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?

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,
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

Intervju med Sheldon Lettich

Precis som Sam Firstenberg var Sheldon Lettich självskriven att tilläras en temavecka här på bloggen. Likt Sam är han väldigt vänlig och givmild med sin tid åt fans, att jag dessutom hade varit i kontakt med honom några år tidigare gjorde valet bara lättare. Genom att ha jobbat med barndomsidolerna Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone och Dolph Lundgren har han stått för mycket underhållning genom åren och varit en bidragande orsak till varför jag älskar den sortens filmer. Därför är det jättekul att få presentera min intervju med denna eminenta herre. Mycket nöje!
Rambo III is a movie that instantly pops out when looking at your writing credits. What's the story behind you getting to work on that script together with Sly?
I had written a spec screenplay titled Firebase, which was about a fire support base in Vietnam coming under a fierce enemy attack. Sly was looking for a co-writer. My agent sent him the script, which he read and liked. This led to a meeting with Stallone in his office. Not only did he like the script, but he liked the fact that I was an actual Vietnam veteran, and he must have figured that I would likely have some special insights about Rambo’s character, his military skills & training, and also his Vietnam back-story. Besides all that, the two of us hit it off personally.
The script you and Sly wrote received a Razzie nomination, most likely because they did and still do have it in for Sly. He was used to it by then, but this was your first (and only) Razzie nomination. How did you react when hearing about it, and would you have accepted it if you'd won, like some others have in the past?

At the time the movie came out, Ronald Reagan – a conservative Republican – was the President. I’m sure everyone is well aware by now that film critics generally lean to the Left politically. That goes for much of Hollywood as well. Sly was not only making a patriotic movie about an American war hero singlehandedly kicking ass on the Soviets (in Reagan’s words, the so-called “Evil Empire”) but he was well known as a staunch Republican and a personal friend of Reagan’s. That’s what that Razzie award nomination was all about: Stallone’s political leanings and the movie’s flag-waving deification of an American soldier. There were far worse movies which came out that year, so I didn’t take it personally, but it did irk me to some degree.
The movie ends with a dedication to the brave Mujahideen fighters of Aghanistan, but after 9/11 the dedication changed to the gallant people of Afghanistan. What is your opinion on the change and were you consulted before it was made?

As I’ve mentioned many times, the Mujahedeen leader that Rambo links up with is named “Massoud.” He was based on an actual person with the same name, who was the leader of Afghanistan’s pro-Western Northern Alliance. Massoud is the guy who was assassinated by Al Qaeda two days before 9/11/2001. I did my research, which is why that rebel leader was not named “Osama".
Let's talk Bloodsport! How did you get involved with writing the screenplay for one of Cannon Films' biggest cult classics?

I had been introduced to Frank Dux a few years earlier, by an agent who felt the two of us might be well-suited to work together. Frank was full of wild stories about his martial arts and military background, nearly all of which turned out to be fantasies that he’d concocted about himself. At the time, however, there was no Internet, no search engines like Google, no way to easily check these stories out. Frank showed me an article about this so-called “Kumite” that he participated in, which was published in Black Belt Magazine. He even pulled the wool over their eyes. If the editors at Black Belt felt this story was bona fide, how could I or anyone dispute it? Frank told me that because these Kumite fights were so brutal and bloody, a nickname for the event was Bloodsport. Well, when I heard that name I felt like I heard a choir of angels singing. I told Frank that’s a great title for a movie, and in fact this entire story he had been telling me about the Kumite would make a great movie!

I didn’t write any of this down, but the idea kept percolating. A few months later I met Mark DiSalle, a low-budget producer who was looking for a writer, specifically to write a martial arts movie for him which was to be titled Kickboxer. I listened to his pitch, and then I pitched him my idea for a martial arts movie, which was Bloodsport. He loved the title and the idea, and a couple weeks later I introduced him to Frank. Mark eventually hired me to write the screenplay, and he signed a contract with Frank for the rights to use parts of his “true life story.”
Did you have a lot of interaction with Golan and Globus during the writing stage? What were they like to work for, any interesting stories to share?

Golan and Globus were not involved until well after the screenplay was written. Mark sold it to them, and they financed the movie. I have plenty of stories about them, a few of which you can hear in the documentary about Cannon Films, Electric Boogaloo.

At the end of Bloodsport, it says that the movie is based upon true events in the life of Frank W. Dux. About how much of the story is actually true? It's no secret that Frank Dux has a tendency to embellish things.

Nearly everything in the movie was a figment of Frank’s wild imagination, or else a gross exaggeration. Turns out that he actually was in the U.S. Marine Corps, but only served part-time in the Reserves, and never saw any overseas duty at all, or any combat. Despite all his wild tales about being in Special Forces, working undercover, assassinating people (with his Ninja skills), being awarded the Medal of Honor, etc., his official service record shows that his Military Occupation Specialty was a “Wireman” for a Reserve artillery unit.

A website titled “Military Phony” did an expose on Frank recently, and they posted his actual service records for all the world to see. Here’s a link to the site. Unfortunately the U.S. government does not keep records of “Kumite events” so it’s not quite as easy to unearth the bullshit that comprises Frank’s martial arts claims. But there has yet to be one person who has stepped forward to say “I was there at the Kumite, and I saw Frank Dux knock out all 56 of those opponents!”
Jean-Claude Van Damme med Frank Dux
Since Van Damme wasn't attached to the project when you started writing it, did you picture someone in particular for the role of Frank Dux when you wrote the screenplay?

I had no one in mind, no mental picture of any particular actor. There was no Caucasian martial arts actor at the time who fit all the parameters. Chuck Norris was in his 40’s, and we needed someone who was in his 20’s.

This was your first of many collaborations with Van Damme. At what point did you first meet him and did you just click right away?

My first conversation with Jean-Claude was via a phone call from Hong Kong. Frank and JC called to let me know that Mark DiSalle was making changes to the screenplay, none of which they were happy about. Frank put JC on the line with me. We hit it off right away, and he promised to come by to meet me as soon as he was back in L.A. He kept that promise, and when we met face-to-face we clicked right away. He brought his wife, Gladys, along with him. She was pregnant (with Kristopher) at the time, and my wife was pregnant too. Quite honestly, our wives hit it off even better than we did.
Both of you have some uncredited work as editors on Albert Pyun's troubled Cyborg. What's the story behind that?

While JC was in Thailand finishing up the filming of Kickboxer, Cannon Films did a test screening of Albert Pyun’s finished cut of Cyborg. I attended that screening, which was a complete disaster. Out of 100 people in the audience, a survey afterwards found that only one person liked the movie. The audience was actually laughing hysterically at the final fight between Gibson and Fender. I got on a phone right away and told JC he needed to return to L.A. immediately and try to do something to turn this situation around. Seriously, his career was on the line.

JC got on a plane the next day and returned to L.A. Cannon screened the film for him, and he was outraged and furious at what he saw. The film was already scheduled to open in theaters. Posters were made and trailers were already playing. But JC convinced Yoram Globus to push back the release date and let us have six weeks to re-cut the movie. That’s how the two of us ended up being the uncredited editors of that movie. I reworked all the dialogue scenes – wrote new dialogue (and the prologue) and then looped it over the backs of people’s heads. JC totally re-cut all the fight scenes. We saved that movie. It became such a big success that there were four or five sequels made afterwards.
In 1990, you got to direct your very first movie, Lionheart, which you and Van Damme wrote together. Having only been a writer before, who made your transition to director possible and was it something you'd always wanted to do?

What made the transition possible was a short film that I wrote and directed a few years earlier, a Vietnam story titled Firefight. It had battle scenes, explosions, and a military helicopter, and it was filmed at the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton, California, over the course of a couple of very grueling weekends.

It was the very first film to feature the actor Brian Thompson. Philip Rhee and Simon Rhee (Best Of The Best) were both in it. Frank Dux was in it too. Amusingly, years later, Frank used a still of himself taken on the set of that film, and put it into a book that he wrote about his heroic exploits as “the CIA’s finest covert operative.” The book was titled “The Secret Man,” and the photo’s caption reads: “Down in the trenches in 1983.” And sure enough, there’s Frank, in military combat fatigues, holding a .357 Magnum, the sidearm which, according to him, “distinguished special forces personnel.” Just outside of the frame were cameras, a crane, and a director (me) with a bullhorn. “Down in the trenches,” my ass.

