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Thursday, February 11, 2016


Today, Crypticrock.com published my RETROSPECTIVE for the 35th anniversary of, perhaps, one of the greatest Slasher films ever made, My Bloody Valentine. Through my research, I located Paul Kelman, who starred as TJ. If you remember the 2009 Lion's Gate Uncut release of My Bloody Valentine, you'll note Kelman was noticeably absent from the special feature, 'Bloodlust: My Bloody Valentine and the Rise of the Slasher Film.' At the time, I remembered thinking that I really wanted to hear what he had to say. Low and behold, 6 years later, I contacted him on Facebook and he graciously answered some questions for me. Enjoy.


Jon Wamsley: How did you get involved with My Bloody Valentine? Was it a normal casting process? Did you get the part right away? Did you audition for TJ originally?

Paul Kelman: Actually I did get the part right away. But I crashed the audition. Keith Knight, with whom I was working with in another film called GAS, with Howie Mandel & Donald Sutherland, had the audition. He asked me if I wanted to come along. I auditioned and got the part.

JW: I understand that the cast was told to go to the town a week before shooting to absorb the culture and give authenticity to your parts. What was it like being an outsider in a small town? Were the townsfolk welcoming and inviting? Any stories about that?

PK: I don't recall researching the townsfolk, but we interacted with them since we lived there for the whole shoot. We absorbed the experience there, which informed our roles. We did spend time with Miners in a working coal mine in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia not far from Sydney.

We went to the "face" of the mine where they were drilling. A small area with a giant drill bit that took up most of the small tunnel, drilling deafeningly noisy into the face wall; mere inches from our bodies along side the huge whirling blades. It was very dangerous, loud and dirty. When we came back up to the surface afterwards, we were covered in black coal dust, except for the part of our face that was covered by the goggles that protect our eyes. We looked just like real Miners!

I realized after that experience what Miners go through down there. It's incredibly hard and dangerous work, and you are deep underground in the Earth most of your life. Fathers, sons, whole families follow the tradition. It's crazy, but you have to respect them.

JW: How did you get along with the cast? Did you know anyone before the film? Any cool anecdotes that you can recall?

PK: Well yes, as I said Keith and I were working on a film, GAS, just before we did My Bloody Valentine. Also, the actor who played "Howard," who was always pulling pranks in the movie, was Alf Humphries. He too was in the comedy, GAS. The three of us already had an acting relationship in place after two months of shooting together. We were already a team when we did My Bloody Valentine and I think it showed in the film.

We fooled around a lot together, on set and off and had a lot of laughs. Keith was a master of doing the Three Stooges, Moe, Larry and Curly! He could even do the sound effects when they poked each other or when Moe did his hand wave up the face before he hit one of the other Stooges. Keith was a riot! A funny guy; great to work with and generous to a fault. A good friend. I was devastated when he died at age fifty. I really miss him.

JW: You were in the majority of the main shots in the mine. Tell me about that. Was it challenging? What were the conditions like? Did anything happen that made it dangerous?

PK: Yes, "challenging" is a good word and 'dangerous,' indeed it was. We were shooting in a non-working mine in Sydney Mines, fully equipped and six-hundred feet beneath the Atlantic Ocean floor! To get down or up in the elevator cage took twenty-minutes per trip. If there was a toxic gas buildup, which happened from the major heat of the Arc Lamps lighting in the mine, there was no quick escape route.

The wooden mine-cars were attached to a major tunnel-long cable and could really speed along.
Twenty to thirty mph going downhill in an open cart is a wild ride. Fighting a pick-axe wielding Harry Warden on a moving mine-car was quite real. That was one sharp point on that pick-axe! We did a lot of stunts ourselves and with stunt men.

We had one big accident in the mine with a runaway set of mine-cars we were in, and I was in a major car crash in the car race scene out of the mine yard. They were shooting as it happened. I hurt my back pretty bad and an extra got hit in the legs. The back thing has plagued me for years off and on and worsened as I got older. I'm 66 now and I was 30 in My Bloody Valentine. In fact I turned 31 in the middle of the shoot. Keith, I, and my wife at the time, celebrated my birthday in my hotel suite. We drank several bottles of Champagne that evening! We had a great time. There's not much else to do in a small town like that except drink, and there was a lot of that, especially beer.

JW: I read that Neil Affleck didn't know he was going to be the killer until he went to makeup for his prosthetic arm. Was the killer kept a secret? Was there every any reason to believe your character of TJ would be the killer? It surely would've been plausible with TJ being bitter about being back in the mine and his girl going with his best friend.

PK: No one in the cast knew who the killer was until the night before we shot the ending. Both Neil and I were asked to play our roles with 'ambiguity'. Enough so that we could both look suspect. A lot of my violent outbursts I played extra edgy with that in mind; the TJ-Axel confrontations over Sarah especially.

JW: Were there any parts you found particularly difficult to film?

PK: (laughing) I'd never played the leading role in a film before, so that was particularly a big learning curve. When you are the lead actor you are somewhat responsible for the whole film and the energy & spirit of the whole cast. Along with the director you set the tone of the film shoot. I don't think I was fully prepared for that responsibility. Luckily, the cast was so completely into it, that they gave it their all. Many of them had little or no experience, but together they made the magic happen. An ensemble. A rare occurrence in this business. There were also five seasoned professional and somewhat famous actors in the older aged roles, which had a major influence. The casting altogether was excellent.

JW: As you know, My Bloody Valentine was severely edited. Did any of you get to see the original cut of the film before release? Rumor has it that there was 8-9 minutes cut out and only around 2.5 minutes were restored for the DVD.

PK: Well there was a director's cut on VHS and the Special Edition DVD & Blu-Ray that had most of it, but I don't really remember the differences between the various releases. However, since I was in most scenes I saw everything shot and hung out for all the gory scenes and watched them shoot. So I did see all that was shot (and presumably what was cut) on set. It was more that the length of the gory shots were cut down in time rather than cut right out. There was a censor issue before release. Seems silly now, but it was 1980 then.

JW: What was your reaction to the edit? Were you upset? Indifferent? (I remember watching it on TV with my mom when I was a kid, and thinking, "This movie doesn't make any sense! How did Mabel die?!?" haha)

PK: Mabel was chased around the laundromat by Harry, remember? Then he killed her and Sheriff
Newby, played by the famous Don Francks found Mabel's dried out corpse in the laundromat dryer.

I thought the movie was nicely edited. Some scene cuts from one to another were a little too quick in the gory scenes but that was because of the censors! I think it flowed well, built some serious suspense and had a few "jump outta your seat" moments. The mark of any good horror flick.

JW: What was your opinion of the remake, if you saw it? (You can be honest, and if you don't want me to publish the answer, just say the word, and it'll be our secret)

PK: Ha, ha! ! I bought the DVD of the 3D remake with the actor, Jensen Ackles, from the TV series, Supernatural, playing my role, but I haven't seen it yet! Just never got around to it. I like that actor, he's good in the series. I watched Supernatural for several years at the beginning.

The fact is, I haven't seen My Bloody Valentine more than five times, and only that many because of screenings I attended. I've done only 7-8 feature films, and I usually only ever see what I do once and that's true for all my TV roles. Some I've never seen, like an HBO three-part Adult Soap Opera I did. It had nudity in it. Thankfully I never saw any of the shots or the show!

When I do a film, I've experienced the filming of it which is really all that's important to the actor. Once it wraps the work is done. I do like to see the dailies or rushes, which are just the raw shots, but once the film is shot and the voice dubbing is done, the film becomes something else in the hands of the editor and director, which I'm not a part of. The finished product is a foreign thing, then that's hard to relate to personally. And seeing yourself, especially close-ups, on a 40 ft. screen is simply an alien experience. I don't recognize myself. I think that's a common reaction among film actors, especially the ones who play leading roles. Watching your film with a theatre-going audience tells you more about how well you did by how they react.

My background is the theatre, which I was trained for and got a B.F.A. Honors Degree (Bachelor of Fine Arts) in acting. I worked as an actor for around twenty years. I've had several other careers since then. I've always worn "many hats," they say. Designing has always been my second talent as well as writing throughout my careers.

JW: Looking back, were you surprised at the film's success and its continued adoration by fans?

PK: Frankly yes. I'd moved on and forgotten all about it. Then about 3 years ago after I joined Facebook (fb/Paul Kelman) and Twitter (@KelmanPaul), fans of My Bloody Valentine started to find me. At first it was just a few and I was bemused by the interest. But as more and more sent me friend requests, the whole thing escalated into fans from all over the world! I don't know about 'adoration,' but I learned that there were a lot of people affected by the film and by my character. It humbled me. People were so nice to me and open. It was a learning experience.

So now I have an "open policy" where I accept all friend requests on FB, though I check the page of beach person before confirming. I occasionally get some weird ones which I weed out, but mostly it's real sincere fans who are hardcore horror genre geeks!

So now I have a 'constituency' on social media which I take advantage of to promote my interests in Animal and Human Rights and especially the critical environmental issues for which we are all responsible in being part of the solution. I'm a social media activist on these issues. The rest of the time I spend writing. Everything from essays to poetry and I'm working on a book. Isn't everybody? (Laughing)

Anyway, I've since learned My Bloody Valentine is considered iconic. People write about it and call it a "Cult Horror Classic". I think that's cool. In fact, I'm now involving myself more in filling the demands of horror fans. I have a great rep, Stacy Lee, who's a horror geek herself and been in the business for years. She's handling stuff like autographing pics and appearances at cons and so on. We've got a few surprise projects in the works. Its turning out to a lot of fun, and the fans are great. I've gotten to know quite a few of them, at least virtually.

JW: I just want to sincerely thank you for taking the time to work with me on this article. The readers should be pretty stoked to hear from you. I know I am.

PK: My pleasure, Jon. Thanks for the opportunity. I look forward to your publication.

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