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Don Michael Paul

Wingman Wednesday

Zach McGowan

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On your mark. Get set. Let’s go!

We’re celebrating the release of “Death Race: Beyond Anarchy” – available today on Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand – chatting with the individuals responsible for revving our blood-fueled engines. This time out we’re sitting down with star Zach McGowan to discuss the double-edged sword that is present when joining an existing franchise, the reason his inner 10-year-old was “losing his shit” every day on set, and why “The Walking Dead” fans better get used to seeing his face.

TrunkSpace: “Death Race” is a popular franchise with fans. As an actor, when you’re going into a new project, is it exciting knowing that there’s already a built-in audience for you on the other side?
McGowan: Always. You look at it both ways. You’re like, “Sweet! There’s already people who love these movies!” And then you’re also like, “Wow, I hope they embrace me.” That’s the double-edged sword of it. I hope I did the fans proud.

TrunkSpace: For those long-term fans who have been following the franchise since the ’70s, what are they going to dig most about this one in particular? What does it do best, in your opinion?
McGowan: Well, for the people who have been involved with the franchise since its inception, basically like me – I started watching them in the ’80s with my brothers, probably too early. (Laughter) When I was like a little, tiny kid, my brothers would play them, and I’d be like, totally desensitized. I think to those fans, I think they’re the ones who will embrace it the most.

That was the whole goal of it, was to make it in the vein of those older pictures. When I read the character I was like, “Oh, this is like Kurt Russell in ‘Escape from New York’ or something.” That was what I saw. Don (Michael Paul) explained to me that they were actually building the cars and they were going to do everything practical and not rely upon the visual effects and all that. That’s when I knew it was going to be awesome, or at least I hoped that it could be. I’ve seen it, and I think that really shines through, so I think the original fans will dig those elements of it.

TrunkSpace: It does seem like a love letter to the fans who have been with the franchise for years, but at the same time, it could just as easily serve as a jumping on point for newbies.
McGowan: Yeah. For sure. I think it holds true to the genre. If you watch it and you have no idea what “Death Race” is, you would still know. It’s accessible on different levels in that way.

TrunkSpace: We already talked about what the fans will dig, but what did you dig about the experience? What did you take from the production that you’ll carry with you?
McGowan: When I first got there, I think what initially just jumped out was, I got to see all the cars that had been built. Literally, while we were doing pre-production for this, while I was in fight camp, the Oscars were happening. This was in 2016 when we shot it. The Oscars were happening, and I was running on a treadmill in the middle of the night, and I was watching the Oscars. That year, obviously, “Mad Max” cleaned house at the Oscars. The original ones were like the Australian remake of the “Death Race” movies back then. It was one of these weird confluences when I was sitting there watching that all happening.

TrunkSpace: And like you said, it has to be wild showing up on set and seeing those cars, especially growing up watching the original. 10-year-old you must have been pysched!
McGowan: Oh yeah! 10-year-old me was just losing his shit all the time.

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked with Don before. Was that a coincidence or was there some sort of professional connection that you guys made that carried forward beyond just the one film?
McGowan: Well, we actually shot “Death Race” before “The Scorpion King.” I met Don on “Death Race.” Before I took it, I watched a bunch of his movies. His first movie is called “Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man.” If you haven’t seen it, it’s just awesome. People should go back and check it out.

I was excited to just inhabit that world with him. Since then, we’ve done two movies together. I love Don. He’s got to be one of my favorite guys and, as I always said, he’s the smartest director in Hollywood because he cast me as the lead in his action film. (Laughter)

McGowan with Danny Glover in “Death Race: Beyond Anarchy.”

TrunkSpace: So going into “The Scorpion King,” with already having that comfort level of working together, you must have been able to just sort of hit the ground running?
McGowan: Yeah. In fact, actually on “The Scorpion King,” my schedule before it was pretty tight. Because of that, the fight training period had to be made smaller, because I was in the middle of shooting a period drama for USA at the time. But it was like we were ahead of things. We knew how each other worked, so it just all worked out. I look forward to making many films with him in the future.

TrunkSpace: Going back to 10-year-old Zach for a second… you grew up in New York City. If someone said back in the day, “Zach, eventually you’re going to be in one of these big franchises that you’re watching now as a kid.” Would you say they were crazy or was this always your path? Not necessarily this specific film, but acting in general?
McGowan: I decided early that this was something that I wanted to do for sure. As far as seeing myself now, I think 10-year-old me would be proud more than surprised. I had parents who always, always told us that the sky’s the limit and that you can do amazing things. “You can do anything if you just work hard enough at it.” If I ever had faith in anything, it was that. That hard work and dedication will lead to success in the end. I mean, the path’s not over, but I’m glad to have gotten as far as I’ve gotten thus far.

