Many know Marshal Hilton as Les Fortunes from the Fox Kids series Beetleborgs. Horror fans know him from movies like The Raking and I Am Alone. With over 60 movies to his credit, accomplished musician, actor, and producer Marshal Hilton has been creating art for nearly his entire life. This reporter had the pleasure of talking with Marshal Hilton about his new film, Primal Rage, and the artist provided some unique insight into the new movie, his past creations, and where he draws inspiration from for his characters. Marshal spoke with humor, passion, wisdom, and most of all, sincerity.
Carter Lee: “Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. I’ve really been looking forward to this. You’ve been popping in and out of my life on-screen since the mid-90s with Beetleborgs.”
Marshal Hilton: “If you were watching Beetleborgs back then, you were at the very outer fringes of the demo.”
CL: “I’m sure. I was graduating high school, or I had already graduated. It’s all a bit fuzzy now.”
MH: “Oh dude, you were way in nerdville then.”
CL: “Oh yeah, I was a nerd before that was a cool thing. The fandom of that show is still going strong.”
MH: “I go to Power Morphicon, you know, they give you a table and you sign s**t for people. I was really surprised; guys like you will walk up to these tables, and they will bring their kids, who are like 7, 8, or whatever. So, you have nerd and kid-nerd. And the dad will be standing there looking at you with this familiarity on his face, and his kids are saying, ‘Hey, do you remember that episode when the Magnavores came into the room and…’ They start rattling off all this s**t. I remember looking at this kid and asking, ‘How do you know all this? You weren’t even alive when we made this show.’ And the kid says, ‘Netflix.’
“This was seven or eight years ago. I remember thinking, holy s**t, they’re playing that show and that shows got legs. It’s really funny. It’s really cool. It happens to me every time. The dad standing there with a smile on his face, ‘that’s my boy.'”
CL: “Like he just watched his son score a touchdown at a big game.”
MH: “It’s exactly like that. F**k me, man. This is just too wild.”
CL: “That’s got to be pretty cool though. You helped create something that has staying power to resonate with a whole new generation.”
MH: “It is cool, in that way. When you’re in it, you don’t really think like that. I think that when you’re in the process of working, which is trying to carve your way through all this bulls**t, you don’t really think about that kind of stuff. I don’t, because what happens is you end up focusing on that — talking about things having legs, or ‘this could be the one’ — you end up being mired on the end game, rather than in the game. You can’t think about what it’s going to be like to win, you have to win. And in order to win, you have to play the game that’s in front of you.”
By the time Hilton co-starred in Beetleborgs, he had already starred in over 10 independent movies. But before he was an actor, Marshal Hilton was an accomplished musician. The multi-talented artist explained how he transcended from one form of art to another.
MH: “For my first professional gig in the entertainment business, I played drums on a record when I was in the seventh or eighth grade. I was really good. You know, I was one of those little, kind of, virtuoso kids that was the best drummer in the band. I would always play the drum set at the Spring Concert and all that kind of s**t. That was always a part of me until high school, and I discovered surfing, skateboarding, and girls. I wandered off a little bit.
“I was ADD, they called it hyperactive back then, so things that were flowing and constantly in motion captured my attention. I could not sit down to do math for the life of me. My brain doesn’t work that way. I got out of school and I was playing rock and roll during the late ’70s and early ’80s. Going up to Canada and Alaska and playing cover rock. I stopped and went back to college in Santa Barbara, and there I majored in music and theatre for three years. And then something clicked, and I said, ‘You know, I need to change my major. I need to be able to take care of myself.’ I switched to marketing and advertising.
“I ended up in San Francisco at the bay. It was really an amazing experience. I had never spent any time there. I got up there and walked straight to the corner of Haight and Ashbury. Haight-Ashbury was the ’60s man, that’s Jefferson Starship, you know, Jimi Hendrix. I stayed up there for about six years, and while I was working on my school stuff, I stumbled into an acting workshop ran by Jean Shelton. She had the Jean Shelton Actors Lab. She was old-school New York. She grew up with Stella Adler, knew Strasburg, and the whole New York Playhouse West stuff. And she brought that sensibility to San Francisco, and it was just in-your-face, East Coast-style, method theatre. And I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing.’
