Exclusive Interview: John Morghen
By Jonathan Stryker
Mar 25, 2008, 10:16
Giovanni Lombardo Radice, better known to audiences as John Morghen, has been in contemporary theater and film for well over two decades. Best known for appearing in some of the most violent and disturbing horror films to come out of Italy, Radice has also acted in several non-genre films, playing everything from Andret to King Herod. The IMDB states that he has been labeled the "Nasiest Man in the World" thanks to the nature of the films he has made such as THE GATES OF HELL, CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE, CANNIBAL FEROX (a film he regrets making) and STAGEFRIGHT, but can he really be any worse than Extreme Associates' CEO Rob Zicari?
Radice has developed a following the world over with his genuinely entertaining performances and was gracious to discuss his career with House of Horrors.com. Radice is a quiet and unassuming individual, and speaks quietly and deliberately, which is a sharp contrast from the Quentin Tarantino machine-gun style of talking. From this point on Radice will be referred to by his alternate name of John Morghen.
Jonathan Stryker: Did you grow up in Italy?
John Morghen: Yes, yes I grew up in Italy. But, I am from a multilingual family. We used to speak several languages at home. As a matter of fact, I grew up speaking Italian, English, and French. As far as culture is concerned, I was raised more with English and French culture rather than Italian culture.
Jonathan Stryker: Did you learn these languages in school?
John Morghen: No, I learned them at home when I was a child.
Jonathan Stryker: That's impressive. I took French for five years in high school and college combined and I'm lucky if I can ask a woman what time it is without accidentally asking her to bed. When did you first come to the United States and what were your impressions of it?
John Morghen: My first time in the United States was when I came here to film Fulci's THE GATES OF HELL. Some of the film was filmed in Savannah, Georgia, in the South. And my impression of it was very good. I do like the southern part of the United States a lot. I have been back there filming and it is a part of the country than I really like very much. It is slow, and very laid-back, unlike New York. They do not rush things. I am quite a lazy person, I do not like to be rushed. And so my impression was very good. I was amazed by the fact that at that time when I was in Atlanta the mayor was a black man (Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr., the first African American mayor in Atlanta, GA). That really impressed me, so I really always had a good impression. Not as much of a good impression in other parts such as Arizona, there were certain attitudes there that I just didn't like. But generally speaking, my impressions were very good and I do like the United States very much. I really do believe in democracy, I believe in helping each other, and when I was shooting in Arizona there was a Native American man watching us film and a large police officer went over and started bothering him and telling him to leave. I really couldn't cope with that. My thinking was, "What the fuck are you doing?"
Jonathan Stryker: What films impressed you when you were young?
John Morghen: As a spectator you mean?
Jonathan Stryker: Yes.
John Morghen: Not horror movies, not at all. I was always fond of thrillers. I really liked Hitchcock, the old Hollywood classics, especially the old Hollywood films from CASABLANCA to Billy Wilder's comedies. I liked ALL ABOUT EVE with Bette Davis, GONE WITH THE WIND, both book and film. Those are the kinds of movies that I grew up watching.
Jonathan Stryker: You first appeared on film in Ruggero Deodato's THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK, one of countless Italian films to mix New York and Italy. It definitely has a 70's feel. The IMDB states that it was filmed in September 1979. Is this correct?
John Morghen: Yes, we filmed that in late 1979. Although the film didn't come out until sometime after that; movies take a long time during postproduction.
Jonathan Stryker: After this, you appeared in Antonio Margheriti's CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE, Lucio Fulci's THE GATES OF HELL, and Umberto Lenzi's CANNIBAL FEROX. Were these roles offered to you as a result of Deodato's film, or did you seek out these types of roles?
John Morghen: I did not seek these roles. It was a very small film crew. All the different directors knew each other, the crews knew each other, so when THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK was launched by Deodato, I think that word spread that there was a new actor available to use. Obviously, I was typecast as the frail and neurotic guy in the film. And that's why, unfortunately, when Lenzi contacted me for CANNIBAL FEROX he approached me not for the leading role but for the role of the weak and frail friend. I was so sick of playing that role by that point! But, I really needed the money so I couldn't say no. At first I said, "Okay, I'll do it, but only if I'm given the lead role." And in my mind that was a nice way of saying no. (laughs) And instead, he said yes, okay. But, from that point I switched to real villains, because before that my characters weren't really villains, they were victims.
Jonathan Stryker: My favorite film of yours is Michele Soavi's STAGEFRIGHT. Do you recall what months and what year this was filmed?
John Morghen: Oh, God in Heaven, it was surely early summer. It was very hot so I think it was around June of 1986. I had not been in the movies for a while, because I had been acting in the theater at the time. I ended up getting the role because I had met Michele Soavi as a fellow actor with Fulci on THE GATES OF HELL. He was in there as both an actor and as an assistant. We both became very close friends while working on that movie. And we're still friends to this day. So, I was always involved in whatever he was doing. We even wrote some stuff together. We were always trying to create new projects. And so from the very beginning it was almost as though I was going to be in it. I even rewrote some of the dialogue because the film took place in a setting that was connected to theater people, and he wanted the dialogue to emphasize the theater people and their attitudes, because I am a theater person and had that insight and experience.
Jonathan Stryker: Do you recall how long the shooting schedule was?
John Morghen: I think we shot it for about a month. There was a big problem with money, so we had shot for a while and then stopped for some time. Then, we resumed shooting. I developed a good friendship with Mary Sellers, and from that point we started a project of having an American theater group in Rome. So, we did stage a couple of American plays in Rome, and Mary was a great person to work with. Then there was Barbara Cupisti, whom I was friends with because she was Michele's girlfriend. I got along great with them. David Brandon is really a person who keeps to himself while on the set. That's just his method of working. Loredana Parrella, who played Corinne the dancer, wasn't an actress, she was a dancer they hired. Robert Gligorov, who played Danny, was a model.
Jonathan Stryker: Where was it filmed?
John Morghen: It was filmed in an old studio that was falling apart. I think that it was an old studio that belonged to producer Franco Cristaldi.
Jonathan Stryker: Oh, really? He produced HEARTS AND ARMOUR, one of my favorite sword and sorcery films. It was known as I PALADINI – STORIA D'ARMI E D'AMOURI.
John Morghen: Yes, he was a very important producer in Italy. His firm was Vides Cinematographica. He was the counterpart to Dino De Laurentiis. He was very powerful at the time. He was building many studios for a while, but then he had a point where he ran into financial difficulties. So, where we shot was an actual studio, but it was really falling apart. It was located very close to Rome.
Jonathan Stryker: How was the experience of making this film? I loved the cast.
John Morghen: It was great. I could depend upon Michele, he's a terrific director. He had many ideas. He knew how to deal with actors. He had a very great strength and great capability of putting people together. It's very important for a director to get crews and casts together and galvanize people to make a film. On the other hand, the production was very, very poor. So, in that regard, it was very, very tiresome. For example, we didn't have our dressing rooms, you know, somebody bringing you to and from the set, so that was a bit tiring. But, apart from that it was a great experience.
Jonathan Stryker: Why are so many of these films redubbed later on?
John Morghen: Well, the film was shot in English. I honestly don't recall if that's even my voice in it! (laughs) Many of these movies were shot in English, and then were dubbed later on. My Italian is not perfect Italian, I do have a slight French accent. But very often my voice is dubbed.
Jonathan Stryker: Have you appeared in a film with your own, actual voice?
John Morghen: Well, in THE OMEN it was my voice. In Italy, beginning with Federico Fellini, they didn't believe in actor's voices. It's a way of thinking. Obviously, I do not agree, of course. It was done for artistic reasons. Most directors didn't want to spend time on a film set working with actors, so they preferred to re-dub the dialogue later on a dubbing booth. It's absurd! And all it does is create more work. But, for the most part, it's my real voice. The last Pupi Avati film that I did (THE HIDEOUT) it was my own voice.
Jonathan Stryker: You followed up STAGEFRIGHT by making THE CHURCH and THE SECT with Michele Soavi.
John Morghen: Most especially it was a wonderful friendship that we shared. THE CHURCH was an important movie for my life because my son was conceived when I was doing this film. The girl I was with who eventually became my wife and then my ex-wife, she came to visit me in Budapest while we were shooting this film. And my son was conceived during the making of this film.
Jonathan Stryker: Is your son an actor?
John Morghen: No, my son is still in school, he doesn't even think about becoming an actor. He's 18. So, THE CHURCH was an important film for me. I spent a lot of time in Budapest on this film. THE SECT less so because I only had a small scene in the beginning. And, to be honest, I have not seen the entire film. And so the only part of the movie that I really saw was my own scene.
Jonathan Stryker: You appeared briefly in GANGS OF NEW YORK. Were you directed by Martin Scorsese or by a second unit director?
John Morghen: It is preposterous to say that I acted in this film! Because it was such a huge production, you have no idea! It was such a huge production, I've never seen anything like this. The amount of money that they spent on this film! There was a scene in the film where some people are performing in a version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin”"and Scorsese wanted real actors to do this. So they hired me and other people. My agent didn't want me to do it, but I needed the money so I did. But it was a very big production.
Jonathan Stryker: What are you working on now?
John Morghen: Right now I just completed work on A DAY OF VIOLENCE by Darren Ward, which should be out by the summertime. I'm also in THE BEAUTIFUL OUTSIDERS by Andrew Jones.
Jonathan Stryker: Thank you for your time, John.
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