I shot that 20 minute movie on 16mm film, and at extra expense had it blown up to 35mm. That little movie got me my very first directing deals, with Menachem Golan and with Dino De Laurentiis, and much of that may have had to do with the fact that they were able to project it on a big screen in their 35mm screening rooms. In order to convince Sunil Shah to allow me to direct Lionheart, JC also screened that movie for him. Sunil was impressed enough that he took a chance on me.
Only a few years had passed between this and your other collaboration with Van Damme on Bloodsport, but his acting and English had improved a lot by the time Lionheart was made IMO. Did he work a lot on his acting and pronounciation during that time in his career?

No. But I knew JC well enough by then that I was able to tailor the dialogue to his manner of speaking, and to avoid words that he would have trouble with. And we made his character French, so the accent didn’t need any corrections or any other explanations.

There's a scene in the beginning of Lionheart that actually has Van Damme fighting both Tong Po and Mr. Tae Bo, Billy Blanks. That's pretty damn awesome. That being said, having world champion Billy Blanks as an opponent in one of the street fights would have been interesting and, I'm sure, memorable. Was that ever considered?

No. When we sorted out all the fighters who had auditioned, we decided to make Billy one of the Legionnaires. We had no idea at the time to he would go on to found Tae Bo and become quite famous himself. There’s also a small cameo in the film by Jeff Speakman.
As a huge Charles Bronson fan, I can't help but notice the similarities between Lionheart and Hard Times. Was it a big influence on this movie?

Hard Times was definitely an inspiration. JC and I are both huge fans of that movie. Walter Hill was ribbing me about it a few years later. “So, I hear you ripped off my movie.” I replied that it was a respectful hommage.
Prior to this, Van Damme had fought memorable bad guys like Chong Li, Tong Po and Fender. Was it challenging for you guys to come up with a good final opponent for Lyon in Lionheart?

The fighter we used, Abdel Qissi, was the brother of Michel Qissi. Both had trained together with JC at the same dojo when they were growing up in Brussels. JC suggested we use Abdel, and then he used him again in The Quest, and we used him in The Order as well. Michel Qissi, of course, is famous for playing Tong Po in Kickboxer, as well as one of the Legionnaires in Lionheart.

Next up was fan favorite Double Impact, with Van Damme playing twin brothers Chad and Alex. Did he struggle as an actor with playing two characters so different from each other, and did it take a toll on him, physically?

As with his character in Lionheart, JC and I created these characters specifically for him, and we tailored them to different aspects of his own personality. The hardest part about playing these two brothers was having to change his hair, makeup, and wardrobe a few times a day when he was playing both characters in the same scene.
Did he seem to have a harder time playing one character over the other?

He didn’t have a hard time playing either one. Both came naturally to him.

Could you explain how the scenes where both Alex and Chad can be seen in the same frame could be made possible? It looked quite good back in the day.

This was back in the days before CGI, so we had to use the old fashioned “split-screen” technique. This is a “twinning” technique that was done as far back as the early 1940’s, when Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. played twins in The Corsican Brothers, a movie that Double Impact is very loosely based on. You basically shoot one brother doing the scene on the left side of the frame, then that actor changes hair, makeup, & wardrobe and you shoot the same scene again, but now the actor is playing the other brother, on the right side of the frame. Then you combine those two sides in postproduction, using an optical printer. The TV series, The Patty Duke Show had actress Patty Duke playing cousins who were identical in appearance, and they used this same technique. So did actress Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap. Double Impact, in fact, may have been the last movie that used this old fashioned technique for “twinning” shots. Jackie Chan’s movie Twin Dragons used CGI.
Bolo Yeung, who played Chong Li in Bloodsport, is once again the main bad guy. What made you choose Bolo again instead of going with someone new?

The movie took place in Hong Kong. Seriously, how could you pick anyone else besides Bolo Yeung to play the chief henchman? We also reused Philip Chan, who played “Inspector Chen” in Bloodsport. A few other locals were also recycled into Double Impact.
Taking place in one of the most beloved cities for action film fans - Hong Kong, what was it like shooting a movie there compared to America?

They had a saying over there: “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.” In other words, since it’s difficult to obtain proper permits, just do whatever you’re planning to do, then if you get caught simply apologize to the authorities. For example, that foot chase we did through the streets of Hong Kong was done without permits, and without paid extras.

JC and Alonna Shaw just ran through crowds of real pedestrians, followed by a camera crew. For some of the other street scenes we did have paid extras and stunt people, but a lot of it was guerilla filmmaking.
Out of all the movies you've made, I'd say Double Impact is the most fun, yet still has a seriousness to it. Was it hard to walk between that thin line where it couldn't be too much humor or too much action?

We tried to do the same in The Order, but I think we veered too much towards seriousness in that one, especially in the third act. In Double Impact we managed to maintain just the right balance. I love that long, crazy foot chase through the streets of Hong Kong and across the moored boats in the harbor. We had a similarly crazy and humorous foot chase through Jerusalem in The Order. If we could have kept the same tone of that foot chase throughout the movie it would have been another winner.

It was the first of a surprising amount of times Van Damme played two parts in a movie. Do you think it was coincidental that so many were made with this concept or did you indeed start this twinsploitation trend in his career with Double Impact?

We definitely started that trend with Double Impact.
Both you and Van Damme have expressed interest in making a sequel to Double Impact. It has yet to be made and may never will, so for those who are curious, could you share some of the things you planned for the sequel?

We were planning to flip some elements of the first film. In the sequel Chad gets himself into trouble with Chinese Triads in Los Angeles, and Alex has to come over from Hong Kong to help him out.
1993's Only the Strong stands out in your career, but I'd say also with regards to the martial arts genre as a whole, since it deals with the martial arts style of Capoeira like no other movie before or since that I am aware of. What made you decide to write and direct a movie centered around this martial art?

JC and I were in Paris with producer Samuel Hadida, and we all saw a demonstration of Capoeira at an event called Budofest. It was Sammy’s idea to anchor a martial arts movie around Capoeira.
Was it hard to cast the movie with good actors who also knew capoeira and did the two main actors, Mark Dacascos and Paco Christian Prieto, perform most of their own fight scenes?

We found a genuine Brazilian Capoeira maestre in Los Angeles named Amein Santos. Mark trained with him for a couple of months in L.A. before we went to Miami. Paco already knew some Capoeira, which he displayed in the swimming pool fight in Lionheart. He received some additional training from Amein as well. We were fortunate to find an actual troupe of Brazilian Capoeiristas living in Miami, and we put them on display at the beginning and end of the movie. JC used one of them, named Caesar, in The Quest.

To answer your other question, Mark and Paco did their own fighting and their own stunts. I think the one time we used a stuntman for a Mark was when his character gets kicked into some metal trash cans in the chop shop.
Having directed Van Damme doing what he does best, was it a challenge to plan and shoot the very different, more acrobatic fight scenes in Only the Strong?

Not really more challenging than working with Van Damme, but different. I loved all the acrobatics in Only The Strong. Those high-flying somersaults would not be very practical or realistic in a real street fight, but on film they looked beautiful and impressive. Of course the same can be said of JC’s famous “helicopter kicks.”
In 2000, you made The Last Patrol with my fellow countryman Dolph Lundgren. Does he live up to the nickname he's been given as 'The friendly giant'?

He was friendly and intelligent and always a gentleman. A real pleasure to work with.

Swedes are known for having a hard work ethic and always being on time. Did you find those qualities in Dolph when making this movie?

Absolutely. He always showed up on time, had all of his lines memorized, and spoke English like he had been born in America.
It's one of only three movies you directed, but didn't write yourself. Do you find it harder to direct movies you haven't also written?

In almost every case, the movies I’ve written have turned out to be better movies. I thought the script for The Last Patrol was mediocre, but I wasn’t allowed to make any changes to it. Although there are aspects of it that I like, of all the movies I’ve been involved with it’s my least favorite.

10 years after making Double Impact, you reunited with Van Damme on 2001's The Order. It's a very light-hearted action/adventure movie, like King Solomon's Mines with a dash of martial arts thrown in. Was the intention to try and appeal to a broader audience in hopes of securing a hit for Van Damme, who was struggling at the box office at that time?

