Personality Complex is a regular feature of Complex's Pop Culture channel, where you'll be introduced to rising stars of film and television.
If you've kept up on the film festival wire, this narrative is familiar: Actor Scott Haze spent three months living in the mountains of Tennessee to prepare for his role as Lester Ballard in Child of God, James Franco's film adaptation of the famous early Cormac McCarthy novel. It was necessary. Inspired by real life murderer Ed Gein, Ballard is a dispossesed psychopath who goes from losing his family and his property to losing any and every grasp on himself. He finds himself a serial killer with a necrophilic kink who takes solace in cave life, existing outside the social order.
It takes a peculiar kind of person to force himself into extreme isolation, subsisting on the smallest amount food a day, for the sake of a role. A man whose screws are maybe a little loose, and whose social ties are non-existent. But Scott Haze, despite all evidence to the contrary, is not that guy.
He's the kind of guy whom you can knock back a few beers with during an NBA game. The kind who considers James Franco a friend and plays NBA 2K with Mark Foster, of Foster the People. The kind whose biggest source of inspiration is Kobe Bryant (and yes, the Black Mamba is partly the reason why he chose such method acting). He's just a nice, talented guy, who just happens to have the discipline of a monk.
Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
What was running through your mind when you were in isolation?
Have you ever been at the doctor’s office, where you’re staring at the wall for a long time and you start to notice a very boring painting that all of a sudden becomes fascinating because you have nothing else to do? You don’t have Internet access, or the numerous things that you normally have in life to occupy yourself, so you invent things and talk to yourself. I made friends with these things that were not there.
Like Cast Away?
It is a lot like Cast Away. A lot like Cast Away.
A few weeks ago, James Franco told me to meet him at a warehouse near Downtown L.A. When I got there, we ended up playing naked paint dodgeball with a bunch of models, with masks on.
How did you meet James Franco?
The first time we met was in the back of the Stella Adler lot on Hollywood and Highland. The parking lot doesn’t exist anymore. This was way before the Kodak Theater was built. James came to see me in a play called Beach Play and he approached me to tell me he liked my performance. I was preparing to do a play at the Actors Studio that Mark Rydell was overseeing, and I knew James had just finished shooting the James Dean movie which Rydell directed, and we got to talking. That was in 2000, 13 years ago.
James saw me go through a very dark time in my life. To be really transparent, he saved my life and I’m forever grateful. I cannot put my loyalty to him into words. I have his back forever. No matter what it is, I’ll be there for him. He’s my brother, and I love him.
And what you guys do when you're not filming together?
James doesn’t stop creating, ever. So when we aren’t filming, I’ll get a text about doing something wild if he’s in town. A few weeks ago, James told me to meet him at a warehouse near Downtown L.A. When I got there, we ended up playing naked paint dodgeball with a bunch of models, with masks on. It was James’ team versus my team, with a massive film crew there to film the night’s activities. James’s paintings lined the wall of the makeshift dodgeball arena and he didn’t mind if the balls covered in paint slammed into them. It was a blast.
Speaking of your collaboration with Franco, you once mentioned that the only music you took with you while prepping for Child of God was Eminem. Why?
It was an instinctual thing where I felt that I wanted to grab this iPod and take Eminem’s music with me. It was nothing more than an instinctual thing. That’s what kind of happens with me as an actor. I don’t necessarily even understand what I’m doing.
Did his music put you in a certain mindset?
It’s an imprint on me. It’s not that I couldn’t live without Eminem; it was more like, there is something in the music that I wanted to have the accessibility to listen to.
What led you into acting growing up?
I was born in Dallas then I moved to Allen, Texas. But then I got sent to boarding school, where I started to get fascinated with actors like Al Pacino. There was a week when I saw Scarecrow and The Godfather. That same week, I auditioned for the school play. I was with my girlfriend at the time, and I said, "I could do that." She went, "Yeah, right." I booked the two leads in the play.
What happened that you were sent to boarding school?
I was a troublemaker. I was always in the middle of some sort of crazy activity. My friend Jim Parrack is in Child of God, and we grew up together. Back then, we would watch old movies and go reenact them at a Blockbuster or a supermarket. We’d end up getting in trouble because you can’t reenact movies. People think you’re crazy. But we loved it. We were acting out our heroes. At that point, I wasn’t thinking I’m going to be an actor. I just loved cinema.
What’s one scene you remember doing with your friends?
There is a scene in Carlito’s Way when Pacino is in the bathroom. He’s screaming, he’s in this huge shootout. He thinks the criminal is still outside in this pool hall, and he’s in the bathroom screaming, "I’ve reloaded!" I remember being in a pharmacy bathroom screaming that and my buddy Jim was outside. Then I busted out! [Laughs.]
And we watched Basketball Diaries a lot. Jim was like, "You play basketball. You should watch this movie, Basketball Diaries." There is a scene with Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg and they’re like, "Somebody stole my ring from my locker, motherfucker." Jim and I would run around Allen, telling random people, "Somebody stole my father’s ring from my locker, motherfucker!" And they’d go, "What?" We were young stupid kids.
Where was the boarding school you went to?
I went to The Miller School of Albemarle, just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. As a kid, I really loved the movie Toy Soldiers starring Sean Astin and Lou Gossett Jr., and when I found out they filmed that movie at the Miller School, I was excited to go there. Life there was kind of like the movie: the Brotherhood amongst the guys, the pranks, and the crazy things we did. Minus the terrorist attack.
How did being in boarding school change your perspective on life?
There was a learning curve there for sure, in terms of how to behave. I would always find myself getting demerits and cleaning pots and pans in the kitchen to work them off. Some of my favorite memories were during my two years at Miller. I was captain on the basketball and soccer teams. I excelled at the guitar and played so much music.
In retrospect, the education was great, even though I hated it at the time. The bond you have with your friends at a boarding school is special, and I’ll cherish my times there. I’m working on something as a writer that dives into my experiences there, as I have so many wild stories. I wound up dating my teacher my senior year at boarding school. She was 10 years older than me and that added a whole different experience towards the end.
I wound up dating my teacher my senior year at boarding school. She was 10 years older than me and that added a whole different experience towards the end.
What do your parents do?
My father, William, was a self-made man. Eventually, he retired from Prudential Bache Securities after serving on their Board of Directors. He passed on several years ago. I regret every day that I did not get to spend more time with him, but my mother says she sees him constantly in both my brother and me. Most of all, I remember talking sports with him. He loved basketball like I do.
My mother, Sherryl, is a Texas girl who likes the outdoors. Before she met my father, she worked in the stock and bond business, but on an operations level.
How supportive were they of your acting career?
My father passed away before he really got to see me act. One summer in Texas, I was doing a murder mystery dinner theater, and he asked me one night, “Do you like acting? Is this something you want to do?” and I said, “Yes, Dad, I really do.” He nodded and I could see he supported me and smiled. It brings me tears thinking about him not being around now. I wish I could have gotten to know him better. He wasn’t around as a kid, and when he was, he was sick and then passed on. My mother couldn’t have been more supportive.
Do you have any siblings?
A little brother, Cary. I have a step-sister and step-brothers, but after my father passed away, they disappeared out of my life. I’m not sure why. Cary is my rock, I’m so proud of him. He’s in Texas now and he just finished the Fire Academy and is about to get his paramedic license. He’s also a talented actor, writer, director, and editor in his own regard.