By Joy Neighbors
For Louie Lawless Acting (Up) Is All In A Day’s Work
Louie Lawless will tell you that “acting up” comes naturally to him; it’s something he enjoys immensely and has made a career out of. With appearances in over 30 feature films, indie films, shorts and television series, down time doesn’t seem to be an option. And with the career he has chosen, it’s a good thing.
Lawless, 50, arrived in Vincennes during the 1980s from what he calls, “the deep hills and hollers of Kentucky.” He soon realized that Vincennes residents needed a store where they could purchase game room tables. Louie’s Billiards became the place in southern Indiana to buy a quality billiard or pool table. But after 2001, no one was much in the mood to “play.” Lawless had to make one of the toughest decisions an entrepreneur can make: to close his business and begin again.
After dabbling in different trades, he had an epiphany. Well, actually a friend pushed him into his epiphany. Local banker, Gerry Wiel encouraged Lawless to try out for a community theatre production. When Louie didn’t show for auditions the first night, Wiel went and picked him up. Good thing. Lawless landed the lead role. Suddenly he knew what he wanted to do. Deciding that improv comedy would help him learn to think on his feet, Lawless delved into summer intensive workshops at Second City and I.O. (Improv Olympics) in Chicago and credits both groups with helping him learn character development.
But building a career as a serious actor from Vincennes, Indiana would take some serious doing. Lawless began taking parts in college films just to gain experience and understand the business, but there was a caveat he didn’t expect. Once completed, the films would be entered in film festivals around the Midwest and others would see his work. After a few years of learning the ropes and networking, he began to get auditions in the indie film circuit, traveling to Chicago, Nashville, Indianapolis, Columbus and Cincinnati regularly. Soon Lawless had a large enough work profile to land a spot on the IMDb (Internet Movie Database) website. After joining SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), Lawless became a known talent that was dependable, easy-going, and ready with his lines. Suddenly directors were contacting him to audition for parts in their films.
And Lawless does differentiate between movies and films. “Movies use a standard format,” he explains. “Good guys win, love triumphs over evil and problems usually get solved by the end of the movie. But in a film, anything goes; evil can win, the good guy can die without retribution; the audience just doesn’t know what to expect, and that’s what makes it fun.”
Another difference between the two: movies can take months to shoot and millions of dollars to make. Indie film budgets are missing several of those zeros and can be “in the can” within 30 days. Just because films cost less money and take less time to make does not mean the actors and directors aren’t as serious about their craft.
To date, Lawless has been in more than 30 films including The Dilemma directed by Ron Howard. In over half the films, Louie’s had a lead role. Some favorites include Don’t See It Alone, FLOT, Cheery Point and FOUND.. Although he didn’t prefer acting in any certain type of film, Lawless is usually cast in horror, drama, and comedy genres as a strong, evil, or malevolent character. Here are just a few of the films he has appeared in.
Don’t See It Alone (2008)
One of his first films was this indie short about a man who visits his local theatre to see a film he’s been warned that no one should see alone. Lawless stars as Gavin Trover, the man who choses to ignore those warnings and the result is a comedy film that will keep you guessing. Shot on location just south of Indianapolis, it was released on DVD across the U.S. in 2008.
FLOT, which stands for F**king Lot of Tape, is an action film that embraces murder and horror in the true Greek tragedy manner. Directed by Julian Grant, a well-known Hollywood producer/director known for The Defiled (2010), RoboCop: Prime Directives (2000) and Airborne (1998), this gritty film was shot mainly in Chicago at locations that Grant was familiar with. Done in the micro-filmmaking style where the scenes and script can be changed at a moments notice, the cast and crew must be adapt at altering lines and character traits on the fly. Grant excels in the horror and drama genres and has requested Lawless for several of his films.
Cheery Point (2013)
In this dystopian thriller, Lawless plays the determined Mayor of Cheery Point, a town where pain and emotion have been suppressed by a government-issued drug. The Mayor loves to play head games and insists that all residents “take their medicine.” But when members of the town are exposed to real feelings, they begin to learn the truth about what it means to be alive. The film was shot in and around Louisville, Kentucky and Aurora, Illinois. (Just before this interview, Lawless learned that Cheery Point has also been picked up for U.S. distribution in 2015.)
FOUND. is a feature film based on the novel by Todd Rigney. What begins as a coming-of-age family drama derails into a gruesome serial killing horror-ride. Lawless plays the father of Marty, a young boy who is obsessed with horror movies, and his brother Steve, a real “killer” in the ultimate sense of the word. Variety called the film “Arresting” and The Hollywood Reporter described it as “Genuinely Disturbing”. FOUND. won numerous awards during 2012 and 2013 including awards for Best Feature, Best Director and Best Actor (Ethan Philbeck) in the 2012 Elvira’s Horror Hunt. The film also won Best Feature, Best Horror Feature and Scariest Movie in a dozen film festivals around the country. Shot in Bloomington, Indiana, FOUND. Was distributed last summer and came out on DVD in retail stores (including local Wal-Marts) across the country just in time for the 2014 holiday season.
Besides films, Lawless has also acted in several television series including Reality on Demand (2012), The Book of Dallas (2012) and Hellbent (2010.) In 2013, he shot a 30-minute television pilot for a program entitled Sacred Heart School about a parochial school going through tough times, some created by its incompetent principal. Lawless plays the clueless principal, Martin Duggan, to perfection. The pilot is under consideration by several networks.
Last year, Lawless appeared in five films, three of them are currently in post-production and two are seeking distribution. And 2015 looks to be an even busier year for him; Lawless just wrapped up shooting The Cropsey Tapes, here in Knox County with Julian Grant, and is awaiting word on distribution.
Asked if he will ever stop acting Lawless smiled and replied, “Sure, when I get bored.” But that doesn’t appear to be any time in the near future. While he loves going to the city to shoot, Lawless said that he won’t be moving anytime soon; He’s quite happy to come back home to Vincennes where he resides with his wife, Dr. Cynthia Lawless and 15-year-old son, Cameron.
When asked if Cameron had seen all the movies his dad has appeared in, Lawless shook his head, “I haven’t seen all of the films I’ve been in. While I act in horror films, they’re not what I like to watch. And I’m just not comfortable with some of these as viewing material for my teenage son.”
Cameron does get to attend some of the film festivals with Louie. For the premier of Cheery Point, Lawless’s photo as The Mayor was projected up on the screen along with the film’s title before the screening began. Cameron was impressed with his dad’s notoriety, but by the end of the film the boy was stunned that his father could play such a believably evil character. In fact, Lawless said that most of the people in attendance were actually afraid to come up and talk with him after the screening – now that’s good acting!