Michigan native and actor in the cult classic THE TOXIC AVENGER (1984) Mark Torgl talks with TV STORE ONLINE about creating a cult classic as well as his latest film project, a mockumentary called TOXIC TUTU.
TV STORE ONLINE: What were you like as a kid growing up in Detroit? When did you develop an interest in film / filmmaking and was there something that you saw that influenced you?
I was a completely normal kid, I liked to capture flies and tie a string around their necks and fly them around as my pets. I had a large mayonnaise jar where I kept my collection of toenails like all kids have. I was inspired by Surreal filmmakers like Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali and David Lynch while attending Michigan State University. I loved the way they stretched the normalcy of life into fantastical ideas. Bunuel’s UN CHIEN ANADALOU  especially made me want to pursue movie
in some way.
TV STORE ONLINE: In an interview I read with you online the other day... I saw where you mentioned that you went to NYU to study film and that two of your classmates were Jim Jarmusch and Spike Lee. What were those guys like back in those days?
TORGL: Yeah what happened to those guys? Ang Lee was also a classmate, we were all just normal students in NYU Grad Film. I worked with Spike in the equipment room. Ang was and still is the nicest guy you could ever meet. Jim had actually just finished NYU as I was starting but he was always running around the building. I ran into Spike shortly after SHE'S GOT TO HAVE IT  and THE TOXIC AVENGER were released. We went back and forth, “You’re the man...” No, “You’re the man...” Turns out Spike was really “The Man”.
TV STORE ONLINE: I know you're a Terrance Malick fan... What did you think about his latest film TO THE WONDER ?
TORGL: I haven’t seen it yet. BADLANDS  is a film I never get tired of, DAYS OF HEAVEN  is breathtakingly beautiful. I loved TREE OF LIFE  even the wacky beginning of the world that went on forever.
TV STORE ONLINE: I know that you're also a big Stanley Kubrick fan as well. What are your Top Five favorite Kubrick movies and why are each of them your particular favorites?
TORGL: That sounds like an essay question worth 50% of my grade! A CLOCKWORK ORANGE  because it was such a life changing film for me. Then after that, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY  because it's an inspirational journey of evolution. Then I'd go with THE SHINING , followed by DR. STRANGLOVE , then lastly FULL METAL JACKET .
TV STORE ONLINE: While at NYU... Was the plan always to pursue a career in directing or editing? I think you're a brilliant actor - Was acting always part of the plan?
TORGL: I just wanted to get those demons out of my head and onto film. I always enjoyed acting as a student in high school and while I was at MSU. So when Troma brought me into their world, I loved it. I go where life leads me, I’m not sure why that often involves Toxic Waste sites though. I also love editing and it pays the bills for me.
TV STORE ONLINE: Tell me about THE FIRST TURN ON ?
TORGL: As in any Troma film the direction is to be outrageous and over the top. That is something I have no shyness in doing.
TV STORE ONLINE: Didn't you actually work on TURN ON as a script supervisor?
TORGL: I did. Troma posted a notice on the job board at NYU. It read something like: Come work on a “real” feature film. So I met with Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma and they asked what I wanted to do? I said I wanted to be the Script Supervisor, Lloyd said, "OK, you can be the Script Supervisor, what else do you want to do?" I told him that I like writing and Lloyd said, "OK you can write some additional scenes." So I didn’t sign on as an actor, but typically everyone on the crew ended up in the film somewhere. When the actor who was hired to play "Dwayne" originally didn’t show up, Lloyd said, “Mark you go in and do the part”. The rest is history.
TV STORE ONLINE: Any memories of working with a young Vincent D'Onofrio on THE FIRST TURN ON? It was his first movie as well if I'm correct....
TORGL: Yeah, in fact I wrote a couple of the scenes he was in. He was so good we kept giving him more scenes. He was a really nice guy.
TV STORE ONLINE: Where was the camp stuff shot at for THE FIRST TURN ON?
TORGL: It was at an actual sleepaway camp in New Jersey somewhere.
|Torgl as "Dwayne"|
THE FIRST TURN ON
TV STORE ONLINE: Favorite scenes in TURN ON are the scenes with you as the sexually perverted greaser Dwayne... He is a very funny character...Did you bring that level of insanity to him yourself of was Lloyd Kaufman as director involved in helping to create him?
TORGL: When Lloyd and I work on a scene all sanity leaves the building...
TV STORE ONLINE: What about that crazy dinner scene with that family...Was that all scripted out?
TORGL: It was loosely scripted as, "Dwayne has bad table manners...." I wanted to take bad table manners to a new level.
TV STORE ONLINE: The best line in the entire film is when your character tells his girlfriend Julie's dad "You did your duty? Well, why don't you flush it!" What was in the script or something you improved?
TORGL: I believe that was actually from the mind of Lloyd.
