The Reel Queens

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Bill Sorice may play a self-absorbed thespian in the independent comedy "Brutal Massacre," screening this month at Manhattan's Pioneer Theater, but the Queens-born actor and writer is used to playing against type.

Sorice, 38, who was born in Ozone Park and grew up on 110th Street in Richmond Hill before moving to Manhattan more than a decade ago, said he has gotten used to casting directors mislabeling him as overly serious.

"They see me as two types — either side of the law," he said. "I'm either the crooked cop or an Italian-American criminal, but I don't want to be typecast."

As cocky actor Oscar in his largest feature film role to date, Sorice gets to show off his lighter side.

"I used to get in so much trouble at school because I was always a goofball, the class clown," he said. "I'd do anything to make people laugh. I love doing comedy."

In director Stevan Mena's film, which took the Best Director prize at the 2007 Long Island International Film Expo and is playing at the Pioneer Theater at 155 E. Third St. in Manhattan through the end of the month, Sorice's actor character plays a sheriff in an ill-fated low-budget horror film.

"Massacre," sort of a "This Is Spinal Tap" for horror films, follows the attempts of a washed-up horror filmmaker (David Naughton of "An American Werewolf in London") to relaunch his career as he directs his latest blood-soaked picture. Brian O'Halloran, of "Clerks" fame, and Gunnar Hansen, the original Leatherface from the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" series, also star.

To capture the vanity of his character, Sorice said he only read his own part in the script during the film's 2006 shoot in Bethlehem, Pa.

"He thinks he is a born thespian, an amazing actor," Sorice said. "He's very caught up in his own world. I felt that he wouldn't read the whole script, so I didn't."

For one scene, Sorice said he was inspired to improvise his costume as the actors starring in the film-within-a-film gather to relax after a long day in a hotel room. Most of the characters in the film are dressed down, but Oscar's ego allows him to show up in nothing less than a red-and-white vintage smoking jacket.

"Oscar is very isolated from others," he said.

Sorice, who has worked construction jobs and bartending gigs over the years to support his craft, said he took up acting in the 1990s as he paid his way through school at the city's Fashion Institute of Technology, where he was studying to be a menswear designer.

In 1996, he moved for six months to Los Angeles, where he learned to dance, act and write. Upon his return, he performed in a number of off-Broadway plays and swing-dance shows, acted in a handful of independent films, found work in commercial print advertising, created two Web sites showcasing his work, taught dance with his artist wife and wrote "Out of the Box," a play that had a short run at Manhattan's Producers' Club in 2005.

During the past year, he also played bit parts in several Hollywood productions, such as "American Gangster," where he can be seen in photographs as a corrupt cop even, though his scene was cut, and "Meet Dave," a new Eddie Murphy comedy that opened last week.

Sorice is currently writing a play he hopes to develop into a film and direct, as well as auditioning for several independent feature films.

"I hope this is the calm before the storm," he said. "I'm still on the independent film circuit and haven't made it to Hollywood. But I don't really care about the money. My goal is to work on great projects. I consider myself lucky because I'm at the point where I can focus on acting and writing and not be bogged down with working six days a week to support myself."

Sorice said most of his childhood family and friends have since moved from his old Queens neighborhood to Long Island, while he chose to go west to Manhattan. But he said he still feels deeply connected to the borough.

"My roots are in Richmond Hill," he said. "It was a great neighborhood in which to grow up, a family neighborhood where people looked out for each other."

"Brutal Massacre" will screen Thursday at the Pioneer Theater at 11 p.m. and will also play at 9 p.m. each night from July 20-22. The film will be released on DVD July 22.

Posted 6:39 pm, October 10, 2011
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