Bill Oberst Jr. brings back a familiar character in the Stressed to Kill sequel, Painkiller.
In Painkiller, Bill Johnson (Oberst Jr.) has suffered the kind of loss that no parent should ever have to; watching his daughter fall victim to the opioid epidemic, which too long went unnoticed. Conversely, Dr. Alan Rhodes (Pare), has been leading a lavish lifestyle, thanks to the profits he’s been making from his prescription business. Seeing that no one is being held accountable, Bill sets out on a campaign targeting those made rich by the suffering of so many. Teaming up with a rogue cop, they set out to dismantle this network of doctors and pharmaceutical executives that continue to devastate families across the country.
Directed by Mark Savage, Painkiller is a gritty thriller that takes a sharp look at those behind a crisis plaguing the United States. Written by Savage and Tom Parnell, the story is drawn from the plight of millions of Americans and is produced with the raw emotions of their suffering. Co-stars include Pacey Liz Walker (The Rosa Parks Story) & Alexander Pennecke (‘Blacklist’). The film was produced by Savage with Parnell also acting as Executive Producer, and in a pivotal role as a well-intentioned doctor.
Check out my Q & A with Bill!
What drew you to come back and be a part of Painkiller?
Bill: There were two things, well people. One was Mark Savage, who’s one of my directorial deities. Anything that Mark is involved in, I want to be a part of. The second is Tom Parnell, who co-wrote the movie, co stars in it, and he’s the executive producer. He had lost his son to an accidental opioid overdose a couple of years beforehand and that’s what this film was about. It was his cinematic attempt to deal with his grief. So the combination of those two, made me really want to be a part of it, because as a horror actor and I’m proud to be a horror actor, I’m not always involved in things that deal with a pressing social problem and so this was an opportunity to do that and I hoped to help these two friends out as well,
Because this was so personal for Tom, what was it like working on this project?
Bill: Tom didn’t ask me to be careful but I wanted to be really careful. I’m in the habit of asking for cuts in dialogues, I’m very big on that. And generally, if I have a paragraph, I’ll say ‘can we do this with a sentence? Even better, can we do this with just a look?’ I’m not about exposition at all, but in this case, I knew where all of this was coming from and I knew that every word mattered to Tom. So I didn’t ask for any cuts and I worked hard on getting the dialogue, a lot of which was in cadences that are fast for me, the radio stuff, much faster delivery than I usually do but I wanted to be exactly as written and as Tom intended, because I felt an emotional responsibility.
I’m assuming that you have a process of getting into character, and because of the subject matter, did you deviate from that process at all for this character?
Bill: No, the prequel to this, where I played the same character, was Stressed to Kill and in that case, my character kills people because the blood pressure is high. So for this, which is a little more serious, it was very easy for me because the character’s motivation is revenge. And I don’t want to be familiar with that, personally, but I am quite familiar with it. My first instinct when I feel wronged or threatened is never love, I want it to be love, badly and by the grace of God, I hope I get to love. But my very first thought is, if you cut me off in traffic, I hope the car explodes. And I’m ashamed of that. But it is a default setting and this case, I just let the default setting go and lived as I would live if I didn’t have any thoughts of grace, or love.
Bill’s revenge involves a lot of stunts, do you do your own stunts?
Bill: I did them. I don’t like stunt people and I fight it when I’m asked to have a stunt person. In Criminal Minds, I was one of the killers and the character had to get out of the pond and grab one of the main cast members. Because the bacterial level in the pond was slightly above what they would allow a SAG actor to do, they got a body double who looked like me to do it. I was really upset, and I told the director that I wanted to do it. With independent films usually I win the argument so yes, I got to do everything.
What would you say was your favorite scene to shoot?
Bill: The scene with the dog. We laughed so much at the dog. Not to spoil anything, but the fact that the dog so easily just walked away with a new owner. It was also fun because I get to shoot the guy in the knees, usually it’s a headshot or a gut shot. And I never shot anybody in the knee before and so we had to work out if you were actually shot of the kneecaps, how would you collapse and roll… But animals always get applause. I did 1000 Ways to Die, and I died three times. One of the ways was when a snake pulled the trigger on my rifle while I was taking a leak and shot me. The snake, as a last shot, was crawling across my face, and the damn snake got applause. Animals always get applause and this dog was no exception.
What was the most difficult scene to shoot?
Bill: Holding the gentleman’s face under the water for an extended period of time so his panic reaction can be captured with the GoPro. He was uncomfortable because I could feel his body pushing and kicking against me and you could feel his body tense, and he was near the point of not being able to take it but he really wanted the shot to look good. But it was a dance because I told him if he absolutely needed to come up, to push his knee up on me, and I could feel his knee start to touch me but not quite. But every moment counts and you don’t want to blow the shot, so he was a real trooper but it was very hard to do that, because I was worried.
Is there anything else that you’d like to add about Painkiller?
Bill: I would like for people to watch the movie and realize that not everyone knows about the opioid crisis, we aren’t all aware of the same facts. And so when you hear my character say things on his radio show that you rake it in and realize that it’s important information to get out there and not everybody knows that.