Interview: Mark Vadik, Cyrus

When preparing for my interview with Mark Vadik, I asked myself, “Who is Mark Vadik?” I checked out his past work and found that he is a relative newcomer on the scene. But do not let that fool you. Of the many directors who show up to try the big movie game, few succeed — but Mark is not one of those. He knew what he wanted, he got it, and he has plans to keep moving.

As a horror fan myself, I would love to work with Danielle Harris, Tiffany Shepis, Lance Henriksen and Brian Krause on my first film. And that is what Mark did — he lined up the most popular stars in horror today and gave them parts. And not just cameos, either. The film caught the attention of the right people and can now be seen around the world.

I spoke with Mark on June 23rd about “Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer”, out now from Anchor Bay. It was one of the most laid-back conversations I have ever had, and I truly wish Mark further success on this project and future projects.

GS: I have to call you out, right off the bat. The film says “based on true events” — how accurate is that?

MV: It’s actually relatively close. The storyline is based on Fritz Haarmann, who was a German serial killer. Basically, I can just tell you the story and the connection will be pretty obvious. He was in prison, and while there he learned how to butcher. When he was released, he teamed up with someone and they would literally hunt very young children at the train station and take them back. In the course of raping the children, they would kill them. That’s the actual story arc that “Cyrus” follows. All the interview sequences you see, those are almost verbatim reenactments of interviews and lectures. The character himself, particular the flashbacks, the prostitute mother is based on Henry Lee Lucas. I couldn’t find one serial killer whose life was really well documented, and the Fritz Haarmann story was of particular interest to me, so I filled in the gaps with other killers.

GS: That’s fair. I get suspicious when I see “based on a true story”, but I see what you did here.

MV: I remember discussing the story, and while raping the children he would decapitate them. And you just don’t show that in a movie, so we had to fictionalize it. It’s far more acceptable to kill college kids than young children.

GS: True. And also, the press release says “banned in 6 countries”.

MV: Yes, it was. What basically happened is that before Anchor Bay came on and picked up the rights, we had sold in a couple foreign territories. And they confiscated the masters. It was Dubai and I want to say United Arab Emirates. I can’t remember the other four that confiscated it. But it’s interesting when they ban your movie, because they sent you a one-sheet, and it has the title of your movie and what they’ve taken possession of, and a one or two sentence reason of why you were banned. And then you have to have it translated, unless you’re far more talented in languages than I am. It was banned for offending the morality of those specific countries.

GS: With good reason.

MV: (laughs) I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

GS: Well, I’m saying it as a compliment. But you can see why they might object.

MV: I can. I don’t think we actually crossed a line, but hopefully they think they’re seeing more than they actually are if they were to hit pause.

GS: As a horror fan, you didn’t cross the line for me.

MV: And that’s important, thank you.

GS: But I can understand the dead baby… I can see that being questionable.

MV: Yeah. See, that was a really important element for me for a variety of reasons. I think that’s the most disturbing scene, particularly where she has to suckle the baby. Not so much when it gets killed.

GS: I’m curious about the casting. The cast is basically a “who’s who of horror icons”, so was there a casting process or did you know who you wanted for the project?

MV: (laughs) A little bit of both. I knew who I wanted, and I was just hoping that we would get them. It worked out really well for me. Lance (Henriksen) and Brian (Krause) and Danielle (Harris), they really enjoyed the script. And that’s where we started. I consider myself very fortunate that I got the cast that I did.

GS: And I see that Brian was credited as a second-unit director. How was he involved behind the scenes?

MV: Oh, he helped quite a bit. That wasn’t a courtesy title. Brian and I had talked and he was interested in directing, and I thought it was a great idea. You know, it’s kind of funny that when Brian showed up on set, he had been researching the hell out of serial killers. So when we got talking about whether he wanted to do second-unit stuff, I was like, “By all means. If that’s of interest to you, I’d really like that.”

GS: And Danielle also came on as a producer?

MV: Yes, she came on as an associate producer. Correct. She helped put the whole deal together. She recommended the mother (Tiffany Shepis) in the beginning, and helped with the casting process. She liked the script and had some really cool ideas about it.

GS: What is Lance Henriksen like once the cameras go off?

MV: Lance is one of the best guys you’ll ever meet. He’s just a really good guy. When he’s acting, the persona of Emmett really came through. It’s chilling. But when we called cut, he was the nicest man you could be in a room with. I still remember back at casting, my phone was ringing, and I picked it up. “Hello, is this Mark Vadik?” “Yes.” “This is Lance Henriksen and I’d like to play Emmett.” That was a wonderful day for me. It was the bomb. I can’t say enough about the energy he brings to the character and the narration that goes through the movie.

GS: Let’s take a peek into the future. “Cyrus” has won all sorts of film festival awards — what doors has this opened up for you?

MV: Quite a few. Anchor Bay is distributing and doing a great job. We have another horror movie coming up that I finished the script on, so that will be starting. It has helped facilitate me moving forward in the genre quite a bit.

GS: So, you plan on staying in horror for a while?

MV: Yeah. I love it because you just get to play with the messed up side of people’s minds. And that’s always been, even in college when you study psychology, the interesting side of the human personality. I definitely want to stay in the genre and explore that some more.

GS: Awesome, I look forward to your upcoming projects.

MV: Thanks, dude.

GS: No, thank you.

MV: Have a good one.

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