Most aspiring Hollywood actors know to keep their day jobs, usually as waiters or workers down at the carwash. After all, aspirants are many and the roles are few.
Howard Kahen commutes from Port Richey to Los Angeles to be in movies, and he, too, keeps his day job.
Only Kahen's day job is saving lives.
He's a radiologist with degrees from the University of Chicago, a fellowship at the University of Michigan and 20 years with Radiology Associates of West Pasco.
In 2006, he fulfilled a lifelong dream when, at age 49, he flew to Los Angeles to play the small role of Security Officer Perkins in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Fantastical Cinema's updated version of the Robert Louis Stevenson 1886 classic.
It's a blood-and-gore horror fest with only a smattering of the original Dr. Jekyll's philosophical and religious musings.
The emphasis is on a string of pretty young college co-eds being ripped to shreds by an increasingly grotesque Mr. Hyde, played by Tony Todd, the original, horrific Candyman with a terrifying, deep, hollow voice.
It's directed by special-effects wizard John Carl Buechler (Cyborg 3, The Mummy's Kiss), who also wrote the screenplay and did the makeup.
"I would rather do a comedy," Kahen said. "I'm good at it. But I don't know Adam Sandler," which might have given him an opening to that genre.
He did, however, know someone who knew someone who was making the horror film.
"I just did whatever movie came my way," Kahen said.
It helped tremendously that Kahen and a few of his friends in New Port Richey ponied up a big part of the nearly $1-million budget to make the movie, which looks almost as slick as the big-budget shows, thanks to digital cameras, some little-known but experienced actors, and several pros on the production crew.
The investors don't expect to get a huge return from showings or sales, though there's a chance they might make something.
"With horror movies, there's more bang for your buck, with foreign sales and all," Kahen said. Right now, the movie is available at Blockbuster and for sale on Amazon.com for $21.99, plus shipping. Kahen says it should be in stores soon.
"I always wanted to be in entertainment," Kahen said. "But when I was younger, I was too shy, and so I became a doctor," he said, with nary a touch of irony.
He spends his days in a darkened room with three computer screens in front of him, scanning hundreds of computed tomography ("CT, not CAT," he emphasizes) images, looking for signs of trouble in lungs, breasts, hearts and other organs.
"I know what pays the bills," Kahen says with a laugh.
Then he gets serious.
"I'm good at what I do," he says. "I can help people. My mother had breast cancer, and since then, I feel more (like), if I can get it early, I'm a healer."
Dr. Jekyll had a limited theater run in Tennessee and was released on DVD on May 20. Kahen has several big moments: at first, when his name is the only thing on the screen, "Introducing Howard Kahen"; at the end when the credits roll and he's named as an executive producer; and about two-thirds through the film, when he has about 90 seconds of screen time and several lines.
His role as Perkins was sort of inserted at the last minute when Kahen and his fellow executive producers (the people forking over the $1-million) insisted. Kahen took a red-eye to Los Angeles, was on the set at 5 a.m., did his bit in a few hours, and flew back to Florida.
He did have to take a moment to doff his diamond ear studs.
"They said a security guard wouldn't be wearing diamond earrings," Kahen said.
In his scene, Perkins confronts the maniacal Mr. Hyde as he tries to break into an office building. Perkins calls 911 and exchanges words with the monster.
The creature begins to laugh and point, and Kahen/Perkins starts laughing and pointing back.
"That wasn't in there," Kahen said of the script. "But the director liked it, so we left it in."
The good humor doesn't work for long; the creature breaks the glass wall and rampages toward Perkins. And this is where Kahen/Perkins gets his most memorable line: "S---!" he says, just before he's beaten to a pulp with the creature's walking stick.
Kahen said he has never had any training in acting, nor did he get much guidance on the set.
"It's not glamorous," he said of his experience. All the shots were made on location — a water treatment plant, an apartment complex, old empty buildings, warehouses — and none on a traditional sound stage or studio back lot. The 32 actors and doubles had to share five dressing room trailers. All others were rented out for two blockbuster movies being filmed at the same time elsewhere.
None of that deters Kahen.
"My fantasy at the moment is that once the DVD is released I will be a D-list actor," he said. "Then at least I have some chance to be on the TV show Dancing with the Stars, as I really enjoy dancing and think I would have such a great time."
He has no plans to leave his day job.
"I love my job. I can help people, and I love to help people," he says. "I just want to do something else. I have this need to be famous."