A true renaissance man in every sense of the word, Taso Stavrakis has done makeup effects, stunt work and acting on some of the most legendary horror films ever made, including Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th, Day of the Dead and more. He’s also a founding member of the Hanlon-Lees Action Theatre and still travels the country performing live-action jousts and Wild West shows, as well as doing stunt work in films like The Mask of Zorro, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Celestine Prophecy. We caught up with Taso at Florida’s ScreamFest 2005 and got the chance to ask him a few questions about his amazing career.
1) You’ve done everything from makeup effects, stunts, acting and more throughout your film career. Do you have one particular thing you prefer to do over another?
Acting is the most gratifying, but stunts pay more bills.
2) How did you get started in the film business?
While at Carnegie-Mellon University I got my first TV work (a special on Karen Quinlan) and first film work, Dawn of the Dead with Tom.
3) What were your duties on Friday the 13th?
Anything Tom needed help with, casting, painting, etc. and performing the gags.
4) I’ve heard stories of the practical jokes that you and Tom Savini pulled on the set of Friday the 13th. Are there any particular stories that stand out in your mind?
We used to throw the fake ax or hammer at anyone who came in the shop door.
5) Rumor has it that there were some more gore scenes that were filmed but didn’t make the cut, even the international “uncut” version. Did you work on, or are you aware of anything that wound up on the cutting room floor?
6) Due to the complex nature of some of the FX in the film, how much time was spent in pre-production planning and how much was worked out while on location?
Tom went over the script and each gag with Sean first, then weeks of planning and execution went into each effect. Small embellishments could then be added for realism on the spot. (Can’t think of any specific ones right now).
7) Betsy Palmer was the biggest name in the cast, known mostly for her ‘good girl’ image from her previous films and television work. How was she to work with, considering the grisly nature of her onscreen decapitation and the complicated effects work (head casts, etc.) that went into creating that scene?
Like many of the stars of her generation, she was a complete pro and totally gracious and could be shockingly funny.
8) What’s the story surrounding you playing the role of Jason in Part 2?
Steve Miner wanted an older, more active/ aggressive Jason, implying a stunt heavy role so the obvious first choice was me. I said “No, thanks”. One of the least intelligent moments of my life, not the last.
9) Dawn of the Dead and Friday the 13th are two films that are generally credited with ushering in the “splatter film” sub-genre. How does it feel to have those on your resume?
It was a fun way for me to be introduced into the movies, wish they could all be like that. Amazingly there are still those “professionals” who aren’t that impressed, unless of they are horror fans.
10) As grisly as those films are, do you get a sense of pride seeing something you had a hand in (literally, in the case of Robbi Morgan’s death scene) getting such a powerful reaction from the fans?
Sure, I think we did good work and it still shows in the loyalty and reactions of the fans after all this time.
11) You’ve worked with Tom Savini on many films, as well as appearing in his “Scream Greats” home video. Do you still stay in touch with him?
12) While out there trudging around the woods in New Jersey making this little horror movie, did you have any idea that 25 years later, Friday the 13th would achieve the financial and cult success that it has?
If I’d had that clairvoyance, I would certainly have said yes to Steve Miner.
13) Tell us what you’ve been involved in lately. Are you still doing film work?
Currently I’m doing some stunts for Miami Vice.