Intervju med Joan Torres

 
Det första ett inbitet fan tänker på om man hör orden blaxploitation och skräck i samma mening är förmodligen Blacula. Att då under en temavecka tillägnad Blaxploitation Horror få intervjua kvinnan som skrev manusen till båda Blacula-filmerna känns inte mer än passande och det har varit en sann ära att ha konverserat med Joan Torres om hennes odödliga skapelser, som 45 år senare fortfarande lever vidare i populärkulturen. Trevlig läsning!
 
Was Blacula an idea you and co-writer Raymond Koenig came up with and sold to American International Pictures, or were you commissioned to write the script based one someone else's idea? 

Blacula was an idea Raymond and I came up with which meant we wrote the script on spec. I had an agent by then and he was interested in my writing so when Raymond and I finished the script I submitted it to him and he found the producer, Joe Naar, who had been his boss and the head of literary at CMA. I believe this was Joe’s first outing as a producer.

How did your working relationship with co-writer Raymond Koenig look like?

Raymond and I talked everything through and then I’d write it up.


It's no secret studios didn't want to spend too much on these types of movies, with hardly any having a budget over 500,000 dollars. With that said and without going into too much specifics, do you think the two of you were fairly compensated for your work on both movies?

The film was initially budgeted at $350,000. We were paid approximately 10% of that. When the budget went up we were compensated some more. The budget by the end of shooting was $750,000. For the time and the price of the below the line costs we were adequately compensated, mainly because we had a very good lawyer who managed to get us profit participation. That bit has meant ongoing returns for the two of us.

Since these movies during the blaxploitation era were specifically targeted at black audiences, were you given any guidelines by the studio about things to include in the script that would appeal to African Americans? 

There was lots of squabbling about what worked and what didn’t in the original script. It was the first vampire love story and the studio wanted us to drop that. They said no one would believe it. But we fought like crazy to keep it. I personally think that the humanizing element of the love story is one of the elements that has endeared it over time. We also had written a slightly ambiguous and romantic ending. The studio insisted that black people wanted to see cops being killed and so our ending was trashed and there was that whole long cop killing sequence in the sewer. They also killed off his wife Tina and had him commit suicide. None of that was in our original.

 
In an earlier conversation with me you made a good point about how you felt these two movies did not belong in the blaxploitation genre. Would you like to go into detail with my readers about why you feel they differ from the movies most associate with the term blaxploitation? 

Blaxploitation was a term that came up at the time to define films like Super Fly and Black Caesar. Blacula was a vampire movie. Other than that ending in the sewer there was no exploitive elements in the picture. The story did not pander to violence for the sake of it or portray drug use and pimping as something flashy.

The success of the Blacula movies inadvertently inspired a string of other black-themed horror movies that followed, such as Blackenstein, Abby and Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde. Do you take pride in having been a part of something that ultimately gave the black audiences more variety in their entertainment? 

Ray and I were asked to write Blackenstein but we refused. It seemed ridiculous. When Bill Marshall and I became friends I wrote a film for him called Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Jive. By then Bill had a 5 picture deal with AIP, but it never got made. Later someone made Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde. I never saw it. I did see Abby because of Bill. At the time we wrote the original Blacula Ray and I thought we were part of a movement to open up the industry to African Americans. But it has taken a very long time for that to truly happen. It is happening now and it’s about time.


There's something in the first Blacula that was very progressive in how it showed a gay couple without making a big deal out of them being gay, they weren't caricatures or anything. Did you create those characters as a message for a more tolerant society? 

We were very aware that gay life was never shown in movies except as either evil, predatory or cartoonish. Plus we had to find a way to get the coffin from Transylvania to LA so the idea of two gay interior decorators came up and we ran with it. We also loved the idea of the gay vampire cruising.

Detective shows were dominating the airwaves in the 70's, was that something you drew inspiration from? Because the first Blacula in particular feels like a mash-up of the horror and detective genres. 

We weren’t aware of mashing up detective genres but the original book by Bram Stoker has that element. And most of the Hammer films have that element. So it was more in that vein, so to speak.

 
I've read that in an early draft of your script, the man who becomes Blacula was an American tourist, but that William Marshall wanted that changed in order to give the character more dignity by making him a Prince who wanted to stop the slave trade. Is this true? 

I have to say about William Marshall that, as time went on, he became very inventive about what was in the original script and how much input he had. From the beginning Ray and I wanted the main character to be noble. The African prince who is in Europe trying to stop the slave trade was there from the start. Blacula was never an American tourist. Aside from his terrific performance, Bill’s big contribution to the movie was the name Mamuwalde. I later heard him on an interview saying we had named the main character Andrew Brown as a put down and a reference to Amos and Andy, a dated Black radio and TV show. That was never the case. My brother’s name is Andrew which was why we called him Andrew and the name Brown was something the character, in an effort to come up with something on the spur of the moment, just pulled out of the air.

