The cover art for Chopping Mall mesmerized me for years. During the mid 80s when Friday nights were spent at the local video store I would always slink away from my parents and sneak over to the horror section. I was addicted to the gross and gory covers and one day I was able to sneak this movie under my mother's nose. I watched Chopping Mall over... and over... and over... Its director was JIM WYNORSKI and he had me hooked. He was one of several directors who fuelled my love of genre and to this day I hold him in the highest regard.
His career began as an editor cutting trailers for Roger Corman and since his first film, The Lost Empire (1981) he has written, produced and directed an incredible catalogue of 150+ titles and given the B-world some of it's most outrageous creations. From Transylvania Twist to The Wasp Woman... Return of the Swamp Thing to Busty Cops... and most recently movies like Camel Spiders, Dinocroc Vs SuperGator and Piranhaconda. Jim's flare for kitsch is obvious and as you will see from the following interview, his tongue is planted firmly in his cheek. With a wicked sense of humour and a take-no-prisoners-fuck-off attitude Jim's legacy of trashy cult cinema continues.
Having my film idols give me their time still blows my mind and having Jim Wynorski on board is yet another box ticked. When I approached him for this interview he agreed and told me to make the questions interesting and not the "same' ol same' ol ones again"... well... I'm not sure I delivered but I at least asked the questions which I was interested to know...
What’s the last movie you watched?
Just this morning – JOURNEY TO THE 7TH PLANET. Loved it, despite the cheesy sets and efx.
What’s a question you’ve never been asked in an interview before?
What’s your Visa Credit Card number?
Would you care to answer it now?
4567 3456 2341 0066 (161 on reverse)
Would you consider coming to Australia to make Kangasaurus or Koalaconda?
I would love to go down under. I have a friend or two there. And yes, of course, let’s do MARSUPIAL! while I’m visiting.
You seem to always have something in the works. What can we expect from you next?
Here’s a list of the next five – all true titles:
THE SHARKANSAS WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE
HOT BODY INC.
THE DOUBLE D RANCH
Jim, thank you for taking the time. Your films have been in my psyche since I was 6 years old and they have helped fuel my love of genre.
AFTERWORD: I am curious about Jim's response to my question regarding exploitation films and whether or not they still exist. He names The Conjuring, The Call and You're Next as three recent examples... were this a live interview I would have probed this a little more. These types of horror movies have become almost staple and are now accepted in the mainstream and so I wonder if the definition "exploitation" has changed? I'm sure there is no concise answer but I'd been keen to hear some of your thoughts. Feel free to add comments below. Cheers - Shempy!
Few Gen-Xers walked away from the 80s without knowing and loving The Monster Squad. It was a film for our generation and it endures to this day. Director Fred Dekker tapped into childhood fears in a way which was both scary and exciting and along with Spielberg, Lucas and Dante he helped build a generation of resilient and adventurous kids. In addition to Monster Squad Fred also brought us the classic Night of the Creeps and the ill fated (yet audacious) Robocop 3. He is also responsible for some of the best episodes of Tales from the Crypt, including The Thing From The Grave. With writing credits on Star Trek Enterprise also under his belt, Fred Dekker is a respected and sought after cult figure with fans flocking to conventions and screenings just to shake his hand. His work has certainly influenced my life and I feel really fortunate to have had the opportunity to pick his brain. What a guy!
What was your favourite movie as a kid?
A few come to mind, but let's go with the original KING KONG which was huge for me (no play on words intended). I probably saw it 50 times.
What lit the fire and your passion for film?
My dad was a movie buff from way back, and he'd point out the character actors from old black-and-white war films on TV. He took me to the drive-in, where I'd wear my pajamas and bundle up in a sleeping bag in the back of our family station wagon to watch films like PLANET OF THE APES and WHERE EAGLES DARE. His influence was formative.
How did you first get into the industry and what was your first job in it?
My first gig was writing the script for Steve Miner's planned 3D GODZILLA film. It was never made, but it was a wonderful experience and Steve rallied some amazing artists to design and storyboard -- people like William Stout, Dave Stevens, and Doug Wildey who created "Jonny Quest."
How did the movie “House” come about? You are credited for it’s story but not it’s script.
HOUSE was an idea I wanted to direct. I intended it to be shot at my parent's Victorian house in Northern California -- one character, very low budget, very run-and-gun. When other things came up (like writing NIGHT OF THE CREEPS), I handed script duties to my pal and college roommate Ethan Wiley. Then Steve Miner loved it and got Sean Cunningham to produce. The movie they made was a lot different in tone from what I had intended, but I'm glad people liked it.
Night of the Creeps was released that same year. As a first time director it must have been a scary prospect. Can you tell us how you came to direct the movie?
I wrote the the script in about three weeks then gave it to my agent and said, "I want to direct this." I had an unfinished 16mm short film, which we showed the studio to prove I knew where to aim a camera. Next thing you know, I was in charge of a $6 million movie. It was sudden and terrifying.
Your next movie, Monster Squad, drew influences from the classic Universal Monster pictures. Given that Tristar produced your film, what difficulties did you face recreating the Universal Monsters.
As you can guess, the Universal make-ups are copyrighted, so it was a tightrope walk to make them recognizable while not treading on the copyrighted elements. Luckily, we had the great Stan Winston and his team designing the monsters, so it was kind of hard to go wrong. And I'm on record in thinking our Creature is one of the three best monster costumes ever made for movies (the others are ALIEN and the original Creature).
Both of these movies have gained huge cult followings over the years and continue to screen around the world. Has their longevity amazed you?
Another movie you wrote was Ricochet, starring Denzel Washington. This was directed by Russell Mulcahy who has a highly stylised approach to cinema. Did this movie turn out the way you had envisioned it?
I had actually written RICOCHET as a Dirty Harry movie. When Clint Eastwood deemed it "too grim" (which is funny if you've seen a Dirty Harry movie), the producer Joel Silver took in a different direction. I met Kurt Russell about starring in it with me directing, but eventually it became the movie you know. I counted seven things of mine left in the finished product. Great cast though, and Russell is a Facebook friend.
One of my favourite movies growing up was If Looks Could Kill. Again you are only credited for “story only”. Were you involved at all and did the final cut bare any resemblance to what you had originally written?
This was an original script I'd written called TEEN AGENT, which was my attempt to blend the Anthony Michael Hall character from John Hughes' films with a James Bond adventure. The final product is not at all what I envisioned, not the least reason being they cast a "cool" guy to play the nerdy lead, which kind of defeats the comedy. I'm not a fan, but the movie has its moments. (Trivia: the female lead was named "Mariska" after my college friend Mariska Hargitay -- who went on to star in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit")
You directed Robocop 3. Can you tell us a bit about how this came to you and what it was like to work with the legendary Frank Miller?
I was a huge fan of Frank's comics work, particularly his take on Batman (which redefined the character and influenced every incarnation since -- including the Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan films). Frank had written ROBOCOP 2 with Walon Green, and when I came aboard #3 I learned he had written a draft for that one, too. Rather than toss it, I fought to keep as much unused material as possible from both of his ROBOCOP scripts. The fact that the studio wanted a PG-13 made things tricky, since Frank's voice as a writer is not exactly "family friendly." I'm sure he thinks I destroyed his vision, but a lot of ROBOCOP 3 is his -- especially the Japanese/samurai element and the notion of a corporate, fascist police force. I loved working with him, and I loved making him laugh.
I couldn’t ask you questions without mentioning Tales From The Crypt. What a show! Your episodes were among the series best. How did you become involved?
I was thrilled to be asked to write the first one by Robert Zemeckis, and continued to hang around for the first season. Each episode was a little movie, and I got to work with my heroes, Like Bob Z., Dick Donner, Walter Hill, etc., etc. It was a dream.
What have been your highest and lowest moments in the industry?
Highest would be the one-two punch of making CREEPS and SQUAD back-to-back. Lowest would be the critical reaction to ROBOCOP 3.
You haven't produced much over the past few years; will you return to the directors or writers chair?
Believe me, we writers scribble a lot of scripts that are never shot, so I've actually never gotten OUT of the writer's chair! As for directing, I'm definitely available but the phone doesn't ring like it used to.
What defines good “genre”, to you?
I think when a fantastical idea is treated seriously and with realism. The second you start making fun of the genre you're in, you're entering "camp" territory and that's something I just have no taste for. Good genre is work that has integrity and is true to itself. I'm also tired of remakes and reboots. More originals, please.
If you could have written one film in the history of cinema, which would it be?
Great question. I'd love to have my name on THE TERMINATOR or BACK TO THE FUTURE.
Do you have a favourite film?
What inspires you?
Great movies, great television. Sometimes music and art. Right now I'm in total awe of "Breaking Bad." I feel like I've never known how to write for television, and Vince Gilligan has kind of shown me how it's done.
Who have been some of your favourite filmmakers of the past few years?
