Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Academy Award Winner / Special Effects Pioneer Douglas Trumbull talks with TV STORE ONLINE about creating the stargate sequence for Stanley Kubrick's Science Fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey

The recipient of the Vision Award at this year's 2013 Locarno Film Festival, Academy Award winning special effects pioneer and writer/director Douglas Trumbull talks with TV STORE ONLINE about creating the inventive special effects for Stanley Kubrick's landmark work of movie science fiction, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Mr. Trumbull how did you come to work with Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)?

Trumbull inventing on
DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:   Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke had seen a film I worked on for a company called Graphic Films, TO THE MOON AND BEYOND (1964) at the 1964 New York's World Fair.  At the time Graphic Films was producing a lot of training and simulation films for NASA and the USAF about outer space.   These were very technical films, but they were also animated and semi-photo realistic.

TV STORE ONLINE:   It seems like the 1964 World's Fair had a big influence of Kubrick and Clarke and how they'd realize the film.   Do you think that the appearance of the video phone at the fair that year had an impact on how we see it used in 2001?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:   Yes. I think Kubrick and Clarke must have seen the video phone at the World's Fair that same year as well as my film.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Since TO THE MOON AND BEYOND hasn't been seen since then really, could you tell me what it consisted of?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:   TO THE MOON AND BEYOND was only fifteen minutes in length. It went on to explain the big bang theory and ended with the micro-cosmos.  It was also shot in Cinerama and projected on this planetarium type screen in big theaters.

TV STORE ONLINE:   What type of work did you do on TO THE MOON AND BEYOND?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:   I did all the artwork for the film.  I did all the illustrations, all the stars, and all the planets in the film.  So when it played at the World's Fair that year Stanley Kubrick saw it, and approached Graphic Films to see if he could hire them to help work on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968).

TV STORE ONLINE:  Then there was another film that Kubrick saw that had a big influence on him as well, no?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  The other film that Stanley Kubrick saw around this time was called UNIVERSE (1960).   It was a thirty-minute film made by the National Film Board Of Canada.  It was shot on 35mm and was in black-n-white.   It was, frankly, a better film than TO THE MOON AND BEYOND. But I think that after seeing both of those films, Kubrick had the validation in his mind and he must have felt comfortable enough that he could actually make 2001 with the content and the quality that he wanted for the Cinerama screen.

TV STORE ONLINE:  When you were asked to work on the film did you see any challenges in the beginning in regards to creating what Stanley Kubrick was envisioning?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  Sure.  For example the effects required by Stanley Kubrick for the Jupiter And Beyond Infinite sequence in the film were something that represented a transition from reality through time and space to some other dimension and I thought that was going to be a very tall order.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Did you have an idea at the beginning of the production of how you were going to achieve it?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  None of us knew how to go about it really.  There were various ideas on how to achieve it.  For example there was this idea about a slot in one of Jupiter's moons.  Where Dave Bowman would look down into this rectangular monolith shaped opening in the moon and this whole other universe would be revealed on the other side for some unknown reason.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I've read about that idea in some of the books about 2001 that have come out over the years...How did that concept develop into the stargate sequence?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:   Well, the Jupiter moon idea really got us thinking about a corridor concept.  From there, some of the art directors and production designers started messing around with various systems of mirror tricks in an attempt to make this sort of infinite light show but it just didn't work very well.  I started to think about the effects from the end sequence of TO THE MOON AND BEYOND that this gentleman named John Witney had done.  It was this sort of streaked photography process where he was moving various kinds of animated artwork around while the shutter on the camera would remain open.  So he was creating these controlled blurred effects using these different geometric designs.

I thought that this idea would be something that we could apply to this corridor idea but in a three dimensional space.   The idea of a blur is very much like if you took your camera and went out and stood by the road and tried to take a picture of a car going past you on the road at night.  The headlights and taillights would become long streaks of light if you left your shutter open for a long period of time.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So how did you create that incredible sequence in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  We created the slit-scan. It was a device that could create specific patterns of light under very controlled conditions.  For example, if we took a light and turned it on and off, that would create a blinking streak of lines on film.  Then if you had a point of light.... That would create a solid line of light over a long term exposure.  If you blinked that same light off and then on again, the result you would get on film would be a line with dots and dashes in it.   If you consider taking a line of light from a florescent bulb and moving that in a three dimensional space relative to where a camera is mounted you'd create a plain of light.   So the idea here was to modulate that plain of light by not using a florescent bulb but by using a thin slit that would let light through to the camera lens.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Then how exactly did the slit-scan process work?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL: So behind some thick paper and glass you had this sort of horizontal animation stand where we had transparencies set in place.  On these were various artworks, op art designs, geometric shapes and patterns of different colors. Behind those we had in place very bright lights.   The camera was mounted on a track system.  The camera would start about fifteen feet away and it would move down the track toward the artwork and getting as close as an inch and a half away from glass and in doing such it would create these streaks of light that contained all these different patterns, shapes and textures. And it was done in a completely blackened out room.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So how long did the whole process take?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  It took months and months to do.  The f stop was fixed at f/1.8.  It was pretty much wide open.  And to resolve any possible issues that we'd have with the focus as the camera moved along I made a motor controlled cam that would auto focus the lenses on the slit at any distance.  So there was an accumulated infinite number of focal distances on each frame of film.  It would take the camera approximately one minute to run down the track and expose one frame of film, and it would be focusing the entire time.  We'd have to do this process twice for each frame of film cause we could only shoot one side of the light corridor at a time.  For example, once we exposed the left side of the film, we'd have to rewind the film, and start the camera back at the top of the track then go again capturing the right side of the light corridor.  Each frame of film you see in that final sequence took four minutes of time to create.  Because it would take one minute of exposure time to do the left side of the corridor, then another minute to do the right side, then two minutes of reset time for the camera as it completed the movement.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Was there any trial and error in the whole process?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  There wasn't really any trial and error with the slit-scan process. I had done some early tests on an animation stand.  We had a vertical animation stand that had a 65mm camera on it facing straight down onto a platten. It was called an Oxbury.   We also had a Poloroid camera that fit right in front of the lenses.  We'd shoot Poloroids of every single set up in the movie first.  Stanley Kubrick amassed a huge collection of Poloroids because he wouldn't even look at anything unless it was a Poloroid first.  So every set up in the movie was tested first on Poloroid and checked for composition and brightness, color and possible exposure issues.

