Leading Man Alan Maxson Talks ‘A Dead Dame in Hollywood,’ His Love for ‘Conquest of the Planet of the Apes’ and Escaping 8th Grade Gym Class for a Life in Acting

Alan Maxson has spent a good part of his acting career playing characters who find themselves in truly outlandish situations, whether it’s the titular Blood Beast in the 2019 film Moon of the Blood Beast or Joe the Director in Arthur Springer’s 2017 Alien Shadows. Maxson is one of those rare breed of actors who is in the business for the love of it all, be it heavy or be it light. He is the All-Seasons thespian who would have been just as at home in an Ed Wood flick as he would be in a Marty Scorsese opus. In short, this consummate professional has chops and mucho range.

Still waters run deep for this actor who has just landed into homes across the ever-lovin’ globe courtesy of director Shawn Schminke’s ode to noir and slapstick, A Dead Dame in Hollywood (currently streaming via Amazon Prime). As private dick Stone Evergreen, Maxson comes out of this loving pastiche guns a blazing and channels the best of Bruce Campbell with a little smidge of Bruce Willis circa 1988 to create a character that is at once intimately familiar and yet refreshingly new; a lovely conundrum.

Vents recently sat down with The Man Who Is Stone Evergreen to catch up with him and get his thoughts on the buzz-generating A Dead Dame in Hollywood.

Vents: It’s a pleasure to chew the fat with you, Alan and congratulations on A Dead Dame in Hollywood! Before we get too far down that particular rabbit hole however, how have you been during these unprecedented times?

Alan Maxson: Hi Ryan, it’s a pleasure being able to chew this fat with you as well. Thanks for asking about how I’ve been. It’s been interesting, that’s for sure! Tons of personal things and difficulties during these hard times, but I think we can all relate to that! But on a positive note, I have had enough time to finish writing the script to my next feature film! I’m very excited for it and I have just commissioned some artwork to help raise funding for it. I’m hoping to be able to film in 2021 so I will be very well prepared by then!

 Vents: You play the lead in A Dead Dame in Hollywood, private detective Stone Evergreen (cool name, by the way!). How would you describe the film and your character to those people curious to check it out?

AM: Stone Evergreen is a great name! (Thanks Shawn Schminke for coming up with that!). I would describe Stone as a mixture of two characters. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) from The Naked Gun & Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) from The Evil Dead. More Leslie than Bruce, but there are hints of him in there.

The film itself is a lot like The Naked Gun. It’s funny and only Stone is self-aware of how ridiculous things are. The only difference is that it takes place in the 1940s and it’s filmed in black & white.

Vents: You worked with a superlative cast in Dead Dame, including such luminaries as Allie Rivera, Breeanna Judy and Noel Jason Scott. What was it like to be surrounded by such a talented ensemble? Did it make your job easier?

AM: Oh my god yes! They are all rock stars! Shawn and I have been lucky enough to have worked with all the cast many times before this film. So many that I genuinely would have to go on IMDb and look to give you a number. Because we all have a history and friendship together, it made it easier and much more fun to bring out the best performances in each other. Noel and I actually have a running joke about being in every movie together because I’ll look on my call sheet the night before a new job and I’ll see his name! I always laugh and say to myself “Noel is everywhere!” But that just goes to show you that when someone is great at what they do and fun to work with, they keep getting hired. Hell, I’ll probably see him on my next job.

Vents: A Dead Dame in Hollywood sort of plies its trade in the film noir genre with a clever slice of comedy expertly thrown in for good measure. Before signing on to do this project had you been a fan of the film noir genre?

AM: I’m a fan of film making in general so I’m very familiar with all genre’s and the history they have in cinema, but I honestly haven’t seen many noir films, only the ones we are told to watch in film school. But I absolutely appreciate and respect them!

Vents: Dead Dame was written and directed by the uber-talented director Shawn Schminke. What was it like working with such an accomplished and original voice in Hollywood cinema?

AM: Shawn is talented as hell! I met Shawn in film school 16 or so years ago. We have been friends since the day we met. We were both groomsmen in each other’s weddings. So we are close. That type of friendship is absolutely great on a film set because we trust each other so much. And we can be blunt with each other. He’ll tell me that I flat out gave a terrible performance and we need a new take, and it doesn’t bother me one bit. We just do it again until he says “Great work Al!”

One thing I’ve said over and over again is that Shawn is a fantastic writer. This script is funny! And he knows how to pull the best performance out of all the actors. It’s great to watch him direct. When we both had more free time and we lived close to each other, I’d ask him to direct me in self-tape auditions because I always booked them when he did that for me. (Thanks Shawn! LOL)

One thing people overlook about this movie is that it’s well produced. Shawn knows how to make $5k look like $20 and that is extremely important in indie filmmaking. You’ll have to ask him for BTS photos because these sets look terrible in real life! He can take cardboard and light it & edit it in a way that just looks professional. It’s great to see the final film verses how silly we all looked on set. Don’t get me wrong, I know we look silly in the movie, but it’s different. The film is supposed to have camp and a low budget look, but what he does is something only filmmakers can appreciate. I’d love to see Shawn make a movie with a million dollars. I guarantee every studio in town will want to hire him to make their films and save them money!

