Today I spoke with professor/actor/writer/director Miles Doleac who has been featured in a wide range of series and films, including ‘American Horror Story’, ‘Containment’, ‘The Magnificent Seven’, ‘Shark Lake’, ‘Don’t Kill It’, as well as writing and directing his on films such as ‘The Historian’, ‘The Hollow’ and his upcoming feature ‘Demons’.
Horror Fuel: “I read that you are a professor.”
MD: “My degree is in ancient history so I work on Greek and Roman history and ancient Christianity at my university in Mississippi. I teach an ancient history course, Latin, and Greek. I also teach one course in Mass Communications. This semester, I taught an intro to film studies course. In the past I’ve taught screenwriting and film business management types of courses as well. The university reached out to me based on my experience in the film industry.
My first film was largely based on my experience as a graduate student and my early years of my being a professor. It’s called The Historian. It’s based on some disturbing trends I saw going on in higher education and stories I had heard and things I have experienced myself. I try to employ a bit my historical acumen in all of my films.
The very latest film I’ve wrapped, Demons, gave me the opportunity to employ some Latin and some of my knowledge of the early church. It’s effectively a kind of exorcism thriller. It’s always nice when those two paths converge.”
Horror Fuel: “How do you find time to act and direct while balancing being a professor?”
MD: “It’s a very tricky dance. It requires some pretty hard core time management skills. I’ve been able to make it work thus far and flourish at it. It helps to be in a department like mine, which is very supportive of my work. Being able to contribute to the film and TV program has helped as well. With the three features I have done I have tried to schedule the production of those features in a time where I can devote the mass majority of my attention to those because film production is all consuming. When it comes to acting gigs, we professors are lucky that we don’t have to teach every day.
Last Fall, I had a recurring role on the series Containment, so I spent a lot of time in Atlanta. Fortunately, I was able to work with my colleagues and my wife who has a Masters Degree in the classics. She was able to cover some of my Latin classes. A lot of actors have day jobs that they hate. I have a day job that is pretty terrific, that is fulfilling in its own right. I consider it to be a noble profession. I would hate to leave it behind all-together.”
Horror Fuel: You appeared on the hit anthology series American Horror Story. Can you tell us about that experience?”
MD: “I was in Freak Show, in two episodes. I had the supremely good fortune to work with the legendary Jessica Lang. I played a pretty significant role in her character’s development. It was a really cool thing. I was one the German snuff filmmakers, who cut off her legs, in a particularly nasty sequence. I think it’s one of the creepiest scenes American Horror Story has done and that’s really saying something. It was really brilliantly done and really nasty. As I said, what a great honor to work with Lang. Later on in the season my character came back to work with Danny Huston, who is also a tremendous actor. That’s a really well oiled machine, American Horror Story. Once again back to my background I had studied German in Munich. So it was cool to get to deploy those skills.
Horror Fuel: “Your film The Hollow is now out. Where can people find it?
MD: “The Hollow is now available on all major screening sites like iTunes, Amazon, and others. It is going to expand to a larger market when it is released on DVD and Blu-ray and several other sites on January third. It will also be available from Redbox and on the shelves at Wal-Mart.”
Horror Fuel: “What is the film about?”
MD: “I was born and raised in Mississippi and I had the great fortune in my high school years to come across Mississippi’s rich literary legacy which includes the likes of William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and many, many others. I wanted to write a southern gothic thriller that in some way payed homage to them. I had watched the first season of True Detective and saw what they were able to do in the genre. So, I sat down to write a film that captured the sweaty, nasty, late summer ethos of the deepest parts of the Deep South. So, I wrote this film which is set in the mythical Cutler County, a nod to Faulkner’s Yoknapatawapha County.
