Thursday, February 4, 2010

Interview with Actress Manoush

Marcia Nicole Barandshay, aka Manoush, was born to a Lovara-tribe gypsy family in May 1971. According to the families constant problems with Manoush’s German-American father her mother left her husband and raised her three children in several cities all over Europe. Manoush started earning some money for the family with modeling at the age of 18 but quit after a car accident which left scars on her legs and belly at the age of 20.

Before getting into acting and movies in summer 1998 she worked with several underground bands writing lyrics and singing; with only little success. All bands were more notorious for their stage performances than being successful with music. In early 2000 she was offered the role of the “nymphomaniac woman” in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001) which opened doors to the TV industry as well as to further feature films for her, establishing Manoush as “the bad girl” for the roles she played. In 2004 she played fighter Carda in Angel of Death 2 aka The Prison Island Massacre, closely followed by Timo Rose’s The Legend of Moonlight Mountain (2005), Marian Dora’’s extremely controversially discussed movie Cannibal (2005), Timo Rose’s Barricade (2007) as well as Kim Sønderholm’s Craig (2006) and Andrey Iskanov’s Philosophy of a Knife (2008).

Besides working as a film actress she still finds time to write, sing and compose songs with her own band Cyanide Savior which she founded with husband Chris Vazquez.

Fatally Yours: How did you fall in love with the horror genre?

Manoush: First of all, let me say thank you for having me! How did I fall in love with the horror genre? At a very early age. I was like 10 or 11 years old when I was first allowed to watch movies like Dracula, Frankenstein with Boris Karloff and Jack Arnold classics like Tarantula on TV and I love them. They didn’t scare me but only made me want to see more. Later I got to watch movies like Dawn of the Dead and Phantasm and the more I watched the more I loved the genre and wanted nothing more than being a horror star myself one day. Well, I wouldn’t call myself a star, but yeah, I managed to become an actress mainly working in horror as the genre of my choice. I’ve done work in theatrical movies as well as work in TV movies but horror is where I feel “home”.

Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you?

Manoush: Horror for me is a great entertainment and passion at the same time. I love the atmosphere of horror movies, no other genre ever made me such a fan as horror did, no other genre ever had this fascination that I get with horror movies. Maybe I have kind of a dark side in me too and horror is the reflection of this dark side. Or I am such a sweetheart that I need horror to balance myself and keep me from becoming a saint. Hahaha…just kidding!

Fatally Yours: How and when did you get involved in the horror genre?

Manoush: During one of my stage appearances with my then band Anaykh I got kinda discovered by an independent filmmaker who asked me to be in one of his movies and a couple of days later I agreed. That was in late 1997. Then some TV work and cinema followed until I finally ended up in horror. I found myself looking for roles in horror movies because that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.

Fatally Yours: What is one thing you’ve done within the horror genre that you are most proud of?

Manoush: I’m actually proud of every job I’ve done in horror but of course what also makes me proud is that people still want to see me after almost 12 years in the business and that producers and directors still want to work with me. That’s the nicest compliment you can get from the audience as well as from the industry. So yes, I am very proud and thankful to be able to work.

Fatally Yours: Do you feel women in horror get the proper recognition when compared to their male counterparts?

Manoush: Oh yes they do – they do now. I always had a feeling that until the ‘90s women were reduced to victims in horror movies, except for rare exceptions like Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in the Alien series, for example. But those times are over. Many of us actresses have long outgrown this cliché and do roles as heroines as well as villainesses. My own roles have never been the one of the victim in movies, I started out as either the heroine or one of the heroines or I was the evil and wicked one – well, I’m typecast mainly for the evil roles and I enjoy it. Playing nice is easy, people do it all the time in real life but acting real evil and credibly evil performances are always a challenge…and fun, of course.

Fatally Yours: As a woman in horror, have you found it harder to be taken seriously in a genre that seems to be dominated by males?

Manoush: No, not at all, I’ve never had any of these problems but maybe that’s because I have this image of being a “badass”. Even in the business some people seem to think you are really like the roles you play. I even got nicknamed “Mrs. Kinski” once and found it to be quite an acknowledgment of my acting abilities but of course I’m nothing like the late great Klaus Kinski in real life.

Fatally Yours: Have you ever felt exploited as a woman by any roles you’ve taken? Have there been certain roles you wouldn’t take because you felt the role was too exploitative?

Manoush: No, never, I know my boundaries and won’t let anyone cross them.  So if I receive an offer for something I don’t feel comfortable with then I just turn it down. Like nude scenes for example; I just don’t like to do nude scenes so I don’t. But if a woman feels exploited or really gets exploited then that’s also because she allowed it in a way. If you don’t feel comfortable with something then don’t do it. You can always say no, turn an offer down and move on to another project.