Honestly, my heroes are mostly old school (or dead). But apart from Spielberg, Kubrick, Peckinpah, Coppola, guys like that, I'd say more recently: Paul Thomas Anderson, Alexander Payne, The Coen Brothers, Lars Von Trier, Rian Johnson. I admire Shane Carruth, but I can't begin to decipher his films. There's also an English director I've discovered recently named Andrea Arnold, whose work is sensational. Oh and Alfonso Cuaron. CHILDREN OF MEN was amazing, and GRAVITY looks even better!
What is a question you have never been asked in an interview?
"What's the great, unmade Fred Dekker film?"
Would you care to answer it now?
Thought you'd never ask. The feature film of JOHNNY QUEST, based on the 1960s animated series. I had a deal to make it in the 80s, then later wrote a script for Warner Brothers, but it was never made.
I am based in Australia and a question I ask most of my guests is whether they have any favourite Australian films. Do you?
I'm afraid my answer is going to be rather predictable: THE ROAD WARRIOR. George Miller is god.
If Max Landis isn't familiar to you then at the very least his surname should be. His father is none other than legendary director, John Landis. Growing up surrounded by showbiz, Max's career was practically set in stone from the get go and by his mid teens he already had dozens of scripts under his belt. He sold his first one (Deer Woman) at the age of 18, which was directed by his father as an episode of the Masters of Horror anthology series. From then on his rise has been unmistakable. His sci-fi thriller Chronicle dazzled audiences with it's unique take on the super-power genre and the last couple of years have seen several more of his scripts being snapped up by major studios. In addition to his writing Max has had a strong online presence with contributions to Trailers From Hell as well as many of his own YouTube videos. Scroll to the bottom of this article to watch his short film “The Death & Return of Superman”… it is truly awesome!Father & Son - John & Max Landis.
Max Landis has stepped out from the shadow of his father and paved his own road. His passion for cinema and pop culture overflows and listening to him talk about his influences is infectious. He might already have 100+ scripts to his name but this is only the beginning of a long and prolific career. Somehow, amongst his commitments, Max took the time to answer some of my questions.
You grew up with Hollywood all around you. What's an everlasting impression you have from that world as a child?
Well, I was a very misbehaved kid, so the amount I was actually able to experience the whole "John Landis' Son" thing was fairly limited. And even when I was on set, I'd just run straight to the prop truck and play with toy guns.
Was a career in film inevitable or did you ever eye off a different career?
I always knew that I was either going to be a film-maker or an astronaut. Then I found out you had to be smart to be an astronaut.
What was the first screenplay you ever wrote?
Battlefield. Concerned the trials and tribulations of one lone Earth soldier, lost in the No Man's Land of a planet consumed by a three way alien war.
DEER WOMAN. Written by Max, Directed by John.
I believe you have written more than 50 screenplays. Which is your favourite of those least likely to be made?
Of those least likely to be made? God, there are a lot. A lot of those old ones are really terrible, too. I don't dwell on them; I always try to move forward. I'd say the best IDEAS are probably Moth Magic, Dysphoria and Hell and The Policeman, but they're not great scripts.
Where does the inspiration for your stories come from?
Spontaneously. Songs, sometimes. Stuff just kinda pops into my head.
Who have been some of your biggest influences, creatively?
Stephen King, RL Stine, Shane Black, David Fincher, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Garth Ennis, Martin Scorsese, W.S. Van Dyke, Richard Matheson, Grant Morrison...I mean, the list goes on and on.
Do you ever turn to your old man for creative input or advice?
I try sometimes, mainly for advice. He always keeps it pretty simple.
You worked with him on Masters of Horror. Was it a good working relationship?
NOPE. But I was a terrifically immature writer, so I managed to make it even more fraught than it had to be.
Chronicle impressed the hell out of me. At a time when super power movies were boring me to death, yours came along and changed the game. How did this movie change things for you professionally?
It validated what had been going on behind the scenes in my career. I was already on a "streak" so to speak, but now suddenly all of these projects I'd sold were being taken a lot more seriously, and that felt really good.
As the characters learn to control their powers, so too does the film evolve from a shaky hand-held camera to being highly stylised and controlled. Was this written in the script or conceived afterwards?
It's written into the script. I definitely describe it happening in there, and then Josh executed it fucking flawlessly and inventively. Josh always said "Why are found footage movies shakey? Youtube videos aren't always shakey. People can hold cameras straight." And I really agree with him.
There have been mixed reports about the possible sequel. Can you clear anything up about that?
Haha, yeah, I'm off it. Mine was a super fun, kind of really dark psychological action thriller concerning the rise of the world's first "super-villain." Chronicle was about dangers of friendship and love, this one was about the dangers of fame and hate.
I am based in Melbourne, Australia and ask most of my guests if they have any favourite Aussie movies? Most of them answer The Road Warrior... so aside from that one, do you have any favs?
LAKE. FUCKING. MUNGO. Best horror film ever made.
What's your take on remakes?
Every single one is different. Usually the more cash grabby the motive behind them is, the worse they are.
Do you have a favourite film?
I have many favorite films.
Do you have a guilty pleasure movie you're game enough to admit to liking?
I would never be ashamed of admitting I like anything that I genuinely like.
Why do you think I am strangely besotted with The Stupids?
Because it's fucking dope and contains my greatest film performance to date, getting paint bukakke'd.
What's a question you've never been asked in an interview?
What's it all about, really? What's the true meaning of life? Why are we here? I mean, in the end, is there a purpose to life, the universe, and everything?
Would you care to answer it now?
What are some upcoming projects for us to look out for?
Haha, I don't kiss and tell. You'll know soon enough. Besides, I'm sick of hyping my own stuff without being able to guarantee to fans that it'll actually happen, you know?
Follow Max's weird & wonderful exploits on Youtube as he gets in it up to his knees.
Ask any true horror fan who Mick Garris is and they'll snap to attention. There are few names in the horror-movie world more respected than his. His colleagues and fans alike will attest to him being a kind, gentle and warm hearted man... who just so happens to have an unquenchable thirst for some of cinema's most sinister offerings. His career began with small yet successful movies such as Critters 2 and The Fly 2 and has seen him rise to become one of Hollywood's premier authorities on horror. He has become one of Stephen King's strongest collaborators as well as pushing boundaries with the awesomely gruesome Master of Horror tv series. You will see from the posters throughout this article that his stamp on the genre is permanent and incredibly influential. In addition to his film and television work, Mick is also an accomplished author and presented a fantastic interview-based webseries for Fearnet.com called Post Mortem with Mick Garris. I have certainly grown up with his films and again I have been blown away by how generous movie-folk like Mick can be. With a heavy workload and all sorts of commitments he has found the time to sit down and answer my questions. I didn't think my appreciation for this man could have grown any more but it has. With the hint of a scoop and insight into some of his lesser known work, I have just picked the brain of Mick Garris (OMG).
What was your favourite movie as a child?
ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN
At what age did you make up your mind to pursue filmmaking?
Who were some of your early influences?
I loved the Universal classics; they were the doorway into the horror genre. I saw the Corman/Poe films on television, and also a lot of the noir detective type films from the 1940s. Then came Romero, and I became bathed in the blood of horror cinema.
I recently interviewed SS Wilson and briefly discussed *batteries not inc. It’s a little gem of a film and I believe the original story comes from you… was the end product a fair representation of your vision?
Actually, the original concept was by Steven Spielberg. It was originally going to be an episode of AMAZING STORIES called GRAMPS AND GRAMMY AND COMPANY. But when he asked me to do the screenplay and I developed it into the feature script, we were entitled to share the “story by” credit, but in his generosity, Steven offered me full story credit. So because there were other writers on the film once Matthew was brought in to direct it, I was fortunate to receive sole story.
It was a bit more kid-oriented and slapstick than the script I wrote (and the outline Steven first came up with for AMAZING STORIES), but the general basis was there. It’s hard to see something objectively when you spend months on a project and it changes, so I can't tell you if it’s better or worse or the same as the original script, but I'm proud to be associated with it.
Two of your early scripts were Critters 2 and The Fly 2. Both are about as good as sequels could possibly be to such strong properties, what challenges did writing sequels provide?
Well, the primary issue with sequels is to give the audience that wants to see a continuation of the storyline satisfaction, but bring enough new to it that they want to see more. Surprise and entertainment value are just as important to a sequel as they are to an original film, so it’s sort of a balancing act. I'm glad those sequels work for you. Again, there were other writers involved in both: David Twohey wrote the first CRITTERS 2 script, and I did the rewrites when I was assigned to direct it. Frank Darabont and the Wheat Brothers were on FLY II after me, and it did change a lot, becoming more of a teenage monster movie that what I had originally set out to achieve.
And of course you also made Psycho 4, which predates the new Bates Motel prequel screening on A&E. Can you tell us a bit about stepping into such a beloved legacy?
