Possessing the sort of moody good looks (not to mention large nipples) that can melt the hearts of teenagers everywhere, actor Chad Michael Murray was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. A career in high-school athletics was cut short when the gridiron runner was sidelined with a serious football injury, and it was during his recovery that a nurse persuaded Murray to pursue a career in modeling. Subsequently awarded a modeling scholarship from a nearby Buffalo agency, Murray was spotted by a Hollywood talent scout during a convention in Orlando and convinced to try his hand at acting.
With high school behind him and stars in his eyes, the handsome young model made for the West Coast while supporting himself with a series of modeling jobs. As with many L.A. newcomers, Murray’s early career consisted mainly of supporting performances in such shows as “Diagnosis Murder”, and in 2001, his profile was given a considerable boost with roles on both “Dawson’s Creek” and “Gilmore Girls”. A feature debut in Megiddo was quick to follow, and in 2003, Murray strapped on the famous identity-concealing mask for the lead in the made-for-TV remake “The Lone Ranger”.
A role opposite teen sensation Lindsay Lohan in the Disney remake Freaky Friday offered Murray some prime exposure, with One Tree Hill finding him returning to the small screen as a basketball-playing teen who shares a dark secret with his estranged brother. After appearing opposite Lizzie McGuire star Hilary Duff in the romantic teen comedy “A Cinderella Story”, Murray moves into darker territory with the horror remake “House of Wax”.
Question: When were you first approached to star in this and what appealed to you about the project?
Murray: I couldn’t give you a date, [but] Joel called my agent and said he wants to sit down and have a meeting, and I said rock and roll, I read the script and I thought to myself, ‘can I do a horror [movie]?’ I’ve seen horror movies my whole life and I wanted to know if it was in my blood to be able to do it. So I sat down and Joel said, ‘look, you’ve done a great job with everything else you’ve done and we’d really love to have you as part of this film.’ So I mean, Joel Silver- I had to take that blessing.
Question: Is this ‘bad guy’ character the result of a calculated move to take on darker roles as an actor?
Murray: Yeah, I think definitely part of the evolutionary thing. I wanted to do something- the great thing about this is that you can sit down and watch this, especially if you’ve seen One Tree Hill, and you can watch One Tree Hill and this and you’ll say ‘there is no piece of Lucas in this character.’ They are two totally different human beings, and I think that’s what I was trying to prove with this to myself and to my fan base and everybody- just that I’m here because I want to do my job, you know. It’s important to me that I just creatively challenge myself on the up and up and this just gave me the opportunity to express that to my people and I think at the same time just grow, grow as an artist. I enjoyed it; it was a hell of a lot of fun.
Question: You start off in the film as a tough guy and then soften over the course of the movie. How much did you bring to the character and how much was already on the page?
Murray: There was definitely a tone of that when you read the script, but what I wanted to do was take the character and make him an enigma that you want to learn about even without the horror and the gore, and I think that’s what the character of Nick is. He’s interesting- he’s the enigma of the story.
Question: How was it working with Elisha and how did you develop your onscreen fraternal relationship?
Murray: We didn’t really have an opportunity to get to know each other that much prior to filming, but I have a lot of siblings, so I really had an opportunity to just go, ‘look, I’ve done this before. I’ve got brothers and sisters so I can do the brother-sister thing.’ They’re not twins, but I think we had a lot in common just in our professional lives in what we want to accomplish with ourselves and creatively do throughout our careers that we were able to bond on that.
Question: Were you on set when the fire broke out? Did you sustain any injuries?
Murray: No one was. I don’t know- I was in the middle of a take, I was laying on the floor of one of the sets right around here, and next thing, I looked to the right and fire was shooting out of the ceiling. Everyone took off, but everyone was fine. Everybody got out, I mean, they did a great job of just getting everybody together. Our A.D. staff there was incredibly professional; they waited until the last moment to make sure everyone was out before they left, which is really heroic.
Question: What were your first thoughts when you found out that Paris Hilton was going to be part of the cast?
Murray: I think that for me it was like there’s this obvious stereotype, but I don’t really believe in stereotypes- I want to see it for myself- and she impressed us all. She really did. She came and she wanted to do the work and she was a really great person and she was nice to everybody. So I never saw a problem with her. She was there on time, she was there everyday. I mean, they had her there everyday.
Question: How tough or easy is it to soldier on past the horror movie cliches when you’re making a movie like this?
Murray: That is the one thing here is there’s not a lot of that, especially for my character in particular, there’s not a lot of ‘oh, dude, what are you doing? Just leave!’ No, there’s not a lot of that. You know, we had reasons to stay- there was a reason we had to go into the house, there was a reason we had to do a lot of the things we had to do, because we had to find our friends, our family. So I think there wasn’t a lot of that conventional ‘oh no, why are you going into this dark room?’ But it’s frustrating. You’d have to ask Jared, because I didn’t wander into rooms that I shouldn’t have.
