“The Madness Within” is a new movie by director Hunter G. Williams. Kicking off his acting career in a Drew Barrymore classic and most recently, working with the legendary Lily Tomlin, Hunter G. Williams has seemingly been working with the best for the entirety of his career. No surprise then that he’s become as skilled as he is in front of and behind the camera.
The actor and filmmaker’s latest, “The Madness Within,” is a compelling ode to the ups and downs of Hollywood with a powerful performance from Williams in the lead role. Ahead of the film’s release December 6, we caught up with the to talk beginnings, transitioning into directing, and of course, working with Miss Tomlin.
Hunter recently discussed these experiences and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): You wear a lot of hats, sir! What came first?
Hunter G. Williams (HGW): Acting came first. And it was by complete accident. Right after high school a friend of mine approached me, asking if I’d go with him to an open audition for a Drew Barrymore movie. Knowing what open auditions consist of, my immediate answer was no. He was eventually able to persuade me by offering to buy some weed (back then I enjoyed it) and to take me to eat after. When you’re just out of high school, broke, and consider yourself a connoisseur of fine marijuana, that’s a hard offer to turn down. So, I went with him, ended up getting cast in a featured role with dialogue, and spent my whole summer shooting on Never Been Kissed. My one scene with dialogue ended up on the editing room floor as they say, but it got me in SAG (Now SAG-AFTRA), I made more than I ever had before working, and was still shown with the leads in several scenes. So, I was more than happy with the experience.
MM: And when did you decide it was time to transition into directing?
HGW: It was after I did a little short film, called The Riverside Shuffle. It was mainly done for the fun of it, but really had a great time with it. After that I had Directed another short, Shooting for Something else, which was done for a 48hr go green festival. It ended up sweeping the festival, winning all but one award, and then it went on to Cannes. That’s when I realized Directing was something I wanted to pursue.
MM: Did you fashion The Madness Within as a vehicle for yourself to star in?
HGW: I did. The reason being that another film I had written for myself, The Road Home, really started getting a lot of momentum after some of the agencies and financiers had read it. They decided they wanted to do it at a much larger scale, which would require name actors in the lead roles. I was completely on board with that because it would have been better for everyone involved being done that way. Plus,I was still going to be Producing it through my company. Unfortunately, after all the legal was done, and we were literally just waiting on the long form to sign, the company that was putting up the money brought on a new CFO who decided they weren’t going to do any comedies, and scrapped five that they had greenlit, including ours. So, I decided to immediately move forward with The Madness Within, while we reset on that film.
MM: Is it a personal story?
HGW: It is and it isn’t. There are certain parts I have experienced myself, or have watched someone I’m close with go through, but it’s still a complete work of fiction.
MM: How many drafts did you do?
HGW: Just one. Did the first draft in a month, and then polished it up all the way up to our start date. But the story and characters never changed.
MM: How did that initial draft differ to the shooting script?
HGW: Just had less errors, ha!
MM: Tell me about Lily Tomlin. How did Lily come to appear in the film?
HGW: Well, luckily for me (and a lot of others), Lily is a major supporter of people trying to make their way in the entertainment industry. It took several years until I had the confidence in my work to ask her to be a part of it in anyway. Lily, and her partner Jane Wagner have always been beyond gracious with me, and so far, I haven’t made them regret it.
MM: Did you learn anything from Lily, during your time with her working on the film?
HGW: Of course! It’s impossible to be around her without learning something new. She puts on a master class anytime she’s working in any capacity. She’s an icon in every sense of the word, and when you get to see her work you understand why. When I’m around people like Lily and Jane, I’m definitely listening far more than I’m talking.
MM: what kind of feedback have you had on the film?
HGW: So far so good. Nerdly.co.uk gave it a great review which I’m very proud of. In it they call it “a brilliant film” and “The Wolf of Wall Street for the Hollywood crowd” which is an absolute honor. Same time, I am a realist. I’m sure there will be people who don’t like it as well. And these days people who dislike films are far more vocal then those who like them. Which is a shame.
MM: I imagine the topic would cut very close to many in Hollywood? Has that been the case?
HGW: There were a few people who worked on it that I could tell some of the subject matter struck a little too close to home for; they still carried themselves professionally, but I could see it.