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It was a dark and stormy night. The phone rang and it was actor Patrick Cavanaugh. After our short chat, I knew something was weird. The lights kept flickering, there was a group of bats fluttering outside my window and he spoke in this strange Romanian accent. I plugged my recorder into my laptop, played back the interview and was aghast to find Patrick’s voice completely replace by this horrendous tone. Vampires can’t be seen in photographs, so the same must be true with voice recordings. Patrick Cavanaugh is a vampire!
Okay, he’s not a vampire. My recorder just broke. Thankfully we got to chat a second time and I got to hear all about what it was like poking fun at the vampire craze and the monster movie genre in Transylmania.
Patrick is no novice to the film industry, but Transylmania does mark a very monumental first for him, his first starring role in a theatrical release. Many will recognize Patrick from the straight-to-DVD comedies Dorm Daze and Dorm Daze 2 and as Smitty from the show Mad Men, but Patrick is thrilled to share his talent with his family, friends and the country in a more grandiose way, on the silver screen.
How does Transylmania compare to other spoofs?
I think some people when they hear the word ‘spoof’ they think of like Scary Movie or Epic Movie where they’re spoofing specific pop culture references or movies that are current or TV shows where as this is more of a spoof in the vain of like a Young Frankenstein where it’s kind of spoofing a genre as opposed to something very specific.
There’s actually one instance where Transylmania takes a direct jab at a current movie. Have you seen the trailer that mocks the Twilight voiceover and fonts?
Oh! Does it? I never even realized that! I don’t think it was by chance that we are releasing a couple weeks after the Twilight movie just came out. It definitely was a smart time for us to release our movie and, I mean, I think that’s why we ended up getting the extra funding to put into the theaters, to be honest, was this big craze of all the vampire TV shows and with Twilight being so astronomically huge for the movie industry right now. We definitely hit the lottery when it comes to that situation.
How do you get your vampire fix?
True Blood is my vampire fix actually. I love it. It’s so over the top and I think Alan Ball is a genius. He’s such a good writer to go from something like Six Feet Under and have such critical success with that and then transition over to something – it’s very much a soap opera with vampires, a late night sexy soap opera.
What’s your character in Transylmania like?
Well, Pete is a total stoner kid and is paired up with Wang - Paul Kim plays Wang – and they just like to get into trouble. They like to drink and get high and not go to class and just enjoy – and go explore what they think is culture which is basically drinking and getting high some more. They definitely get into some wacky situations and try to make the best of them when they do.
The characters Pete and Wang actually comes from the Dorm Daze movies, right?
Yeah, they did! Pete was a very small role in the very first Dorm Daze and then transitioned in the second one when he kind of became a pothead with Wang and Scott and David Hillenbrand liked the characters a lot and there were a couple other characters that transitioned from Dorm Daze into Transylmania. They decided to take a couple of us and spin off and do what they call a bigger movie this time and kind of make it a little more epic for us and I was sure glad I was in the mix for that because I had a blast shooting Transylmania.
The movie comes across as one big party, so I could imagine you all had a blast on set.
It really was! Obviously we’re there to work and you try to stay as focused as possible but, you know, when you’re having fun, you’re having fun. I think you can just see that through most of the scenes. It’s not work to me when you go to the set everyday and you’re like laughing and having a good time. I find figuring out a scene – that’s exciting to me is to come to set, try to find the best way to make the scene work and try different ways and make suggestions and play with it in rehearsal and throw out, maybe, a couple improv lines in the middle of a take and see if it works. The Hillenbrand are very good with being receptive to ideas and also throwing out great ideas themselves to try that weren’t on the page at the time and we just kind of go from there. I think having worked with them for so many years now – that was my fourth movie working with them – it’s nice. As time goes along, you build a trust with people like that. I trust them to guide me in the right direction and they trust me to take the reins when the camera’s rolling and when they yell action.
Any chance Pete and Wang could get their own movie?
I’d love to! Worm Miller and I, he’s one of the co-writers of the movie, were talking the other day and we were laughing that that would be poetic justice to maybe do another spinoff and just do a Pete and Wang adventure and see what happens. I suggested Pete and Wang vs. Harold and Kumar in a battle of the potheads but, you know, I think you’d have to get lots of okays from many different places for that to happen.