We were trying to find some of the same magic that we created in Double Impact. My goal was to steer it in the direction of Hitchcock’s more light-hearted thrillers like The Man Who Knew Too Much and North By Northwest. Like I said earlier, had we maintained the light-hearted tone throughout, the movie would have been far more successful.
This time his co-star was none other than Charlton Heston, one of my all-time favorite actors. What could you tell us about your experiences with him, what was he like as an actor and person?

Mr. Heston showed up for a weekend rehearsal wearing a suit and a tie, with his script tucked under his arm, all of his lines highlighted in yellow marker. If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought it was his first movie and he was trying to impress the director and the other actors. He was an absolute pleasure to work with.
Being Jewish yourself, did the irony ever hit you that the movie you got to film with 'Moses' himself happened to take place in Israel of all places?

And don’t forget Heston starred in Ben-Hur too. It didn’t feel so much ironic as it felt like a blessing, like I had won some kind of an impossible once-in-a-lifetime lottery.

Speaking of Israel, how would you describe your experience making movies there?

I’ve directed two movies there. The crew people are the chattiest I’ve ever witnessed on a movie set, constantly chattering away to each other or on their cellphones, even while actors are trying to deliver dialogue and sound is being recorded. My voice grew hoarse shouting Skeck-et! (In Hebrew, “Quiet!”). I would lecture them between takes, explaining that it’s not only rude, but it’s difficult if not impossible for actors to concentrate on their performance when people are loudly chattering away in the background. But this did not usually work either. Many times I resorted to simply shouting at them “SHUT THE FUCK UP!!” I’ve heard that Italian crews are even worse. The most respectful and considerate, quite honestly, are American and British crews.
Another familiar face we get to see is Brian Thompson, marking your fourth collaboration with him after Firefight, Lionheart and Perfect Target. Being pretty much the stereotypical bad guy personified in so many movies I've seen over the years, I'm curious to know, what's he like when the cameras aren't rolling?

Brian is one of my best friends, and has been for well over 30 years now. He’s sensitive, intelligent, erudite, and generally soft-spoken. Quite the opposite from the characters he usually portrays on-screen.
You did one last(?) movie with Van Damme in 2006, The Hard Corps, this time for the DTV market. Besides the budget obviously being smaller, what else would you say is the biggest difference between making one of those compared to a theatrical movie?

Ironically, the budget for The Hard Corps was bigger than for some of my theatrically released films. On paper, at least, it had a bigger budget than Lionheart and Only The Strong. The major difference for me between low-budget and high-budget is the number of shooting days available. Less days can create a lot of headaches for a director who’s trying to make a good movie.

Was it always your intention to work in the action genre, or was it one of those things that just sort of unfolded naturally?

My first paying gig as a writer was a project I co-wrote for Motown Productions called The White House All Stars, a college football comedy that Michael Schultz was supposed to direct. I wasn’t necessarily focused on action movies at first, but since Bloodsport and Rambo 3 are the movies that really got my career rolling, that’s where I got pigeon-holed – action, martial arts, and military. In the 80’s and 90’s I was hired by studios and producers to work on a lot of action scripts, particularly with military-themed stories. For example, Warner Brothers hired me as a writer and director for G.I. Joe, and I wrote a few drafts of the military helicopter movie that was released as Firebirds. You haven’t mentioned Legionnaire in this interview, but that was another one.

As the years have passed, several of the movies you've made has reached cult status among movie fans around the world. Why do you think that is and what in your opinion is it that elevates a movie to that status in general?

People fall in love with these movies and watch them over & over again. I have met people who have claimed to have watched Bloodsport over a hundred times, and many who have claimed to have seen Lionheart, Double Impact and Only The Strong dozens of times, or more. People actually quote favorite lines of dialogue to me. I hung out with a couple of Wall Street bankers in New York City a few years ago, who could quote nearly every line of dialogue from Double Impact.

You haven't directed another movie since The Hard Corps, while the last movie you wrote was Max from 2015. Do you hope to direct again or do you want to focus more on your writing?

A few years ago I was prepping a movie I was hired to direct, titled Metro Dog, a project I also co-wrote, which we were going to film in Moscow and Belgrade. I spent nearly two months in active pre-production on that one – casting, locations, storyboards, etc. – but ultimately the producer decided to shelve it. There were a few others like that too. I’m currently doing some early prep on a project titled Cop War, which I also co-wrote, and which has been close to being produced a few other times already. Wish me luck!

Best of luck, Sheldon, and thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview!
*Batteries Not Included - Abdel Qissi - Albert Pyun - Alonna Shaw - Attila - Ben-Hur - Best of the Best - Billy Blanks - Black Belt Magazine - Bloodsport - Bolo Yeung - Brian Thompson - Cannon Films - Capoeira - Charles Bronson - Charlton Heston - Chong Li - Christian Prieto - Chuck Norris - Cop War - Dino De Laurentiis - Dolph Lundgren - Double Impact - Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films - Fender - Firebirds - Frank Dux - G.:i Joe - Golan & Globus - Hard Times - Hayley Mills - Hitchcock - Jackie Chan - Jean-Claude Van Damme - Jeff Speakman - King Solomon's Mines - Kumite - Legionnaire - Lionheart - Mark Dacascos - Mark DiSalle - Menahem Golan - Metro Dog - Michael Schultz - Michel Qissi - Motown Productions - North by Northwest - Only the Strong - Perfect Target - Philip Chan - Philip Rhee - Rambo - Rambo III - Razzie - Ronald Reagan - Sam Firstenberg - Samuel Hadida - Sheldon Lettich - Sly - Sunil Shah - Sylvester Stallone - Tae Bo - The Corsican Brothers - The Hard Corps - The Last Patrol - The Man Who Knew Too Much - The Order - The Parent Trap - The Patty Duke Show - The Quest - The Ten Commandments - The White House All Stars - Tong Po - Twin Dragons - Twinsploitation - Walter Hill - Yoram Globus

