UNMASKING THE COLLECTOR: An Interview with Randall Archer

If you're a big horror fan then, you may very well be familiar with Marcus Dunstan's awesome Collector  films. The second installment titled simply...The Collection  is an enjoyable little action gore-fest that showcases the stunt work and acting abilities of Mr. Randall Archer. A name you should familiarize yourself with because he's been the stuntman in many previous films that you've probably seen many times over. Archer's long body of work includes films like The Green Hornet, The Book of Eli, Observe and ReportAlice in Wonderland, Blade II  and the awesome Feast (along with many more). But, it is his turn as the sadistic antagonist in The Collection  that got our attention.

Today, we have an awesome treat for you! Bryan from FD sits down with Mr. Archer and discusses what it was like to play such a dark character. He's a really cool and down to Earth guy...so, we know you'll enjoy the interview. Also, if you haven't gotten the film yet...click on the link all the way at the bottom and get yourself a copy of The Collection...it's a hell of a fun time! We promise ;)

Please enjoy...

FILM DEVIANT: First and foremost, thank you so much for sitting down with me to do this little interview, Randall. We really appreciate your time and as a huge fan of the original film (The Collector), I've been looking forward to this new film for quite some time! You've done a really amazing job portraying the collector in the film and bringing a certain element of physical menace to the role.

RANDALL ARCHER: Why, thank you very much, bryan!

FILM DEVIANT: What is your first horror film memory?

RANDALL ARCHER: Cujo! That was the first one I remember watching as a kid and being terrified of dogs for awhile there after. But, when it comes to my favorite ones that I remember watching and enjoyed watching...it was A Nightmare on Elm Street. It's one of my all time favorites. I've watched Halloween  and the Jason movies and they just didn't have the charm that Robert Englund's Freddy did.

FILM DEVIANT: What scares you the most (in films or real life)?

RANDALL ARCHER: It was the Twilight Zone episode where this guy is on an airplane and he looks out the airplane window and on the wing is a monster. So, the monster sees him, right? And he's like "FUCK!" Then, he shuts the window and waits for awhile. Then, he checks again and the monster's right there! That's the one that gets me. That would also be in real life...like if you're looking down...maybe at the park working on your bike tire or just looking down working on something and you stand up and some one's standing in your personal space! That's pretty alarming! In fact, as a kid...after watching that airplane episode of The Twilight Zone, I didn't want to look out any windows and my brother would stand outside the windows and scare me like that!

FILM DEVIANT: How did you prepare for the role of the collector (mentally and physically)?

RANDALL ARCHER: Well, physically, I do stunt work so I'm already trained in a lot of different fighting styles and the collector tends to like to use knives...and the occasional gun. So, I had already been doing some training with some knife guys just for other films and if you look at my stunt reel on YouTube you can see that I do some knife stuff on there, too. I really like the knife stuff. And so, physically, the collector from the first film, Juan, is much skinnier. I'm a huge fan of the first movie. I actually worked on The Collector   as a wirer rigger where we hung a girl by the throat. I set that up and my friend was doing The Collector  stuff, stunt-doubling Juan as the collector. And when they were making the film in Louisiana I was helping out with the set-up. So, I knew those guys from that first film and worked with Gary Tunnicliffe (Special Make-up Effects) on 2005's Feast  and Hiro Koda (Stunt Coordinator) on HBO's True Blood. And so, a lot of this work came my way from Hiro, who happens to be a good friend of mine. We worked together and became friends while we kept working together. Quite a bit of this business is like that...you just keep working together.

As far as mentally training for the character, I watched the first movie and knew that he was kind of a sick puppy. I really didn't have an idea of what Marcus Dunston wanted for The Collection. So, I went into it really open and I talked to Marcus and said..."Listen, I'm a stunt guy who can act. So, I don't want you to placate me or baby me. If you don't like something...tell me what you like and I will fix it!". So, in the midst of it all people asked me if I had to go to some sick place in my head. Not really. I just asked myself that if I was going to physically do this...kill people in this manner and be able to get away with it...like, how would that make you feel? Especially, if you have enemies. I don't really have enemies in my life. Aside from that occasional guy on the freeway that you wanna carve up. But, I didn't really have to go to a scary dark method acting place...you know? I just thought...this isn't real...but, if I would really kill this guy like this. This is the physicality that I would use.

My collector is a little different from the first film in the sense that he's just deadpan. This is my job to kill and I just find that interesting. I take little moments to notice the small intricacies in my victims. I wanna cut this thing up and make it into this...it's not even a person to me.

FILM DEVIANT: Do you collect anything cool that doesn't have anything to do with human body parts?

RANDALL ARCHER: (LAUGHTER) Umm...not really. I used to collect stamps as a kid. It was one of those things that you see on TV where the guy comes on and sells you the "limited time offers". So, my grandmother would get that for me and my brother would get the coins. It's all back in Texas at my parents' home somewhere. But, I'm still sort of collecting. A philatelist...I think it's called.

FILM DEVIANT: The collector is much more physical in this new film than the original. Did you run into some challenging stunts in the film...and how did that help you with the role?

RANDALL ARCHER: Being able to do knife fighting, I certainly enjoyed the knife fighting. I thought that was awesome! It kind of played into my strengths. But, there were other stunt actions that weren't really my strengths and I figured it out. And having the stunt background you're asked to do so many things. It's not always about doing a "stunt fight" but, sometimes you have to do a fight standing on the side of someone because the camera needs to get in and see the guy that you're fighting. So, you're literally standing and reaching around the camera...fighting. Because the camera doesn't need to see you in that shot, it only needs to see your arms in the frame. Or maybe like an over-the-shoulder. So, literally, you're not fighting the person face-to-face...you're standing off to the side and the camera becomes your eyes and perspective so you just have to swing your arms within the frame while still doing the choreography. When asked to do so many weird things like that so many times that whenever something new is introduced, motion or movement-wise, you just take a few minutes to figure out how to do it and, I think, having the stunt background really helps with that. It also really helps the film in the sense that the filmmakers don't have to cut it up as much because they don't have to switch out actors for stuntmen.

FILM DEVIANT: I felt that the fighting was much more graceful in The Collection  vs. the first film where the collector was pretty much just rolling around with the protagonist. You could pretty much tell that you had that fighting experience under your belt. Especially in that final battle scene.

RANDALL ARCHER: Yeah, and the actor that I was fighting, Lee Tergesen, had a stunt double but he didn't work in that scene. Lee did the fight himself. So, there weren't any doubles in that particular fight. They edited it a little too choppy for me...but, I don't really have any control over that. I did let them know when I saw the first cut that I didn't really like it, though. Normally as a stunt person you don't really get a say but, since they actually listened to me a little bit because they liked me in the role, they would actually give me a little bit more of an ear. It still kind of came off a little bit too choppy for me. But, the behind-the-scenes footage master of the original fight, to me, looks better than the crazy edit.

FILM DEVIANT: I noticed that you have a long history as a stuntman in huge films. How different was it to play a huge character like the collector in a film that might very well go on to become iconic like the Friday the 13th  films or Texas Chainsaw films?

RANDALL ARCHER: Well, for me, it kind of all falls into the same category. What becomes alien to me is the acting side of it. Especially for a character who doesn't get to speak. Sometimes that can be harder. And they do that alot to stunt people, too where they have you come in and assess the scene but, they haven't written any lines. So, they just want you to come in and do this sort of face acting. Which really sucks. But, I went to a theater arts high school when I was growing up...Booker T. Washington High School for Performing and Visual Arts. And I was actually in the "mime troupe" at one point there...and that's all acting without words. It was there that I got to learn how to act without using words and without overdoing the body language, which came in handy down the road. Sometimes it's just a tilt of the head. In my eyes, the collector is just looking at his victim and just thinking how he's going to dissect him or her. The silent acting is definitely harder.

FILM DEVIANT: There's a scene where your character releases tarantulas all over the lovely Emma Fitzpatrick's character, Elena. Did you guys actually use real spiders for the scene?

RANDALL ARCHER: Oh yeah. The tarantulas were really cool. I've never handled one and there was a little apprehension. Not that I'm scared of spiders...but, I didn't want to hurt it. What people don't realize is that tarantulas are extremely fragile creatures. I had to be careful when I was handling them not to drop them...because if you drop them from any higher than a foot they can get hurt or die. So, you see me handle them really gingerly. Also, the collector has a connection with spiders for some reason. I asked Marcus about it. Does he think he's a spider...is he part spider? What's the back story? And Marcus was like, we don't know...and that's what makes it creepy. Then, we find out that he's an entomologist and his dad worked in a museum. And you kind of see why he became the way he did. It would really be interesting to see a prequel.

FILM DEVIANT: Do you have any cool stories to share from the filming of The Collection?

RANDALL ARCHER: What was really fun for me was getting to work with the likes of Christopher McDonald. Who is an actor that you see in a lot of films but, maybe doesn't star in those films. The whole experience was fun. Marcus would always make this sound to let actors know that the collector was coming. (makes an eerie howling screech noise). He would make this sound over and over again to let everyone know that he was coming. It got to the point where people were recording that sound.

An interesting thing that I learned on the film was this one crew girl that would never look at me or talk to me whenever I was in the costume. She would avert her eyes from me when I was in the room. If I said "hi" to her...she would ignore me. If I was out of costume she would talk to me just fine. And so I asked her about it one day when I was out of costume. I said..."Hey look, you know we're making a movie. You know that this is all pretend. So, why when I'm wearing the mask would it be any different to you when you know that I'm a nice guy under the mask?" And she says..."Yeah, I know this is all fake. I know it's just a movie and I know I'm just working on it and that you're a nice guy. But, in my dreams...you're coming after me for real." And I never really thought about horror movies in that way and how that could affect people. Because you realize that what you're watching isn't real...however, when you fall asleep...your brain tells you that it's all real and that guy is really coming after you. And this girl didn't want that image imprinted in her brain. That gave me a whole new perspective on how some people can and can't watch scary movies. Because, when you go home and you dream...it's as real as can be until you wake up.

