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Exclusive Interview: Zack Ward discusses ‘Bethany’

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I spoke with Zack Ward about Bethany, a film that he stars in and co-wrote with James Cullen Bressack, which is available on VOD now. Zack played the legendary Scut Farkus in A Christmas Story, so it’s no surprise that he’s invited to partake in some intense snowball fights. Zack also talked about working on Titus, the superpower that he shares with Tom Green, what’s coming up next for him, and so much more. Bethany also stars Tom Green, Stefanie Estes, Shannen Doherty, and Anna Harr. Bethany is out now on multiple platforms.

L.L.:  You’ve been in some of my favorite films and shows like Freddy vs. Jason, A Christmas Story, and Titus. I really loved Titus.

Zack Ward:  Awesome! Thank you. Titus was a lot of fun to work on.

L.L. They are bringing back old shows, so I wish they would bring back Titus.

Zack Ward:  They can’t bring Titus back. Christopher Titus fucked the process so badly by pissing off everybody at the network. He’s the reason that the show got cancelled. He was such a disastrous mess to work with that nobody is willing to help him out in any shape or form. He’s a very funny stand-up comedian. If you know the show at all, you know that his mother committed suicide and his sister committed suicide while we were doing the show. He doesn’t understand why everything happened the way it did. That’s why Titus will never been on Netflix and it’s just sad, trust me.

L.L.:  I didn’t know about all the problems. It was just such a good show.

Zack Ward:  Right! It was one of my favorite experiences in my entire life.

L.L.:  The TBS holiday videos that you did were really funny.

Zack Ward:  Thank you. My favorite was the bully proofing one with the little girl. I bully proofed this little six-year-old girl. She was the sweetest little girl in the world. One of the things that you do is put a big colander, with a ribbon on it, on your head. It’s silly. I put that on her head and wrapped her up in bubble wrap and all this stuff. At the end of the day, I offered her anything from the set. We had little trees, nutcrackers, elf on the shelf, and all that stuff. She wanted the space hat. She wanted the colander, what you drain your spaghetti in. [Laughing.] It was the cutest thing that I’ve ever seen in my life.

L.L.:  How often are you challenged to snowball fights in real-life?

Zack Ward:  You would be surprised. It’s kind of a thing. If I’m at a place with snow and people know it’s me and we’ve met and spoken and have been friendly, it happens very quickly. They ask if they can hit me with a snowball and I tell them not if I get them first. That’s usually how that rolls out. I’ve been in quite a few snowball fights. One of them was at a convention in Chicago. You know when you drive up to a hotel and there is that big overhang in the front of the hotel? It’s that roof the protects you from getting rained on or snowed on. Well, a whole bunch of people were going from room to room talking to each other, and having a few drinks, and I stepped out onto the overhang, that was four stories high, and we had a massive snowball fight up there. It was really stupid and dangerous, but hilariously fun, and no one got hurt.

L.L.:  Well, you have to embrace that.

Zack Ward:  Why wouldn’t you? It’s awesome!

L.L.:  I just watched Bethany and it was incredibly creepy.

Zack Ward:  Thank you. James Cullen Bressack directed that and we wrote it together. I’m glad you liked it.

L.L:  It’s in the trailer, so I know I’m not giving it away, but that scene where Claire (Stefanie Estes) is playing piano and her nail…No, just no!

Zack Ward:  Did that get you?

L.L.:  Oh, yeah. It was like that scene in that Kevin Bacon film, Stir of Echoes. You have a lot of that in your film.