Intervju med Roger Spottiswoode

Normalt sett när jag bestämt mig för en temavecka så har jag först gjort klart med en person som ska intervjuas till den, vare sig det är temaveckans huvudperson (som i fallen med Sam Firstenberg och Luigi Cozzi) eller någon annan som på något sätt är kopplad till temaveckan (Andrew Leavold, Robert Reneau, Josiah Howard). Den här gången blev det inte så utan jag bestämde mig direkt för att under årets Black History Month hedra Sidney Poitier med sin egen temavecka.
Jag stod därför inför ett dilemma: Vem skulle jag intervjua? Karln själv, då 90 år fyllda, kunde jag tyvärr räkna bort. Jag funderade och funderade medan tiden började rinna ut. Jag kom till slut på en som hade varit perfekt att intervjua och gjorde vad jänkarna kallar för en hail mary och skickade ett brev på ren chansning, bära eller brista. Ett knappt dygn senare fick jag ett snällt svar tillbaka där min begäran om en intervju entusiastiskt beviljades.
Mannen jag kontaktade var Roger Spottiswoode, som regisserade Poitier i filmen Shoot to Kill. Andra filmer han regisserat är bland annat Turner & Hooch med Tom Hanks, Air America med Mel Gibson och Robert Downey Jr., Stopp! Annars Skjuter Morsan Skarpt med Sylvester Stallone, 6th Day med Arnold Schwarzenegger och inte minst Bondfilmen Tomorrow Never Dies med Pierce Brosnan. Det är inte varje dag man intervjuar en regissör vars meritlista gett mig otaliga timmars underhållning från att jag var sex år gammal (första gången jag såg Stopp! Annars Skjuter Morsan Skarpt) fram tills nu.
Eftersom det är till Sidney Poitiers temavecka jag intervjuat honom är det filmen Shoot to Kill samt hur det var att jobba med honom som fokus lagts på den här gången. Men vem vet, kanske kommer det en Temavecka Roger Spottiswoode någon gång i framtiden, med en mer karriäromfattande intervju? Den som lever får se. Nu till intervjun!
How did you get the job of directing Shoot to Kill?
I think it must have been through the kind suggestion of Dan Petrie to Jeffrey Katzenberg that got my name onto the list of directors. I really liked the script, although I think I would have worked with Sidney whatever the script had been, he was a childhood hero. Growing up in England, I was in a home where mainly European films were seen, except for some special exceptions. Cassavetes, and a few other film makers, and anything Sidney or Paul Newman was in.
I'm sure most directors would love to get the chance to work with Sidney Poitier. That said, despite being an established director at that point in your career, was it intimidating to direct someone of his stature?
I’m sure I must have been a little intimidated, but meeting him in person one quickly discovers he is the most engaging and fascinating person, just as one had imagined and I quickly forgot to be intimidated.
One thing I find very interesting about Shoot to Kill is that it marked his return in front of the camera after an 11 year absence. Do you know what it was about the project that made him return to acting after being away so long?
I’ll tell you a rather long story that answers this question, but I think you will probably need to trim it down. We filmed in Canada, in the foothills of the rockies. Wonderful locations, very steep, dramatic country. About halfway through the schedule we came to a scene that had taken an immense amount of preparation. Sidney’s character was following Tom Berenger’s mountain man up a steep, in fact it was vertical ’chimney’. This was a slight indentation in a vertical rockface, which was possible but difficult to climb 200 feet below where they climbed was a glacier. Access to this rockface was only by helicopter and we had to build landing platforms for the choppers which ferried the crew and the gear necessary to put the actors safely on the rockface.
This was before the advent of CGI. When the filming day arrived, the cameraman and I went down on ropes to about fifty feet below the top, and we set the camera position and made sure all the attachments and wire arrangements that would secure Sidney regardless of whether he held on or not and we checked everything was prepared and safe. As we were doing this, one of the helicopters flew in and the 1st AD radio’d down to us that ”Sidney had arrived’ and was ready for camera. I replied, ”Great wire him up and send him down.” That meant he would be put into a safety harness hidden inside his clothing, a safety wire was attached and he would climb down the ladder we had built into the rockface, hidden from the camera.
The camera operator and I were both hanging from wires, and we waited for Sidney to appear coming down the rock face towards us. And we waited some more. 5 minutes went by, then ten. I radio'd up, ”What’s happening?” ”I think you’d better come up” was the reply. This was something of a performance of course, it meant getting off the wire, onto the ladder, then re-wiring again for the climb up. Anyway, five minutes later I climbed over the edge and saw Sidney sitting on a large flat rock, not far from the helicopter and some way back from the precipitous edge. He was sitting quietly, alone. So I went over and sat down beside him. We both stared at the mountains for a while. Eventually, he spoke up, in his usual calm, quiet voice. He said,
- ”You know when Jeffrey sent me this script, I really liked it a lot. A very good story set in a beautiful place. But I also knew that it would be impossible to actually film it in the mountains, it was all too difficult to do in the real mountains, in the actual Rockies. so the big vistas would be done by a 2nd unit, and we would be shooting in Los Angeles, right at the studio, on sets. Just down the road from my home. Because no one in their right mind would come out here with a film crew... No one! And that thing there... (He pointed over his shoulder to the helicopter) That thing which I had never been in before today, and will never go in again after I get off this mountain... would be no part of my Life. So I’m not going down the rockface, I’m not even going to go over and stand on the edge... We’re going to shoot this on the stage like regular people."
And that’s what we did, just those few shots of Sidney on the rockface. Everything we done in those mountains. So Anders, there you have it. That’s the story Sidney told me, and I tend to believe what he says. He took the film because it meant shooting close to home and he liked the script.
Being a director himself, did you feel he was more hands-on in the making of the movie compared to other actors who doesn't have that experience being behind the camera provides? Did his experience as a director make it more difficult or easier for you to give him directions?
Being a director himself makes Sidney a particularly thoughtful and helpful person on the set. For the director, he knows exactly what you are dealing with and how to make your life as easy and pleasant as possible. Sidney is wonderfully prepared, gracious and thoughtful to his fellow actors. He does everything he can to make life easier for the director.
I think the chemistry between the two leading men, Sidney and Tom Berenger was great in the movie, they worked really great off each other. Did they seem get along well when the cameras weren't rolling?
Yes they got on fine and I think their differences helped the story. Tom is rather from the ’in the moment’ school of acting, while Sidney is very well prepared and very good at adapting his performance to work for the camera. I think the only difficulty Sidney had was when his Big City character had to seem out of place in the wilderness of the rockies. Sidney has an extraordinary grace and ease however difficult the terrain (except when helicopers are involved) so trying to look clumsy required extra attention.
Sidney got to play the fish-out-of-water for most of its running time. Granted, he was no stranger to comedy, but were you surprised just how well he pulled off the comedy bits where he acted like a buffoon for many of the scenes? I mean few other actors possess gravitas the way Sidney does.
He was delightful in this respect, particularly when it came to working with moose and the bear. a full grown grizzly. We had the bear specially trained for the scene and the Italian trainer and bear had some six weeks of preparation. After filming was complete that day, I asked the Italian trainer how he had prepared his bear to chase Sidney up the hill towards the cameras. ”How did I train him?” he replied… ”You can’t train a grizzly for that, there’s only one way he does itHe was very, very hungry. I not feed him for a couple of weeks before the shoot.
Berenger on the other hand played the tough, no-nonsense character with no time for buffoonery. He often plays these very tough guys, does he just happen to play them well or do they reflect parts of his actual personality?
I think those characters appeal to him.
Then there's the character of Sarah, who is kidnapped by the killer and played by Kirstie Alley. What was she like to work with?
Kirstie was very good company, she was always fun on the set, she loved the mountains, her husband was along, she didn’t have a whole lot to do, she was in great spirits.
The movie does a good job keeping the audience guessing who the killer is. Was it a deliberate choice to have known bad guy actors such as Clancy Brown and Andrew Robinson a part of the cast, while leaving open the possibility it could be one of the harmless looking guys?
Absolutely. And of course Clancy Brown was convincingly innocent, while Richard Masur, Andie and Kevin did their best to suggest they might be the killer.
It looks to have been a pretty hard movie to direct, with so much of it being shot on location in the wilderness in your neck of the woods, Canada. Would you say it was?
Do difficult locations make a film harder... not so much, I think. It may be a struggle to find remote locations and to get the crew and cast to them, but when it comes to the actual filming, there are huge benefits, everything works better. The cast understands the story better, they see how their characters would be affected by their surroundings... everything makes for a deeper good sense. Adversity also encourages collaboration. Many of our locations had no road access at all. Everything had to be hand carried across rivers, hills or Mountains. We had a rule that no one could get on or off those locations without carrying equipment. It was amazing how few were the complaints.
The actors sure seemed to have fun playing their parts. Was it a happy shoot?
Yes, a very happy shoot. Sidney of course is a charming and fascinating person, crew and cast were in love with him. In spite of expecting a studio film, he quickly adapted and loved the Mountains... so long as helicopters and vertical cliffs were not involved. Or bears... For very good reasons he had great respect for large grizzleys. When we prepared the scene where he and Tom almost literally bump into the grizzly, I remember explaining to Sidney how the scene would work, which direction he should run - up hill – and that it was important for him to check behind him as he ran up through the tall grass towards the four cameras in the distance. And Sidney asked me a question (with a bit of a smile because he was asking a Tom kind of question about motivation…)
- ”Why exactly am I looking back, Roger? What’s the motivation?
- ”Two motivations, Sidney. The first is that being an FBI guy out in the mountains the first time, you’re not sure how fast grizzlies can run up hill... so you need to look back and check how the grizzly is doing. And the Second motivation is for Sidney Poitier, the person, Sidney an actor in the film, trying to stay ahead of a grizzly. You Sidney, and as a matter of fact, me the director we also don’t know how fast this grizzly can go up hill. And that’s because we don’t know how fast it will go at all. We haven’t seen it run. Apparently it doesn't much like running. It’s kind of lazy. The trainer says he thinks the hill will slow him down, ’Quite a bit’, whatever that means. But personally, as the director, I’d sure be a lot happier if while you’re running you check back over your shoulder to see whether the trainer’s right about the bear not being great on an uphill slope. And by the way, we’ve had a team of local workers going over this ground and getting rid of all the rocks and stones that might trip you up, and they tell me it’s all clear.
And of course, I knew as I said that, the phrase itself, ”All Clear" had a bad reputation for inaccuracies. After all the usual delays, and checking that the bear had seen the little string that pretended to be an electric fence, we finally got all the cameras running. The bear stood around looking slightly irritable, and I called action, and Tom and Sidney started running. I must say, Sidney was always rather fleet of foot. I believe he plays a lot of tennis. And today he was quicker than ever, getting an early start ahead of Tom. But the bear, as it was released by the trainer took off like a rocket!!!! After 50 yards Sidney was still in the lead, but not by so much, and it was at this fateful moment that he looked back, as suggested by myself, the ’director’. And yes the bear was gaining on him, getting rather close... but just as he looked forward again and tried to speed up, his foot hit that one rock that had not been moved... and Sidney went flying. He hit the ground hard and in an instant the grizzly was standing over him all four paws surrounding his body.
Tom was there less than a second later and immediately sharted shouting, yelling, waving the gun he was holding, distracting the bear from the meal at his feet. The crew was rushing over, also yelling and shouting, the bear was momentarily distracted and then the trainer arrived with the biggest raw steak I’d ever seen which he offered to the bear. The bear gave Sidney a last look, shrugged at us, swiped the steak away from the trainer and ambled off with his meal. We helped Sidney to his feet. I apologised profusely and wondered if he would ever forgive me. Sidney was very understanding but a little shaken up. I’m not so sure his wife Joanna ever did. Yes a happy shoot, and at times quite unusual.
Roughly how long did it take to shoot the movie and did you feel you had a large enough budget to make the movie as it was scripted?
When Disney decides to make a film, they do know how to do it well. Their production department was always very good and both the budget and schedule were fine. We did have to build the shear rockface that Sidney could not face climbing down. And as I suspected it was almost as tall as the real one because of the rear projection and lights. But it was on a stage and looked just as good as the real one.
Since it was Sidneys return to the big screen after such a long time, did the marketing department highlight that when promoting the movie?
I expect they did, I don’t really recall. We were all rather sideswiped by the sudden change of title that marketing insisted on. The script had been named, ’In the Halls of the Mountain King', and after working in those ’Halls’ for six months, the title seemed beautifully appropriate. While the new title which the publicity people favored was Shoot to Kill and it felt rather ugly, inappropriate and not the film we had made at all.
What were your thoughts on the movie after having seen it for the first time in its entirety and has your opinion changed on it over the years?
Like many of my films, after working intensely on them for a couple of years and seeing them endlessly during post production, I seldom see them again. I will take a look for the first time, after I send this off to you.
Do you remember what Sidney had to say about it, was he pleased?
I do think he’s pleased with it. We’ve spoken a number of times over the years, it was a memorable experience. And for all of us, beyond the stunning mountains and amazing world we lived in for those months, working with Sidney was the very best part of it.
What about the critics, how was it received upon its release?
I think they were OK but not glorious. It’s not their kind of film. And the new title proved damaging, it put a lot of people off the film.
Lastly, what can you tell us about Sidney Poitier, the man, and what is your favorite memory of working with him?
Near the end of the shoot we were filming in Vancouver. One day we had a scene with a character who appeared in only one scene, a scene that would take a day to film. When we got to the set to rehearse the scene, before lighting began, I introduced Michael (MacRae) to Sidney. As we started to read through the scene we quickly discovered that Michael had been sent the wrong draft of the script by mistake. It was a simple production error but it meant that Michael had learnt a four page scene which was completely different from the one we were shooting. ”I have to go learn this new one, before I can rehearse,” he said.
Sidney immediately suggested we should help Michael learn the lines by reading together. So we sat in a motorhome and started reading the new version of the scene. In one of these new lines, there was a reference to ’a meeting in Robson Square’, a well known square in Vancouver. Each time we would come to this particular line in the script, Michael would misread the line and say, ”We are going to meet in Robeson square.” He pronounced the name of the square as if it was the name of the famous American singer, Paul Robeson (with a long ’o’, not the short ’o’ in Robson.)
The first time Michael did this, Sidney very politely stopped him and coreccted him… ”Robson, not Robeson.” Michael thanked him for the correction and we finished the scene before starting again. The second time, and Michael instinctively made the wrong pronounciation again... He was used to the name of Paul Robson and its pronounciation, while this square in Vancouver and its pronounciation, was unknown to him. Sidney stopped him again, very politely. He gave Michael the correct reading and we finished the scene. We had a cup of coffee and then read the scene a third time.
Once more, Michael, poor fellow, made the same small but grave error. Very firmly this time, Sidney said ”Stop”. You cannot confuse the name of one of the truly Great Americans, with a square in Vancouver. You just must not! There was a little pause and then Sidney lit up with that great smile, ”Let me tell you a little about Paul Robeson... What a man!... ” And for the next hour or so, Sidney seemed to be once more the young man full of love and enthusiasm who month after month had started his days in a Deli with his pal Harry (Belafonte), and talked to this wonderful celebrated athlete, actor, singer, civil rights activist who had become their friend and mentor. And when the stories ended, Sidney stay quietly for a moment and then became again the older person we were working with. He looked at both of us and said, ”Lets try the scene again, shall we?” Michael pronounced Robson the right way and it was the most fascinating hour I spent on the film. I suspect Michael remembers it as well.
On the last Sunday during production, I went looking to find a small gift with which to thank Sidney for his kind and generous collaboration. I wandered through a number of second hand book stores, all of them empty on this rainy Vancouver day. The last one was also the largest. It seemed cavernous, and I was rather lost not even certain where to be looking. The owner saw my uncertainty and came over to chat, and I explained I was looking for a gift for someone, and eveentually it came out, in fact the owner guessed, who the gift was to be for. He looked at me quizzically, then said, ”D’you know I’ve been waiting for you for a long time. Come with me...” He led me over to a door with record labels on it and explained, ”We also sell old records, we have just the one room, but they’re all rather special.” We went in and he went straight to a shelf which was behind a locked glass partion. He unlocked the glass and took down an unopened box-set of 78s - by Paul Robeson: The Ballads.
A big thank you to Roger Spottiswoode for these invaluable stories about the making of Shoot to Kill and his memories of Sidney Poitier!
*Batteries Not Included - 6th Day - Andrew Leavold - Andrew Robinson - Arnold Schwarzenegger - Clancy Brown - Dan Petrie - Harry Belafonte - Jeffrey Katzenberg - Josiah Howard - Kirstie Alley - Luigi Cozzi - Mel Gibson - Michael MacRae - Paul Newman - Paul Robeson - Pierce Brosnan - Richard Masur - Robert Downey Jr. - Robert Reneau - Robson Square - Roger Spottiswoode - Sam Firstenberg - Shoot to Kill - Sidney Poitier - Stopp! Annars Skjuter Morsan Skarpt - Sylvester Stallone - Tom Berenger - Tom Hanks - Tomorrow Never Dies

