I sat down and talked with Craig Peck, who played none other than Mike Frey in my favorite film There's Nothing Out There. The following interview was conducted over one period of time. Craig is a very nice guy to talk with. He really knows his facts well. There's Nothing Out There fans, you are in for a real treat! A big special thanks goes out to Rolfe Kanefsky, for making the interview possible. Thanks a million Craig for talking! It was awesome! Read on....
James Hendsbee: How did you first meet Rolfe?
Craig Peck: I first met Rolfe in High School. I think the first time we really spent any time together was when we both worked on a production of "The Sting" ( stage version of the movie ). We were both acting in it and were sort of drawn together by a sense that we were the only two who really had a solid idea of what we were doing.
James: How did Sting go?
Craig: Sting went just fine. It was actually a big hit since it was the first production in the school's new theater. They had just finished renovating the old gymnasium into a theater... just in time for us to hang lights and put on a show.
James: Were you involved with Rolfe's film, Strength In Numbers, which took two years to make? I understand he started when he was sixteen on that project.
Craig: Rolfe was already pretty involved in film when I first met him, but we only worked together in the theater until out senior year.
James: What do you know about that film?
Craig: Strength In Numbers was the film he was working on then (on and off). It really consumed all of his spare time. Just one of several ways I knew he was very dedicated to his craft.
James: Three words come to mind.
Craig: Murder in Winter.
James: Yeah, how did you know?
Craig: My high school swan song. It has a special place in my heart. It was the biggest theatrical undertaking the school had seen up to then, it was an enormous success, but got a bit shafted in the end.
James: Is it true Rolfe spent his spring break building the set for Murder in Winter?
Craig: Yup, I was there with power tools and enthusiasm. My Dad even came in for a day to help with some of the construction. That was when I first learned how to install a light switch.
Craig: I actually was responsible for all of the work that happened on that show during Spring Break.
Rolfe couldn't get any faculty to supervise us in the theater during the break, and couldn't get permission to be in there unsupervised. By then, I was one of the big theater-people in the school and knew the building in and out. Rolfe came to me quietly and asked if there was any way to get in the theater besides the front door. I told him to let me know when he wanted in and I would take care of the rest... and I did. No harm done, no questions asked, and the work was completed on schedule!
James: Rolfe and yourself developed a strong friendship.
Craig: For starters, Rolfe is one of the most genuine people I know. I have always known exactly where I (or anyone else) stood with Rolfe, even if one of us was mad at the other (almost never). He's also very focused and calm when he works. All these qualities make him one of the easiest colleagues to work with I know.
James: I know that!
Craig: I guess you know everything!
James: [Smiles]. Any stories?
Craig: [thinking] A sad story: Rolfe's dedication to his work made him miss my wedding... which he was going to be in.
The schedule on a film's production shifted so that the only chance he'd have to prep the senior crew and rehears with the actors was that weekend. It just wasn't going to happen any other way.
I know a lot of people who would have blown off work to do the wedding, but he just couldn't. If he had, with the tight schedule he was given, the first two days of shooting would have been a shambles, and they would have spent the rest of the production playing catch-up.
If he came to the wedding, there was really no point in making the film.... and he had to make the film. When he spoke to me, he was devastated.
He had been the Best Man for another friend of ours in the last year and knew first hand what a big deal it was to be in a wedding. We were such good friends that he really wanted to do this for me, but professionally just couldn't. He was so sorry and asked repeatedly for my understanding. I, of course, understood right away and was okay with all this.
James: So how did the wedding turn out?
Craig: The wedding was just ideal. I couldn't have asked for anything better. I'm good friends with my wife's stepfather, so I asked him to fill in. He was delighted, and fit the bill very nicely.
James: I'm glad. Except Rolfe missed out.
Craig: Poor Rolfe missed the whole thing. He was not happy, but again, I understood, and we both knew we were okay with it.
