I’d like to introduce you to filmmaker and actor Mark Pirro. For those not familiar with his work, he is most known for making successful micro budget films. Most notably, A Polish Vampire in Burbank, which was shot for a modest budget of $2500. The film went on to make $500,000 when it was released in 1983. Recently, I did a Q&A with Mark to discuss his film career, and his latest film Celluloid Soul. I started by asking him about when he made A Polish Vampire in Burbank.

Marc Heller: Mark, you did this at a time when there wasn’t digital technology, and you had none of the advantages aspiring film makers have today. You lost your star, you had to cope with injuries from a car accident, and as time went on, you lost more people. What drove you to put this film together despite all of these obstacles?

Mark Pirro: Well, I guess it’s the same force that drives a drug addict to get his fix. I had a strong passion for filmmaking. Once I started Polish Vampire, from then on, my only goal was completing it. When Eddie Deezen, the original star of the film, left the project, I already had several days of filming invested in the movie and didn’t just want to call it a loss; so I regrouped, did a little re-writing of the script, jumped into the role myself, and kept forging ahead. Same thing for when I had gotten into the car accident. It was either about buying another car, or start taking the bus and finish the movie. I was in my early 20’s and didn’t really have a lot of money to bat around, so it was an either/or situation. I have to wonder if I would still have that kind of determination today. And yes, today’s technology has changed everything. Today, there is no excuse why a person can’t go out and make his own movie. Back in the day, it was budget. Not anymore. The big irony here is that my last five features cost less to make than my first one from 1983.

Marc:A decade after you released a Polish Vampire in Burbank, aspiring film maker Robert Rodriguez shot El Mariachi for $7,000. The film went on to become a multi million dollar franchise, and Rodriguez has gone on to become a very successful director. Do you feel that your successes as a director made it possible for other opportunities such as El Mariachi to become possible?

Mark: I doubt I had anything to do with it. A filmmaker will always figure out a way to get his project made. Polish Vampire may have been unique in that it was one of the first films, if not THE first film, shot for $2500, that actually got mainstream exposure on the home video market and on USA Network, but it was all about timing in that case. Home video recorders had just come along into the mainstream and distributors were looking for product. The studios were reluctant to give up many of their films for home viewing; so here comes a film, brand new, made exclusively for the home video market. That’s why it got snatched up so quickly.

Marc: I want to briefly go back to your time before the release of A Polish Vampire In Burbank. You were an aspiring filmmaker. You get a job at Universal studios, where you connect with like minded people. Together, you rent out a theatre and create a film festival. Your contribution is The Spy Who Did It Better, starring John McCafferty who would go on to frequently act in many of your other films. The film was an homage to James Bond, a franchise which we both love, sort of. I know you aren’t the biggest fan of Daniel Craig. So I have to ask, who is your favorite Bond?

Mark: No question about it: Sean Connery. He defined the role. You know when he dies, that’s what’s going to lead the story – the original James Bond. We based The Spy Who Did it Better solely on the Connery Bond movies, right down to his pose in the opening gun barrel scene. Even McCafferty’s fake accent was based on Connery’s voice. I even had the honor of meeting Barbara Broccoli around the time we were making the film. A tour guide friend, Eric Douglas, knew her, and she was working on a little super 8 film. He asked me if I would be willing to go to her house and help her with it. I was thrilled to. In fact, one evening John McCafferty and I went over to her house and watched “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” with her in 16mm (remember, there were no VCRs in wide use back then). Ahh sweet memories.

Marc: Am I correct that one of the filmmakers at that festival was Frank Darabont?

Mark: Yes. He made a short film called “The Maltese Mystery,” which was a Humphrey Bogart film noir spoof. Very well made. I met Frank when we both worked as ushers at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood in the late 70s. I knew he was a filmmaker too and when a fellow filmmaker and I put together the festival, which was dubbed by the L.A. Times as “The Poor People’s Film Festival,” I invited Darabont to be a part of it. I even helped him put in sound effects for the screening. The original film just had music and narration.

Marc: The Spy Who Did It Better was a short film, how was the process to transition from that to a full length movie?

Mark: Not a big transition. Really the only difference was that it just takes longer to make, and you need to rely on people sticking around a bit longer. In fact, when we started Polish Vampire, originally entitled Virgin Vampire, we weren’t sure it would be a feature. I think the original script was about 60 pages. It’s when Deezen quit and the script was retitled and rewritten that the movie’s length increased. I’ve since learned that you try to cast people you’re familiar with and know that they won’t flake out on you. I have very few flakey actors these days.

Marc: Moving forward, in 1987 you filmed Death Row Game Show, starring John McCafferty as a smarmy game show host in a role that seemed to be written for him. When you made the film, did you think that three decades later this would closely mirror how our society has become?

Mark: It is sort of where we’re headed, isn’t it? No, we were just out to make a fun little movie, with no pretensions. It was my first 35mm film and the first time someone else gave us money to spend, so it was just about getting through production without blowing it. It was a bit overwhelming, working with grip trucks, bigger lights, and some people trying to take advantage of our inexperience with the medium, but all in all a pleasant experience.