It was a very quick and amazing process. It was made for Showtime, the network that ran MASTERS OF HORROR years later. It had a low budget but a high pedigree. John Landis championed me for the job, and the movie was done for a division of Universal that made shows for cable TV at the time. I had created a series called SHE WOLF OF LONDON for them with Tom McLoughlin, and Ned Nalle, who was a mucky-muck in that division at Universal, knew me and liked the idea.
Of course, I was thrilled to be working on a prequel/sequel to one of my favorite films of all time. There had already been a sequel made by Richard Franklin, who was not well known in the US at that time, and Anthony Perkins himself had directed the second sequel, which was not a success, either at the box office or with critics.
So I felt that there was some remove there, not such high expectations. So sure, I was nervous as a newborn colt to take it on, but had a lot of love for it and ideas, and tried to make it visually original yet compatible with the Hitchcock original.
You enjoy a healthy creative relationship with Stephen King and your first adaptation of his was Sleepwalkers, if I'm not mistaken. This was also one of his first movies, not actually based on a novel. There are some divisive themes in that film, did you feel like you were pushing boundaries at the time?
Yes, it was his first produced original screenplay, and the first time we worked with each other. Yes, it was very transgressive at the time, and it came from dealing with some of the very same themes as we’d played with in PSYCHO IV… which was one of the reasons King approved me for the project in the first place.
I had no idea what we were doing would be quite as potent as others did, though. We had to go back to the MPAA five times to get an R rating, after lots of cutting and manipulating. They really had problems with some of the violence and sexual content we had shot, which actually were quite mild.
You also adapted The Stand, which is one of the most daring and epic of his adaptations. It was a phenomenon at the time; did you ever feel like you had bitten off more than you could chew?
Fear is a healthy thing for filmmakers, painters, musicians, performers. It was incredibly intimidating to have this 460-page stone tablet delivered to my door, based on history’s most successful writer’s most successful book! It was overwhelming.
But you take it a scene at a time. Once you know the script is in good shape, then you just chip away at it, a scene at a time, until the sculpture is finished. I knew the book was great, and so was the screenplay. We got a great cast and a wonderful group of creative cohorts to share the burden, and everybody did their best, most inspired work to create something as special as the book we were adapting.
You kept looking for the light at the end of the tunnel… but that tunnel was made of light. The hardest work I’ve ever had or will have, but as rewarding as it gets.
Your work with King has continued over the years with films like The Shining, Riding The Bullet, Desperation and Bag of Bones amongst others. What’s the key to your working relationship with him?
We're friends, we like a lot of the same things, we've both been in bands and have rock’n’roll in our souls. But we're also writers, and simpatico in so many ways. We have similar backgrounds in our home lives and pop culture upbringings, but maybe it’s mostly because of the respect I have for his work, and for him as a human being as well as an artist.
For an all too brief period of time, your TV series Masters of Horror was about as good as horror had ever been on television. How did the series come about and was it disappointing to see it shut down so prematurely?
Thanks. I’d rather look at it with the happy memory of two incredible years of being able to do something with such creative freedom that some of our great filmmakers did some of their freest, finest works in years in that format. FEAR ITSELF was going to be the third season of MoH, but it was for commercial television, which itself was a mistake, and was made under circumstances which made it impossible for me to remain in place, and I had to leave my baby to live with others.
So it is not with disappointment that I look back on MoH, but with pride and contentment.
With today’s television audience so hungry for horror content, can you foresee a Masters of Horror resurrection?
Maybe something like that, but not MASTERS OF HORROR itself. I have some things I'm working on of an anthological nature, but it will not have that title. But watch this space.
What’s been a career high for you? … And a low?
MASTERS OF HORROR was an amazing high… but so were all of the King projects. THE STAND being so hugely successful was a landmark for anyone. And creatively, I think in many ways THE SHINING was an equal high.
FEAR ITSELF would have to be the low point. It was a horrible situation, and a dismal flop in the ratings. It was the biggest disappointment of my career, and it could have been great. Breaks my heart.
What have been a few of your favourite films recently?
Hmmm…. That’s going to take some time. Most of my favorite recent films have not been in the horror genre. I have some catching up to do. I have been seeing a lot of films at international festivals, and most of the best ones never get a theatrical release. So I’ll have to get back to you on that.
I am based in Melbourne, Australia and ask most of my guests if they have any favourite Aussie films. Do you?
I love Peter Weir films; Richard Franklin was amazing. I love DEAD CALM and TWO HANDS. LONG WEEKEND, of course. And THIRST is one of my very favorites.
Australian genre films (Ozploitation) have enjoyed a new lease on life over the past few years. Have you watched much Australian horror?
Lots. But never enough.
What is a question you have never been asked in an interview before?
I think I may have answered all of them! Waiting for a new one; your move!
If you couldn’t be a filmmaker anymore, what would you be?
An author. I do write books as well, and it’s great to have an outlet for more intimate work than film or television can possibly provide.
Do you have anything in the pipeline you care to share?
There’s a lot of stuff coming up, but the biggest project I'm involved with at the moment is UNBROKEN. This is a bestselling book about my father-in-law, Lou Zamperini, who has had an amazing life, first as an Olympic runner, and then in World War II, where he faced incredible challenges, including crashing his plane in the Pacific and being on a life raft at sea for 47 days. Angelina Jolie is directing, from a script by the Coen brothers and Richard LaGravenese. I’m Executive Producer.
Mick, thank you for taking the time. I regard your work highly and it’s been an absolute pleasure getting the chance to ask you a few questions.
If you're into horror then you should be well acquainted with The Soska Sisters... aka The Twisted Twins. From Vancouver, Canada, these two audacious and deliciously depraved sisters have boldly announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with and horror fans from all over the world have embraced them as true mistresses of horror. In 2009 they made a micro-budget shocker called Dead Hooker In A Trunk, which they also starred in. That movie caught a lot of people's attention and in 2012 they followed it up with one of the most profound and artistic horror films of the decade, American Mary. Their understanding of horror, feminist sensibilities and their vision is unmistakable. With inklings of Cronenberg and McKee, they have strewn out a groundwork that is destined to see them amongst the most respected and influential names in the genre (if not cinema in general). Having lived in Vancouver myself I have taken a keen interest in The Soskas since Dead Hooker and its fair to say that I haven't seen any other film makers quite like them. Recognising their twinship as a brand, they have courageously capitalised on their niche marketing-angle and have forced a strong relationship with their fans. When getting in touch with filmmakers it is always gratifying when great films are backed up by genuinely nice people. Jen and Sylvia are two of the most approachable and spirited directors I have had the pleasure of knowing. Amongst world tours and preparing for their next project they have embraced my questions and offered some wonderfully insightful and honest answers. In high demand and being chased by the likes of Fangoria Magazine, they have still taken the time for a humble little site like this. I love these girls and I'm sure you will too.
What was your favourite film or television show as a child?
Sylvia: DESPERADO, we would watch that non-stop, over and over again. I wanted to be El, then I grew up, I still want to be El. We watched Darkwing Duck, Beetlejuice, She-Ra, Gem, X-Men - you know, the usual suspects for kids that turn out like us.
Jen: ha ha, obviously we watched all the same shows. There were some films we watched a gratuitous amount of times. PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, GHOSTBUSTERS, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, SCROOGED... oh! And LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS! If it was scary it didn't matter. Our parents talked to us about what we watched and watched with us. More parents really ought to these days.
As twins have you always been passionate about the same types of film and arts?
Sylvia: Mostly. We are very similar but vastly different. Our joke is that she's the Joss Whedon and I'm the Lars Von Trier. She likes the heart, I like seeing it get ripped out. We like a lot of the same things, sometimes for different reasons. Jen is way better with people, she always booked more jobs than I did when we were acting, like the line in TWINS, she's all the good stuff and I'm the left over shit and I'm cool with that.
Jen: We like the same stuff, but to different extremes. I LOVE Buffy. It's had a profound influence on me. Sylv also likes Buffy, but I was the one who'd think it was romantic to force dates (usually terrified ones) to take me for walks through graveyards at night. And, yes, I was holding a stake at the time. I like Lars' work. I like ANTICHRIST. Sylv LOVES it. Sylv could teach a class on the many subtleties of Lars Von Triers' films and never ending brilliance. I don't think there's anything that one of us likes that the other hates.
What are some of your guilty pleasure movies to watch?
Sylvia: ABOUT A BOY is my sad, crying movie. DREDD, I watch as a little treat to myself. I do my best Dredd impersonation and say, 'MaMa Clan', and Jen knows I'll be putting it on in like five minutes. I really like HEARTBREAKERS, it makes me think I should have saved myself the trouble and just gone into con-artistry which seems way more financially beneficial than filmmaking.
