Irwin Keyes: Character Actor, Living Legend by Brian Kirst

Undoubtedly, Irwin Keyes has acted in one of your favorite films. More than likely, though, he has probably appeared in many of them. From his early days portraying smaller roles and background characters in films like 'Friday the 13th' and Walter Hill's action classic 'The Warriors' to his days portraying savage baddies in drive-in fare like 'The Exterminator', Keyes has supplied a surprisingly emotional background to even his most unredeemable characters. After giving a surprisingly tender performance in horror-comedy 'Guilty as Charged', Keyes has recently found himself in favor with many of the on-the-rise directors who loved his portrayals in their youth. After exciting roles in 'House of 1000 Corpses', 'The Fallen Ones' and 'Wrestlemaniac' , he appears in no hurry to settle down soon. Visit with the enthusiastic Keyes, below, and then make sure to check out his website when you're through.


  Brian: Who were your first performing influences - Bogart, the wonders of the character actors playing the Universal Monsters, Chaplin's tramp - others?

Irwin: The first Actor of great influence in my life was Malcolm McDowall in a film called O LUCKY MAN. I saw that movie about 25 times. Years later I was filming the movie THE ASYLUM. There I was in a scene with Malcolm. Just him and me! I almost couldn't believe it. Others included Laurel and Hardy, Bogie, the Three Stooges, John Wayne - I am a fan of the movies.

Brian: What was it like working with Sean Cunningham with whom you were directed by in 'Manny's Orphans' and 'Friday the 13th' (in a great cameo)?

Irwin: I remember MANNYS ORPHANS. I got to "take care" of the coach for not paying his gambling debts. It started with this film about soccer. Then I played the same part in 2 films about a bad kids coach in baseball, football, and even a gambling coach of a bowling team. The collector part soon ran out after that. No more sports movies to collect in! Sean was a very hard working independent film director/producer who had no idea he hit the jackpot with FRIDAY THE 13th. Until after it happened. Great guy!

Brian: There has been a lot of notice given to 'Chained Heat' over the years. Do you have any particular memories about working on that picture?

Irwin: No CHAINED HEAT ideas. Linda Blair is always nice to me at Horror shows.

Brian: Forget Drew, Cameron and Lucy - You, Isaac Hayes and Rod Steiger are the true (bloody) Angels of the movies!! What are your remembrances of working with Hayes and Steiger on 'Guilty as Charged'?

Irwin: How many actors can say they did a scene sitting on the lap of an Oscar winner for Best Actor! I can!!! Rod Steiger had a great sense of humor that few know about. Isaac Hayes was my buddy from 'GUILTY AS CHARGED'. We worked together real well. Not just with words but also through actions. We worked in three films together.

Brian: What was it like entering the world of the 'Munsters' in the TV film that you appeared in with Veronica Hamel doing a surprising take as Lily Munster?

Irwin: I never worked with Veronica Hamel in person. My scenes were inter-cut with hers in editing. The interesting thing for me about 'HERE COMES THE MUNSTERS' was when I first came to the set and was introduced to the Director. He was Robert Ginty. Years before I worked with him in New York on a film called 'THE EXTERMINATOR'. He was the Exterminator! I was Bobby of the Ghetto Ghouls. He handcuffed me to a radiator and I was eaten alive by hundreds of rats in the film.

Brian: Yikes! (Although, I loved that movie as a kid!) You entered pop culture heaven for all cartoon loving kids by appearing as Joe Rockhard in the 'Flintstones' films. Do you have any particular memories about working on this series?

Irwin: 'THE FLINTSTONES' was one of my favorite films. I got to work in the quarry, drive a dinosaur, bowl with Fred Flintstone, and stick my head in boiling lava juice, Do the ORDER OF LOYAL WATER BUFFALO chant and lead a Bedrock Conga line. My idea! The script only said I start a dance. Guess who was right behind me in line, the wonderful Elizabeth Taylor!!!! My chant!!! BEDROCK BEDROCK CONGA! BEDROCK BEDROCK CONGA!

Brian: What are your favorite memories about working with Rob Zombie on 'House of 1000 Corpses'?

Irwin: Rob Zombie did a great job for a 1st film. I was proud to contribute to the film. We shot all the Spaulding stuff over a 2 week sandstorm in the desert.

Brian: You had the chance to work with another prolific, horror auteur Kevin Van Hook on 'The Fallen Ones.' What was that experience like?

Irwin: This was Kevin's first film. He really knew how to make a great film. It was hot. I mean real hot the whole time we filmed this movie. He let me be creative with the role of the High Priest of the 50 foot mummies!

Brian: You recently matched wits with actor Adam Huss in the go-for-broke 'Wrestlemaniac.' As performers, you both possess a great, unbridled energy. What was it like to work on that scene with Huss?

Irwin: You don't think about matching wits when acting. When we did 'WRESTLEMANIAC', we got lucky. All the right elements in a horror film just came together. We all just had fun. I loved looking at the gals butts in the scene. It fit my character to do that. Adam Huss and I worked well together. In good acting no one has to try and force anything. It just happens. That is the magic of acting.

Brian: Lastly, any words of advice (IE: Never take directions from a crazed gas station owner) or future projects that you'd like to tell us about?

Irwin: The secret to success in life is to never say no. Just keep moving forward. Ignore the petty small stuff. - Coming in June, I play the lead in a music DVD by Prozak. Watch for it!