Nathan Baesel

I would’ve needed some serious re-calibration of my funometer if he wasn’t funny to anyone else but me.

Behind the Mask seems to have gotten a tremendous response from horror fans since it's DVD release in June. How does it feel that they've loved it so much?

I’m thrilled that the folks we made the film for have enjoyed it as much as they have. We weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. We were trying to make a fun film with some depth, some nuance, an internal logic, and good characters. The response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic from fans and critics alike. That’s extremely gratifying. I’m fascinated however by the people who hate it and call it a derivative piece of shit (it seems like people either love it or hate it) but I feel like most people get what we were trying to do and go along for the ride because they’re having a good time doing it. I want to say to the haters, “Lighten up! Have a few drinks, relax, get it on with your favorite one, and after you’ve popped your rocks THEN put the film on.” Isn’t that how any film should be viewed?

Are you at all surprised by the success?

The reaction that we got from crowded theater houses when we were screening it at festivals was so exciting I realized that film is not a set-in-stone medium. I’d always thought live theater was the only way to achieve that kinetic energy unique to actors and audience, but BTM was just as rowdy as any play I’ve ever done.

We loved Angela Goethals as the television journalist, what was it like to work with her?

Awesome, yes! I fell in love with her during the coarse of the shoot which was perfect for the role of Leslie. She’s an incredibly engaging woman and the affection I had for her personally was mirrored in Leslie’s regard for Tylor. I realized after we finished the film that there were so many events behind the scenes that made their way to the camera and allowed for really special moments that I think are few and far between for a lot of films.

Are you a fan of the films that "Behind the Mask" spoofs? Do you have any favorite horror films?

I generally steer away from horror films because they scare the POOP out of me. I think the flashback scenes in The Exorcism Of Emily Rose are terrifying. The Exorcist is a great one. The original Omen.

What are your favorite non-horror films?

"The Hunt for Red October," "Die Hard," "Amadeus," "The Big Lebowski," "All The President's Men," "Boogie Nights," "Flirting With Disaster," "Bullets Over Broadway," "The Matrix," "Star Wars Ep. 4," "The Godfather" 1 and 2, "The Shawshank Redemption," and so many others.

Was it exhilarating to get to stand there with your weapon, with the fog around you, like those other on-screen legends?

It was cold. Near freezing, mud, bare feet and torn long underwear. It was cold. Fun to shoot the money shot though, the one you knew would be on the poster because it was such a cool shot.

You've said that you kind of did your "own thing" with the character of Leslie. What was the tone of the character like in the script?

He read like a killer. And it’s easy to understand how most guys would read it and think, “Mean. Sadistic. Angry.” I just never see bad people as evil. I think it’s almost safe to put that label on them because then you can just file them away as Evil and no more thought is required.

You've gotten rave reviews for the comedic angle of your character. Does that give you a sense of validation for your ideas about the script?

Yeah it does. I would’ve needed some serious re-calibration of my funometer if he wasn’t funny to anyone else but me. I really fought hard to convince Scott that my take could bring in the laughs and still have an edge. Once we started shooting and the crew began reacting to the stuff I was doing I breathed a huge sigh of relief. My sense of humor is probably more British in sensibility than American. I really love comedy that isn’t sold as comedy but it’s subtlety is no less effective. I’m so glad that there are many more people who share that sense of humor.

Were you worried about being scary at the end, considering how funny the character was?

I wasn’t worried about bringing the scary. That comes a lot more second nature to me than bringing the funny. I was more concerned that since I’m wearing a mask throughout the last part of the film people would think it wasn’t me. All that work for people to give the credit to the stunt guy.

So you've said that Robert Englund pulled you aside and told you that you reminded him of a young Anthony Perkins, did your head just about explode when he said that?

Yes and yes. This man had built a horror empire from his Freddy character. He knows good character. I felt incredibly validated in that moment.

What was it like being on the set with Robert and Zelda (Rubenstien)?

Unfortunately I didn't get to work with him too much because we only had a couple brief scenes together but he was a class act all the way around. He took the gang out for drinks the night he arrived in Portland. SO much energy, insight, experience, and he was so unassuming that I enjoyed all the time I could spend with him on set. And even during the 3 and 4 AM hours of his shoots he was always up and cheery and ready to work. I hope I get the chance to work with him again. Zelda as well was such a trooper coming in for the library scene on the last night of our shoot. Everyone was exhausted, working zombie-like to get all the library stuff shot before the sun came up. But we got it done and she was great.

Do you think you'd like to return to the genre again? Given the chance?

Acting in a horror film is totally different from watching one. And given the chance I’d love to scare some other people for a change.

The writer of "Behind the Mask" David J. Stieve, has talked about the possibility of a sequel if the funding interest is there. Have you been approached about this at all?

No approaches yet, I think the jury’s still out on whether we have a cult classic on our hands or not but the ball seems to be rolling in that direction. If the dvd continues to sell well then I’ll bet you they’ll start working in a new script if they haven’t already.

Would you don the mask again, if you were asked?

If the script was as good or better than the original, yes. I don’t like sequels as a rule generally and the last thing I want to do is MAKE a bad sequel.

Since you had so much input on the first one, where would you want to see the character of Leslie go the second time around?

I think David has already been knocking around some neat ideas about Leslie getting everything he wanted. He’s finding himself up there in the high echelons of slasher society. How does he handle the celebrity?

So what have you been up to since BTM?

I've done a couple films since: "Like "Moles, "Rats" and "Off The Ledge." Both are in post-production. And I recently finished a couple guest star spots on "Numbers" and the upcoming ABC show "Women's Murder Club."

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