Everyone has dreams that they hope will one day come true. In the case of actor Anthony Fitzgerald, his dream as an actor was to die in a feature film. Lucky for him, special effects make-up creator/producer/director/writer Rob Hall made that dream come true in the recently released horror flick Laid to Rest (written and directed by Hall), and Fitzgerald could not be more grateful.
“When I was in high school I used to practice dead faces,” says the actor. “I had an expression if, for example, I was going to be thrown off a building, or if I were being choked to death. I could keep my eyes open and stare at a single spot for a long time without looking like I was breathing. It scared my Mom quite a bit when I was younger. She would walk into my room in the middle of the night and I’d have my eyes open because I’d be practicing my dead faces, so I’d always be freaking her out. I know, I know, weird,” he jokes. “Rob Hall, however, took all that to heart because he ‘kills’ people for a living. He’s either turning their characters into demons or robots or figuring out really cool ways to slash open their throats or stick knifes into their heads.
“Rob was a friend of a friend and now he’s a close best friend of mine. When we first met, he asked me what my aspirations were as an actor, and I told him I wanted to die in a film. I think that kind of stuck with Rob, because a couple of months later he sent me a script [for Laid to Rest] and said, ‘Take a look at this and let me know what you think.’ As I read it I was like, ‘This is incredible. Rob is doing things that in my wildest dreams I’ve never imagined doing.’ Then I came across this character called Anthony and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, is that me?’ In the movie there are these two obnoxious friends named Anthony and Tommy, who’s played by another friend of mine, Thomas Dekker [Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles]. When I was finished reading the script, I called Rob and asked if I was Anthony [in the script]. He said, ‘If you want it, the part is yours,’ and the rest is history.”
In Laid to Rest, a young woman (Bobbi Sue Luther) wakes up inside a locked casket with no memory of who she is or how she got there. She manages to escape, but soon finds that her life, along with those of anyone she meets, are in danger of being snuffed out by ChromeSkull, a psychopath armed with a metal skull, a shoulder-mounted video camera and a penchant for human blood. While out cruising towards a good time, Anthony and Tommy take an unexpected detour into some dangerous territory.
“I play a horny guy who’s on the way to Atlanta with his pal Tommy for an all-weekend rave,” explains Fitzgerald. “They’re in a car singing and be-bopping down the highway and almost run over two of the film’s main characters, Steven [Sean Whalen] and Tucker [Kevin Gage]. The four then end up at a convenience store. Bobbi’s character eventually arrives there, and I wouldn’t say hilarity ensues, but something ensues and Anthony and Tommy are in peril along with everyone else. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but if you’ve seen the trailer then I’m not spoiling anything. Let’s just say that my character has this ‘relationship’ with ChromeSkull and his knife as well as lots and lots of cheese puffs.”
Fitzgerald spent two weeks in Maryland shooting his scenes for Laid to Rest, all of which were done at night. “That required some adjusting on my part because it’s a whole different way of living,” recalls the actor. “I had to cover all the windows in my hotel room and unplug anything that displayed the time. I remember on our second day of filming we finished around seven or eight in the morning and I got back to the hotel around nine or ten. I went to bed, and at one point woke up, looked at the time and it was one o’clock. I had only been asleep for a couple of hours, but my body was like, ‘It’s one in the afternoon. Don’t be lazy. Get up.’ So on a personal level that time change was a bit of a challenge for me.
“Acting-wise, the trickiest thing for me was making sure I ate the cheese puffs in the same order in every take. Our editor, Andrew Bentler, said that he’d edited many projects and had never seen an actor with such fluid control. In each take I put those cheese balls in my mouth at almost the exact same moment, and I don’t think I’ve eaten a cheese ball, which is like a Cheeto, ever since. I probably went through an entire barrel of those things. I had orange lips, orange fingers, it was pretty funny,” he chuckles.
Despite various cheese dusted body parts and having to reset his internal clock, the actor thoroughly enjoyed himself on the Laid to Rest set. ”This was one of the most memorable experiences of my career and my life,” says Fitzgerald. “Basically I got to hang out in Maryland, which I had never been to before, with my Los Angeles family and friends. And being directed by Rob Hall is a joy. I said it earlier, but he’s a talented director and effects artist. I love his first film, Lightning Bug, which I call a masterpiece. I think it’s a beautiful film, and Laid to Rest is fantastic, too. It’s just a different genre.
“As for the cast, well, I’ve worked with Thomas Dekker a couple of times now and he’s a truly gifted actor who is going to be in this business for a very long time. He’s also a director, writer, producer, editor and musician, and he has plenty of other aspirations and goals, too. Lena Headey [Cindy] is also a writer, director and producer, not to mention an amazing actress. So to be surrounded by all these people on the set was a neat opportunity for me. I learned a great deal, was challenged, and I miss it.”
A few weeks ago, the actor wrapped production on another slice-em-and-dice-em movie entitled All About Evil. In it, Deborah Tennis (Natasha Lyonne) is a mousy librarian who inherits her father’s beloved but failing old movie house. In order to save the family business, she adopts a new persona, that of a serial killer, and starts to churn out a series of grisly short films. A small group of rabid gore fans become enamored of Deborah’s work, but are unaware that her onscreen murders are, in fact, all too real. Fitzgerald plays Gene, a nerd who stands in the way of Deborah’s celluloid carnage.
“Gene is a high school outcast who loves computers along with any type of gadget and only has a couple of friends, which is all he needs. He also has crushes on the popular girls and is always trying to look up their skirts,” laughs the actor. “He finds out what Deborah is up to and more or less tries to stop her.
“I actually know Darren Stein, who is a producer of the film and also the director and writer of [the 1999 film] Jawbreaker, which is one of my all-time favorite movies. With All About Evil I saw the breakdown for the character of Gene and auditioned like anyone else. I wound up getting the job and spent a month in San Francisco working on a film that is sure to become a cult classic. I got to meet people like Jack Donner, whose resume is four miles long, and Natasha Lyonne, who has been in tons of movies that I love as do lots of other people. There was such a friendly vibe on the set and everyone was so experienced that you were able to just kind of go with the flow.”
A Minnesota native, Fitzgerald appeared onstage as a child as well as in print advertising and TV commercials. Although his parents were supportive of their son’s acting aspirations, they understandably wanted him to have something else to fall back on. As a young adult, Fitzgerald enrolled at the University of Kansas, but after two years decided that college was not for him.
“I felt like the acting bug had finally taken over at that point and that I would be wasting both time and money if I carried on with school,” says the actor. “My first real acting experience was in the  movie Joe Somebody starring Tim Allen and Hayden Panettierie. I played a Target customer and, although my scene was subsequently cut, it was still a cool experience. It was that, coupled with everything else I’d done when I was younger, including theater, that made me want to come out to Los Angeles and give it [acting] a go.”
When asked about his most demanding role to date, the actor chooses two. “Lena Headey recently directed a small film called The Sophisticates, and my character in that is a very interesting one and was a challenge for me,” notes Fitzgerald. “There’s also a movie that Thomas Dekker wrote and directed called Whore, which stars Megan Fox, Rumer Willis, Ken Bauman and [legendary porn star] Ron Jeremy. I play a character that could essentially be anyone who comes out to Los Angeles to become an actor. When this guy fell through the cracks, he turned to drugs, and that wasn’t good. It’s something I’ve never experienced and never want to experience, but I hope my performance is authentic enough.”
Audiences will have to wait until later this year to see Fitzgerald in the aforementioned All About Evil. The actor also appears in two other films, The Last Score and Dead End Falls, both of which are currently in post-production, and he recently guest-starred in two episodes of the Starz! Network comedy series Head Cases. “At the moment, I’m like most actors,” he says, “just looking for work and always honored to audition and prove that I can do what’s on the [written] page.”
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