I had the Poloroid set up on the Oxbury stand, so we could make Kubrick these Poloroid tests.  I ran the camera with the shutter all the way open from the top to the bottom with the slit back-lit on the platten to see if I could create this same streaking effect.  And sure enough, it produced this kind of corridor of light on the Poloroid.  So I took the Poloroid down to Kubrick's office immediately and showed it to him, and said that I thought that this was the way that we should create this corridor of light idea.  Kubrick asked me how I had done it, and I told him.  He said, "OK, what do you need to do this this?"   So I told him that we needed to build this big machine.  I told him that it would require some gears, and some motors,  some giant sheets of glass, and a camera with a focus cam.  I had it pretty much designed already in my head before I had went down to talk to Kubrick about it.   So Kubrick said, "Go ahead and build it."

From there I was able to move about the studio and get all these different departments working on what I needed to build the slit-scan.  I had the engineering department, the machine shop, glass shop, and the metal shop assemble all of the components that I needed right away.   The track in which the camera would be mounted on we needed to have specially machined.   There was a company in Saginaw, Michigan who machined the track called, the Saginaw Ball Screw Company.  And because of the length of it and the speed in which we needed it completed, we had it air-freighted to England cause it was the only thing in the world that we could get for the camera that would allow it to move smoothly on.

Check out Douglas Trumbull's Master Class Lecture at TIFF

TV STORE ONLINE:  I've read in some places that you had a very unique way of unwinding or de-stressing after a long day of working on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY?

Trumbull directing 
Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood in
DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  I had a trampoline on the back lot of MGM Borehamwood Studios.  I had it placed in an old barn.  The entire back lot of MGM was a sheep farm at the time. But there were all kinds of sets and props rotting away on the back lot as well. So I had the studio rent me a trampoline and put it out back there so we could use it to take off and go get some exercise during the day if we needed it.

TV STORE ONLINE:  As with TO THE MOON AND BEYOND a couple years earlier...Did you do any of the artwork for 2001?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  I painted all the stars that you see in the film.  I made all the planets. I made Jupiter, and I made Jupiter's moons.  I designed most of the lunar landscapes and built many of them as well. I also made the security badges that you see the actors wearing  in the space station briefing scene.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Were there any ideas that perhaps fell between the cracks due to time or budget that you or Kubrick wanted to attempt in regards to the special effects or stargate sequence but couldn't?

Still from the Stargate Sequence of
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:   There was an idea to create a "City Of Light" for the Jupiter And Beyond Infinite section of the film.  Toward the end of filming, Stanley Kubrick felt that he had all of the stargate material that he needed.  But I suggested that he could in fact use this slit-scan technique to create a city of light or even create aliens of light.  So Kubrick approved for me to start working on it. I had to modify the slit-scan machine that we had built. I had to modify it so I could put up thousands of little miniature light bulbs that were in various patterns. I had them set up so they could be sequenced on and off with these micro switches as the camera went along it's track.  Doing this, gave this photographic effect that looked like you were moving past these high rise buildings made of nothing but pure light.

TV STORE ONLINE:   What about the creation of an alien?  I've read about that in books about the film but they never fully explain it really.   Could you talk about that?

Keir Dullea and Stanley Kubrick shooting
DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  We started shooting these tests to create aliens made of pure light.  These aliens were figures that looked like envelopes of pure light. But they had a humanoid shape.  They had a head, torso, arms and then legs, but they were just comprised of light.  By the time all of this happened we were running out of time.  Kubrick was getting pressure from MGM to deliver the film.  So he decided that he wasn't going to use the footage.  So Kubrick just said, "Forget about it."   So all of this stuff, the "City Of Light" and the aliens were never used and it's never been seen to this day.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Was the process of creating this alien different than how you'd worked on the stargate sequence itself?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:   Yes. We made an attempt at creating the aliens by doing some photographic tests on some alien statues that were sculpted by Kubrick's wife, Christiane.  Then we did some other experiments as well with Dan Richter.  Richter was the actor who played "Moon-Watcher" in The Dawn Of Man sequence in the film.  They designed this leotard outfit for him. It was all white and it was covered with black polka dots.  So they put him in that suit and shot some footage of him at very unusual angles. He looked like just a pattern in a suit.  We called him "Polka-Dot Man".  The idea behind that was to take the footage of Richter and composite it into what we called "Purple Hearts."  Purple Hearts was just a terms that we used to describe that solarisation technique that you see in the finished film.  