Fatally Yours: Do you feel roles in horror for women tend to be weaker or stronger than those for males?

Manoush: I think that’s very balanced by now. The only “weaker” roles I always felt were the typical bimbo roles in movies…cliché female victims. But I’m still not sure if I would necessarily call these roles “weaker”. Again, when you have a heroine or a real evil biatch in a movie it’s quite a role that’s much stronger than the male roles in that movie. Until the end, at least, when the evil bitch gets killed to satisfy the audience’s sense of justice…but other than that I think there is a healthy balance in movies now.

Fatally Yours: Since you’ve been involved with the horror genre, have you noticed a change in women’s roles within horror whether it be roles in horror films, women behind the camera, women writers, etc.?

Manoush: No, not really. When I started out we already had strong women in horror, in front of the camera as well as behind the scenes.

Fatally Yours: What women in horror do you look up to?

Manoush: I don’t look up to anyone. I rather work on myself than idolize someone else.

Fatally Yours: What would be your dream role?

Manoush: When it comes to classics I would have loved to play the role of Cathy in Wuthering Heights (1939) or Mia Farrow’s role in Rosemary’s Baby. Being part of Rob Zombie’s Firefly family a partner of the Tall Man (Phantasm) or being a heroine in one of George A. Romero’s zombie flicks would be cool too. Or John Kramer’s sidekick in Saw.

Fatally Yours: What advice would you give women who want to work in the horror genre?

Manoush: If you wanna do it just for the “fame” – forget it. If you wanna do it just for the money – get yourself another job. If you want to do it out of passion and the love for horror – go for it. Other than that there is no general advice one could give. Every career has its own little history to it and no way into the business is like another. I think everyone has to find her individual way when it comes to the film business.

Fatally Yours: In your opinion, what makes the perfect scream queen and who is the ultimate scream queen?

Manoush: Well, I could list a couple of scream queens and still wouldn’t do all scream queens justices so I’ll stay away from that one! I don’t think there is just one ultimate scream queen.

Fatally Yours: What inspires, influences and motivates you?

Manoush: My one and only inspiration, influence and motivation is my passion for horror. Seriously, that’s what it is – no more and no less than my passion for the genre and acting as such. Every role is a new challenge for me – getting into the role, becoming that character for the time being. I love these journeys into my characters.

Fatally Yours: What are your goals for yourself within the horror genre?

Manoush: Getting new interesting roles, finding new interesting stories or developing some with those directors that I write with sometimes. Other than that my goal is to keep on being in movies – nothing in particular though since I’m very satisfied with the way things went and still go for me it makes me thankful and humble to be blessed with all that success and cool people wanting to work with me.

Fatally Yours: Beside acting, you’ve also produced films and write and sing for your band Cyanide Savior. Out of all these very different occupations, do you have a favorite or does each allow you to express your creativity in different ways?

Manoush: Well, the singing part became kind of sporadic. I had and still have problems with my vocal cords as a result of a car accident I had in my early 20’s. I had serious injuries to my throat and over the years things didn’t really improve so singing became more of a “sometimes” thing for me. But I still like to write and record songs for some of the movies I am in. With my husband Chris I wrote “Dead Before Born” for Andrey Iskanov’s Philosophy of a Knife, “Cruel is Love – Sore is My Heart” for Kim Sonderholm’s Craig as well as “Torture Torture Sapiens (This is Not a Love Song)” and “Fuck Me – I’m Famous” for Marcel Walz’s movies Popular and La Petite Mort. But yes, writing as well as acting is what really gives me the opportunity to express myself as an entertainer…and that’s what I’ve always wanted – to be creative and to entertain people.

Fatally Yours: What are you working on next?

Manoush: I’m currently working on Hallows Eve Films’ new movie The Super where I play a real evil character. I think horror and slasher fans will love this movie! Then in March 2010 we’ll start shooting Marcel Walz’s new movie Avantgarde, then I got offered an appearance in Megan Sacco’s Cutz where I will play a psychologist (no kidding, haha!). In summer I am supposed to be in Damian Price’s remake of Lunchmeat and in late summer we’ll do La Petite Mort 2 – Deformation Professionelle where I will reprise my role as Maman Fabienne. Oh yeah, the Rohnstock Brothers (the upcoming Necronos) will make a new movie too and asked me to join the cast but that one might not start shooting before early 2011. So I have a lot of good projects coming up but hell, I’m still open for more roles – I just love keeping busy with movies.

Fatally Yours: Where can people find more info on you?

Manoush: I have a Myspace site which is being updated on a regular basis as well as a Facebook site where I like to go on myself quite a bit and IMDB of course, although they don’t have the complete list of my film work yet.

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