With close to 40 plus films to his credit, the former FOX Series Regular Co-Star on the #1 Rated Fox Kids Show Beetleborgs Metallix, Marshal Hilton has been steadily working since his self-imposed seven-year hiatus from Hollywood after the show went into syndication. Since his return in 2006, he’s been a consistent presence in the Indie Film world. Here is our interview with him for his latest film Primal Rage – Bigfoot Reborn.
Hello, thank you for agreeing to speak with us! How are you?
It’s my pleasure. I’m doing very well, thanks for having me.
You have acted in close to 40 films since the start of your career. What keeps you motivated in this line of work?
Sometimes I actually wonder about that myself. “The Business” can be so challenging on an emotional level. To say it’s difficult is an understatement. It can be a self-esteem wrecker if you’re consumed with the wrong priorities. I’m fortunate to have learned a few very good lessons over the years, and the two most valuable were Acceptance and Balance; accepting that things are going to happen the way they do, and fighting against that reality will drive you freaking insane. There are too many things that you have no control over. The harder you fight, the more miserable you will become. “Balance” is the understanding that there’s more to life than Acting and Show Business. This business can be infinitely shallow. It’s not like we’re curing cancer, or solving world hunger. We make movies, little pieces of distraction from the heaviness of life. If acting and show business is all you’re concerned with in life, then in my estimation, that is a life wasted.
As for the craft of acting all I can tell you is that I’ve been drawn to creative forms of expression for as long as I can remember. Living in Southern California where I grew up, there are a lot of people working in the entertainment business. The business surrounds you an all levels. Unlike many who come here to Hollywood to “Make-It”, I was born here. This is my home. I never had the pressure of a hard timetable to “Make-It”. I actually quit acting for seven years back in 1999. I was burned the hell out. I had just wrapped the FOX series that I had been on for two years and needed a break to re-charge my creative batteries. I turned my energies to music endeavours, producing music and records, and other business interests. It was a great time of re-evaluating my life, what inspires me, and when the little voice inside said “its time”, then it was game on. It proved to be a great decision because I had a fresh pair of eyes and a better understanding of what to expect. Once you’ve been in the game and see it for what it is, you’re then better equipped to handle the ups and downs that Hollywood can deliver on a daily basis. You can see the s**t storms well in advance. You can separate hype from substance and you’re not at the emotional mercy of the business.
The reality is, acting, and sharing my life through characters, is something that I’ve been doing for so long that I can’t seem to get away from it. It’s what I do. I love a challenge, and this business will challenge you like no other. But I also love the self-exploration that character acting requires. And for me, it’s not a genre choice, but rather one of character. I seem to be able to tap into emotional pain. Characters that have endured pain, and are struggling to manage the anger of pain, seem to fit my spirit. I’m not afraid to dig into the dark places that we all have and bring them to the surface for display. It’s a cleansing process for me, both creatively and emotionally. In life, some people are genuinely happy people. Their lives are a history of balance and love. Some folks, like myself, come from a different condition. We constantly have to work on ourselves to quell the darker sides of our selves. We have to knock off the patina of guilt and envy from time to time of those who live blissful and balanced. I’m fortunate I have the craft of acting to give me that place of exploration.
How do you think independent cinema is doing at the moment?
It’s a great question, one that deserves an entire expose. Now I’m not a Showbiz financial expert, but when you hear the horror stories from enough filmmakers, there will always be a shred of truth. Financially, it’s horrifying for indie filmmakers. The digital distribution model and piracy has all but destroyed the segment of what used to keep a lot of people financially solvent. It’s the worst I’ve seen ever. Low revenues have crushed budgets.
A far as Content, there’s a s**t ton of it. High-quality digital technology evened the playing field for Independent filmmakers. It brought the costs down in making films; its given voice to thousands of aspiring filmmakers and that’s a good thing. But it also opened the floodgates. The market is now saturated with thousands of films all fighting for a $9.00 download. For independent Distributors and filmmakers, its turned into a high volume, low margin numbers game, and the quality of films is suffering terribly. Add to that the rapid changing in the way people are now consuming their content, and you have a big giant mess. And let’s not forget Amazon, and others of that ilk, that offer up worldwide “VOD” and Distribution taking such a big cut, that it’s virtually impossible for filmmakers to make enough profits to pay themselves and any investors that might be partnered in the film. It feels like a vicious circle with no end in sight.
