Before, during and after with Matt Riddlehoover

Nashville’s own Matt Riddlehoover is the star of acclaimed filmmaker Steve Balderson’s new cult smash “Watch Out.” I was fortunate enough to speak with Riddlehoover before, during and after the shooting of the film.

“Watch Out” is essentially about the ultimate narcissist who falls in love with a doll that resembles him, and eventually goes on a quest to assassinate the beloved Britney Spears.The film has garnered much attention and is based on the best-selling novel of the same name written by Joseph Suglia.

Here’s what Riddlehoover had to say before the shooting of the film.

Rocco: Hey, Matt. So, wow, how does it feel to have been selected to play the leading role in "Watch Out?"

Riddlehoover: I'd tell you, Tommy, but you wouldn't be able to publish it. (grins)

(Rocco) Well how exactly did it all go down? Did you already know Balderson, or had he seen you in "To a Tee" or "Bookends?"

(Riddlehoover) Yeah, Steve and I were pretty friendly already. He found me on MySpace last year. He sent me a nice little note that left me hanging, so I hopped on his profile and immediately thought: who is this strange filmmaker from Kansas wanting to be my friend? Then I saw his clips and the trailer for “Firecracker” and became enamored with interest. We started talking on the phone a lot about our experiences as filmmakers and just really hit it off. And then in early January, actually it was just after new year's, Steve sent out an email to some friends, announcing his new project. And as soon as I saw Joseph [Suglia]’s name attached and the title and the character, I remembered knowing exactly what this was, what the book was and what it was about and that I'd heard it was extremely controversial and smartly written and dark and messy and I just felt instantly attracted to the whole idea of Steve adapting it. So, I replied to Steve’s message, must’ve been minutes later, changing the subject line to: I am Jonathan Barrows.

(Rocco) No audition?

(Riddlehoover) Nope, well, not really. He called me the next day and was all manic: Are you sure, are you sure you want to do this? I mean, we’re talking semen here! (laughs) And I said, absolutely! But it wasn't as cut and dry as that. I had to keep at it. It took some convincing. I don't think Steve ever really acknowledged I had the part until he sent me the press release stating so. (laughs) I was a little uneasy until that happened. But, you know, it also kind of helped that Joseph, the author of the book, kept telling me: you were born to play this!

(Rocco) Tell me a little bit about the character.

(Riddlehoover) Jonathan Barrows. He’s it. He’s very self-sufficient. He doesn’t really need anybody else. Except to have a job, he needs an employer. But at the end of the day, all he needs are his thoughts and his hand. (lifts eyebrows rhythmically) Now if only the world wouldn't keep getting in his way...

(Rocco) I understand that Balderson has in the past, as well as in this script, written some pretty explicit scenes. So do you have any nude scenes?

(Riddlehoover) You know, I do. A lot, actually. There’s no way around it. If Steve got me a body double, I probably wouldn’t end up on-screen very much or at all. (laughs)

(Rocco) I know you have a lot of film experience, having written, directed and starred in your own films. How does this film differ from the type of work you're used to, and do you think it will be more of a challenge having someone else direct you as opposed to directing yourself?

(Riddlehoover) Oh, man, I can’t wait. I think I’m going to have a blast. This’ll definitely be unlike anything I’ve done before. I mean, going away, going to Kansas, someplace I’ve never been, for a month? And I’ll just be acting? I don’t have to worry about anything else on set? Are you kidding? I can’t wait!

(Rocco) What kind of stepping stone do you think this will be? I mean, having worked with talents like Margaret Cho and Ron Jeremy, Balderson is a pretty big name in the independent film world. Where do you think you'll go from here?

(Riddlehoover) I don't know. But wherever I go, they better allow pets.

A good amount of time passed so I decided to contact Matt while he was on the set of “Watch Out” to see how things were going…

(Rocco) Hey Matt, it's been a while since we last spoke. I understand that you are now in production of "Watch Out?" How's it going so far?
(Riddlehoover) We're exhausted. We've been working nonstop. No time for questions.

(I decided to proceed anyway.)
(Rocco) Tell me what it’s like working with Steve Balderson. What do you think of his approach to the story and his style of directing?
(Riddlehoover) Well, lets just say after shooting for five hours (of me nude, no less - which I think was a little bit excessive), I believe him to be a perfectionist, but also very difficult. All in all, I'm very happy to be here!
(Rocco) I know you've done a lot of writing, directing, and acting in the past. How does it feel simply being the star, only focusing on getting into character while on the set?

(Riddlehoover) You see, Tommy, after my trailer broke down, I've had to do my own make-up (because Steve also fired the make-up artist for eating all of the homemade salsa) and I've been rather shiny on set lately should we say - much to Steve's dismay. But it's not my fault, it could happen to anyone.
(Rocco) I know it is still pretty early in production, but have there been any stumbling blocks or difficulties so far?

(Riddlehoover) Well, there was this bigot at the local Sonic, but I digress.
(Rocco) I know you're shooting on location in Kansas. What part? Is it a rural area? Any idea why Steve chose to shoot it there? Is it simply because he's from there?
(Riddlehoover) Yes.
(Rocco) Tell me a little more about the character you're playing. How have you prepared for this role?
(Riddlehoover) I spent a three day weekend staring into a three quarter length mirror...honing in on my newfound appreciation for my sexy bod. And I've also been learning how to treat all those stupid people the way they should be treated - poorly.
(Rocco) What about the other actors on the set? Some of them are pretty big names. How does it feel to be working with them?
(Riddlehoover) But, Tommy, Peter only has five letters in his name.
(Rocco) Steve is acclaimed as a take-no-prisoners auteur. Do you foresee yourself working with him again in the future?
(Riddlehoover) Of course! But, it'd have to be a part where I'm actually wearing clothing.
(Rocco) Anything else you'd like to add? Anything juicy the fans would love to hear?
(Riddlehoover) In one of the more explicit scenes, we ran out of margarine. Well, off to fly a kite!
(Rocco) Okay, I'll let you get back to your hard work. I'll catch up with you after you're done shooting. Talk to you soon, and break a leg! 

After a grueling few weeks on the set Matt was finally able to speak with me again to finish the interview. Back from Kansas, he was able to answer some more questions about his experience on the set and what it was like to work with the acclaimed director.

(Rocco) So Matt, shooting is over with, yes? How do you think the film will turn out?

(Riddlehoover) It might be the best film you'll ever see.

(Rocco) Any idea how long post-production will take?

(Riddlehoover) No.
(Rocco) Has Balderson mentioned anything about the release of the film? If so, is there some kind of timeline?

(Riddlehoover) Either fall, winter or this time next year.

(Rocco) Let's talk about your experience on the set. Did you make any good friends that you would work with again? What about friends that you would just hang out with? I know film sets can be pretty stressful, but did you bond with anyone in particular?

(Riddlehoover) It was like summer camp, only with people who were legal. If you know what I mean.
(Rocco) I asked you this a while back, but I think it would be more appropriate to ask now...Do you foresee yourself working with Balderson again in the future? If so, have you guys talked about anything in particular?

(Riddlehoover) Yes, we're talking about an erotic science fiction epic and a gritty gay western.
(Rocco) What's next on your to-do list in terms of film? I remember you mentioning to me many months ago that you were planning on shooting a new film. Do you mind telling us a little bit about the story line? I think the idea is brilliant!

(Riddlehoover) Thanks! It's actually a collection of twelve short stories, twelve genres films - the twelve months of the year. I think we talked back when it was originally just one short. Now that short is among many other shorts. (laughs) So, now, in one of the segments, a happily married Republican woman wakes to find she has a penis. Wackiness ensues.
(Rocco) Any final comments about the overall experience on the set of "Watch Out"?

(Riddlehoover) It was fabulous.

(Rocco) Okay, well, thanks so much for sharing, Matt. I can't wait to see "Watch Out," and I also anticipate seeing you in many more films to come. Talk to you soon.

(Riddlehoover) Thanks!

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for “Watch Out,” which should be available early next year or before. Not only is the novel spectacular, the director and talent wonderfully off-beat, but the story itself paves the way to a lot of laughs, cringes, and ultimately one great movie night with your friends.

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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