Nov. 29, 2006: Part 1: Welcome to the Coffin Family
|This is it. The big day. Tonight I
will shoot my scene. Strangely, I don’t feel as nervous as
I expected. I think I am just numb. Like someone in shock.
I sleep most of the day. It’s going to be a long night. Bruna calls around noon, waking me up. She says the driver will pick me up at 5 p.m., then tells me to go back to sleep.
A couple hours later, I’m up and about. Three days into my trip, I still haven’t called or e-mailed anyone in America to let them know I’m OK. I can’t find a computer with Internet access. I cannot dial America from the hotel phone. I know the country code, 001, but there is a second code that I am missing. If only I could communicate with the hotel staff.
I spend several minutes playing charades with the concierge in the lobby, trying to find out where I can log online. (Two days later, I would discover multiple Internet cafés on Paulista Ave.) The concierge figures out my sign language and escorts me to a computer room. It is getting close to 5 p.m.
The concierge and I struggle 15 minutes trying to log on. The computer is stubborn. Finally, I gain access to the World Wide Web. I dash off a quick e-mail to my dad and a few friends, letting them know I’m OK. Now it is past 5 p.m. The driver will be here any minute.
I pace around the lobby, walk outside the hotel, walk back inside, pace some more. Where is the driver? Finally, I return to my room and call Bruna.
“You mean he’s not there yet?” she says, alarmed. “Don’t worry, we’ll get him there right away.”
A bad omen, I think. Things are already starting to go wrong, and I haven’t even arrived on the set yet.
The driver shows up 10 minutes later. I hop in and sit next to an elderly man. Is he involved with the film? It is the first time I’ve seen him. He seems detached, distant, as if he were a passenger the driver picked up off the street. The man speaks English, so we converse.
I explain that I am involved with Mojica’s film, and I am on my way to the set. I expect him to say, “So am I,” or, “That’s interesting.” Instead, he talks about how he doesn’t like horror movies. He prefers more sophisticated fare. He says some unkind things about Mojica’s work. I can sense my eyes growing bloodshot like Ze do Caixao.
Then he reveals his identity. He is the actor who will play the priest in the swamp scene! The character I am going to KILL!
I tell him that I am playing the young Ze do Caixao in that scene. He seems amazed. Obviously, he does not think I have the chops to do it.
OK, you asked for it. PADRE! I go into character and let him have it. AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS, WITH RAGING HELLFIRE, I ROAR:
“ME DE A MALDITA CRUZ, PADRE! PARA QUE EU POSSA CRUCIFICA-LO OUTRA VEZ!”
The aged actor looks like he is going to have a stroke. He crumples into a ball and presses his body against the window. The driver is startled, then laughs and beats his breast to demonstrate how his heart is pounding. I slip out of character and grin at the actor. I don’t remember what he said, but he was now convinced of my abilities. And more importantly, so was I.
We arrive at the studio. I tell Dennison about what happened in the car, but it gets lost in translation.
Before I know what is happening, the wardrobe people whisk me away. Of course, they kiss me first. Everybody here kisses when they meet. They give you a little hug and a kiss on both cheeks. I know this is common in Europe. It is also how they greet one another in Egypt. Strange that we are so impersonal in America, shaking hands while keeping our distance.
There is no time to lose. The wardrobe people get my clothes off quick and slip me into a newly purchased black suit. It fits my wee little body. These are actually pretty decent clothes. Too bad they will be soaked in swamp water.
One thing needs to change. The buttons are white. Ze cannot have white buttons! A wardrobe person whips out a bottle of smelly, glossy black paint and efficiently coats each button.
Now the makeup people hustle me into a seat. I have artists buzzing around me for at least 45 minutes. They shape my beard (which I have spent two months growing just for this night) to match Ze’s beard at the end of “This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse.” They add a unibrow and thick 5 O’Clock shadow. My plentiful skin blemishes are carefully erased, one at a time. Wow, my skin hasn’t looked this clear in years, if ever.
While the makeup girls scramble against the clock, the special effects makeup guy unveils a set of resin Ze do Caixao nails. He files each one to smooth the edges and contours the bottom ends to fit my real nails. Instead of spirit gum, they use a medical adhesive produced by Kryolan. They glue the nails to my fingers. At the same time, the face makeup is completed. I look in the mirror and see Ze do Caixao glaring back.