FILM DEVIANT: Was that actually you at the end of the film when Josh Stewart's character goes back to the collector's house and throws him in the chest?

RANDALL ARCHER: Sure was! In the original cut...they actually show my face. But, it makes for a better sequel if you keep the identity hidden. The main problem is when you go to show the true face of a killer, you want the surprise...you know? And I'm just a freakin' stunt guy. Like if you were to pull off the mask and it was Sean Connery, you'd be like..."HOLY CRAP IT WAS SEAN CONNERY THIS WHOLE TIME...OH MY GOD!" But, if they were to show my face in this movie...people would be like...who the hell is this freakin' jerk?? Maybe a few features down the road...maybe if they do "The Recollection" (Randall's idea for the next film title) or something. Maybe that far down the road I'll be well-known enough where people will actually care who I am whenever the identity is revealed.

FILM DEVIANT: Do you have anything that you would like to promote?

RANDALL ARCHER: I have a feature that I was the stunt coordinator for called Bounty Killer. It'll be coming out soon in limited release. It's a post-apocalyptic story of corporations taking over the world that end up warring amongst themselves, destroying the world in the process. And the council 9 is formed who want to fix everything by hiring bounty killers to go after the corporate bad guys who they call "yellow ties". So, in this film you have a really hot bounty killer chick played by Christian Pitre and another great actor, Mathew Mardsen. And so they're bounty killers that have this interesting love/hate thing going on. They're fighting over all these bounties and there's this little twist that I don't want to give away that makes their relationship super interesting. But, lots of action, lots of fun stuff. People's heads gettin' blown off, a lot of gunfire and some knife work and crazy chase scenes. Should be fun!

FILM DEVIANT: That sounds really cool. Plus Mr. Gary Busey is in it!

RANDALL ARCHER: (Laughter) Gary Busey! I actually stunt-doubled him before in another film I stunt coordinated called Latin Dragon...like a hundred years ago. That cat is a character! It is absolutely amazing to be in a room with that man. The stuff that comes out of his mouth...you're like...SERIOUSLY??

FILM DEVIANT: Do you have any advice for any aspiring stuntmen/actors who want to eventually land the role of an awesome sadistic serial killer some day...or just some good advice for stunt workers in general?

RANDALL ARCHER: I was kind of at the right place at the right time for this feature. I was submitted for this movie along with Derek Mears and Douglas Tait who are well-known horror movie/creature-suit icons who work all the time in these films. So, my picture was submitted with theirs and they chose my look. Sometimes it all comes down to a "look" and sometimes it comes down to a certain skill-set and in this case it was a "look" and my skill-set just happened to play into it. My friend probably wouldn't have submitted me if he knew it was anything outside of my skill-set. The main thing is you just can't give up...especially when people tell you "no" all the time.

My advice to a lot of my friends who are actors who also happen to do stunts but focus on acting is this...I tell them all the time that I've scored more acting roles through the stunt side than I have trying to audition as an actor. So, if you have the ability to do stunts and you're a stunt person already and you're trying to shy away from all that just to pursue acting...I think it's foolish because a lot of times the filmmakers give the stunt people certain lines in order to save time and energy. I did dialogue with Keifer Sutherland on 24  mainly because I was already on set and the stunt coordinator knew that I could act a little bit and he was like..."ok, I need you to say a line." And sometimes the filmmakers ask us if we want to do a line because sometimes they have a line to give. I mean, usually it's nothing major. If you watch my stunt reel on YouTube you'll see that I have some opening dialogue right there in the beginning.

Coincidentally...my IMDB rating shot up to 787! For a stuntman...that's incredible! (Laughter) I looked and at one point, I was more famous than Ed Asner and Bette Midler for a week!


RANDALL ARCHER: But, listen...I joke around with all that stuff. I don't take that stuff too seriously. I know exactly what this is. I got lucky...I got a part. If and when they do the next movie...they may use me...they may use someone else. I don't have any power over that stuff. It's a guy in a mask.

FILM DEVIANT: Again...thank you so much for your time, Randall. You've done an amazing job cementing the character of the collector in horror movie history and we look forward to seeing you in the next installment (fingers crossed)! You definitely bring a certain quiet charm to the role and I certainly hope they keep you on!

RANDALL ARCHER: Yeah...me, too! (laughter)


Message to the filmmakers of The Collection...secure Randall Archer for the next film! Hell...he even came up with an awesome title...THE RECOLLECTION! He's a super nice guy and, as we've mentioned in the review and in our BEST OF 2012 list, Archer brings an unparalleled physicality to the role of the collector as well as a certain unique charming menace. Think Kane Hodder to Friday the 13th's Jason. He's that good!

Thanks for reading!