Michael Berryman Could Be Scared With You- An Interview.

December 9, 2010 by Chris Grosso

Michael Berryman may not be a household name, but once you put a face to the name chances are you’ll be familiar with some of his vast repertoire of work. Michael has appeared in over 30 films including One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Hills Have Eyes, Weird Science (a personal 80’s favorite of mine) & The Devil’s Rejects

Michael usually plays characters who are one twist short of a slinky, but off-screen, he is very serene, and a sincerely nice guy. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to discuss organic farming, a few of his upcoming projects, and why we should think twice about the way we treat ourselves, each other, and the planet as a whole.

The Michael Berryman Interview

TIS: I’ve read that prior to acting, you worked in the floral industry. I had to laugh about that as I did too. So let’s talk flowers, shall we?

MB:  Haha, well that was actually my first job as a senior in high school and I mostly did it seasonally. I delivered flowers for a shop, but didn’t arrange them. I would get in a van and take the funeral displays to the funeral parlors, or take flowers to the old folk’s homes, and then there was Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.  Mother’s Day was always a little sad, you know. And then there were weddings and hospitals, and I really kind of enjoyed it. So I wasn’t a florist, even though I’ve been quoted as such on some websites. 

So I did that and then went off to college. When I came back to Venice Beach, I actually had a little business with a friend of mine who had house plants, and that’s where people get the misconception. We didn’t have flowers, we had house plants, and some local artists would bring in their paintings and sculptures and we would display them. It wasn’t a booming business in ’73 or ’74. There was an antique store across the street however, that catered to the wealthy of Beverly Hills, really upscale people, and they had Ming Dynasty and egg urns, and this and that.  We were friendly with our neighbors in business and there was a big sale going on at the Gala Mofrey, which was this antique store across the street in Venice near our store, so we put in some palms. We made the place look nice. So we were waiting for the sale to finish that evening and when it was finished we took our plants that didn’t sell back over to shop, and that’s how I met Producer George Pal.

TIS: Ok, thanks for the clarification. But you are an organic gardener, correct?

MB:  Oh yes.

TIS:  Awesome. What got you interested in that?

MB:  Well I was in the University of California in San Obispo. I took veterinary science for two years, but didn’t continue because of funding. Also, the ends of my fingers are compromised. They didn’t fully develop so they are kind of like my knuckles and they wouldn’t work too well catering to animals and surgeries or procedures, etc.  So I had a minor in Art History and I just continued to expand my education in the arts and science. Theoretical physics, etc. Things I’m fascinated with.

TIS: Yeah, me too!

MB: I gave up on the calculations after High School and a couple years of College. It required more than I was willing to apply myself to. I was fascinated with good writing like the Twilight Zone and other novels, and the arts in general, plus giving back to the art of life and how you live and take care of the planet, that’s what got me really involved in organics. Especially because the university I went to was an agricultural college. So having had some health issues growing up, and having a father who was a world renowned brain surgeon, and my mother, sister and great aunt who were nurses, I studied nutrition and biology. My great grandfather was a famous physician from North Dakota and his neighbors were the Mayo family. My family history chronicles some of the cutting edge in medicine, and specifically the first pharmaceutical patents, which were with the Mayo brothers. Their father was a friend of my great grandfather. They didn’t believe in medicine patents for profit first, they had the Hippocratic approach of do no harm, heal thy patient, and then by the way, don’t sue them into the ground after they get out of the hospital, which is what happens today.

So long story short, I believe that it is really important to take care of the dirt that you grow your food on. Our agriculture is based on bushels per acre equals profit. Some of the models from the other parts of the world I’ve traveled, and just in general before we had the big farms is that you plant a cover crop, let the land lay fallow for a season, and it revitalizes itself. We’ve trashed our entire planet tremendously and yes, I like to grow food that I know won’t harm me. A lot of modern farming methods, the overuse and abuse of soil, and our rivers are totally toxic. We damn them so they don’t deposit silt anymore. When you study history, it talks about the Delta areas where they would flood and it was already problematic to people because they were set up right where the water would meet the dirt. Why didn’t they set up their towns and farms back a bit and let them flood a little, that’s a good thing. Those trace minerals allow our bodies to be the best pharmacy that God made, which it is, and your body can heal thyself. But when you start removing nutrients, we’re talking about trace minerals, from the dirt, what happens is, the body becomes deficient, and a one a day vitamin isn’t enough.

