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Q&A: The Skeleton-Fighting Skaters of “V/H/S: VIRAL’s” “Bonestorm”

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Those who would prefer to remain on the good side of starving actor/actress friends struggling and striving toward that elusive big break should never, ever share the story of how skateboarder Chase Newton accidentally became one of the stars of “Bonestorm,” the skateboarders-vs.-Mexican-cultists segment of V/H/S: VIRAL.

“So…I’m at the skate park, just chillin’, drinking a 40,” Newton tells FANGORIA in a laconic, bemused drawl as we sit alongside his fellow cast and crew in a JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS-themed mini-karaoke room, shortly after the found-footage anthology sequel’s Fantastic Fest premiere. “And these guys roll up like, ‘Hey, wanna be in a movie?’ Pretty much right away I said, ‘OK, I’m down’—‘cause, you know, why the f**k not? Next thing I know, I’m in V/H/S: VIRAL beating the shit outta some crazy skeletons. Now I’m sitting at the Alamo Drafthouse theater in Austin—f**kin’ Texas!—watching myself on the big screen.”

“So. Damn. Baller,” Newton’s fellow skateboarder/co-star Nick Blanco interjects, tossing his hands in the air triumphantly.

Newton jabs a thumb over his head at Blanco. “I thought we were gonna drive here for the premiere, just sleep in the car or maybe at the construction site across the street, but we got hooked up,” he says, then turns to Blanco and adds, “You saw I took the ‘Reserved’ signs from our seats last night?”

“Yeah! Gotta frame that shit.”

VHSVIRALSKATERSHere, Aaron Moorhead, who helmed “Bonestorm” with his RESOLUTION and SPRING partner Justin Benson, interjects. “These are honestly two of the coolest guys I ever met,” he says. “Like, I didn’t realize the level of uncool I was until I met these guys. In a lot of ways, I kind of wish I’d never met them. I actually used to think pretty highly of myself.”

And does Newton’s casting memory jibe with that of the directors? “Well…what you heard is not exactly the whole story,” Benson notes. “From our perspective, we saw this guy at the park, and he had the most don’t-give-a-shit skating style you’ve ever seen. I mean, walking and skating are basically the same thing for him—it’s all just an extension of his body. Anyway, he was wearing a Black Flag shirt, he had this awesome little cooler with the 40 in it and I was thinking, ‘Holy shit! Him, him, him—that’s the guy!’ But we still hadn’t heard him say a word, didn’t know a thing about how he carried himself that way. And then he opened his mouth and it was like, ‘Oh, thank God. Not only do you look the part, you’re also the most charming, talented motherf**ker on the planet.’ ”

Blanco’s path to V/H/S: VIRAL (opening in theaters this Friday from Magnet Releasing), it turns out, was only slightly more traditional: An old skateboarding friend who is now a filmmaker alerted him to Benson and Moorhead’s call for young men able and willing to pull off a “MORTAL KOMBAT meets Tony Hawk” conceit—a contact that carried more than a whiff of serendipity, as Blanco tells it. “It’s weird, ‘cause I randomly happened to watch the first V/H/S a couple of weeks before, and I was still thinking, ‘Man, that was some f**ked-up shit!’ ” he laughs. “I almost didn’t even try out, though, ’cause I was gonna have to bail on my homie’s wedding to do it. Then I told my mom, and was she like, ‘Nah, you better go try to be in a movie. Your friend’s gonna be married forever, but this maybe might not happen again.’

“So I took a chance. It’s cool, ’cause I did get a part in the movie, which is something I never even really thought about doing before. I wasn’t trying to be, but I’m an actor now, I guess! I thought it was this one-time thing—Yeah, I’m going to make this money and it’s gonna be sick. But people have been telling me, ‘Yo, this is a big deal. You got a niche. You could do more of this, get paid.’ I’m definitely thinking about it. And my mom’s so stoked. But she was wrong about my homie—he ended up getting a divorce.”

That fast?

“A lot can happen in a year, you know?”

“The title of this article should be, ‘My Homie Ended Up Getting a Divorce,’ ” Moorhead deadpans.

Newton and Blanco’s non-skater co-star and more seasoned actor Shane Brady has nothing but praise for the newbies. “Put very simply, acting is having natural reactions to imaginary circumstances,” he muses. “Great actors don’t act—they have natural responses as their characters. So these two were, weirdly—in a technical sense—the best actors you could possibly have gotten for these role. They were just being who they were in this hypothetical fight-or-flight circumstance. As a working actor, seeing them not once get nervous, not once say, ‘Oh, jeez, was that OK? Am I OK?’ was so refreshing. So many novice actors search for perfection. [Newton and Blanco] never cared about that—which is a very good thing. It’s not about being perfect; it’s about being human.”

“There’s always a terror to working with non-actors,” Moorhead says. “We had to get a guy who had never acted before to pretend-fight skeletons, do stunts, emotionally grab his friend and scream ‘Go!’ in his face in a believable way. Most people can’t do that; that’s why we have actors in the first place. But for us, that’s also exciting—you can get someone who actually is the person. For this project, that was essential. I’ve always thought that the only way you can pull off a skateboarding movie is to cast real skateboarders and empower them to make choices.”

If you just try to make it happen with a script and some random boarders, he says, good luck, and Newton offers, “I feel like V/H/S: VIRAL got to the real underground skateboarding, not fake-ass lame shit that usually gets into movies. A lot of movies want people to perceive skaters as these nice, safe little Orange County kids who talk kind of funny, and it’s like, yeah, there’s that, but there are also so many realms to this, man. So many. And, for me, ‘Bonestorm’ gets to, like, the realest realm, which is why I don’t feel like I’m selling out being in it.”

And if Newton had seen the film when he was a young skater first getting into the scene, would he have thought the same? “Hell, yeah! I would’ve thought it was f**king awesome. But I also would’ve been like, ‘Shit, I could’ve done that!’ ”

See our review of V/H/S: VIRAL here and a list of theatrical playdates here

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About the author
Shawn Macomber http://www.stopshawnmacomber.com
The ravings of noted South Florida pug wrangler Shawn Macomber have appeared in Decibel, Magnet, Reason, Maxim, Radar, Shroud, and the Wall Street Journal, amongst other fine and middling publications. He also hosts the podcast Into the Depths and pens the metal-lit column Tales From the Metalnomicon for Decibel magazine.
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