They were going to solarize this footage of Dan Richter as he was doing this sort of subtle strange movement.  The idea was to hopefully get this sort of organic alien entity out of this.  But again, Kubrick just ran out of time.  So he couldn't explore it farther. He didn't have the time to take these ideas and go further with them and see how they would turn out with the proper coloring done on the test footage. I even tried a video television feedback system.  I discovered that you could aim a close circuit camera back at it's own television monitor and if you adjusted it right you would get it started into this weird video feedback that looked like an organic pulsating form.  We did end up photographing it and Kubrick did like it.  He thought it did have promise.  But again, at the end of the day there just wasn't enough time to explore the concept any further.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Then what about the "Star-Child" that closes out the film?  Did you have any involvement in creating that for the film?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:   The Star-Child was a sculpture.  It was done by a local English sculptor named Liz Moore.  She had sculpted the fetus shaped child based off of the photographs of photographer Lennart Nilsson.  Nilsson was the first person to photograph an embryo In utero.  It was a big deal back then and his pictures made the cover of Time Magazine during the early '60s.   Stanley Kubrick really liked his photos.  So Liz Moore sculpted Keir Dullea as a baby and the sculpture had these moving eyes put into it.  It was the only part of the sculpture that actually moved.  The whole thing had to be lit under very harsh and extreme lighting conditions.  There was a heavy amount of gauze filters on the lights which sort of defused it some and made it look very mysterious.  So what I did was paint that envelope of light, that glow around it that appeared to be a placenta.  And we just put them together on the animation stand.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you do any work on the centrifuge set for the film?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:    I designed all the animation on all of the computer screens you see in the film.  We called them "house readouts."  In particular the read-outs you see in the centrifuge portion of the film; those were done on a animation stand and then rear projected via a 16mm projector.   In fact we had 16 projectors bolted down and attached to the outside of the centrifuge.   They didn't anticipate what the problems would be with this idea and they didn't anticipate how the reels of film would react to being turned upside down as the centrifuge turned.  The reels of film fell off the projectors, the bulbs would blow out. Everything that could've gone wrong with those projectors did.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Didn't Kubrick originally want Bowman and Poole to go to a different planet than Jupiter?  

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:   Originally Kubrick was considering the idea of having Bowman and Poole arrive at Saturn and not Jupiter.  The original idea was that the destination would be Saturn and while we had some really talented illustrators working on 2001 they couldn't paint Saturn at all.   They just couldn't make it believable in any way so Kubrick kind of backed off on it.   At the time, there were no good photographs of Saturn or Jupiter for that matter.  The only thing available at that time were these blurry photographs that were taken through a telescope.   The illustrators kind of knew about the red spot and the bands of color and everything but nobody knew anything about the turbulence of detail with Saturn. 

So after a while, it was decided to go back and figure out a way to produce a convincing Jupiter, and that's when I came up with the idea of building what I called "The Jupiter Machine".   And that was just taking the slit-scan technique and turning it into a different kind of device that would rotate to create a spherical painting.   

TV STORE ONLINE:   Can you recall seeing any of the cut scenes that either didn't make the first edit of the film or were removed following the first few screenings on the East Coast?  If so, could you tell me about them?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:   There was a scene that was cut from the film that I remember where Dr. Floyd has this extensive conversation with his daughter about a Bushbaby and then goes to another site where he's talking to a woman who is selling  Bushbabies at a Macy's department store.  And as I recall you see Dr. Floyd talking to a salesperson about purchasing the Bushbaby.   It was really a redundant scene I thought and I saw no reason for it to remain in the film.  

I remember other scenes that played in The Dawn Of Man sequence.  But I recall some portions of that  were just extended out too.  Then there were some other scenes that Kubrick cut out involving some Hal 9000 read-outs that depicted some testing of the AE35 unit that went on and on that were cut out.  There were many many little things throughout the film that Kubrick cut out. I believe around seventeen minutes in total were cut by Kubrick and Ray Lovejoy before the film was released wide.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you think that the footage of 2001 that was discovered a couple years ago in that salt mine in Kansas is some of the stuff that you just mentioned that was cut?  I've heard rumors that it might be a reel of footage that Kubrick used to show MGM executives when they came to check on the production once it had gone over schedule in shooting.   Do you think it could be that?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  When the MGM executives came to Borehamwood they were shown a reel of footage out of continuity to just relax the uneasiness back in Los Angeles is all. They weren't allowed to take anything back with them.  Kubrick showed it to them under his strict supervision.  It included some stuff from the centrifuge, the pod bay, and a bit of the water surface footage that was used in the stargate later on. It was just a sampling because Kubrick did not want to unveil any tricks in regards to how the story was to unfold, so I doubt that was what was discovered in that salt mine in Kansas.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Looking back today, there seems to have just a wonderful and optimistic outlook on the discovery of Extraterrestrials in the early/mid 1960's whereas people today think it's a joke, it's not taken seriously and no one seems to care anymore about what could be out there beyond the stars.  Why has the sociological outlook changed so much in regards to such a possible discovery?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:   You're right. There's a closeted opinion about it these days isn't there?  Back when 2001 was made there really was a very optimistic attitude about it  And I think it's because of all the UFO sightings and alien abductions phenomena that's been reported over the years.  Nobody in the scientific or academic community will touch the subject matter today for risk of humiliation publicly.  If you ask anyone today if there's life in the universe, they'll say "Yes."  But if you ask them if UFO's or aliens have ever been to Earth they'll say, "I don't wanna talk about it."

Douglas Trumbull will be the recipient of the first ever Vision Award at the this year's 2013 world renowned Locarno Film Festival in Italy.   For more with the legendary writer/director, special effects pioneer and inventor please visit Douglas Trumbull's official website HERE:

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

Thursday, July 25, 2013

We Miss USA Network's Up All Night with Rhonda Shear! Rhonda talks with TV STORE ONLINE about the show

Rhonda Shear, host of USA Network's UP ALL NIGHT and actress in films like SPACEBALLS, GALAXINA, ASSAULT OF THE PARTY NERDS talks with TV Store Online.

From 1991 to 1997 comedian and actress Rhonda Shear hosted bad B-movies on the USA Network via her show Up All Night.   The caliber of bad films shown on the network during this era was astoundingly prolific, and hasn't been duplicated since anywhere.   Today films like SWEET SUGAR, THE VALS, BASIC TRAINING, KNOCKOUTS, BARBARIAN QUEEN and INVASION OF THE SPACE PREACHERS all maintain a cult following with Generation X because of their airings on the USA Network. To sit down and watch the USA Network and Shear's show in the mid- 90s really proved to be an B-movie education to anyone interested in getting such and Rhonda Shear was your very sexy teacher.

Shear, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana moved out to California and cut her teeth in the stand up comedy scene of Los Angeles in the mid/late-1980s. After working in various cameo roles and guest appearances on television and in films, she was cast by the USA Network to replace their then unwanted movie hostess Caroline Schlitt in 1991.  Shear was the essence of what the network was aspiring the late night and highly-watched weekend show to become.  Rhonda Shear provided the network with her own brand of goofy blond slapstick mixed with fun sexual innuendo, and as a television hostess viewers of Up All Night with Rhonda Shear were treated to zany misadventures recessing the nightlife hot spots deep inside cities like Los Angeles and New York.

Rhonda Shear took her audience to dance clubs, monster truck rallies, restaurants, coffee shops, cigar bars, even to a female impersonator cabaret called La Cage Aux Follies.   And she did it wearing hardly any clothing. Surrealistically-designed bras created from doll heads and skimpy dresses made with portions of see-through plastic transcended Shear's comedy into the hormonal consciousness of many male American teenagers staying up late on any given Friday night. If you were a fifteen-year-old boy growing up on the edge of Generation X in the early 90s and you were watching Rhonda Shear's Up All Night, not only did you become a B-movie obsessive but you also learned everything you always wanted to know about female sex appeal but were afraid to ask.  

Watching Rhonda Shear each week on Up All Night was a much better and more enriching experience than sneaking into your dad's sock drawer when your parents weren't home and looking through his Playboy magazines.  Rhonda Shear was sexy and you always wanted more of her.  Shear was the true goddess of the late night television landscape of the 1990s.

Not only was Shear beautiful and Amazonian like, but she was also very funny and watching Up All Night always felt like you were really just hanging out with the girl next door. She could make her audience laugh with her sexually charged, goofy physicality and prop play but also with her intentionally cheese-ball Borscht Belt era like jokes.

Watching Shear at work really gave you the feeling that Up All Night must have been a television show that was completely fun to make as well.  Shear on Up All Night was zany, mad, silly and kinky.   She was the incarnate of the definitive male fantasy and it's easy for anyone to assume that Rhonda Shear, her humor, and the tantalizing of her audience was in no way subconscious but truly thought out and planned for maximum effect. To see Rhonda Shear on television on Up All Night to some of the older generation must have only been imaginatively equaled by what it would have been like if Lucille Ball and Jayne Mansfield had gotten drunk and had sex with one another and through a divine miracle from God himself that discounted the laws of nature, gave grace and somehow birthed their captivating offspring and planted her on national television for the teenagers of the 1990s.  

To look back over the history of television, there hasn't been another female movie host at any level to have had the reach, effect, and influence that Rhonda Shear has had on the generational audience that were watching her each Friday night. Anyone that came of age during this era remembers Shear, Up All Night, those hideously fun and hilariously charming B-movies, her sense of humor and her two incredible talents.  

With the days of Up All Night behind her, Rhonda Shear has remained hard at work.  She has continued to do stand up comedy.  She has created a critically hailed traveling stage show, Rhonda Shear's Comedy Pajama Party Show, while still occasionally appearing on television.   A few years ago, Shear packed up in Los Angeles and moved to Florida to start her own lingerie and underwear line as well as a boutique. Her lingerie line is a best seller across The United States and Shear is committed to spending massive amounts of time appearing and selling her brand on The Home Shopping Network. Currently Shear is promoting her lingerie line and has many great things planned for the future.   We here miss Up All Night and Rhonda Shear's addicting blend of sex and slapstick.  Recently we chatted with Rhonda via telephone from her home in Florida and here's how it went:

TV STORE ONLINE: What was your childhood like growing up in New Orleans?

SHEAR: Growing up in New Orleans set the pace for my entire life. New Orleans was sexy. You had all the strip clubs, the old time burlesque clubs, strippers walking the strip. You could stay up and out all night long and drink coffee and eat beignets. When I moved to Los Angeles, I was out on one of the first nights after I arrived and people were starting to shut down the bars at 1:30 a.m., and I was asking myself: what is going on here you can't stay out all night long like back home? But yeah, it set the pace, and it was cool growing up in New Orleans. The city has all that cool stuff like, to go cups (you could have beer on the public streets), voodoo, great food, graves above ground, and great music--the place is who I am. It's where my heart is.

TV STORE ONLINE: Did your parents ever tell you their reasoning behind giving you your middle name, Honey?

SHEAR: Well, I think my mother thought I was going to be a stripper when I grew up. It's very southern actually.  My mother was very sweet and very girly. I grew up doing beauty pageants. My mother was very much a pageant mom. So it's just a very southern thing.

TV STORE ONLINE:  When was the last time you were in New Orleans? How do you feel about how everything was handled after the hurricane?

SHEAR:  My family still lives there. My mother actually just passed away, and we were very close. So I try to go back often. I love it there. Katrina was just horrible. I wish it was better there now, but it's making a comeback. I try to go back often, just to support the city. I went to the Super Bowl a few years ago. You know I was at one time a New Orleans Saint's dancer. And I was Miss Louisiana--so it just makes sense.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I read that during your college days you expressed an interest in studying law?

SHEAR:  Well, it's a long story. I won't go into it. Post college I actually went home and ran for public office. I lost. But I got accepted to law school. Underneath that, I still had this urge to act, perform and do comedy. So I took off to Los Angeles and see where things would lead me. I stayed for 26 years.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What was your first big break?

SHEAR:  I was cast in a Bob Hope special, and I did an episode of Happy Days [1974-84].

TV STORE ONLINE:  Bob Hope, really?

SHEAR:  Yeah. I was cast from an open casting call for one of his shows. I went in to audition, and I got it. If you read on the internet, you'll see something to the effect that Bob Hope discovered me. While that's not really true, I will say that he helped me. He did hand pick me during that first audition. Once I did that first show, he used me in a few other things. So in the sense, he was good luck for me. I got to work with all my idols too. This shows you how old I am...laughing I worked with George Burns and Johnny Carson. The only person that I didn't get to work with that I wanted to was my hero Lucille Ball.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What was the catalyst for you starting a career in stand up comedy?