Both Dorm Daze movies went straight-to-DVD, it must be very exciting that this is getting a wide theatrical release. Transylmania is on a much grander scale. You even got to go aboard to shoot the film.
Dorm Daze 2 was a lot of fun because we filmed on the Queen Mary, which is the big ship that docks down in Long Beach, and that was a lot of fun. But to actually get to be flown to Romania of all places, which was not even on my mental radar before we were going to go – you know, obviously I knew it was a country and where it was, sort of, but to actually get to go to this country and be immersed in their culture for seven weeks and be able - you know, because we do have some downtime in between days and you’re not on set every single day because of just the way the schedule is – to go explore a little bit and go for a hike in the mountains or whatever and really soak it in. And also, we spent half of our days filming in a fourteenth century castle. That’s pretty phenomenal. It was a lot of fun.
Were there any cultural barriers particularly difficult to adjust to?
It wasn’t so much barriers, it was more language. When we filmed in the castle we had to stay – there’s no really big city around there. We first started in Bucharest, which is a big city and you can easily find restaurants that have English-speaking waiters, servers and the menus, most of the time, are in English as well, so I knew what I was getting and I could order accordingly but when we were in the smaller town, it was tough. It was really tough to go out and eat because all the menus are in Romanian, most people did not speak a lick of English, so I learned very quickly to follow Irena [A. Hoffman], she plays Draguta in the movie, she was born and raised n Romania and speaks Romanian fluently so I learned to follow her around and just basically have her read the menus to me and translate to the server what I wanted to eat and that way I knew what I was getting.
Did you get to do any stunts?
No stunts necessarily. I did have to train – I drive a motorcycle with a sidecar in a couple scenes, so I did get to learn how to do that, which was a lot of fun, but I wasn’t one of the guys that was sword fighting or swashbuckling or riding horses or anything like that. So, I didn’t have to do any of that kind of training, which would have been fun too but they definitely had to work really hard to pull off those fight scenes.
Riding a motorcycle sounds like more fun anyway.
Yeah, it was a lot of fun. It was weird because the gentleman who owned the motorcycle, he didn’t really speak English at all and so – and I think he may have been sipping on the wine bottle a little bit while we were training because he kept yelling at me to go faster but in Romanian, so I didn’t know what he was saying! I thought he was mad at me, but really he’s just like, ‘Go faster!’ And the guy who was training me was trying to translate but also stay focused on actually showing me how to not crash the motorcycle, so it was kind of a day of hijinx without a camera rolling.
Will we see you on Mad Men again anytime soon?
Well, I hope so. We just wrapped season three, which just stopped airing a couple weeks ago and, if you’re familiar with the show, obviously you know the world is a little crazy at the end of season three so I don’t have a guarantee but I’m hoping, crossing my fingers. I would love to come back. I love working on that show. All bias aside, before I even had an auditioned for the show, it’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I really do think it’s a groundbreaking show and I’m honored to be a part of it.
So what do you have coming up next?
I just wrapped a little movie, a little indie comedy called Brand Dead. That was a lot of fun. I, most recently, have done a couple Disney animation pilots, voices on those. So, I’m hoping at least one, if not both of them, get picked up because that would be amazing and just auditions. Pilot season starts up after the first of the year, kind of gets into full swing, so lots of auditions. Hopefully some bookings as well, that would be nice since auditions don’t pay your bills. And, yeah, just moving forward and enjoying the fact that I have a movie releasing in theaters, which is a big deal for me.
I came across this video of Pauly Shore having a minor meltdown on set of Brand Dead. What was that like?
It is what it is. I think it’s crazy, I think it’s fun. I wasn’t on set that day so I don’t know exactly what all went down, but, you know, whatever! Those kind of videos are more fodder for people to talk about than anything, I think. People have freak-outs at work all the time and they don’t post them online. Whatever! It’s fun. Nobody’s feelings were hurt in the long run so it didn’t matter.