Lou Ferrigno is a very good friend of ours and he’ll tell you that. So we grow organic and don’t use any chemical fertilizers. We have about an acre and a half up in California. We have horses and we just harvested our walnut tree, we have about twenty big walnut trees. We don’t use any pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers, we use all organics because it doesn’t deplete the soil. So yes, I’m huge on that and for reasons other than only my own families health, but also preventative reasons, modern living and modern farming, school lunch programs that are all microwaveable and overly processed. There’s no purpose for white bread except for picking up broken glass in my opinion. We could do a lot to help our citizens of this and other countries by taking all the fast food companies and asking them to use better ingredients. The documentary Super Size Me is one of the scariest things I’ve seen recently.

I believe that our modern medicine really goes about health backwards. Prevention is more important than silver bullet at the end, which doesn’t always work, duh. I volunteer with organizations that deal with children’s health, rebuilding their faces, birth defects, all that kind of stuff. I was even on my local cities mayors committee, under the umbrella of the president’s council on the Americans with Disabilities act. Before they wrote the act, they wanted to know on a grass root level up, how people with disabilities are affected. What are their needs, how can they be an asset to the community and themselves? So I guess advocacy and humanity is the key ingredient there. I could talk for hours on that, but that’s kind of how I see it.

We are what we eat and the way we choose to behave decides our humanity, and those are things that are really important. The one with the most toys at the end of the day does not win. The BMW sticker we used to see was an arrogant proclamation of ignorance and selfishness. It’s basically saying yes I drive a BMW and own the road, and yes, I’m spending my children’s inheritance, and those are very foolish statements. Yes, you should be able to say them in a free country, but to prevail with that attitude is very detrimental to our future, and our future includes all the critters, and rain forest and the wonderful things that we haven’t totally destroyed on this earth, and of course our children.

TIS: Yeah, right on.

MB: And that’s why Mr. Cameron made Avatar. When you have a war based economy, you’re doing a lot of harm.

TIS: Well I definitely admire your passion about that, and we certainly share many of the same views. So I’d also like to talk about some of the current and upcoming projects you’re working on. I have to ask about your role as a zombie in the most recent Scooby Doo feature, Scooby Doo and The Curse of the Lake Monster, as I work with kids and they were going nuts for it!

MB: Haha, yeah, Zelda turns a house into a haunted house with zombies and there’s a scene where they’re singing this  song “I Could Be Scared With You” and I was there as a zombie doing a little song and dance routine, it was a lot of fun. I also finished in April, up in Canada, a film called Below Zero with Edward Furlong. It’s a story about a screenwriter who can’t meet a deadline, so his manager has him locked up in a meat locker with everything he needs and he can’t get out until he finishes the script by a certain date, otherwise the manager’s not going to represent him anymore. So this comes to fruition, and on the way in, my character is on an airplane with a couple of other people. He gets picked up by the gal who later is supposed to put him in the locker with everything he needs, his typewriter etc.

So long story short, he perhaps starts to lose his mind, and you can’t tell what he’s writing and what’s taking place, what’s reality, what is his imagination, so it’s definitely got an Alfred Hitchcock feel and there’s really excellent cinematography, and really good acting. My role is Gunner and I play a German gentleman. I start out in an airplane when it lands to where Eddie’s character is going, but all of the sudden I end up as the guy running the slaughter house, so what’s real, what’s not. Well you’ll have to watch it and find out. It’s pretty exciting. We were at the American Film Market in Santa Monica last month talking to distributors and that’s always fun.

There’s also a movie called “Cut”, which I wrapped up a few weeks ago in West Virginia at a huge, creepy prison which also stars Kane Hodder and Tony Todd.

TIS: Right, that’s quite the who’s who of horror.

MB: Yeah. So we’re still in post production right now, but it’s really good. The gist is that some people are making a movie about hunting humans, and they end up lost in the woods and eventually at some house where the people let them stay at, but behold, those people are doing the same thing as the film makers, but for real. So they end up getting captured and put in this gigantic old prison, and what a creepy place it was to work in.

TIS: Yeah, I saw the preview for that a couple of days ago.

MB: Yeah, I’m surprised Joe’s putting stuff up so quick, but I’m very pleased! And next year I’ll be doing a movie in Canada called “Stingy Jack”. It’s an urban legend and I have the title role. They just need to get their ducks in a row so we can get going on that. I have a couple of other things that are still a bit top-secret for T.V. with a popular show. I’m still doing conventions, and I have a stack of fan mail here to go through and reply to. I do all of my fan mail myself and make sure everyone gets a response and autographed picture.

TIS: Very cool. So you have quite the lengthy film resume and I was wondering if you could tell me about one of, or a couple of the strangest things that you’ve had happen while working on a film?

MB: Oh sure, let me think here. Well I was in the Amazon on Cut and Run, and we were a couple of hours out into the rainforest, way out in the bush. There was a fight scene I did in this river, and it was kind of brown and silty, which I thought was a safe place to be because the piranha like clear water. So for about an hour or so I’m in the water, and then I get out and sit on a log and immediately my guide tells me to freeze and he takes out his machete and kills a very deadly snake that was right behind me. Like a five footer, and we were no were near helicopters or any transportation to get us to a hospital. So I said to my guide, at least there aren’t any piranha’s, and he said, well yeah but in the water, which I had just been in for over an hour up to my knees, there’s electric eels. So I’m like “Oh man!” I could have been killed by electric eels. I love the rainforest, but there’s a line to be drawn. 

As far as one of the strangest things… I once wore my Star Trek makeup home from Next Generation as Captain Rex. I was driving home to Palmdale one day. I had a split down my whole face and the top of my head and it was blue, and I was on my way to pick my girlfriends kids up from grammar school. I was running late so I had go faster than usual, and I really wanted to get their so I could walk into class with the makeup on because I thought that’d be cool for the kids. Well on the way, I caught up to a cop who was ahead of me, and he gave me this look like, how dare you catch up to me, and he had these intense eyes. So I started pointing to the sky and I mouthed to him “My ship. I’m going to be late to catch my mother ship”. And we’re both there doing 75 miles an hour looking at each other, and I’m thinking ok, he’s either going to give me a ticket, throw me in jail, or do something else…well he did something else. I swear to God, he closed his eyes, turned his head away, and waived me on, very vehemently (laughter). So I got out of his site as fast as possible, doing about ninety miles an hour. But I made it in time and all the classmates loved it! That was a lot of fun. And then I took them to the grocery store, which was also fun. There was also a time I was doing The Crow with Brandon Lee and I met Paul Newman.

TIS: That’s very cool.

MB: Yeah, I was dressed up like the Skull Cowboy and we had a nice chat. He gave me the number for a gentleman in  Florida, because his food products support some wonderful charities. So I got involved with the Boggy Creek Gang, which consisted of Paul Newman, General “Stormin Normin” Schwarzkopf and Arnold Palmer. They would find parents with children that have issues with birth defects of the face and skull, and they would invite them, at no expense of their own to these camps, one of which is in Florida and the other in California. They teach the parents how to work with their children’s difficulties. They invite the whole family for about four or five days to these camps and it’s just wonderful. It’s always sad when it’s time for everyone to go home because you meet some great people.

But I love giving back and helping these kids to understand that they’re not alone and that they can go forward with a future and career. I tell them it doesn’t always mean they’re going to be a movie star though. I feel it’s important to qualify that because sometimes people can be a bit gaga when they’re in the midst of someone they’ve seen in TV or film, but that’s just a vehicle that gets us in the door to where we can have these conversations. So if it wasn’t for George Pal I wouldn’t have had these opportunities.

And ever since meeting George, I’ve enjoyed studying film. I’ve been a student ever since I appeared in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and I’ve gotten to pick the brains of some of the very best in the world. When I was working on Below Zero, there was a scene where I was chopping up a body, and I had to go and say a prayer, and then I cried, and there’s about five different locations within the frame. So you have to hit your mark, you can’t look down at your feet and wonder if that’s where you’re supposed to be. So after studying as long as I have, I’m happy I know this kind of stuff. So I love working and being in this industry. You meet some really good friends, many of which are for life.

