While Director Dave Jackson may have been responsible for the conception of 'Cat Sick Blues' and orchestrating it's production, the hilariously awkward Matthew Vaughan undoubtedly brought both characters, "Ted Henson" and the murderous feline-masked alter-ego "Catman" to life. How do you play a character as sick and demented as that one? What kind of discipline was needed to achieve the in-movie physical shape? When Matthew isn't playing a homicidal maniac, what gets him smiling? Read below and find out.
This was the first movie we've seen you in, and thought you did a fantastic job. What are some of your earlier works and how did you get started in the industry?
Thank you. My dad said my car was the real star of the film, so I’ll take whatever compliment I can get. I’m a screenwriter and that’s where it all started. To avoid confusion I didn’t write Cat Sick Blues – two sick boys wrote that: Dave Jackson and Andrew Gallacher. Years back, I was writing for a comedian and also on a sketch show. Both projects, in terms of comedy, were very broad and limiting, so my creative partner (who’s now my wife) and I started a comedy posse called Touched by an Angle Grinder.
This venture led to a kind-of comedy channel called Lost Dog, which consisted of mini-shows. Dave and the Cat Sick Blues’ cinematographer Daniel Cowan were also part of Lost Dog. I acted in some of these mini-shows, due to a combination of things – actors pulling out at the last minute and my inability to say no. The first acting I did for Dave was in one of these shows, in his series Fever Dreams. I was required to a wrestle a hunk in the rain. We were both covered in blood and mud while wearing what seemed like kid’s-sized underwear.
I’m not a trained actor, as you can clearly witness from my earlier performances. But from editing my earlier content, I saw how rubbish I was at acting. I learned pretty quickly how to be passable on screen. So if anyone wants to pay me to be in something, hit me up. I need a new car. My current car doesn’t work anymore. Who’s the real star now, dad?
What compelled you to take the role of "Ted Henson/Catman"?
I kid. Originally the plan was to be a producer on Cat Sick Blues. After appearing in and admiring Dave’s work for years, I was keen to help him make a feature film. From the very first clip I had seen of his, which was called Simpleton Pisses Himself (or something like that), I found his unapologetic, take-no-prisoners approach hilarious and disturbing.
Anyhow, when Dave and Andrew wrote their first Cat Sick Blues draft, Dave and I discussed who should play Ted. I said to Dave, “You need a naturally weird, rubbishy man. You know, someone like me.” Dave’s silly face lit up. I’ve regretted suggesting that ever since.
Ted Henson reminded us of American Psycho's Patrick Bateman at times. Were there any performances in other movies, you drew inspiration from?
That’s funny, that’s not the only Christian Bale link. I think in Ted’s demented head, he sees himself like Batman. There’s a scene where Ted picks up his claws from Will and asks Will to make him a strap-on appendage. Ted lays out his plans and he’s drawn himself as a superhero.
As far as my inspiration goes, Dave suggested I watch Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Maniac (1980), Tokyo Fist and Universal Solider: Day of Reckoning. There’s no way I could achieve Michael Rooker’s physicality or Joe Spinell’s unbridled madness, but I could pull off Jean-Claude Van Damme’s ripped bod, as you can see in Cat Sick Blues.
Seriously though, during pre-production I asked Dave if he wanted Ted to have a muscled appearance. Dave said he wanted Ted’s body to look as pathetic as possible. That came very easily for me.
Other inspirations were unhinged people I’ve had the displeasure of meeting throughout my life. In particular, a kid I went to high school with who would talk of horrific things he did in a deadpan monotone way. He once told me how he shot his family pet on purpose. A real sweetheart, eh?
The "Catman" get-up was very effective at mixing visual comedy and horror at the same time. Did you have any input on the design of the outfit?
I had some input. Dave and I went to a charity shop and tried a few ridiculous outfits. We found the Catman’s red shirt in the women’s section. I had no input choosing that massive cat donger that’s for sure. I remember when we picked it up from our prop builder (Deiter Barry) and I brought it home, it made my wife very sad.
You played Ted Henson well, maybe, a little too well, gulp: Ever scare yourself at any point during shooting?
I was mostly scared about fucking up. I could hardly see or hear when wearing the cat mask and I had trouble holding things with those claws. So I had to guess and time my movements before each shot. Some shots we only had 1-2 takes to achieve a certain effect. So if I fucked up it would’ve been money down the gurgler.
Though I loved being part of the film, sometimes it was difficult to process the awful stuff Ted does and trying to get inside his head. I needed long showers and other times I wanted to cry. You know, probably normal things actors feel when they have to play a psychotic pervert for 6 months.
The movie looked like it was fun to make; what was the atmosphere like, on-set?
We knew we were making something very unique. And yeah it was fun sharing that experience with good friends and making new ones. There were plenty of chuckles and immaturity on-set. I remember one time we were joking about if Shrek was in Shame instead of Michael Fassbender; imagining Shrek in an apartment swinging his green ogre willy about.
Another fond memory was having my two nephews on set when we shot the Trunk Man scene. (My nephews played Ted aged 12 and Jackie Chan.) At the end of that day they there were walking around with the fake nipples they yanked off the Trunk Man's chest and had stuck them to their faces.
It was also incredibly stressful. I mean Dave didn’t sleep for about 6 months and he looks like he’s aged about 50 years. Other times the atmosphere was completely mental. One particular night shoot, for some reason, we were clapping and chanting about the sound guy’s supposed jet-black cum.
You've got a production team of your own, under the name "Touched By an Angle Grinder". What's that all about?
As I rambled about earlier, it’s the moniker my creative partner and I call ourselves when we make comedy. A lot of our stuff is raw and rudimentary, sometimes purposely so, sometimes not purposely so. In spite of our limitations, our sketches and online series led to a short sketch series for ABC, our national broadcaster. Dave directed and edited those particular sketches.
The acronym for "Touched by an Angle Grinder" is TBAAG (reads like "tea-bag"). Intentional? (Note: You don't have to answer this one, ha!)
Actually, that was unintentional. But we’ve embraced the acronym. We run unprompted “tea-bagging” tutorials at our local community center.
We saw you on a YouTube video called "Will it fit in Matt's mouth?" We loved it, you're very funny.
Haha. Thank you. Actually, the idea for the segment you watched probably originated from the Cat Sick Blues set. When we were filming the scenes in Ted’s house, it seemed like every day Dave and Dan wanted me to open my mouth as wide as it could go.
There's another horror icon (yes, we consider "Catman" an icon now) with knives for fingers. Who would win in a fight, Freddy Krueger or Catman?
They wouldn’t fight. That’d probably be best buds. And do laser tag together and follow each other on Instagram.
What's your favorite horror movie?
Possibly The Shining.
And also: Jaws, Alien, The Fly, Dead Ringers, Possession, Rosemary’s Baby, Carrie, The Exorcist, Wake in Fright and The Night of The Hunter.
May we have your outfit?
Sure. It’s in Dave garage. I'll send you his address and the combination to his house alarm. I have the Catman shoes at home in my prop cupboard. They stink like shit, from when I fell in the sewer during the scene where the Catman is running with a cat carrier of body parts. On the subsequent shooting day (the hostel murders), I had to apologize to the actresses that I didn’t normally smell like shit, it was the shoes.
Thanks for your time, and good luck with TBAAG!
My pleasure. All the best with Thirteenth Floor and thanks for the review!