Question: Is that a role you would be comfortable playing, the guy who makes those dumb decisions?
Murray: There’s two reasons that I wanted to be a part of this film. One obviously was Joel Silver- I wanted to sit back and learn from him- and the other was because the character was different, and I think that other characters I’ve played were too similar to Wade, so probably not.
Question: What kind of physical challenges that you faced on the movie?
Murray: Damn wax. God. It’s not easy to get through, I’ll tell you that much. There’s one scene in particular, it’s like a peanut butter bed, and it’s kind of the climax of the movie where I’m wrestling on the bed. Well, I think that the consistency wasn’t think enough and we sunk right to the bottom and the whole bed started coming apart and spreading all over the floor and we’re falling off the stage. It took like two or three guys to pull us out of the bed. We literally could not get out on our own. You couldn’t sit up, you couldn’t do anything so you were just stuck, cemented in this stuff. But yeah, it was pretty physical, not to mention damn you wanted a bath every day. I mean, we got home and were like ‘where’s the shower?’
Question: What kind of material did they use for the wax?
Murray: I mean, they used a lot of wax, obviously. They did use a lot of actual wax- I mean, our set was built of wax. The other stuff was some compound that I’m not really aware of, but you’re not obviously going to lay in hot melting wax; that’s probably not a good idea. They did use it on Jared, poor guy.
Question: What’s next for you?
Murray: I’m going to do a film called Stealing Cars that’s- it’s that thing that I get to turn my cell phone on, because it’s one hell of an acting role. It’s Cool Hand Luke. It’s Good Will Hunting where they go to prison, like if Will Hunting would have gone to prison instead of being sent to a therapist. It’s one hell of a role.
Question: Who is directing that project?
Murray: We’re working on that now. I should find out by tonight.
Question: Are you still working on your own scripts?
Murray: Yeah, I mean, whenever I get a spare moment. It’s been a really busy like six months so I haven’t been able to complete a few of the ones that I was working on, but as soon as I get into filming, I’ll be working on that consistently because I don’t really like to talk when I’m filming stuff that’s as serious as the one coming up. It will be Ipod and write time.
Question: Do you have funding in place for when you complete those scripts?
Murray: It depends on which one I feel more comfortable with. The stories, they play out in my mind, and I’ve got interest from friends and producing people that I’ve already worked with, and it just depends on where I am in my career at that point and which one I want to take the journey with first.
Question: Are you interested in starring in them yourself?
Murray: A few of them, yeah. One, not so much. I’m not old enough yet, but maybe down the road. That’s actually the first one I wrote, so I’ll was until later in life to do that one, maybe.
Question: Are they dramas?
Murray: Yeah. I don’t believe very strongly in happy endings, in film anyway. So I think I like the opportunity of just taking tortured characters and experiencing their lives through ways that maybe you haven’t seen them before and really going down those paths, like Taxi Driver-type films. Those, that’s what I really really aspire to do.
Question: Did you hope your character would die in this film?
Murray: No, I didn’t want to die if I was going to do horror, I didn’t want to die, dude.
Question: Have they talked to you about a sequel?
Murray: I don’t know, but I came up with a concept to do it. But I can’t tell you because then I’m giving away the film.
Question: How creepy was it being on these strange sets made of wax? How big was the crew around the cast?
Murray: There were probably like 160 crew, I think. Large crew, really large crew. It was a big production. I mean, they covered everything; I mean, you had probably six guys working on the wax alone, you know, and then just special effects technicians everywhere, especially when it came do doing the fires or melting the wax.
Question: What scene did you find most challenging?
Murray: I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. I guess just the climax of the film in the house. That was probably the most challenging, the most physical and the most messy.
Question: How much of the end scene involved CGI and how much happened on set?
Murray: Well, we did a lot, I mean, the great thing is they really kind of visually stuck out for us, you know, I mean the fire is real and when we were on these sets, everything is wax. They’re all laid out for you and you’re actually shooting in these facilities and I think that was great. Green screen stuff, that was actually my first time really, really working with a green screen, and it’s weird. It’s definitely weird. You just use your imagination and go with it, but I don’t know- hopefully after time I’ll be able to get better at it.
Question: How tough is it to find those roles that challenge you creatively as opposed to merely commercially?
Murray: There’s a lot of [commercial opportunities], and that’s just not what it is that I’m looking for. I want to at the end of the day go home and be incredibly happy with what I’m doing. I want to mess with my brain a little bit, you know? I want to go to places that I’ve never gone. I just really want to creatively challenge myself, because at the end of the day, the money and the fame, that really doesn’t make a difference to me when it comes to doing what I’m here to do. If you leave your mark through the projects that you choose and the work that you’ve done, and I’ve been growing for the last five or six years and I think that I’m finally at the point where I’m ready to take on those challenges. But yeah, it’s hard to find. Being 23, there’s not a lot out there.