Speaking of which, I think one of the things that elevates these movies is William Marshall's portrayal as Mamuwalde. He brought a certain gravitas and indeed dignity to the part, you could just tell he was a classically trained theater actor. What did you think of his work on the movies and was the character written with him in mind?

Bill was wonderful in the part but although I had seen him in Demetrius and the Gladiators and a couple of other films and some TV work, like Star Trek, he never came to mind. The original choices were Max Julien, Raymond St.Jacques and Sammy Davis Jr. But Bill was magnificent. He had been touring Europe for years as Othello and was a towering figure with a wonderful voice.

William Marshall poses as Abraham Lincoln in his Blacula outfit. Photo by Art Zeller and provided by Joan Torres
 
You used voodoo to resurrect Mamuwalde in the sequel Scream, Blacula, Scream and it served as the main theme of the movie. What was it that made you choose voodoo for the next one?

As I said, we had left the ending of the original somewhat ambiguous. In the second film we envisioned Blacula and Tina married and living in some out of the way place with a baby. We wanted to do Son of Blacula. As the child grows up and starts to show signs of vampirism Blacula decides to seek a cure in Haiti. So the three of them travel to the Caribbean and get involved with voodoo. I was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts by then and had access to the Harvard Library. I read what they had on voodoo and incorporated it into the script. The ending was supposed to be the big fight between Blacula and the zombies. When I came back to LA Ray and I wrote the script and turned it in. But the studio said “We want what worked last time, not something original.” That’s Hollywood for you.
 
We managed to keep some of the voodoo stuff but the whole concept got pretty mashed up. Then we were written off it and the director brought in a friend of his to rewrite it. The final film was a disaster at the time. It sunk like a stone and, as far as we were concerned, made no sense. There were bits and pieces from our script that were dropped in so the plot never really coalesced. Later that year it won a Golden Turkey Award.

Scream, Blacula, Scream was released only 10 months after Blacula had its premiere. When did you get the go-ahead to write the sequel, and do you feel you were given enough time go come up with a good script in such a short period of time? 

We were working on the sequel before the film came out. Then when the first one was a hit we knew we’d get the go ahead so we continued with our idea. The first draft of the first film took three months to write. The first draft of the second one took about five months. Then when I got back to LA and they wanted something different we pulled that together in about two months, before we were dropped.

 
To me, Mamuwalde is a much more compelling and sympathetic character than other vampire characters popular in movies around that time, like Dracula and Count Yorga. In the first one, all he wants is to connect with his wife again and in the sequel he fights to get rid of the curse that Dracula put upon him. What made you decide to take the character in this direction instead of just making him a typical movie monster?

We wanted him to be a noble and a sympathetic character, not a villain. Just as a note: the guy who ruined the second Blacula film was the guy who made Count Yorga. Long after we’d been written off the film we ran into him at a screening and he said “Don’t worry kids, I fixed the ending.” He was a pompous ass. I had gone to him when we were asked to rewrite the second script and said: We know you are going to direct this so why don’t we work together from the beginning on it? He responded: “Look, honey, you go home and do your work and bring it in here and I’ll do mine.” His name was Bob Kelljan and he had done two weeks of pick-up work on the awakening scene in the warehouse for the first Blacula. After that Joe Naar thought he was a genius. So goes it.

There's plenty of language typically spoken by African Americans from that period of time in the movie. Were you or Raymond hip to the lingo, so to say, or did you get help with some of the dialogue from someone else?

Ray and I had an black artist friend named Wallace Sides who even did a terrific script cover for our original script with the original actors who were being considered for the role. Anyway, we were told by the studio to “black it up” so we called Wally and he came up with some of those great lines as well as the obsequious character for the funeral director. We paid him and tried to get him some screen credit but we weren’t able to. But on the second picture he got paid by the studio and got a screen credit.

Wallace Sides' artwork for the script cover, provided by Joan Torres

Did you spend any time on set during the filming of the movies? Any stories to share?

I went back to Cambridge right after we sold the script and got paid, so I wasn’t around on the first one. Raymond was. But I was around on the 2nd one and that’s when I met Bill. He and I became friends, the stories however are pretty funky so I’ll just share a couple:

Bob Kelljan brought his girlfriend to the set one day and asked Bill Marshall to do a pose with her as if he's biting her neck, just for laughs. So Bill did it. They then turned around and made that the one sheet for the picture. There was obviously no white woman in the picture that Bill bites. Bill was furious. He'd been tricked. He never forgot that. I have to say about Bill that he was extremely volatile and could get very threatening. This was a guy who was 6'5" and built. He told me this little tidbit from the first film: there was a scene in an alley where a cop points a gun at him and fires. Well, Bill didn't want to do it. Too many accidents on sets with guns. He got into a fight about it with the original director, Bill Crain. According to Bill Marshall, at one point he caught himself and said to Bill Crain: "Do you realize we are the only two niggers on the set and we're fighting?"

Do you remember if there were a lot of scenes you wrote that didn't make it into the movies? Any specific scene you were sad was left out?