Jen: Memoirs Of A Geisha. I love that film. It's my "I'm sad" movie. The line, "none of us receives as much kindness in this life as we deserve" really moved me. I read the book and cried at the end. It was so beautifully done. Maybe the raging feminist in me couldn't take a woman living her whole life to get close to one man. I did find it incredibly romantic and I firmly believe that real romance only exists in movies. BATMAN RETURNS. I can quote everything Selina Kyle says and she is the Catwoman that every other one since her has to live up to. Anything by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, but I have absolutely no regrets about devoting my time to their musical stylings and combined comedic genius.
How has the Canadian lifestyle influenced your work?
Sylvia: I wish more of Canadian lifestyle was celebrated in this country, if you look at the map, all our cities are along the US boarder and there's a big influence there. It's always been a struggle in Canada to have national cinematic identity as the country seems more content to attract foreign productions here rather than focus on our local talent. Canadians are weird and I mean this in the best of ways, there's a uniqueness to our humor, our interests, I love our genre filmmaking - we put a big focus on that in our work. We have Canadian casts and crews working on our scripts and it's something I'm extremely proud of. We wouldn't have had the same influence to start making films if Jason Eisener hadn't come along with his brilliant HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. My favorite thing about Canada is the celebration of the individual which is where I think that cool weirdness comes from and thrives.
Jen: I'm not sure if it has, but they say you can't see the forest from the trees. I'm sure it's had an impact. We watch a lot of American culture, America has a way of seeping into everywhere. If I was born and raised in Orange County I shudder to think who we may have become. Vancouver might be the most beautiful place on Earth. People complain about the rain and constantly overcast weather, but I think it's beautiful. It made the tone of the X-FILES so good and it's definitely influenced our work. I think dark things are beautiful. It's like I get to live in one of Tim Burton's classic films. I do struggle for us to advance our Canadian cinematic national identity, though. I like walking the trail that David Cronenberg blazed for us.
I lived in Vancouver myself and was always trying to sneak into filming locations. Did the presence of so many productions make a difference to you?
Sylvia: They didn't let you on set? Me neither. My biggest heartbreak was when they were shooting REINDEER GAMES a block away from my high school, Ben Affleck was there and we decided to go over there and get a look at him. They were pretty mean and sent us away, they didn't even want us looking. I understand now why they did it, but it's a bummer when you don't know why you can't interrupt their day and see a movie star. I was really proud to have so many cool shows shooting in my hometown - X-FILES was huge. I worked in film from a young age, nothing exciting, but I got to go to set and it was cool. Back then, I was convinced that the only way I could work in film was as an actress, I didn't realize that one day I would be writing, directing, and producing my own films with Jen.
Jen: It glamourized the film industry for sure. Everyone and their cat was on THE X-FILES at one time or another. I wanted so badly to be on it. Never had my chance. It added a sense of seduction to the whole filmmaking thing. It held a certain magic to it. It's still there. I love seeing places they're filming. I wonder which friends are working there.
My favourite Canadian film is Lynn Stopkewich’s Kissed starring Molly Parker. There are quite a few thematic similarities with American Mary. Did this film influence you at all?
Sylvia: You've seen KISSED?! I love that film. Our Director of Photography, Brian Pearson worked on that film! He had a great quote about it and MARY - the age restriction for when he would let his daughter watch either film is 38. It had an influence on the kind of films I wanted to make. I'm so stoked that you saw that film, not enough people have.
Jen: Oh, I LOVED that film. Still do! It's so cool that Brian worked on it. I think everything we watch influences us on some level, even if we don't consciously recognize it. We try to watch something new every day. We're always learning and looking for inspiration. We love watching international and indie films.
Can you explain the title of American Mary?
Sylvia: Totally. AMERICAN MARY follows the story of an impoverished young woman who desperately seeks to be a surgeon at all costs of self, in an attempt to obtain the 'American dream'. It's an unrealistic pressure we put on ourselves and with the state of the economy, it's even more of a battle which means the sacrifices are often greater even though they still don't guarantee success as the goal is unobtainable. It follows a working woman which brings in the issues of appearance, which whether we like to admit or not, is another unrealistic expectation put on most notably women. The American ideal of beauty versus what is actually achievable, we explore these very Western real life issues that could really play out anywhere in North America, but since we are exploring the expectations from the world's dominant super-power, we made Mary American and used her life to touch on different issues of self that we are faced with today. Appearances are everything was a tagline that encompassed all those themes.
Jen: The other portion was "Mary". We wanted to give her a strong name. Mary Harron is one of our favorite directors. We got our introduction to her when we saw her defending AMERICAN PSYCHO. She was talked to outraged feminist groups and handled herself so eloquently and his such composure, intellect, and grace. It had a huge impact on us, before we even fell in love with the film. It also has to do with Mary, Mother of God, and Mary Magdalene, two very different, but powerful women. We also used "Ave Maria" as Mary's theme.
What attracted you to the world of body modification as a subject for American Mary?
Sylvia: I stumbled upon the body mod culture in a very backwards way - I saw an April Fool's prank posting featuring identical twin brothers who swapped limbs. Along with the photo diary of the procedures, there was a letter from the twins that explained that you had to be a twin to understand why they did this. It scared me. My mom taught me that fear come from having a lack of education about something, so learn about it and you won't be scared anymore. My fear turned to fascination to admiration. There is no group as misunderstood as the body mod community and very few projects that show them in an honest, positive light. That became very important to me, especially because I started with the general population's misinformation about the culture and truly embracing and understanding it enriched my life, I wanted to to the same for others.
Jen: The film is very much an analogy for our own ventures in the film industry. We started out acting and modelling and as you can imagine we came up against so very unsavory characters. I heard the stories, I thought I saw it all. Then when we made DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK, we saw a whole new ugly side to this business where as much as we struggled to be seen as equal to our male counter parts, our gender and usually our age became the object of discrimination with many monster producers and execs. We found that the people you're meant to respect and hold in high regard are often the real monsters and the outsiders, the indie brats and the horror community which can appear to look a little different or seem intense are in fact the sweetest, most generous and honest people you'll ever meet. That's largely where our theme, "appearances are everything" came from.
Has the body-mod crowd embraced the film?
Sylvia: At the end of the day, body modification is a life choice that hasn't been represented properly in film much. It was important to us to have perspective from someone who is not only in the community but does the procedures as a flesh artist himself. Through our good friend, Amelia Smart, we were introduced to Russ Foxx who was that man and kept us in reality in the fantastical aspects of the film. He was so good to us and we kept asking him all these questions and he'd be very cool in getting our 'internet schooling' on the subject right. One of his favorite lines with us was 'You read that on the internet, so it must be true.' When we premiered the film at Fright Fest, I looked out at the audience and saw so many members of the body mod community there. It was what I was hoping for.
After the screening, Roni - who is person who brought body mod to Poland when tattoos and piercings are still taboo - was introduced to me. I was so excited/nervous to her what she thought of the film. She dug it. She's even done an American Mary-themed shoot in Bizarre. I feel so lucky to have this opportunity to share this community that I love and have people in body mod like what we did. Thank God for the internet, we talk to people around the world that are in the scene and have seen the film. I'm very happy that we didn't fuck up.
Jen: Very well. It was our intention to give an honest and objective look into the world of body modification that wasn't just out of context close up images of genital modifications. There's so much negativity falsely associated with the body mod community. They're beautiful and honest and brave people. I say brave because to step away from the norm and embrace your own ideal or self expression and beauty gets a very negative reaction. It's like there's only one accepted form of what society sees as beautiful and that's just bullshit to me. I'm so happy that we've at very least opened a dialogue about body modification. We intentionally didn't use it for shock value, but rather to further the themes of "appearances are everything". What many people regard as monsters are in fact very human. Most monsters hide away what they are under the guise of normality.
You and Astron-6 are taking the world by storm, it would seem. Australia has certainly embraced you. Is genre alive and well in Canada?
Sylvia: You know, there are brilliant genre filmmakers in Canada - most famously David Cronenberg - and I am such a big fan of Jason Eisener, Astron 6, and Jovanka Vuckovic's work. They are a real representation of the talent we have in Canada, not these sad family dramas that seem to be the only ones that get any support. For whatever reason, genre filmmaking has always been such a battle in Canada. I'm hoping the success of these filmmakers internationally will get it some more support at home. I would like to see a stronger cinematic national identity that embraces genre films here and more of a focus on celebrating Canadian made and Canadian talent-filled productions. The dream is to open our own studio where we self-finance our projects and consistently have projects with our teams coming out, eventually getting to the point where we can finance other artists works that we'd like to see get made.
By the by, we fucking adore Australia. Monster Pictures has been with us since our first film and they truly fight for their filmmakers. I loved getting to come to Australia, we're secretly plotting how to go back again.
Jen: It's thriving! We have some phenomenal talent up here and we are just in love with Astron-6. What they do and the way they do it is just unheard of. They're really changing the world with what they do. It's a basic human right to watch and own MANBORG.
