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Interview with Actress and Horror Icon Manoush

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Over the years, the horror genre has had its share of colorful lead villains, characters who usually have a grudge against the protagonists. These villains are mean, they’re nasty, they’re always quite angry, and most of the time they are men. Most of the time, but not always. Every now and then a horror film comes along with a female antagonist. And some the best female villains in modern horror films have been played by Manoush.

Manoush has appeared as an actress in over 40 films, and has also worked as stunt coordinator, special effects assistant, producer, make-up artist, and production manager. She’s also worked in the costume and wardrobe department, the casting department, and she even has had some of her own music used on the soundtracks of several movies! Needless to say, Manoush is extremely dedicated to the art of filmmaking. And she is one of the greatest horror villains ever to appear on screen.

Some of the films in which Manoush has appeared are as follows:

  • Amélie (2001)
  • The Legend of Moonlight Mountain (2005)
  • Angel of Death 2: The Prison Island Massacre (2007)
  • Barricade (2007)
  • Fearmakers (2008)
  • Philosophy of a Knife (2008)
  • Timo Rose’s Beast (2009)
  • The Turnpike Killer (2009)
  • Unrated: The Movie (2009)
  • La petite mort (2009)
  • Timo Rose’s Game Over (2010)
  • Non Compos Mentis (2010)
  • Avantgarde (2010)
  • Necronos (2010)
  • The Super (2010) (currently in post-production)
  • Little Big Boy: The Rise and Fall of Jimmy Duncan (2011) (currently in post-production)

Manoush kindly agreed to take the time to answer a few questions for me.

Hi, Manoush. Thanks so much for your time. This is just another reminder of how cool you are. I’ll get right to the first question. I remember you once mentioning how websites (such as Wikpedia and IMDb) have botched your bio. Would you mind starting the interview by telling us a little about yourself, since thanks to the errors on these websites, you’re a bit of a mystery?

Yeah, there’s all kinds of wrong bio information about me on the Internet and I keep wondering who the heck puts all that sh*t in. It’s not like the world depends on my bio info so making sh*t up really doesn’t make sense. So here we go: I was born in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland and grew up there, in Haarlem, The Netherlands, Cologne, Germany, and some other smaller cities. I’m of German-American origin on my father’s side and of Lovara and Sinte origin on my mother’s side. Lovara and Sinte are gypsy tribes and I guess that’s what I am. I grew up in that cultural background and I think it had a huge influence on me.

Can you tell me, how did you get your start as an actress? What was your first role?

I was still working with bands at that time in late 1997, with my then band ANAYKH, when after a show some bloke came to me, introduced himself as a filmmaker, asked me if I wanted to be in his movie, and gave me a screenplay. I really didn’t think much of it but a couple of days later I couldn’t sleep and read that screenplay, called him in the middle of the night and told him I wanted to do it. Well, that’s how it started, we shot that movie in 1998 and boy, were we amateurs. That thing was so bad I don’t even know if he ever released it, and if he did then I doubt he sold more than two or three copies. It’s kinda funny, I’d so love to watch it again after 12 years but I don’t even know what’s up with Thomas, the director, and where he might be now.

Had you always wanted to act, or did you see yourself doing some other sort of work?

[Laughs] Believe it or not but besides my dream of becoming an actress I really really wanted to be a cyberpunk rock star. Not too successful though although my 1994 song “Cop Killah” still runs in some clubs and still people tell me they like that old thing. If you want to listen to it it’s on my MySpace site.

You’re an actress, a producer, screenwriter, a singer, a songwriter, heck you’ve even done SPFX, stunts, and casting work on films. Which of your many “titles” do you enjoy doing the most? The least?

I like them all, all I’ve ever done in music or movies I’ve done with a passion and heartfelt love. Seriously, I couldn’t categorize it.

You had a role in the Jean-Pierre Jeunet written and directed French rom-com Amélie, which won multiple awards and received five Academy Award nominations. Can you tell me a little about what that experience was like? I’d imagine it opened some doors for you.

Oh yeah, Amélie opened a lot of doors for me way back then, so I was lucky I got that little part in it. Actually I didn’t even want to be in it in the beginning. My then agent Tanja told me about it and that I could be in but the more she described the movie the more I hated it. It just wasn’t my kind of movie but Jeunet was already huge way back then so it was clear this part would be important for me, so I did it of course and I’m thankful for the chance I received, although I still think Jeunet should have cast me for Alien Resurrection instead. It was my first big film set, by the way, and Jeunet was a real sweetheart, even after he asked me what I thought of the movie and I told him I hated it.

Which role was your favorite to play?

Wow, that’s too many to list. I am thankful I got so many roles to play and once I’m playing a role I fall in love with it and become it, and then when the movie is wrapped I quickly forget about it and fall in love with my next role while turning into my new character.

What are some of you favorite horror movies, classic and modern?

Classic: Nosferatu (1922), Night of the Living Dead (both 1968 and 1990), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Phantasm, The Medusa Touch; and modern: Martyrs, Frontiers, Haute Tension, Hostel, Dead Snow, Slither.

How do you feel about horror films today, as compared to 20 or 30 years ago? Do you see the genre as progressing, as being stagnant or do you feel it’s falling behind?

That’s a difficult question. I often feel that modern horror movies lost that atmosphere and feeling that they had to them until the ’70s or early ’80s. But then we often benefit from new technical achievements that the business didn’t have 20 or 30 years ago. Same with the indie scene: HD cameras are curse and blessing at the same time. On the one hand they make it possible for many more people to make a lot more indie movies because HD made movie making much cheaper, but on the other hand it also makes it possible for many more people to make real bad movies. Movie making nowadays should even more be about passion and about the love of making movies, people shouldn’t just get fooled by today’s opportunities to make movies for little money compared to the times of 35mm cameras and no video/HD.

Do you have a dream role? A role that you’ve always wanted play? Is there a character you’ve always seen yourself portraying, be it from a book, or film?

Oh, yes I do. I always wanted to portray Cathy from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Merle Oberon played her wonderfully in the 1939 movie. Unfortunately I’m too old now to ever play this role.

What directors/actors/actresses have you enjoyed working with the most?

Except for one German director, I never had any negative experiences when working with people so I really enjoyed working with everyone. Of course it’s always especially great for me to work with Marcel Walz (Popular, La petite mort, Avantgarde) because we are very close to each other. I just love him.

One final question. Are you currently working on any projects right now that you can tell us about? Anything to plug?

Oh yeah, there are several new projects coming up but at this point I’m not allowed to speak about them and I do respect the directors’ and producers’ wishes not to say anything until they give their okay for getting info out. But I’ll definitely keep you updated!

Once again, I’d like to thank Manoush for being so gracious as to agree to this little interview. She is a class act 100% and is not only one of the greatest modern horror actresses, but she is also one of the most down-to-earth and approachable people in the business.

To learn more about Manoush, listen to her music (which is awesome, by the way), and to keep up to date on what she’s up to, visit her official MySpace page as well as her official Facebook fan page.

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