“I came from a very hardened punk background in the late 80’s and early 90’s and my early films really projected that. Of course there have been aspects of the more mainstream-type stuff I’m currently doing that, at first, have been difficult to navigate due to my past. But I’m learning. It’s a very rewarding process and I’m loving it.”
Johnny Terris is one bad ass dude.
A true Renaissance man, Johnny has engaged in roles as actor, film maker, author, model, photographer and painter. Best known for his transgressive, violent punk-influenced films that were far from mainstream, even in the indie sense; Johnny would distribute his earliest on VHS in the streets of Halifax, Nova Scotia, to strangers. He even went as far to use his own blood in scenes!
Legendary for being asked to be Johnny Depp’s double in the early 90s – Johnny, in true rebel fashion, turned it down. Now he continues his work as an actor (AKA Edward Terris) in the TV miniseries “Sex & Violence”, which co-stars Academy Award winning actress, Olympia Dukakis.
The Eye of Faith is honoured to post this interview with a true pioneer of the subversively cool right here in the True North Strong and Free!
Special thanks to our correspondent John Wisniewski for the interview.
JW: When did you begin making films and and acting, Johnny?
JT: I started doing movies around 1987 when I was 14 years old. Basically out of boredom living in a small town. My cousin, who was also my best friend, would film various things typical boys would do and then just decided to make a movie one day. We were heavily influenced by retro horror and grind house style film and my work of course reflected that. I never fit in with anyone in the small town where I lived and neither did he, so doing films were an outlet for us, an expression. When I left home at 16, I became angrier and had an axe to grind with the world, so they eventually became more graphic and explicit and transgressive.
JW: Why did you decide to write an autobiographical novel?
JT: I started writing Sinister Splendor & Broken Glass back around 2002 but shelved it for many years. I originally started to write it for myself only, basically for therapeutic purposes because in 2001, the love of my life became a missing person and was never found so I thought writing about it would help with dealing with it. From there it just kind of spiraled into writing about my life from childhood, my early years on the street doing underground films and present stuff. The next thing I knew I pretty much had a book.
I compiled it together and released the first draft in 2011. It has since changed direction. Instead of an autobiography, it’s now more of a fictional character story that is set in the 1970’s and 1980’s, about a guy named Aaron, that is heavily based on my life instead of being about my life. That’s the third and final draft and the most recent one.
Nobody really knows who I am, and I’m sure most of the world wouldn’t care anyway so I decided to make it fiction that is based on me with characters based on my friends an family instead of the standard autobiography. It made it more interesting to me that way. And I think to others reading it too. The book is still my life, but the characters are different.
JW: Any artists that have influenced your work?
JT: A few artists have influenced me in big way, Richard Kern and The Cinema Of Transgression were probably the biggest influence on me in terms of my own films. Retro 70’s and 80’s horror played a huge part as well. Early Dario Argento played a huge part. Grindhouse flicks, drive-in movies form that period.
From a very young age I was really influenced by a lot of vintage heterosexual porn too like Devil In Miss Jones, Devil Inside Her, Behind The Green Door etc. All the really strange and surreal X-rated films of that period. Early John Waters of course played an influence, especially in my early work.
Musically I was, and still am, obsessed with the NWOBHM/New Wave Of British Heavy Metal from the late 70’s and early 80’s. Bands like Girlschool, Motorhead, Plasmatics/Wendy O Williams, Saxon, Turbonegro, Judas Priest, bands like that. Tight jeans, white t-shirt, spiked wristband, leather jacket wearing, sneering bands. A lot of punk-tinged heavy metal from that period. Listening to that stuff gets me in writing mode immediately.
JW: Do you enjoy acting?
JT: Yeah of course, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. I’m actually more comfortable in front of the camera being someone else than I am in my personal life. It’s always been that way. When I was a little kid I used to memorize scripts at the age of 9 or 10 years old and perform every character in my bedroom by myself for hours on end. Acting has always triggered something in me, as far back as I can remember.
JW: You once doubled for Johnny Depp. What was that like?
JT: I never doubled for Johnny Depp. I was asked to when I was younger and living in Los Angeles but I was moving back to Canada at the time. I wouldn’t have done it anyway. I have no desire to be another actor, or anyone other than myself.
JW: What is your opinion of Hollywood and Hollywood movies?
JT: When I first went to Hollywood it was nothing like I expected it to be. It was actually pretty grimy and trashy. The Rainbow Bar & Grill was always fun. The Whiskey was fun. I don’t have a problem with mainstream cinema or the Hollywood stuff; it’s not exactly my thing, but being older now I’m not as ferocious against it like I used to be.
I used to revolt against it in a really hardcore way. But I’m currently one of the leads in a television series with Olympia Dukakis (who is an Oscar winner) so I’ve obviously tamed a bit in the old age and don’t care about that as much haha.
Most Hollywood films are formula and neatly packed for selling purposes and because of that it’s the same stuff just rehashed over and over again with a different title, and I personally find that very boring. Hollywood is very loud and explosive and action packed. They make and market their films that way. I prefer psychological films that are slower in tone and make you think.
JW: Are you a horror film fan? Any favorite horror films, Johnny?
JT: Yeah I am a huge horror fan, I grew up on them and they are a huge influence. My mother was a huge lover of horror movies and nothing was really ever censored from me so I was watching stuff like ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ when I was just a little kid. I usually prefer the physiological ones over the gore. I have lots of favorite horror films, though my favorite one would have to be the original ‘Carrie’.
JW: Are you working on any screenplays, Johnny?
JT: Nothing really big right now, no. I’m very slowly writing a screenplay/script which is a greaser-style drama film about two brothers and their alcoholic father. But that’s a work in progress and who knows how that will evolve; too early to tell right now. I am though, currently helping a friend of mine shoot his apocalyptic style film.
I’m more focused on acting and writing right now.
Be sure to check Johnny out in the latest season of “Sex & Violence” starring Olympia Dukakis on OUTTV.
Until next time,