Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Very Candid Conversation with Paul Kratka

Paul Kratka plays Rick, the love interest of Dana Kimmell’s character, in Friday the 13th Part III. Like many characters in the Friday the 13th series, he does not meet a happy ending when he comes across Jason. However, his death scene is one of the most memorable ones in the Friday the 13th saga. It depicts Jason squeezing Paul’s head so hard that his eyeball pops out of its socket. That was Paul’s only screen credit for the next 23 years. Paul left acting to become a chiropractor.

He was brought back into the acting fold by independent filmmaker Scott Goldberg. They have done several films together. One memorable film they did is Loss of Hope. The film is only a couple minutes long, but despite its length, Paul delivers a much stronger performance than he did in Friday the 13th Part III. Readers of this interview can watch this film by clicking on this link.

When he is not working with Scott, Paul continues his other passion: health. He runs a website, which is primarily focused on eating and living healthy. Readers can click on his website: http://www.drkratka.com

In this candid conversation, we discuss his experience on
Friday the 13th Part III, his time away from acting, practicing medicine, his work with Scott Goldberg, and his website.

I want to thank Scott Goldberg for getting Paul and I together to do this interview. But most of all, I want to thank Paul.


Jeff Cramer: Just for the record, when and where were you born?

Paul Kratka: I was born in L.A. in 1955.

JC: What made you decide to become an actor?

PK: Well, I ended up at Santa Monica City College when I was, I guess, 19. I don’t know, there’s always been something in the back of my mind where I just thought it’d be something fun to try. I hadn’t done anything in high school. I wasn’t really part of the whole drama scene, but I guess there was some kind of desire deep in my psyche to do something like that.

When I was at Santa Monica College, I took their drama class. On the first day of the semester they said, “Oh, by the way, we’re having auditions for this semester’s productions this week, and you’re welcome to come out.” I thought, “Oh, I’ll just go watch and see what that process is like”. So I went to that and I was sitting there going, “Oh, I think I can do this. At least do the audition.” So I did and I ended up getting one of the principal roles in the production. It was the play Harvey and I got the role of Dr. Lyman Sanderson. At that point, I was hooked to really follow-up and keep going.

JC: What other acting had you done before Friday the 13th Part III?

PK: Well, I had been studying privately in North Hollywood, studying acting and just scrambling around trying to get jobs. I was doing some on-camera spokesman work, some commercials, and had done a small part on General Hospital.

JC: That’s kind of interesting that you had mentioned General Hospital knowing you would eventually become a doctor.

PK: Now, the funny part of that story too is that when I went in to read for Friday the 13th, the casting director had told me that he had gone home one day at lunch, which he normally does not do. His wife, who normally doesn’t watch soap operas, happened to have it on the TV and it just happened to be that episode that I was on.

He saw me and commented to his wife, “Wow, that guy did a pretty decent job in that little bit that he just did.” I had no reason to believe that he was just patronizing me or anything. I mean, he seemed sincere when he said it, but it was just a very coincidental exposure prior to going in for that particular meeting.

JC: So during that audition, how did you land the part of Rick?

PK: Well, one of my buddies at the acting school I was at in North Hollywood was a guy named Harris Kal, an actor who had a recurring role on Happy Days. He had gone in to read for Friday the 13th, although it wasn’t called that at that point. They were going back and forth whether they were gonna do it as a non-union picture or not.

Anyway, so he went in to read for this. He told me, “Paul, you really should meet these guys. They’re the coolest casting directors I’ve ever read for.” Because sometimes casting people can be a little short with you or not necessarily pleasant or polite.

So anyway, I managed to go in and read for the casting directors, Dave Eman and Bill Lytle. I went in with the understanding that I was going in to read for the same part that Harris had read for, which was the part of Andy in Part III. I think Andy was the guy who walks on his hands.