You have promoted yourselves with a distinctive image and the horror fans are lapping it up. Is your public persona far removed from your own private lives?
Sylvia: Ha ha, we're a lot more bubbly than we appear in some of the images of us online. We're weird, we always have had a very strong interest in fashion and our lives revolved around horror, gaming, and comics. We never thought we would fit into anything because of our oddness. On set and at home, we're in high heels in our varga-inspired makeup. We didn't just like the characters we grew up loving, we wanted to be them. I guess it's very much our version of what a superhero would wear, just less spandex. It's nice that people are digging it - growing up we got teased like crazy.
Jen: The funny thing is that it isn't a shtick. People are surprised when they see us and we dress and act just like we do online or in interviews. We embrace who we are. I spent too much time in highschool wanting to be accepted until I realized that some people in this life are just going to hate you for no good reason and fuck them. It's a very important lesson. I dress and act and do what I do for me. Life is a show and we are in show business. I think the "show" quality has been severely lacking. We're trying to rectify that.
You recently visited Australia. Was it a culture shock for you?
Sylvia: Yes. I should have educated myself more on it other than Crocodile Hunter and CROCODILE DUNDEE. We started in Melbourne during the races. Everyone was dressed so fancy with those cute little hats, we thought there was like a million weddings going on at once. And it was winter and the weather was so hot and beautiful. The Monster folks, Neil, Ben, Zak, and Grant, were so kind to be stuck with us during our time there. We got to explore the country, meet so many people, and we were addicted to the real life horror stories of the country. I didn't know about the serial killers - it was so fascinating. No predatory animals and every bird was a fucking parrot. And the language, calling bikers 'bikies', so adorable, and sketchy situations is 'dodgy'. It's a magical place. I desperately want to go back.
Jen: It was hot. And kangaroos weren't just all over the place. I loved it! I LOVE Monster Pictures. They were so good to us. And the fans were cool as hell. Your minimum wage is much higher than ours. When I first say a burger for thirty bucks I asked if it was also going to have sex with me.
What was the highlight of your trip?
Sylvia: Actually meeting the people that have made this possible, the team at Monster and the people who have been watching the films. Seeing all those Aussie DEAD HOOKERS was amazing! We got to sit in the theatre and experience MARY with them for the first time - all the laughs, gasps, and walks outs. It was such an unreal special experience. I still can't believe how lucky I am to have this opportunity. Like how is this my life?
Jen: The people. No matter where we go, it's the people. Because of Monster Pictures giving DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK such an amazing release in both the UK and Australia, the fans were all fans back from DEAD HOOKER. I ask someone here if they've seen it and then either shrug or bullshit that they have. In Australia they all brought their copies for us to sign. When we asked audiences if they'd heard of it, they broke of in ravenous cheers. I cannot tell you how much that meant to us.
Do you enjoy Aussie cinema and if so, what are some of your favourite movies?
Sylvia: I really love WOLF CREEK and I'm very stoked about the sequel. Mick Taylor is a real personality in Australia. I got this cool bobblehead of him from Greg and every time we went through customs, they were all like - Do you know who that is? He's a really bad guy. And then they'd laugh knowingly. Of course, knowing about WOLF CREEK and traveling through foreign to us Australia, makes everything so much more terrifying. I think the statistic is that thirty thousand people go missing in the bush every year and 10% of those people are never found. Scary shit.
Jen: Same! WOLF CREEK is awesome! I really dig your real life serial killer stories. It's funny that those stories haven't really reached North America. Your serial killers make ours look like pussy cats.
Amongst other people you met and spent time with Greg McLean. What did you discuss?
Sylvia: Greg is a really cool guy, I'm so glad that he had time to meet us as he was just about to getting shooting on WOLF CREEK 2. His office is amazing with props and prosthetics from his films and this giant collection of comic books and action figures. He even has the Captain America comic where Cap punches Hitler. We have lots of similar interests, we're graphic novel nerds and love horror. We asked him a lot about the real horror in Australia that he drew inspiration on his films from. He's such a smart guy. We shared filmmaking stories - we have the same entertainment lawyer, Joel Vanderkloot - who is the best guy on the fucking planet, so we had to talk about how much we love him. I really love my lawyer - he's always fighting for us, I'm grateful to have him. That was actually how I was first introduced to Greg and his work by talking to Joel.
Jen: Greg is so cool! We hadn't seen WOLF CREEK at the time that we met him, but he was so sweet to give us each a copy, and ROGUE. We chatted about filmmaking, serial killers (again), comic books, and our lawyer that we all share and adore, Joel Vanderkloot. It was pretty much a love fest. I'm very excited for WOLF CREEK 2.
With a string of short films and two features under your belt, what’s next for the Soskas?
Sylvia: We were just announced as part of the ABCS OF DEATH 2, so we're really stoked about that. There's a couple projects that we're involved with that are coming up, as well as our third film which is a real monster. It's an original monster movie that we're teaming with Masters FX to bring something really unique to the table. The tagline is: There's a monster inside all of us, sometimes it gets out.
Jen: The monster movie is called BOB. It's going to heavily favor practical over CGI. It's a very right now story and it's a real passion project of ours. We've begun a lot of design and story boards for it. It's going to really kick the horror genre in the ass!
Chuck Parello is a filmmaker who I have admired for many years. His notorious sequel to Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer divided audiences at the time of its release but has since earned itself a deserved appreciation and loyal cult following. Working primarily with serial killer subjects his work is chilling, sincere and provocative, and his name has become synonymous with the genre. I can recall watching his film In The Shadow of the Moon (later retitled Ed Gein) for the first time and thanking the filmmaking Gods for an accurate depiction of Ed Gein's exploits... most films before it relied on fabrication, gimmickry and exaggeration. My respect for Chuck was later cemented with his effective and horrific film, The Hillside Stranglers and now I am feeling privileged for this opportunity to pick at his brains some. With a few projects in the pipeline Chuck found the time to answer some of my questions. Such a gent.
What was your favourite film as a child?
The Sound of Music. But then I saw Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy on late night TV and I forgot all about Julie Andrews and her caterwauling brats.
How old were you when you decided to pursue a career in film?
I've always loved movies, but for the longest time I never even contemplated pursuing film as a career. I had no contacts, no big Hollywood producer uncle who could pave my way into the industry. And I had always heard how impossible it was to get a paying job doing movie stuff. But then I kept working at it and here I am all these years later.
Who or what have been big influences on your career, creatively?
Right off the bat I'd have to say director John McNaughton was a big influence on my career creatively. If I hadn't seen his film Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, I wouldn't be here now.
I was a writer at a magazine in Chicago that wrote about film production when John McNaughton, then an unknown director, came into our offices. His film Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was playing at the Chicago film festival and he wanted somebody at our magazine to write about it. I then took home the VHS tape and watched it and realized that I had found my life's work. I ended up getting hired at the home video company that owned Henry. I then started promoting the controversial film around and made it famous. Because of this, Martin Scorsese offered John a directing gig on the film Mad Dog & Glory starring Bill Murray and Robert DeNiro. I then went to work with John on that film as well as some of his other films.
Since I did a good job making the original Henry famous, the company that financed the first film asked me to write and direct the sequel. I agree that it was a ballsy move to direct a sequel to such a classic, but I was a nobody at the time with no reputation to protect. If I hadn't done it, somebody else would have. And I must say that I'm very proud of the results. I still get fan mail from people about the film, and it allowed me to have the career that I have now.
Where did your story for Henry 2 come from?
I had been doing some research on a bunch of insurance scammer arsonists who ended up getting involved with a murder and it dawned on me that starting fires for profit might be something a murdering son of a bitch like Henry could get into. He is a drifter and a criminal after all, so he's always going to gravitate towards a darker element.
Was there much support for what you were doing at that time?
The experience of making Henry 2 was a great one. I had a terrific team of really talented people behind me. I always knew that there was going to be a backlash against the film from people that have such reverence for the original, but ultimately I couldn't have been happier about the reaction Henry 2 received. People really seem to admire its craft and the superior performances by actors like Kate Walsh, who went on to become a big television star.
Was there a conscious effort to recreate the atmosphere of the first one?
We definitely wanted it to give off that scary as shit vibe like the original. And I guess we succeeded as the film went through hell with the ratings board before they would award it a rating that we could release it with.
Your next film was In The Light of the Moon (aka Ed Gein), the true story of Ed Gein. How did you become involved with this?
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer 2 was screening at the Cannes Film Festival market and John McNaughton just happened to be at Cannes at the time. Anyway, this producer who knew about the sequel was teasing John about how his idea was being ripped off. But John stuck up for Henry 2 and said it was a really good film. This producer was intrigued, watched Henry 2 for himself and ended up hiring me to direct Ed Gein.
I consider this film to be the best depiction of Gein's actual story. Was Steve Railsback your first choice?
