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An Interview with Sven Garrett Print E-mail
Written by Elaine Lamkin   
Monday, 01 August 2005

I have held interviews in a variety of places but I have to say that my interview with Sven Garrett, who played the horrific The Photographer in Nick Palumbo’s slasher film “Murder-Set-Pieces”, has to take the cake.  While it was a telephone interview, I caught up with Sven while he was waiting to have his hair cut at a salon in LA.  Although I could tell he was trying to be as discrete as possible, I could only imagine the looks of the patrons around him as they heard HIS side of our conversation, about rape, torture, vampirism, cannibalism, child murder.  Just another day in Hollywood.

Tell me about Sven Garrett. There is very little about you, that I could find on the Internet.

I’m from a small town in Germany, close to Hanover and have no brothers or sisters. I have a college degree in Culinary Studies and Hotel Management and was a chef and pastry chef in Germany and the United States for on and of 10 years, before I moved to Miami to go to acting school. I had become a huge fan of action films when I was about 10 and saw Sylvester Stallone in “Rambo” and “Rocky”. I knew by then that’s what I wanted. I think Sonny Crockett in “Miami Vice” inspired me to move to Florida. 15 years later I was there and lived in Miami for 5 years.

So, anyway, while I was attending Acting School I made my money modeling. But I knew that wasn’t for me. I felt trapped, not being able to express myself by just standing there and taking pictures.
I got into student films to build my resume. I think I made about 10. One of which won an award at a Film Festival.

Things picked up and I got the lead roles in two feature films that were in the Miami Film Festival in 2003 – “The Escape” and “Zombie Unit 713”, my first horror movie in which I played a zombie hunter so I suppose I was a good guy. Then I played the part of Bobby in “Miami Tale” which came out in 2003 and pretty much myself in the “Miami Chronicles”.

I had made great connections over the years attending all these film festivals and decided to move to LA. At this time I was working in a film production company in Miami as well as a South Beach Club, but I quit my jobs, bought a new car and drove cross-country to Los Angeles in March ‘03. Took me three days to get there. I got into soaps such as “Days of our Lives“ and “The Young and the Restless“, but didn’t like it (“it’s boring as hell and very fake”). I made a few short films and eventually met Nick Palumbo at the audition for M-S-P. I think that was in August ’03. I wasn’t even gonna send him my head shot, because at the time the film was called “Nutbag 2” and I didn’t like the name. But I kept seeing the audition info on casting websites and finally sent him my stuff. Nick called me for the casting; I auditioned and got picked out of close to 1000 other guys. On October 14, 2003, we started shooting.

You must tell us the story of what happened when you decided on your stage name. That is VERY interesting!

I used to put only my first, real name “ SVEN “ on my comp cards and head shots when an agent in Miami suggested to pick a stage name. People were having enough trouble with “Sven” as it was so I tried to come up with something “ easier “ for the last name. So I ran through a bunch of names, tried them out, thought about how they sounded and then someone, back in 2002, when I was first going to LA, suggested “Garrett” and I liked it. I was able to keep my real initials and then the coolest thing happened. The first thing I saw when I was leaving LAX coming into LA was this airplane hanger with the name “Garrett” written on it big red letters. So I knew I had made the right decision. I have tended to follow my instincts throughout my life and I tell other people they should do the same thing. Your instincts usually won’t lead you wrong.

Tell us about the experience of filming “Murder-Set-Pieces”.

It was tough in that most days lasted 14 hours and, of course, we had all the interruptions from the police, problems with the Barracuda, problems with some of the other actors such as them not being able to remember their lines, freaking out when they realized what the film was about and quitting or not even showing up in the first place, thinking we were not “ for real “, props being destroyed by the police because they weren’t sure if they were “real” or not, etc. Not to mention all the post production problems with the film labs. But at the same time, it was a lot of fun working with Nick and the rest of the crew. Nick would listen to suggestions from the actors, I could talk to him as a friend – we hung out together a lot, having breakfast at 3 am and discussing things we could do with the film and my character. Even the child actors were great. Jade Risser and I were supposed to have a lot of physical contact and fights at the end of the film and I wanted her to be comfortable working with me covered in blood. We would have pillow fights in the house between takes (“…yes, I let her win sometimes...”). She is a great young actress with a big future ahead of her. It was very inspiring to watch her delivering her lines and to play her character the way she did. Amber Richards, who played the little girl in the playground bathroom (and was SUCH a trouper!), she and her sister Katie, who played Megan, Jade’s friend, they were all really into doing the movie and being the best actor they could be. And their parents were on the set – Jade’s mom played one of the salon customers and Katie and Amber’s dad played the father swinging Katie. Even the upsetting scene with the baby in the crib who I pick up – she was the daughter of Brendan Flynt, Nick’s DP, and her real mother was the German woman The Photographer had just been fighting with and had killed. Both parents were present during the baby scene.

For such an intense, horrifying movie, were there any funny moments you can share?

Well, let me think. There was this one time when the police came into the house without us knowing and they walked down to the basement. We were in between takes and were setting up for the next shot. I was covered in stage blood, wearing my butcher’s apron and trying to fix the chainsaw, which wouldn’t start up. I yanked on this thing and yelled something like “this fucking thing won’t start, I think I’m out of gas…” or so, when I looked up and saw the two cops looking at me with their jaws dropped. It was quite a moment.

Another one I can think of was when they were shooting me bench-pressing and Nick wanted it “really intense”. But it was 4 in the morning and all I had eaten was a slice of pizza and an apple, but Nick wanted all the weights they could put on the dumbbells to make it look “cool” and I asked him just how tight this shot was going to be, because if it was going to be an extremely tight shot, I could just ACT like I was pressing a lot of weight. He said “don’t worry about it, we’ll have different angles”. I remember that I was pushing the weights so many times that I almost fainted. What you see in the film is pretty much just my face. It was a good workout though!!

Working with Tony Todd was great. He is very professional and a cool guy. We shot this scene over night for about 14 hours, starting at 2 am.  By the time we got to our dialogue we were both so tired that it was very easy to “act” annoyed and aggressive. I remember that we were under a huge time pressure, because we used the store when it was closed. We didn’t have time to eat during the entire night, so one of the crew guys sneaked to get a burger or so, just for him. We all smelled the onions and behaved like animals, almost killed the guy.

The car we had used, the ‘Cuda, wouldn’t run half the time. Some kind of electrical problem and the battery was always dead. Pretty embarrassing since we were shooting on the Vegas strip a lot and there were many people surrounding us to watch us shooting and to check out the car, but many times we had to jump start the car with our crew van.  The oil pan was busted at one point but we kept driving it without oil and it needed a new engine. The engine was a 440 6-pack. It was so loud that in order to hear my dialogue we had to tow it. But then the power steering and power brakes wouldn’t work as the engine was off and many times I was close to run right into the back of the tow car. If it worked I had a radio to follow driving instruction, but because of the noise I never heard anything and just saw the crew waving and yelling at me from the camera truck with no clue what to do.

I have to ask about one brief scene, actually the only scene that really made me flinch, and that was the blood in the blender scene. What was that you were really drinking?

I think it was a mixture of Karo syrup, food coloring and bananas for texture. I must have gained 6 pounds that day, with having to drink all that sugar more than a few times! The DP had focus problems and I had to keep drinking that stuff and almost threw up.

And the scene with The Photographer munching on the torso – how “tasty” was that?

Not tasty at all. Toe Tag made that out of latex and foam and they had hidden a blood bladder in there that I was supposed to bite. But I thought that as the “body” looked like it had been frozen plus it was missing its arms and legs, the blood would have drained out a long time ago so I made a point to avoid hitting that blood as that would have been unrealistic. And the shot worked.

Have you had any negative feedback as a result of being in “Murder-Set-Pieces”?

None at all. The fans have been great – the people who have actually seen the film in its limited release and recognize me on the street always come up and talk about how much they enjoyed the movie. It’s the critics who have been so negative. Nick has had to take the brunt of it all because he wrote, produced and directed the film. But it’s just a FILM!! I am not at all like The Photographer and Nick is not some sick, woman-hating psycho.

Speaking of all the bad press Nick Palumbo has been getting, as someone who knows him and has worked with him, what positive things can you tell us that might make people think differently of him.

As a friend and co-worker of Nick Palumbo’s, I can sincerely say that he treated everyone on that film with the utmost respect. He made sure the actors were comfortable with some of the more intense scenes. He talked to the child actors and calmed them down if they got scared or upset. He is a very honest person, I consider him probably one of five people in the world that I truly trust. He loves his family and will go out of his way to help friends out. All this bullshit in the media about him is just that. Bullshit. He is very professional and knows his craft to the max. He told ME stuff about German horror films I didn’t even know, which quite impressed me.

Speaking of horror movies, then, do you have any favorites?

I’m not just a horror fan, I enjoy action pictures more and pretty much everything else as well. But if I had to name a few that have affected me, I would definitely say “The Exorcist”, but only the original one, not the latest “high-tech one (“hell no”). “The Shining” was great and I enjoy the old Dracula flicks with Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi – they really scared me as a kid. I also like the old Boris Karloff and Vincent Price films. I am pretty old school and not the big fan of now-a-days big budget films.

