[caption id="attachment_1717" align="aligncenter" width="199" caption="Actor Michael Papajohn. Photo taken on-location by Dimitri Halkidis (UPA) at The Ace Hotel, Palm Springs, CA; men's grooming by Barry/The Salon at The Beverly Hills Hotel; wardrobe by John Varvatos"][/caption]
Michael Papajohn has one of those faces that is instantly recognizable, especially to avid moviegoers. A veteran stuntman and talented actor, he was kicked in the jaw in Charlie's Angels, fell out a window to his death in Spider-Man 3, and was even pumped full of lead courtesy of a gun-totting Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard. During the past 20 years, this former college baseball player has appeared in dozens of TV as well as feature film roles and can currently be seen in four major motion pictures. Having worked with director McG on Charlie's Angels, the actor was offered a role in Terminator Salvation, where his skills as both an actor and a stuntman served him well.
"I play a renegade, I guess you could call him, who has been surviving in the desert for three or four years and has probably had a bit too much radiation," jokes Papajohn. "He encounters this beautiful woman, played by Moon Bloodgood, and in that scene my character tries to have a relationship with her in one way or the other.
"My experiences as a stuntman absolutely came in handy with this job. That's one of my assets and I always try to play to my strengths in this business. I come from an athletic background, so I love physical roles, and I think directors like to work with me because I feel comfortable handling the dialogue along with the physicality of a character. So they don't have to cut away to a stunt double. I mean, if I was directing a movie, I would love to be able to hold a shot for the entire time instead of worrying about cutting away and putting in a stunt double. Believe it or not, after we filmed the fight scene for Terminator, they brought us back to make it even more violent and intense."
[caption id="attachment_1724" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Papajohn and Cameron Diaz in Charlie's Angels. Photo courtesy of Papajohn's official website."][/caption]
Papajohn was pleased to be directed once again by McG for this film. "I know when walking onto his set, that he's going to be passionate about the work and he also gives his actors a lot of freedom to play," says the actor. "When I worked with McG on Charlie's Angels, he took me aside right before a scene I did with Cameron Diaz and said, 'Hey, Papajohn, film lasts forever, so have fun.' That freed me up insofar as my acting. When I subsequently showed up on the Terminator set in New Mexico, I brought that story back up to him and said, 'I've always remembered that and use it on every movie that I do.' All actors have their own ways of doing things, but I know that if I'm free in my body, then I'm free to play as an actor. Again, having an athletic background I work with my body and am always in tune with it, so that was a valuable piece of advice."
From radioactive renegade to estranged parent, Papajohn plays Cal, the father of Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox) in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Although his character never appeared in the first Transformers film, there was a history established in the movie between father and daughter. The actor made sure to use that to his advantage when trying out for the 2009 sequel.
"My acting coach, Larry Moss, taught me a great deal about biography," notes Papajohn, "so when I auditioned for this movie it wasn't about how many lines I had in it, but rather my character's background with his daughter, their experiences together and how he felt about her. I worked very hard on that, and when I showed up on the set, I was able to look at her [Megan Fox] and, without saying a word, you know that our characters are related. Cal has been in prison and hasn't seen his daughter for a long time, so he has all sorts of questions for her and I enjoyed playing the ups and downs of that relationship.
[caption id="attachment_1727" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Papajohn in the 2005 film The Longest Yard. Photo courtesy of Papajohn's official website"][/caption]
"Like McG on Terminator [director] Michael Bay also allowed me a lot of freedom with my work. He gave me some good dialogue choices on the set and also the chance to improv with Megan, which was fun. It's been interesting to be part of such big blockbuster franchise-type movies like Transformers as well as Terminator and Spider-Man. The best part for me now, though, is that I have a 14-month-old son and it's exciting that I can actually share all these experiences with my family, which means a lot to me."