SHEAR:  When I moved to Los Angeles I enrolled in Harvey Lembeck's improvisation class. So doing that was a lot of fun and inspiring. The people I was in the class with at the time were boosting my confidence, telling me that I should do stand up. So finally I got up enough courage to go out and do it. I met male comedians that told me that I was too pretty to do stand up. That used to make me so mad, because I'm really competitive.  So I just went out and did it. It was very empowering as a female to be up on stage. Also, back then female comedians made it a point to not look pretty while on stage, out of fear that they wouldn't get laughs. I didn't like that, so I just decided that I would be the first to go on stage not following that idea and try to get laughs.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Can you remember your very first stand up gig?

SHEAR:  It was at a Holiday Inn...laughing  I was following five guys at an open talent night that were Michael Jackson impersonators. It was hosted by a guy named Skip E Lowe. I think he's still around Los Angeles. He's gotta be a hundred by now.

Then my first paying gig, was in Atlanta, Georgia. I opened up for Wayland Flowers and Madame. The puppet. Shortly after that, I opened up once in San Francisco for Robin Williams. It was a fluke, but it was really cool. In those days, you didn't get paid much so it was a struggle. Sometimes you'd get stuck staying in a hotel room. These were what we called "comedy condos." It's where a bunch of comedians would all share a single hotel room. So that meant that I always had to get my money because I wasn't going to be the only girl in a room with four male comedians.

TV STORE ONLINE: How difficult were the 80s for you career wise? You had a bunch of walk on roles in films and television but did the work come fast enough for you? Did you have to struggle very much when you first started out in the business?

SHEAR:  Yeah, work came fast. I had a lot of doors open up because I had done a lot of television. I did shows like The A-Team, Three's Company and Cheers. But I was type cast somewhat as a character that came across as an overly sexy bimbo. Even during Up All Night I had the same problem. I was being type-cast for films I went out for during the show's run. Luckily though after Up All Night was over my hosting career really took off, and it became more about hosting than acting for me. I was really close to having my own daytime talk show on CBS but it didn't work out.

TV STORE ONLINE: You remember your first film role? It's listed as one of the Top 50 worst films of all time!

SHEAR:  JD'S REVENGE [1976] In New Orleans! See... I'm so proud. Even before Up All Night, I was doing bad films! Let me set the record straight here: Even though JD'S REVENGE is listed as my first film, it's not actually my first film role. It's listed first because I think I got my SAG card on it. I did a film prior to that and I dare you to find it. It's called QUADRUNE. It was shot in New Orleans. I had a non-speaking, but bigger than life role. A Quadrune is a one-fourth African American woman. It's historic and true. Frenchmen used to married Quadrunes and have babies with them because they were so beautiful. They'd take them as lifetime mistresses. It's the basis of Napoleonic law which still holds true in Louisiana.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What about GALAXINA (1980)? Had you met or knew Dorothy Stratten prior to your walk on role as the "Mime-Bot?"  Did you meet her through Playboy?

SHEAR: I did know her prior. She was very nice, but very quiet. We actually had the same agent at the time. I'll never forget the day she was killed. It freaked everyone out. It was devastating. It really destroyed Hugh Hefner. It was horrible. Dorothy was so beautiful, she had such unique looks.

TV STORE ONLINE:  When you do something like Playboy... As a woman do you worry about people seeing it or what your parents will think?

SHEAR:  Somewhat. Now who cares, right? But back then I asked my parents prior and they were cool with it. When I did the film BASIC TRAINING, which I had that topless scene in, I had my dad's blessing. My dad came to the film's premiere and I was freaking out let me just tell you...laughing

Doing Playboy I've always considered to be a good experience. But it took some getting used to it of course. Being in the magazine with or without clothes on certainly didn't hurt my career. In fact, it really opened up a few doors for me hosting wise.

TV STORE ONLINE: What was it like auditioning for Mel Brooks for your role in SPACEBALLS(1985)?

SHEAR:  I went in to audition looking to get the part of the waitress. Mel Brooks auditioned everyone himself. At the time I didn't have blond hair and he was looking for a blond. So I told him that I would wear a wig and he said, "No, just show up and we'll figure it out. I like you and I want you in the movie but I'm not gonna cast you in the part of the waitress." So that was that. Up until the day of shooting all I knew was that I was going to be in the film but I didn't know what I was gonna be doing or saying. Of course... I just had that one line and Mel Brooks threw me that line while we were on set shooting!

TV STORE ONLINE:  How did you get hired for Up All Night?

SHEAR:  The network wasn't happy with their current host. They were re-structuring, and they wanted hot, over the top, and sexy. At the time I was doing stand up comedy, so I went in and auditioned. I actually took a hair-dryer in there with me and started blow drying my hair as I was auditioning and while all these other girls were waiting outside for their audition.

TV STORE ONLINE: Do you remember the very first movie you played on Up All Night in 1991?

SHEAR:  No, but I'm sure you do...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:  Your movie BASIC TRAINING was followed by Linnea Quigley's THE GIRL I WANT [1990].

SHEAR:  Shut up, really?

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you actually watch any of the movies you guys were playing on Up All Night?

SHEAR:  Yes, actually I did. I watched as many as I had the time for. If I didn't have time to watch them, I would at least fast forward through them. I always felt bad for my mom because she would watch the show every week and she'd sit through all of those really bad movies.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you think the show has held up over time?

SHEAR:  Yeah. The show was really smart. It was ahead of its time to an extent, because USA didn't care about it. It was a smart show. I've had parties and I've shown clips and people still laugh out loud. We made fun of the O.J. Simpson trial. We would parody USA Network execs. We had special guests on. We had all the "Scream Queens" on the show. We promoted them shamelessly. We'd show all their movies. Those girls were a very big part of my life. We had Lloyd Kaufman from Troma on there with Toxie. We hit on things going on at that time. And if you look back at those shows now you can see that what we were doing was a little forward. The comedy is still quite funny.

