"Love what you do more than wanting to make money"
Michael Boston is a former wrestler who always wanted to become an actor. After being rejected and humiliating himself over and over in open auditions, he realized that to survive film industry, just like in wrestling, you have to be tough. And truly love what you do.
In February, Michael won Best Performance of Fest award for his lead role in The Guitar (which he also wrote, directed and produced!). The lead judge, Roy Zafrani, described his performance as "Incredible. Michael Boston hypnotizes the viewer as homeless Leo. He reminds us that anyone has a passion for something, and that homeless people are human beings with memories from a better past, talents and dreams".
In the following interview, Michael inspires us with his passion for storytelling and acting, admits that he was incredibly shy ("I still am!"), and reveals how he chooses the stories he works on ("It has to choke me up when I'm telling someone about it").
When the lead actor is also the director. Michael Boston in The Guitar
Michael! Congratulations on this fantastic performance. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, about your early wrestling days and how did you decide to become an actor?
Thank you, Actors Awards! I did wrestle in Oklahoma growing up. I love amateur wrestling. It instilled incredible discipline and perseverance in me.... and it really has never left. It is very much a loner sport where you are battling more of yourself and finding out who you are very much like acting. I always always always wanted to be an actor! I was incredibly shy, okay... I still am! But I quickly transitioned into acting once I realized my wrestling time was over. I remember going to open auditions in huge auditoriums and freezing, knees shaking and humiliating myself but after each failure, and three days of walking with my head down, I said to myself, look, you know you love this, you've been thru hell as a wrestler, losing early and often before some success happened, and this is your new journey.
Michael Boston in The Guitar
You appeared in many films and tv shows (Sonny Boy, China Beach, among them). Can you share some highlights of your career path? What were some of your favorite roles?
Sonny Boy was really my first huge acting role, and I was very ready for it. It was a very physical part but I identified with the abused, loner soul that he was. I grew up with that part, accepting the responsibility of that part in the film. It was a very controversial little film that came and went in a hurry but has since become a cult favorite. It was actually listed as a Top 10 film of the year back then by The Paper magazine. And Quentin Tarantino was one of our biggest fans. He screened it and invited me on stage with him a few years ago and we discussed the film in front of a packed audience. I'll always be proud of Sonny Boy.
Michael Boston in Sonny Boy (1989)
Alongside your narrative roles, you've done quite a few commercials! In fact, your first union gig was in a Chevy Truck commercial, how cool is that! You also did the role of a soldier stationed in Germany in the AT&T's "Mama's Boy" spot, directed by Leslie Dektor. Do you think acting in a commercial is in any way different than acting for theatre, films or television?
No, I don't think it's different at all for me, you are still playing a character. I was fortunate enough to do a lot of commercials about 30 of them and this kept me going as an actor. There was a stigma to doing commercials many years ago but that is totally gone now. A lot of A-list Leading Men have their own Whiskey or booze commercial now, right?
Little Boy Blue- written by Michael Boston
In 1997, you sold your first feature screenplay, Little Boy Blue, and the movie was released in 1998 starting Ryan Phillippe, Nastassja Kinski, John Savage and Emmy & Tony Award Winner Shirley Knight. Super impressive! Can you tell us about your creative writing process, and the million dollar question: How did you sell your script?
I had that story in my mind for years and years, and I knew all the characters very well. I've always been a writer, of sort sort, straight journalism and some short story so after being exposed to so many scripts, I decided it was time to write it. It was an amazing experience because I really got into a zone and it felt as if it really started writing itself. I set it up pretty well and it unfolded almost perfectly. Many people see the similarities between it and Sonny Boy, but it really stands on its own as a thriller or even a mystery. Maybe subconsciously some of Sonny Boy slipped in but that second act was pure madness and became ecstatic! I knew then that I really love being a writer, maybe the most. Believe it or not, I followed the general rule of writing 100 individual agent query letters. Only two responded! Met with the first, he wanted to rep me. A week later, we had an offer. The production company had nine films on its slate already, they pushed them all aside and made LBB their priority. On a side note, we had Angelina Jolie set to play the girlfriend, but after we got delayed, she had to move on to her next commitment.
As homeless Leo, in The Guitar
Who came up with your awesome nickname, Mini Thor, and how?
That's a silly name that got generated in acting classes, and strangers would make that comment in jest. I kinda like it better than one of the BeeGees.
Michael Boston and Elisabeth Granli in The Guitar
Let's talk about The Guitar, the wonderful indie short that you wrote, directed and starred in. How did you come up with the story, and why did you decide to tell it? Is this based on personal experiences?
I'm not a musician, but I had someone close to me die of a heroin addiction, and although, I never knew it at the time, it really impacted me. And I never knew they were on it. Addiction is addiction is addiction. Doesn't matter what it is. Some of the most beautiful, kindest people in the world have addictions but they are so unfairly stereotyped. We've had so many artists die from it, so thought I would go in that direction. The opioid/opiate issue is devastating right now. Four out of five opioid abusers go on to use heroin.
Michael Boston and Thaddeaus Ek in The Guitar
How did you prepare for your role as Leo? This was probably challenging...
I knew Leo was a good person, not a selfish monster that just needed his drugs. He has a history, and broken dreams, but he had too much pride to go ask for help. Maybe he was too ashamed as well, and I identify with this very much. He loved that guitar because it was the first symbol of success for him, he took pride in how he bought it on his own and it took him to great places. It literally became a part of him. I felt for Leo. I've seen people like him. It was very physical, I dropped a lot of weight, wanted skin hanging down from me. I was very dehydrated and around 135 pounds for that part. The asphalt was hot but that's real. Couldn't do it any other way.
Michael Boston and Elisabeth Granli in The Guitar
How did you recruit the rest of the cast and the crew, and who are some of the most crucial team members you couldn't have done this without?
This ensemble is a very serious group actors that bought into the story. I had worked with a few of them on DRESS REHEARSAL so had a lot of trust in them. John Haegele was a must, I think, as Aaron's father. And Thaddeaus Ek, just happened. Was quite impressed with his maturity. I think his attitude is tremendous and his ceiling is huge. Think he'll be a star. Has a great family behind him. Everyone came in through the audition process, for the most part.
Michael Boston and Tatiana Lamarre in The Guitar
What was the funniest moment on set?
Hah, had to be where I was directing and started to call action, and realized I was supposed to be under the sheet, deceased in the shot.
What did you learn from making your debut film as a director (Dress Rehearsal), and how did you use this know-how in The Guitar?
It gave me more confidence and it reinforced that what I can see in my head can be realized on film, though this was more simpler in a lot of ways. I respect film even more and realize how impactful it can be. Different cinematographers with different ways of doing things. It's important to let them be the amazing artists they are.
Directing Dress Rehearsal
How do you generally choose the stories you work on?
It has to move me. If I'm telling someone about it and it chokes me up a little, makes me pause, maybe others will feel the same. We're all human.
What are some projects you're currently working on?
A romantic comedy, as a short, and a love story, as a feature. Hoping I can pull off both.
Michael Boston in Dress Rehearsal
Is there anything you wish to add?
Love what you do more than wanting to make money, which will not happen with a short film. Believe in yourself.