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‘Cheap Thrills’ Star Pat Healy On How to Make It As An Actor On Your Own Terms

'Cheap Thrills' Star Pat Healy On How to Make It As An Actor On Your Own Terms

There’s a scene in “Cheap
Thrills,” a new dark comedy from first time director E.L. Katz, where Pat
Healy’s character Craig considers chopping off his pinky for $15,000.

That morning, Craig had been
laid off from his job and discovered an eviction notice posted on the door of the
apartment that he shares with his wife and baby. While commiserating at a bar
with his high school friend Vince (Ethan Embry), the duo is approached by a
wealthy couple (David Koechner and Sara Paxton) that offer them cash in exchange
for outlandish deeds. From there the film delves into areas of depravity that
have lead to it being described as, “‘The Hangover’ taken to an absurdly
nihilistic degree.” It asks, in its own corrupted way, how far you would
go for financial security. 

“It’s analogous to
anybody in any walk of life,” Healy said of the cash-for-crazy scenario.
“It’s analogous to my life. Unfortunately we have to chose between
happiness and creativity and commerce, when those things should go
together.”

Thankfully, Healy doesn’t
have to cut off any appendages to earn a living, but he’s no stranger to
balancing his creative endeavors with economic stability. For years he’s
supplemented his leading roles in independent films with small, bit parts in
larger movies that offer a bigger paycheck. 

“It’s not exactly
financially rewarding yet,” Healy said of his busy year. “I’m putting
a lot of the time in, and you know I’m not complaining. I’ve been given great
opportunities to do things I haven’t before and it’s exciting. But I must say
it’s a little more difficult to make a living doing this. “

Healy has been seen
alongside Julianne Moore in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia,” has
acted for Michael Bay in “Pearl Harbor,” with Christian Bale in
“Rescue Dawn, and across a table from Brad Pitt in “The Assassination
of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” But his lead roles in smaller,
independent films have been way more satisfying.

“They’re more
rewarding,” Healy said. “I get to really spread my wings and show
what I can do. I enjoy playing a character from A to Z. They sort of hand the
baton over to me to lead the show.”

Among those more substantial
roles has been the spectacularly creepy Officer Daniels in Craig Zobel’s
disturbing drama “Compliance.” Prior to that he played a lovesick
ghost hunter in Ti West’s “The Innkeepers.” Both of those projects,
as well as the down-on-his-luck Craig in “Cheap Thrills” have allowed
Healy to build a character from the ground up, a method he says he’s held on to
since his training in the theater.

“Deep script analysis
and using your imagination, that’s the homework you do before you show up on
set,” he said. “It’s that stuff that’s sort of part of my DNA.”

Healy figured out that he
wanted to be an actor when he was 12 years old and his mother took him to see
“The Pope of Greenwich Village” with Mickey Rourke.

“I was like, that’s
what I want to be,” he said. “This very serious, brooding
actor.”

From that point on, Healy
focused his energy on becoming the next Robert De Niro or Marlon Brando. He
acted all throughout high school and into college at Illinois State University.
He then did an internship at the Steppenwolf Theater Company where he admired the
work of John Malkovich, whom Healy calls a big inspiration.

For much of his career,
Healy has pounded the pavement in Los Angeles, playing one or two episode
characters in many a television procedural and hitting up auditions during
pilot season. It was only when he started writing that he found himself in a position
where he could actually afford to act. Writing his own screenplays lead to
acceptance into the Writer’s Guild, which then lead to multiple jobs as a
writer-for-hire.

“It wasn’t a conscious
decision but it afforded me the ability to go do movie for three weeks or a
month, even though it doesn’t pay anything because I’m making money with my
writing,” Healy said. “And it just so happened that those were the
movies where I had a more significant role and they all happened to be good.
And the right people saw them.”

Like any actor, Healy says
he got into the business with hopes of fame and fortune, but as the realities
of the business have set in, he’s found that there’s not only one definition of
success.

“We [actors] get into
this profession for one reason or another because we don’t feel like we got the
love that we needed as kids and some people never grow out of that,” he
said. “But I had to sort of grow up as a person and figure out that what
was important to me was the work and it’s also what’s enjoyable to me now. I
had to do years and years of psychoanalysis to get to the point where I’m doing
it for the love of doing it.”

So does he long for the
careers of Christian Bale or Brad Pitt, his co-stars in those bigger films?

“You know I kind of
feel like I have the career I would want to have now, but it didn’t go down the
way that I thought it would,” he said, laughing. “There were all
these digressions, and it didn’t happen in a direct fashion but yet I sort of
ended up in the place where I wanted to be. I just want to be good at what I do
and want to make a living at it. I don’t want to have a certain level of fame where
I can’t lead a normal life.”

Healy’s plan appears to be
working. Next up he had a smaller role in the Kevin Costner project “Draft
Day” followed by a few more indies down the road. He’s even working on a
screenplay with “Cheap Thrills” director E.L. Katz. But that doesn’t
mean the big studio fare can ignore this guy for much longer. 

“Look I’d love to cross
over and do bigger roles in bigger movies,” he said.  “And they certainly pay better!”

“Cheap Thrills” is
available on VOD and in limited theaters Friday, March 21.

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