Vents: It’s quirky and cool to note that your character of Stone Evergreen was initially planned to be a supporting character in an entirely different film altogether, one dealing with that legendary second cousin to Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman. Were you originally tied to play Stone in that film?

AM: You’d have to ask Shawn, but I’m pretty sure he was going to have me play the Bigfoot, just simply because I’m “Monster Maxson”. I play creatures and monsters for 90% of my roles so I assume that’s what he had planned. But when he asked me to play Stone, I was honored. I knew this character and film was important to him and he entrusted me to bring it to life. I didn’t want to let my friend down. But boy am I glad he did! It was great fun and I truly grew a lot during the film. I believe we slowly filmed it over like 3 years or something. It took a while just because it was on our own time and had to line schedules up with everyone else. You’ll see my hair change quite a bit in the film. Ha-ha.

Vents: How did you prepare to play the part of a gumshoe/Sam Spade type of character? Was it as simple as just showing up on set and saying your lines, or did you draw from other things such as Bogart’s performance in The Big Sleep or Heston’s tour de force in Touch of Evil?

AM: Preparing for the role was fun because Shawn had me over for a few nights to watch movies for inspiration. And I would act out his script and he’d give notes. We did a lot of pre-production for my character. But I also know Shawn’s comedy style very well so I naturally knew what he was going for pretty early on.

Vents: How has the coronavirus affected the release of A Dead Dame in Hollywood? Did certain plans have to be shuffled around or altogether scuttled because of the virus?

AM: I think the only thing that hurt ADDIH were the film festivals Shawn submitted to. But really I bet it helped its digital release because people are all at home and need more content. And they want something silly to make them laugh, and that’s what this movie does! It’s not heavy and has no social or political agendas in it. It’s just a silly escape and makes you wanna have fun after watching the movie.

Vents: Following that up just a bit, do you feel that Hollywood will be a very different industry in the aftermath of the coronavirus?

AM: I don’t. I think Hollywood won’t fully recover until sometime in 2021 but once it’s fully recovered and there is a vaccine, all will be up and running.

There may be small changes such as more sanitary habits that we will now do as people to stop the spread of sicknesses. There may also be more remote editing for post-production, but I don’t think there will be drastic changes. We just all have to survive and monetarily outlast the inability to gather in big groups for a while.

Vents: The film looks gorgeous in black and white. Is this a career first for you, working in a film entirely shot in black and white?

AM: Not my first, but funny enough, my first B&W film was also written and directed by Shawn! He filmed a short silent film on super 8mm film called Homeless Zombie Attacks! And it’s also free to watch on Amazon Prime. It’s super funny and cute.

Vents: Speaking of career firsts, you are a well-regarded and respected actor, going all the way back to 2007 in an uncredited turn in Sydney White;  Any memories of that first role?

AM: LOL. I was a background actor in the film for a few days but if I recall correctly I was the stand-in for one particular character for a couple weeks. That was one of my very first big budget film jobs.

Vents: Secret Origin Time: How did you become interested in acting?

AM: I joined drama class in 8th grade to get out of gym class. I did not take it serious when I joined but I loved it so much that I spent all of high school doing the musical and I was in choir for all four years of high school as well.

Vents: Do you have any actors that have inspired your own work over the years?

AM: This is always a hard question for me. I don’t really have particular actors that inspire me but I have actors that I love and borrow from depending on the role I book. I’d say Jim Carrey is my all-time favorite actor.

Vents: You are also a noted editor with a list of credits as long as my arm and you served as a producer on A Dead Dame in Hollywood. You’ve written, directed, done casting as well as worked the camera and electrical department. This all leads me to question whether or not there is more than one Alan Maxson…LOL! Seriously, where do you find all of the time to wear so many hats and to wear them so bloody well?

AM: Ha-ha, you are too kind. Thank you. You asked how do I find the time for all of this; This goes back to earlier when I said this film took three years to make. Most of the scheduling issues were my fault. LOL Sorry Shawn! In this town, most people have multiple jobs to pay for the high cost of living in Los Angeles. When I’m not acting, I edit TV as a side job. Writing and Directing is a passion of mine and I have some great things up my sleeve still! I can’t wait to share all of my future plans with everyone!

Vents: Not to play Raymond Burr playing Perry Mason, but can I ask you to tease what you have coming up in the future?

AM: I mentioned a couple times that I’m working on my next feature film as a writer/director, I’ll tease you with this: There are no humans! All aliens and monsters; It will be a sci-fi lover’s dream movie!

Vents: Time for my regulatory Final (Silly) Question: You’re stranded on a deserted island. What is the one film you have with you to while away the time while awaiting rescue?

AM: Oh man these questions kill me! I can never pick just one lol. Based on my current mood today, I’ll go with the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle film. That movie always puts me in a great mood no matter how many times I watch it. Yesterday I might have said Conquest for the Planet of the Apes just because that movie is freaking amazing!

About Ryan Vandergriff

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