There's no mistaking horror-movie stalwart Michael Berryman. The actor suffers from a rare condition called hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, which is characterized by few or no sweat glands and lack of hair or fingernails. However, Berryman's distinctive appearance has made him one of the more recognizable actors out there.
He'll be at the Reliant Center this weekend as part of Crypticon Houston, and Hair Balls asked him a few e-mail questions about Star Trek and Mötley Crüe, among other things.
Hair Balls: First is the question I have to ask everyone: have you ever spent any time in Houston?
Michael Berryman: I have never been to Houston before.
HB: You were discovered by legendary producer George Pal, who cast you in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze after he came into your flower store. Had you ever considered acting before then?
MB: George Pal did tell me that I had the face he needed for the role of the 'Coroner'...The rest is history.I was planning on being a nature photographer in Alaska and the Northwest, and I had done some 'folk music' as a singer with a friend who was a great guitarist. But acting was not my plan.
HB: Your second movie was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which went on to win five Academy Awards. Was it hard to go from something that critically acclaimed to a movie like The Hills Have Eyes, which was -- to put it mildly -- an unproven commodity?
MB: Well, Cuckoo's Nest was familiar to me as a book and play. It was the best acting school ever! But I thought that was the extent of my acting career. When I met with Wes [Craven, director] and Peter [Locke, producer], I quickly became friends with them and I always enjoyed their enthusiasm for telling a story. We just made Hills real and gritty.
HB: I read somewhere that the mutants and the family members of the Hills cast were kept separated. Was there anything specific Wes Craven did to bring out this antagonism for the film?
MB: Actually, the 'White-bread' family, as I called them, soon became distant to the Hills clan. I think they (the actors) were used to TV and did few features. Besides, we did rough them up at work. They were fun to tease.
HB: You also played the part of the "Mutant Biker" in one of my favorite John Hughes movies, Weird Science. How did that come about, and did you have much interaction with Hughes?
MB: I had a call to go to work (without audition). I was very impressed with John's clarity of vision. His characters were spot-on. He knew what he wanted and trusted my acting (thank you, John). Kelly [LeBrock] is awesome and Robert [Downey, Jr.] is enormously talented.
HB: As someone who's appeared in both the original movies (Star Trek IV) and the Next Generation series, I have to ask: Kirk or Picard?
MB: Wow! That is a question...I have to say Kirk. Only because he was first. I really enjoyed Next Gen. To be a Starfleet Captain was really an honor. I am forever in debt to Gene. How many people can say that they made a positive difference in the lives of so many? The humanity in his stories is on par with my other mentor, Rod Sterling. You two are angels for sure!
HB: Your scenes as the Skull Cowboy, Eric Draven's spirit guide in the first Crow film, were cut from the final version. Were you ever told why?
MB: I was so very much devastated when we lost Brandon. It took over a year to get my anger and grief in check. Saftey on the set should never be a "cost" issue...spend the money and keep the people safe. I had many conversations with my producers and director about the final version. I felt, with proper lighting and an actor of merit, we could have finished the 3 challenges with Eric Draven and Skull Cowboy. The story would have been more true to James's books and made more sense to the audience. Also, I know Brandon would have wanted it that way.
HB: Your early career was built on playing mutants and other freaky characters, yet some of your more memorable roles have been the opposite. I'm thinking of Owen Jarvis from the X-Files episode "Revelations," specifically. Do you find yourself seeking out more -- for lack of a better word -- "normal" roles these days?
MB: Thanks for that. I told Chris Carter "I am the only actor who can bring this role home." They all agreed, I nailed it! I am forever grateful for chance to show humanity in my art. Those who know me understand. I play a shaman in the new film Outrage.
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HB: I'm a horror fan, but I also remember you from my teenage metal days as the evil principal in Mötley Crüe's "Smoking in the Boys Room." For some reason, I'm not picturing you as a metal fan...am I correct in that assumption?
MB: I grew up in the folk-rock era. I love it all except rap and violence. The "Crue" were great! We had lots of fun.
HB: Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger have parlayed acting careers into higher office. Any political aspirations?
MB: Yes, but not this year.
HB: What else do you have in development right now?
MB: Lot's of indie films and some bigger projects that are still in pre-production, so I can't mention yet, but keep an eye open!
Interested in seeing Berryman at Crypticon? Check out the Crypticon Houston web page.