By: Don "Cheese" Akerlow - Publisher "The Break"
I had a chance to talk to Mars Callahan, Writer, Director and Star of the upcoming movie Poolhall Junkies.

Cheese: "How long have you been playing pool?"
Mars: "I started playing pool when I was about 12 years old."

Cheese: "Where did you grow up?"
Mars: "I grew up in California in Los Angeles"

Cheese: "What's your favorite game?"
Mars: "Nine ball."

Cheese: "Who did you pattern your game off of?"
Mars: "Nobody. I've always been sort of a maverick. I'm a person. This is the first time that anyone has written, directed and starred in a movie like this. I never really patterned myself after anybody. Somebody that I looked up to was Robert LeBlanc. Robert LeBlanc was the house pro at the Hollywood Athletic Club when I was shooting pool there and he had a great style. He and I became real good friends and he was the technical advisor on the film."

Cheese: "Would you consider yourself as a hustler?"
Mars: "Well, I always figured that the best hustle was to tell everybody in the room that there was no way they could beat you. The funny thing is when you are eighteen and nineteen years old, which is how old I was when I was really playing a lot of pool, sometimes you have a little more cockiness than brains, more balls than brains. You walk around thinking you are the best and challenge everybody. When you are that young everybody wants to line up and play you. I was never the greatest pool player in the world but I did know how to match up pretty good. So I was able to make some decent ends up playing at the Hollywood Athletic Club for a few years. I was kind of supporting myself doing that while I was writing Poolhall Junkies."

Cheese: "Do you have any other hobbies other than pool?"
Mars: "Filmmaking. When I stopped being obsessed with pool I became obsessed with filmmaking. So that's really all I do is write and develop stories and work with that. I used to play a lot of basketball. When I was a kid I actually at one point in time I thought about playing overseas."

Cheese: "Do you play and have you played in any tournaments and where?"
Mars: "No, I actually was never a tournament player. It's interesting when you're a kid -- I grew up on the other side of the tracks. I came from a very poor family and I started shooting pool to make money, to buy myself a slice of pizza or go to the movies or something like that, when I was 12, 13, 14, 15 years old. I'd just hustle, you know, not hustle but just beat. I would never be one of those kinda guys that would lay down because I was never good enough to lay down, but just play good enough to win. And match up with people that you could have a chance to beat, if you played good. So I started doing that. I never really had a father around. I always found that - I always say that I didn't have a father. I had fifty fathers. Chris Corso, who I wrote the film with, was like a father to me. Robert LeBlanc was like a father to me. So people that took me under their wing and taught me a few things here and there, they were all kind of like father figures to me when I was growing up in the poolroom. I was a little kid, so the fun of it was when you're coming of age at that time in your life. If you can be your own man that's something that's really great. The poolroom is that way and that's what we say right at the beginning of the movie. Age doesn't matter, race doesn't matter, color doesn't matter, how much money you've got doesn't matter. How you carry yourself in the poolroom, how you move, the things that you do and you kinda can become a man. You kinda become your own person. If you can hold your own and maybe a little bit of theirs. So, that was the fun of it. The matching up and figuring out a way to outsmart the other guy, which is pretty much a lot of what Poolhall Junkies is about."

Cheese: "Somebody had told me that Toupee Jay was Jay Helfert."
Mars: "Well, you know ..."

Cheese: "I asked Jay about it and he said, yes."
Mars: "We definitely modeled certain characters after certain people. We had Rags in the beginning of the movie. He was a real guy. Of course, Jersey Red and Boston Shorty, we used some names of people that we remembered and just to throw a little authenticity in the mix."

Cheese: "Was there anything that happened on the set while you were filming that was unusual or funny?"
Mars: "So many things. Christopher Walken made that time shot - you know, where he shoots the eight-ball and it slides over and bank kicks it back in. It was in the party scene where he and I played at the boss'. Well, we were sitting around. We showed him the shot and Christopher Walken is a pretty decent pool player but he's still not like you or me, not like a pool player, pool player, but he's a decent pool player for a citizen. We showed him the shot and I said, 'Why don't you practice it a few times and then we'll do a take' and he said, 'No, no, no, no ... let's just shoot the rehearsal, maybe we'll get lucky.' BOOM! He makes it the first chance. First time out he drilled it perfectly and we tried to do a couple more for safety and he never wound up making it again, just on his very first time. What was funny was - he made it and everybody was - it was supposed to be rehearsal. He made it and fortunately we all stayed in character and we just kept on going along with the scene, like he was supposed to make it."

Cheese: "I know, because when I saw your face just as he made it, you looked surprised. And it went so well with the movie it was like - Woah, he knew what he was doing. It was excellent.
Mars: "That was a little movie magic. Then of course, it was my turn to do it one handed and of course, I missed the first one. I missed the second one and the crew, my crew, my camera man and the lighting guy and everybody all started taking bets on how many times it would take me to make it. But I didn't let them down, I made it on the fifth try."

Cheese: "I know, people when you say you can do something that's when usually you end up not being able to do it, when you want to."
Mars: "That's right. That's a tough shot anyway you slice it."
Cheese: "It's not a nine out of ten."
Mars: "No, no and one handed with the cameras rolling ..."
Cheese: "... little more pressure."
Mars: "...gets a little tougher."

Cheese: "The movie got delayed time after time at least from the first release that we had gotten. It made a lot of people on the Pacific coast and Northwest a little anxious as to when it was coming out."
Mars: "Oh, good."
Cheese: "Can you shed any light on that? Why it took so long or what was the delay?"
Mars: "When you're putting all the final pieces together, you want to make it right. As every pool player in the world knows, timing is everything. So, when you come out with a movie like this you don't want to come out when it's coming up against a big James Bond movie and you don't want it coming up against The Lord of the Rings movie. You want to release it at a time when everybody wants to go see Poolhall Junkies. Plus, there is a little bit of ... they draw it out a little bit for anticipation purposes too, sometimes. It's good. It's good that people are anxious to see it. The most important thing for this movie is that everybody goes to see it opening weekend. That's the most important thing. They shouldn't wait for the second or third week. The studios often determine how long a movie plays in theaters. It depends on what it does in its opening weekend. So if you want to put in The Break there somewhere that it's important that everybody rallies and goes to support this movie the opening weekend. Then, it will be in the movie theaters for a long time to come. It will be in there for many weeks."

Cheese: "Now I know on this next question, it depends of course on how well the movie is received and what it does at the box office as far as the studios go, but is there a sequel in the works?"
Mars: "They'll be more pool movies to come from this movie. When people get out there to see it opening weekend. If the movie does good box office ... There's a reason why Rocky made Rocky II, III, IV and V."

Cheese: "I had heard that Alison Eastwood is on the cover of Playboy?"
Mars: "She is?"
Cheese: "I hadn't seen the issue yet."
Mars: "You know what, neither have I actually, but I heard that she is and she's such a pretty girl, I can't imagine why they wouldn't want her on the cover."

Cheese: "I'd also found out that you are also involved with opening pool halls, with the name of course Poolhall Junkies Pool Hall."
Mars: "Yes, absolutely."
Cheese: "What gave you the idea for that?"
Mars: "I always wanted to have my own pool hall and with a movie like this, with a national campaign behind it and millions of dollars in advertising, I figured it was a great business move. If anybody wants a Poolhall Junkies Pool Hall franchise in their hometown, all they have to do is call and we can set up a meeting about that. So if any of your readers, in your local towns, wants a franchise, including yourself if you're interested. What better, when people open up a new restaurant or a new pool hall they've got to do all kinds of advertising. Spend a lot of money, so all that money's being spent, millions, millions of dollars, much more than they could ever dream of spending, creating. So it's a good business venture for anybody."

Cheese: "You already have the one open in Salt Lake and plans are for Vegas, Phoenix and LA?"
Mars: "Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Atlanta, we have a lot of people all over the country. The phones are ringing off the hooks. You can call 800-994-2936, ask to speak to Dimitrius Deslis. He's my business partner and he will send out a package of information. We have a video, some of the photos from the movie, the marketing paraphanelia to give out to some people. And in the Pool Halls we've got all the big Black & White still shots of the movie, behind the scenes camera footage and we've got the movie playing on the big screen TV mounted up by the ceiling."

Cheese: "How would you compare the movie to The Hustler or The Color of Money?"
Mars: "The Hustler is such a great movie, it's a classic. It's one of the all time greatest movies ever made. I can't ... how can you compare yourself to Martin Scorscesi doing The Color of Money and Paul Newman again bringing back the roll and Tom Cruise are such great actors but I don't really compare myself to either of the movies. I just try to make a good movie, a decent movie that people could enjoy and have fun watching it."

Cheese: "Some of the pool players who reviewed the movie considered Poolhall Junkies better than both of the movies, and most of them considered it to be as good as The Hustler and better than The Color of Money."
Mars: "That's very flattering. I'm glad that people liked it, but I try not to draw comparisons because so much of what is art is artistic interpretation. What I might like might not be what somebody else might like and so I don't try to compare myself with anybody. I just try to do the best job that I can."

Cheese: "I heard there are going to be Poolhall Junkies Pool Tournaments?"
Mars: "Oh yeah, there's actually going to be a shot for a MILLION DOLLARS!"
Cheese: "The same shot that was on the bank eight?"
Mars: "I don't know exactly what the shot's going to be but I know that they are putting it all together now."
Cheese: "The last hustle shot is a more makable shot."
Mars: "Oh, yeah."

Cheese: "What's your next film about?"
Mars: "I haven't decided which film I want to do next but there's a good chance that ... there's a heist movie that I've written that seems to be getting a little bit of attention right now. It's sort of like an Oceans Eleven type thing."

Cheese: "There is one other question. You know there's a lot of players that are in leagues whether its APA, BCA, TAP or VNEA and their leagues got a big boost after The Color of Money. Do you think this will further pool playing on the average level, the bar room players?"
Mars: "I know what The Color of Money did for the billiard industry after it came out and I know what the response from the public has been to screenings of this movie. Everybody wants to go play pool after they see Poolhall Junkies. I can't imagine that it wouldn't be a benefit all around for pool in general every which way you slice it."

Cheese: "We received a copy of your movie Poolhall Junkies back in October and reviewed it with some of the pool players in the Northwest. Have you seen a copy of The Break."
Mars: "Yes, I got a copy of the December issue."
Cheese: "The January issue is out. We have the room owners reviews in it. It's also on our website."
Mars: "I have your website address,"
Cheese: "Where did you pick up a copy of the December issue?"
Mars: "I just had been doing some work out in the valley and went down to a pool hall that I hadn't been to before ... Billiard Connection."

Cheese: "You can always find a copy there. So what did you think since you read the copy of The Break?"
Mars: "I thought it was great. I thought it was wonderful. I loved the comments. It's always nice to hear flattering comments about your work. I thought the story was great and the paper looked great."

Cheese: "Is there anything else you would like to add?"
Mars: "This is for February's issue?"
Cheese: "Yes"
Mars: "Yeah, if you want to lead with the big headline saying 'See it opening weekend.' That's the main push."

Cheese: "Thank you Mars for taking your time and I hope the movie is a huge success."
Mars: "Your welcome, Cheese. Keep up the good work with The Break."

Photos courtesy of Gold Circle Films Copyright 2000 All photos by Tracey-Lee Taylor
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