James: I heard a nasty rumor that you weren't going to be in TNOT at the start of casting... some guy had change of heart.
Craig: Yes, it's true.
It has been suggested once or twice that my friendship with Rolfe got me the part, but that couldn't be further from the truth. All the friendship got me was an advance copy of the script and some inside info on preproduction.
In fact, my actual audition for Mike will not be on the audition tapes shown on the DVD. Thank God. It was, hands down, the worst audition I have ever given in my life for anything. I wouldn't have cast me.
James: [ Waves it off ] TNOT would suck without you . You played the lead role perfect :-) That's only how I feel. You are Mike Frey as far as I'm concerned !
Craig: I'm glad you liked it! It wasn't easy!
James: Just the way the film panned out... I can't see you not in it.
Craig: The guy who was cast suddenly decided he didn't want to do the film because of nudity and violence... neither of which is Mike really involved with. It's not really that violent, especially not anything Mike does.
James: Did the script change from the first draft?
Craig: The script really didn't change that much from the first draft in terms of structure. It got polished a lot.
James: Story change at all? Anything different?
Craig: Just a lot of loose ends and awkward dialog neatened up. The story was pretty much the same.
James: In the short run, what was the best thing that happened from filming TNOT?
Craig: Well, it certainly looked like the best thing to come was that we were all going to get launched into our film careers. That, unfortunately, did not quite pan out. There has been a lot more struggle than we thought would come.
James: I'm curious why you didn't go after film a little more in terms of auditions. Rolfe and I think you have extreme talent.
Craig: To be honest, I was young, stupid, and trying to do too much on my own (like, without help from people who knew what I should be doing). Since then, I just got too addicted to making money. I still think I might go back to it.
I actually think I would have an easier time now, because I'm successful already. I'm not hanging by a thread waiting for the approval of an agent/director/producer. That sort of independence, I think, would be like a mental ace up my sleeve.
James: What have you been up to all these years?
Craig : I've mostly been working as a computer consultant. I do a lot of software training - my film and theater background really pays off there.
James: Why's that?
Craig: Makes it easy to hold an audience with otherwise very dry material.
James: What were you up to around the time of filming TNOT?
Craig: I filmed TNOT while I was in college, like Rolfe. When shooting was over, I went back to school. Actually, I had to leave the last week of production early to get to school on time.
Fortunately, I didn't miss much personally. Rolfe was pretty much done with Mike at that point.... except for the car going in the lake. They had to reshoot that whole sequence because the first time, the car never made it into the lake. It just sort of perched itself on its side at the edge of the lake.
James: What was the shooting schedule like?
Craig: It was a tough schedule for everyone. I had a particularly tough schedule as Mike. There was at least one day I remember looking at the call sheet and seeing only my name on it... and a 14 hour day in the works!
James: What was Rolfe's reaction when his car is in the lake?
Craig: Believe it or not, Rolfe wasn't driving then. So that wasn't his car. I think he would have been just as unhappy though when that car *didn't* make it into the lake. When it finally got in the next week, he was ecstatic!
Craig: The second car didn't make it into the lake as far as Rolfe wanted, but while the crew was standing there discussing how to proceed, it started to roll into the middle of the lake and sink. They yelled, "quick, get the camera - start shooting it!", and that's where they got the shot of the back end of the car disappearing into the lake while air bubbles out of the sinking trunk.
James: You know Mark Collver?
Craig: Mark and I got to be good friends on that set. We've stayed in touch over time, but I haven't been able to see much of him in the last year or so. He was another great person to work with.
You've read the TNOT sequel, right?
James: Yes. Awesome, awesome stuff. What was the cast like?
Craig: Just about everyone was great to work with. Everyone was just starting out, so we were all hungry, enthusiastic and eager to do what we were doing.
James: I recently caught up with Wendy Bednarz. She told me she regrets working on the film.
Craig: She does? Really?! I never had any idea!
James: It's sad.