Okay, let’s talk about your upcoming movie – PRIMAL RAGE – Bigfoot Reborn…
Ah yes, the subject at hand…
Primal Rage is the story of Ashley and her boyfriend Max, lost in the forest trying to get back to the road after a freak accident with their car. Along their journey, they stumble upon my character “BD” and his band of merry men in the deep woods. They are a rude and somewhat obnoxious bunch that serves up more frustration to Max and Ashley rather than actual help. Outgunned, and hopelessly lost, they are forced to endure BD and his gang as he leads them back to safety. A local Sheriff and his Deputy come across Max and Ashley’s wrecked car and begin searching to find them as well. And then, well, as you can probably imagine, BD and his crew are the least of their worries. Things go from bad to worse; much, much worse
What’s your character like in this?
I play “B.D.” the leader of a group of cantankerous and somewhat hostile locals that Max and Ashley have the unpleasant pleasure of crossing paths with while they are making their way back to town. He’s a bit of a blowhard and definitely full of himself. Kind of like a Politician. He’s the mouthpiece of his crew. He wasn’t a “Bad Guy” per say, he just found pleasure playing mind games with people. Patrick and I figured that he was the kind of guy that probably owned the local Hardware Store, the car dealership, the liquor Store, and his band of merry men were most likely guys that worked for him. He’s definitely the Alpha dog in his town.
I really didn’t have a lot of details on B.D. as far as scripted elements. I just tried to look at the actions of what the character actually does, his scripted actions. In life, people are what they do, not what they say. B.D. is most definitely an enigma. We don’t know much about him, but we certainly get a sense about him. His pace, his style, his cigar, his jewellery, they all say something about him. I think what says even more about B.D. is how his crew reacts to him. Know one ever challenges him, so you never know for certain if he’s just a narcissist or a guy that could possibly be dangerous. And that’s the key to B.D., the element of uncertainty. The only person that dares to get in his face is Ashley. And there’s a moment when he doesn’t take kindly to her attitude, and he puts his foot down. But in another moment he also offers her his coat as a sign of grace and empathy. And yet another moment when he feels kind of like he’s a pervert. He’s just hard to figure out and that’s his power. So that’s how I took him. Unpredictable…
So it’s directed by Patrick Magee, who was responsible for the special effects for Men in Black 3, Spider-Man and Alien Vs Predator. Are we to expect similar effects in this to the likes of AvP?
In some regards yes, but this film is not so heavy on the Sci-fi elements of AvP. I’d say it’s a bit more grounded and feels much more like Arnold’s “Predator”, a bit more old school. As I’m sure you know, Patrick comes from the lineage of some of film’s most celebrated Practical FX masters. He trained and apprenticed at the Stan Winston School for many years and then later moved on to work with Rick Baker. So he brings that kind of detail and creativity to his work.
Patrick has now become a master creature creator in his own right. The list of superlatives for his work in my eyes would be endless. I knew when I saw the Creature in his studio that it was special. The level of detail was insane. I think it took him and his team like three years to make it by hand. His Bigfoot creature had actual fingerprints on the fingers and toes. No one in the audience would ever see that detail, but it didn’t matter to Patrick; he knew it was there, and that’s all that mattered. But when I saw the Bigfoot actually sneaking around in the woods on the first day of filming, I knew it was going to be revolutionary with regards to the Bigfoot myth. It was just plain freaky. I mean, we all knew it was Patrick in the suit, but there is such a suspension of reality when a 6’10” snarling beast is coming at you in full stride that it’s hard to explain.
What was it like working on set for PRIMAL RAGE?
Amazing! Working on this film was one of the best experiences I’ve had working on a film in 20 plus years in this business. I’ve always said that it’s not the size of the movie, it’s the size of the heart in the movie, and this production had a very large heart. Everyone in the cast and crew was into it 100%. Patrick’s passion, attention to detail, and commitment to his vision was extraordinary, and it plays in every frame of the film. When a Director is that prepared and knows exactly what he wants, it makes the filming process easy and enjoyable.
