Chaz Bono Is All About That Cult Life in Reboot Camp

American Horror Story star explains why he's fascinated with charismatics


Chaz Bono has a favorite documentary about a cult, but he just can't remember its name.

"I think I have it saved in my Netflix," he told me while flipping through his queue. As he searched, he explained the premise – a documentary about an L.A. cult led by a weird and creepy ex-porn star where most members didn't realize they were in a cult until after the fact. Unfortunately, Bono's Netflix queue doesn't contain the film name – which, according to my research, is the 2016 documentary Holy Hell – but as someone self-described as "fascinated with cults," his persistence is understandable, as is his most recent role in Reboot Camp, a film modeled after all the wild cult documentaries collecting on most streaming services. A mockumentary centered on a director and his brother setting up a fake cult "camp" in order to film their own documentary, Reboot Camp shows just how easily cults can form – but also how hilarious the results can be.

Reboot Camp, which premieres at Austin Film Festival, is a comedic take on the accidental cult premise – something Bono said he was ready to try after doing a dramatic turn in American Horror Story: Cult. His character in AHS (Gary Longstreet) isn't too far off of Reboot's enthusiastic Herbie, as both are eager cult-curious participants. "Herbie just seemed like, in a strange way, an extension of the character that I played in American Horror Story. ... Herbie was kind of silly and didn't, obviously, kill people, but I went into it with that kind of mindset of just getting completely ensnared and moved, just, you know, being so gung-ho in there." When it comes to acting, Bono doesn't see a huge difference in tackling humor and horror: "The key is just being really committed to [the performance] ... because if you're not, it's fake. And if you are, it works."

Going all-in extended to even some of the wilder scenes of Reboot Camp, including being completely covered in plastic wrap. While he said that of all the things he's done, "being wrapped in cellophane is really one of the least of them," he did think that the scene was an important one for his character. "For Herbie it was about rebirth and exciting and fun ... As long as I'm in character, I don't really dissect it outside of that." Overall, the Reboot Camp set – which was filmed at one of Frank Sinatra's old houses – was a positive one, Bono said, with a nice communal atmosphere where most of the cast shared rooms. Filming together brought the cast closer: "It was kind of just a fun setting and a fun way to work. ... We ended up having a good time and laughing a lot."

After being now in two different productions centering on the cult mindset, Bono said even fictional cults have a lot of relevant critique about certain insidious ideologies that dominate much of our real world – especially the one forming around our current White House administration. "We are living through, you know, at least 30 to 35% of Americans who are in essentially a personality cult," he said. "So I don't think that you can look at a cult nowadays and not have it be somewhat reflective of where we are as a country."


Reboot Camp

Comedy Vanguard, World Premiere
Fri., Oct. 23, 7:30pm

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Austin Film Festival
Director Trey Edward Shults Returns to Themes of the Family With <i>Waves</i>
Director Trey Edward Shults Returns to Themes of the Family With Waves
The Krisha creator screens his latest at the Austin Film Festival

Richard Whittaker, Oct. 25, 2019

Documentary <i>Cowboys</i> Shows That Some Are Still Out on the Range
Documentary Cowboys Shows That Some Are Still Out on the Range
If you thought cross-country cattle drives were the stuff of legend, this Austin Film Festival showing will make you think again

Matthew Monagle, Oct. 25, 2019

More by James Scott
Fantasy Sex Toy Shop Strange Bedfellas Knows How to Relieve Your Stress
Fantasy Sex Toy Shop Strange Bedfellas Knows How to Relieve Your Stress
There be monsters ... and therein lies the fun

Oct. 2, 2020

QueerTowne Celebrates Milestone Virtual Show Tonight
QueerTowne Celebrates Milestone Virtual Show Tonight
Why settle for quarantine when you can “Queerantine,” baby?

Aug. 28, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Film Festival, Austin Film festival 2020, AFF 2020, Chaz Bono, Reboot Camp, American Horror Story

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle