Dreamcatcher's C. Ernst Harth recently took some time off to answer a few questions for us in this exclusive Aggressive-Voice interview. Here he talks about his experiences in the movies, what his encounter with Shannon Elizabeth was like, how he met his wife, and what he'll be doing in the near future.
Aggressive-Voice: How did it feel when Dreamcatcher open #2 at the U.S. box office a few weeks ago?
Ernst Harth: Great, #1 would've been sweeter, but it's still better than #3. Honestly though, I wish the film had made a bigger impact at the box office, but most critics seemed to dump on it, and the general movie going audience appears to have followed suit. I personally think the movie is a great roller coaster ride of emotions.
Aggressive-Voice: While most critics had negative things to say about the movie, I believe the majority of audiences embraced it. That's why it did so well in its opening week, and continued to rank high on the box-office charts for awhile thereafter.
Next question: Are you a fan of Stephen King?
Ernst Harth: Yes, sorta. I haven't particularly read any of his work, except for "Christine" when I was a kid, but I have seen a lot of the movies based on his novels and have enjoyed them. I really like that he writes for "the everyman". No pretentious flowery writing; he doesn't try to impress us with his prose and his characters come across so real. That's why it's so cool to have played one of the characters from one of his novels.
Aggressive-Voice: What was your favorite part about making "Dreamcatcher?"
Ernst Harth: Working with the great Larry Kasdan. Larry, Thomas Jane and I rehearsed the opening of the film, we brainstormed, worked out the beats, and really brought it to life. Larry played a huge part in helping me find Barry Neiman. The best thing about Larry is how he "gets" actors. More times than I can remember, he would answer my questions before I had asked them. Also, all in all it felt like we were shooting our own short film. We did my scene weeks before the official start of production (we shot it just before Christmas 2001 and then they started filming in Prince George, BC, Canada around the middle of January 2002).
Aggressive-Voice: How did you get the part of the doctor's patient?
Ernst Harth: As any other part, I auditioned. For my callback, I was told I would be reading for Lawrence Kasdan but when I arrived, I was disappointed to find out that I would be auditioning for someone named Larry. Not till afterwards did I realize that Larry WAS Lawrence, silly me!
Aggressive-Voice: Switching gears now to "Thir13en Ghosts," a film I'm sure you'll always remember being a part of.
How did you become The Great Child? Did you know what you were getting yourself into when you accepted the role?
Ernst Harth: Months before production, I went in to read for some ghost movie and they had me stand in front of a video camera and stare. Weeks later, I found out that they'd cast me as some ghost called 'Couch Potato'. My understanding of that ghost's original concept was that he would be sitting on a couch with rats coming out of his eye sockets and from under his shirt. I suggested that I wear nothing but underwear and they then changed him to be this S&M bondage-type freak with a midget-dominatrix hanging off me. After more concept changes, she became my mom and I her big baby.
Aggressive-Voice:How long did it take to turn you into The Great Child? How long were you in costume for?
Ernst Harth: Every morning of shooting, it would take about five hours to turn me into The Great Child. Many of the other ghosts wore bodysuits and had extensive prosthetics, but I was almost all just a body paint. I would lay down, sit and stand as my two makeup artists (Leanne Rae Podavin & Mike Fields) would apply layer after layer of body makeup followed by airbrushed veins. The only prosthetics I had on were little applications over my eyebrows to hide them (I had already shaved my head, except for a small tuft they left at the front which they dyed blond, I wasn't going to shave my eyebrows too!). The days could last up to 18-19 hours.
Aggressive-Voice:Was it a lot more work than you expected?
Ernst Harth: No, not really. I had already done a bunch of gigs where I had worn heavy prosthetics and extensive FX makeup (Voyage of the Unicorn, Camouflage, So Weird), so I pretty much knew what to expect. As for the work itself, it basically consisted of a lot of standing around and looking scary.
Aggressive-Voice: Could you describe the relationship you had with the other ghosts? Did you interact or socialize at all with the mortal humans between takes?
Ernst Harth: It was a little surreal. I didn't even know what some of the other actors really looked like until the end of production. You would get to work before dawn usually, and go right into makeup. By the time the majority of the crew would start arriving and you would get a break to have some breakfast, most of the ghost actors were already a good part of the way through their makeup application, so they already looked like their characters. Once we were all done up and in wardrobe, they would then send us off to wait, and wait, and wait by set in our own little ghostly holding area. Nothing much happened, not a lot going on except a bunch of bored and tired "freaks" sitting around waiting to be scary.
The only real interaction I had with the "mortal" actors would be as we passed on the way to set or while grabbing a coffee at craft services. Part of the "blame" for my little blond tuft goes to Shannon Elizabeth. During a pre-production makeup test, she ran into Steve Beck (the director) and I discussing my appearance. He polled her to see if she thought I should have hair or if I should be shaved. She said it would be cool if I looked like the old cartoon character 'Baby Huey'. Thus the tuft!
Aggressive-Voice: That is awesome. How many people can say they've taken 'beauty' advice from Shannon Elizabeth? I'm sure there are a lot of jealous readers out there! So, who was your favorite ghost?
Ernst Harth: I'd say my favorite ghost would have to be Shayne Wyler as The Jackal; he just creeped me out (in the film, that is).
Aggressive-Voice: I also have a few general questions that readers might want to know regarding your film career. What got you interested/started in acting?
Ernst Harth: I guess I have always strived for attention and acting was always a good way to get it. Since Kindergarten, I have been involved with school plays, drama clubs, community theatre, etc. In 1989, I moved to Vancouver, BC, Canada and started working security at a nightclub. One night, two women approached me and asked me if I was in the film industry. I said no and they gave me their card saying I had a face that they could do something with. Figuring these two chicks were putting the moves on me, I just put the card in my pocket and made nothing of it. Curiosity got the better of me, and two weeks later I dug their card out of the clutter on my desk and called them. They were talent agents. That was 1990 and I have been a "professional" actor ever since.
Aggressive-Voice: It's a good thing you still kept their card. What was your favorite movie you've been in?
Ernst Harth: Boy, that's a tough one and there's two ways to answer that. 1- Which was your favorite movie to work on? and 2- Of the movies you've been in, which is your favorite? Hmmm, I have such good memories from almost everything I have worked on, but I'd probably have to say I laughed the most on "Dudley Do-Right" (damn you Alfred Molina, my cheeks are killing me) and I had the most overall fun on "The Barber" (I became good buds with writer Warren Low and had a lot of nice dinners and chats with Malcolm McDowell). Now, as a fan of movies, the movie of mine that I'd say is my favorite to watch is a small, low-budget, independent called "Saving Grace".
Aggressive-Voice: What was your favorite character you've portrayed?
Ernst Harth: I had a blast playing this psycho redneck songwriter in "Camouflage" who kidnaps Leslie Nielsen, just so I can sing him my songs. He escapes by stabbing me in the hand and I get to chase after him while standing in the back of a pickup truck blasting him with my shotgun. How can that NOT be fun?
Aggressive-Voice: I wonder what would be more fun; serenading Leslie Nielsen, or shooting at him with a shotgun? Anyway, are you a big movie fan? What is it like seeing yourself in a movie?
Ernst Harth: I LOVE movies! I love making them, producing them, watching them, renting them, buying them, etc. Seeing yourself in a movie is a weird thing, still after all these years. There's just something that excites that little boy striving for attention when you're sitting in a packed theatre and everyone is watching you perform. Like if you could just freeze time and take a snapshot, then you'd have a picture of 500 people sitting in a room all looking at a huge photo of yourself. It's so surreal, but I love it! The hardest thing is to JUST WATCH a movie I'm in and NOT THINK about all the stuff that happened on the day we shot this scene and that scene, etc.
Aggressive-Voice: Finally, is there anything in additional you would like to tell us about your past experiences, anything we should look forward to, or something we didn't ask but you'd like to answer?
Ernst Harth: For 13 years, I have done what I love for a living and it has filled my life with such great memories and experiences. The greatest thing that has happened as a result of being in a movie is also the greatest thing that's happened in my life. Period! I had a small part in a movie with Meat Loaf called "Blacktop". It was filmed for HBO, which we do not get here in Canada, so there was no way I was going to get to see it. I figured Meat Loaf was a big enough star that he probably had a website or fan club or some sort of web presence. I did an internet search and found that he indeed did have a fan club. I checked their message boards and found three entries regarding 'Blacktop'. Only one had an e-mail address listed, so I contacted them in hopes that they might have taped the movie and may be willing to give me a copy. That person I contacted was Lea in Pittsburgh. Jump ahead to today, and Lea and I are about to celebrate our first anniversary in June. I went online to find a video and instead found a wife. God bless the internet!
Currently, I am just getting ready to shoot the sequel to Scooby Doo, entitled "Scooby Too!". It is set to open March 26, 2004. In the meantime, I have "Air Bud: Spikes Back" from Disney coming out on DVD/video June 24, 2003.
Aggressive-Voice: Wow, that is amazing! Congratulations on your one year anniversary. I too have taken full advantage of the internet. Without it, I wouldn't have been able to all the things I've done so far, including getting this interview.
Good luck with your future projects and thanks for the scoop on the "Scooby Doo" sequel. One can only image the part you'll be playing!
Note: This is an official interview transcript with C. Ernst Harth. Please do not copy or reproduce any of the content you see on this page without expressed permission (we gladly grant it when asked!). For more information on C. Ernst Harth, visit his website at cernstharth.com.