TV STORE ONLINE: One thing that I find interesting about the progression of the show is how upon starting the show the Rhonda character was overtly sexual, then as the seasons progressed that was toned down quite a bit. Why was that?

SHEAR:  Well, USA Network decided that it wasn't cost efficient for them to produce the show in Los Angeles anymore. USA was and is a New York City-based company. So basically they told me I had to move to New York City otherwise the show was gonna either go off the air or I would be replaced. So I did it. I moved to New York. I wanted to keep my job and I wanted to be on the air. So when I got to New York I got a new producer. And he changed the show. He wanted to make it more darker, and that's just not me, and wasn't that character. And besides, I think he just didn't like me anyhow. So that's were you start to see the sexuality tone down, and me doing stupid things like hanging out in a men's cigar bar or being dressed up as a giant ice cream cone on the streets of New York City. I really hated doing that stuff. I had to put up with him for a couple years, then after that, this sweet girl came in as producer, and she was very nice. We had a lot of fun, but the character still stayed the same as when I first came to New York.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Once the show started to take off did you have any thoughts pop into your head about the character being too sexual... I mean... Did you ever say to yourself... "Are there guys at home pleasuring themselves to me? Yuck...."

SHEAR:  Well, you're coming into someone's home late at night on Friday. And you know more than likely it's teenagers at home that are watching when their parents are asleep. Or it is a single guy coming home from work and he wants to relax. What's funny...We'd get fan letters from doctors, bartenders, and all kinds of people. We even knew that Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac was a fan. Ultimately, we were well aware of the sex appeal. I was your "Bed Time Buddy," so it's understandable and we played into it. The thing is..The show is remembered. We did something right. After all, we're sitting here fifteen years after the show is gone from the air talking about it.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I need you to help me on something? So looking for stuff online about you... I continue to run into a connection between Rhonda Shear and foot fetishism. Are you aware of this? Can you please tell me what the hell that's all about please?

SHEAR: Wait a minute? You're not a foot fetishist?

TV STORE ONLINE:  No!..laughing

SHEAR:  During Up All Night it was really major. We weren't really paying attention then. During production we used to pan the camera across my body ending on my feet. Then all of a sudden we started getting letters from foot fetishists about it. They'd write in saying, "We love her shoes, or we love her ankles, her stockings." And the more letters that came in the more we would play it up. They'd write in asking me to dangle my shoes off my feet and we would do this all on the air. The best part is... USA Network never had a clue!  They had no idea we were doing it! It got crazy. We started pushing it further... One episode for Thanksgiving... I got up on a counter-top and started stomping food and the camera was zooming in on my feet.

After a while, I actually started to get approached by foot fetish magazines and they'd ask me to do a layout. I did a couple of them. It's the number one fetish in the world. It's sweet and harmless. It was crazy though. I'd get sent gifts every week, like toe rings and pairs of shoes. Guys would cut off their pubic hair and mail it to me...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:  One thing I've always wanted to know and I'm hoping you can shed some light on this subject in regards to the secret society of the Scream Queens you were involved in... I can remember back as a teenager reading magazines like Femme Fatales and Fangoria and seeing ads in the classified for video tapes advertising "Your Favorite Scream Queens" all nude. And they always listed yourself, Linnea Quigley, and Monique Gabrielle etc...

SHEAR:  That whole thing was something that went very bad. So Monique Gabrielle was married to this guy. He was a nice and charming guy... His dad was a porn producer. So he got involved with Monique and got on our Up All Night set. We of course, were all good friends. It was myself, Monique, Linnea and Julie Strain. So he talked us all into doing a book called A Sex Symbol Dynasty. Anyhow, Monique and I did some photo shoots together, and I got topless during the shoot. But what we didn't know at the time was that this guy was shooting behind-the-scenes video of us nude or semi-nude and selling it via magazines and the web!

We tried to shut him down, actually. But then we figured... What's out there is out there. There isn't anything that he filmed of me that's really outrageous really.... There is maybe a couple boobie shots of me in those videos. This guy was selling these videos illegally. He's since gone out of business but we know he's down here in Florida somewhere. And to my knowledge he's no longer with Monique, even though the last one of us to see Monique was Linnea and that was a couple years ago. I am looking to get in touch with her. She is such a sweetheart.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How did your comedy CD Your Bedtime Buddy come about?

SHEAR: I was just doing my stand-up and a producer approached me. And I did it and I got paid for it. It was fun. It's still selling out there, and I was just asked to do another recently. I'd like too but I just don't have time to update my act right now. I've got a bunch of new material that's a lot of fun. When I go on the road I now talk about being married and being a sexy step-mom, and it's fun to play that role. I like playing the cougar.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How do you feel about getting older?

SHEAR:  Well, I like it. I love my life. I've had a wonderful full life. I was Miss Louisiana. I was in Playboy. I did sexy stuff. I still think I look really good for my age. I have a youthful attitude. I love my husband, I love my dogs. I don't feel old. My mind is young. I like being seasoned...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:  On behalf of every Generation X male now in their 30's.... I have to ask the universal question.  How does one become "Your Bedtime Buddy?"

SHEAR:  Well, there are really only two ways. One: You can be my bedtime buddy on Facebook or Twitter anytime you want 24 hours a day.  Two: If you want to be my real bedtime buddy you would have to be my junior high school sweetheart that I'm married to now and there's only one of him. So sorry guys, I'm taken.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

For more with Rhonda please visit any of the following links:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Director Albert Pyun talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his 1990 film version of Captain America

Albert Pyun, Director of such films as RADIOACTIVE DREAMS, CYBORG, BRAINSMASHER: A LOVE STORY talks about his 1990 film CAPTAIN AMERICA in the aftermath of it's recent screening at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con.