Basically, the daughter of a US Congressman is passing through this small town and gets murdered in what appears to be on the surface a random act of violence. That brings in the FBI. They find this corrupt Sheriff’s department whose strings are being pulled by a so called country lawyer named John Dawson, played by the amazing William Forsythe. His prime lieutenant in his dirty dealings is Ray Everett, the chief deputy of our corrupt Sheriff’s department, which is the character I play. At the end of the day it’s about duel protagonists film about Ray and his FBI counterpart Vaugh Killinger, played by James Callis. Two men who are deeply flawed and who are battling demons large and small. Both trying to come to terms with the case. They are trying to over come their own past while getting to the bottom of this things.
I was very fortunate to get to work with such a wonderful cast led by James Callis, who I have been a fan of for many years beginning with his work in Battlestar Galactica. Christiane Seidel, our female lead who was so wonderful in Boardwalk Empire. And my friend and an amazing actor, William Sandler, who has now been in two films with me, The Historian and The Hollow. Jeff Fahey, William Sadler and William Forsythe who is tremendous in The Hollow. It was tremendous to get to work with them, and a bunch of actors who are not yet household names but who we will be hearing from like Candice Michelle Barley, Garrett Hines and my amazing wife Lindsay Anne Williams who has been in all of my films. These actors all rose to the task.
The film is first and foremost about the characters that populate it. Every great film begins with great characters. I hope we succeeded in delivering some.”
Horror Fuel: “You recently wrapped production on another film, Demons, but there is very little information out there about it. Can you fill us in?
MD: “We’ve kept it hush, hush and we are going to mostly keep it that way until later on next year, but what I can tell you is that it’s a psychological thriller. I like to call it “The Exorcist meets The Shining meets The Big Chill”. Chronologically it is intrestingly structured. It takes place in parallel time lines, eight years apart. Half of the film takes place in rural Louisiana and half of the film takes place in Savannah, Georgia.
We were also able to pull together a tremendous cast, including Andrew Divoff from the Wishmaster series, Steven Brand who was most notably Memnon in The Scorpion King, John Schneider of Dukes of Hazard and Smallville, Gary Grubbs, Kristina Emerson. My wife and I are in it as well.
It’s really a departure from what I’ve done in the past. A lot of people had been prodding me to write a horror film, but I didn’t want to write a standard slasher film. I wanted to write something that once again explored characters and their relationships. So the main narrative is structured around this idea of a young girl in southern Louisiana with very conservative christian parents. She appears to be possessed, at least that is what her deeply religious father, played by Divoff, believes. They call in a priest and a doctor to assess the situation and it may or may not be what it appears on the surface to be. The events that grow out of that potential possession deeply affect and in some cases wrecks the character’s lives. That includes the priest who is the character I play. So we have this heightened, crazy, dramatic event, the exorcism. Fast forward eight years and we find out that our characters are in a very different place, yet haven’t let go of this very traumatic event. That is all I will reveal at the moment, but I think it is a film that will appeal to a lot of different audiences.”
Horror Fuel: “Your fellow Containment actor Yohance Myles joined you for Demons.
MD: “Myles is kind of our comic relief in this film. In the modern scenes our heroes own a bed and breakfast in Savannah and are hosting a wedding. Yohance is the charismatic best friend of the bride. When things start to go awry Yohance always has a witty quip in the wake of circumstances that are spiraling out of control. It is a real thrill to work with Yohance who also lives in Mississippi, like I do. He’s also a teacher like me. We never met on the set of Containment. We were in different scenes, so it was great to get to know him. His role really brings a little levity to the pretty dark goings on. I think people are going to really enjoy his work in this.”
Horror Fuel: “You also co-starred in another demon film, Don’t Kill It, with Dolph Lundgren. Tell us about that.”
MD: “That was a really fun film. Mike Mendez, the director, thrives in that big, over the top, gory horror genre stuff. He is really great to actors. I got to work pretty closely with Dolph. It’s the second film I have done with him. I did another film called Shark Lake. But I got to work close with him on this and even got to do some stunt work with him, which is right up his alley. It’s a fun, over the top, demon hunting thriller and Dolph has a lot of fun with it. Dolph is a great guy to work with.
