Mike O’Hearn is, to put it mildly, a fairly ubiquitous presence. The four-time Mr. Universe winner has been a cover model on more than 400 fitness, bodybuilding and martial arts magazines, as well as the studly hero on the covers more than 100 romance novels. On television, O’Hearn was among the spandex-clad warriors of the cult series “American Gladiators” and he has turned up as a guest in diverse shows ranging from “Days of Our Lives” to “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” In films, he was Clark Kent and Superman in Sandy Collora’s acclaimed 2004 fan film “World’s Finest,” a leading man in a pair of action/adventure flicks – “Barbarian” (2003) and “The Keeper of Time” (2004) – made by the Roger Corman fun factory, and he can be seen as a party-crashing cop in the recently-released comedy “The Newest Pledge.”
O’Hearn is now online in an intriguing Web series of his own creation. In “Alter Ego,” he plays an ex-wrestler on the verge of transitioning to A-list movie stardom, but his mind begins to work against him and his grasp of reality becomes increasingly frayed. Film Threat caught up with O’Hearn to discuss his latest project.
What is the genesis of “Alter Ego”? And what roles do you serve behind the camera on this project?
The reason I did this is because I got close to starring in a lot of big-budget movies. When they started putting “Captain America” together I was in the hunt – they had me in the top five for the guys they were considering for the role. The same thing happened with “Superman.” I got further down the casting for that, and they really liked my portrayal of Superman in “World’s Finest”. The same thing happened with the new “Conan” – I got down to the end of it, and it was even talked about in the tabloids. But regardless of how much they talk about it and how far I got, I didn’t get the job, and that’s all that matters.
So, basically I had an idea for a superhero with a trait that I’ve never seen any other superhero have: his main fault is that he is possessed with a multiple personality disorder. I put pen to paper and started writing out the story.
Behind the camera, I was producer, writer, and casting director. I pretty much oversaw all aspects of the project – it was a very hands-on experience.
What have been some of the challenges in creating a Web-exclusive series? And how have you been promoting the series?
Tons. Oh boy, first off, as the actor, it’s nice when you can just focus on your character – working on that aspect alone having no other pressures. But being involved as a producer, and this being my baby, I found that I couldn’t compartmentalize a lot of the things that were happening. For example, the first production crew I chose was not up to the task. So it was tough to get the project done on the first run of shooting. It happens, and I understand that, and the second production crew I got for the reshoot was great.
If a call came through, are you ready to expand “Alter Ego” into a feature film?
I have a full-length script ready. My goal here was to never leave it as just a Web series.
The whole idea behind this was to do what Sylvester Stallone did with “Rocky,” but with my project I want to actually show the big studios what I wanted to do.
Right now, I’ve been putting it up for fans on my Facebook pages and websites like Bodybuilding.com (which is a huge health and fitness website), as well as putting it up on YouTube. The main thing was for people to see it through YouTube and have it go viral, like my project “World’s Finest” did when it was released on the site.
What was your favorite part of “Alter Ego”?
It would have to be the “triplet scene,” where my character is confronted by three of his mind’s personalities – which were all played by me. I played Cain, the extreme barbarian who wants to destroy anything and everything; O’Dell, who is the smart-a*s womanizing character – he was pretty fun to play; and Bullrock, the wise barbarian from the Middle Ages. We filmed this in one night, in about three hours, from 2:30am to 5:30am.
Speaking of barbarians, you are also the star of the action/adventure films “Barbarian” and “The Keeper of Time.” These films are a lot of fun to watch. Were they a lot of fun to make?
They were a blast to make! We filmed “Barbarian” over in Ukraine and Russia, and “Keeper of Time” was filmed in Lithuania. I spent three months in both countries. It was also a great opportunity to work with Roger Corman – and if you know anything about movies, you know that it seems like nearly everyone started with Roger!
Outside of “Alter Ego,” what projects do you have in the works?
I’m just doing castings every week. Right now I’m in what I call my “photo shoot stage,” so I’ve been doing a lot of cover stories for the health and fitness magazines – which has been great, as I’ve been able to talk a lot about “Alter Ego” with these magazines. It has been a little tough to promote “Alter Ego,” set up meetings and get all of the photo shoots in, but that’s why I do what I do. I love this business!