TV STORE ONLINE:   CAPTAIN AMERICA (1990) seems to come a bit out of left-field in comparison to the other genres that you had worked in prior to making it...I wanted to see how your CAPTAIN film came about?

PYUN:  In the early '80s when I was just starting out...I never figured that I'd get the opportunity to make one film, let alone many.   So I figured that if I was going to get the opportunity to make a film I was going to try to do something that hadn't been done before.  So after I made my first film I knew that if I got the chance to make another one or several I'd make a film in every one of the genres that I had enjoyed as a little kid.

When I first started at Cannon Films....They had a Captain America poster on wall because they had wanted to make that movie for a while. I had been a fan of the comic book as a kid. I really liked the Steve Rogers character. His life story was the most fascinating aspect to me of the Captain America mythos.  Originally, the director Joseph Zito was supposed to make Captain America and Spiderman at Cannon Films, but it didn't work out for whatever reason. I used to run into Zito on the stairway at Cannon Films because he'd be out smoking a cigar because they didn't allow smoking in the building and in talking to him is how I originally found out about Cannon wanting to make a Captain America film.   In 1987 there was a stock market crash and that prevented Cannon from making new films and the cousins that ran Cannon, Menahem Golan & Yoram Globus decided to split it.   I was in Golan's office one day and he was asking me about the projects that I thought that he should take with him to his new company and one of those was the script that they had for CAPTAIN AMERICA. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  What kind of input did you get from Stan Lee at Marvel in regards to the film?

Captain America T-shirt
Available at TV STORE ONLINE

PYUN:  Stan Lee supported the idea of sticking with the Steve Rogers story and making it the film's central focus.  I think Stan was intrigued with the idea of a normal human being who volunteers for this process and his life becomes something that he never expected it to be.  I talked to both Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and they were both very supportive as well.  Back then...The special effects were an issue too, because we didn't have CGI...So Marvel was concerned with some of the elements of the script, because they had remembered seeing how the late '70s Captain America television movies had turned out.  

Because the film was being made with a new company, the budget needed to bring the script to the screen just wasn't there.  I don't think that Marvel really wanted Golan to have the property because of their concerns with the budget.   With the budget we had, we had to make certain adjustments so the script would fit our budget and Marvel didn't like that.  We  didn't have the money that the script needed, and Marvel ended up being quite difficult on us because of that.  They really pushed the production into a corner and we really had to move forward with a script that really didn't fit our budget.    Golan just couldn't get the money collected for the budget and about half-way through the production we ran out of money.  That's why most of the action sequences in the finished movie are heavily truncated.     There was a lot of stuff in the script that we just couldn't do because of our budget.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you ever make an attempt at re-writing Stephen Tolkin's original script for the film?

PYUN:  No, because I really liked his script.  Stan Lee liked Stephen's script too.  Even though we had to cut a lot of stuff out of his script due to our budget I tried to retain his fish out of water thing where Steve Rogers is this guy from the '40s that comes back from Alaska and he's now in the 1990's.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you storyboard?   I really adore that opening shot in CAPTAIN AMERICA...It's a long crane shot where the camera comes down, goes across the street in Renado Beach, into a yard and takes us into the story via the home of Steve Rogers through his kitchen window...

PYUN:     Not really, but we did some initial concept drawings in the pre-production.  We didn't see any purpose in spending money for storyboard artists because we knew from the beginning that we wouldn't be able to afford many of the big action sequences or set pieces in Stephen Tolkin's script.

TV STORE ONLINE:   How did Matt Salinger become part of the project?   Was he always your first choice to play Captain America?

PYUN:  Well, originally my idea was to cast two different actors to play Captain America.  There would have been no way then that one actor could've played the little Steve Rogers and then also play the Captain America Steve Rogers.   For the Captain America Steve Rogers I had originally wanted to cast Howie Long.   I went out to his house and met with him and he was a Captain America fan and he was really excited because even though he was still playing football at the time becoming an actor was a career path that he wanted to pursue.    But Marvel wouldn't allow it.  They told me that he wouldn't work because he wasn't an actor even though he had the build for Captain America.  

We came to Matt Salinger as a sort of compromise because he was tall and he had this sort of All-American face and plus I had really liked his audition reading because he did a great job at showing the sensitive side of Steve Rogers. He was great and could convey the hurt and pain of having to live up to someone else's idea of who he was supposed to be.   While he was tall...Matt could've been each incarnation of Steve Rogers but in the end we had to build a body suit for him for the Captain America side of the story, and I'm not sure now how that worked in finished film.

TV STORE ONLINE:  That's one of the things that I like so much about your CAPTAIN film is that Steve Rogers is in fact this tortured soul of sorts.   He's not really the definition of what a super hero should be according to everyone's standards...I love those scenes with him and the girl...

PYUN:  Right...That's what Matt was really focusing on.   He brought that to it.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  What a great cast too...Melinda Dillon, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox...Was this a project that people wanted to be a part of or were they people that you wanted to cast?

PYUN:  They were people that I wanted.   Many of those actors I had just been an admirer of.  I really liked certain qualities that I had seen in all their work.   Melinda had a great quality in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)....Ronny had a very unique quality in DELIVERANCE (1972).   In real life, Ronny has that kind soul that the character in DELIVERANCE has.   He's just the sweetest guy.   Then after I got Ronny I went after Ned Beatty because I really loved the chemistry that he and Ronny had had together in DELIVERANCE.    I just really wanted to bring certain qualities to CAPTAIN AMERICA.   Melinda Dillon...She had done a film that I was a big fan of called A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) with Darren McGavin.   I had to fly to London to get Darren McGavin for CAPTAIN AMERICA because he was living there at the time.   None of these actors had to audition.  I just offered them their roles because I thought that they all had a special quality and I wanted that to come across in CAPTAIN AMERICA.