The casting directors were indeed totally cool. At the end of that thing they said, “You’re really not right for that part at all, but we think you might be just right for the lead. Can you come back and read for the director and the producer in the next day or so?” I said, “Yeah, of course I can do that.” They then said, “You know, this character Derek (at the time the character was called Derek, not Rick) he’s not a city boy, he lives out in the country and works as a carpenter. So, when you come in for this reading for the director and the producer, just keep that in mind. You don’t have to dress nicely or anything like that for this meeting.”

I went in for the next meeting with Steve Miner and Frank Mancuso Jr. I dressed in blue jeans, work boots, and work parka, but I also carried in a couple of 2x4s on my shoulder, and a skill saw. They just thought that was really cool, they just laughed about it, and they thought it was really neat that I had done that. So it kind of got off on the right foot. I had a good reading and clearly they were interested, but it took a long time. It was probably two months that I read over with various actresses that they were trying to nail down the true star of the picture.

JC: Okay, so Dana Kimmell hadn’t been cast yet?

PK: Yeah, I don’t know if they wanted her and she was unavailable, or they wanted Amy Steel and she wasn’t available. I don’t know. There was something going on like that where the person they really wanted wasn’t going to be there. So they were really stressing over who was gonna be the lead. So they had me keep reading over and over with people. Yet, I didn’t have a contract or anything so it was really nerve-racking for me because I felt like I had the part, but I didn’t in terms of having a signed contract or an agreement or anything.

So it was a long two months for sure, going through that process. But it was a learning experience as well and Steve Miner was really cool. I really like him.

JC: Had you seen Friday I or II?

PK: No. To this day I’m not really a horror film fan. It’s not something I would go seek out or watch. I have a tremendous respect for that genre and a really big respect for the fans.

That’s another funny story. When I went in for that meeting with Frank Mancuso Jr. and Steve Miner, they asked me, “Well, have you seen Part I or Part II?” I said, “No, to be quite honest, it’s not really my kind of movie. I haven’t seen that.” They looked at each other, just kinda shrugged and went, “Yeah, just our luck. We’ve got some joker in here that hasn’t seen it.” I think they also appreciated that I was honest with them. I didn’t say, “Oh, yeah. It was great. I loved them both.” Or come up with some story that was a bunch of BS.

JC: What was it like working with Steve Miner? Did you have any idea he would go on to bigger things?

PK: No, I was 26 years old at the time and it was a really big deal to get a role like that at that stage in my career. I was just so excited and it was just so cool to be on a big project. Steve Miner and I, you know, we kinda developed a friendship. We played tennis a few times together.

There were moments when we were shooting where I’d get frustrated because I didn’t feel like I had gotten into a rhythm. We were just moving on to the next shot. Steve would just say, “Hey, Paul man, this is about getting this thing done in an efficient manner, on budget, and on time. This isn’t an old class movie. This is a horror movie that we’re trying to shoot here.” So we would have our little runs now and then, but we got along really well. He’s got a great sense of humor and we had a good time working together.

JC: Friday the 13th Part III was shot in 3D. Could you describe what it was like working on that three dimensional project?

PK: Yeah, a couple of other 3Ds like Amityville 3D and Jaws 3D came out and it was because that new technology had been developed. I don’t understand it all together, but its kinda like two lenses are stacked on top of one another or something to that effect. So it just took longer for every shot to get set up because there was just more sensitivity or more attention paid to the depth of field of focus, the lighting, and all that sort of thing. There was just definitely more. Because this was the third in the Friday the 13th series, more money was being spent and they’d clearly had a successful franchise. More money was being spent because it was 3D.

So things just took longer and I think it was more frustrating for the technical crew to get it together for each shot. They also used this special type of crane. One time the crane was on some special dolly, the whole dolly collapsed, and somebody almost got killed. So there was some drama.

JC: What happened there?

PK: I mean, they had this ramp built where the dolly and the crane were going up. They built this kind of truss-like structure. In the process the thing just kinda fell over because the crane, the dolly and everything was really heavy. The person didn’t really get hurt, but it was really close. I mean they got hurt, but it wasn’t catastrophic by any means.

