Sunday , June 16 2024
William Ragsdale (Credit: Pat Cuadros)

Nightmare Weekend: Chris Sarandon and William Ragsdale on ‘Fright Night’

Fright Night actors Chris Sarandon (The Princess Bride) and William Ragsdale (Renfield) reunited for a panel at Nightmare Weekend, GalaxyCon’s new horror comic con. Sarandon smiled when someone asked if there’d be a followup project, because the original continues to resonate with horror fans.

He said, “First of all, we’re both a lot older than we were. Vampires are not supposed to grow older, by the way, but actors do.”

On Working with Roddy McDowall

As for his early career, Ragsdale shared that he started out in the restaurant industry, a fact that took Sarandon by surprise. Ragsdale said, “I had just gotten out of acting school in San Francisco. I was shucking oysters in an oyster bar.”

He eventually found his way from San Francisco to Los Angeles before he landed his breakthrough role in Fright Night. Ragsdale didn’t know initially that he’d be working with Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes). “When I read the script, I think I appropriately saw Peter Cushing, somebody older and more craggy. I didn’t think of Roddy in that way.”

Once they finished going through wardrobe and makeup, that casting decision made more sense to him. Ragsdale also enjoyed rehearsing and acting with McDowall. “It was wonderful. Roddy was a really generous, accessible, fun-loving, [and] very equitable sort of team player. He made us all feel very welcome.”

Image of 'Fright Night' actors Chris Sarandon and William Ragsdale talking
Chris Sarandon and William Ragsdale (Credit: Pat Cuadros)

On Working with Tom Holland

Sarandon felt similarly about McDowall and everyone in the cast. He said, “It was very collegial. It was also that we had a lot of fun. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, the work was enjoyable.”

He recalled meeting writer and director Tom Holland (Child’s Play) for the first time in the 1980s. Already impressed by the quality of the scripts, Sarandon was even more intrigued once he heard everything Holland outlined in the meeting. “[Tom] described the movie from the very first shot. He described every visual, his view of the way the movie was going to be shot all the way through.”

A few minutes later, Ragsdale expressed his own appreciation for Holland’s approach to Fright Night. “All of us had come from theater backgrounds. We actually had the luxury of rehearsing the movie kind of as a play for two weeks. That, just by definition, bonds you more than [if] I’m coming in on a Tuesday and shooting a scene with somebody I haven’t met.”

Image of 'Fright Night' actor Chris Sarandon looking to his left
Chris Sarandon (Credit: Pat Cuadros)

On Finding Acting Work

When it comes to scripts these days, Ragsdale is always interested in projects that take him into uncharted territory. “In some ways, if it’s more challenging for me, I’m kind of more drawn to it as opposed to [what] I’ve done before. Or, I recognize that story.”

That aligns with how he approaches being in an audience. “As a viewer, I love seeing people step outside what they are known for…To be able to engage in that is really fun.”

Sarandon highlighted that the film industry is a tough business, and actors spend a lot of their time auditioning. “There were a couple projects that I had to go and get that I wasn’t really thrilled about doing, but that I needed to do because I had to pay the mortgage. I call them mortgage movies!”

“Some people might be under the misapprehension that stuff just comes to us all the time. It doesn’t really work that way most of the time for most actors.”

About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros is Pop Culture Editor for Blogcritics Magazine. She frequently covers TV, film and theater. Her portfolio includes interviews with Ndaba Mandela and actors Juliette Binoche, Fran Drescher, Derek Jacobi and Brent Spiner. She's also spoken with notable voice actors Petrea Burchard, Garry Chalk, Peter Cullen and Brian Drummond.

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