Hot on the heels of Terminator and Transformers, Papajohn worked on Land of the Lost, a big screen version of the 1974 Saturday morning live-action children's series. "When I first saw the set I couldn't believe it was a soundstage because of the big redwoods and water," he says. "If you've seen the movie, you know what I mean. Brad Silberling is a cool director and just a real pleasure to be around and work with. They actually asked me to come back on the very last day of shooting to do some CGI [computer-generated image] work with a green screen When I walked onto the stage, I had the opportunity to watch Will Farrell [Dr. Rick Marshall] ride a 70-foot dinosaur and whip it like a rodeo star. Now that was something to witness," enthuses the actor.
Rounding out Papajohn's summertime film appearances is his role of an FBI Techie in producer Jerry Bruckheimer's 3-D movie G-Force. In it, a specially trained squad of guinea pigs is dispatched to stop a diabolical billionaire from taking over the world. "It's a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, so naturally when we filmed this military-type scene there was plenty of action," he recalls. "They did a close-up shot following me and there were explosions and all this other stuff going on behind me. When I watched the playback I thought, 'Wow, it really looks like there's a war going on in the background.'
[caption id="attachment_1734" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Michael Papajohn. Photo taken by Dimitri Halkidis (UPA) on-location at The Ace Hotel, Palm Springs, CA; men's grooming by Barry/The Salon at The Beverly Hills Hotel; wardrobe by John Varvatos"][/caption]
"I play a good guy in the film and I don't get killed. This is something that I'll be happy to show my son one day, and to top it off it's in 3-D, so I can't wait to sit on the couch with him, put on the 3-D glasses and watch it together."
A native of Birmingham, Alabama, the actor graduated from Vestavia Hills High School in 1983. Two years later, he was drafted by the Texas Rangers, but instead of signing with the team, he accepted a baseball scholarship to Louisiana State University. In 1987, the cast and crew of Everybody's All-American came to Baton Rouge for location shooting, and, while still attending college, Papajohn was chosen to play Dennis Quaid's stunt double in the movie. He had no idea that this would forever change his future.
"As a baseball player, whenever I made a game-changing play I would get a high. When I doubled for Dennis for the first time, [director] Taylor Hackford said, 'Action!' I did the stunt, hit my mark, and they said, 'Cut,' well, I experienced that same type of high,'" says Papajohn. "I'll always be grateful to Taylor Hackford for staying true to his word. At one point, he pulled me to the side - I was 22 at the time - looked me in the eye and said, 'Hey, Papajohn, you're an athletic guy and you're very well-liked on the set. I think you should pursue a career in this business.' Not much later, when I decided to do just that, I phoned Taylor, he took my call and then hooked me up with some quality people in the industry to kind of watch over me.
[caption id="attachment_1735" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Papajohn up at bat in For Love of the Game. Photo courtesy of Papajohn's official website"][/caption]
"Now years later, all these great things are happening with my family as well as my career and it's because of him. I get chills just talking about it. I don't mean to sound cheesy or anything like that, but when I stop to think about it, I'm doing what I love to do and it's because of someone who maybe saw something in me and stayed true to his word. It just foes to show how powerful words can be, especially when they're backed up with action."
Titanic, Starship Troopers, The Waterboy, Enemy of the State and Starsky and Hutch are just a few of the movies in which Papajohn worked as a stuntman and/or stunt double. It was after playing Tucker Kain in 1994's Little Big League that he decided to make the jump from stunts to acting. "That's not an easy thing to do in this business," he explains. "I continued taking acting classes and studying with various teaches in Los Angeles, but I kept hearing about [acting coach] Larry Moss. I tried to get into his class but it was proving impossible, so I called his assistant and told her that I just got a really good role in a Denzel Washington movie and wanted to meet with Larry privately.