As for the filming experience, working with Bigfoot was awesome. We filmed the movie in the majestic and breathtaking old growth Redwood forests of Northern California and Oregon, on a 1,200-acre private reserve. We were based in Crescent City California, a sleepy little fishing community about 20 miles from the Oregon border. The shooting location was perfect to tell the story. Without going into too many details, I can say with relative certainty that you will find the realism of the action to be stunning. As an actor, the beauty of working with Practical FX versus CGI FX is the visceral and physical reality that is in front of you, not a green screen behind you. We were actually in the forest. Bigfoot was in front of us. It’s much easier to be in the fantasy of the story when Bigfoot is in front of you rather than an image in your mind, in a studio, in front of a green screen. Patrick is 6’ 10”. In the suit, he was almost seven feet of hairy, snarling, angry beast looking to chew your face off. Even though you knew it was all staged, there were some moments that were really intense and hard to get through.
On the lighter side, it was also interesting to have Bigfoot direct you in a scene. I mean, Patrick is standing there in full Bigfoot costume, looking down at you, telling you what he needs you to do in a scene. It was pretty funny. I was blessed to have such wonderful actors to work with. Patrick did an amazing job casting such perfect people to bring this crew of characters to life. Trevor Wright, Brandon Gibson, Blake Johnson, Jim Roof, Scotty Fields, Terry Peay, and Timothy Reed Martin were so much fun to work with. They absolutely killed it. You have to understand, most of these guys are improv comedians. You take ten actors tromping through the woods busting jokes non-stop and it was just hilarious some of the things that happened. It was so enjoyable to be part of this film.
FUN FACT: The Director Patrick Magee was “the man in the suit”. When I first met Pat at my reading, he was sitting down in a chair and never got up. They set up a meeting for me to go meet with Pat at his studio. When I got there he came to the door and I was like “…Holy S**t dude…You’re freakin’ tall…” He actually custom made the suit to fit him like a glove. He was the perfect person to play Bigfoot.
Okay, the most important question – are you Bigfoot believer?
In my “real world life”, I’m a pragmatic realist by nature, so anything that I can’t touch, see and smell, generally falls into my field of doubt.
In folklore, Bigfoot is usually difficult to find and uses their environment to remain hidden. Can we expect that kind of Bigfoot in your film?
To some degree yes. But to be honest, I have not seen any other Bigfoot movies start to finish. I’ve seen clips, but never a complete film, so I don’t have any comparisons. What I do know for certain is that this version of Bigfoot is a different and unique vision of Bigfoot as a being. Patrick’s version is ancient, almost like a prehistoric “Missing Link” to another life form. He’s intelligent, and cunning, a warrior spirit. He’s definitely not the shy, meek, and mild creature eating flora and fauna. He’s brutal, fierce and ancient. The closest thing I can compare it too as far as a creature archetype would be “Predator”.
This film also delves into his mystical relationship with Native American spirit culture. The mythical legend of Bigfoot has been told around campfires since man evolved as storytellers. This is just a new paradigm for which to contemplate the Bigfoot mystique. Most films tend to shy away from showing Bigfoot front and centre, but not Patrick’s Bigfoot. His version is breathtaking in the quality of the practical FX and the execution. I guarantee you’ve never seen anything like it.
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview this us. Do you want to plug where they can find you and also your upcoming movie?
Indeed. Primal Rage is going to have a ONE NIGHT ONLY Nation-Wide limited Theatrical Release through Fathom Events on February 27th. The Distributor and Sales Rep for the film, Blue Fox Entertainment, cut a deal direct with AMC Theatres, RegalCinemass and Cinemark for the event. It should be in around 450ish locations in the US. You can search Fandango.com for Primal Rage- Bigfoot Reborn to find a location. The film will then have a European Theatrical release in March I believe, and then a VOD release after that.
It’s been a pleasure and thank you for reaching out. Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew, I just want to say thank you for supporting this film. It was a passion project for everyone involved. I hope you and your readers enjoy the film. And remember; be careful when walking in the woods…
You can keep tabs on what’s going on by following any one of my social media profiles. We’re constantly putting up news and info.