Intervju med Luigi Cozzi

Kult och B-filmsfanatiker som jag är var frågan inte om utan snarare när en temavecka dedikerad till Luigi Cozzi skulle ske. Han står inte bara bakom flera kultastiska italienska produktioner, vilket konsumeras i mängder här hemma, han har ju dessutom gjort några av Cannon Films mest underhållande filmer - och det säger en jävla massa och ges många pluspoäng för hos mig. Att han gick med på den här intervjun som ni nu ska få ta del av gjorde mig så glad att jag kunde plockat upp en björn och slängt den ut i rymden. Ja, det är en referens till en scen från en film både skriven och regisserad av Cozzi. Som sagt, snacka om att vara självskriven en temavecka här på bloggen. Mycket nöje!
I know you could write a whole book about the subject, but in short, could you share with my readers about your passion for the science fiction and fantasy genres?
Being born in 1947, since I saw 20000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1955 I became an avid sci-fi fan, looking for movies and books. In 1963 I created Futuria Fantasia, the first Italian fanzine, while in 1964 I was hired as assistant editor to monthly sci-fi magazine Galassia. In 1965 I became the Italian correspondent for Forry Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland and in 1968 I directed my first sci-fi movie, The Tunnel Under the World, from the same title story by American writer Frederik Pohl. Just after that I moved from North Italy (Milan) to Rome, where in early 1970 I met with director Dario Argento and we became close friends...
Could you tell us how your movie career got started in Italy?
I started learning about movie making in Milan, working as assistant for dubbing and editing, then I directed and produced all by myself The Tunnel Under the World. When I went to Rome and met Dario Argento, he invited me to co-write with him the script for his third thriller, 4 Flies on Grey Velvet, which was bought by Paramount Pictures, becoming a huge hit in 1971 and fully launching my movie career...
Having formed a professional and friendly relationship with the now legendary filmmaker Dario Argento so early on in your career, was he a big help to you regarding your growth as a filmmaker?
My partnership with Dario Argento was the key to my career: he also wanted me to be his assistant director and he made me direct a tv movie in 1973 which was a huge hit when broadcasted. He also introduced and guaranteed for me to the producers of my own 1974 movie The Killer Must Kill Again... Aside from this, Dario also did really teach me a world of very important things about movie making.
One thing I found interesting it that the interior of Nora and Giorgio's apartment is almost completely in yellow. Was that a reference to the genre in which it belongs, since giallo translated into English means yellow?

