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Greasy Strangler stars talk merkins, prosthetics, more in NSFW interview

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Marten Tedin

If there is a weirder movie released this year than The Greasy Strangler, then your writer will eat a hot dog which has been dipped in liquid animal fat. Which, as it happens, is one of the least strange things to happen in this utterly bizarre debut from British director, Jim Hosking.

The movie, which is out in theaters and on demand on Oct. 7, stars Michael St. Michaels and Sky Elobar as a father-and-son team who conduct disco-themed walking tours of Los Angeles and fight over a woman named Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo from Eastbound & Down). Meanwhile, an array of folks are being horrifically butchered by the titular maniac (also played by Michaels), a grease-covered monstrosity with an outsized penis. The result is suffused with sex, violence, and a freakish comedic tone pitched somewhere between David Lynch and comedy duo Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. So, yes: weird.

“I went to the first audition, and they asked me back for the chemistry read, and I was like, ‘No, I think I’m good!,'” De Razzo told EW at Austin’s recent Fantastic Fest, the day after the film had received a warm reception at its midnight screening. “It’s not so much that I didn’t like the script. It was more that I was intimidated by a lot of things that were going to be happening. I was just so nervous about the nudity. My agent and manager were like, ‘You need to go in.’ I went in, and it’s been this crazy ride since then. But it’s not as bad as I thought. When I was reading it, I was like, ‘Oh my god, how is that going to look?’ Because your imagination just runs wild. But finally seeing it with an audience it’s like, ‘Oh, I get it!'”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Michael, how did you get involved with this crazy film?

MICHAEL ST. MICHAELS: I had a friend who was thinking about trying for the thing, but he said, “That director, he hasn’t done anything, I don’t want to work with him.” And I’m thinking, Well, hey, somebody wants me to work! [Laughs.] Because I don’t have an agent, I don’t have a manager. I have to find things for myself, and it’s very difficult. And if somebody’s interested, I’m going to go with it.

If you don’t have an agent or a manager, how did they even find you?

St. MICHAELS: I had an online thing, Actors Access, it’s a casting thing. I submitted on that, and they were one of the ones that replied to it. But I didn’t know that, because I didn’t know how to get to the part where the messages come to you. But then they actually called me, and so I went in and did this reading. A year or two later, they were looking for me. Of course, they couldn’t find me then either. I’d just done a short with a friend, and they found her.

DE RAZZO: Wow, they really went through some stuff to get you.

St. MICHAELS: I’m amazed! [Laughs.]

So, you might have missed hundreds of potential acting jobs. Maybe you got an offer to be in Star Wars!

St. MICHAELS: When I finally figured out how to get the messages, I think I had like a hundred-and-something auditions I missed, because I didn’t know they were there.

DE RAZZO: But now you know how to get to them, right?

St. MICHAELS: People are helping me with this. Because I’m impaired, technically.

What was the most memorable day of the shoot?

DE RAZZO: For me, it was when I had to use my merkin for the first day — and it was painful. I would have to lay on the floor with my legs spread for my makeup artist, Lex, and then she would have to hand lay it and glue it on to my skin. And then she’d have to take it off. So, that was a day after I’d first gotten a bikini wax, and it was an extremely painful day. I was screaming and crying for the first day I wore the merkin. That’s the day I remember most. [Laughs.]

Marten Tedin

Michael, what was it like wearing the — I don’t know what you’d call it, really — grease bodysuit?

ST. MICHAELS: It took two people to get me in there. And then there was the gluing on of my “thing.” That was fun. [Chuckles.] She had to get a bikini, I had to shave. It was horrible. I was bleeding and everything else. I was almost in tears thinking, “Oh my god, they’re not going to be able to do anything!” [Laughs.]

DE RAZZO: Movie magic! I always get like, “Oh, it’s so glamorous, what you do!” I’m like, “Yeah, about that…” You know, you have to have no inhibitions in this industry, because you’re pulled and plucked and molded into what you need to be molded into. When people say “[It’s] glamorous,” it’s like, “I don’t know. I was spread-eagle in this really, really dirty house, that was about to fall apart, in front of a makeup artist as she was hand-laying my merkin.” And after 14 hours of being on set with the merkin, she had to take it off. I mean, that wasn’t great for her, either.

St. MICHAELS: Hey, it beats working.

DE RAZZO: Exactly. I get to brunch on Mondays!

The film premiered at this year’s Sundance Festival. What was that like?

DE RAZZO: I was just terrified of the reaction people were going to have. Because people can be a little cruel online. So, that was one of my biggest concerns. But when I saw what the audience reaction was, I was like, “This is okay, it’s going to be fine.” Which is not to say there’s not going to be one or two assholes out there. But, mostly, the response has been pretty great.

ST. MICHAELS: Jim asked me, “Will you do the nudity?” I said, “Yeah, it doesn’t bother me, I don’t have to look at it.” And then, unfortunately, I’m sitting in the theater, looking at it. I was appalled. [Laughs.] I mean, I remember that first Q&A, I said something like, “I think I’m going to have to back to the gym.”

What’s your background, Michael? Looking you up online, I didn’t really learn much.

DE RAZZO: He’s been working forever.

St. MICHAELS: Yeah, I have, on-and-off. I was in a kids’ television program. I was an extra in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. But when I first started doing film, I took straight parts in porn films that were made for the Pussycat Theaters. My acting lessons really came from there. Because I’d never done on-camera work before, had no clue. I’d done a couple of plays. When I saw myself [onscreen], a year after doing that first one, I said, “God, I look so much better flat! I’m going to be a movie star!” And it only took me 40 years. [Laughs]

DE RAZZO: Now, everybody wants a piece of Michael St. Michaels.

Is it true you kept one of the Greasy Strangler’s prosthetic “things”?

St. MICHAELS: Yeah. It’s in a hidden part of my apartment, that I never go into— unless there’s nobody around…