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Exclusive Interview: Star Christian Delgrosso on Fighting Killer Animatronic Robots Alongside Nicolas Cage in ‘Willy’s Wonderland’

April 16, 2021Ben MK

Family entertainment centers like Chuck E. Cheese are a staple of many people's childhoods. But things get downright family-unfriendly in Willy's Wonderland, director Kevin Lewis' gleefully gory homage to '80s horror movies that sees a dutiful janitor (Nicolas Cage) and a group of rebellious Millennials go head-to-head with eight animatronic mascots by the names of Arty Alligator, Cammy Chameleon, Gus Gorilla, Knighty Knight, Ozzie Ostrich, Siren Sara, Tito Turtle and, of course, Willy Weasel. Oh, and did we mention that these cutely-named robotic creations also happen to be possessed by the souls of an octet of maniacal, bloodthirsty sociopaths?

I caught up with one of Willy's Wonderland's stars, Christian Delgrosso, to chat about the film, his favorite horror movies, and what it was like working with the one and only Nicolas Cage.

How did you come to be a part of Willy's Wonderland? And what about the film intrigued you more — the concept of murderous animatronic mascots or Nicolas cage as a one-man, robot-killing machine?

Delgrosso: I think a bit of both. I'm a huge fan of Nicolas Cage, so he's definitely someone I've always wanted to work with. But the haunted animatronics aspect drew me in immediately, so I was really interested in that. I remember reading [the script] the first time, and I was like, "Oh my God, this is amazing. I'm really excited about this." But I initially auditioned for Bobby, for Terayle [Hill]'s role, and they immediately responded and said, "Can you read for Aaron?" And after I read for Aaron, they cast me the next day.

As Aaron, you play one of a group of characters who get trapped inside Willy's Wonderland and are killed off one by one in a variety of gruesome ways. What was it like working with the rest of the cast and crew?

Delgrosso: It was definitely the best ensemble cast I've ever been a part of. Everyone was amazing. And we became such good friends off-set that our chemistry just grew every day that we worked together on-set. It was definitely a dream come true in terms of what you would expect this ideal cast to look like. Everyone was super amazing, the crew were super amazing and just really catered to everything that we needed as actors and performers.

As far as Nicolas Cage, me and him personally didn't have many scenes together but we did spend a lot of days on-set together. Cuz when I hadn't been shooting they were shooting, so I was always on the set lurking around and hanging out. Just watching him on-set I learned so much. He's extremely professional so you naturally embody that when you're on-set with him, because you feed off of how serious he is about all of this.

Was there a scene that was most memorable for you to film?

Delgrosso: [The scene] where we rescued Emily [Tosta] (who plays Liv) from the trailer park felt the most real to me. We shot in an actual trailer park and were all the most invested in that scene, because the environment and the ambience created that energy. And then, obviously, when I get killed. That was my first on-screen death ever, so it was definitely memorable. We did around 20 [takes] because I don't think, at the time, they knew exactly how they were going to edit that. It was a lot, having to get stabbed that many times. [laughs]

Of course, the film is a throwback to campy '80s horror movies. What are some of your favorite movies from that era and that genre?

Delgrosso: I have this weird relationship with horror films. I had watched them when I was younger, and I had watched some '80s horror films, but I didn't really get into them until probably the late '90s / early 2000s, when I was a lot less scared. I don't have many favorite horror films from the '80s, but slasher movies like Michael Myers, Scream and Freddy vs. Jason are all the cult classics that I remember, specifically. And The Evil Dead [remake] was absolutely insane and the actors were so good in it.

Keeping with the premise of the film, if you had to leave your body behind and transfer your soul into one of the animatronic mascots from Willy's Wonderland, which one would it be?

Delgrosso: Willy [Weasel], 100%. He's the most powerful, he's the leader of the group. I feel like I'm naturally the leader. I wouldn't say I'm naturally a killer, obviously. But I would definitely be Willy, out of all of them. Knighty Knight was a pretty bad A too, and he got me pretty good. I feel like I would do well with a sword. [laughs]

Last but not least, what advice would you give to those looking to break into the film industry as an actor right now?

Delgrosso: I've been auditioning and working on and off for the last 7 years, and this was definitely the most exciting project yet. But my advice would be to take the craft seriously, and if you're passionate about it to really invest the time into it. And just don't give up. Cuz there have been times where I really wanted to slow down. I had been doing hundreds of auditions and it's exhausting, especially when you're not getting booked for roles. But this came out of nowhere and was my best experience yet. So don't give up, keep going.

Willy's Wonderland is available now on Digital and on Demand April 27th.

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