TV STORE ONLINE: What about playing with the mash potatoes, and eating the meat, and felating the corn cob in that dinner scene? The scene is hilariously surreal and insane. How much input did you have into that scene as the actor?
|Torgl assaults a corn cob in|
Troma's THE FIRST TURN ON (1983)
I think most of that was my doing. Taking it over the top is what I do. My thinking was... What can I do here to really make an impression on my girlfriend's parents? What parents wouldn’t want their daughter dating a geek who felates corn?
TV STORE ONLINE: Why do you think that coming of age or T&A teen comedies were so popular in the early/mid 80's?
I don’t think that those films were inherently popular only in the 80’s, I think there is always a market for that kind of mindless sexually provocative guilty pleasure.
|TOXIC AVENGER has become a true cult film classic|
A unknown fan's tattoo of Torgl as Melvin The Mop Boy from the 1984 film
TV STORE ONLINE: With THE TOXIC AVENGER... Did you get invited back to do that by Lloyd and Michael?
TORGL: Yeah, the story is that they auditioned hundreds of kids to play Melvin. But Lloyd and Michael didn’t like any of them. What they were looking for in Melvin was something like what I had done with Dwayne in THE FIRST TURN ON. So they called me up and asked if I wanted the part.
TV STORE ONLINE: You also worked as the script supervisor on THE TOXIC AVENGER too right? Were you around for the entire shoot?
|Torgl (L) with actor Mitch Cohen (R) in |
THE TOXIC AVENGER (1984)
Yeah, I was still going to NYU at the time so I asked if I could work on the film as a Script Supervisor. I wanted to be involved in the entire production and help make it happen. We knew near the end of production that this was either going to be the worst and most awesome movie ever made or a big cult hit. Turns out it was both.
TV STORE ONLINE: Melvin is such a unique character...He's shy, nervous and weak... With Melvin it seems like you'd have to develop some sort of back story for him as an actor. Did you do that? Where did you see him coming from as we the audience enter into his story?
TORGL: Well yeah, he is the complete social disaster. He is awkward at everything he does. There was actually a scene shot that didn’t make it into the film that I wrote and directed. It was a solo camping outing where I was even awkward with myself.
TV STORE ONLINE: What was your experience shooting the pool scene with the sheep?
TORGL: The sheep was really disgusting. It had gnats or some other kind of nasty bugs crawling all over it.
TV STORE ONLINE: Any memories of meeting and talking with a young Marisa Tomei on the set of THE TOXIC AVENGER? It was also her first film as an actress as well...
TORGL: Well, as you can imagine she was all over me...laughing I said to her, ”I’m going to be a big star someday, so you need to get with me”. She couldn’t keep her hands off of my mop...laughing
TV STORE ONLINE: Your work as an actor in TOXIC is so wonderful. Did you ever try to continue on and pursue acting after making the film?
: After we finished the film, I moved to Hollywood. I started working regularly in post production and it became something which I really enjoyed and still do today. I did a cameo in CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER IV . I would love to be in the remake of THE TOXIC AVENGER that Arnold Schwarzenegger is rumored to be a part of. I'd like to play the dad of "Toxie". People reading this should call the producers behind the remake and insist on a part for me. I’m actually acting in my own film which is currently in production now called TOXIC TUTU. It's the almost true story of what became of THE TOXIC AVENGER's Mark Torgl.
TV STORE ONLINE: With the success of TOXIC in the home video market of the 1980's and it playing on television...How did the film impact your life immediately?
TORGL: THE TOXIC AVENGER has a life that just won’t quit. Being part of this cult classic never gets old.
TV STORE ONLINE: As you mentioned a moment ago....You've been working in post production for a number of years since THE TOXIC AVENGER... What made you want to get into that kind of work?
TORGL: I enjoy working in dark stale rooms with producers looking over my shoulder as I create magic...laughing
TV STORE ONLINE: Mentioning again what you're working on now....The new film TOXIC TUTU...What was your inspiration behind bringing this project to fruition?
|Torgl in TOXIC AVENGER IV |
I was pursued by the promoters of The Mad Monster Party to be a guest at their convention in Charlotte, North Carolina this past March. I had never done a convention until this one and my best friend
from NYU and I decided to film it. We created a fictionalized story around the monster convention backdrop and continued it on at the next few conventions I got invited to, Days of The Dead Los Angeles and then at ComiCon San Diego where Lloyd Kaufman the creator of THE TOXIC AVENGER and the Troma Crew participated in our shoot. We are going to be launching a Kickstarter campaign in a few weeks in October to raise funds to continue filming and finishing the project. So please everyone visit our Facebook page HERE
and like my personal fan page and watch for the announcement of our Kickstarter launch.
TV STORE ONLINE: Where can we see you next?
TORGL: I’ll be appearing at Stan Lee’s ComiKaze convention in Los Angeles at the Troma Booth November 1st through the 3rd. I will be meeting fans, signing autographs, and we will be doing more filming for TOXIC TUTU. Stop by and say Hi if you're in the area.
Follow Mark Torgl On Facebook HERE: