With Stranger Things Season 3 and IT: Chapter 2 keeping the memory of the 80’s alive and well this summer, think back to 1989 when the NES was at its peak of popularity and, no doubt, The Wizard will come to mind. With Super Mario 3 on the horizon and animated video game shows building the hype, The Wizard came out at just the right time – there was even a special edition of Nintendo Power (called Pocket Power) to help push this film. Now ready to celebrate its 30th anniversary, The Wizard is a solid cult classic and the wizard himself, Luke Edwards has taken a bit of time to answer some questions on the experience.

LE: “I was set up to audition for the role by my agents at the time, more or less the standard process for actors. I was still pretty new to the business in ’88 but I had done a really well-received mini-series called I Know My First Name Is Steven that, I think, opened a lot of doors for me. The Wizard auditions came around pretty shortly after that, probably in part, facilitated by that job.”

LE: “To be honest I don’t really remember a lot of the audition process for this role, again I was pretty young at the time. Who else might have been in the running I don’t think I was ever aware of. In the years since, the director, Todd Holland relayed to me that he felt I had a pretty unique ability amongst kids that age to really focus in and that was probably one of the deciding factors in terms of winning the role. I’d love to hear about his memories of the casting process, I’m sure he’s got better recall than I do! I also was not totally unlike Jimmy at that age, I spent a lot of time in my own world, I really enjoyed entertaining myself by creating stories and scenarios and acting them out.”

LE: “Being so young I didn’t really fully grasp the gravity of what was being expressed in the story. I did understand loss and as I was taught by my teachers at the time, Diane Hardin and Nora Eckstein, the key to accessing emotion for so many actors lie in substitution. I have a sister and she means the world to me and so to think about losing her brings me to a place of great sadness very quickly. I mostly relied on that technique to inhabit Jimmy’s loss. As far as the captivation of video games, I didn’t have to try very hard. I loved games (and still do) so it came quite naturally.”

LE: “It was a lot of fun and at the same time, hard work for a young kid. But, by and large, I really enjoyed this shoot. Most everyone was really warm and friendly with me and we spent an awful lot of time in fun places, arcades, Universal Studios, Lake Tahoe, I even really enjoyed the desert of Nevada where we spent quite a bit of time. Perhaps it’s every kid’s dream to get paid to play video games?!”

LE: “To my previous point, I got to play a lot of video games at work! However, in many of the scenes, the games were rigged to play a video recording of someone else playing instead of the games being ‘live’. That part was a little bit of torture for me! A lot of these games I had never played, so to sit in front of the thing for hours and not be able to participate, yea, tough. On top of that, sometimes the people they had recorded playing weren’t very good! I remember making the case a few different times to producers that I could do a better job if they just let me play for real, but my pleas fell on deaf ears, sadly.”

LE: “I carried on as before. At that time in my life, I wasn’t very focused on the industry or career. In the years since I’ve learned that the film kind of underperformed, at least in the box office, but at that age, I was completely oblivious to things like that. I was always much more concerned with the things that are important to most nine-year-olds, riding my bike, hanging out with friends, and the like.”

LE: “I think the film under-performed for what expectations it had on it, so I don’t think I really enjoyed any kind of great boost from it professionally. As actors, we’re judged by the success of our last job, absurd given how little we have to do with the ultimate state of the final product but that’s the reality. I was fortunate enough to continue to audition and win other roles, so I suppose it didn’t hurt in any way either. I will say that the film does enjoy a sort of cult following, that is, for the people who did go see and were of a certain age at that time, it really meant a lot to them, really captured their imagination and I am so grateful to be a part of something that’s meaningful for people. All the fan interactions I have are so lovely and inspiring, it’s amazing to see the effect something like film has on others. I’m happy to have been a part of something joyful for others!”

LE: “I am a gamer still, although not nearly to the degree I was when I was younger. As far as NES, I loved Contra, Zelda, Mario Bros., Castlevania, all the classics, as well as some of the maybe lesser appreciated titles, Jackal, Ikari Warriors, Bionic Commando, 1942, Rampage, I was a big fan of skateboarding games as well, Skate or Die and T&C Surf. Man, I played a lot of video games when I was a kid.”

LE: “I’m very grateful for it! It’s a great honor for me to be a part of something that means so much to people. Of course, we would have loved to have it be more successful in the theater and come back and make a sequel but I love that the film occupies this special place in a lot of people’s minds, even for those that look back and laugh at it as an example of the cheesy eighties or hate-watch it or whatever, I’m grateful to have been a part of it. For my two cents, I really enjoy the film, love the music and the clothes and of course the games, it brings me right back to my childhood (naturally!)”

LE: “I’m still at it as an actor, auditioning and all that. I got to be part of NCIS earlier this year which was a fantastic experience, especially as guest star jobs go! I’m also working as a producer these days, and I’ve got a few different films I’ve produced out on the various platforms people can go check out if they’d like. It’s a very difficult world for indie film, so any and all support we get is deeply appreciated! Also more recently I’ve been putting a lot of focus into writing, my dream being to create something for television that, of course, gets bought and produced but more importantly to create something that has a positive impact on people’s lives. That’s really all I want to do.”


Michael A. Jones     nerdsintheburbs@gmail.com     www.nerdsintheburbs.com

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