I remember back in the day, when we still had these pirate DVD’s being sold all over the place, I bought myself this self-made “creature set”, with 5-6 movies. And all of them were about “man being mixed with something, and as a result a monster comes out” stories.
Two of them I remember vividly, one was “Shark Man”, and the other was “Mosquito Man” (or Mansquito), where a man turns into a giant killing insect (we did have Fly, didn’t we?).
Anyway, “Mosquito Man” did stick with me, because I thought the special effects there were really cool, and the title character (Ray Erickson, a convict turns into a mosquito) seemed more interesting to me than the one we had in “Fly” (a scientist turns into a giant fly).
Anyway, I watched the film, and it was cool (I do believe, that if “Mansquito” was made back in the end of the 80s, it would have been a cult by now, even better than “Blue Monkey”).
Now, a couple of days ago, this movie came up to me again, and I decided to learn more about the guy, who played Ray Erickson (aka the Mosquito Man), and I did. Turns out he (Matt Jordon) is a martial arts expert (and some of his pictures actually remind me of young Chuck Norris), studied SFX, and… well, he agreed to do an interview with me. And, yes, you can read it below.
First of all, Matt, please tell us, how you got involved into Martial Arts? According to the info online, you were a member of the Team USA, in the Shotokan Karate style of fighting…
I got into martial arts when I was 17 during the later years of high school. It was a late start compared with those kids that begin at four and five, but for me it was perfect because I was ready to appreciate it and take it seriously. I began fooling around with Kung Fu at the local YMCA, but I ultimatly found my home training in Shotokan Karate under hall of fame member Ray Dalke in Riverside, California when I was 18. I had some background watching a lot of Bruce Lee and Van Damme films when I was working at a local video shop in high school, so (I think) that helped put me in the right mindset to train hard with the big boys.
I also remember that my mom pushed me into it because it was right down the street from my college and I had time on my hands between classes. Nevertheless, yes, I wound up getting on the national team as a junior member in about two years and wound up getting my butt kicked a lot in class and during the competition classes as a new student, but I didn’t give up easily and the beatings helped me learn how to defend myself and ignore the pain so to speak.
You competed in full-contact Kumite competitions in both Canada and USA. How good you yourself were as a fighter? Why didn’t you go on with fighting career?
I kept training in Riverside and competing in the US and Canada for several year after high school while I was in college and trying to figure out where I was going in life; this was about the time I got an internship with Tony Gardner at Alterian Studios in Irwindale. From what I was told back then, I was an exceptional fighter. I know I was being groomed for the Shotokan world championships and I enjoyed countless hours of “real kumite” on the dojo floor every Friday for years – this was in addition to the other training I was doing at the time. I did win several gold, silver, and bronze medals over the years, a few plaques too. I think one of the biggest factors in toning things down back in 2001 was the combination of a bad knee injury and a bad breakup.
At that point, I was totally demoralized and wanted to escape – so I did by volunteering on a 134 foot ex-coast guard buoy tender for about seven months. I needed a break from the long commutes to LA for work, the memories of what I thought was a good relationship at the time, and the frustration of wrecking my knee and then getting surgery. It turned out to be some of the best months of my life because it taught me a new way of thinking and a lot of mental barriers went bye-bye. Ten years later, I went on to get my second degree black belt in Shotokan and I almost always get disqualified in competition, so it’s not that fun to fight when you erin for six months and then get DQ’ed.
Here comes SFX! You bio says you started learning practical make-up effects, who was your influence in that sphere?
I think that it was a combination of liking horror/ sci-fi films, being “good” at art, liking the change of new projects and the fast pace environment of a real FX shop that got me into it. At the time I knew very little about FX, but I read an article about Tony Gardner in the local paper and read about some of his work – I was hooked. Three months latter I wrote a letter begging to take a tour of the shop, I got an interview and a job with Alterian. Even though I started as a runner doing errands like filling the coffee pot and taking out the trash, I learned by doing with some of the best in the industry. Tony Gardner, Lilo Tauvo, Jerry Constantine, Conor McCullagh, and countless more were among the first that I worked with and I also enjoyed following the work of Tetsu Sakae, Garner Holt, James Brown, and Arich Harrison. Tony told me to read books and magazines on the subject and I think that just led me down the magical path even further.
Lots of modern movies, even those of low-budget, tend to use computer graphics and CGI instead of old-school, traditional make-up effects. Do you think that if it goes on in the same direction, soon everything will be done on computers, as far as SFX in the movies goes?
In 1997 when I started with Tony, traditional (practical) FX were being overshadowed by CGI. Jurassic Park really blew so many peoples minds that the demand for expensive and time consuming “real” FX came to a grinding halt. Then within two to three years, producers and directors re-realized that there is a need for practical FX. They couldn’t do exactly what they wanted in CGI and soon, a combination of the two became a new standard. In my opinion, there will always be a need for real FX, weather it be motion capture, old age make-up, theater, live shows, etc. Practical FX have still have a home even though computer aided design and production is working it’s way to the front of the pack. The truth is that artists are artists, and some mediums are better to use at times than others.
In the movie “Mosquito Man” you played the title character, an inmate Ray Erickson, who turns into the murderous creature. How were you approached for the part? What did you think of the creature design itself? Share some memories on working on this project, please.
I was coming back from another seven month soul-search in Hawaii, Scotland, England, Nepal, and Sweden; this was before CouchSurfing was popular and when it was more drifting than traveling. It was an awesome experience, but when I came home to California, I got a call that first week to work on what was originally and lovingly called “Mansquito”. I hopped on board, and was interviewed by Tibor Takacs (director of the movie). I think the martial arts and special effect background helped, but I wasn’t union yet and it was a non-union job. For me, it was big money, another chance to travel and an opportunity to do some stunts! It was one of the funnest (and toughest) jobs I’ve ever had. Lilo and Tony designed the creature from what I remember and other than running around in tights from the waist down for a winter’s month in Bulgaria, I think the costume worked for what it was intended to be for. When I was on set, I was one of the guys working on the costume to retrofit it to my body. I remember, that the fiberglass skull cap was terribly uncomfortable my first day on location. Ivo in Bulgaria was a godsend and didn’t sleep for month while maintaining that costume, he was my suit tech there.
I remember getting to set while working nights and panicking because the skullcap was digging into my temples for ten hours. I was in so much pain that I was shaking as we were filming and I couldn’t see or hear anything except the assistant director saying something that made me want to freak out even more. Luckily, I wen straight to the shop the next morning and remedied that problem. It was cool to hang out with Corin Nemec, Musetta Vander, Rasshy McFarlane, and Tibor – every Saturday night was a dinner sent from God. Huge veal steaks, wine, beer, and more. We needed the downtime once a week and that was a blast. I also almost lost an eye during a fight scene when one of the stunt guys accidentally bumped the probascus (which was really a tent pole with a plastic coke cap on the end of it) right into my eye. I dropped to my knees and that was then end of filming that night. I also wound up peeing blood – much to the amusement some people on set because of all the blood-sucking probascus jokes.
I found out that my kidneys were shutting down because I wasn’t drinking enough fluids. It scared me and that was the day we did the scene of me pissed off riding in the prisoner bus. I really was ready to just keel over and I had to remember how to pick handcuffs on cue. Other than a few close calls, I really loved the different locations, and the friendly people. It was also cool to have my picture put up on the same wall as Van Damme at the hotel that all the b & c stars stay at while filming in Sofia. I walked away with some great experiences with some awesome people and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to be Mansquito!
Your last movie appearance, according to IMDB was back in 2008, why no more movies since then? Any other business you are involved in right now? Tell us about your future plans…
Currently, I’m volunteering with CouchSurfing International, the Oath Keepers, Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit, and I also lead hiking and adventure tours in Palm Springs, CA when I’m not remodeling a small 600 square foot stone cabin that I got. I’m not ruling out more film work, but it can be a cut throat business and not everyone with a smile on their face will last very long in Hollywood. I’d say that 9 out of 10 jobs just don’t happen for one reason or another, but if I had the chance, I’d be back at it better than ever.
I almost had a cool part in “Thor”, but nay. Nevertheless, just getting a SAG card is an accomplishment in itself, much less being in some movies and television shows. These days, I find joy in serving others, working hard with whatever my hands find to do, and enjoying quiet time in nature. I think it would be awesome to start a company that caters to international travellers that are seeking ways to explore the outdoors and challenge themselves to overcome mental barriers – kind of like Outward Bound, but not so structured. Just a hop on board sort of experience where people can see why else is out here in this big, beautiful world.
PHOTO GALLERY OF MATT JORDON
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