TrunkSpace: Finally, Zach, we know you can’t say much about it, but you’re due to join “The Walking Dead” this season. Just to tie it to “Death Race,” is your character Justin… is he in the same zone of badassery as Connor from “Death Race?”
McGowan: I think that every character’s different. Justin is definitely not the same guy as Connor, but does he do some badass things? I think anyone who’s lived to this point in “The Walking Dead,” who’s a human and is alive, has obviously been through quite a bit in order to have made it that far through the apocalypse. So, yeah, you get to see some stuff for sure. I got to have some fun on the show, and I hope you like it.

Death Race: Beyond Anarchy” is available today on Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand.

Next up, Don Michael Paul directs “The Scorpion King: Book of Souls,” due October 23.

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Death Race: Beyond Anarchy

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Title: Death Race: Beyond Anarchy

Rated: R

Genre: Action

Release Date: October 2, 2018

Run Time: 1 hour 51 minutes

Directed By: Don Michael Paul

Starring: Zach McGowan, Frederick Koehler, Christine Marzano, Danny Glover, Danny Trejo

Reason We’re Watching It: If you’re feeling the need for speed, action-packed fight scenes and a plethora of explosions, then “Death Race: Beyond Anarchy” is a cinematic highway leading you straight to it! The cast is another great reason to tune in. Zach McGowan is quickly climbing the ranks in Hollywood with his hard-hitting performances, and just so we’re clear, we’ll watch anything that has Danny Trejo or Danny Glover in it. How could we not?

What It’s All About: After an attempt at taking down the inmate known as Frankenstein goes awry, black ops badass Connor (McGowan) enters the prison to join the illegal Death Race and take on Frankenstein himself.

Whoah! Rewind That!: This is not the type of movie where you can only pick just one action-packed moment to play again and again, because frankly, there are a lot of them. Though there were less actual car-based scenes in this installment, the hand-to-hand combat was very well-choreographed and worth a second look.

Watercooler-Worthy Tidbit: Lists (Frederick Koehler) is the only character to appear in all of the “Death Race” movies. He seems to know how to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

And that’s why we’re giving it…

 

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Deep Focus

Don Michael Paul

DonMichaelPaulFeatured

On your mark. Get set. Let’s go!

We’re celebrating the release of “Death Race: Beyond Anarchy” – available today on Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand – chatting with the individuals responsible for revving our blood-fueled engines. First up, we sat down with writer/director Don Michael Paul to discuss bringing a fresh take to the fan-favorite franchise, the scene he’s most excited to share with audiences, and what he enjoys most about getting to bring his cinematic visions to life.

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked on a number of sequels throughout the course of your career. Is there a balance for you creatively to stay true to the brand you’re working on while also trying to bring your own creative POV?
Don Michael Paul: I try to always respect the creators that went before, but at the same time I endeavor to give the audience a fresh take. I never treat the films I do as sequels, I approach them the same way I’d approach an original. You have to try to stay fresh and fun so you can give the evolving audience a ride. I love movies, I mean really love them. Disappearing in the dark and watching a story unfold is gold to me. I try to honor each film with a different and diverse take. I’ve had some successes and failures, but I’m always reaching, regardless of budget or franchise requirements.

TrunkSpace: With “Death Race 4: Beyond Anarchy,” you wrote and directed the film. When you’re wearing both hats, does one influence the other in the various stages? For example, will Director Don step in and say, “I’m not sure we can pull that off…” to Writer Don while you’re in the process of working on a script?
Don Michael Paul: Director Don always has to remind Writer Don what can and can’t be done. Budgets are coming way down so I’m always cognizant of what I can do. But at the same time I push hard to put every penny on the screen and give the movie more size and sizzle than we can afford. It’s my job. Make a lot out of a little. Audiences want it all; greatness, craziness, fun, drama, comedy and suspense. I will always try to give them more than I have. I squeeze everything out of the tube and torture myself reaching.

TrunkSpace: What scene were you most excited to shoot based on what you wrote and why?
Don Michael Paul: I was very excited about shooting the motorcycle death race challenge. It was a unique scene in an interesting location and it really kicked-started the movie in a big way. I loved how the gladiators and the DR Clown participated in the sequence. And I loved all the car action.

TrunkSpace: Is there anything that you had to adjust on the fly due to budget or time constraints, and if so, did any of those moments bring about unexpected gems?
Don Michael Paul: Yes, originally the end race had something like 40 cars in it. I had to cut that down to 11, so we could afford to build the cars and design the stunts. I think limiting the amount of cars made the characters come to life in a stronger way. If there were more cars, we would not have been able to get to know the drivers and appreciate their fates in the way we did.