Mojica enters. I don’t know what he is saying, but he is obviously very pleased. I stand up and walk around, arching my eyebrows and glowering at everyone. The room is abuzz. People are impressed. Crew members from other parts of the studio come to the makeup room to see the result. It is a big moment.
The actor playing the priest appears in costume. Our characters confront for the first time. I point at him and say, “Deus nao existe! Deus nao existe!” The priest grumbles and says, “Don’t start with me!”
Bruna escorts me to a holding area where other cast members wait until they are called to the set. On the way, I see full-size dummies of the Universal Monsters – Frankenstein, Wolf Man and Dracula. They are for a Fun House scene. Seeing them makes me feel like old buddies are watching over me.
Wow, there are a lot of extras tonight. At least 20 people in period clothing are waiting to shoot the swamp scene. I see one of them is dressed in a police uniform. I suspect he is supposed to be Jece Valadao’s colonel character as a young man. That means they are going to use my idea!
This scene is a recreation of the climax of “This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse,” when a torch-wielding mob chases Ze into a swamp. A priest tells him to embrace the cross, but he refuses. Then the skeletons of his past victims bob to the surface. Ze has used this swamp as his dumping ground. Surrounded by the remnants of his carnage, he repents and asks for the cross, “The symbol of the Son.” Before the priest can give it to him, Ze sinks beneath the water and drowns.
The flashback sequence in “Encarnacao do Demonio” reveals that Ze did not drown. He rises from the swamp and kills the priest. I won’t give away too many details about exactly what he does. It would spoil the scene. I want you to be surprised!
The set is an impressive recreation of the one in “This Night.” It’s actually a little bigger and slicker-looking than the one in the original film. In fact, this whole film looks much bigger than its $1 million budget should allow. I am told the director of photography is considered the very best in Brazil. The production designer is at the top of his profession. The costumes are created by a famous fashion designer. This is a big movie. Probably the biggest film event in Brazil.
I am introduced to a magazine reporter who will interview me after the shoot. They tell me this is the top movie magazine in Brazil, so this interview is a big deal.
It starts raining – a problem that has plagued the shoot all week – so they wait to shoot the swamp scene later in the evening. Luckily, there is a sequence where it is supposed to be raining. They quickly set up for that scene, in which Ze meets a young girl who might be the “superior woman” he desires to bear his son. But two blind Macumba witches interrupt and argue with Ze.
About halfway through the scene, it stops raining. The crew instantly hook up big hoses and begin spraying water from above. Whatever happens, they are on top of it. These guys really hustle.
As I wait for my scene, I become the object of great attention. Everyone wants to take a photo with me. I don’t know how many photos I posed for. A dozen, maybe. This was the first time in 40 years that the character of “young Ze” has walked the earth. There was a feeling that something historic was taking place that rainy night.
Dennison takes me aside and reveals what I already suspected. They are going to use my idea and have Ze blind the young colonel during the flashback. He asks if I am OK with that. Of course, I am very OK with it.
Cro introduces me to his children. He is a proud papa with a dear family. Then one of his sisters arrives – Mariliz Marins, better known as “Lizvamp.”
Mariliz has created a Vampirella-like character who is supposed to be the offspring of Ze do Caixao and a gypsy vampire. She has a comic book, music CD, and a movie in the works. She is trying to establish herself as the second generation of Mojica’s horror dynasty. She is a very charismatic, charming woman.
“Welcome to the Coffin family,” Mariliz says, shaking my hand.
Mojica finishes his scene with the girl and the witches. He walks over to me. Two Ze’s standing side by side in full costume. The cameras start flashing. Mojica and I stand shoulder to shoulder in the Macumba witch’s lair, mugging for the photos. In a low voice, Mojica says, “Um, dois, tres, aaarrrgh.” He nods. I nod. Then he counts again.
We both growl at the top of our lungs, groping our taloned hands forward. Bulbs flash. He sustains his yell for a full minute. I am running out of breath, but I’m not going to quit before he does. Finally, he terminates his monster growl. We both smile and give each other a thumbs up. He gives me a pat and walks away.
On the set, the villagers are gathered around the swamp. Their torches are lit. The priest ventures into the water, up to his ankles. The priest and policeman scan the water’s surface. Is Ze dead?
I watch the impressive scene on the monitor, sitting among Cro, his kids, Mario and Lizvamp. If the entire movie is as suspenseful as this shot, they will really have a winner.
Then Dennison runs up to me.