TIS: That sounds very rewarding, and of course fun. So anything in closing?

MB: Actually there is. I was in an airport recently and I picked up Jon Stewart’s latest book called Earth, and I highly recommend that you suggest this to your readers. It’s truthful, it’s wonderful, it’s a great gift for our children to read. Are you familiar with it at all?

TIS: I am, but honestly haven’t had a chance to read it.

MB: Oh you must! I was flying back from New York and I had a teacher sitting next to me who kept looking over my should, so I shared it with her and she thought it was incredible. It even has a photograph of a guy up in the North Pacific where all the garbage accumulates. I knew it was huge but it’s bigger than I’d ever imagined. It’s 650,000 square miles. Now don’t you think that’s new worthy?

TIS: Absolutely.

MB: Yeah, it also compares all the religions, what’s left on the planet from species to every possible aspect of humanity, and I feel compelled to recommend it to whoever I can. It’s full of truth and inspiration!  

TIS: Nice. I’m doing some Christmas shopping this evening so I’ll have to keep that in mind!

MB: Yes, it’d be a wonderful gift. We actually just sent out our gifts, which were walnuts. We grow them and we had a ton of them so we kept a couple hundred pounds for ourselves and we send the rest to our friends because they’re a healthy and delicious. The next time you need a nice energy treat try some fresh walnuts and grapes instead of pie or cake or fast food. It will give you energy and keep you going. When we were in Atlanta, GA at the Dragon*Con convention, it was my birthday. So the chef came out with a birthday cake for me and my wife went over to Lou (Ferrigno) with a piece and he put his hand up and in that Lou Ferrigno voice he said to her “It’s a lifestyle” (laughter), meaning no thank you to the white sugar, and he’s right.

And quickly there’s one last shout out I’d like to give to a place where I lived for many, many, many years, at a wolf sanctuary out in Southern California which is still there. It’s called Wolf Mountain Sanctuary and you can visit them at www.wolfmountain.com. It’s a non-profit organization, and we’ve had President Ford come and visit us, and two of the puppies were released in the Yellowstone reintroduction program. It’s a great website for people to expand their knowledge and get a little more understanding of the importance of habitat preservation.

The industrialists need to stop grinding up this planet. Shop local and eat organic. Whole Foods has a good business model. My point is that you can be successful and wealthy and have a good life without having a huge impact on other people’s lives, and species, and minds. We can be good stewards, and if you believe in God, I don’t care what buildings you’re worshipping under, but the bottom line is we’re all worshipping the same one, let’s celebrate that. We all came from somewhere and this is the only planet that we’re able to do anything on, so let’s stop trashing it!

TIS: Very well said. Thanks so much for your time. It’s been great talking to you.

MB: Oh, no problem. I could go on forever. And don’t forget that recipe I gave you for your cold (prior to the interview I mentioned to Michael I had just come from the Dr and was diagnosed with bronchitis, as to apologize if I coughed during the interview). Red pepper flakes, some ginger root (slice it really thin), some honey, maybe some fresh lemons and your favorite tea, let that puppy steep really good and it will really make you feel a lot better. A shout out to Sabu because he’s the one who introduced me to the recipe on set in Canada.  

TIS: Shout out to Sabu!

Visit The Below Zero Website Here

Visit The Cut Website Here

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Chris Grosso is a writer, public speaker, mental health youth group facilitator, and author with Simon & Schuster. He also writes for Revolver Magazine, Fangoria, and has spoken at a bunch of fancy-schmancy festivals and conferences (as well as even more events that were significantly less than fancy-schmancy). Chris's podcast, The Indie Spiritualist, is hosted on Ram Dass's Be Here Now Network.
  1. I appreciate the effort you’ve taken to post. Carry on the high quality work.

  2. Passing Thru says:

    Thank you for this wonderful interview of an interesting, complex soul. Came by this page while looking for info on MB beyond the horror angle. Happy to have found it here.