Actor Scott Paulin as
The Red Skull 
TV STORE ONLINE:  What about Scott Paulin in the role of 'The Red Skull'?

PYUN:  Well, I had just worked with Scott prior on a small three day movie called DECEIT (1992).  I was completely taken with his ability to take small moments and turn them into something magical.  So I figured if he could do that on a small film that was shot in three days, he could properly bring something really great to The Red Skull.   Scott really added something to The Red Skull that made him something more than just a tradition villain.   I know that CAPTAIN AMERICA was a difficult experience for Scott too because so much of his work was cut out from the movie.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What about that great Red Skull make-up that we see him in at the very beginning of your CAPTAIN AMERICA?  Was there any trial and error getting what you wanted for that?

PYUN:  Well, Greg Cannom did the make-up and he's went on to win Oscars.   Greg was very specific in the regard that he wanted me to cast someone who didn't have a breach in his nose and of course I cast Scott who had everything that Greg didn't want in order to achieve a great make-up effect.   So that really posed a challenge to Greg...Because remember we didn't have CGI back then so it wasn't like he could have a little bit of make-up on and then let a computer do the rest.   That Red Skull make-up was also a challenge for Scott too because each day he had to spend four to six hours in a chair getting made up.

TV STORE ONLINE:   There's also a unique sense of humor at play in your CAPTAIN AMERICA as well...I love that bit where Steve Rogers is in truck first with Ned Beatty, then later on with that girl....and every time he gets stressed out he plays a trick on them by saying, "Pull over for a second I think I'm going to be sick."   Then he gets out and runs away from them.  Was that type of stuff in the script or was that something that the actors or yourself brought to it.

Pyun at the helm.  Look for his upcoming
film ROAD TO HELL (2013) in
theaters starting in August 2013
PYUN:  It was in the original script but I just magnified it a little bit.  What was interesting to me what the fact that if you're a superhero and you have to steal from somebody then you don't really want to hurt anybody in the process of doing that.   He had to steal those cars because he had to get out of the bind that he was in and and once he found that this worked with Ned Beatty's character he thought it might work time and time again...laughing   I know a lot of people don't really like that aspect of the film but I thought it was really clever.   People don't like the film because it doesn't have those set pieces and the Captain America type of action that they were expecting.

TV STORE ONLINE:  It seems to me that the reason why many people don't appreciate your CAPTAIN AMERICA film is because they don't know or understand your sensibilities.  Do you think that hurt the film?

PYUN:  I do.  I did what I could do with the budget I had for CAPTAIN AMERICA.   Not having the budget I needed really made the shoot tough so I just tried to focus in on certain aspects that I found amusing and fun.  We knew we couldn't do big action pieces so we focused in on the people that were coming after Steve Rogers.  They weren't the biggest guys and they didn't have any type of special weapon.  In a weird way I saw the action in the film as something from a '40s movie.  I wanted just quick fist-a-cuffs and somebody goes down.  I didn't want anyone flying around on a wire.  I think I just brought a old school sensibility to it.

A  Showdown Homage:  Matt Salinger as Captain America
and Scott Paulin as The Red Skull
TV STORE ONLINE:  Well, you can clearly see how someone like Sergio Leone influenced you as a filmmaker...There's that showdown at the end of CAPTAIN AMERICA where you've set up the framing where Captain America is on the left side of the frame in a medium shot, then you cut to a extreme close-up of The Red Skull's face all the way to the right of the frame....

PYUN:  Right, that was always my intention.  I always saw that showdown as something out of a Spaghetti Western.   When we first cut the film together and showed it to the studio executives they didn't like that.   I mean, it's very much like the opening of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968).   They couldn't understand why these two actors were giving each other these looks. I did something similar in CYBORG (1989) at the end too.  I love them personally.  A Showdown is one of my favorite things in films.  I like it when two characters can sort of examine each other.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Some fans might not be aware of the fact that there are in fact now two different versions of your CAPTAIN AMERICA available. There's the studio version cut then your specially made Director's cut of the film based off of a work-print.    I personally prefer your Director's cut .  I mean you revise the story arc with the insertion of that scene of The Red Skull as a young boy playing piano at the end of the film, where in the studio cut that scene appears at the very front....

Albert Pyun's Director's Cut for
PYUN:  Right...The original ending that I had intended for the film I actually couldn't find even for my Director's cut.   In my original first cut of the film...It started with the scene that you see now of The Red Skull as a little boy playing that piano and then the Nazi's break in, shoot everyone and kidnap him.   Then the film was going to end with him thinking back to that same moment but at the end you would've seen him play that entire piano piece completely and then you came back and The Red Skull commited suicide.   When I showed it to the studio...They didn't like it.   They didn't think that the bad guy should get off the hook.    They didn't get it.  

Captain America T-Shirt
Steve Rogers really understood The Red Skull because they both were men that were set off on someone else's destiny and not their own.  I think Steve Rogers really understood and related to  The Red Skull's pain.  So we had to go back and shoot that little bit for the end where Steve Rogers as Captain America throws his shield and kills The Red Skull.    

The studio didn't understand that pain and sadness and pathos.   These guys at the studio clearly hadn't read the comic book in the '60s. Because if they had they would've understood  how Steve Rogers was in the comic book.   He was a superhero that solved his problems very uniquely.  He was a superhero who was very in-tune or sensitive to others around him.  The studio wanted him to be a killer, and he wasn't a killer in the comic book.   I was shocked to see Captain America in the new film with a gun.  When I saw that I couldn't believe that.

Albert Pyun's new film ROAD TO HELL will be hitting theaters in select cities in The United States this August 2013. 

To purchase Albert Pyun's Director's Cut of CAPTAIN AMERICA please visit his site HERE:
Looking for a Captain America T-shirt?  Check out TV STORE ONLINE's selection HERE: