ROMANIAN HOLIDAY: Talking With Actor/Singer CAIN MANOLI by Owen Keehnen

Cain Manoli was born in during the communist regime in Romania in the 1980s. Since then Romania has been liberated and Cain has exercised great deal of creative and artistic freedom himself. Most recently he has appeared in 'Catacombs' - the first original film production by Fearnet also starring Shannyn Sossamon and Pink. 'Catacombs' is set in the labyrinthian tombs below the streets of Paris and is about a very strange boy/man raised by a cult who survives in that sunless world of death on the flesh and blood of those who stumble into his path. There's an illegal dance party with lots of roudy teens - and as horror fans you can sort of guess the rest. I was crushed (well, that might be a bit of a strong word) to hear the film was actually shot on a soundstage in Romania but the crew did an excellent job depicting and catching the feel of the real catacombs (google the shit if you've never seen the catacombs in Paris - it's crazy! Millions of the dead were dug up from the overcrowded Paris gravyards and their remains were located here!) Cain previously appeared in the (also shot in Romania) horror flick ''Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave' with Aimee-Lynn Chadwick. If you want to be a horror actor or actress - Romania isn't a bad place to be for as Cain explains the limited horror budgets go much further in Eatsern Europe. Cain Manoli is also a singer and released his first CD 'Break the Game Rules' when he was a mere 21 and has a sample of his new music on his myspace page. And have I mentioned this determined young man is also 6'2" and gorgeous. Some guys have all the luck - and now he's got a interview to add to his laurels as well.

Cain - can you start us off with a little description of the room where you are answering these questions?

Well it's actually my bedroom so I all I can say is that it's very clean and bright right now, it has a bed, a desk and a closet and a window through which I'm hearing the neighbor's dog barking endlessly for being locked out. In fact, there's always an annoying sound coming from out there, be it lawn-mowers, garbage trucks or this dog. And trust me, when they wake me up with these sounds, I want to grab a big knife, a hockey mask and go play. I've seen too many horror movies, huh?

First lets talk about 'Catacombs' which is the first original movie on Fearnet. I just watched it the other night. How did your role as Leon come about?

In the original script, Leon and Nico were twins, but the directors I think had a hard time finding funny twins who spoke English well in Romania so they scrapped that. Of course, maybe they just saw me and Radu (who plays Nico) and were so impressed they re-wrote the script for us. LOL. As for how did I get it? Through a casting in Bucharest, Romania. I originally went in for Michel, but I was blonde at the time and they needed someone dark and mysterious so they made me improvise that I'm high on some drug and I made them laugh. Next thing I know, I get a call saying I'm going to be Leon.

Filming a movie somewhere like the catacombs beneath Paris seems like it would be filled with all sorts of technical difficulties. What was the most challenging part of the shoot?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but it's all a soundstage. The people at Media Pro Studios did an amazing job creating these really creepy hallways inside a soundstage. The most challenging part of the shoot must be the scene where the CataCops break up the party. We had to run around for about one or two hours being chased, and the dust off the floor began to rise to the point where all extras and actors had masks for breathing in-between takes. I think two days later I was still coughing up dust.

So was it creepy for you to film on the set surrounded by all the skulls and bones?

You know, I have to admit that the set was very realistic. It really helped us get in character and feel like we really shouldn't be there. But I can't say that it was creepy. There's always a huge crew involved with every shoot so no one was alone. I think it might have been very creepy for Shannyn who is an amazing actress and who prepares intensely for each scene - I think she made sure it was creepy when she was filming her solo scenes running through the Catacombs. But then again, I'd do the same. No matter how thorough your preparation is for getting in a certain state of mind, it's nothing like actually creating the reality of the scene when you shoot.

You also starred as Jeremy in 'Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave' (2005). What was your most memorable moment or recollection of that film shoot?

I had a lot of fun on that shoot. Again, it comes from my way of tackling the role - Jeremy was a big buffoon and a DJ, so he's always getting people to have fun and party. And I ended up being somewhat similar. I'd hang out with the crew and the extras, chat endlessly with everyone during my takes, dance around, crack jokes, etc. All in all, I really enjoyed myself. I was a bit sad that the American actors were a little out of their element, being in a different country and not knowing anyone except the American crew. I read somewhere their complaints over how they had nothing to do all the time and how there's nothing to do in Bucharest. They should have hung out with me, I guess, cause I was having a blast.

Have you always been a big horror fan and are roles in horror movies something you pursued or is that just the way your film career has gone so far?

It just happened that way. Most of the movies being shot in Romania tend to be horror because the budget is usually smaller. Also because my country can really look like anything they need. But that's not to say that I am not excited for having been in two horror movies. Right before my first role in ROTLD5, I was telling some friends how badly I wanted to play a vampire or a zombie, how fun it would be. And a few months later, I got my wish. I'm only sad that due to time constraints they never shot my death scene for Catacombs. I would have loved to be chopped to pieces.

Do you have any other future films or projects lined up you would like to let the fans know about?

I am supposed to be filming this little independent feature about italian painter Caravaggio. Definitely a stretch from the horror movies, but that's one of the reasons I want to do it. I'll get to wear a wig and speak italian and be a bohemian painter named Mario Minniti.

You grew up in Romania under the communist regime in the 80s. What are your most vivid recollections of that time?

Oh God. I have to say my most vivid memory is when I was very little, sitting in my parents' bedroom watching TV by myself. Ceausescu, the communist leader, used to have gatherings that were televised where he would speak and everyone was supposed to clap in admiration. If you didnt agree with his speech, you'd be suddenly escorted out by security, and you'd dissapear either for a few days to re-evaluate your own points of view, or forever. So anyway, I was watching one of these congress meetings and began applauding when they applauded on TV. But then I realized I didn't know what I was applauding for and I felt really bad about having done it. It's a very strange memory but I think that even I, at 5 years old, was registering that the applause was wrong and fake.

I also want to chat a bit about your debut album 'Break the Game Rules'. Who have been your biggest musical influences and which come across most strongly on the CD?

That album came out when I was 21, I think. It was a great stepping stone for me and I learned a tremendous amount of things for having done it, but I was not really calling the shots. I was approached with a concept and I agreed because it was something I thought would be cool - posing as a bad boy who sings mainly about sex. I'm not a prude or a late-bloomer in that department, but I have been raised well by my mother and in real life, I'm much more discreet about such topics. So the real me was a bit incongruous with the character I was portraying through my music.
For my new music, a demo of which is on my website, I've looked to Robbie Williams, Dido, Madonna and Depeche Mode for inspiration.

What's in your CD player right now?

You mean in my iPod? Lots and lots of different music - Zen meditation and Enya right next to country music or Janet Jackson. As an actor, I use music sometimes to get into certain moods, so I want to make sure I have a vast array of music to choose from. A couple of weeks ago I went for an audition where my character was an awkward high-schooler who eventually discovers supernatural powers in himself. I found a cheesy song which would have been perfect for the soundtrack and played it over and over again while driving to the casting director.

And your DVD player?

This is going to sound silly, but Agatha Christie's Poirot movies. I bought a collection of them. I feel really British and old when I watch them, but I love guessing who's the murderer.

What was the first movie you saw that made you sleep with the lights on?

It was a TV show - Twin Peaks. Watched a little bit of an episode and had nightmares for weeks on end. Granted, I was very young at the time. Being in a horror movie has cured me forever of being scared by them. Yes, I get the jolts when I watch them in theaters, but they don't haunt me after that. I just have to think of the make-up or the fake blood or the several takes they did of each scene and I can go sleep like a baby. Also, I think there was a scene from The Omen that really scared me at the time - where a priest is decapitated by this big piece of glass

Okay, we're pulling into the Cain Manoli Drive In. What three horror movies are on the triple bill tonight and what goodies are they going to be serving up at the concession stand?

Haha. That's a really fun question. I'd give my drive-in a better name though. The movies would have to be: "The Others", "The Ring" and "28 Days Later". As for the concession stand - lotsa chocolate and Coke and Red Bull, to get people jittery.

What scares you in real life?

Fanatics. Killing others in the name of God. Prejudice and hatred. Or cults. Stories like Matthew Shepard or People's Temple. I'm most scared about what sociologists call "group hysteria" and in general, the way masses of people can be affected through carefully worded speeches.