Interviews: Michael Paré Talks American Violence and His '80s Legacy

We recently had a chance to talk to Michael Paré about his career as an actor, the films that boosted his early start, and his upcoming feature American Violence. 

TMS:  So, I'm sure you've been to Michigan before. What did you think of it?

MP: Yeah, I've been to Michigan. I lived there for two years. I finished high school in Lake Fenton, Michigan. I think Lake Fenton was absorbed into Lyndon. I don't know. I haven't been back (laughter). I did shoot a little movie in Kalamazoo this past year though. 

TMS:  I was grew up as an '80s kid. I grew up with Eddie and the Cruisers, Streets of Fire, The Philadelphia Experiment.......Do people still recognize you from all those movies?

MP: Yes, of course. I still sign autographs and all that. You've got to appreciate the fans. It's part of being an actor. I think it's important that you love the audience, do you know what I mean? 

TMS: That was a huge era for action and sci fi and all of those genres. How do you think things have changed since then?

MP: Well, I think when they moved to digital cameras, when they became the most popular way to shoot, they rush production. With film, the cinematographers were still really really more more important and more respected than they are with these digital operators. With film, cinematography was still a work of art. Now, it seems like they are in such a hurry. It's such a quicker post. You can start editing the day you shoot it. It just seems faster. It's rushed.  

TMS: You've done a lot of genre work. Do you ever do the comic conventions and those types of things?

MP:  I went to Chiller in New Jersey twice and it was really fun. I ran into a bunch of old friends. That was nice. It was only two days. Have you ever been to one of those things? Then you know what it is. 

TMS: With all the movies you've done, do you have a favorite and why would that be. 

MP: (laughter) Well, my first one. Why? Because it was my first one. I became a really elite actor in that one, in Eddie and the Cruisers. So, that's why. It was kind of magical cause we had a two week rehearsal in California then we got on location we rehearsed for another two weeks. 

TMS: In preparation for that, did you learn how to play guitar at all?

MP: Well, I learned how to handle a guitar. I wasn't playing music. I wasn't singing. If you see a boxing movie, they learn how to box but if you put them in the ring for a heavyweight title, they're probably gonna get the shit kicked out of 'em. 

TMS: Going back to those movies. It's been 25 years since the last Eddie movie. If somebody came to you and said they want to make a third one, would you do it?

MP: It would depend who it is. If some kid from Podunk, Iowa said he has fifty thousand dollars to do Eddie 3, of course I'd say no. But if someone came to me and said they want to spend twenty million, I'd say yeah. The first one was more artsy. It had a deeper theme and a deeper meaning. It was done better. 

TMS:  Going to Streets of Fire, in 2008/2009 you did made an unofficial sequel called Road to Hell. What happened with that?

MP: That's a perfect example of who does the sequel. This guy had told me he had the approval of Walter Hill and everybody. He said he had the studio's support. We shot what was essentially a short. It was about an hour long. Then he'd meet somebody who'd do the music for free, so he'd put them in the movie. Then he'd meet somebody else and he'd shoot for a few more days. I think there must have been legal issues because he never released it. If you can personally get in touch with him, he'll sell you a copy on DVD. But there was no distribution on it because he never had the approval to do it. 

TMS: That was pretty stupid and brazen on his part. 

MP: No. It's pretty stupid and it's corrupt. He led me to believe that everything was in place. When we did the short it was kind of artsy cause it was all done in a green screen studio. It was a much darker version of Tom Cody. The original script for the first Streets of Fire was much darker actually than what we ended up shooting. For example, in the fight with Willem Dafoe in the original script he's kicking my ass and I pull a knife and kill him. 

TMS: So how did that sequel come about?

MP: Well, I met him at a film festival in Spain. We sat around and talked about it. He kept saying the sequel would be dark like Sin City. Dark. And mean. And violent. It's one thing to talk a good movie and it's another to actually do it. Anyone can say I have these great ideas. Since then, I'm very careful who I want to work with. I made a big mistake. Let's get off of this. 

TMS: You've got 8 movies on the books for 2017, how do you manage staying so busy?

MP: I'm a professional, you know? My son is in college and doing very well. I'm not a drunk. I don't have girlfriends. I'm not a drug addict. I'm healthy. I'm ambitious. 

TMS: When you first started out, who would you say was your biggest influence as an actor?

MP:  Who everybody did at the time. Montgomery Cliff. Marlon Brando. Jimmy Dean. Paul Newman. Robert Mitchum. Clark Gable. All those leading men. Clint Eastwood. 

TMS: Clint's the man. We actually did a list a couple weeks ago on who could take over Dirty Harry and start a new franchise out of that character. 

MP: They were trying to do a series with his son. He looks exactly like his dad. It would be so politically correct though. They'd be so worried about offending everybody and anybody. 

TMS: What type of movie is American Violence?

MP: It's really a character study. It's about the death penalty. The guy does kill people, right? The movie is about where does this guy become a killer, at what point in his life. The character I play is a wannabe criminal, very lightweight, small time. The movie shows how he became a murderer. He wasn't born a murderer. He became a murderer. Was society responsible for creating the situations in which a murderer might be made? It was a really interesting topic to make a movie about. 

TMS: Are there any other films you could compare it to?

MP: Yeah. American History X. Where you understand how these people become these incredibly violent people. What are we as a society supposed to do with them? If a pitbull becomes violent and kills an infant, do we feel sorry for the pitbull for becoming a monster or do we take that pitbull out of commission? Look. There's 50,000 homeless people on the streets of Los Angeles. Do we spend money trying to solve their problems? Or do we spend money helping these murderers, rapists, and career criminals? Or do we help those that are trying to help themselves? It's a great subject to make a film about because it opens a lot of discussion.

TMS: Where will people be able to see the movie?

MP: I think it's gonna open in a couple cities, and if it's well received it will blossom. If not, it'll be VOD and Redbox and DVD. Amazon. Netflix. There's so many platforms now. 

TMS: If you had to pick a genre, do you have a favorite one?

MP: No. I've been doing it so long I'm exploring all of them. You know, I still go to class for god's sake.And I teach. All of it is interesting. It's all a study in the human mechanism. People are the most fascinating canvas in the whole world. Musicians play music. Painters paint pictures. Actors portray the human condition. Acting isn't as mysterious as you think. You can learn how to do it. 

TMS: If you could go back in time and start this career over, what would you do differently?

MP: Yeah, I wouldn't have left my first agent. I would have stayed with ICM. I got in the habit of bouncing around from agent to agent. Staying with the agent, they would have gotten to know be better and noticed my strengths and weaknesses. You can develop a stronger, longer lasting relationship. 

American Violence is out on February 3rd.