Marc: Vinegar Syndrome recently released an amazing blu ray of Death Row Game Show. They did a 2k restoration, and added a ton of special features including The Spy Who Did It Better in its entirety. How did this come about?

Mark: I got contacted by Vinegar Syndrome, who told me that they just acquired the rights to the film from Crown Pictures (the owner of the film). They asked if I’d be interested in doing a commentary for it. I had already done a commentary for an earlier release by a company called Code Red Video, but Vinegar Syndrome didn’t have the rights to that one. So I invited actors John McCafferty and Robyn Blythe to join me and we did a new commentary. It was easy to get them since we’ve stayed in touch all these years. Then Vinegar Syndrome asked me if I had any other material to include on the disk and I offered them a ‘making of’ documentary that I put together in 2013; and to complete the package, I offered them two short films that I made years earlier (both featuring McCafferty): The Spy Who Did It Better and a 22 minute comedy called Buns. I also gave them a remastered version of Deathrow Gameshow itself. There were a lot of technical issues with the film that I hated since 1987. Thanks to today’s technology, I was able to ‘fix’ a lot of the problems with the film; mainly audio problems and a few visual flaws. I would have preferred that the remastered version was the only one out there, but VS wanted to keep things pure, so they released the original flawed version. But at least they included the remastered version, so there’s some solace in that.

Marc: A notable name that pops up in your films is Forrest Ackerman, who was in Curse of the Queerwolf and Nudist Colony of the Dead. Did you have a relationship with him beyond your films, and what was it like to work with him?

Mark: He was the best. I met him through Plan 9 From Outer Space’s Conrad Brooks, who was also in a few of my films. After filming Polish Vampire, Conrad, who knew Forry, suggested we have a screening of it at his Ackermansion in Hollywood. We brought the film to his house and ran it. I told him that I was starting another film (Curse of the Queerwolf) and asked him what he would charge to appear in it. He said something like, “I’m cheaper than cheap.” In fact, he once quipped that if you can’t afford Vincent Price, you can get him for less the Price. He did Queerwolf for free, and Nudist Colony for nearly free. He loved doing cameos in movies, whether they had a budget or not. We stayed in touch over the years, pretty much right up until the end. In fact, he did the narration to the documentary on the making of Polish Vampire, and did the forward to my 1994 book on filmmaking: Ultra Low Budget Movie Making. Great guy. I miss him.

Marc: Modern filmmaking has changed a lot due to political correctness. Everyone is stepping on eggshells. Yet, you are not afraid to tackle subjects other people won’t touch. Most notably religion. How did God Complex come about?

Mark: I’ve always thought that religion was low hanging fruit when it comes to comedy, and had wanted to do some kind of religious parody for years. My film Nudist Colony of the Dead kind of danced around that concept, but that movie dealt more with religious zealots as opposed to God himself. Around 2007, I started writing a script called “Jesus Christ Conquers the Martians,” and that was going to be my religious parody. The concept was that citizens of Mars were getting too smart, so the Martian leaders decide they need something to ‘dumb them down.’ One of the leaders suggests that they borrow what’s kept people on Earth dumb for quite some time: Jesus. So they travel through time and space, kidnap Jesus right before he’s crucified, take him to Mars, and hilarity ensues.
Well, I got about half way through the script and then hit a roadblock in the story. The concept just ran out of steam. Once Jesus made it to Mars, the script didn’t really go anywhere. So, I switched gears and decided to go back to the Bible. I mean, there’s enough comedy in there to sustain a story, and that’s what I did. Following the Bible’s narrative, I made God a fat, bald, jealous, egotistical moron who can’t seem to get anything right, and really only does the crap he does to impress his girlfriend. Once I used that as a launching pad, the script just wrote itself. The movie covers many of the more popular Biblical myths: Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, Moses and the Burning Bush, the story of Job, Abraham and Isaac, and of course, the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Naturally, we took a few liberties with the stories (like Virgin Mary suing God for sexually molesting, and getting her pregnant, in “The Deity’s Court,” and an angel of God delivering the message of Jesus’ birth to Joseph as a singing telegram).

Marc: And how did you get the idea to make a talking Jesus toy?

Mark: The Submissive Jesus Pray Answering Talking Head. At the end of The God Complex, God and Jesus are forced to sign a contract not to interfere with science or intelligence ever again (which is why you haven’t heard much from them in over 2000 years). So to blend in, but not attract attention, they conceal themselves as employees of a Toy Factory. A toy being created under their noses is the Submissive Jesus, which answers your prayers by saying 1 of 100 random smart-ass phrases with the twist of his crown. Anyway, we had one made for the film, then I thought it might be a cool thing to mass produce a few more and market in the real world. So I had a batch made up, created a handful of commercials for it and started selling them at www.thesubmissivejesus.com. Almost 10 years later, we’re still selling those little holy bastards.

Marc: Speaking of ideas, do you have a creative process? Or do ideas like a giant killer ass just come to you?

Mark: I’m always trying to think concepts for stories. I think that’s one of the hardest parts of the creative process: coming up with something worth spending your time on. When I start a movie, I know I’m going to be spending at least two years of my life with it, so I want to be passionate about whatever project I pick. It’s like a relationship. If you know you’re going to be spending some lengthy time in this relationship, you had better be really in love with it. Sometimes one project can lead to another; for example, the movie Curse of the Queerwolf was inspired by a minor character in Polish Vampire in Burbank. There was a Queerwolf introduced in that film. The character always got great reactions at screenings, so that gave me the idea to create a whole movie based on that character. In the case of Nudist Colony of the Dead, we just started with a title and built from there.

Marc: Although you are known for fun movies like the films previously mentioned above, you also made movies about serious subjects. Color-Blinded addresses race issues.

Mark: That one came as a result of my dating Darwyn Carson, a black actress in several of my early films. She often spoke of how different her life, career, and relationships would be if she were a blue-eyed blonde. So, that gave me the idea of creating a movie about a beautiful black gal who one day wakes up as a beautiful blonde Caucasian woman. Up until Rage of Innocence, that was probably the closest thing to a movie of mine that had some human emotion attached to it, and required real acting – something that wasn’t a prerequisite to appearing in any of my earlier films.

Marc: And then there is Rage of Innocence. Which is a complete 360 from what we are used to seeing from you. It’s a really powerful film. How did Rage of Innocence come about, and will we see more films like this from you in the future?

Mark: Don’t you mean 180? 360 brings you back to where you started. Screw it, what do I know about math? Where was I? Oh yeah. Having made nothing but comedies for over 30 years, I guess my comedic well started drying up. So rather than fight it and continue struggling with attempting to come up with another funny film, I decided to follow the darker path and see where that would lead me. It led me to Rage of Innocence, the story of a 15 year old sociopath named Raven who will stop at nothing to keep men from dating her single mother.
Oddly enough, with the #metoo and #timesup movements, the movie seems to suddenly be rather timely. I mean, there are many careers that have been lost by accusations of sexual misconduct, without any judge or jury trial. Rage of Innocence kind of takes on that same concept. In that film, Raven, becomes the main antagonist to a man who starts dating her mother, against Raven’s wishes. She knows exactly how to frame our hero, and making it look like he does things that he of course never did. She’s so good at it that he ends up getting his 13 year old daughter taken away from him, and gets sent to jail; all because of Raven’s convincing accusations – with forensic proof to back it up. That’s a pretty terrifying concept, I think. As far as the future goes and will I make any more films like this one? It’s difficult to say. I really never know what’s next. Over the last 15 years or so, I’ve often said that each movie I finish will very likely be my last one. Then another project comes along that tickles my fancy. Right now, at this moment, I’m not all that ticklish.

(Author’s note, he is correct, I meant 180, I will hang my head down in shame now)

Marc: Your latest project is Celluloid Soul, which features comedy legend Judy Tenuta. Can you tell me a little bit about this film and how people can see it?

Mark: Celluloid Soul is about a suicidal writer who has just lost his girlfriend, and is depressed and lonely. He happens to become fascinated with this actress from a couple 1939 movies he watches at a friend’s house. He becomes obsessed with finding out who this unknown actress was and whatever became of her. He eventually finds out that she’s still alive, although about 98 years old. He gets her on the phone and becomes inspired to write a screenplay about her life.
After writing a great script, he convinces her to meet with him. She’s reluctant at first, but eventually agrees. To his surprise, when she shows up on his doorstep, she looks exactly as she did in the 1939 movies; completely in black and white with moving vertical scratches going through her. He, of course, believes he’s losing his mind, as do his friends.
Right now we’re looking into some kind of decent distribution for the film. The distribution game for indie films has changed dramatically over the years. A theatrical release is pretty much out of the question, and DVDs and BluRays are sort of becoming yesterday’s medium. Streaming on demand video seems to be the way these days, although unless it really takes off, there’s not a lot of money in it. Film Festivals are sometimes good exposure, but I’m not a big fan of them. What annoys me about festivals is that one winds up spending more than the budget of the movie just to submit and in many cases, get rejected.

Marc: And can you tell us what it’s like to work with Judy?

Mark The best. I’ve made several short videos with her over the past few years. They’re called “The World Accordion to Judy,” and they cover all kinds of topics. You can find the entire series of videos on Youtube. We also made a bunch of Trump parody videos, where I play the moron and she plays his wife, Malaria. We’ve done a few music videos, etc. She’s a joy to work with. When I asked her if she’d like to appear in Celluloid Soul, she agreed to do it. I’ll always be grateful for her adding a touch of elegance to the film.

Marc: Is there anything else you would like to mention? Are there any other upcoming projects?

Mark: Nothing concrete at the moment. I’ve considered remaking or somehow revisiting Nudist Colony of the Dead, since I was never really all that satisfied with the original film. Technology has come a long way. When we made the original film, back in 1991, we were using the crappiest super 8 equipment imaginable. We were lucky if we even got a decent exposure, and many times we didn’t. We also didn’t have the best singers and dancers, and since it was a musical…well…good singers and dancers could have been a worthy asset. However, if I were to revisit this film, I wouldn’t want to do it again on a micro-budget. There’d be little point. That film needs someone like Tim Burton to get involved.

Marc: Where can people find your movies and connect with you?

Mark: They can always go through my website – www.pirromount.com. I’m also on Facebook, like the rest of the world. In addition, many of my films are on Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant. DVDs are all over Ebay. And, as of this time, my representatives are busily trying to secure other streaming outlets. Also, if your readers would like to have all their prayers answered and possess all the power of God, they can get a Submissive Jesus Prayer Answering Talking Head at  www.thesubmissivejesus.com.  That is all and God B. Less.



Philip Mantle interviews Film Director Francis Xavier.

I’ve been in contact with movie director Francis Xavier for several years now and I was interested to hear that he now had in development a new alien abduction movie. I contacted Francis to see if he was able to talk about his new project and was pleased to hear that he was. Francis was only too happy to give me a few minutes of his time for a quick Q and A session.


Q: Who is Francis Xavier, please tell us something about yourself ?

A: Known for his unpredictable, violent films, Writer, Producer, Director Francis Xavier first earned widespread fame for his directorial feature film ‘Barry’s Gift’ before going on to direct the controversial Johnny Come Lately.


Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1962, Xavier moved to California in 2008 to continue his love of making movies during which time he wrote and directed both the psychological thriller Never On Sunday and the award winning horror film Poe. Xavier’s directorial debut came with the award winning feature film Barry’s Gift (2000), for which he won awards for best screenplay and best director at The Greenbelt Film Festival in Maryland, the film was also an official selection at the 2000 Maryland Film Festival in which he was in competition with Oscar winning director Barry Levinson (Rain Man) and director Eduardo Sanchez (Blair Witch Project). Next he would receive widespread critical and commercial acclaim with the controversial psychological thriller Johnny Come Lately (2004). Subsequent features include the trilogy Night Cry (2005), the thriller The Tango Dancer (2006), the award winning urban drama Dodge City (2007), directing Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winning actress Sally Kirkland (Anna/JFK) in the film, The Ear of the Beholder (2008) and writings and directing the psychological thriller Never On Sunday (2009). Xavier earned several awards for the horror film Poe (2012) including best screenplay at the Los Angeles Feature Film and Screenplay Film Festival and winner of the 2012 Screen Actors Guild Roll Film Festival and soon after writing and directing the supernatural thriller Less Than A Whisper (2015), the latter being the director’s latest effort and was an official selection at the 2015 Film-Com event in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition, the filmmaker has directed over 50 commercials including Budweiser and Nestle, 4 short films and 10 music videos including 2 music videos for Taylor Swift’s Cray Cray for Tay Tay merchandise company.

Q: So when did you first get into movies ?

A: Back in the 60’s and 70’s my mother owned a movie theatre in my hometown of Baltimore City, Maryland called The Tower Theatre and from the time I was born I was watching movies because my mother would take me to work with her everyday. I grew up watching many great films there and they loomed larger than life on the big screen for me. Then in 1973 a film would premiere at my mother’s theatre that would change my life forever and would put me on course to make my own. That movie was William Friedkin’s The Exorcist.

Q: How many movies have you worked on so far and in what capacity ?

A: I have written, produced, edited and directed eight feature films, my latest being the supernatural thriller ‘Less Than A Whisper’. I actually play the lead role in the film.

Q: You now have a movie in development with Lark Entertainment based on Robert E. Dunn’s book BEHIND THE DARKNESS. Can you tell us about this project please ?


A: I met Robert E. Dunn about 2 years ago when we first discussed his alien abduction novel Behind The Darkness and me possibly writing the screenplay from the novel.  I read the novel and loved it and thought to myself Behind The Darkness would make a great scary film.  Through one seemingly endless night four friends find themselves surrounded, and at the mercy of nameless, unseen aliens. Desperation makes for difficult choices and even more difficult actions as two men learn just who they must be to fight the creatures behind the darkness.


What follows is a violent battle for survival that will change everyone forever. Imagine Behind The Darkness as Night of the Living dead with aliens rather than zombies. Behind The Darkness is a survivor story of resistance against impossible odds. I wrote the screenplay and took it to the American Film Market last November. The screenplay is currently in the development department at Lakeshore International.

Q: Have you always been interested in the UFO subject or is this
something new for you ?


A: I’ve always been interested in UFOs and aliens. I’m a true believer in the subject and have a missing time story of my own to tell. But that’s a whole different interview. Trust me, it’s my true alien abduction story I will tell someday.

Q: How do you think the UFO community will react to this movie ?

A: I think the community would react rather well with the story and the movie. It’s no secret that the government has been hiding UFO and alien disclosure from us for decades. We are not alone, and I’m living proof of that. Maybe we can do a follow-up interview soon so we can talk about my missing times. Thanks to organizations like MUFON, and people like Dr. Steven Greer, Linda Moulton Howe and also you Philip, to get the word out to the community that we are not alone. I think people would be able to relate to Behind The Darkness because the characters are everyday real people put in a situation unlike any human beings would want to experience. These are not dumb characters. It’s very hard for the government and filmmakers to fool people and an audience these days.


Q: Now I know this movie is still in development but when can we
expect to see it released ?


A: If everything goes well for the studio development of Behind The Darkness, I can see a release date of late 2019.

Q; Do you have a favorite UFO movie at all ?


A: My all time favorite UFO movies are John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ and ‘Alien 1 and 2’.

Q: I have to ask this, have you ever had a UFO sighting yourself ?


A: Absolutely, many to be exact. My last sighting, witnessing a cluster of UFOs in the daytime in Van Nuys, California in 2009 and I wasn’t alone. They were right over my house until fighter jets appeared and the UFOs just simply disappeared right before our eyes. My 2001 missing time experience was scary enough. But that’s a whole different interview lol.




Behind The Darkness Billboard Trailer

I would like to thank Francis Xavier for giving up his time for this Q and A session and would like to take this opportunity to wish him well with all of his new projects.


About the author:

Philip Mantle is a long standing UFO researcher and author from the UK. He was formerly the Director of Investigations for the British UFO Research Association and the MUFON Representative for England. He is the founder of FLYING DISK PRESS


Steven Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’ Crosses $500 Million Worldwide

Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Ready Player One has earned more than $500 million for Warner Bros. around the globe, with a large portion emanating from China.

Ready Player One is also now the 10th-largest Chinese grosser for Warner Bros, earning more than $200 million from the country. The action-sci fi’s opening marked Warner Bros.’ largest ever in the nation with $61 million. On top of the earnings from China, the film has taken in another $179 million from foreign markets. It opened in Japan this weekend, completing its international rollout.

Domestically, “Ready Player One” has brought in more than $120 million.

Tye Sheridan stars in the film alongside Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe and T.J. Miller. Zak Penn and Ernest Cline wrote the script, based on Cline’s bestselling novel of the same name. Sheridan plays a young man living in 2045 Ohio who also leads a dual life in the virtual reality game Oasis, where many find respite from a difficult reality in a second life.

The film was produced by Donald De Line, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Spielberg and Dan Farah. Adam Somner, Daniel Lupi, Chris deFaria and Bruce Berman served as executive producers.

Spielberg became the first director whose films’ grosses topped more than $10 billion earlier this week, with “Ready Player One” marking the director’s highest-grossing film of the last 10 years. Not adjusted for inflation, Spielberg’s biggest earner was 1993’s “Jurassic Park” with $983.8 million globally.


Ash vs. Evil Dead’ Canceled at Starz After Three Seasons

Ash vs. Evil Dead has been canceled at Starz

The series will air its third season finale on April 29, which will now serve as the series finale. The series saw Bruce Campbell reprise the role of Ash Williams, the chainsaw-wielding anti-hero tasked with saving the world from evil in the “Evil Dead” film franchise. The series also starred Dana DeLorenzo, Ray Santiago, and Lucy Lawless.

The third season saw Ash, having gone from murderous urban legend to humanity-saving hometown hero, discovering that he has a long-lost daughter who has been entrusted in his care. Meanwhile, Kelly (DeLorenzo) witnessed a televised massacre with Ruby’s (Lawless) fingerprints all over it, and she returned with a new friend to warn Ash and Pablo (Santiago) that evil wasn’t done with them yet.

Campbell was also an executive producer on the series, along with Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert from the original film franchise. The show had seen a steep fall off in its ratings during Season 3, averaging just a 0.08 rating in adults 18-49 and 177,000 viewers per episode with two episodes remaining in the season.

Starz current originals slate includes “Power,” “American Gods,” and “Counterpart.” They will also launch the shows “Sweetbitter” and “Vida” in May. The premium cabler previously canceled the comedy “Survivor’s Remorse” back in October after four seasons.


Verne Troyer, Mini-Me in ‘Austin Powers,’ Dies at 49

Mandatory Credit: Photo by MediaPunch/REX/Shutterstock (8963067p)
Verne Troyer
Starkey Hearing Foundation Awards Gala, Arrivals, St.Paul, USA – 16 Jul 2017

Verne Troyer, the actor best known for playing Mini-Me in the Austin Power films and one of the shortest men in the world, has died. He was 49.

The news was announced in a post to his official Facebook page.

“It is with great sadness and incredible heavy hearts to write that Verne passed away today,” the statement reads. “Verne was an extremely caring individual…[he] hoped he made a positive change with the platform he had and worked towards spreading that message everyday.”

In addition to his credits in “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” and “Austin Power in Goldmember,” Troyer also acted in the first Harry Potter film as Griphook the goblin. He had more than 25 other film credits to his name, including roles in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “The Love Guru,” and “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.”

Born January 1, 1969 in Michigan, Troyer was raised in the Amish faith for a time, but his parents eventually left the religion. He graduated from Centreville High School in 1987.

Troyer’s unusual height of 2’8″ was a result of achondroplasia dwarfism. He has stated that his parents “never treated me any different than my other average-sized siblings. I used to have to carry wood, feed the cows and pigs and farm animals.”

Read the full announcement of Troyer’s death below.

“It is with great sadness and incredibly heavy hearts to write that Verne passed away today.

Verne was an extremely caring individual. He wanted to make everyone smile, be happy, and laugh. Anybody in need, he would help to any extent possible. Verne hoped he made a positive change with the platform he had and worked towards spreading that message everyday.

He inspired people around the world with his drive, determination, and attitude. On film & television sets, commercial shoots, at comic-con’s & personal appearances, to his own YouTube videos, he was there to show everyone what he was capable of doing. Even though his stature was small and his parents often wondered if he’d be able to reach up and open doors on his own in his life, he went on to open more doors for himself and others than anyone could have imagined. He also touched more peoples hearts than he will ever know.

Verne was also a fighter when it came to his own battles. Over the years he’s struggled and won, struggled and won, struggled and fought some more, but unfortunately this time was too much.

During this recent time of adversity he was baptized while surrounded by his family. The family appreciates that they have this time to grieve privately.

Depression and Suicide are very serious issues. You never know what kind of battle someone is going through inside. Be kind to one another. And always know, it’s never too late to reach out to someone for help.

In lieu of flowers, please feel free to make a donation in Verne’s name to either of his two favorite charities; The Starkey Hearing Foundation and Best Buddies.”


Weinstein Co. Adds Board Member to Navigate Bankruptcy Sale

The Weinstein Co., which is two weeks away from a bankruptcy auction, appointed a new board member on Friday who will weigh in on the sale.

Ivona Smith is a consultant at Drivetrain Advisors, a firm that provides independent board service for companies in bankruptcy. According to a statement on Friday night from the Weinstein Co., Smith was added at the urging of the committee of unsecured creditors. The five-member committee includes an actress and former Weinstein Co. employee who have filed suits accusing Harvey Weistein  of sexual misconduct.

The committee is seeking to maximize the value of the Weinstein Co. estate, providing the largest possible return for creditors. In addition to Weinstein’s victims, the unsecured creditors include numerous law firms, studios, and vendors.

“We are delighted to welcome Ms. Smith to our Board,” Bob Weinstein, the company chairman, said in a statement. “Ms. Smith brings not only substantial expertise in the bankruptcy sale process, but also enhanced transparency toward [the] Board’s goal of maximizing value for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

Smith has 20 years of experience in distressed investment. The other board members are Tarak Ben Ammar, Lance Maerov, and Frank Rainone.

Lantern Capital has submitted a stalking horse bid of $310 million, plus assumption of debt, for the company. Lantern, based in Dallas, intends to keep the company going. Other bidders are said to be solely interested in the company’s 277-title library. Bids are due on April 30.


Film Review: William Friedkin’s ‘The Devil and Father Amorth’

William Friedkin films an exorcism, all to revive the mystique of his most famous movie. But is it real?

In The Devil and Father Amorth director William Friedkin , still hale and hearty and hectoring at the age of 81, returns to the subject of his most legendary film The Exorcist. The new movie is a documentary built around a video, recorded by Friedkin in 2016, of what purports to be an actual exorcism. If you think that sounds like material that’s ripe for a musty old episode of “Unsolved Mysteries,” you’d be right. But if you claim that you aren’t just a wee bit curious as to whether you’re going to get to witness something…demonic, you’re probably lying. The Devil and Father Amorth is Friedkin’s shot-on-the-cheap, reality-based version of a “Mondo Cane” stunt, yet for 68 minutes (it’s that short), it is often an oddly compelling tabloid foray, since it winds up shedding a crucial ray of light on the mad moment we’re in now. Whether or not you believe in the Devil, the film helps to color in how our culture got possessed.

Most of the movie takes place in Italy, where Friedkin walks around talking directly into the camera, in what sounds like scripted “off-the-cuff” narration (though it’s possible he improvised it). To call him blunt would be an understatement; there’s a distinctly Trumpian bombast to his in-your-face oratory — he sounds like an ambulance-chasing lawyer on a late-night commercial. He’s working hard to sell us something, though there’s no denying that he’s an arresting carny barker.

Friedkin serves up a shocking statistic: that 500,000 Italians, out of a population of 60 million, have undergone exorcisms. For them, it’s like Californians getting high colonics — either that, or the Devil is alive and working overtime in Italy. The director also returns to Georgetown, in Washington, D.C., where he shot The Exorcist” 45 years ago, and speaks to us from the famous concrete stairway where Father Karras met his death, as if something genuine had happened there. That’s a standard shlock-TV-news ploy, but in this case it has a resonance. The real theme of “The Devil and Father Amorth” is the degree to which people now believe that exorcism is real.

The belief didn’t begin yesterday. Friedkin sketches in how William Peter Blatty came to write his smash-hit novel “The Exorcist,” spinning it out of a 1949 case of demonic possession that he became obsessed with when he was a student at Georgetown. In hindsight, that case, along with the alien incident at Roswell in 1948 and the 1974 Amityville haunting, constitute a kind of popular triptych of the otherworldly: a testament to how the spirit of the uncanny got recast — re-mythologized — for a secular age. “Rosemary’s Baby,” in 1968, famously pictured the Time magazine cover that asked “Is God Dead?” This trilogy of incidents — and, beyond all of them, the film version of “The Exorcist” — answered that question by saying: “Yes, He is. But He’s now going to be reborn as occult tabloid sensationalism, with a patina of Old Time Religion.”

A lot of movie buffs, especially if thy saw “The Exorcist” at a certain age, will tell you that they think it’s the scariest movie ever made. I wouldn’t call it that (“Psycho,” in its day, was scarier), but “The Exorcist” is the movie that terrified people into believing. It made the Devil “real.” It has often been noted that the film proved to be an extraordinary recruitment tool for the Catholic Church (exorcism became a part of the Church’s brand), though the “presence” of the Devil on our ’70s multiplex screens didn’t hurt the rise of the Evangelical movement, either. “The Exorcist” was a cinematic earthquake that has never stopped giving off tremors.

“The Devil and Father Amorth” shows you how deep the mystique of the demonic goes. Friedkin introduces us to Gabriele Amorth, an Italian Roman Catholic priest who’s also an exorcist of the Diocese of Rome — essentially, the Vatican’s chief ghostbuster. Ninety-one when the film was shot (he died in September 2016), Father Amorth is an ancient bald elfin tribal ringmaster who understands that religion, like politics, can always use a dash of showbiz. His favorite movie is “The Exorcist” (though he thinks the special effects were a bit overdone), and if he seems more casual about his work than Max von Sydow’s Father Merrin did, maybe that’s because he’s performed hundreds of exorcisms and lived to tell the tale.

The woman he’s going to be exorcising is no stranger to the Devil. Her name is Cristina, she works in an architecture firm in a small town 200 kilometers from Rome, and this will be her ninth exorcism. Friedkin interviews her, and she’s a polite, self-aware, rather neurasthenic woman in her mid-thirties, officious in manner, with a slight aura of damage. Then, having agreed to the stipulation that he’ll bring no crew with him at all (no lighting or sound assistants — just himself and his small camcorder), Friedkin enters a rather humdrum-looking conference room to film the exorcism. Cristina is surrounded by 20 or so of her relatives, and we can see that this is, for them, a therapeutic ritual that they accept and believe in. It’s the spirit version of an intervention, only with screams and a dash of holy water.

What do we see? Cristina sits in a chair, as Father Amorth talks gently to her, places his hand on her head, strokes her knees, and listens as she — or could it be…Satan? — screams at him. Cristina certainly seems like she’s channeling another personality, one that’s fierce, raging, merciless, insane. Yet this doesn’t necessarily strike us as all that exotic; it could be footage from an old est seminar. A lot of us would probably agree with the team of Columbia University psychiatrists Friedkin interviews, who say that Cristina journeys to a place deep inside her, but not necessarily a demonic one. The most striking aspect of what goes on has to do with her voice, which hits a low register rather strikingly like that of Linda Blair’s Regan in “The Exorcist.” In fact, the voice sounds as if it’s been manipulated. By Friedkin? He’s not telling, but in a movie like this one the devil is in the details.

Watching the exorcism in “The Devil and Father Amorth,” what we see is that Italians, in the DNA of their consciousness, still carry around the seeds of a medieval culture. The Devil, and exorcism, is part of the psyche of this passionately Catholic country. But we also see something that Friedkin, with supreme irony, never acknowledges: the profound influence of his own movie. Whether or not Cristina’s deep dark Devil voice was tweaked in post-production, it seems more than likely that she is, in fact, imitating the sound and spirit of the Devil when he spoke through Regan MacNeil in “The Exorcist.” The movie has fed, like a loop, into religion, which is now feeding into the chaos of a world that, increasingly, needs the Devil to explain why everything appears to be spinning out of control. “The Devil and Father Amorth” is a rather tawdry charade. But it channels that force.


‘Deadpool 2’ Final Trailer Digs at DC Universe

Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool is forming a “super duper f—ing group” in 20th Century Fox’s final trailer for Deadpool 2

The action-packed footage, released Thursday morning, sees the Merc with a Mouth coming together with Zazie Beetz’s Domino and T.J. Miller’s Weasel to defeat the powerful Cable, played by Josh Brolin.

Deadpool doesn’t miss the opportunity to poke fun at Brolin’s villainous double-duty this summer in both Deadpool 2 and “Avengers: Infinity War.” (“Pump the hate breaks, Thanos,” he prods.)

Later, Cable calls Deadpool “a clown dressed up as a sex toy,” to which he responds, “So dark — are you sure you’re not from the DC universe?”

The new trailer also introduces audiences to Peter, who is looking to join Deadpool’s coveted X-Force team.

So what is his superpower? “I don’t have one,” the character, played by Rob Delaney, tells Deadpool and Weasel. “I just saw the ad.”

The superhero sequel — also staring Brianna Hildebrand, Morena Baccarin, Leslie Uggams, and Stefan Kapicic — follows Deadpool’s team of mutants as they protect a young boy (Julian Dennison) from Cable.

David Leitch directed the film from a script by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Reynolds. The original film went on to gross $783 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time.

“Deadpool 2” hits theaters on May 18. Watch the trailer above.



Bilingual YouTube Star Mariale Marrero Signs With CAA

Mariale Marrero, a Venezuelan-born bilingual beauty and lifestyle influencer with more than 20 million fans online, has signed with CAA for representation in all areas.

The 27-year-old creator launched her main Spanish-language YouTube channel, Mariale, in 2010 — seeing the opportunity to reach an underserved Hispanic audience.

Today she’s a cross-cultural digital star, one of the biggest U.S.-based Hispanic YouTube personalities, and currently lives in Los Angeles. She has a fan base of 13.5 million subscribers across her three YouTube channels — Mariale, Mariale SinPatuque (“without makeup”) and the English-language Mar — and has large followings on Instagram (4 million), Facebook (1.8 million) and Twitter (934,000).

Her most popularvideo on  Youtube with nearly 12 million views: a “roast yourself” challenge in which she makes fun of herself in a music video set to Luis Fonsi’s smash hit “Despacito.” Among Marrero’s other top videos is one from July 2017 documenting her breast-augmentation surgery.

Marrero was nominated in the “Styler del Año” category at the 2017 MTV Latin America Millennial Awards  On her digital channels, she has partnered with brands like SmashBox Cosmetics, Revlon, Bliss, L’Oréal Paris, Lancôme, and TooFaced.

CAA will work to create opportunities for Marrero in all areas, including television, motion pictures, touring, digital distribution and partnerships, endorsements, personal appearances, publishing, and beyond.

Marrero continues to be managed by Kimberly Perplies and Vanessa DelMuro of James Grant Management Inc.


Former First Lady Barbara Bush Dies at 92

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Marty Lederhandler/AP/REX/Shutterstock (6538475a)
First Lady Barbara Bush visits the Children’s Aid Society at the Dental and Orthodontic Clinic in New York
Barbara Bush 1989, New York, USA

Former first lady Barbara Bush died in Houston on Tuesday. She was 92.

Bush served as first lady of the United States during the tenure of President George H.W. Bush from 1989-93.

The office of George H.W. Bush released a statement announcing her death. She has been battling congestive heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had recently decided not to seek any further treatment.

Barbara Pierce was born in New York City on June 8, 1925. She met her husband, George H.W. Bush, at a dance in Massachusetts in 1941 when she was 16 years old. After dating for a year and a half, the couple got engaged before he went off to World War II to serve as a Navy torpedo bomber pilot. When he returned on leave, she dropped out of Smith College in Northampton, Mass. They got married two weeks later on Jan. 6, 1945, in Rye, N.Y.

For the first several months of their marriage, the Bush family moved around the eastern U.S. as Bush’s Navy squadron training required his presence at bases in the area. Over the following 13 years, the couple had six children: George W. Bush (born 1946), Pauline (1949-1953), Jeb (born 1953), Neil (born 1955), Marvin (born 1956) and Dorothy (born 1959). Mrs. Bush is survived by 17 grandchildren.

In 1959, Bush was elected Harris County Republican Party chairman, and in 1964 he ran for and lost as the U.S. senator from Texas. However, this loss put the Bushs on the national scene, and Bush was elected as a U.S. representative in Congress in 1966. Over the following years, Bush was either elected or appointed to several different positions in the U.S. Congress, executive branch, or other government-related posts. His increasing political service inspired Mrs. Bush to engage in her own projects, including several charities and women’s groups in Washington, D.C.

After Bush announced his candidacy for president in the 1980s, Barbara Bush alarmed conservatives when she revealed that she supported the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and was pro-choice on abortion. That same year, Bush became former President Reagan’s running mate after he received the presidential nomination. In the eight years Barbara Bush spent as second lady, she became interested in issues surrounding literacy. She wrote a children’s book in 1984 titled “C. Fred’s Story,” told by the point of view of her dog, and donated all the proceeds from the book to literacy charities.

She became the first lady after Bush was elected president in 1988, and continued to promote her cause of literacy. She eventually helped to develop the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, which seeks to improve literacy in the U.S. through programs directed toward pre-school children and parental literacy. She spoke regularly on “Mrs. Bush’s Story Time,” a national radio program that stressed the significance of reading aloud to children.

After leaving the White House, Mrs. Bush served on the boards of Americares and the Mayo Clinic, and headed the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

In 1995, Mrs. Bush received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, distributed annually by Jefferson Awards. She was honored with the Miss America Woman of Achievement Award two years later for her work with literacy programs.

She was portrayed by Ellen Burstyn in Oliver Stone’s 2008 “W.”

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