"That afternoon I went to his condominium, walked in and said, 'Hi, Larry.' He said to me, 'Hey, Michael, congratulations. Let's hear about your part and start working on it.' I admitted, 'Larry, I didn't get the part. I just wanted to meet you and talk about acting.' The two of us then went on to have an hour-long conversation that totally changed my life. He told me things I had to do and I did them. Larry is also a man who stays true to his word. It was another moment in one's life when you look at someone and trust in whatever they say."
[caption id="attachment_1738" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Papajohn stunt doubling for Adam Sandler in The Waterboy. Photo courtesy of Papajohn's official website"][/caption]
One of the actor's most memorable film roles is Dennis Carradine a.k.a. The Carjacker, who he played in the first Spider-Man movie. Much to the actor's surprise, he was asked to reprise the role in Spider-Man 3, but this time around there was more to the part than even he imagined.
"Grant Curtis [Spider-Man 3 producer] called me to say that they were bringing me back in the movie, but he wouldn't tell me anything else," says the actor. "Three weeks later, my wife Paula and I were at a charity event and I saw [writer/director] Sam Raimi. I asked him, 'Is it true, Sam? Am I coming back?' He said, 'Yes, you're coming back, but you can't tell anyone.' I said, 'I won't. What's going on?'
"Sam said, 'We're going to show that your character didn't kill Uncle Ben [Cliff Robertson].' I looked at him and said, 'You mean I've been carrying that on my shoulders for four years and you're just telling me now.' Then I looked at my wife and said, 'Hey, honey, now we can have kids,' and Sam just about busted a gut laughing," chuckles the actor. "Working on Spider-Man 3 was awesome, and it was the first time that my wife got to sit on-set behind the monitors with Sam Raimi and watch me work."
[caption id="attachment_1741" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Playing a baddie in Spider-Man 3. Photo courtesy of Papajohn's official website"][/caption]
Besides his film roles, Papajohn has guest-starred on such TV series as Without a Trace, The Shield, CSI:NY, The Unit and Castle. His fans can look forward to seeing him in an episode of the HBO cable series True Blood, which is in its second season, and the made-for-TV movie Dark Blue. The actor is also a documentary filmmaker, and his most recent project spotlights his friend and former NFL player Bo Eason. "Bo wrote a one-man show called Runt of the Litter, which he took to New York," says the actor. "What I want people to see in my documentary is the work involved in properly putting on a show for the theater while having to deal with everything from rejection to family members getting sick along the way. Larry Moss directed the stage show and both he and Bo opened their lives up to me. I shot over 200 hours of footage over 10 years and we've just started the editing process."
Looking back, Papajohn has no regrets about trading in his baseball bat and pursuing his dream to become an actor. "I love what I do, and I know so many people that may be in a business or make a lot of money, but they don't love their job," he says. "And I know, too, that when I'm hired to play a part, it's not about me, it's about telling the story and me making the best [acting] choices to do that. Also, it's really gratifying to know that I can help tell a story that can change a person's life. Believe me, I don't say that arrogantly, but rather as a way of pointing out just how powerful storytelling is. It's terrific to be a part of that and, in the process, affect people in a positive way."
To find out more about Michael Papajohn and his career, check out his official website @ www.michaelpapajohn.comSteve EramoAs noted above, all photos either courtesy of/copyright of Dimitri Halkidis or courtesy of Michael Papajohn's official website, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!
[caption id="attachment_897" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Anthony Fitzgerald. Photo courtesy of Anderson Group PR."][/caption]
Everyone has dreams that they hope will one day come true. In the case of actor Anthony Fitzgerald, his dream as an actor was to die in a feature film. Lucky for him, special effects make-up creator/producer/director/writer Rob Hall made that dream come true in the recently released horror flick Laid to Rest (written and directed by Hall), and Fitzgerald could not be more grateful.
"When I was in high school I used to practice dead faces," says the actor. "I had an expression if, for example, I was going to be thrown off a building, or if I were being choked to death. I could keep my eyes open and stare at a single spot for a long time without looking like I was breathing. It scared my Mom quite a bit when I was younger. She would walk into my room in the middle of the night and I'd have my eyes open because I'd be practicing my dead faces, so I'd always be freaking her out. I know, I know, weird," he jokes. "Rob Hall, however, took all that to heart because he 'kills' people for a living. He's either turning their characters into demons or robots or figuring out really cool ways to slash open their throats or stick knifes into their heads.
"Rob was a friend of a friend and now he's a close best friend of mine. When we first met, he asked me what my aspirations were as an actor, and I told him I wanted to die in a film. I think that kind of stuck with Rob, because a couple of months later he sent me a script [for Laid to Rest] and said, 'Take a look at this and let me know what you think.' As I read it I was like, 'This is incredible. Rob is doing things that in my wildest dreams I've never imagined doing.' Then I came across this character called Anthony and I was like, 'Oh, my God, is that me?' In the movie there are these two obnoxious friends named Anthony and Tommy, who's played by another friend of mine, Thomas Dekker [Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles]. When I was finished reading the script, I called Rob and asked if I was Anthony [in the script]. He said, 'If you want it, the part is yours,' and the rest is history."
In Laid to Rest, a young woman (Bobbi Sue Luther) wakes up inside a locked casket with no memory of who she is or how she got there. She manages to escape, but soon finds that her life, along with those of anyone she meets, are in danger of being snuffed out by ChromeSkull, a psychopath armed with a metal skull, a shoulder-mounted video camera and a penchant for human blood. While out cruising towards a good time, Anthony and Tommy take an unexpected detour into some dangerous territory.
"I play a horny guy who's on the way to Atlanta with his pal Tommy for an all-weekend rave," explains Fitzgerald. "They're in a car singing and be-bopping down the highway and almost run over two of the film's main characters, Steven [Sean Whalen] and Tucker [Kevin Gage]. The four then end up at a convenience store. Bobbi's character eventually arrives there, and I wouldn't say hilarity ensues, but something ensues and Anthony and Tommy are in peril along with everyone else. I don't want to ruin it for anyone, but if you've seen the trailer then I'm not spoiling anything. Let's just say that my character has this 'relationship' with ChromeSkull and his knife as well as lots and lots of cheese puffs."
[caption id="attachment_900" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Tommy's (Thomas Dekker) and Anthony's (Anthony Fitzgerald) joy ride turns into a fight for survival in Laid to Rest. Photo courtesy of Anderson Group PR"][/caption]
Fitzgerald spent two weeks in Maryland shooting his scenes for Laid to Rest, all of which were done at night. "That required some adjusting on my part because it's a whole different way of living," recalls the actor. "I had to cover all the windows in my hotel room and unplug anything that displayed the time. I remember on our second day of filming we finished around seven or eight in the morning and I got back to the hotel around nine or ten. I went to bed, and at one point woke up, looked at the time and it was one o'clock. I had only been asleep for a couple of hours, but my body was like, 'It's one in the afternoon. Don't be lazy. Get up.' So on a personal level that time change was a bit of a challenge for me.
"Acting-wise, the trickiest thing for me was making sure I ate the cheese puffs in the same order in every take. Our editor, Andrew Bentler, said that he'd edited many projects and had never seen an actor with such fluid control. In each take I put those cheese balls in my mouth at almost the exact same moment, and I don't think I've eaten a cheese ball, which is like a Cheeto, ever since. I probably went through an entire barrel of those things. I had orange lips, orange fingers, it was pretty funny," he chuckles.
Despite various cheese dusted body parts and having to reset his internal clock, the actor thoroughly enjoyed himself on the Laid to Rest set. "This was one of the most memorable experiences of my career and my life," says Fitzgerald. "Basically I got to hang out in Maryland, which I had never been to before, with my Los Angeles family and friends. And being directed by Rob Hall is a joy. I said it earlier, but he's a talented director and effects artist. I love his first film, Lightning Bug, which I call a masterpiece. I think it's a beautiful film, and Laid to Rest is fantastic, too. It's just a different genre.
"As for the cast, well, I've worked with Thomas Dekker a couple of times now and he's a truly gifted actor who is going to be in this business for a very long time. He's also a director, writer, producer, editor and musician, and he has plenty of other aspirations and goals, too. Lena Headey [Cindy] is also a writer, director and producer, not to mention an amazing actress. So to be surrounded by all these people on the set was a neat opportunity for me. I learned a great deal, was challenged, and I miss it."
[caption id="attachment_905" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Anthony meets fans at the San Diego Comic Con. Photo courtesy of Anderson Group PR"][/caption]
A few weeks ago, the actor wrapped production on another slice-em-and-dice-em movie entitled All About Evil. In it, Deborah Tennis (Natasha Lyonne) is a mousy librarian who inherits her father's beloved but failing old movie house. In order to save the family business, she adopts a new persona, that of a serial killer, and starts to churn out a series of grisly short films. A small group of rabid gore fans become enamored of Deborah's work, but are unaware that her onscreen murders are, in fact, all too real. Fitzgerald plays Gene, a nerd who stands in the way of Deborah's celluloid carnage.
"Gene is a high school outcast who loves computers along with any type of gadget and only has a couple of friends, which is all he needs. He also has crushes on the popular girls and is always trying to look up their skirts," laughs the actor. "He finds out what Deborah is up to and more or less tries to stop her.
"I actually know Darren Stein, who is a producer of the film and also the director and writer of [the 1999 film] Jawbreaker, which is one of my all-time favorite movies. With All About Evil I saw the breakdown for the character of Gene and auditioned like anyone else. I wound up getting the job and spent a month in San Francisco working on a film that is sure to become a cult classic. I got to meet people like Jack Donner, whose resume is four miles long, and Natasha Lyonne, who has been in tons of movies that I love as do lots of other people. There was such a friendly vibe on the set and everyone was so experienced that you were able to just kind of go with the flow."
A Minnesota native, Fitzgerald appeared onstage as a child as well as in print advertising and TV commercials. Although his parents were supportive of their son's acting aspirations, they understandably wanted him to have something else to fall back on. As a young adult, Fitzgerald enrolled at the University of Kansas, but after two years decided that college was not for him.
"I felt like the acting bug had finally taken over at that point and that I would be wasting both time and money if I carried on with school," says the actor. "My first real acting experience was in the  movie Joe Somebody starring Tim Allen and Hayden Panettierie. I played a Target customer and, although my scene was subsequently cut, it was still a cool experience. It was that, coupled with everything else I'd done when I was younger, including theater, that made me want to come out to Los Angeles and give it [acting] a go."
[caption id="attachment_907" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Anthony Fitzgerald. Photo courtesy of Anderson Group PR"][/caption]
When asked about his most demanding role to date, the actor chooses two. "Lena Headey recently directed a small film called The Sophisticates, and my character in that is a very interesting one and was a challenge for me," notes Fitzgerald. "There's also a movie that Thomas Dekker wrote and directed called Whore, which stars Megan Fox, Rumer Willis, Ken Bauman and [legendary porn star] Ron Jeremy. I play a character that could essentially be anyone who comes out to Los Angeles to become an actor. When this guy fell through the cracks, he turned to drugs, and that wasn't good. It's something I've never experienced and never want to experience, but I hope my performance is authentic enough."
Audiences will have to wait until later this year to see Fitzgerald in the aforementioned All About Evil. The actor also appears in two other films, The Last Score and Dead End Falls, both of which are currently in post-production, and he recently guest-starred in two episodes of the Starz! Network comedy series Head Cases. "At the moment, I'm like most actors," he says, "just looking for work and always honored to audition and prove that I can do what's on the [written] page."
Steve EramoAs noted above, all photos are courtesy of Anderson Group PR, so please no copying or unauthorized duplicating of any form. Thanks!