Eddie Deezen: Hyper/Active
When Eddie Deezen is on screen, the screen belongs to Eddie Deezen.
In films like “1941”, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, “Grease” and “WarGames”, his priceless brand of wacky physical comedy makes the world a much better – and funnier – place to be.
All hail the great Eddie D…
When did you first realize you wanted to be an actor?
I was always the class clown, not necessarily an actor, per se. I really couldn’t do much of anything else, so show business was the logical solution. I loved it. I was odd, offbeat – always. But in show business, I fit right in. Unlike the “real world”, I finally fit in somewhere.
Were you nervous on the set of your first film, “Laserblast”?
Well, I had a huge crush on the script girl; her name was Betty Goldberg. I wonder whatever became of Betty… No, I wasn’t super nervous, maybe a little. “Grease” was actually my first film I worked on, but yes, “Laserblast” was released first.
In “Laserblast” you play a bully … Do you like playing bad guys (like “Surf 2”) as a break from nerdy characters?
I did play a bully in “Laserblast”, and it is the only film I actually die in too. Yes, I play a bad guy in “Surf 2”, and I play a fairly mean kid in “Polar Express”. I play an evil mad scientist in “Dexter’s Laboratory”, the cartoon. It was fun, I must admit.
You played “Eugene” in “Grease” and “Grease 2”… Which of the two films did you enjoy working on the most?
“Grease” was like a two month party, the happiest time I ever had on a film. Just magic. “Grease 2” pales to it in every way.
While filming “1941”, did you drive Murray Hamilton nuts with that dummy? Did you adlib any of the dummy’s lines?
No, Murray was a wonderful guy and we were pals… You know, I did not do the dummy’s voice – it was a very nice guy named Jerry Layne. I actually auditioned to do the dummy’s voice, but Jerry was better. You know I am the only actor in movie history to get second-billing to my own ventriloquist dummy. Look at the end credits!!!
In “1941”, how long were you two (three, actually) stuck on that Ferris wheel and was it tough working up there?
Murray and I were up there for a few weeks, I’d say. Murray was a heavy smoker and he had a tough time breathing, so we came down a lot and Murray took hits on an oxygen tank Steven had on the set. I got sick one time from being whipped around and I got to throw up in Steven Spielberg’s dressing room toilet… What an honor!
The end of “1941” when you’re in the ocean… How long were you out there? Was it cold?
It was a big water filled tank. No, it was semi-heated. But I had the heavy coat on and Frank, this nice African American guy, held me up and kept me afloat. We did several takes, maybe five for six of me getting strangled by Murray in the water.
How many nights did you ride around on those scooters in “Midnight Madness”?
Damn, I can’t remember riding them, I think only one or two nights. I think just the one time… I recently saw “Midnight Madness” again, for the first time in almost thirty years! Diablo Cody, the writer of “Juno”, named it on her all-time favorite film list and we had a festival here in Hollywood and screened it. I was a wiry little nut job. I have always loved physical comedy.
Did you adlib any of your lines in “WarGames”?
No, but I did keep forgetting my one line about “Data Encryption Algarhythm”. I kept screwing up take after take. Finally, my director, who was Marty Brest, took me for a little walk around. He told me my screw-ups were costing them money! He told me they were going to give me cue cards or idiot cards to read my lines off of. I easily read the scene’s dialog after that. Man, I fell in love with cue cards. Marty was fired after about twelve days shooting, and John Badham replaced him. Luckily, they kept my scene with Maury Chaykin in.
You’ve played a geek in many films… Were you similar to these characters as a kid?
Yes, I was a geek – almost always. It’s just me, I guess.
Of all the characters you played, which are your favorites?
I would say “Ringo Klaus” in “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” or “Know-it-All” in “Polar Express”. Both were my best stuff, I’d say… Bob [Zemeckis] is the best, the finest, number one director. I love him very much and I owe him a lot. Bob is the Elvis Presley of directors.
You’ve worked on movies and TV shows alike… Which medium do you prefer?
I hate memorizing lines, so I prefer movies – less memorizing. Bob Zemeckis let use cue cards all through “Polar Express”.
Who were some of your biggest physical-comedy influences?
I love Curley Howard of “The Three Stooges”, I love Harpo and Groucho Marx, early Jerry Lewis, of course, and I am crazy about Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
Interview by: James M. Tate
Official Eddie Deezen site: www.EddieDeezen.com
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