Conducted by Todd Matthy

If you enjoyed “Thor” and HBO’s  “Game of Thrones,” “Kingdom of Gladiators” should interest you. Directed by Stefano Milla and starring Suzi Lorraine, Annie Social, Leroy Kincaide, and Matt Polinsky, “Kingdom of Gladiators” is the story of a king who made a pact with a demon who’s come to collect the debt. To learn more about the movie, I spoke with the stars and director Stefano Milla.

What are your roles in “Kingdom of Gladiators”?

Suzi Lorraine:

I play Hel, the diabolical yet charming Queen of Darkness. She likes to kill people and partake in sword fighting duels. Oh yes, and she enjoys knitting and drinking grappa.

Suzi Lorraine

Annie Social:

I’m Teela. She’s super badass. She’ll fight anyone and most likely win. She’s also the love interest of Kane.

Annie Social

Stefano Milla:

I’ve heard I’m the director/writer/producer/editor. I think to be a filmmaker that has met the right, crazy people that believe in me. To make a movie is a challenge and that has to be accepted in a crazy project like this.

Stefano Milla

Matt Polinsky:

I play Gunnar, a warrior with a big heart, but an even bigger mouth. When he’s not busy saving the universe, he’s at the bar, drinking and picking up chicks. (The movie doesn’t show quite how many, but trust me he gets a lot of chicks.)

Matt Polinsky (Sterling James Keenan)

Leroy Kincaide:

I play Kayne, the very focused and silent warrior who believes that all things happen for a reason. He follows his heart and what he believes in without question. He finds himself in love with Teela, which is a very confusing as he is unsure how to express his love for her.

Leroy Kincaide

Sylvano Nwe:

Originally, I was the person in charge of looking after the main stars: Annie, Suzi, Matt, and Leroy. Then when we got there the director, Stefano Milla, asked me to play a few parts in the movie. When I found out what the parts were I decided to accept. After all to become the next Robert De Niro you need to start somewhere!

The parts I play in “Kingdom of Gladiators” are a dead man, the king’s guard, and a guest at a dinner party that involved Gunnar.

It was fun working with Stefano, but I really enjoyed work closely with “Mr. Ciak”… he was always saying, “Ok, lets do something.” I’m missing that!!!

 

What attracted you to the project?

Matt Polinsky:

The fact that Stefano was willing to take a chance on me, some punk wrestler, and give me an opportunity was all the convincing I needed.

Annie Social:

I met Stefano working with him for Nu Wrestling Evolution so I was contacted to work on the film through the NWE crew [namely Sylvano, our talent coordinator]. This is actually my first movie. I had no idea what to expect but I’m really glad I took a chance and decided to do it. It was a lot of fun.

Suzi Lorraine:
The fact that I would get to slay a lot of people attracted me to this role. Seriously, Stefano was the biggest reason I signed onto this project. I’ve worked with him on a short film “Claang: The Game”, which later became a feature film, so we had built a friendship and rapport during the filming for this movie. I completely trust his judgment and his vision for any film project. He has a real passion for fantasy films, and I liked the fact that for Kingdom of Gladiators he blended fantasy and the supernatural, with a touch of horror. I know Stefano would prefer to shoot in the US, but I believe it’s the access he has to such breathtaking and historic locations in Italy is one of the things that sets his films apart from the rest. Plus, he gives us unlimited wine and grappa.

Stefano Milla:

I don’t want to be boring just in the second answer but this movie has a story. I was in Cannes last year to meet my distributor, Phil Gorn of Wonderphil Productions, and propose some new ideas. The previous movie “Claang: the Game” put me in a very difficult position about money, work and family. That day in Cannes I had to decide about the future: wake up from the “movie dream” and reach the awareness that my job stops in directing and post-producing TV shows making “safe” money (until that moment movies just gave me problems with money, work, etc.) or wake up from the “movie dream” and take it seriously with the real possibility of living off this job. Well, Phil has given me a great, positive, and “real” sense of my guts in this business. Two weeks later I gave him the first poster and teaser about “Kingdom of Gladiators.” One month later the movie was already pre-sold in three important countries; two months later I’ve started the shooting. When the soul of a project is pure passion, only passionate professionals can take part in it. I think it’s for this reason that Suzi, Matt, Leroy and Annie have dedicated their time and (I think) part of their heart to “Kingdom of Gladiators”. I just have to say thank you to them all.