What did you think of Las Vegas, given you were there nearly four months shooting?

Honestly, with working 14+ hour days, I didn’t get to actually tour the city and take in any sites. When I had a day off, I slept. It’s a cool city until you get off the Strip and then it’s very seedy and dangerous. I had people knocking on my hotel room door trying to sell me crack. One of the crew guys was gonna get batteries for the videotape and went to a gas station. He came right back, saying he couldn’t get inside, because someone just got stabbed and the ambulance was blocking the entrance.  Those things happened many times and every day was a new adventure. We were just waiting for things to happen because you knew they were gonna. It’s just a freaky town.  The effect guys got stopped by the police and almost got arrested, because they had all of the fake weapons in a bag. It all looked real and the police destroyed it all, which threw us back for days, trying to re-place all the effects.

Do you have a girlfriend and, if so, has she seen “Murder-Set-Pieces” yet? And what about your family and their reaction?

I am not seeing anyone at the moment. I have a lot going on and don’t really have the time for a girlfriend, but I’m open for phone calls (laughs).  My family has not seen the film. My mom couldn’t handle it. She said she would rather wait for a more “normal” film. But they’re all proud and happy for my success.

Was it difficult handling the nudity the film required?

Not at all. Everything was very professional and we all knew each other after weeks of working together.
As far as for the actresses – well, most of them were adult film stars or strippers anyway and they seemed to have no problem with the nudity. There were always robes handy between takes though. Nick many times asked for my opinion, especially with nude scenes and it was all done “tasteful”, We discussed just how graphic my shots were going to be and how I felt about it. And I did keep a towel on between takes – I’m not one to walk around stark naked in front of a bunch of guys (“strippers and adult film stars are O.K. though, haha”). And there is one little trick I’m happy you caught as I came up with it. It’s after one of the rapes and when the sound guys were working on the film, I was in there with them, eating a watermelon, and the sound I made eating that watermelon was very similar to the sound that, well, if you listen closely for it, you hear immediately after the rape on the bed is over. People will know what I’m talking about – that’s cool you caught that. Nick was surprised and pleased by that little contribution of mine…and the watermelon (laughs).

What do you do when you’re not filming a movie?

I’m staying very busy writing. I’m currently writing on two screenplays.
Nick and I are heavily promoting “M-S-P” and we’re already working on other projects together. The “M-S-P” fans will not be disappointed; there will be much more good stuff coming up in the near future.
I am also putting together my own production company and personal web-site and blog site.

As far as your production company – how is that going and do you have any projects lined up yet?

I haven’t copyrighted the name yet so I don’t want to give that away but I will say that the name of the company will incorporate my initials. As for projects, I am working on or have already completed three screenplays. One is a spiritual/sci-fi film I worked on with a friend from Miami, another is a thriller and the third is similar to “Training Day”. It’s based on the true story of someone I know back in Florida and who’s going to jail. Very powerful. I have at least ten or more script ideas in my head all the time.

You went to the Fangoria Convention recently with Nick Palumbo. What was that like?

It was great! I was “attacked” by fans who had seen the film and recognized me even though my hair is shorter now and I wore glasses. We got to meet a lot of great people like Rob Zombie and Tobe Hooper, who actually gave us some time to talk to him as we walked him to his car. We networked and talked to many people about merchandising and future projects. We want to build a team with good people for future films.
Nick and I were supposed to have a booth there but something got screwed up and it didn’t happen. But it was still a lot of fun!

What would you like to say to the readers who may have doubts about “Murder-Set-Pieces” due to all the negative publicity that’s been floating around?

Don’t judge the film by just what you see and what shocks you the first time – take time to think about the message it has. This film is about reality. We didn’t set out to just make a movie showing people getting killed. The Photographer is out there. Think about that little girl and her brother in Idaho recently – that guy who took them and killed their family is just a version of The Photographer.
The scene of the girl getting stabbed in the public bathroom – we could have shot hundreds of those scenes, because it happens every day all over the world. Parents leave their kids alone.
The guy you’ve been sitting next to in the subway for 5 years might be “The Photographer” at night.
People can’t or just don’t want to face reality. Everyone enjoys a happy-ending film with romance and laughter. Most of it is just illusion and they forget about it the second they walk out of the theatre.
But they can’t or don’t want to handle the every day world. “Murder-Set-Pieces” is the real stuff. Pretty sad though…

But that is the world we live in now.

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