The first film stuck pretty closely to what we had done, until that final sequence. I have to say that they also cut a very funny line of mine where one cop says to another about Blacula: "Is he armed?" and the other cop answers "To the teeth." In the second film they cut an even funnier line when Blacula rips out Willis' heart and a cop comes in and sees him. Blacula says "You caught me red-handed."  Oh well. That's the breaks in movieland.The second film got completely botched as far as I’m concerned.


What were your thoughts the first time you saw the finished films and have your opinion on them changed over the years?

I was horrified when I saw the level of production on the first picture. We had spent so much time with Joe Naar looking at films by the original cinematographer, Dick Halsey. Then Sam Arkoff, who ran AIP saw the scenes Dick had shot and wanted him fired because they were too dark and atmospheric and “No one will be able to see them in the drive-ins.” That is why the film looks so uneven. The pictures of Tina running through the neighborhood and how beautiful she and her sister look, that was all Dick Halsey. Anyway, I thought Bill was dazzling in the title role. But I only saw the second picture once. It deserved that Golden Turkey. Obviously the first one is my favorite.

Was there ever any talk of the two of you writing the screenplay for a third entry in the franchise? Any idea why we never got a third one?

One day Sam Arkoff walked by Ray and I as we waited for a meeting on the second picture. Joe Naar leapt to his feet and introduced us to The Great Man. Arkoff held up his index finger and said “Think about Blacula Meets Dr. Phibes” and kept on walking. Bill had a five picture deal at AIP but only did Abby. I had a deal at Bing Crosby Productions but then there was a writers strike and that picture got killed.


Surprisingly, these two screenplays are the only ones on your resumé. Was it a personal decision of yours to focus more on other writing duties?

During that writers strike, which lasted for months, I decided to move to Northern California with my son. I continued to write scripts on spec. When I returned to LA Ray and I worked together on a number of projects. Some got optioned. Some got bought and never made. There’s a saying in Hollywood that only 2 out of every 10 scripts bought get made. I got some television work. Raymond did some leg work for a Hollywood gossip columnist. Then I won a National Endowment for a screenplay of mine and started work on a novel. I wrote a self help book called Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them with a psychologist, which became a big best seller. After that I wrote a play, etc.

It's been 45 years since these movies first premiered and both are undoubtedly cult classics, loved by fans of genre cinema all over the world. Are you surprised by the longevity of these movies? 

I am astounded by their longevity. Who woulda thought???
 
The invitation to the Los Angeles premiere of Blacula, provided by Joan Torres

Finally, any last words you want to share with fans about your work on Blacula?

Well, it was quite a ride. Some terrific ups and some disappointing downs. In the end I’m glad we stuck to our guns and made them keep the love story. I still think it’s what makes the main character so memorable, that and Bill’s remarkable performance. He was a bit put off by the fact that he became known for this horror film when he had spent so much time as a serious Shakespearean actor. But he also loved the attention. I remember driving him around LA in an open car and young black men saying to him “Hey, you are my main man.” He hadn’t had that kind of attention from his community before and he loved it.

 
Stort tack till Joan Torres för alla nya guldklimpar, båda anekdota och visuella, om Blacula!
AIP - Abby - American International Pictures - Amos and Andy - Bill Crain - Bing Crosby Productions - Black Caesar - Blackenstein - Blacula - Blaxploitation - Bob Kelljan - Bram Stoker - Count Yorga - Demetrius and the Gladiators - Dick Halsey - Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde - Dr. Phibes - Golden Turkey Award - Hammer Films - Joan Torres - Joe Naar - Mamuwalde - Max Julien - Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them - Othello - Raymond Koenig - Raymond St. Jacques - Sammy Davis Jr. - Samuel Z. Arkoff - Scream, Blacula, Scream - Son of Blacula - Super Fly - Transylvania - Voodoo - Wallace Sides - William Marshall

Michael Jai White besvarar 3 av mina frågor om The Outlaw Johnny Black & Black Dynamite franchisen

 
Mellan mars och juni i år hade Michael Jai White några frågestunder via sin Facebooksida för att promota den Indiegogokampanj hans produktionsbolag Jaigantic Studios skapat för att samla in pengar till filmen The Outlaw Johnny Black, vars trailer ni kan se här. Filmen blir den andra delen i trilogin han hoppas göra där man parodierar och hyllar blaxploitationgenren, första filmen var Black Dynamite. Jag ställde en fråga vid varje tillfälle och hade turen att få mina frågor besvarade. Han verkar ha uppskattat frågorna också, vilket är kul. Antingen det eller så var han redigt trött på frågor som "När ska du göra en film med (insert name)?", "Finns filmen att se någonstans?" eller "Hur mycket kan du bänkpressa?" Nåväl, nedan är samtliga frågor jag ställde och fick svar på ihopklippt i en och samma video.
 
Black Dynamite - Indiegogo - Indiegogokampanj - Jaigantic Studios - Michael Jai White - The Outlaw Johnny Black

Intervju med Linda Miller

 
För ett par år sedan när jag satt och kollade på King Kong Escapes blev jag fundersam över dess huvudrollsinnehavare Linda Millers öde. Tydligen var jag inte den enda som skänkt en tanke åt henne, då fans av japanska monsterfilmer, kaiju, tydligen hade försökt leta rätt på henne i flera år och bara ganska nyligen hittat henne. Efter återupptäckten har hon börjat dyka upp på mässor runtom i världen till fans stora förtjusning och har dessutom en officiell fansida på Facebook.
 
Jag har varit i kontakt med Linda ett tag och delade med mig mina tankar om en temavecka kring King Kong och hon gick genast med på en intervju, där hon delat med sig ovärderliga anekdoter från sin tid i Japan och medverkan i King Kong Escapes. Hennes historia är en intressant en, jag hoppas ni tycker det med. Håll till godo!
 
For those of my readers who are unfamiliar with you, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself and how you came to live and later work in Japan as a model?
 
My father was in the Air Force and in my senior year of high school they stationed him in Japan, so that's the reason I wound up in Tokyo. The day that I arrived my father told me that a little girl I used to live next door to when we lived in France also graduated the same year and that night was having a graduation party. I went to the graduation party and I met a girl there who was shorter than I am and she said that she was making extra money by modeling. I got the information from her and went to the modeling agency and started working right away.
 
 
You then had a brief stint as an actress where your very first role was that of Lieutenant Susan Watson in King Kong Escapes. How did that go about?

I had a contract to be on the cover of a young woman magazine every other week. Arthur Rankin, the producer of King Kong Escapes happened to have seen my cover and found out that I lived in Japan and he called me. He told me he thought I would be perfect for the part of Susan Watson. So it was completely by accident and a hand of fate that I wound up getting the part of Susan Watson. I had no acting experience and I was very unsure of myself, but I did the best that I knew how to do with lots of help from Rhodes Reason.

Had you seen the original King Kong when you made the movie, if so what were your opinions of it?

I saw the original King Kong on TV when I was a little girl. I thought it was great. It was in black and white and I thought it was just kind of throwing.

Did you know what you were getting yourself into at that point, meaning had you seen any other Kaiju movies before, like Godzilla, Mothra etc?

I had heard of Godzilla and Mothra and those kind of movies because I lived in Japan. But I was so busy working as a model and doing a TV show called English for Millions that I rarely watched TV or went to the movies. So when I got the part in King Kong Escapes I had no idea the historical significance it would have one day.

 
Your voice was dubbed by someone else in the movie. Did you know your voice wouldn't be used and what did you think of this new voice of yours?

I had no idea and I was not ever told that my voice would be dubbed by someone else. Arthur didn't mention that when the film went to the states the actors would have to read up their own voices so I just assumed I would be doing my own. But because I lived in Japan and I did not have a union contract like I would have if I had been in the states they did not let me record my voice. When I saw the American version of King Kong Escapes and heard that voice I was horrified. I was not happy, I was embarrassed and I couldn't believe they chose that voice for my character. Sounded more like a cartoon than a real person. So that's something that I've never been happy about. I will say that anytime you hear lieutenant Watson scream that's my voice. They used my real voice for the screens. LOL
 

You starred alongside veteran TV-actor Rhodes Reason. Did being the only two prominent American actors help create a bond between the two of you? What was your relationship like off-screen during the making of the movie?

Yes being the only two Americans on the set did create a bond between us. He was very instrumental in helping me with my role. Because I had no training whatsoever, he stepped in and became sort of like a coach and teacher for me. We became very good friends, his family and my family and when I returned to the United States he was instrumental in helping me find an acting school and an agent. He also was very helpful in telling me what people to stay away from, which was almost more important than anything else he did. We stayed good friends until the late 80s early 90's when we left California. Last time I saw Rhodes was when he was doing Annie on Broadway.

I love that King Kong Escapes has a mix of both kaiju and the spy genre, which was very popular back then with the success of the James Bond franchise as well as TV-shows like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I Spy. One of your co-stars, Mie Hama, actually played a Bond girl that same year in You Only Live Twice and was a very experienced actress. This being your first movie, did she help you during filming, give you pointers or anything of the sort?

Unfortunately she and I had very little contact. I guess you could say she was out of my league is more correctly. She was not unfriendly, she was just not overly helpful because we had so few scenes together.

 
Naturally, you can't have a semi-spy movie from this era without someone playing the part of an evil genius with high ambitions of either getting rich or conquering the world, sometimes both. Hideyo Amamoto played that kind of villain to a tee as Dr. Who. With the kind of commitment to the part he was displaying, I'm curious to know what he was like off-screen. Do you have any anecdotes you want to share with us?

Boy he certainly did play his part perfectly, didn't he? Off screen he was very funny and very charming and very friendly. Because I spoke Japanese good enough to have conversations he and I would talk from time to time and I just found him to be delightful. Completely opposite of the way he looked, except he looked a little offbeat and he really was a little upbeat in his personality but very endearing. After we wrapped King Kong Escapes he invited my mother and I to come see him in a play in Tokyo and afterwards we went out together. He was a very nice man.