Thank you for the compliment, as there are other Gein films out there. Steve Railsback was suggested to us by somebody so we met with him and he was absolutely perfect for the part. He even looked slightly like the real Ed Gein. I knew Steve's reputation as an intense actor who gave unforgettable performances and decided that he was absolutely the guy.
The Hillside Strangler is another one. What attracts you to serial killers as your subjects?
When I was approached to do The Hillside Strangler I was reluctant at first. But then I started reading up on the real story of these two men who committed all of these sex murders together and I couldn't help myself. I guess I've always liked this type of material, and I always will. It's interesting that everything on cable television these days seems to be about serial murder. So I guess I'm not alone in my fascination with serial killers.
Creative freedom would seem a logical perk to working independently but what do you consider to be the hardest thing about it?
The absolute hardest thing is finding financing and, more importantly, getting yourself paid after you finally find the financing. Since it seems like everybody can make movies these days, budgets for horror films are sooooo small and are shrinking by the second. The industry needs movies more than ever, they just don't want to pay the people who make independent films any more.
I have been reading about your comedy short, Dr 420. What can you tell us about it?
I was trying to talk this producer into doing one of my true crime films, but he said he was only interested in doing stoner comedies. Later it dawned on me that it might be fun to do a stoner comedy so I wrote a script centered around the medical marijuana industry called Dr. 420. Since I'm friends with the great comedic actress Lin Shaye, who had a part in my film The Hillside Strangler, I decided to do a short from my script that featured Lin in the lead part. The resulting short Dr. 420 is pretty crazy if I do say so myself. Lin is off the rails as a medical marijuana doctor with a thing for bodily fluids. So now that I have the short, I'm hoping I can use it to attract funds for the Dr. 420 feature.
Comedy is a departure for you. Did it come naturally?
I think comedy does come naturally to me. People are surprised that I like to laugh, but I do. Death and destruction only get you so far. Sometimes you just need to lighten the fuck up.
I am based in Melbourne, Australia and I often ask my guests if they have any favourite Aussie films. Do you?
Netflix streaming has allowed me to catch up on so many great Aussie films. The ones that spring to mind that I admire include Breaker Morant, Gallipoli and Mad Max!
Yes! Double Indemnity, which was directed by Billy Wilder and stars Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. An awesome film noir! So cynical. So perfect.
What's a question you've never been asked before in an interview?
Are you a man or a mouse?
What's next for you?
A film called City Gas, the shocking but true story of an East Indian gas station millionaire who ruins his life when he hires a career criminal to commit a string of contract murders for him over on long, hot summer. Naveen Andrews is attached to star.
Chuck, thank you so much for your time. I look forward to City Gas!
When I interviewed director Albert Pyun a few weeks ago he mentioned Joei Fulco's name to me and suggested her for a possible article. To be honest I hadn't heard of her before but within a few minutes of investigation I understood why Albert thought so highly of her. In making contact with Joei I was confronted by a girl who's maturity was years beyond her age. Chatting with her is to chat with a smart, determined and intelligent young lady.Hot Rod DeVille
She comes from a family of performers and has been born & bred to entertain. It didn't take long for me to become swept up by Joei. Her starring role in Albert's upcoming Cyborg Nemesis is no doubt the beginning of a long and successful career. In fact I suspect that in a few years from now I will be bragging that I interviewed her. Not only does Joei Fulco sing and act, she also writes and plays her own music. At only 16 years of age she is a star whose path to SUPERstardom is well and truly set... even now as this article is being published, Joei has just left for another European tour. I feel a little bit privileged (and chuffed) to introduce her to you.
You're only 16 and already being cast in feature films. How long have you been acting for?
I have been working on acting for the past two years but this is actually my first professional acting job. I also consider performing a form of acting so I guess you could say I've been acting since the ripe old age of 2!
You also sing and perform on stage and by the looks of it, your family is right beside you all the way. Are you a showbiz family?
Saying that we are a showbiz family is an enormous understatement! Our lives are completely dedicated to performing. My dad has been in the industry since he was a kid and has spent his life pursuing what he loves to do. My siblings and I were all born with a love for performance. My entire family is involved in music and none of us could picture our lives without it. We love anything that has to do with performing and sharing our love of the arts. Showbiz is our life!!!
Who or what have been some of your biggest influences?
My dad is definitely one of my biggest influences because he is such a talented man who has done so many amazing things and he has the most incredible work ethic and view on life. I think that he is a truly inspiring person. Another one of my biggest influences is Barbra Streisand because she is so talented and has accomplished so many amazing things in her lifetime. She has accomplished things that no other woman has done and I find it to be truly admirable.
Joie Fulco as Pearl Prophet in Cyborg Nemesis.
What was your favourite film as a little kid?
This is such a difficult question for me to answer because there are so many movies that I loved as a kid. I was always a huge fan of the Disney movies like Lady and the Tramp, Oliver and Company, Thumbelina, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Mighty Joe Young, etc... I also loved movies like Grease, Twister, The Mask, etc...
What about now? Do you have a favourite?
Picking my favorite movie is still a very difficult task for me. I love movies like Stand By Me, The Notebook, Les Miserables, The Shining, and anything scary or with a deep storyline. I do still absolutely love the movies I watched when I was a kid though!
Director Albert Pyun speaks highly of you. How did you cross his radar?
My family and I are always promoting our work online and Albert came across some of it and contacted me about possibly working on the movie and I was more than happy to! Albert is such a wonderful person and I am absolutely honored to be working with him! His faith in me is humbling and I feel so blessed that our paths crossed.
He cast you as a cyborg in his upcoming sci-fi thriller, Cyborg Nemesis. Were you familiar with Albert and his work prior to this?
I, personally, was not familiar with his work prior to him contacting me, but my parents were.
Training with Kim Couture.
Performers have various methods and approaches to acting. How do you prepare for a role?
When I prepare for a role, I like to read through the script and become familiar with my role and their past/story. Then I find a way to put myself into that character. I focus on the character work at first. With this role I researched some characters from other movies that Albert recommended and tried to find a balance that would suit Pearl. After becoming the character I worked on physically fitting the role and trained constantly!
You have obviously struck a chord with Albert and he has cast you in a new film. What can you tell us about it?
I'm so thrilled that Albert cast me in his new film and I cannot wait to learn more about the Kickboxer project. I still don't know all the details but knowing Albert and Cynthia, I'm sure it will be very exciting!
Your website has several songs on it. Are these all your own songs?
My dad, my brother Jesse, and I all compose our own music. We love writing songs and we are constantly writing and experimenting in different genres of music. All the songs on our website are originals.
Which passion comes first? Music or Acting?
I don't think that it's possible for me to put either first being that they are both so close to my heart. If I had a music and acting opportunity, I would find a way to do both!
Is schooling a factor for you or have you committed your attentions to performing?
My education is very important to me and I had to find a balance between my career and my schooling. Because my life is dedicated to my career and performing I am homeschooled which enables me to be flexible.
Do you have a career goal? Where would you hope to be in 5 years time?
I hope to still be in the business and working. Fame has never been a goal for me. I am interested in always being able to do what I love because, to me, that is the ultimate success. Staying in the game is what it's all about!
I am based in Australia. I often ask my guests if they have any favourite Australian films or actors? Do you?
I am not too familiar with Australian movies, however, I am a huge fan of Hugh Jackman. His performance in Les Miserables left me in tears! (The good kind!)
What's been a career highlight for you so far?
Being in Cyborg Nemesis is definitely one of the most amazing highlights in my career so far! Also getting to travel the world in Europe and Asia while touring was another highlight because it opened up my understanding of other countries and it gave me so much experience with performing.
Who are some people you would love to work with?
I would love to work with people like Barbra Streisand, Taylor Lautner, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Taylor Lautner, Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Taylor Lautner, Anthony Hopkins, Drake Bell, Morgan Freeman, did I mention Taylor Lautner? LOL! etc... I would love to work with seasoned people so that I could learn from their work and experiences.
Do you have any other work on the horizon that we should know about?
At the end of June I will be leaving with my family to go on tour in Switzerland and Monte Carlo and I can't wait! I am also going to be working on the Kickboxer and possibly Blood Sucking Devil which is beyond exciting!
What music is on your iPod right now?
This question has so many answers! I don't stick to one kind of music, I listen to a variety of genres! My favorite is country music so there is a lot of country on my iPod! I also listen to Billy Joel, Queen, Drake Bell, Bruno Mars, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Garth Brooks, David Cassidy, Josh Turner, P!nk, Glee, Al Jolson, Frankie Lymon, and sooooo much more! The list is practically endless!!!
Joei, thank you so much for taking the time. I'll be keeping tabs on your career and I would love to visit with you again some time to dig a bit deeper into your work.
Thank you, Glenn, for the opportunity. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future!