Craig: I know she was uncomfortable once or twice, but I got the feeling she talked it over with Rolfe and was fine about it after that.
James: One would assume....
Craig: I remember there was a discussion once (during rehearsal, maybe) about now-famous actors who have done nudity early or recently in their careers..... and how it clearly hasn't had any detrimental effect.
James: I think a scene everyone really likes is when a fight breaks out between Mark and yourself. It looks great.
Craig: Thanks. We *really* wanted to get that right. We knew the scene had tons of potential; we just had to do our homework. We did a lot of work in a dance studio with Rolfe choreographing the whole thing, and then again on the set. Mark and I arranged to come up to the set during production when everyone else had the day off. We spent most of the day perfecting the scene. It was exhausting, but I think worth every minute. It really paid off.
James: I love how it turned out!
Craig: When the camera came around, everyone, including us, knew exactly what to do. So for a complicated scene, it actually shot pretty easily. We were pretty proud of that one.
James: How did the dvd commentary go?
Craig: I had a great time doing it, and the guys at Image who recorded the whole thing said it was one of the easiest commentaries they've ever done.
It was great to see everyone, but pretty much everyone there I've kept in touch with. Rolfe, Mark, Gene Masse, and I semi-regularly get together to play poker and BS each other until the wee hours of the morning. Rolfe's parents were there, too, as the Producers.
James: Cool. Is Rolfe a card shark?
Craig: Rolfe plays a good game - holds his own just fine and has swindled me out of my fair share of chips more than once!
James: I hear the basement almost flooded.
Craig: Yeah, when we were filming the flooded basement sequence, the dam didn't quite hold up in one corner and we had to stop shooting for about an hour to make sure the flooded set didn't end up being too big.
James: Any trivia?
Craig: No real weird antics from behind the camera except for the on-set antics of our resident Diva.
She was actually responsible for my one and only embarrassing incident on the set (where I lost my cool and was pretty unprofessional)... though it did make me a hero with the rest of the company!
James: Mike Frey, losing his cool? I don't believe it for a second!
Craig: It was late one night when we were shooting the scene right after the car goes in the lake. At the start of this shot, I, Nick and Stacy have all just climbed out of the car and swam to shore. BTW, none of the three people you see climbing out of the car from the middle of the lake and swimming away are the actors. John, Bonnie and I were all gone at that time, so Rolfe used a grip, a stunt woman, and an extra for the shot. Can't tell.
Anyway, The shot starts with the three of us just coming to the edge of the lake and climbing out.
Obviously, we're wet when the scene starts, so when we're ready to shoot, John and I climbed into the lake and swam into position. Bonnie was coming out momentarily... or so we thought.
She's just touching up her hair... She's just fixing the bathing suit... She's just finishing her makeup...
..... and on and on like that we went for an hour and a half in the middle of the night while John and I stood/floated around freezing our noonies off waiting for her.
Craig: When she finally shows up ready to shoot, we're ready to kill her, but say nothing and get to work. She gets in the water... up to her waist and stops... hair and clothing dry as a bone.
James: And Rolfe says?
Craig: Rolfe tells her she has to start the shot in the lake, and even if she didn't , she would have to be totally soaked. That's generally what happens when you swim out of a sunken car and across a lake.
She refused. This little argument went back and forth for a good ten minutes while she held the entire set hostage for no reason. She even declared at one point that she didn't want to get The Red Jacket wet... it was ROLFE'S! He said, "Get it wet!"
Victor stepped up to the plate and tried negotiating with her, when I had finally had enough. I stood up, climbed out of the lake and let her have it in front of the entire set. I yelled at her about leaving John and I freezing in the lake for nearly two hours now while she f-ed around and now had the gall to pull this stunt. I told her, in not so many words, to get the coat wet or I would do it for her.
James: [cheers] Her reaction?
Craig: Mouth hanging open, eyes bulging... Without a word, still in shock, she splashed a little water on the coat. I looked at Rolfe and Victor who nodded that it would be enough for the shot. I quietly climbed back into the lake and we got the shot. We broke for "lunch" after that (at 1am), and the crew treated me like royalty, congratulating/thanking me endlessly and shoving me to the front of every line at lunch!
Craig: It figures that was the one night my Dad came to visit the set. I apologized for that scene and explained it wasn't always like this around here! He knew very clearly what was going on and said I did just fine.
James: Well, I know Rolfe appreciated it!
Craig: He really did!
James: You have seen Pretty Cool? Is it good?
Craig: A few times now. It sure is. Rolfe enjoys showing me the progress of the film, and I like to see it. It really is the most commercial thing he's done yet. If this film can't get sold and shown, I think I'll give up forever on this industry.
James: Were you around when TNOT went to theater?
Craig: Yes, I was lucky enough to be in New York when it first played at the 8th St. Playhouse in the Village. I remember getting on the train, collecting newspapers as I went, trying to read all the reviews. Some good, some not so good, but I was thrilled, because sooner or later, they all had something good to say about me.
James: I hear the Ohio screening went great for TNOT.
Craig: I'm really sorry I couldn't be there for that. Rolfe tape recorded the screening, though, and played it back for me. He said, "you MUST hear this." To this day, whenever he's feeling depressed about his career or work, he'll pull out that tape and play it. Always makes him smile.
James: It's really that good?
Craig: Yes, it is. One of my favorites was a girl's reaction to Jim (Mark Collver) when he tries to explain David and Janet's disappearance as some dumb game of Mike's.
James: What did she say?
Craig: As soon as he gave his explanation, she yelled out, "He's an asshole... kill him!" They JUMPED at all the scares, they howled at all the jokes, and actually burst into applause during the film and at the end.
James: Interestingly enough, I've been in contact with Jeff Dachis. I think he had like a 300 million dollar company.
Craig: Yup, I was reading Fortune one day, saw his picture and nearly fell off my chair. Last place I ever expected to see him again! And considering the market in the last 18 months, I think it's only 200 million nowadays.
James: Don't quote me but I believe he lost like 80 million in one year.
Craig: There was a time when having .com associated with your company was like the Midas Touch.
James: Have you seen any of the cast members since?
Craig: Sadly, no. Except for Mark, I haven't seen anyone else in the cast since the film opened in NY... even then I only saw Jeff and Wendy. Rolfe has his finger on that pulse more than I, so he gives me updates once in a blue moon. Very cool about Wendy going behind the camera and teaching at NYU. I should get in touch with her again.
James: What are your interests?
Craig: I've been very involved in sailing since I first moved to California. I even worked as a professional yacht captain and sailing instructor for a while (still have my license). As a sailor, I've been very big in yacht racing. In the last two years, I have fielded a campaign in the Newport-to-Ensenada race. Our team is called We Killed Kenny. Big hit with the crowd.
James: Do you have pictures from TNOT?
Craig: None you haven't seen on the website. I do have one, but it is lost. It's of me and Rolfe side by side in director's chairs looking/talking over a shot being setup. Never seen it, but would love to.
James: Do you have any TNOT stuff?
Craig: I still have my script and all my notes. Pretty extensive notes, actually. My t-shirt still comes out from time to time, and I have an original poster on the wall.
James: Rolfe was nice enough to send me a TNOT hat!!!
Craig: Very cool. I have one of those, too! It's a bit faded, no doubt from all the wear it got!
James: Last question. Are you game for There's Still Nothing Out There?
Craig: I'd love to do it. I think it'd be lots of fun. The first public comment I received about the sequel was, "Wow, you really get the crap beat out of you in this film!"
James: Thanks for talking man. I love TNOT.
Craig: I'm glad you enjoyed it, too. Thanks very much for you interest and enthusiasm. My pleasure. Take care.
Thanks a lot Craig for giving us, the fans, a bunch of cool facts and
experiences to remember.