Peter Simeti Pens Open Letter About Casting Roddy Piper in ‘The Chair.’
CASTING MY CHILDHOOD HERO – RODDY PIPER
by Peter Simeti
Even if you don’t like horror thrillers, comic books, supporting indie creators, or all of the above – get a ticket to see The Chair because Roddy Piper was freaking brilliant in it and the performance deserves to be seen.
Let me take a step back a bit and explain that, for the sake of full disclosure, The Chair is based on a comic book I wrote back in 2006 to 2008. But don’t see it because I wrote it. After all, who even cares about who the hell I am? I’m just another comic creator working a 16 hour day – who I am hardly matters at all to the point of this story. I was fortunate enough to be able to cast the film and I immediately knew that I wanted to cast the actors that I loved as a kid.
Of course, I started out the traditional way – by sending letters and emails to agents.
Well, that got nowhere fast.
After being tired of playing the waiting game, I took matters into my own hands and contacted people on Facebook and Twitter. Some responded, some didn’t, some said yes, and some said no. Some of the rejections were from ridiculously nice folks like Tony Todd, Doug Jones, Mark Hamill, Viggo Mortensen, Brian Thompson, Loren Lester, Phil Lamarr, Kevin Conroy, Lew Temple, Clint Howard, Billy Drago – the list goes on and on. Everyone that responded was kind and courteous and every rejection blew my mind because these were all people I loved when I was growing up. The people that said yes, though – the ones that actually are IN the film – that’s the special stuff.
Reaching out on social media, I managed to contact Zach Galligan (of Gremlins and Waxwork fame, someone that I had on a lunchbox when I was in kindergarten), Noah Hathaway (who doesn’t love Atreyu??), Naomi Grossman (as a big fan of her work on “American Horror Story,” this one was just so very cool), Susan Eisenberg (the voice of Wonder Woman from the “Justice League Unlimited” series and just such a truly WONDERful person), Kin Shriner (another voice actor from “Justice League Unlimited,” this time Green Arrow, just a funny funny guy), Joe Laurinaitis (Animal from the Road Warriors tag team in the WWF days of the WWE), Joe Pilato (Captain Rhodes from Day of the Dead), and of course, the legendary Roddy Piper (does Roddy really need any explanation? if so, just put on the glasses ‘cuz I’m all out of bubblegum).
Now, everyone did a fantastic job on this film, there’s strong performances all around especially given the deep, thought-provoking, and disturbing high tension subject matter in this old-school style horror film. It’s not a torture porn film – there isn’t gore for the sake of shock value here. Deaths of characters MATTER to the plot and characters aren’t just complete throwaways that are fodder for cheap scares. The reason I mention Roddy – is because this was the last feature film he did before he unexpectedly passed away.
When I first spoke with Roddy, he had already read the script and loved it. He loved the nastiness of the character of Murphy, the complexity, the nuance of the desensitized nature of a death row guard that’s seen it all and done it all – he was just so thrilled to be a part of it. As a child, I had Roddy Piper bed sheets, Roddy Piper wrestling figures, and I even dressed up as Roddy the wrestler and Roddy as Nada from the creepily relevant classic They Live. So to hear a childhood hero speak with such enthusiasm over something that I created… well I just couldn’t believe it.
Roddy cared so much about this role and we had multiple phone calls going over the character as he took notes and offered his own spin on things as well. But the absolute best part about those calls was the fact that they’d turn into longer talks about family and life and our experiences working against the odds and following a dream. He was a great guy and due to an awful snowstorm in Boston at the time, I wasn’t able to fly out during filming and shake his hand and thank him for his time and friendship. Texts and phone calls, as great as they were, just aren’t the same thing. It’s something I’ll always regret.
As a child I loved Roddy’s energy and his larger than life presence, he was a hero of mine even when he was a villain. As an adult, I loved how humble and approachable he was and how he made you feel like he knew you his whole life. You don’t often get to meet your childhood heroes and sometimes when you do, you wish you hadn’t – but Roddy went above and beyond expectations.
Just like he always did.
Please check out The Chair‘s trailer at http://www.thechairhorror.com and if you’re interested, you can order tickets on there as well. We have special screenings playing in 28 cities and tickets are only available to order for the next 4 to 5 days. If you see the film, I hope you enjoy it – it’s a perfect viewing for this Halloween season, and if you do watch it and you see Roddy being the nastiest villain you’ve ever seen him play, take solace in the fact that he was really one of the nicest and most caring people to ever walk this earth.