But that was just one of kind of a number of things that happened on the set. We had really extreme weather. It’d be really cold, and it was supposed to be taking place in the summer, like my opening scene where Dana Kimmell arrives at the cabin and I’m hiding behind the door sort of thing. That whole scene, I’m wearing short sleeve and she’s wearing a short sleeve shirt. I mean it was really cold and we were bundled up in coats up until the moment they were ready to actually roll the cameras. Our breath was fogging and so they were getting frustrated with that. Two weeks later we had major heat waves and it was just unbearably hot. Then one weekend some 50,000 bees were inside the cabin. That delayed things. It was just kind of on and on.


JC: Of course in that movie, everybody knows your scene was the eyeball popping out of your socket. How did it feel when you watched that?

PK: Well, the first time I watched the whole movie, start to finish, I was really impressed with all aspects of it; the way that it finally came together. When you’re making a movie you’re just shooting these little segments and you’re just there doing your thing. It’s very disjointed, segmented, distracting, and there’s no sound effects, there’s no music, there’s no nothing. Then, when you sit down in a theater and you watch the whole thing it’s really thrilling.

Of course, as a young actor, it was just completely captivating to me. I really enjoyed it. Now, as far as my death scene, I thought it was pretty cool but now 27 years later it looks kinda hokey, but at the time it looked pretty cool and worked pretty well.

The actual filming of that scene was an interesting experience for me because a couple of months before the movie started filming I went out to a special effects lab. They made this mold of my upper body, which is really an interesting experience to be completely encased from my mid-chest all the way up over my head and face and everything with Plaster of Paris. Then they made a mold of that and a reversible blah, blah, blah, and they made this life-like mannequin of my upper body. It was made of this kind of silicone material that had collapsible plates within the skull so that they could do multiple takes of the crushing of the head.

We did that a couple months before we started and then the time that we actually filmed that scene, we were working nights at that point. We were working from 7:00 at night to 7:00 in the morning. And so we’re out in the middle of these woods, it’s dark, it’s 3:00 in the morning and it was the first time I’d ever seen it. They wheeled out this thing on a stand. They wheeled this life-like mannequin of me out. It looked so much like me. It was really unnerving and surreal at the same time to see that.

To see it when it came out in the final version I thought it looked pretty cool. And then of course, like you said, there was so much notoriety surrounding that particular death scene.

JC: Do you still keep in contact with anyone from Part III?

PK: Yeah, I talk to Larry Zerner now and then. We’ll see each other at various promotional events and so forth. I have limited contact with Dana Kimmell. It’s funny, I run into Richard Brooker at the oddest times. I live in the San Diego area and one time I was up in LA. I was at some restaurant up in Malibu. It was just some small kinda tucked away little restaurant and there was Richard Brooker. I mean he’s a real character and a really cool guy. I always have a good laugh whenever I’m around him. I did see David Katims or talked to him not long ago. I don’t know when that was, but other than that, that’s pretty much it. Oh, Tracy Savage, I actually saw her at Scream Fest LA a couple of years ago. That was really cool to see her, but other than that, not necessarily. I don’t really talk to them or see them too often.

JC: What’s the reaction that you’ve been getting from fans of the series, either in conventions or over email?

PK: It’s just so amazing for me. I mean, hardly a week goes by where I don’t get an email or a letter from literally around the world; from countries in Europe and all over the United States and so forth. I think it’s just a really cool thing that -- it’s clearly a hobby or an interest for an entire group of people, and they’re always extraordinarily gracious and grateful whenever they send me something to autograph and I send it back to them. They’re always really nice. So I just love it.

I think it’s really cool, and I’m totally amazed that 27 years later that there’s still – and clearly, half of these people were in diapers when that movie came out. Yet they’ve discovered it or come across it and it’s part of their interest and I think that’s just really a neat thing. It’s a really interesting and exciting phenomenon for me. I enjoy it.

JC: Now, this would be your last role until you hooked up with Scott. Why was it your last acting role?

PK: Well, after doing Friday the 13th, I made the mistake of changing agents. The agent I changed to felt that because I had done this part in Friday the 13th that in his mind or his strategy I should say, that kinda put me into the next league and that was a mistake. I mean, it was a mistake for me to change agents, but it was also a mistake on his part, because I was reading for roles against people like Christopher Walken. We should have just built upon where we were. You know just say, “Okay, we did this. Let’s just do something else similar to this.” I was getting frustrated that I wasn’t getting more work, and at the same time I started to go, “Gosh, do I really wanna dedicate my entire life and professional career to something that is so unpredictable? There are so many extraordinary actors and actresses who literally languish in poverty their entire careers.” That worried me and concerned me.

I had done well between Friday the 13th and some of the other work I’d done in commercials, so I said, “Maybe I’ll use this time and money to go back to school and complete my education.” So I did that. One thing led to another, and I ended up in chiropractic school.

JC: Was being a chiropractor something you had always thought about? It’s very different from acting.

PK: No. When I went back to school, I was actually taking all the classes that would enable me to transfer into UCLA and get a degree in Marine Biology. So I was taking Chemistry, Physics, Physiology, Biology and all these various heavy science courses. I’ve always had an interest in health, in general and preventative health, in particular.

I had met a chiropractor and got under care with him. He knew that I was taking a heavy science load and that I was interested in health. He said, “You know, you really ought to consider going on to Chiropractic school because I think that might fulfill some of what you wanna get from your life’s purpose in the educational direction you’re headed.” That planted the seed for me to go on to graduate school and get my doctorate of chiropractic.

JC: While you were practicing, did you ever come across any patients who said, “Hey, I know this guy. He was in Friday the 13th Part III.”?

PK: For the most part, no, not really. But in the late ‘90s and the early part of the year 2000, when the internet became more common and people started using it, people would do searches and come across that. That would be a funny moment when they would confront me about it or ask me about it. It became kind of a running joke between that particular patient and I.

JC: Scott referred me to your website, which has a lot of advice on losing weight. Actually, believe it or not, I actually have used some of that advice to shed some pounds. Could you talk about that site?

PK: Well, thank you for asking. We’re really at a kind of a tipping point here in our culture in that we’ve never been unhealthier. There’s this whole debate right now in the political arena about this whole health care reform. The truth is if everybody had unlimited access to doctors, drugs and surgery, it wouldn’t make us any healthier because the problems we have with our health are because of our lifestyle choices.

We have to, as a culture and a society, own up to this and face that reality. The truth is that we are just an extraordinarily overweight society. The picture of cancer is an overweight person. The picture of heart disease is an overweight person. The picture of diabetes is an overweight person. It’s not just about being overweight. It means you’re unhealthy. So with that in mind, that is a huge issue.

The short version of that for those who might be reading this interview is that genetically we are the same as we were as hunter gatherers 40,000 years ago, in the Paleolithic area when we were Stone Age people. During that period, what we ate was fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and lean, natural fed animals. So the two main food groups that people eat today: dairy and grains did not even exist when our genes were formed. They’ve only been around for the last 10,000 years when agriculture started, and then shortly after that, domestication or animal husbandry.

So the crux of the matter is that we should not eat grains or dairy products. I realize for the average person to hear that is so shocking or surprising, but that is the key. You just eat an inordinate amount of vegetables and really good quality protein because again there are two things that are happening here. One is that we need to supply our diet and our lifestyle with sufficient nutrition and purity and at the same time avoid toxicity and deficiency.

We need to eat lots of vegetables and lots of fruits, nuts and seeds. The quality of the meat we eat has to be taken into consideration as well. So when talking about pure food, the difference between a grain-fed cow and a cow that is out in a pasture eating grass is a night and day difference to consumers. A grass fed animal’s meat is so much more nutritious. It’s very analogous to the difference between conventionally grown produce and organically grown produce. Conventionally grown produce is grown up in soil that has no nutrients. They just dump a bunch of fertilizers to make it grow and then they have to dump a bunch of insecticides and pesticides. So not only do we ingest toxic pesticides and insecticides, but we’re also ingesting food that has no nutrients to it, similarly with the protein.

Basically, if you eat lots of vegetables and quality protein, nuts, and seeds, you can’t gain weight because the body is self limiting. You just can’t eat that much salad or that much meat. Now, there are people that eat way too much meat. That’s because they’re not eating enough vegetables at the same time. The truth is all you have to do is stop eating grains and stop eating dairy, which is very difficult. I’m not saying it’s not. I realize that our culture is based on eating bread, cereals, crackers, etc, and literally it is the foundation of our diet. Then dairy, of course, follows right behind it.

But you’d be amazed what it’s like to go and eat a grain free, dairy free diet. It’s like if you put diesel in your car, and how screwed up your car would work, that’s how our bodies work on grain and dairy. It just takes 20 or 30 years before it starts breaking down.

JC: Interesting because a lot of health foods markets recommend whole grain products and soymilk. What’s your opinion?

PK: First of all, we should just stay away from dairy products altogether. There are so many ways that it affects the body in a bad way, destructively. There are alternatives. There’s almond milk. There’s rice milk and as you mentioned, soymilk. I was just visiting a buddy of mine Dr. Bruce Wong in Hawaii. He makes hemp seed milk that was just fantastic. So there’s lots of ways to find that. But the truth is you don’t need to have that type of stuff unless it’s to make smoothies with.

But you’re right, there are a lot of people that advocate eating whole grains. The problem with grains is no. 1, they cause a real spike in our insulin levels, which is just extraordinarily destructive to the body. I mean, insulin is like the master hormone and when you have elevated insulin levels, it not only causes diabetes, but it is just the root cause of many, many health issues.

The other thing that grains do(particularly wheat, barley, and things of that nature) have what’s called gluten. Gluten is very pro-inflammatory in the body when it’s broken down. That again is every single disease process, whether it’s diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune disease, heart disease, cancer, all of those have inflammatory components to them.

I just pulled an article today out of Scientific America about inflammation being one of the key elements of cancer. So if someone is going to eat grains, they need to eat them very sparingly, and eat totally whole grain. The problem is that there are a lot of food products out there that say whole grain on them but they’re not.

The other thing that has to be mentioned is that there are just some things that we should never ever eat and they’re soda pop, deep fried food, artificial sweeteners and refined sugar. Those things just tear your body apart. The problem is, is that they don’t do it in an acute manner. Our culture has this perception that if it doesn’t cause you to have an immediate toxic reaction, if you don’t immediately vomit, have bloody diarrhea, pass out, have a heart attack and wake up with a huge tumor the next morning, then it’s okay to do it in moderation.

I just recently wrote a blog post about that the big lie in our culture is that everyone says, “Oh, you just do everything in moderation.” That’s killing us because we’re taking in all this toxic food little by little and over time it’s just destroying our health.

JC: Was there anything else on the site besides dieting?

PK: Well, I have also formulated a whole food supplement because we live in a time where we’re very stressed. We’re exposed to a lot of toxic pollutants and we don’t eat as well. So it’s really important that we supplement our diet. Now, this is not a replacement, but a supplement is in the old days was called a vitamin. Vitamins historically have been made of bulk pharmaceutical chemicals. Truthfully, the things we should take should be always made of food.

So I made what’s called a Whole Food Supplement. It’s a powder that you mix with water and drink, or you put it in a smoothie. It has a mint flavor and it’s slightly sweet. It’s very delicious. So I formulated that. That’s my own product that I sell on the website. Probably the thing that I really should mention is that in a month from now, we’re gonna be launching ---- me and two doctors, one from Hawaii, Dr. Bruce Wong, I just mentioned, and Dr. Stephen Franson out of Boston.