“And that, kind of, started to turn on the lightbulb for me. I knew I would probably be moving back to L.A., where I’m from, and continue with my storytelling. I was like thirtysomething when that happened. I lived a lot of life and experienced a lot of stuff. I moved back in ’91 or ’92 and just started working again. I’ve always, kind of, been in the creative world in some capacity. It fits me. It’s what I do, and I can’t stop doing it.”
CL: “And you have been making a ton of movies, and I’m a fan of many of them. I love the Bunnyman series because I’m just a nerd for horror like that.”
MH: “And I thought so highly of you before you said that, oh God.”
CL: “Well you shouldn’t, because I also saw The Raking which I also enjoyed.”
MH: “Oh you met old James, the emotionally-destroyed hunter. I actually won an award for that film. When I found out I was like, ‘What?! Where in the hell did that come from?'”
CL: “Nice! Who gave you that award?”
MH: “It was a festival here in L.A. and it was, you know, Outstanding Performance blah-blah-blah whatever. It’s a little paper you get that you can put on the wall if you like that. I don’t. I put mine in a box. But that was one of those characters that you read the screenplay and go, ‘Oh, that guy. I like that guy. I haven’t done that guy yet.’ Certain ones just come off the page. You see your menu here. I like building those types of characters. He’s not far from B.D. in Primal Rage.”
Primal Rage is one of the most highly-anticipated horror movies of 2018. The action-horror flick will have a special one-night showing on Tuesday, February 27, 2018. The film marks the feature-length directorial debut for longtime special effects artist Patrick Magee (AVP: Alien vs. Predator, Spider-Man). Thus far, the film has received rave reviews from the critics, and horror fans are anxiously awaiting the debut of this 2018 monster flick.
CL: “Let’s talk about Primal Rage. I was pleasantly surprised by that movie. You never know what you’re going to get with a Bigfoot film, but most likely it’s not going to be good. But this was so good, and the Bigfoot was very detailed.”
MH: “I’m glad you liked it. There’s a lot of passion in that movie. I think one of the hurdles it has to try to get past is, a Bigfoot film. Right out of the box you’re like, ‘Oh, a Bigfoot film. Another one.’ You know, that kind of mentality, that psychology, that a lot of people have because there’s been so many. And from my understanding, a lot of bad ones. But this was presenting it in a different light. As far as the detail, yeah, it’s spectacular.
“I met Pat at his studio. I walked in the door and right in front of me is the original Predator mold. And you just go, ‘Oh my God.’ And then there’s all these creations in the studio hanging from the ceiling right down on your face. These monsters, and werewolves, and frigging spiders. Just all this crazy s**t that he’s done. And it just hits you in the face. It’s kind of like pornography, you know it when you see it.
“So, he’s showing me this Bigfoot concept stuff, and he shows me the suits, and he shows me that the hands and the fingers — the pads have fingerprints! Nobody’s ever going to see that in the movie, but the actors are going to know its there and that’s what he does. His detail is spectacular. And they made that suit by hand. It took them three years to make it. There were two bodies, and there were three heads that were animatronics. The detail was just off the charts. I just turned to him and said, ‘I’m in man.’ I hadn’t even read it yet. But with the detail, and I’m being shipped to the woods in Oregon?! F**k yeah, let’s go!
“Here’s a fun fact: when I met Patrick for the first meeting, he was in a chair and he never got up. So, when I met him again and he answered the door, Patrick’s six-ten. He is Bigfoot in the movie. So, he’d be out there filming early in the morning, and we would come in at nine or so, and he wouldn’t take the suit off because it was a pain in the a**. So, he’d be directing you without his Bigfoot head. He looked like a big furry football player with a bald head. It was really funny at first, but everyone got used to it.”
CL: “There’s not a lot of people who can say they were directed by Bigfoot.”
MH: “I shot Bigfoot. There’s not a lot of people who can say they shot Bigfoot. I shot Bigfoot today, what did you do?”
CL: “What I liked about your character is that you give him a darkness, but he isn’t necessarily a bad guy. I felt like B.D. had depth because of the subtle nuances you gave him. Tell me a little bit about B.D.”
MH: “Interesting you would notice that. B.D. shows some darkness from time to time, but you weren’t really sure. Like, he had the capacity to potentially go dark. There’s a couple moments in there where he could go dark. B.D.’s that classic guy that’s the big fish in the little pond. Patrick and I talked about it a little bit because there wasn’t a lot on him. He’s kind of an enigma. He’s obviously the mouthpiece. He’s the alpha. He’s the blowhard.”
CL: “I notice you often portray characters that have a darker side to them. Characters that carry deep emotions from going through real-life s**t.”
MH: “I think that actors bring their history with them, their life experiences, their emotional content, and how they view the world. We’re all products of our environment, and we become these functioning things in the world. But we’re not pristine and pure. We’re a collection of experiences.
“Some people, which I envy tremendously, wake up and they’re just happy people. And they’re genuinely at peace, and they accept, and they’re just happy people and they go through life like that. I’m not one of those guys, per se. I’ve got emotional experiences from childhood, from growing up, and other things that are not necessarily as pleasant, and beautiful, and blissful as others.
“We are who we are. As an actor, you have to try and take a character off a page, and you have to give him some sense of organic life. And my organics are a little darker, a little harder, a little more challenged, and a little more emotionally damaged. So, rather than deny that and medicate that—because I already went through that stage in my life — I decided that since this is my condition, rather than maybe heal it completely in therapy, use those things in the work I do. When I see characters like that, it’s very easy for me to bring that spirit and that edge to them because that’s who I am organically.
“Casting directors and people in the creative world, I think they sense your essence, you know, and they’re usually pretty good at that kind of stuff. So, I tend to get those types of characters. You’re not going to see me in a cardigan sweater driving a minivan with a trophy wife, a bunch of screaming kids, and a dog. It doesn’t fit my thing. So, I just get those darker guys and seem to be able to find them.
“I don’t think creatives are an endless reservoir, especially for acting. There are certain events and moments in your life that you might want to save that, and not explore it. Because sometimes I think through exploring it, sometimes you heal it. And then you can’t use it. I mean, I have killed my dog so many time in my imaginations, to harness that grief that might be needed for the character, and you can only do that so many times before it doesn’t work anymore.”
CL: “I think that the fact you intentionally don’t heal certain things from your past reflects on your dedication as an artist, and the dedication you have to your craft.”
MH: “It might not be the healthiest way to live, I guess. I mean look, I’m 50, I’m not married, and I don’t have kids. There’s a lot going on there, for whatever reason. But I think, as I’ve gotten older, there’s more acceptance in that this is the way it is. I’m functioning. I’m cool, you know, and I figure I might as well be able to use it for something creative. I can’t imagine being able to create anything and not have it come through your lens. I mean, if you think about it, David Lynch must have an amazing set of lenses. What does he have that he’s looking through? I think what happened is he realized one day, ‘These lenses make me some money. Do I really want to f**k with these lenses?’
“Do I really want to change that? Because I’m functioning. I seem to be okay, to a degree. You know, I’m not butchering animals out there. I’m not an idiot. I think I’m getting to a point where I feel okay with a lot of that stuff from my past. I don’t feel as damaged. But I still have to hold back some in reserve. I don’t think we’re endless tanks of creativity. I think eventually, sometimes, you run out. Robin Williams, in my mind, is a perfect example of that. That guy’s flame burned as hot as the sun for 25 or 30 years. I just feel like he got to appoint where it just, kind of, ran out. It just went away. And when it goes, do you have anything left?”
In closing, per his usual, Hilton shared wise words on creating balance in your life.
“If everything that you are about from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep is about this, I don’t think that’s balanced. And I think that’s a life wasted if your whole life is just this. There must be something else because this doesn’t last. For all I know Primal Rage will be the last movie I ever worked on. So, I’ve got my hands in a lot of different things right now. You at least have to get ready for that time when you say, ‘Okay, it’s time.'”
With a few other films in post-production, thankfully for his fans, it doesn’t look like “that time” is coming anytime soon for Marshal. In addition to Primal Rage, Marshal Hilton has three other movies in the works: Blood Angel, Astro, and The Debt Collector. You can keep up with all his work through his official website or by following him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.