When I was shown the yellow apartment as a possible location for Giorgio in The Killer Must Kill Again, I loved it because I thought it was very ironic to have a yellow house in my own giallo movie. This is the reason why I used it: humour... well, there's actually a lot more of black humour in The Killer Must Kill Again. To be true, in all of my movies there's always a lot of tongue-in-cheek.
While Argento and giallo goes hand in hand, you yourself are an expert on the genre, having held a master class on it. Despite this, The Killer Must Kill Again was the only one you directed in the genre. Was it a conscious decision to move more towards your great love for sci-fi and fantasy in your filmmaking or were there other factors involved behind not making any more gialli?
Since I was a kid my dream has always been to become a science fiction/fantasy filmmaker, but it was very, very, very difficult to do this because in Italy just less that 5 or 7 movies of this genre had been made all through the years, sci-fi being considered by Italian producers and distributors as a not commercial all-American genre. Anyway after The Killer Must Kill Again I again tried to convince someone to let me do a science fiction movie, ending up doing a comedy movie instead for a producer who had promised me to let me direct later on a movie version of Fred Brown's novel The Mind Thing... which finally wasn't made.
Let's talk about Cozzilla, a very odd part in your filmography. Where did you get the idea from to not only bring Godzilla back to theaters in Italy, but to also colorize, add new music and footage to it?
In January 1977 I bought the first Godzilla from Toho, because I was running a smalll sci-fi theatrical releasing company here in Italy, handling theatrical re-release rights to such pictures as Invaders from Mars, The Thing, Son of Kong, The Cat People, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Things to Come, Kronos: Conqueror of the UniverseThe Creeping Unknown, Enemy from Space and many others. Then, when Dino De Laurentiis announced his remake of King Kong, I thought to re-release in theaters the original Godzilla, doing it in a kind of new way: colorizing  it and adding Sensurround effects plus magnetic 4-tracks stereophonic sound, in order to book it in big theaters. I also re-edited it, adding about fitfteen minutes of new stock footage and some additional music too. And in mid-summer 1977 my Godzilla was released theatrically by my small company in Italy, earning some decent bucks.
Could you tell us how you managed to give Cozzilla that special look through the colorization?
The idea of colorizing Godzilla came to me after I'd met a guy, Armando Valcauda, who had the same kind of technical machinery that Ray Harryhausen had and used for his stop motion movies: the Kras. I immediately thought that Valcauda could be the key man for my plan to shoot a sci-fi movie and so I decided to test him, paying him to shoot a sci-fi effects test reel. He did it (actually we worked together on it) and while working with his stop motion system I discovered that it was easy to add or change colours to every frame. This clicked in my mind the idea of using this stop motion system to give colours to the original black and white GodzillaWe made a test and afterwards I saw the result I decided to go along with it... and we did colorized via stop frame animation the whole Honda movie... which has been the FIRST colorized movie ever, many years before computer colorizing. Crazy idea but it worked. We took about two months to colorize the whole movie.
Toho are pretty known to be a hard company to deal with, how were they when dealing with your Cozzilla and did they have any objections to the changes you were making?
I informed Toho about my changing their Godzilla and adding colours to it. They fully authorized me to go ahead, with just one condition: after my seven years contract with them'd be expired, all the colorized negatives'd become their own property. And after seven years I delivered to them all these new negs.
How did the audience and critics react when it premiered in Italy? Was it a financial success?
Critics didn'r review my Godzilla, because they didn't care about re-releases. The audience reacted well: it stayed for two weeks in major theater in Rome and Milano, earning all expenses back plus some fair gain.
In 1978, you made what I'd call your most ambitious movie, Starcrash, which I've always viewed as a love letter to the sci-fi and fantasy genres. Was it a dream come true to finally make a movie with so many things you'd grown up appreciating, like model ships, stop-motion effects, robots and getting to add references to some of your heroes?
The Starcrash project was born in May 1977, just after Star Wars opened, and I started shooting it in mid September 1977, ending main shooting with actors just before Christmas 1977. Then we worked on the editing and doing the special effects till September 1978. In Italy it was released early in January 1979. Of course Starcrash was the fulfillment of my life-long dream of making an all sci-fi movie. Actually, Starcrash was more a science fantasy than actual sci-fi, because I decided for practical reasons (not enough time to prepare it, not enough money to do it properly) to do it more as a Ray Harryhausen-like movie than a George Lucas-oriented vehicle. Yes, Starcrash was done in this way because I knew we had to do most of  our special visual effects with the stop motion technique using the Kras stop motion camera-projector...and so I had written the movie in order to stick perfectly to this. Adding to the whole my full thirty years of deep love for sci-fi movies and books. (I was just thirty years old when I made Starcrash
Did Roger Corman have any part in the making of it besides his company New World Pictures being the distributor? I ask because in the US it's released under Shout! Factory's Roger Corman's Cult Classics collection, but I can't find any information about any direct involvement on his part.
Starcrash was born and made as an AIP (American International Pictures) movie and its CEO Sam Arkoff came personally to visit us during shooting here in Rome. I met him and he congratulated me over the dailies he had been shown. Then Starcrash was due to be released by AIP at Easter 1978, but lost that date because its special effects were still being completed. So its AIP US release date was moved to late August 1978 and the picture actually could have been delivered on time, but in the meanwhile seemingly Roger Corman had met the Starcrash producer making a bigger offer... so, don't ask me why and how because these things were happening in L. A. while I was working here in Rome, all of a sudden Starcrash had a new distributor, Corman's New World. But I never met Roger Corman or heard from him while working on Starcrash. I was only informed some months after the US release of the movie that about 8 minutes of my own version of Starcrash had been cut from the American prints, probably due to a Roger Corman decision. 
A very young David Hasselhoff has an important role in the movie. What was he like to work with?
I had selected David Hasselhoff watching VHS recordings of him acting in some tv soap operas. I thought he was perfect for the role of the Young Prince and so told the producer to hire him. When he came here and I knew him, I found he was a very intelligent and collaborative guy, working very easily with him. And he was a good actor too.
My favorite character by far is Elle, the robot. I love the fact that he has a thick Texan accent. Whose decision was it to make him speak like that?
The robot Elle ("L" being the initial of my name) was supposed by me from the very start to speak with a peculiar and funny accent. Not being able to speak fluent English, I had no idea of which kind of American accent this robot could have, but positively I wanted it to speak English in a funny way. According to this, the decision to give him a Texas accent was later taken during the dubbing in LA.
Two years later, you made another sci-fi with Contamination, often being labeled as an Alien rip-off, which I think is unfair. With the elements of Mars, mind control and the creature (which reminds me of the one in It Came From Outer Space), my mind turns more towards sci-fi movies from the 50's. So, what were your inspirations behind the idea of the movie Contamination?
Contamination was made because I promised to its producer to deliver an Alien-like imitation within a minimum budget. Because of this I was obliged to put in it alien eggs and bloody body explosions. But aside from these fixed points I could not avoid to use, I actually made a Fifties oriented sci-fi movie, with strong inspirations and the same kind of mood from these three classics: Them!, The H-Man and Enemy from Space.
You chose the Italian progressive rock band Goblin to make the score, the only time they've ever scored a movie you've directed. What made you choose them for this particular movie?
Music has always been a very important element for me in the movies... don't forget I was (and still am) a long-playing collector and a former journalist for a weekly pop/rock magazine. So in 1980 I choose Goblin's progressive rock because I though it could fit well with the action in the scenes of my Contamination, as it actually did. 
You then worked for Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus' Cannon Films on both Hercules movies and Sinbad of the Seven Seas with Lou Ferrigno. What's the story behind how you got to work for them?
When Starcrash was released in the US becoming a hit, Golan and Globus approached and signed me to do one more sci-fi movie for them. The project was titled Star Riders but after a while they decided not to do it (making Golan's sci-fi The Apple instead... and it was a total box office disaster). Still I had a contract with them and they were due to pay me for it, so they assigned me to work on Space Vampires... but after a while this project was shelved too. In the meanwhile they had opened Cannon in Italy too and were producing two Lou Ferrigno's vehicles, The Seven Magnificent Gladiators and Hercules.
But when, on the eve of starting shooting Hercules, Golan was finally given the script for it, he hated it. So they were in a tragic situation: Ferrigno was here in Rome ready to start, but they had no script at all. Immediately Golan thought of my standing contract with them and phoned me, offering me to direct Hercules if I were to be able to deliver to them a decent new script for it within the next ten days. I did... and they liked very much my own concept of Hercules as a Superman of the past, and so I became this science fantasy version of Hercules new director.
Ferrigno's voice is dubbed in all three movies. Obviously, Italian produced movies uses dubbing, but sometimes the actors lend their own voices in post production. Was there a specific reason why Lou Ferrigno didn't dub his own voice?
As I've already told talking about Starcrash, I can understand English but have difficulty to understand slangs, accents and so on. Therefore I've never dealt directly or personally with the English dubbing of my movies. With Hercules I was told since the beginning by Golan that Ferrigno, having been deaf as a child, couldn't speak clear, fluent American language and for this reason he was going to be dubbed. I simply accepted this, not being able to judge Lou's accent by myself. 
In Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, you mention that the script for Hercules was originally very different and adult oriented and was changed due to Ferrigno wanting a more family-friendly movie. Do you think the movie suffered as a result, or did it get better with the different tone?
The first script of Hercules was simply changed because Golan hated it: he didn't let me read it but just told me it was totally old-fashioned with even some hard-core sex situations, while Golan absolutely wanted the Hercules movie to go for the children and the family audience. Therefore Golan told me to write a completely new script  from the scratch. Then I proposed him my own personal view of Hercules as a Superman of the past: he immediately liked it and told me to write the script accordingly... which I did. And when I delivered the script, Golan and Globus liked it so much that they even rose the budget for the movie, bringing it close to 2 billion Italian liras (about one million and a half dollars).
So, the making of The Adventures of Hercules II is a bit odd. Could you explain how the idea of the sequel came to be?
There was no sequel planned for Hercules. After that I just had been signed to write and direct Lou Ferrigno in Sinbad and we were going to start pre-production on it. But suddenly things changed: Golan and Globus came to Rome, saw Hercules completed and were very happy with it. At the same time they were shown the former Lou Ferrigno vehicle shot in Italy before I stepped in, titled The Magnificent Seven Gladiators, and they were literally shocked by it: they decided not to deliver it to their international distributors who had already paid for it because it was their lousiest movie ever. After ten other days, having thought about how to solve this unexpected trouble, they made me an offer... a kind of offer that actually I could not refuse: they had decided not to start immediately to work on Sinbad because they did want me and Lou Ferrigno to work on reshooting at least 40 minutes of new scenes to be inserted in The Magnificent Seven Gladiatorstrying to bring that mass of crap almost to decency.
This meant for me cutting out 40 minutes of the already completed Seven Gladiators and scripting 40 minutes of new scenes to be shooted and inserted into it. Which I did. When the script for these new Gladiators 40 minutes was sent to Golan along with a two-weeks new shooting schedule for approval, he okayed everything but added a question: if Luigi is able to direct 40 new minutes in two weeks, would he be able to shoot  80 minutes if we pay for a FOUR weeks new shooting schedule? Puzzled, I said I thought it was possible... and then Golan said: Then go with it! Write another 40 minutes brand new section of the script and forget about shooting retakes for Seven Gladiators. You'll shoot instead a totally new Hercules movie.
So I had to do this... and it was a very complicated script... because I could not write it simply for the start to the end as when I scripted Hercules 1, but I had to write new scenes to fit into other scenes which I had written as going to be a part of Seven Gladiators... well, a real mess and a very complicated work, having terrible trouble trying to give a coherent sense to the whole. A really jigsaw script... surely not the best way to write a good script. Besides that, the budget which had been made for 40 minutes of Gladiators re-takes was simply doubled, but it was absolutely not enough for a wholly full-lenght new Hercules movie... but Cannon didn't change it and therefore I was forced to do this very unusual kind of Hercules sequel spending much less than half of the budget I had for the first Hercules...
Do you know if Ferrigno got paid for the additional scenes he shot for the second movie?
Ferrigno shot Adventures of Hercules with a re-shooting low cost contract as he were doing retakes for The Magnificent Seven GladiatorsThen when the movies was actually finished, back in the US  he was informed that he actually had shot a kind of new sequel to Hercules and was given a new contract for it, but at a much lower fee than the one he had got for the first Hercules.
Let's move on to Sinbad of the Seven Seas, which you wrote the screenplay for and was supposed to direct in 1986. However, you were replaced by fellow Italian director Enzo G. Castellari. What was the reason for your replacement?
I wrote the script for Sinbad and it was approved. The movie was due to start in early 1984 but suddenly Cannon rushed into production Assisi Underground, a big budget movie about Jews troubles during wartime, because they were given a lot of money from Israel people to do it. So Sinbad was delayed. Then I went to work doing insects and special effects for Dario Argento's Phenomena (Creepers). In late 1985 Cannon Italy bought many theaters in Italy acquiring them along with Fulvio Lucisano's Italian International, who started to take care also of their movie production here.
The result was their decision to do my Sinbad script as a tv movie, so they ordered my script to be enlarged and turned into five one hour lenght episodes. They hired tv writers to enlengthen my script and decided to hire as a director Enzo Castellari, who had a longer tv experience than me. Then they proceeded to do this very long movie. The final result was that my script, perfect for a normal lenght movie, had became too long and even boring, Castellari having also decided to take away from it all of its many special visual effects (my script was totally filled with them) substituting them with classical fight scenes with stuntmen.
According to Cannon Films, what Castellari brought back was unreleasable, so they shelved it for a few years before hiring you to fix it. What problems were they so concerned with that made them deem it unreleasable?
In mid 1988 I was contacted by Cannon and was asked to come and watch the five hours length version of Sinbad they had made and shelved, asking me if I could turn it into a 90 minutes long movie. I saw it and thought this five hours version was incredibly slow-paced and old-fashioned: it was somewhat like a kids' Russian Sinbad movie from the early Forties. But still the main plot came from my script: so I said I accepted their proposal and was given total control. I cut endless talkie scenes, endless stuntmen garbage, shooted a few connecting scenes  and added a real lot of special visual effects. My final 90 minutes version was approved by Cannon and Sinbad was finally released in this new form "doctored" by me. Obviously it was not up to the original quality of the script I had written, but at least somewhat it still reminded it.
What changes did you end up making? Roughly how much was cut and how much was filmed to make it releasable?

