Interview With Dan Tursi (2000)
the first minutes of Sleepaway Camp, John Baker's accidental death help
set off the chain of events in Peter/Angela's life, and his homosexual encounter
with a man named Lenny proved to be one of the most subtextually surreal
flashbacks in the film. This kindly father may have eaten a speedboat on
film, but Dan Tursi the person still drifts afloat today. In early July
2000 thanks to Ryan I got to quiz
Dan's on all things Sleepaway:
On getting the role:
...I was living in New York, and my roommate
was going to NYU Film School... and was a classmate of Robert... they
always needed actors for their [short] films and that's how it started...
I worked in about three of his films... he liked my work and when the
opportunity for Sleepaway came up, he gave me an audition and I got the
On playing John:
From an acting standpoint, I tried to
balance the gay aspect with his being a father and these two completely
different sides to his life... I really concentrated on the relationship
and how he feels about his children... making them the most important
thing is his life.
On adjusting his towel head-rest:
I don't remember that...? I think that
was a bit of action Robert and I came up with.
On being in the water:
It was fucking cold... It was late September
in upstate NY... and that lake had to be no more than 50 degrees... and
we were in the water for each take for quite a long time... especially
when I did my stunt... the setup took a really long time.
On noticing the oncoming danger:
I just pretended a boat was heading our
way... and was going to hit us.
On the crash-zoom into his reaction:
That was one of my big moments... practiced
getting that look many times... ever since I got the script... at the
time I was studying at Strasberg and heavily into the method... so the
techniques I used were related to that.
On getting a boat shot over his head:
I did the stunt... Robert always knew
me as a person who would do whatever it takes to get the film made...
so I kind of lobbied to do it... I also lobbied to get extra pay for it
also... but that never happened... It was very dangerous actually... at
the time I didn't realize how much... the stunt coordinator seemed like
he knew what he was doing but they were still going to use explosives
to shoot this boat over my face... there was eighteen inches clearance...
so it was pretty hairy... especially when it didn't work right on the
pre-test. And the key to getting the shot was not ducking at all... which
as it turned out worked rather well...
On floating face down on the water:
Sorry to say that wasn't my body... although
I would have done it better.
On Peter and Angela watching him being
gay with Lenny:
They didn't know the children were watching
from what I can remember.
On being gay with Lenny:
It wasn't awkward... James Paradise and
I, really worked on that scene... and played it like a love scene no matter
what the gender... any uncomfortableness was planned to some degree because
of where we decided their relationship was at the time...
On the weird Martha/Lenny theory:
That I haven't thought about.
On acting in Robert Hiltzik's college
It was a great experience from an acting
standpoint... Sleepaway was nothing like his films... sorry to say I can
hardly remember the ones we shot...
On Robert Hiltzik directing Sleepaway
Robert was very easy to work with....
he knew what he wanted... and considering the budget and time constraints
and all the other problems that creep up on a set... he always made sure
his actors came first...
On the complete shoot:
I was there for three days.
On acting after Sleepaway Camp:
At the time it was my first feature film
and I tried to parlay that into a broader profile as an actor. It was
a good credit on my resume.
I live in LA. I own a Production company
called Snow Leopard Productions, I'm also a writer... have written many
scripts... some have been optioned... some have gotten close to getting
made. We're playing the game of Hollywood... I switched over from acting
into producing and writing around 1990.