Zack Ward:  Yes, that was a great movie. It’s always been one of those things that violence has to be intimate in order for it to have impact, otherwise it just seems like an action sequence. If you watch, say the first Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger, he gets to Mars and he takes off the funny woman outfit and then he’s running away from the baddies. They are shooting at him and they kill an extra. Arnold holds up the body of the extra as a shield and the body of the extra gets shot. Well, you don’t really feel anything. You don’t feel upset, you don’t feel grossed out, you don’t feel connected to it for a couple of reasons:  you’ve never met that actor before and you don’t know what it’s like to be shot. You can watch someone get shot but you never go, “Oh my god, that looks like it hurts.” You just have this assumption that that’s a bad thing. We know that, but you don’t relate to it like If you get a paper cut. Another scene in Bethany, that I think works out really well because of very smart editing and choices on James’ part, is like when you’re cutting your food in the kitchen, with a very sharp knife, and somebody else is talking to you. You turn around and you look away from your hands. As soon as you do that, the audience thinks oh, no, no, no because you have cut your hand with a knife. You know exactly what that feels like and you hate it. [Laughing.] It’s that type of violence that is relatable, that connects the audience to the characters. I think it’s really important. It’s one of the reasons why, although Avengers movies and Disney stuff is so fantastic on so many levels, when they have Ant-man picking up a plane and hitting Iron Man with a plane—it looks great but you don’t feel anything because nobody has any stakes. There is nothing that you can relate to. The last time I got hit by a plane—nobody says that. It’s funny how the little things have more connective tissue to the audience than the big pieces.

L.L.:  Yes. You guys really incorporated a lot of unsettling elements in your film.

Zack Ward:  Thank you. We tried to do that in the writing. I know that, for James, it was incredibly important to structure a film that reminded him of the classics from the 70s. I think he did a really great job of it.

L.L.:  It’s definitely not your typical horror film.

Zack Ward:  No, no it wasn’t. I think there was a lot of experimentation. That’s the cool thing about horror audiences. I think they are open and invite the need to play. It may not be a perfect movie, I think, but there is an old saying about acting. Acting doesn’t have to be perfect but it has to be brave. It has to be fearless.

L.L.:  For someone that hasn’t seen the film, how would you describe it? What can you say about it?   

Zack Ward:  Bethany is a 70s style supernatural thriller in the classic style as a character study. The thing that I like about both Restoration and Bethany, and we designed them like this, is that although there are moments of horror in the film it’s not, and I say this not to be misogynistic, but my own fiancé, she can’t handle gory stuff. I wanted to make a movie that both horror fans, as well as normal audience members, are going to enjoy. I think it crosses the aisle to be a little bit more bipartisan when it comes to the audience that can relate to the film.

L.L.:  Can you talk about your character Aaron?

Zack Ward:  Aaron is a sweet guy, a nice guy. He’s compelled and intense about his career. He loves what he does. I don’t know if you have any friends like this but it used to be that working in computers was for nerds. Now the reality is that any way that you choose to express your creativity is awesome. People appreciate that and Aaron is a driven individual. He’s made a lot of sacrifices for his wife. They lost the baby that they had together. She tried to commit suicide. I don’t think that’s a spoiler because the movie starts off with that type of dynamic. What I like about him is that he’s in a very hard situation. He loves his wife and he wants things to work out with his wife but things go sideways, as you know. At a certain point, you have to wonder how much is this relationship worth. Anybody should always value themselves enough in a relationship not to be mistreated. He’s running that line of being very frustrated about what’s happening at the same time knowing that she’s gone through so much, but she’s causing so many issues. It’s very difficult. Do you leave a person that’s going through all this insanity because they are choosing that path? If you do stay with them you are being a victim of them and really of yourself. It’s a very difficult choice to make. How do you see yourself in your own life? Do you stick it out and become the martyr, or do you walk away and go live your life somewhere else? He’s really in a very hard position. I think he tries to balance it out as best as he can. There is no real win. In situations like that it’s not easy. You are kind of between a rock and a hard place the entire time.

L.L.:  I have to say, I would love to see a comedy series featuring you and Tom Green where you get to explore your Canadian superpowers.

Zack Ward:  [Laughing.] Did you like that? I wrote most of that. My thought behind it was it’s kind of like the Arnold Schwarzenegger /Jean-Claude Van Damme movies from the 80s where because their accents are so thick there’s always a scene in every film where they are like oh, we just came in from Austria. Oh, you know we just came in from Belgium, on an exchange program. There is always some weak ass expedition that they use so you can understand why their accent is so thick. I wrote the scene in so we could address the elephant in the room, which was Tom’s massive accent. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

L.L.:  What would be the first thing that you would want to discuss?

Zack Ward:  The first thing that I would discuss is being in America and once everybody knows that you are Canadian they do their version of a Canadian accent, which is them just adding the word eh to something. They get this big smile on their face as if they are the first person to come up with it. It’s cute and annoying at the same time. That’s one thing I would say. We could also tackle the evolution of 8-bit video games into a pure art form. That would be an interesting topic. That would be a lot of fun. People could call us up and ask us questions about Canada and we would lie. [Laughing.]

L.L.:   Do you have any funny stories from the set that you can share?

Zack Ward:  It was such an intense set because we had to get so much work done. One thing I want people to know about Stephanie, she does such a great job in the film, but she’s also very funny. In the film she comes off very dark, bruiting and mysterious, which is her job and she does it wonderfully, but in person she is delightful, sweet, funny, self-deprecating—just a lovely, lovely woman. It’s awesome to see that juxtaposition between what she plays, and how dark she went, and what her natural personality is.

When we were shooting the scenes in the hospital, some of the floors of the hospital were still functioning. Some people got off on the wrong floor. [In an old lady voice] “I have my surgery today.” We had to tell the woman that we were shooting a movie. She continued, “I have my surgery.” It was really cute. We had to take her to another floor. She seemed very confused. That was fun.

L.L.:  What have you learned over the years, from being on different sets, that has helped you with your own projects?

Zack Ward:  Do it. Start doing it as fast as possible, especially with writing. Start writing right away and you can always go back and edit it. Even writing shit is better than not writing. You can always go back and out of ten pages of shit there might be one amazing concept, or paragraph, but if you never write it, you’ll never know. Everything will just live in your mind, which makes you alone. That’s a big one. Do it. Start doing what you want to do as soon as possible in a format where you can edit it down to something cleaner later on. Don’t tell too many people about what you’re doing. This is an interesting one, don’t go tell people what you are going to do, just go fucking do it because your brain doesn’t see the difference. If you start telling a bunch of people that you are going to write a script about this movie about somebody that has a hat and likes flowers, pussycats, and running shoes, and you start explaining it to people over and over again your brain will think that you got it done and it won’t eat at you to go and do it. You won’t have any motivation to go and do it. You’ll feel satisfied and fulfilled as if you accomplished it. You haven’t, you’ve just talked out of your ass. A friend of mine taught me that.

L.L.:  What else are you working on?

Zack Ward:  I’m working on a series that I’m writing right now. It goes into production at the end of this year, the beginning of next. It’s a sci-fi adventure television series. I’m working on that.

I’ve got a television show that I’m going to be guest starring in that I’m not allowed to talk about. I’m really excited about that. When I do it, and it comes out, I can let you know. It’s really big. I’m excited about that. It’s one of those shows that when you look at it it’s incredibly designed, shot, lit, and written. It’s just an inspiration to all things that horror of television shows should be.

I just got engaged, so that’s cool. That’s about it. I’m just living my life. My brother just had his first son. My fiancé came up with his first name. His middle name is after me, which is awesome. Lincoln Zacharias Foster is a pretty awesome little man. We’re really excited about him. He’s got an awesome smile. He just started smiling last week. The first month, every expression on his face was, kind of, pissed off. He always looked like he had to poop, or he was really disappointed in his decision to come out of the womb. “This sucks. You guys are idiots and I want to go back.” [Laughing.] I’m now the guy who has a screensaver, on his phone, of this little smiling baby. I’ve now become that guy. It’s kind of pathetic, yeah. [Laughing.]

I’m also going to Lubbock, Texas for the Lubbock-Con, which is a convention that takes place May 27-28. People can drop by and say hi. I can also be reached on Twitter and Instagram.

Zack Ward on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/TotalZackWard

Zack Ward on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/OfficialZackWard

Zack Ward on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/totalzackward

Photos: Bethany

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