Seemingly, Barbie Wilde has done it all. Most notably appearing in Clive Barker's Hellbound: Hellraiser II, she has enjoyed a multifaceted career from her early beginnings in mime, to a successful stint as the host of a TV music program as well as becoming an accomplished author. She has toured the world as part of the renowned music/dance troupe SHOCK and performed alongside the likes of Adam and the Ants, Depeche Mode and Gary Numan. Her talent is unquestionable and last year saw the release of her erotic-horror novel The Venus Complex, which has been praised all over the world. Of course if you're a fan then you already know all of this, however, if you're new to Barbie's work then I am thrilled to present her to you. Like most of my previous guests she has been both gracious & generous with her time and this opportunity to interview her has been an absolute privilege.
What was your favourite movie as a child?
The first one that just popped into my mind was the black and white, sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), starring Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal. It was a scary premise, but Michael Rennie made such a sexy, logical alien, I was hooked. Sci-fi featured heavily when I was young, because my dad was such a big fan.
When I was a kid, I was much more into TV than movies. My favourite TV shows were: The Addams Family, The Avengers, The Man from UNCLE, Honey West and The Prisoner.
At what age did you decide to pursue a showbiz career?
I fell in love with acting when I got a part in my first school play when I was 12. (The play was called The Mighty Germ and I portrayed a sneeze-ridden teacher.) I was involved in drama classes in high school and then I went on to Syracuse University to study as a Drama Major, with a minor in Anthropology.
Who have been some of your early influences?
As an actress: Diana Rigg (Emma Peel), Carolyn Jones (Morticia Addams) and Ava Gardner. Directors that had a big influence on me when I was young were: Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Wise, John Huston.
Early influences as a writer: Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, Patricia Highsmith, Rod Serling, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein.
Drawing Space: Barbie Wilde & Tim Dry
How did you get your start?
I came over to the UK to study acting and got involved with a mime company called SILENTS, at that time the largest mime company in England. We did a few Fringe Theatre gigs and a week-long residency at the Arts Theatre Club, where Marcel Marceau came to see us. (A thrill to any mime artist!) My partner, Tim Dry, and I broke away from the group to form a duo called Drawing in Space, which led to us to meet up with Robert Pereno and LA Richards, who invited us to join their group SHOCK.
And then came the performance troupe SHOCK in the 80s. Can you explain SHOCK to my readers?
SHOCK was a mime-dance-theatre-musical group. The final and most successful version of Shock consisted of myself, Tim Dry and Sean Crawford (mime artists - Tim and I were also actor-singers), Carole Caplin (singer-dancer) and Robert Pereno and LA Richards (dancers, actors, singers). We came together in 1979 and performed a lot in the cabaret circuit, then we got a break supporting a band called Famous Names on their tour around the UK, which brought us to the attention of the pop world. We did a cover of a song called “Angel Face” for our first single for RCA Records (produced by Richard James Burgess and Rusty Egan) and many of the bands at the time came to see us perform our rather unusual and bizarrely sexy show. They even gave us permission to use their songs as backing tracks for our dance-mime numbers.
We eventually started writing our own songs, and released another single called “Dynamo Beat” (Dry, Burgess). Although we supported such bands as Adam and the Ants, Depeche Mode, Naked Lunch, Ultravox and Gary Numan, and toured the UK, Europe and did a residency at the Ritz Club in New York, unfortunately we never had that break-though into the record charts.
You have hosted a number of interview programs. Has any celebrity made you nervous?Grizzly 2
Nervous? No… You have to concentrate on being as professional as possible, so you can’t allow yourself to get star-struck or nervous in front of someone like Cliff Richard, Iggy Pop or Johnny Rotten. After all, most of the time, performers and actors are just really nice people out there promoting their stuff, so most of my interviews went very smoothly.
You also had a role alongside George Clooney and Charlie Sheen in the infamous Grizzly 2. The film was never released. What’s the deal there?
Grizzly 2 was a bit of a disaster. Rumour had it that the director (or was it the 2nd director?) had a nervous breakdown. Then giant mechanical bear kept breaking down and finally the production ran out of money, so the Hungarian government stepped in and seized all the props, including the fake bear!
You can actually see extracts from the movie on Youtube and someone has even done a rough cut of the whole thing, putting in scenes of the bear from the first Grizzly film to flesh it out a bit, as all the bear bits are just a black screen.
Sadly, I never got to meet George Clooney, Laura Dern or Charlie Sheen because they all played “Red Shirts” who got killed off by the bear pretty quickly at the beginning of the film.
Your catalogue of work is extensive and diverse yet you are, perhaps, most widely recognised for your role as The Female Cenobite in Hellraiser 2. Do you enjoy the fandom this attracts?
I’m very grateful that I managed to be in at least one film that people remember me for. The acting biz is a hard taskmaster and it’s fabulous that people remember my part in an intriguing and mythic horror movie like Hellbound: Hellraiser II.
The first 2 Hellraiser films were ahead of their time in terms of subject and aesthetic. How would you attribute their longevity?
I attribute the lastly impact of the films to Clive Barker, his unique imagination and his creation of mythic creatures like the cenobites, extreme human characters like Frank and Julia, and a heart-rending heroine like Kirsty.
You have written numerous short stories, some taking place within the Hellraiser universe. Has Clive Barker shared his thoughts about your vision?
I’m not sure that Clive has read my story, “Sister Cilice” (from the Hellbound Hearts anthology), because he’s pretty busy with his new projects and his painting.
In 2012 your first novel, The Venus Complex, was published. Does writing challenge you as much as performing?
Writing and performing are very different disciplines and they are both challenging, but in different ways. I love doing both!
What is The Venus Complex about and does it have a particular demographic?
I’ll let my editor on Hellbound Hearts, Paul Kane (the award-winning horror and fantasy author) tell you what the book is about:
After purposefully killing his wife in a car accident, art professor Michael Friday finds his perspective on things has become a little…warped. Via his personal journal, we’re allowed into his mind to slowly watch the disintegration of it, bearing witness to his unnerving sexual cravings and ideas about killing: intertwined with the paintings he loves so much. As Michael writes, he’s “turning into something dead”; but at the same time he wants to be somebody, not a nobody.
Using his diary to rant against the world in general – including everything from banks to popular culture, from national holidays like Christmas to politics – he reveals more about the big, gaping hole in his own life. But as the novel goes on the first person narrative tensely builds up, displaying his dark dreams and innermost thoughts; his way of filling that void and presenting his grisly “works of art” to the world. As intelligent and cultured as Hannibal, easily as disturbing as American Psycho and infinitely less ‘reassuring’ than Dexter, this is a sexually-charged real life horror story that will definitely stay with you.
Regarding the demographic: anyone who is interested in exploring the sexual mindscape of serial killers and who wants to find out what makes them tick.
What were some of your biggest challenges with writing a novel?
This is no joke: finishing it! Also, I suppose that writing from a male point of view could be considered a challenge, but in the end, you’re just creating another character, so I never looked on it as such.
Do you foresee a return to the screen in the future?
It would be very unlikely, unless the perfect role came along.
This new website celebrates all genres of film, not exclusively horror… do you have a favourite genre?
I love all kinds of movies, but I suppose that Sci-fi is right up there. Anything with an original vision and a lot of imagination gets my attention.
What’s your favourite film?
I couldn’t possibly pick only one film! Blade Runner, Casablanca, The Big Sleep (1946), Psycho (1961), Casino Royale (2006), The Seven Year Itch, Laura, The Haunting (1963).
I am based in Melbourne and ask most of my guests if they have a favourite Aussie film. Do you?
Again, I can’t say just one film: Mad Max II, Gallipoli, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Last Wave, The Year of Living Dangerously, Moulin Rouge!, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
What has been a career highlight for you?
Supporting Gary Numan at Wembley, being in Hellraiser and writing The Venus Complex and getting it published.
What’s next for you?
I’ve just finished a short story called “Zulu Zombies” (and I’m not particularly fond of zombies, so it’s a story with a difference!) for the Bestiarum Vocabulum anthology edited by Dean Drinkel, which should be out in August 2013. I’m co-writing a musical drama for stage and screen and I’m thinking about a sequel to The Venus Complex.
I’ve also been working with Eric Gross of The Followers of the Pandorics, co-designing a box dedicated to my cenobite character, Sister Cilice. I’ve written a “further adventures” story to accompany the Cilicium Pandoric, which you can read here:
You have done a lot of interviews and I imagine you’ve answered the same questions hundreds of times. What’s a question you’ve never been asked?
What’s my favorite food and your favorite cocktail?
Would you care to answer it now?
Corn chips and Margaritas!
(You read it here first, folks... lol)
Barbie, thanks you sharing your time. We’ve only scratched the surface and I would love visit with you again for a follow-up.
Thanks for your questions! If your readers would like to know more, then they can go to BarbieWilde.com for news, reviews and interviews!
Fortune has smiled upon me and over the past several weeks and I have had the opportunity to pick the brains of some of my childhood heroes (still my heroes). This week I am excited to present to you, S.S. Wilson. The geeky readers among you will have just flipped out and as for the rest of you, if you don't know his name you will certainly know his films.
Starting in animation his career has taken him to the dizzying heights of Hollywood with the hugely popular Short Circuit opening #1 at the American Box Office. His films have seen him work with the likes of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Barry Sonnenfeld, Robert Downey Jr and Sidney Poitier to name just some. In addition to creating the ever-enduring Tremors franchise he has also turned his imagination to writing books with his first novel, Tucker's Monster, being published in 2010.
So far my featured interviews have all been with people who have influenced me in one way or another. S.S. Wilson and his writing partner, Brent Maddock, were like guardians to me. So much of my childhood was spent square-eyed in front of the tv lost in their universe and always looking for the next adventure. His brand of fantasy is the type that inspires my own writing and, in my opinion, is what cinema is all about (escapism).
He was so gracious in granting me his time and as you will see his thoughts are insightful, fascinating and candid.
What was your favourite movie as a child?
I had many I liked, but King Kong (1933) remained one I returned to over and over.
Was there a particular moment when you realised that you wanted make movies?
Yes. I had just enrolled in college and signed up to take psychology classes, since my father was a psychologist. During my first week, he asked why I wasn’t signed up for film or television courses. “You’ve been making movies since you were 12!” he pointed out. So he talked to my advisors and changed my courses. Strange to say, I’d never thought about making it a career. Seemed like a hobby. But from that point on my path was set.
Was your family supportive of your decision to write?
Yes, see above. They were very supportive of all my early experiments with stop motion animation. Later, I made a living doing animation for some years before succeeding as a writer.
How did you first become involved in the industry?
I went to USC film school for graduate work. There I met people whom I would work with for much of my career. Ron Underwood (who years later would direct Tremors) hired me to do animation for short films he was working on. Brent Maddock and I started writing spec scripts off and on, eventually selling Short Circuit.
Some of my readers may not know that you co-write most of your work with Brent Maddock. How did the two of you form a writing partnership?
Brent and I met at USC. We shared an apartment for some years and worked on short films together. Brent wrote and directed some of them. I did animation. We both worked in production, animation, editing, sound, etc. From time to time we would write spec screenplays in hopes of breaking into “main stream” Hollywood. After years of such efforts, it did not seem like it was going to happen. But then we wrote Short Circuit --
Your first produced screenplay was Short Circuit. This was a hugely successful hit. How did things change for you personally and artistically from this moment?
It was an enormous change. I went from working as an animator on obscure short films to getting calls from Steven Spielberg, then getting an office at his Amblin Entertainment on the Universal lot. This all happened very quickly with the sale and production of Short Circuit. While we were thrilled to have all the work and attention, creatively we soon found that writers have little or no say in production, casting, editing. So after a time, we began to be frustrated, as we were used to having more creative control (in our short film days).
Was Short Circuit 2 something that you championed or was it the product of the studio’s desire to milk the success of the original?
The studio wanted to do it as the first film was a big success in its day. We were advised not to do it. Believe it or not, in those days people who did sequels were considered hacks or 2nd tier film makers. But we were protective of our character, Number Five, and we felt it’d be fun to work out another adventure with him, so we agreed to write the script.
Will you be having any involvement with the upcoming Short Circuit remake?
We wrote two drafts for the production company, but they did not like them. For one thing, they felt a little kid should be added to the story. We were unable to convince them otherwise. A number of writers and directors have come and gone since. We don’t know what stage the project is in now.
*batteries not inc. was an important film to me as a kid. How did this little gem come about?
First of all, I love that you got the title right. This was written during our time at Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment. At first it was to be an Amazing Story (TV series of the time), but it got elevated to theatrical film status. Matt Robbins and Brad Byrd had revised Mick Garris’ script, and pre-production was already underway. But Spielberg felt it needed to be shortened (partly to fit the budget). Robbins, the director, was increasingly busy with
pre-production, so they brought us in to work on it. We went through several more drafts, working with Spielberg, Robbins, and Byrd on revisions, ultimately doing quite a bit of
Of course your name is synonymous with the hugely popular Tremors franchise. How much of the final film represented your original vision?
With Tremors we got back creative control, as we sold it as a spec script with ourselves attached as producers and our friend Ron Underwood directing. So, more than anything else we’ve ever worked on, Tremors comes closest to being exactly what we envisioned.
You directed Tremors 2 and 4. Do you enjoy directing?
I love it. I’d never considered directing until Ron asked me to direct 2nd unit on Tremors. I felt that as a writer and animator (both done alone, very slowly) I wasn’t cut out for the frantic pace and pressure of handling a crew in live action production. But once I realized I could direct the fairly large 2nd unit crew, I really got the bug. So I jumped at the chance to do T-2 when Universal decided they wanted a direct-to-video follow-up.
Your films attract a large fan base. Do you attend many conventions and do you enjoy a connection with these fans?
I enjoy connecting with fans. For many years I was too busy to get to many conventions. But I try to answer fan questions on our company website, Stampede Entertainment. Lately, as I’ve branched out into writing novels like Tucker’s Monster, I’ve been able to get to more conventions and special screenings. It’s always fun. You meet people dressed up as Graboids. Really.
There has been a lot of chatter and gossip about a fifth Tremors movie being set in Australia. Is there any truth to this?
The script for Tremors 5 was written because Universal expected it to follow Tremors 4 immediately. And yes it is set in Australia. But the dynamics of the DVD market changed – people started buying less – and Universal pulled the plug. So, it has always driven fans crazy that the script exists but that Universal (which owns all the rights and has total control over what is done or not done) does not want to pursue it.
What’s been a personal career high for you?
Tremors! Selling Short Circuit was the big break, but Tremors and its sequels were the most creatively satisfying.
And what about a personal low?
The death of Frankenstein vs the Wolfman. We were hand-picked by the head of Universal to write what was to be ILM’s (George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic) first all-CG feature. Brent was to co-direct. An enormous staff went to work and some awesome state-of-the-art tests were shot. Brent moved to Marin County to start pre-production. But by then several Universal movies had under-performed at the box office and Universal’s head was replaced. The incoming exec had never liked the Frankenstein idea and killed it, basically over night. This was a huge disappointment, as everyone really liked the script and, at the time, the movie would have been something really different, both technically and artistically.
Burt Gummer (Tremors)
Which of your films is most personal to you?
Again, it’s the Tremors movies. I love all the characters and I’ve particularly enjoyed trying to create a world that is true to itself, that does not cheat on the rules that have been established in each previous film.
Are there any scripts of yours yet to be made?
Not that Hollywood will buy. We have other scripts that we think are exciting and fresh and that we care deeply about, but Hollywood is not interested in them, given that the studios now do only remakes and sequels. I very much doubt that we could sell Tremors in today’s Hollywood. But we keep trying. And I have some guarded hope that one of my novels might, ironically, get turned into a movie, since studios will only make projects that are based on something already known in the marketplace, like that mega-hit, Battleship.
With the current popularity of remakes, do you think that originality been tapped out in Hollywood or is this a way of keeping legacies relevant?
Originality has not been tapped out. It is being ignored. It is nearly impossible to sell. It is the independent movie world where the creative films are being made, like Looper. Keeping legacies “relevant” is primarily the dream of the marketing departments that now run Hollywood.
Do you have a favourite film?
No. I love lots and lots of movies equally. For me, movies fall into many different categories, and I’d find it impossible to say that “x” comedy is better than “x” drama, for example, as though there’s a series of check boxes you can fill in, or a point system you can use to arrive at the one all-time great film.
I ask most of my guests if they have any favourite Australian films? Do you?
Off the top of my head, The Road Warrior, but I’m breaking my own rule if I say that. I’m sure if I thought more I’d come up with others I like just as much.
If there were one film in history that you wish you could have written, what would it be?
Well, it sounds suspiciously like another “what’s your favourite film” question, but I’ll say this: I’m a comedy-action-science-fiction writer. I’m completely in awe of many films that have what I consider really great writing (character and dialogue). Paddy Chayefsky’s Network is an example, and I could name a dozen others that I like (and am in awe of) equally. But I’d never even aspire to write something like that. Partly that’s because all the ideas I get have fantastical elements. They just come to me. Stories about “real life” or the human condition don’t. I think I’ve found what I’m good at. Oh, and I enjoy it.
What’s next for you?
Brent and I working on another spec, still trying to find what today’s Hollywood will buy. We also have a project we humorously call “Tremors in a building” we’re trying to interest people in. I’m about to put out a second novel called Fraidy Cats ( in which it is revealed that two cats actually caused all of Dr. Frankenstein’s problems!).
SS Wilson, thank you for your time and thank you for Burt Gummer… my hero!
You’re welcome. I like Burt, too. He’s one of the few characters in our scripts that I named (Brent usually comes up with the character names). I even live in a solar powered house out in the desert. Maybe I’m turning into a (slightly milder) version of Burt!