From the five hours Sinbad they had edited, I took away about four hours. I edited differently and added effects to at least twenty minutes more from the original and shot about ten new minutes (mostly the "frame" sequence with Daria Nicolodi and my daughter Giada).
Vampire in Venice is another troubled movie you worked on, which went through several different directors. Could you tell us the story behind your departure on the project?
I did not depart from Vampire in Venice, I stuck with it from the beginning till the very end of its shooting schedule and even during the two years they later spent in the editing room trying desperately to give a meaning to its senseless plot. Regardless of this fact, I have often been credited in the web as co-directing this movie, which is absolutely false. I was initially hired on Vampire in Venice as being its  special visual effects supervisor, which I was. So I directed the scenes containing special effects: the friars falling from above, the girl jumping down from the bell tower, the moments when Plummer shoots his rifle creating a hole in Nosferatu's stomach and other similar shots. Furthermore, midway through the shooting schedule of this movie I was also asked to do some second unit directing, so I directed several shots of Kinski walking alone at dawn or attacking a lonely girl. Nothing else I did. 
The infamous actor Klaus Kinski had the lead role, I bet he was a handful. What was your experience working with him?
I'm very determined but also extremely kind and patient. So I succeeded into having a good relationship with Klaus, he never went crazy with me, while he was crazy most of the time with almost all of the other actors and members of the crew.
You rounded up your directing career in 1989 (not counting the Argento documentaries) with Paganini Horror and The Black Cat. What was it that made you decide to stop directing for so long? You were still quite young, after all.
I made Paganini Horror in 1988 and The Black Cat in 1989. After that I realized that independent filmmaking was ending both in Italy and in the US. So I looked around to find something else to sustain me and decided to join my friend Dario Argento's company. I did for him as a special effects supervisor and second unit director Two Evil Eyes (shot in Pittsburgh) and The Stendhal Syndrome. In the meanwhile I also joined Dario running his own horror store, "Profondo Rosso", which he had opened in 1989. Since this store was a big commercial hit, I stood with it and I am still running it today, almost 30 years later. In the meanwhile our horror store has grown also into a book publishing house (I have edited so far more than 110 books about genre movies) and last year it has also produced a new movie directed by me, Blood on Méliés' Moon, which we just released here in Italy on DVD.
Photo taken by me. Yupp, I've been there.
There is also a museum dedicated to Argento in the basement of the store, helping it become sort of a Mekka for fans of Italian genre films. Was that the idea behind the store all along?
Yes, our main idea was to create a meeting point for fans from all over the world. When we opened "Profondo Rosso", our fear was that people could not be interested into that. Instead, since its very opening, crowds of people came, as they had been expecting it to happen since a long time:  it was wonderfull! A daydream come true! Now, nearly thirty years later, I can proudly say we really succeeded into doing that!
To say that you have garnered a cult fanbase since your retirement would be an understatement. In fact, there's a new documentary about you making the rounds on film festivals called FantastiCozzi. What's the story behind the making of it?
About six or seven years ago I was invited to Brazil, where during a horror/sci fi festival named Fantaspoa and held in Porto Alegre they showed all of my movies. During these days a festival man, a very nice guy named Felipe Guerra, taped for hours an interview with me about my life and career. Then he started editing it and finally, during another Fantaspoa in 2016, he showed the final result, a documentary about me titled FantastiCozzi. I was invited to its premiere and was very happy of the result: it's a really good documentary, which since then has been shown in many other festivals all over the world. I also plan to include it as a bonus on the blu-ray edition of my new movie, Blood on Melies' Moon, that we're currently preparing for 2018.
Last year you came out of retirement to direct again for the first time in over 25 years and made Blood on Méliés' Moon. What prompted you to get back to directing again?
I started shooting Blood on Melies' Moon in late 2014 and went on till mid-2016, when it was finally completed and released. It had started very casually, just as a game, because some French fans had just asked me to play a role in their new short. After a while the project was abandoned by them, but I liked the idea, so I resurrected it and went ahead all by myself, with some help by many friends.
Was it a learning experience, since a lot has changed in moviemaking over the past 25 years?
I worked with young guys and with a totally unexperienced crew. So in the end they said they had learnt a lot from me! Actually I did use all of my past experience to teach and guide them. Practically I had to supervise everything, from executive producer to d.p., from the sets to the production schedule, from make-up to costumes... but it has been fun and I liked it. And around me I felt a lot of enthusiasm...

