
BGHF: You mentioned Fright Night earlier. Stephen Geoffreys (known to the terror legions as Evil Ed in the 1985 original) was part of the Bite Marks cast, as well. In fact, you played brothers!
Benjamin: He was a trip! When we first started a couple of our things, he seemed game for anything. I think I was used to really stuffy theater people who have to plan out every single thing about their fight scene. You know – the arm will go here and stuff like that. I remember at one point he just looked at me and said, “You know at one point, I think I might jump on your back. But, let’s just go!” So, it was really, really fun because he seemed absolutely game for anything. He was in and out so I can’t tell you anything about him, personally. But working with him was a blast! We really had some kick-ass, fun scenes!
BGHF: Well, he’s just an amazing performer with strong theater roots, like yours. There is something unique and unusual that reads about him in everything he does.
Benjamin: The first thing he did was that very first scene in the film when he gets eaten in the truck bed. And I have to say, he just went for it! He started banging himself against the trailer and making these horrible screeching yells. He went on for like three minutes. I was thinking surely the director is gonna call cut at any moment. But no, it just didn’t happen. He (Stephen) seemed to really like it – and really, really went for it.
BGHF: So, what inspired you to be an actor?
Benjamin: I was always a little wall-flowery, so when you step into something and people love you for it – it feels good. What made me stick it out for the long haul is its ability to feed into the emotions. I think maybe in my personal life, I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve and I get to in this alter world. Whenever you talk to any sort of artist, it is always some outlet to get something out that you need to get out. But, it just doesn’t happen in real life. That’s what has kept me going. I love just every aspect of the theater, too. I went to school for directing and it was just a completely right fit.
BGHF: Have you directed a lot?
Benjamin: Yeah. Not in LA, though. (Laughs) I should get back to something that I went to college for, shouldn’t I? But, I went to SMU. There, one year you will completely do Ibsen. One year is Chekov; one year is devoted to Shakespeare. Never do they talk about film. Never do they talk about anything else but the arts and the classics and being there for your muse. So, it’s kind of nice to get out of that world and do some really kick ass films. You never know where it’s going to go and for me, I never saw myself acting in film. But I couldn’t be happier. It makes more sense. Right now, film is way more exciting.
BGHF: It’s kind of fun that Bite Marks was one of your first ventures then.
Benjamin: My first reaction when reading the script (Bite Marks) was, “Okay, what is this going to be?” It was never something I thought I would be auditioning for. It was just a fluke. The more and more and more I read the script, though, I thought it was just a delightful script. It was well written and I never knew what was going to happen at every single turn. I’ve always said that the first time you read something, you KNOW if it’s a really good script. That’s how I felt with that one. Mark, the writer/director, has an incredible ability to give every single character some heart – whether he is a fucking asshole or whether he is the nicest guy in the world. You are always kind of rooting for his characters. After the read, I talked to my best friend and said this is actually a really good script.
BGHF: Even though it’s been marketed as gay horror, Bite Marks has, also, gotten a lot of praise from the (so called) regular horror community, as well.
Benjamin: Well, it is a real horror movie. Whether it’s the times that we are making fun of other horror movies or the violence or what have you.
BGHF: Is there anything that stands out for you about the making of the film?
Benjamin: I can’t drive a truck! There were a lot of things that we had to do to fake me driving a truck – which was pretty frightening for me. When we were filming, it had to look like me driving a truck and we really didn’t want to use any green screen techniques. That would look like crap for our movie. But, the DP had to be on the other side, so we couldn’t really have anyone but me and the DP in the truck. So, I pretty much had to be dragged by another pick-up truck with (pretty much just) string through some really frightening roads. Then – they were like you have to do this, this, this, say your lines, be afraid from the vampire and go now — and then we’ll just see what happens! There were so many times that I thought I was going to die! When you think about being pulled, it doesn’t seem like much, but it was way harder than you’d ever think it would be.
BGHF: Well, I have to say that just from talking to you, I can tell that you and your character, Brewster, seem like two totally different people. You truly lost yourself in that role.
Benjamin: Thank you! Believe it or not, first of all, I was afraid that I wasn’t going be able to get any kind of accent whatsoever. Then I just met the craziest guy in a truck stop. I actually listened to him just talk for two hours and within those two hours, my character completely changed. And I was just about to film about 10 hours later! There are actually just so many fun stories because we were in Southern Indiana. Nothing was a set. Every piece that we used, we picked out of a junk pile. It rained forever during filming. Sometimes, we would have to wait a whole night for the rain to stop, so we could shoot. But it, also, brought this weird mustiness to the air that really helped as an actor. When we were having big vampire death scenes, it’s not fake metal there. All the metal around was real metal, so you had to be really frightened for your life, at the same time. So, most of the really fun things – which I really didn’t know about because I was so green and had never been in a movie before – was that real stuff. In most movies, you have to fake it because everything is fake around you – when you’re being chased by a vampire, you’re pretty much being chased by nothing. In this one, everything was kind of real and palpable – the smells and tastes. So, every really good story comes from the fact that we were really there. When we smashed the truck at the end, we really smashed the truck at the end. Even though we were on a fun, low budget it really had this weird immediacy. It makes it feel really more throwback to the cool Night of the Living Dead kind of things. And from the get-go, we did talk about it being a fun, kickback to all of it.
BGHF: Bite Marks has been marketed as a gay horror production and all your other films (The Love Patient, The Men Next Door, The Last Straight Man) are gay themed as well. It’s amazing (and well deserved) that you are working so much. Are you worried about being caught in a gay ghetto of romantic comedies and the like, though?
Benjamin: I talk to my friends about typecasting. The consensus seems to be that whatever ghetto you may find yourself in – at least you’re doing things. Of course, you’re always thinking about whether it’s going to limit you in other ways. But, I am brand new to making films. I’ve had small parts in a few things here and there, but technically I have only been in three main films. They actually all have been gay, but I haven’t thought about it in that way. I guess you might have to think that you may get caught in a ghetto. But anytime that I’ve been scared about something like that, it kind of just seems like that negative voice in your head, saying “what if?” If you have a really cool script, a really cool director and a really cool thing that you want to do, you’ve got to go where your heart’s telling you. That being said, there have been scripts that I’ve not done. Not because of anything in the script, but because I didn’t feel it. (Laughs) But talk to me few years from now and we’ll see what my take is.
BGHF: You, honestly, seem incredibly positive. I can’t imagine it would be too much different from what you’re saying today.
Benjamin: I stand by this and this might sound Pollyanna like, but I have never ever taken a job that didn’t feel right. Every job that I have taken I actually thought the script was really good. Which sounds like I am giving you the Oprah answer, but truthfully, everything I’ve taken I’ve thought was a great script and I had to do it!
You can keep up with Lutz’s different film projects at the links, below:
The Last Straight Man – Mark Bessenger’s new film – Lutz is, also, a producer:
The Love Patient:
Journey of Echoes:
Big Gay Horror Fan is, always, jumping through sharp metal hoops at https://www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan, as well!
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!