July 21 2010 10:14 AM

Ralph Macchio was unsure at first about playing a ‘goomba' in new Hamlet-vampire satire

Ralph Macchio (with Devon Aoki) widens his range

There are vampires for everyone these days. The Twilight franchise has tweens and their moms locked up, while the Swedish film Let the Right One In had graphic violence and complex ideas. True Blood is about vampires who actually have sex, and The Vampire Diaries is the network version of the same thing. Now there's the satirical Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead, which opens at the Gaslamp Stadium theater on Friday, July 23, to coincide with Comic-Con. Finally, even ironic hipsters have a vampire movie to call their own.

“There seems to be a vampire frenzy in all storytelling genres,” actor Ralph Macchio tells CityBeat via e-mail. “There's something mysterious

and sexy about them, but when you incorporate them into different settings, it creates a familiar, yet unique ride. For this film, it's Shakespeare's Hamlet and vampires in the world of theater, wrapped-up in a quirky love story. Sort of Buffy meets Manhattan.”

Yes, that's the same Ralph Macchio who played Daniel Larusso in the original Karate Kid more than 25 years ago. The recent remake has cast the spotlight on Macchio again, and he aided his own cause with Wax On, F*ck Off, a satirical short he made that went viral. He appears in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead and even gets to drive a stake through the heart of a scantily clad vampiress.

Here's how it goes: Julian Marsh (Jake Hoffman) is a theater director whose gorgeous girlfriend Anna (Devon Aoki) has broken up with him. He's not sure which is worse—that she still considers him her best friend or that she's now dating mobster Bobby Bianchi (Macchio). Julian's a broken man who takes a job directing “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead,” a new play by the suspiciously sallow Theo (John Ventimiglia), who adds vampires to a mash-up of Hamlet and Tom Stoppard's 1966 existential follow-up play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. It isn't long before Anna is Ophelia, his best friend Vince (Kris Lemche) is Hamlet and Julian finds himself neck-deep in a 1,000-year-old conspiracy involving vampires, Shakespeare, secret societies and the Holy Grail.

That's a lot to take in. But you're probably still stuck on Macchio as a mobster, right? So was he.

“When I read it, I thought that I was kind of off for the role as it was written,” he says. “He was described as goomba-like. I thought they should go to one of the wise-guy, hit-men types. But I met with Jordan, the director, and we started bouncing around ideas. He explained the vision of the film to me, and he was a good listener and open to collaboration. At that point, I thought it would be fun to play this guy and come on board to support the project. And it shot in New York, my hometown.”

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead has a lot of broad ideas and a small budget, and as satires go, some of it works and some of it doesn't. It is, after all, a play-within-a-play-within-a-movie vampire satire. Hoffman—son of Dustin—is too one-note as the hero, but Sean Lennon's score and many of the supporting roles are nice surprises. Macchio is one of those. He knows, of course, that he'll always live in our hearts as nice guy Daniel, but he says he's always looking for different kinds of roles.

“Once we decided to make this character have a genuine heart underneath his tough, big-talk exterior, it started to make sense to me,” he says.

“At his core, he's just a lonely guy with big dreams looking for self-fulfillment and love. Doing indie films gives you a chance to play roles you normally wouldn't be considered for by a major studio or network, and this falls into that category. I'm always looking to stretch the boundaries of what range I may or may not have, and doing indie films gives you a chance to play roles you normally wouldn't be considered for by a major studio or network. Truth is, a well-written role, even if it's similar to what I've done before, packs a bigger punch than just doing different to do different.”

Write to anders@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com.


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