Danny Trejo in “Death Race: Beyond Anarchy.”

TrunkSpace: You started your career as an actor. Having been on both sides of the camera, do you think that has provided you with a different insight into how to approach being a director, particularly when it comes to working with actors that perhaps some other directors don’t have?
Don Michael Paul: I love actors. I know the road they travel and how soul-crushing it can be to stand in front of a camera and be disappointed by a performance. I try to give actors a big space to work in and create a mood so they have freedom to discover. I go very fast due to schedules, so I’m charging hard and they feel the relentless pace. It’s my hope their instinct takes over. Instinctual acting is when I get interested and excited by performance.

TrunkSpace: 2018 is a big year in terms of the number of films you have or will see released. All of them are based within an existing franchise. What do you enjoy most about getting to play in a sandbox that has already been established?
Don Michael Paul: I love movies. I love the whole process. I am blessed to do what I love. Again, they’re not sequels to me. They’re films, that will be put out there and blooming like an evergreen tree for years. Long after I’m gone they will be discovered by new audiences around the world. I hope they can be enjoyed whether you’ve seen the previous ones in the sequence or if you’re a first time watcher.

TrunkSpace: Is there a dream franchise out there that you’d like to helm an installment of? What would make your inner 10-year-old jump for joy?
Don Michael Paul: “Death Race” was a dream, but it’s not for 10-year-old Don that’s for sure. I’d love to have enough money and time to mount an epic in the vein of “Gladiator.” I love everything about that movie. I love the context and characters and the visceral struggle of integrity and honor vs. greed and avarice and jealousy. The raw power in the ending after the Spaniard has his revenge and goes to heaven knowing the love of your life is there waiting for him. This is great filmmaking and something I aspire to.

TrunkSpace: Finally we have the trifecta question for you. What job/project did you learn the most from as an actor, which one did you learn the most from as a director, and finally, which one did you learn the most from as a writer?
Don Michael Paul: I learned the most as a director on a movie that almost ended my career called “Who’s Your Caddy?” It was a critical and financial disappointment but I learned so much about myself and where I belong. The actors in this movie taught me a very valuable lesson. “Do you!” I’m blessed to have this epic fail. It built my character and taught me to tell and write stories in my wheelhouse. I learned the most as a writer on scripts that were never produced that I wrote for Joel Silver. He seasoned me as a writer and taught me about story, structure and character. It put me in a studio furnace which enabled me to write under pressure. I’m grateful for those hard knocks. As an actor, I learned the most from a movie called “Winter People.” I got to act alongside legends like Kurt Russell, Lloyd Bridges, Kelly McGillis and Eileen Ryan. I will never forget how clean and simple Kurt Russell’s acting was. Working alongside him 25 years ago was an inspiration to me then and now. Big respect, Kurt!

Death Race: Beyond Anarchy” is available today on Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand.

Next up, Don Michael Paul directs “The Scorpion King: Book of Souls,” due October 23.

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Tremors: A Cold Day In Hell

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Title: Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell

Rated: PG-13

Genre: Action, Horror, Sci-Fi

Release Date: May 1, 2018

Run Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

Directed By: Don Michael Paul

Starring: Michael Gross, Jamie Kennedy, Jame-Lee Money

Reason We’re Watching It: Our love for the “Tremors” franchise goes WAY back to the Kevin Bacon days. Michael Gross has been along for the ride since the original movie, portraying his gun-toting, tax-hating character, Burt Gummer. You have to love his take-no-crap persona in the fight against the Graboids and Ass Blasters. Jamie Kennedy was added to the cast in “Tremors 5: Bloodline” as Burt’s son, Travis. The two have very different styles that make for a comedic buddy duo worth watching. You know that you’re going to laugh, cringe and cheer when you put on a “Tremors” flick, and as such, “A Cold Day in Hell” does not disappoint.

What It’s About: Burt and Travis set out on an arctic quest to battle a new outbreak of Graboids and Ass Blasters. When Burt is sidelined by Graboid venom, Travis has to step up to the plate and take charge to help save his dad by extracting venom from a live Graboid. If you’ve ever seen a “Tremors” movie, you know that this is an impossible task. One-liners, viscera and bullets ensue in this chilling addition to the franchise.

Whoah! Rewind That!: Every fight scene in this film is worth watching a few times, but the scene that graboided us by the seat of our movie-going pants was when Travis had to dive headfirst into a Graboid to try and milk venom from the monstrous grub.

Watercooler-Worthy Tidbit: Want more “Tremors” insight to share with your Graboid-loving friends? Check out our exclusive interview with Gross here!

And that’s why we’re giving it…

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