We’ve spent the last two years creating an online health transformation, or a lifestyle transformation program called Bonfire Health, where we’ve identified the essential nutrients, if you will, in the area of eating, moving, and thinking that are necessary to create health. We’ve got this really awesome interactive, community-based, step-by-step program that’s gonna be coming out. It’s called Bonfire Health. It’ll be on http://www.bonfirehealth.com

It’s really exciting. I mean we just have been working literally two years creating this, and we’re close to launch date. People have menu plans, recipes, shopping lists, different levels of exercises with still photos, and video coaching on how to do them. All these other exercise and lesson plans take people through a lifestyle transformation program.

JC: When you teamed up with Scott, was that your beginning back into acting?

PK: Yes. I mean, I’d done some theater locally in San Diego in… I don’t know when that was, probably late ‘90s. I wish I could do more theater. It just takes so much time. It’s really hard to fit that in with a busy schedule and a family life for sure. But Scott definitely was kind of my re-entry into the film world for sure.

JC: How did you team up with him?

PK: He contacted me via email and said, “Hey, I’m a young filmmaker out here in New York. I’m making a horror movie. I’d love you to be part of it. Would you consider it?” I didn’t know who he was. It just took a while for me to kinda get to know him and see if he was legit. I don’t know when that was. I think it was 2005 maybe, 2004 something like that when we did The Day They Came Back, and we’ve done three or four projects since then. I really enjoy working with Scott. He’s really talented.

JC: Could you mention the work that you’ve done with Scott?

PK: Well, one film that was finished about six months ago, or last year sometime was called Loss of Hope. It’s real powerful. It has kind of a post apocalyptic feel to it. I did a small role in a film he did that’s coming out very shortly. I think in a few weeks actually. It’s called Mr. Mullen and that’s a political/social-statement type of film. Right now we’re doing another project called Militia 15, which is about mind control and the government. It is centered around this now abandoned military base out on the tip of Long Island and Montauk called Camp Hero, which has a lot of controversy to this day regarding governmental experiments. So that’s what we’re working on right now. It should be finished by the end of this year or the beginning of next year.

JC: I have seen Loss of Hope. I saw Scott’s talent there, but I also noticed your performance – he got a lot of range out of you in just a short time considering how short the film is. Definitely a lot more range than you got to do than in Part III. How did Scott get it out of you?

PK: Well, it wasn’t so much he got it out of me. We just had a good script to work from and a good idea. Probably two-thirds of what we filmed of that particular scene didn’t even make it in the final version. So I really was grateful that I had that opportunity to do something with that range and get to head in that direction because that’s something every actor likes to do like giving a long speech in a courtroom, or something to that effect. It’s something you can kinda sink your teeth into.

JC: Since I’ve come to know Scott, I’ve realized he’s very political. Are you political as well?

PK: Not to the degree he is. That’s where his passion lies right now really in the truthful exposure of governmental shenanigans and corruption. He does a lot of reading and a lot of research. That’s why his films have gone that direction. I certainly have political views, but not on the scale that he does.

JC: Was there anything else besides the films you’re shooting with Scott that you did ?

PK: No, I’m just trying to get this demo reel put together of the stuff I did with Scott right now. I need to find an editor to do that. Then I’m gonna try to get it in the hands of filmmakers. I’m probably going up to LA and see if I can maybe get an agent to look at it, maybe resurrect my career on some level. Nothing else in the works at this point, but hopefully.

JC: Are there any words you would like to say to your fans or anyone else who would be reading our interview?

PK: I just think that the fans are an amazing group of people. They’re so kind. One thing I would say is that everybody who approaches me at a convention, sends me an email, or writes me a letter, I’m just grateful that I have that type of interaction.

2 comments:

Synaura said...

Different body requires different nutrition, so it is advisable to consult first with a physician before taking any supplements. Everyone should bare in mind that aside from taking supplements, one must be conscious of his diet and daily activities to live a healthy lifestyle.
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The Right Place. The Right Time

Wings said...

Great interview! He seems like a really decent guy, glad to know that. Thanks for this!