With Mendez he starts with practical effects so there is a lot blood and contact lenses and wonderful stuff like that. From what I understand people are really enjoying it.
Shark Lake was another film shot in Mississippi. It’s one of my goals, one of my missions, to help to build and foster the film industry here. I think the legislature has created a lot of incentives. Hopefully our governor won’t try to kill it. It needs some investment and infrastructure, but I have made three features and a short here. I am hopeful that the film industry will continue to grow in our state and I hope that I am a small part of that. ”
Horror Fuel: “I saw on your IMDb page that you had a role in The Magnificent Seven.”
MD: “It was a small part, but it was fun. I’m in one of the opening scene of the movie. I’m playing cards with Chris Pratt’s character when Denzel’s character comes in and shoots up the place. It was a lot of fun. I got to spend two weeks playing cards with Chris Pratt, who is a genuinely wonderful human-being. That is refreshing to see when you’re dealing with a global super star. If you blink you might miss me, but I am there. I was happy to be a part of that film, to work with Chris and with Antoine Fuque and to watch a master legend like Denzel at work.”
Horror Fuel: “Can we expect to see any of your other projects be released in 2017?”
MD: “There is the Chucky Mulins’ story. The film is called It’s Time. He was a football player who was paralyzed in a tragic injury. I’m not sure where that is on it’s release. There’s Demons, right now now we are taking a little break from the bustle of filming. We will soon dive into the editing process and hopefully get a trailer out in the next few months and hopefully get it out this Fall. There is also Kudzu Zombies. It was also shot in Mississippi with some actors that I love, Jeremy Sande, Escalante Lundy, and Megan Few.”
Horror Fuel: “So, what’s your favorite horror movie?”
MD: “It’s probably the original Omen with Gregory Peck. It’s great in so many ways. I love the religious undertones. It’s artfully shot. It has this very creepy, imposing score. I think it is a success on so many levels. I don’t think I can say the same thing about the remake, though I do love Liev Schreiber. I just don’t think the remake captured the same magic. I do love The Exorcist too. Jacobs Ladder with Tim Robbins. The Sixth Sense was masterful, he found lightening in a bottle, but hasn’t been able to capture it since. There’s a lot of good stuff out there in the horror genre. I thought The Conjuring was very effective. The first Alien, I would have to put it there with The Omen and there is Jaws which is one of my favorite films of all time. I find it compelling that with Alien and Jaws how little you actually see the monster until the very end. Spielberg and Ridley Scott are able to build so much tension by teasing you with little glimpses of the creatures. That Indianapolis monologue by Robert Shaw was so powerful, it doesn’t get better than that. I showed Jaws in my film class. It marks the birth of the Hollywood blockbuster. Jaws is one of the best in any genre. The John Williams score is amazing and chilling, so simple but so effective.
I will be working with an amazing composer, Clifton Hyde, on Demons who I went to high school with. He is now in New York doing amazing things. He scored The Hollow and will be creating the score for Demons. I’m really excited to work with him again. The score is so important in a horror film. Jaws is an example of how effective score can be at raising the tension, raising the hair on your arms. It’s critical to the success of a horror film.”
MD: “Oh, on the Hollow DVD and Blu-ray there is a really special feature, a short film called Two Birds that we made last Spring. There are only two places that you can find it, The DVD/Blu-ray of The H0llow and John Schneider’s Cineflex site. It’s a great 16 minute short film. It takes place in the wake of World War II. It’s about a young woman who is hiding from her abusive husband in a flop-house. She receives a mysterious visitor and proves herself to be far more than a victim in the course of what transpires. It was shot buy a dear friend of mine, Michael Williams, who worked on my first two films. Hopefully people will check it out.”
Miles has many great films ahead of him with his unique insight into history, religion, and both his knowledge and love of southern tradition and ways of life. As a southern woman, I have found it difficult in the past to find many directors who can properly capture our distinct culture. So, when I stumbled across Miles I was thrilled. I look forward to seeing both his films and roles in the future.