Your director was the legendary Ishiro Honda, who is most famous for his work in the Kaiju genre and specifically for having directed the very first Godzilla. What was it like working for him and what was he like as a person?

Honda-san was a very quiet director. He spoke softly and was not intimidating at all. But he was very serious and you could tell by the expression on his face whether he liked what you did or he didn't. But he never made you feel bad or feel like you were disappointing him. He would just offer a suggestion in how to do the scene again. He seemed very accomplished and was a very gentle man. When we went on location we would all have dinner together, he just seemed like one of the nicest people in the whole wide world

Kong's look differs a lot from how most people were used seeing him look like in the original from 1933, where he was seen through stop motion whereas a suit was used for this movie. What did you think of Kong's look in King Kong Escapes? Does it look goofier to you now, 40 years later?

(Laughs) Yes it looks a little goofy I think but at the same time I think it was better because he was able to move more naturally. I also thought the expression he had was better and changed from when he saw an enemy that he was going to try and annihilate or when he was trying to save me from the serpent. I actually got to meet Nakajima-san when we were filming and he was in his suit. In fact I think there are some pictures of him, Rhodes, Arthur Rankin and I at that time that we met.



Some of my favorite scenes in the movie are those between you and Kong, a lot of which has to do with the beautiful music that accompany them made by one of my favorite composers, Akira Ifukube. What are your thoughts on the movies' musical score?

I hadn't seen the movie for many many years but about two or three years ago some friends came over and we watched it and I agree with you, I believe the music was so important to the movie and the mood it intended to create. I think the music was definitely first class.

Speaking of those scenes with Kong, in a lot of them you are sitting on his giant hand and I've always wondered what they made the hand out of. Could you shed some light on that?

Well, the hand was huge and it was attached to a device that raised it up and down. I was sitting in front of a blue screen as I did my scenes pretending to be talking with Kong. The hand was not very comfortable, it was kind of hard but they had lots of hair-looking material over it so I was able to be seated right in the palm of the hand. The worst part for me is that they would raise the hand up off of the floor and I'm a little bit afraid of heights, so when I was holding on to his hand in the film believe me, I was really holding on to his hand because I did not want to fall!


Did you find those scenes hard to do, having to act against a giant ape you actually didn't see? Did it ever seem humorous or surreal being in that position, sitting in a giant ape hand and shouting lines?

It felt strange sitting in his hand up in the air against the blue background pretending that somebody else was there that you were acting against. This is one area that Rhodes helped me with quite a bit. He gave me tips on how to imagine and how to play it out. The first time or two was really awkward but then I became more comfortable and more confident.

The movie looks like it was shot mostly on various sets built specifically for the movie. which I personally think look great. What were your impressions of them when working on the movie and how do you feel they hold up today where so much is shot in front of a green screen?

Yes we had a whole sound stage devoted to King Kong Escapes. We had the interior of the ship, the Tokyo Tower and some more that I can't quite remember. The exterior shot when I'd jump off the ship that was filmed on the lot but not in the sound stage. We only went on location two times. The first time is when we went to Mondo Island and you see those exterior shots are actually on location. Then the second time is at the very end when we're at the dock saying goodbye to Kong. We actually shot that on a doc outside in the Tokyo harbor somewhere. I found it much easier to act in the real environment than a pretend environment, but I think that had to do with my inexperience as an actress. Actually the ship seemed very, very real and in scale so I think they did an excellent job.



Did you get to watch any of the filming of the fight scenes between Kong and Mechani Kong? I'm sure it must have looked goofy.

Unfortunately I did not get to see any of the fight scenes at all. Those were filmed by another unit separate from what we were doing. But I was able to go to another sound stage where I saw miniatures of the jungle, I also saw the helicopter scene where Kong gets sedated and they tie him up and the helicopter is lifting him up to take him to the ship so he can help them mine out. Everything was miniature but to scale. It looked so real and I was very impressed with the skill those artists had.

How long did it take to shoot the movie and what were your feelings when shooting had wrapped? Were you exhausted from the long hours or was it not that intense?

If memory serves me we started either in May or June and we were done by August so it was around three months. Even though I had to get up super early every morning I did not find that I was exhausted. When we wrapped I was excited because I had accomplished something and I was sad because I knew that I would not see these people again. So it was bittersweet.

When did you see the movie for the first time? Was it at the premiere? What did you think of it back then?

The first time I saw the movie is when it premiered in Tokyo in Japanese. There were lots of lights and cameras and it was all very very exciting. The boys said they chose to dub me and the Japanese was perfect and I was very pleased with my voice and with Rhodes' voice. In some spots I thought the movie was a little silly but I was very proud and grateful that I had the opportunity to be part of the experience. When I saw it in the states after they had dumped my voice I was not so thrilled. If they were going to dump my voice I wish they would have used someone else.

There are two versions of the movie, the 8 minute shorter US version with some alternative footage and the original Japanese version. Which one are you most familiar with and which one do you prefer?

I know this sounds hard to believe but I wasn't aware that the Japanese movie was 8 minutes longer. I really can't answer that question because I haven't seen the Japanese version in a long time and I'm not sure what they left in compared to what the Americans took out. But I have such a high regard for the artistry of the Japanese that I probably would prefer their version.

 Linda Miller tillsammans med Haruo Nakajima och Akira Takarada

When released, King Kong Escapes was a great success, especially in Japan but also in the US. Was the success so big that you'd get recognized on the streets of Japan, the US or anywhere else you went?

I wish I could say yes but the answer is no. In Japan before King Kong Escapes I did get recognized because of the modeling work I had done and the TV-show I did. The TV-show was piped into the junior high schools as an English lesson so when I would go anywhere in Tokyo and there would be junior high school students they would recognize me and asked for my autograph. King Kong Escapes came out I think in September 1967 in Japan and I left Japan in February 1968, so I was not able to experience the full impact that the film made.

It's interesting because when I returned to the states I did not experience anybody recognizing me. In fact I did some work here in the states after I returned, one of them being an episode on a TV show called My Three Sons. It was a very popular show and I've had people tell me I look so different in that that nobody would connect the Linda Miller from King Kong Escapes and the Linda Miller that was in My Three Sons. In fact I did not use the name Linda Miller when I did My Three Sons because there already was a Linda Miller who was a member of The Screen Actors Guild. When I went to get my union card I had to find another name and my agent came up with Leslie Michaels. A name which today does not feel right.


Toho Studios are one of the giant film companies in Japan, having been involved in everything imaginable from Godzilla to Akira Kurosawa. Do you have any recollections of your time working with Toho Studios that you'd like to share?

Walking through the gates of Toho Studios at that time was like a fairytale. I remember seeing many faces that I recognized from billboards and movies and many of them very famous. I never ran into the director Kurosawa but I did see Toshirô Mifune. I was in the commissary one afternoon having lunch and he walked into the commissary and I have to tell you he was as impressive and powerful looking in real life as he was in the films. That was a big thrill for me

You followed up King Kong Escapes with a part in The Green Slime. How did you get to be in that movie?

King Kong Escapes wrapped in about August and then I did The Green Slime very shortly thereafter. My girlfriend had a very small part in the film and asked me to come with her and when I showed up they asked me to be in the film as well, so I just did it to have something to do.


Back in the US you had your final acting part in My Three Sons. Why did you decide to stop acting so early in your career? I'm sure you would have been a welcome addition for Toho when they needed parts for American characters in their movies.

When I came back to the States pretty quickly I got the spot on My Three Sons which I enjoyed doing very much. However I was not a big fan of the Hollywood system and felt that it was not for me. I enjoyed acting very much and I would have continued but I did not like how business was done. It was disappointing but it was the right decision for me to make.

Up until recently, Kaiju and Kong fans had been looking for you, seemingly in vain, for many years to hear your story. Not really knowing anyone had been searching for you, you were finally found, alive and well. Did you have any idea King Kong Escapes had such a huge cult following among fans?

I was extremely surprised when I got the phone call from Brett Homenic saying that he had been looking for me. I had absolutely no idea that there was a Kaiju Fan Club out there. in fact, I never really mentioned to anybody that I was in King Kong Escapes because my life had changed so much it just didn't seem to be relevant. Since Brett got a hold of me there's been a whole new world that's opened up and it's been a lot of fun. I've met some very interesting people and had some wonderful experiences, but no one was more surprised than me to find out the people had been looking for me.


Since being rediscovered, you've been appearing on conventions, meeting fans and signing things for them. Do you enjoy this new part of your life?

Boy do I ever enjoy it. I'm always excited when I get invited to a convention because it gives me an opportunity to meet with the fans. Fans have been very nice and I enjoy meeting them almost more than they enjoy meeting me. Sometimes I see some of the same fans and sometimes I get to meet new ones so it's always something I look forward to. I appreciate the fans so very much.


King Kong Escapes celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. What do you think of it all these years later?

When me and my friends watched it two or three years ago I was able to really enjoy it. Typically in the past I was so critical of my acting that I didn't really enjoy it. But now that I'm older I can appreciate what a wonderful opportunity it was to be a part of the film and so I was able to really, really enjoy it.

King Kong Escapes cast & crew

Finally, do you have any message to your fans and lovers of Kong and the Kaiju genre who will be reading this?

My message to my fans is thank you for your love and your support after all these many years. I realize that none of these wonderful experiences that I've had recently would be possible without the fans. I appreciate you and I love you all and I hope we have the opportunity to meet and talk in person sometime in the near future. I wish all of you as much joy as you have given me..
 

