The Greasy Strangler is definitely one of the more whackier films of this years Monster Fest, if not in cinematic history. Today we interviewed the incredibly sweet Elizabeth De Razzo, who plays Janet in the film and is down under for the festival, to discuss the “greasiest film of the year”.
Hi Elizabeth! Are you enjoying your time in Australia?
Elizabeth De Razzo: I am! It’s my first time here. People are really great and lovely. I got here the day after Thanksgiving.
I did hear about that. You were meant to spend Thanksgiving with your soon to be husband and you had to pull out?
Yes (laughs) He made the trip out to California because we live in a different state so he was coming out to spend Thanksgiving with me. And then I had to tell him “Sorry, I’m going to Australia.” So that was an awkward conversation. I told him I gotta go to work, it’s work! And he was like “yeah but your work takes you to Australia!” (laughs).
So having recently watched The Greasy Strangler, it is definitely one of, if not the most bizarre movie I’ve ever seen. How was it pitched to you?
My agent got a hold of the script and he had heard that Elijah Wood (producer) was a fan of my work on Eastbound & Down and that he had been thinking about me for this role of Janet. He wanted to see if I could do the audition the way he saw it in his head.
My agent sent me the script but I was working on another TV series at the time so I wasn’t really able to focus too much on the script. I remember reading it and thinking “oh this is funny, but no, I don’t want to do this” because the way that it was written, it came off as a little porny. So I was like no way, it’s funny and I get it but this is not something I want to do.
But he convinced me to go into the first audition and I kind of knew that the casting assistant liked me and sure enough they called me in for a chemistry read. I was like “no, I don’t want to go in for this, I don’t think I can do this, there’s too much nudity and whatnot” and they said “c’mon, just go, it’s a lead role in a film, Elijah Wood likes you so c’mon, just go in”.
So finally I went in for the read with Jim (Hoskin, Director) and he kind of eased a few of my concerns with the nudity and sex. So then I said “ok, I’ll do it” but I’m sure I had days where I just said “what am I doing?” (laughs)
Well yeah, there is a lot of nudity in the film. Was that something you had to warm up to?
See, the thing is, I’m not a prude. I have done nudity and sex scenes in Eastbound & Down but they were different and sparse and when I first read this script, I felt like 75% of the time I was going to be naked or having sex.
And they pulled back, they cut back a lot and I think it had a lot to do with me not being super comfortable, but what I tackled, I tackled as best as I could because you know, it’s not me, it’s the character.
I think what ended up being on film was really great. The first time I saw it I was a little taken aback because I was so in my head about it. But once I saw it as an audience member, I was able to really enjoy the film. I’ve always been a fan of John Waters and Pink Flamingos so then I though this is like if John Waters, Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch had a crack baby.
Well I did read that there was a substantial amount cut from the film. Is that ever going to see the light of day?
Well I know that here at Monster (Pictures), they’re trying to have the best stuff out, so hopefully you guys get to see it.
There were definitely a few scenes that were missing. One of the ones I remember is when I was on the couch with Brayden and I’m in my underwear and bra, and we were having this discussion about the tourists and how we were involved with that aspect of it, that was cut. There was a lot of dialogue in that scene.
After watching the film and thinking about it days later, I felt that it had a very cult-ish vibe to it. Did you all have the same feeling? That it may not find a place in mainstream but might gain a following in that regard?
Well I knew it was never going to be mainstream (laughs). But my agent was very convinced that it was going to be like a Napoleon Dynamite. So he was very convinced. I on the other hand didn’t know what to expect. Being a fan of genre films – I mean you can’t really categorise this film into anything because it’s not a horror film, it’s not a comedy, it’s like its own little thing. So I didn’t really know what to expect. Literally everything that has happened since I filmed the movie has been a surprise to me. And a good surprise because again I was very, very nervous because as a female and an actress what are people going to say? And I was very worried about what my family would think. My sister went and saw it and she loved it! She said “I don’t know what you were worried about, this is hilarious”. (laughs). I was just being neurotic.
None of you could ever be accused of being boring. It looks like it would have been extremely fun on set. What was the mood like on set and during filming?
We kind of all just got down to work because it’s a low budget film, so we only had a limited amount of time to shoot it and get it done.
Someone asked me at a screening “did you ever break character and start laughing and have to start over?” We actually never did. We just stayed in the vain and kept doing the scene. We took different shots for different reasons but more just for the element, not because we were breaking character or laughing. We kind of all knew that we only had very limited time for what we could get and we were fighting daylight and there were constant helicopters in the area we were in when we were shooting in the house.
There were prosthetics involved too so we had to make time for that and my merkin, I think that took about an hour to hand-lay it.
I just feel like we kind of got to work because once we got into costumes and everything, we were those people and we just did it.
Moving away from The Greasy Strangler for a sec, you are here for Monster Fest. Are you interested in seeing anything else or do you have time to see anything else at the festival?
I haven’t had time to see anything else because the first two days that I got here, I got really sick. So the first day that I started feeling better was the day of our screening.
I want to try to catch a few movies, I want to see Safe Neighbourhood, there was a movie with Willem Dafoe and then I heard great things – and actually got to meet the lovely Julia Ducournau who directed Raw. I’ve heard amazing things about it but I don’t know when and if I’m going to get to see it while I’m here. I do know that she is having a screening in Los Angeles and New York in March so I’m hoping to catch it there because I’ve heard it’s really great. And she’s so lovely.
Are you a big horror fan?
I am. I was talking to someone here at the fest and I was telling them that I was a really weird kid. When I was about 5 or 6 I was obsessed with Freddy Kruger and I couldn’t go to bed without watching Nightmare on Elm St. or The Excorcist.
Halloween is one of my favourites but I would say that Nightmare on Elm St. is my favourite. I love Freddy, I love that he was scary but he was also very sadistic and funny. I miss that they took that away from the remake because Robert Englund just played him so well. You needed Robert to be that character because he made that character. Even in the later films which I didn’t think were that great, I loved the films because of him. He was fantastic. Like Dream Warriors, when he has the people in his stomach. I even like Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. So I’ve always loved horror. That’s what I grew up on. And I can’t believe my parents let me watch it (laughs).
Well now that you’ve done The Greasy Strangler, is that something that you’d like to pursue, more movies like that?
Yeah I would definitely be open to it. Maybe not so much nudity (laughs). But I’m definitely open. One of my friends was telling me that she is working on something and she asked if I’d be willing to play a serial killer. I was like “Absolutely! Sign me up! I can be totally psychotic, just ask my exes! (laughs)”.
Put that on your resume. Things do keep getting bigger for you. You’ve got Sailboat with J.K Simmons and Lemon with Michael Cera and Gillian Jacobs coming up. Do you feel like you’ve reached that point now that you always wanted to reach? That things will only keep getting better?
I thinks things keep getting so great, even just working with these people. Even when I was on Eastbound & Down, working with that calibre of actors like Danny McBride, Steve Little, Will Ferrell, Lily Tomlin and Don Johnson. You’re kind of like “Holy Crap! I’ve made it!” you know. And then you keep going and now I’ve worked with Antonio Banderas and Juliette Binoche and you’re like “yes I’ve made it!” and then Rhea Pearlman. So it’s always very gratifying and humbling when I keep getting these roles in these films and working with these people, not only in front of the camera but behind the camera. I mean, anytime I get any work I just think “I made it!” (laughs).
You’re very vocal about charities and raising awareness about things. Can you tell me what you’re working on at the moment?
I’m always very, very passionate about a lot of things but right now one of my main focuses is helping with planned parenthood. It’s at risk of being completely defunded which would be such a shame because it helps cover 5 or 6 million women and men. 97% of the services go to helping with yearly exams and birth control and sexual education. Sometimes that will be the only medical attention that people who can’t afford health insurance get.
So right now it’s at risk of losing its funding so I’m extremely passionate about spreading the word about planned parenthood. It’s very, very needed, especially in communities where they don’t make a lot of money.
There is also a charity called “Say Yes” that Gillian Anderson is actually one of the founders of. I think they do a lot of great work in Cape Town, South Africa where they take children off the street and put them in homes. They also teach them life skills so they don’t end up back on the street, like computer skills, how to do washing and how to cook for themselves. They have really good ratings with children who have gone onto get jobs after they have done this program.
I’ll wrap it up here but there is one question I need to ask to end it here. Are you tired of being called a Hootie-Tootie-Disco-Cutie yet?
Noooo! I love it! Although my favourite quote is “You may have claimed her pussy, but you’ll never claim her heart!”
Yes that’s a good one too! I watched it with about seven friends the other night and we have been quoting it non-stop.
“Janet, am I doing it right? I don’t know. Janet, am I doing it right?” It’s so quotable. I was quoting it in front of my fiancé the other day and he said “Are you quoting your own movie? That’s awful.” (laughs)
Well it’s been a pleasure talking to you and I’ll let you enjoy the rest of your time in Australia. Good luck with your upcoming wedding too.
Thank you so much. Have a good one!
The Greasy Strangler screened as the closing film of Monster Fest in Melbourne over the weekend. It’s touring Australia this week. For more details head HERE.