Technically, I felt ok with the new cameras and the computers, today shooting is much faster than it was before and even easier. But remember that I've always been a video fan: in 1983 I shot many FX for my Adventures of Hercules movie with one inch tape and then converted the results to 35mm. At the time they said I was crazy, but time has shown that I was right instead! That was the future!
I bet a man with your imagination and being a writer/filmmaker, you have several unfilmed scripts laying around somewhere. Is my assumption correct?
Yeah, I've written many scripts which went  unproduced, like my Black Pirate, a science fantasy about a black corsair fighting monsters and dragons during pirate times. It was a very similar concept to Pirates of the Caribbean, only written too much in advance, in 1982. I've turned most of my unfilmed scripts into novel form and published them on Italian pulp magazines. Another good one is Star Riders, which American writer A. E. Van Vogt turned into novel form during the Eighties.
What do you think it is that makes a movie transition to a cult movie and why do you think several of yours has reached that status?
I think most of my movies have become cult because they do attract and interest many people being very different and unusual, also displaying a true love for their genre. They also have a soul, they have a heart, they have feelings and give emotions, things which are not so common to be found in movies. Besides, they even have black humour and tongue-in-cheek twists...
Out of all the movies you've made, which ones are you the most proud of, and why?
Most of my movies are different one from the other, though being very personal. I've made a love story which became a big hit (Dedicated to a Star, also known as The Last Concert or Take All of Me), which showcases my directorial qualities at their best, having worked with just two characters since the beginning to the end. I've also made Starcrash, which is a really good fairy tale for children and adults alike, or Hercules, a new way of doing a sword-and-sandals movie which patterned the way to many imitations, or The Killer Must Kill Againwhich is the exact opposite of every normal Italian giallo movie, or The Black Cat... The Tunnel Under the World... the new Blood on Melies' Moon, which is the first movie made by me which has got many good reviews and plauses, surprising me, because surely it's my wildest and most personal movie so far.
When I'm looking at your career and the movies you've made, I think what shines through the most is your undying passion for movies as a medium. Do you consider yourself lucky to have been able to work and create something you love so much?
I love cinema, I've lived for cinema, I adore and study it, its history and its possible new forms in the future. And I've even succeeded into making a way of living of my passion for movies, which it is not easy... and actually it's not been easy for me. But cinema is my life...
Do you have any advice for filmmakers out there who are trying to make their big break, or just getting a movie done?
Today it is technically much easier to do a movie: you can even do it with your mobile. But cinema is much more than that: a movie can be technically perfect, but still being a lousy and useless one. Movies to be good need a story, need to give EMOTIONS to their audience. If a movie is technically so and so, but it has a good story, then people'll like it anyhow. So, when you do a new movie, first of all you need to have a strong story to tell, a story with an idea... otherwise it'll be all a waste of time. Don't start to do a new movie until you've a very good script for it! The script (the story, the idea...) is the key!
Finally, how would you like to be remembered as a director and writer?
I am a writer and I am also a director. While I can't live without writing... while I can't live even without watching and studying movies... well, I can live if I'm not directing. But obviously I feel better when I'm also directing and creating...

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20000 Leagues Under the Sea - 4 Flies on Grey Velvet - AIP - Alien - American International Pictures - Assisi Underground - Blood on Melies' Moon - Cannon Films - Contamination - Cozzilla - Creepers - Daria Nicolodi - Dario Argento - David Hasselhoff - Dedicated to a Star - Dino De Laurentiis - Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films - Elle - Enemy from Space - Enzo G. Castellari - Famous Monsters of Filmland - Fantaspoa - FantastiCozzi - Felipe Guerra - Forry Ackerman - Galassia - George Lucas - Giallo - Goblin - Godzilla - Hercules - Invaders From Mars - Invasion of the Body Snatchers - It Came from Outer Space - King Kong - Klaus Kinski - Kronos: Conqueror of the Universe - Lou Ferrigno - Menahem Golan - New World Pictures - Nosferatu - Paganini Horror - Paramount Pictures - Phenomena - Pirates of the Caribbean - Ray Harryhausen - Roger Corman - Roger Corman's Cult Classics - Sam Arkoff - Shout! Factory - Sinbad of the Seven Seas - Son of Kong - Space Vampires - Star Riders - Star Wars - Starcrash - Stop Motion - Take All of Me - The Adventures of Hercules II - The Apple - The Black Cat - The Cat People - The Creeping Unknown - The H-Man - The Killer Must Kill Again - The Last Concert - The Mind Thing - The Seven Magnificent Gladiators - The Stendhal Syndrome - The Thing - The Tunnel Under the World - Them! - Things to Come - Toho - Two Evil Eyes - Vampire in Venice - Yoram Globus