Dōmo arigatō, Linda Miller!
Akira Ifukube - Akira Kurosawa - Akira Takarada - Annie - Arthur Rankin Jr - Dr. Who - English for Millions - Godzilla - Haruo Nakajima - Hideyo Amamoto - Ishiro Honda - James Bond - Japan - Kaiju - King Kong - King Kong Escapes - Leslie Michaels - Linda Miller - Mechani Kong - Mie Hama - Mothra - My Three Sons - Rhodes Reason - Screen Actors Guild - Susan Watson - The Green Slime - The Man from U.N.C.L.E. - Toho - Toho Studios - Toshirô Mifune - You Only Live Twice

Intervju med Dee Wallace

 
För snart två år sedan satt jag och frugan en kväll och kollade på TV-serien Supernatural tillsammans. Jag hade bara bloggat några månader då och hittills intervjuat två personer. Dee Wallace dök helt plötsligt upp i ett avsnitt och jag tänkte för mig själv att det vore väldigt roligt att intervjua henne. När avsnittet var över begav jag mig ut på internet och lyckades hitta ett sätt att kontakta henne. Jag skickade iväg ett mail med mina tankar kring en temavecka och frågade om det skulle vara möjligt att få intervjua henne. Någon dag senare fick jag ett trevligt mejl tillbaka där hon meddelade att hon gärna ställde upp på en intervju.
 
Det tog ett ganska bra tag innan intervjun blev av på grund av flera anledningar, livet, karriären och vissa onlinetjänster som inte alltid fungerar som dom ska. Men kontakten bröts aldrig helt och hon samt hennes assistenter var alltid trevliga och tilmötesgående. Dom skickade till och med varma hälsningar åt mig och min familj när våran son, James, opererades för invagination förra året. Till slut föll bitarna på plats och intervjun gjordes. Av allt att döma är Dee Wallace en oerhört jordnära och trevlig person som jag är väldigt glad över att ha fått intervjua här på bloggen. Trevlig läsning!
 
The Hills Have Eyes started it all for you in the horror genre. What was it like working with Wes Craven on his mere third feature? Did he show the makings of a great director?

Yes. From the very start. Wes was very quiet, but very focused and creative.
 
 
It’s hard to predict which movies will work and which ones won't. Did you suspect that this particular one had that extra something that could elevate it to what it's considered to be today - a highly revered horror classic?

It was a shock to everyone. We thought it was just....another horror film. See how much actors don’t know.
 
 
The Howling is widely regarded as one of the best werewolf movies ever and brought such a refreshing new take on the subgenre. Its success enabled it to become a franchise that spawned no less than seven sequels. What could you tell us about working with Joe Dante, and did you happen to run into his mentor Roger Corman, who had a cameo in the movie?

I adore Joe. Fun, creative, caring and brilliant. He took the film to a whole new creative level. Yes, I got to spend some moment with the great Roger Corman!
 
 
In the last scene of the movie, your character transform into a werewolf. Were you happy with the final look of the transformation? Because in my eyes it has always come off as looking more like a cute dog than a werewolf.

I thought it was creative. It is an animatronic and my only request was that she look more vulnerable than the others because she had fought so very hard against it for the good.
 
 
You starred in E.T., a phenomenon that went on to become one of the highest grossing movies of all time. Did that movie change the way you were able to go about your days? Was it hard for you to go to the store without being swarmed by fans wanting an autograph or people yelling "Phone home!"?

Ha! Not at all. Of course, it enlarged my popularity a lot, but it really didn’t change my life much, except that I was much more in demand.
 
 
Cujo is one of those movies people are familiar with even if they haven't seen it, thanks to the numerous references towards it whenever there's talk of a mean dog in a movie, TV-show or even real life. I think that's one of, if not the best performance of yours, where you put your maternal side to great use. Was it a particularly challenging part to play, having to spend all that time in a car and acting terrified of a rabid dog?

Cujo was, by far, the most difficult role I ever tackled. It is also my favorite. It was a challenge to play all that emotional range and keep it real and yet intense. And thanks for the compliment.
 
 
Roughly how many days did you spend in that car during the shooting of Cujo?

Too many! Over half the shoot.
 
Did you get to meet the author of the novel Cujo is based on, Stephen King? I know he has nice things to say about you, once mentioning that he feels you should have gotten an Oscar nomination for your work on that movie.

He was on the set the first day. I met him. Very nice, very quiet and unassuming. I liked him immediately.
 
 
One of my personal favorites of yours and in general in the horror genre is Critters. That seems to have been a fun movie to be a part of. Did you enjoy working on that movie?

Yes. We had lots of fun. We shot a lot of nights, which was challenging, but we all had fun doing it!
 
The Chiodo Brothers created the stars of the film, the Krites. What were your impressions of their creations and did you get to spend any time with the brothers on the set? Doing what they do for a living, I get the feeling they are quite the characters.

Yes, they are interesting characters! Of course they were on set, wrangling the little suckers. Rolling them onto the set, actually. Sometimes it was hard to stay in the drama and not crack up.
 
 
For what looks like to have been a fairly complicated movie to shoot, I think first-time director Stephen Herek did a very good job, succeeding in creating a horror movie vibe and injecting just the right amount of humor to it. Did other, more experienced crew and members of the cast give him some guidance during the shoot, or was he just a natural?

Wow. I have no idea. I just remember feeling I was in very good hands and he knew what he was doing. 
 
 
Your son in the movie, played by Scott Grimes, was the only family member who appeared in the sequel. Were you ever in talks of returning for another installment?

I was approached, I think, but chose to decline.
 
 
Your career is filled with varied roles in lots of different genres in movies and on TV, but you are most known for your work in horror movies, where you’ve no doubt become an icon. Taking guest spots on horror-themed shows like Grimm and Supernatural and cameos like the one in Abominable all these years later, it seems like you've embraced it. Are you indeed comfortable with the status you've earned among the genre's fans?

I am proud to be a scream queen, baby! Love to do the emotional stuff!
 
 
You've been fortunate enough to work with a lot of talented directors in your career, including some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Which one did you learn the most from about filmmaking and is there a director you've yet to work with that you'd really like to?

OMG. Sooo many directors I would love to work with. And I REALLY want to work with Anthony Hopkins! As far as learning, it would have to be Blake Edwards, whom, I did 10 with.
 
You've recently produced your first full length feature, the horror movie Red Christmas, which you also star in. What's the story behind that and could you tell us a little bit about the movie?

I was actually gifted that credit because of my input on the film. Thank you, Craig Anderson. I can’t give away the story! Go see it. If you are a horror fan, you’re gonna love this very original film.
 
 
How would you describe working on a Hollywood movie backed by a big studio with a big budget compared to working on an independent one? Is it more of a team effort when working on a smaller movie?

Of course. Sometimes I think the big budget movies take almost TOO much time. But really, it depends on the mood of the set, and that is set by the director.
 
Based on the fan mail you receive, the interactions you have with fans on conventions and what they want you to sign for them, which movie seems to be the most popular one?

It’s a toss-up between Cujo, E.T., and The Howling.
 
 
So, you've come up against deranged, cannibal serial killers, outer space creatures, werewolves, Bigfoot and an alligator, to name a few. What kind of horror movies do you personally like? What scares Dee Wallace?

The world. What we are doing to ourselves through the lack of love. Nothing is more terrifying that man’s inhumanity against man.
 
What is your opinion on the horror movie genre today compared to when you started out in the 70's and 80's?

There aren’t many real horror films with detailed stories and defined characters. Call them slasher films. And those you can’t compare to the real deal.
 

Out of all the roles you've played in movies and on TV, can you name one or a few performances that you're particularly proud of and why?

Cujo, hands down. A movie of the week called Texas Cadet Murders, and Red Christmas.
 
Your daughter, Gabrielle, seems to be following in your footsteps. Not only is she a working actress, she also does a lot of work in the same genre you've made such a big mark in. Did she always want to become an actress like her mom?

Yep. Definitely started in the womb.
 
 
My final acting-related question for you is simply; how would you like to be remembered as an actress?

TRUTHFUL.
 
 
One part of your life that people may not know about is that you have another career as a healer. Could you tell us more about that and how it got started?

It began in my acting studio, when my husband Chris dies. I asked for a way to heal ourselves, and information started pouring in. I am a channel, and reach into people’s energy to uncover their blocks so they can move forward.
 
Dee tillsammans med hennes dåvarande make Christopher Stone 
 
Depression is still something a lot of people are not comfortable talking about, whether it's themselves or a friend or loved one suffering from it, so I really respect the fact that you talk a lot about the importance of peoples' self-worth, that we have to love ourselves. Have you always had good self-esteem and that positive outlook on life?

Pretty much. That being said, I work on loving myself more every day!
 
Dee med BuppaLaPaloo, den interaktiva teddybjörnen hon skapade för att hjälpa barn få ökat självförtroende och känna sig älskade.
 
Being a very busy woman, working both on film and TV, how do you manage to make time for your other career? Do you sometimes have to turn down parts in order to make room for your work as a healer, or does your film and TV-career always come first?

No. I hold the intention for it all to work out, and it does. I also love everything I do, so it isn’t work!
 
 
Finally. is there something else you'd like to share with my readers? Any lesson or words of wisdom? The floor is yours.

Just that we are the only ones in our way. We literally fight against what we say we want. Sometimes it’s our upbringing and our little child says,” No! You can’t do that.” Wherever it comes from, our job/opportunity is to integrate ourselves so ALL of us want to come on board and play.
 
Stort tack till Dee för intervjun! För att läsa mer om Dee, hennes karriär som helare, ta reda på hennes framtida events eller köpa en av hennes böcker kan du göra det på hennes hemsida, IAmDeeWallace.com.
Abominable - Anthony Hopkins - Bigfoot - Blake Edwards - Chiodo - Chiodo Brothers - Christopher Stone - Craig Anderson - Critters - Cujo - Dee Wallace - Dee Wallace-Stone - E.T. - Gabrielle Stone - Grimm - Joe Dante - Krites - Oscar - Phone home - Red Christmas - Roger Corman - Scott Grimes - Stephen Herek - Stephen King - Supernatural - Texas Cadet Murders - The Hills Have Eyes - The Howling - Wes Craven