Sylvano Nwe:
I was contacted by R. Indiano [who is one of the producers of this movie] who asked me to contact some of Nu Wrestling Evolution’s main guys. As I have only been involved in wrestling before, it was a new experience that I really enjoyed doing. I have worked for a long time with R. Indiano, S. Milla, and F. Boasi in wrestling and enjoyed working with them so when the chance to do something new with them came up I was very pleased to have the opportunity. It was a project that made me feel very curious, and to be behind the scenes was really amazing for me. It was a great new experience see these guys acting and find out some secrets that you have never seen before. Finally, it was even greater for me when I found out I would also be involved not only behind the scenes of making “Kingdom of Gladiators” but also being part of the project!

Leroy Kincaide:

I just want to say a big thank you to Stefano and Sylvano for making all things possible and bringing us all together. What attracted me to this project was the concept of the movie, I felt that it had real potential as a film to be a winner and a film that has a good story, swords, fit women n buff guys is always a good thing. It was a pleasure working with you all.

I got a chance to read the script and it is very short. I’m assuming a lot of the story will be told physically. What’s it like directing and acting in such a physical story? Also, does that make put additional pressure on you when performing your dialogue?

Stefano Milla:

Well, I know that the screenplay for a feature film normally has 80 – 120 pages and that ours is around 40. The motivation can be that there are a lot of fight sequences and we have find the way to shoot (how, where and with who) after the screenplay was written. So the poor line: “Meanwhile at the fortress the tournament is going on” means sometimes minutes of edited sequences. In another page you can find “Kayne and Gunnar fight to take the Golden Sword” that during the shooting and the editing session it has been translated into the most complicated and spectacular fighting sequence of the movie.
Same thing for what concerns the voyages of our heroes from their kingdom through mountains and the big cave.

Annie Social:

This was my first movie so I really couldn’t tell you if there was additional pressure, as I don’t have a prior experience to base it on. It was hard work but I had a lot of fun. Working with the awesome group that was involved definitely helped.

Leroy Kincaide:

This was also my first full role in a movie and what a blast. I loved the work and the way the sets looked. The pressure was a little tense at times as we all wanted to do our best for Stefano in the movie. Everyone took to their roles perfectly, as our physical background in wrestling definitely helped with, directing fights, acting, and camera presence.

Suzi Lorraine:

It is a very visual film, in that much of the story is told via visuals – fights, journeys, beautiful landscapes, picturesque and stunning caves, waterfalls, etc. I think the fact that the script is not dialogue heavy makes the actual spoken words much more powerful.
Especially when Leroy kept telling Matt he was going to kill him. Joking (Couldn’t resist).
I liked the physicality of the script and the fact that I got to duel with the warriors. I was the one with the least stage combat experience, so the odds of me severing someone else’s head were greater than their odds of severing mine.

Was there any room for subtlety or was every line overt?

Suzi Lorraine:

Certainly many of the lines were subtle. It depended on the scene and the context. It varied and ran the gamut from very understated and subtle to completely over the top, intense, and dramatic. For instance, the scene where I was watching the gladiators battle in the arena and relishing the grisly fight to the death, I was gnashing my teeth and screaming for vengeance. Very subtle.

Annie Social:

None of my lines were really subtle. Teela is pretty brutal!

Matt Polinsky:

Gunnar seems to add a few “four letter words” to just about every line he has. I would not consider subtlety one of his strong points.

Leroy Kincaide:

Kayne I guess was probably one of the more subtle guys of the film. He spoke mostly through his actions but every line was very direct but not over the top.

What was the inspiration for the story? Are any of you fans of fantasy films?

Leroy Kincaide:

For the inspiration of the story the best guy to ask would be Stefano as he was the director. I’m a really big fantasy film fan. I love films that take you away and get you lost for a few hours. For me films like “Lord of the Rings”, “Star Wars” and “Back to the Future” are all good fantasy films and are all completely different. That’s what I like about fantasy movies.

Stefano Milla:

Before my love for fantasy films there is my love for history. When I was a child I always ask my parents to visit castles, ancient ruins or archeological museums. As soon as I could I grasped a sword and for 20 years I’ve been a medieval re-enactor.  I’ve spent hundreds of nights in front of a fire hearing and telling stories with friends and our swords. I think this was where the fantasy genre was born. We can find legends of strange creatures, dragons, wizards and haunted forests in the most ancient texts. Of course the idea for “KoG” is not so “intense” as masterpieces like “Lord of the Rings” but I think that you’ll find all the elements of a “classic” legend/fantasy story: the king, the princess, the witch, the knights/gladiators; the quest; the prophecy; the creature. It’s pure action/adventure, of course within the limits of a very, very low budget film. I think the passion that everybody has put in the project is a value that money cannot buy and I’m sure when watching the movie you can “feel” it!

Annie Social:

I’m into all types of movies. I wouldn’t specify myself as a fantasy fan but there are a few films within the genre that I enjoy.

Which ones?

Annie Social:

I like old school stuff like “Neverending Story,” “Princess Bride,” and the “Back to the Future” movies. I dug the “Lord of the Rings” movies and the “Harry Potters” are ok. I’m more into revenge flicks though like “Boondock Saints,” “Taken,” and so on.

Is this movie the first in what you hope to be a series of films or is it a stand-alone picture?

Matt Polinsky:

If it means I get to spend more time working for Stefano, in Italy, with the same crew of people, I hope there are 100 sequels!

Stefano Milla:

Thanks Matt!!!! It could happen sooner than you think!

Sylvano Nwe:

And make sure you listen to me!

Leroy Kincaide:

Same as what Matt said. I definitely hope there are lots more to come. The beautiful sets, the wonderful people, and the creativity of Stefano and the production crew all make for a good mix that’s a sure winner. Oh no I can’t forget to do what the dead man tells me. Hugs for you Sylvano.

Why the name change to “Kingdom of Gladiators” from “Gladiators of Hell”?

Stefano Milla:

If you’re talking about the title, it was an idea of the distributor. “Gladiators of Hell” was a title not really “realistic” for the movie (they are not fighting in Hell and from Hell there are not gladiators!). In fact is the story of the Keemok’s Kingdom and how a Gladiator became a king.

How difficult is it to find distribution and get the word out about independent fantasy and horror films?

Stefano Milla:

I can tell you about my experience in Italy. Well, at least it’s very simple: fantasy movie does not exist here!!! With “Claang the Game” I tried for 5 years to find investors and especially distribution but nothing. With horror movies it’s different, there is a very little Horror cinema culture due to the “master” Dario Argento, but if you go to an Italian production company speaking about a horror movie, the only blood you can find is that one from your nose when the producer’s door smashes you on your face.
I self-produced “Clanng” and sent it to festivals around the world. It won the Award of Excellence at the Indie Fest in San Diego that allowed the movie to enter the AFM in 2009. There I met Wonderphil Productions, who has sold “Claang” in 10 countries!
With “Kingdom of Gladiators” we had an agreement with Wonderphil before the production and I’ve discovered a new world shooting a film already sold. Now I cannot believe how crazy I’ve been in put time and money in a project like “Claang” without the idea of a distribution…but it’s working well! Maybe I’ve been lucky.

Suzi Lorraine:

Distribution for horror films is easier than any other genre. They tend to be more “marketable” and make more dough in the eyes of most distributors. If you think about it, there is a horror convention going on every single weekend, somewhere in the world. It is a constant. Horror fans are really intense about their love for the genre. Comedies, dramas, action, etc are always a tougher sell. For instance, there are no comedy conventions.  Now I’m speaking in terms of independent films. Studio films (i.e. Hollywood films) are a totally different matter. However, while distribution is easily attainable if you have a good, marketable horror film, there is a big difference in the offers from one Distribution Company to another (i.e. “good” distribution vs. “ok” or even “bad” distribution). So, it’s a matter of signing with the distributor that offers you the best deal in terms of 1. Money and 2. Promotion and getting your film out into the different markets. Like any business, it surely is dog eat dog, and not for the faint of heart. Distributors want to make money, and many will rake a filmmaker over the coals if they are able to in order to exploit them and make a profit. Stefano, it sounds like Wonderphil is a jewel in the rough. I’m so happy that you found them and that they believe in “Claang” and “Kingdom of Gladiators”. I know we all do!

With the amount of conventions Suzi mentioned, I imagine distributors get a lot of movie pitches. How do you sell distributors on your film? Do you give them copies of the full movie or a trailer? What makes a good movie pitch?

 

Stefano Milla:

About the pitching: I’ve spent one year in the Italian productions/distributions offices to find any kind of support. I went with a big sword used in the movie and I’ve given it in the hands of the producers/distributors while they were watching the trailer. Everybody had great fun and they took a lot of pictures with the cell phones but nobody has invested one euro in my project. For “KoG” we have prepared a teaser without the leading actors and with it and a poster the distributor has sold the movie. At least, I think it’s better to let everybody doing the right work. I’m not great in pitching my movies, even with a sword! For me it’s better to create a teaser and a poster and let it communicate for me.

Several of you, in addition to acting, are professional wrestlers on the indie circuit.
For the wrestlers, how did your wrestling experience help you make the jump to acting? For the non-wrestlers, what was it like working with wrestlers?

 

Annie Social:

I feel that having wrestling experience came in super handy in this situation in particular because we did a ton of action scenes. Also, if I weren’t wrestling prior to the movie I would never have met Stefano and wouldn’t have been in the movie. I didn’t really set out to be an actress or anything. I was interested in being involved in this project because a lot of people I’m comfortable working with were also involved.

Matt Polinsky:

Obviously, the in-ring experience helped significantly in choreographing our fight scenes, but I don’t know if it really “helped” me much. Wrestling is about reacting and overacting. It’s all geared to a live crowd performance whereas acting in a movie needs to be much more subtle and realistic. Plus, if you screw up in a movie, you can re-shoot it. I wish we had that luxury in the ring!

Suzi Lorraine:

It was good, except when Leroy accidentally almost killed me. 😉 We had a scene where he had to thrust a sharpened sword with a twelve-inch blade into my stomach, and due to the camera angle he had to stab it very close to my body in order to make it look realistic. During one of the takes, the sword pierced the velvet material on my dress on my side. The Tiki Gods must have been watching over me that day, as I did not perish. Seriously, they were all great to work with, and the fact that they had all this pre-existing “stage combat” experience was a true asset to the production. It really kept things flowing and allowed Stefano and crew to get some amazing shots. They definitely did not require stunt doubles. All three of them kicked ass.

Suzi, did Leroy’s blade pierce flesh? Leroy, care to tell your side of the story?

Suzi Lorraine:

It did not pierce flesh. No Suzi’s were harmed or maimed during the making of this film. I think we even have a disclaimer to this effect at the end of the movie. Similar to the Humane Society disclaimer about animals used in film. Seriously, there were no injuries. It was a close call, yes, but the fact is, Leroy didn’t stab me, so for that reason he’s still my bud. I know he was focused on safety at all times, and all turned out well. It just makes for a good story. I think this leads us to another question that would be interesting. You should ask the wrestlers about the injuries they received while performing/rehearsing. They have some good stories.

 

That’s a good idea. For the wrestlers out there, any injury stories you care to recount?

Annie Social:

In wrestling I’ve been lucky. But while filming the movie I got stabbed in the leg with a dagger (more like a scratch…not serious), hit Leroy in the finger with my sword and almost stabbed someone else in the armpit with a knife on a stick. I think I was definitely the most accident prone on set.

Leroy Kincaide:

Hehe…. ERRRRRRMMMMMMM Sorry about that Suzi. I really didn’t mean it, even though I had to kill you. LOL. I would say that was a rather close call if I’m honest. The blade was very close to Suzi for the shot “to make it look like a killer blow” it just didn’t help that we was in a cave that was cold, cold, COLD!!! And I was completely topless. So, it did make control a small bit of an issue. But all was good in the hood. I had a little close call of my own to as you heard from Annie. Annie and I were doing some sword fighting for a scene we were doing, our swords clashed once, twice third time missed and swiped one of my fingers. I’m not being funny but that shit hurt like hell. Forget wrestling, a blunt sword to the finger was too much. But again, all was good in the hood.
To the first question (how did your wrestling experience help) the wrestling industry is so close to film Acting its un-real, the only difference is you can’t shout “CUT” if you mess up in wrestling. So, there is no room for error. But it helped both with movement and acting a specific role. I haven’t really had many serious injuries through wrestling, a few knocks to the head and a dislocated shoulder that put me out of action for the best part of a year. But over my 12 years I have been lucky to not really pick up any serious one’s.

The fights sound really intense. Was there ever a time when Stefano yelled, “cut” and you were still fighting?

Matt Polinsky:

As far as injuries, knock on wood; I haven’t had anything TOO severe. I’ve torn my MCL in both knees, broken my nose a few times, busted a tooth in half, and had a concussion here or there, but I’m still good to go…I think. As far as the fights being intense, Leroy was out of control. I think he forgot we were making a movie. He kept attacking me the whole time. In the van, at lunch, at the apartment, everywhere I tried to explain to him that he was the good guy, and it was all pretend. I guess he just didn’t like me.

I thought we could have some fun by having each of you ask questions of one another. Sound good?

Stefano Milla:

Ok. Let’s me be the first!

Suzi: after Claang I’ve promised you limo and champagne. Your first night back in Italy for “KoG” we’ve eaten pasta, drunk wine and grappa in a place more similar to a tavern that a restaurant, I’ve asked you to try costumes in the bathroom, you’ve met Sylvano and seen the camera operator to vomit on the set. I’ve never had the courage to ask you your thoughts about that night.

Annie: The first two days of shooting you seemed uncomfortable about the place and your role. I was really worried, waiting an unexpected departure. I was ready to give you everything to make you feel better and if I have to give you some excuses, please consider it’s given. Then something happened and everything is better what happened?
But let me tell you something: from the instant I saw you with the blue, long, and medieval costume I’ve understood that you would have been the “revelation” of the movie. Than your “intense” close-ups have confirmed it. I think that everybody can see you in a new light after “KoG.” Thanks!

Leroy: I’ve been very impressed about your performance with the two swords in the training scene. I cannot imagine a better sequence! You are “perfect” in the gladiator role. What are your “feelings” about this kind of character and what is your “relationship” with swords?

Matt: You have known about the movie few days before the shooting and you’ve accepted. It’s just because we already worked together in a NWE’s tour? It’s just because Sylvano? I’ll never stop thanking you for this.

Sylvano: Hey, Sylvano: are you sleeping?

Matt Polinsky:

Stefano, I’ve always been of the mindset to try everything, to never miss out on an opportunity for new experiences in life. I honestly never imagined I would have an opportunity to act in a movie, so when I was offered the chance, I had to take it. I’m very happy that I did. The entire experience was amazing, and unforgettable. I got to see a new, beautiful part of the world, and made so many new friends. I truly hope that this is the beginning of something great for all of us!

Annie Social:

Thanks a lot Stefano! I was just really nervous and didn’t think I would be able to pull it off. Matt, Leroy and Sylvano really helped me a lot. We bonded like a dysfunctional little family and if I didn’t have their support, I doubt I would have gotten through the entire shoot. It was a great experience working with everyone involved and I’m really glad I was offered a chance and took it 🙂

Leroy Kincaide:

I just want to say a big thank you to Stefano for letting me be involved with the movie and playing the gladiator role. I have always loved the physical type of roles from Arnold to Van Dam. So I have always wanted to ply in a gladiator, martial arts, and action type of film. I have had a small bit of training with swords in the past but nothing to heavy, but since shooting the movie I have been doing a lot of Martial arts, acting and sword work, as I really want to be a multi talented actor with a lot to bring to the plate, when needed to.

Being part of “Kingdom of Gladiators” really opened my eyes to what I/we are able to do when we put our minds to it, every1 on the whole team deserves a thank you, even the WOLF. LOL cause without the effort of us all this would have never been possible. Thanks guys.

Suzi Lorraine:

Stefano, you know me, the crazier the antics on set and off, the more I enjoy myself and the more I have to write about for my magazines. So I used the Puking Boy, all our grappa filled evenings, the Wolf Mother, etc as amusing fodder and inspiration! You understand my strange sense of humor, I know. And I’d do it again – champagne and caviar or no champagne and caviar. We really had a special group, led by our Ringleader Sylvano. Known to some as Cupcake and to some as Wolverine, and to some as Chimichanga. I would love to work with the entire team again – anytime anywhere! Well, maybe except Vomit Boy…. I heard a rumor that the Wolf captured him. Is this true?

Thank you very much to Suzi Lorraine, Leroy Kincaide, Annie Social, Matt Polinsky, Sylvano Nwe, and Stefano Milla for taking the time to participate in this roundtable.

To learn more about Stefano Milla and receive updates on “Kingdom of Gladiators” check out his official page here.

To learn more about Annie Social click here.

To learn about Suzi Lorraine and her future projects check out her website here. Suzi will also be appearing at the Saturday Nightmares Convention in East Rutherford, New Jersey over the weekend of June 3rd. While your there check out the screening for “Won Ton Baby” which she co-produced and co-wrote.

Comments
  1. Frank Maxwell says:

    One of the worst films i have seen. Did the director know what acting is? and what a muddled up story. None of the cast could act and were are there Gladiators in the film?.
    If i produced this film i would be ashamed to release it.
    I hope the director goes back to school and learns the art of filmmaking.
    Good poster of film.
    Frank Maxwell

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