Friday, February 28, 2014

INTERVIEW: Director Richard Schenkman talks MAN FROM EARTH and the upcoming sequel

Director Richard Schenkman talks with TV STORE ONLINE about MAN FROM EARTH and the film's upcoming sequel...

TV STORE ONLINE:  How did you get involved in the MAN FROM EARTH project?

Schenkman:   I guess it was about 1998 or 1999.   It wasn't too long after Jerome Bixby had passed away.  A friend of mine, a producer whom I had worked with once or twice previously called me up and told me about the script for it.  I read the script and loved it.   So I met with my friend, and Emerson Bixby and his manager who was trying to position himself as a producer.   I went through and told Emerson what I liked about the script and I pointed out a few things that I thought needed to be changed in the script.  The meeting went really well, everyone was really excited and we had all agreed that we could make the movie inexpensively and I thought that I'd be getting a call about it, but it never came.

It turned out that Emerson's manager turned producer thought they could attract a much bigger director to the script because of the enthusiasm that I expressed for the project.    So this producer encouraged Emerson not to stay in touch with me.    A couple years passed.  But they couldn't get the film made how Emerson wanted it to be made.    Other producers wanted to take the script and rewrite it.  Then another producer wanted to put in all of these flashbacks. But Emerson didn't want any of that.   He wanted to honor his father and his work and keep the script exactly the way that Jerome Bixby had written it.     A friend of mine had just shot a film on digital video for almost no money and it turned out great.  It really looked like a film.   So a producer friend and I started talking about how we should do something like that.   Nothing I had written though up to that point would've worked for the money we had to shoot with.   So my partner said, "Have you ever come across a script that would work?"  I told him about Emerson and Jerome Bixby's last script.   So I called up Emerson and said, "I'm not sure if you remember me, but I was circling around your dad's last script a few years ago..."   He said, "Remember you?  You were the only the director that wanted the film the way it was written."

TV STORE ONLINE:  Reading that script for the first time...What was it in the story that hooked you?

Schenkman:  It just connected with me.  Thematically I connected with it.  I've spent time in my own life thinking about many of the ideas in the film.  The dialogue was deeply intelligent.  The characters were great.   Even though it was a deeply intelligent idea, it has had a lot of emotion in it.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you have certain cast members in mind when you started the project?  Your choice of actors to play the roles in the film is really wonderful.  I really appreciate seeing William Katt and Tony Todd in the film....

Schenkman:  I didn't really have anyone in mind when I started.   It all happened like it does with many films.  You figure out your budget and you figure out who you can get based on how much money you have .  Then you cast the actors that appreciate the script too.   I also wanted actors that were very well established in the science fiction fan community.   Almost all of the actors had appeared in Star Trek.  Tony Todd is well known in the horror and science fiction community as well.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Can you talk about what's been written in regards to how the MAN FROM EARTH filmmakers wrote and thanked bootleggers for pirating the film online?

Schenkman:  Well, part of that...When Eric [Wilkinson] did that, it was obviously tongue-and-cheek.  What he was really thanking people for was watching the film and spreading the word about it to those outside of The United States that couldn't see the film when it was released.   I can certainly understand those out of the US that downloaded the film because they had no legitimate means of getting it, but those in the US should have bought the film on DVD.   If I knew what I know now, we would have made the film more web-centric in that we would've offered the film streaming on a website and then offered a high resolution version and maybe through bit torrent technology.  But we had no idea at that time that the film would do so well around the world so we just didn't consider it while we were making MAN FROM EARTH.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Why hasn't the film gained more exposure in the US?  It seems like something that would be perfect for the SyFy Channel...

Schenkman:   We wanted it to air on SyFy.  In fact, they were the first place we went to when the film was complete.    I, myself, had a very nice conversation with the acquisitions guy at SyFy who said that he enjoyed the film very much himself but then went on to say that they had no place to put it.   He said that their schedule did not allow for a movie like this.   He said basically that the only original movies that they are interested in are action movies.   He went on to say that because MAN FROM EARTH has no action, there is no spot for it on SyFy.  I said to him, "Can't you put it on at Midnight on a Wednesday or something like that?"  He told me that they couldn't.  I couldn't believe it.   We even took it to places like The Sundance Channel and the IFC channel and they said that it wouldn't fit their channel.   I mean, MAN FROM EARTH got great reviews, it has a great score on  It won awards at film festivals.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Is there any chance for a sequel to MAN FROM EARTH?

Schenkman:  Yes, we're working on it.  There is a spec script and the story line is all fleshed out.    We approached the company that put out MAN FROM EARTH on DVD about financing the sequel and they never got back to us.  So we're about to start a Kickstarter campaign online to fund the sequel.   You can follow it on Facebook HERE:

TV STORE ONLINE:  What do you want people to take away from MAN FROM EARTH?  It's such a great film with great ideas and it asks its audience to consider many things...

Schenkman:   That's not really my place to say.  If MAN FROM EARTH was my first film I might have something to say about that.   I learned on my first film THE POMPATUS OF LOVE (1996) that once a film is done and it is released it no longer belongs to you.   Each person is going to take something from your film that is completely different from the next.    People will either love your film or hate it.   I've gotten reviews that raved about my first film and then others that just disliked it.   I think the only thing a filmmaker can do is to fill their film up with as much heart, intelligence, honesty and ideas that they can and hope someone takes something away from it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

INTERVIEW: Screenwriter Emerson Bixby talks MAN FROM EARTH (2007)

Executive Producer and Screenwriter Emerson Bixby talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his father Jerome Bixby's brilliant MAN FROM EARTH (2007)

TV STORE ONLINE:  What do you think your dad's inspiration was for writing MAN FROM EARTH (2007)?

BIXBY:  My Dad was inspired to write the film when he was in New York City in 1946.   He came up with this idea of a civilized man that was actually a Cro-Magnon man that was thousands and thousands of years old.  He originally came up with the idea when he was 23-years-old.    When the '50s came, my Dad saw Charles Bronson in a film and he really wanted Bronson to play the caveman if he should ever write the film.

TV STORE ONLINE:  That makes sense....Look at Bronson in HOUSE OF WAX (1953) for example.

BIXBY:  Right, I think Dad saw Bronson in the Corman film MACHINE GUN KELLY (1958) though.  He's very stocky and strong and Bronson had a very intense face.   The idea for MAN FROM EARTH was kicking around in my Dad's head for years and when he was writing for Star Trek, he put the idea in one of the episodes of the show.  The idea for the story was always digging at him though.   He decided to go back to it.  He started writing the actual screenplay for MAN FROM EARTH about a month and a half before he passed away.    He had it almost finished it, but then he had to go into the hospital for a quadruple bypass.   

He ended up finishing the screenplay literally on his death bed.   Right up until two days before he passed he was dictating scenes to me and I was writing them on napkins and I even started writing on one of those hospital pajama gowns that they give you that has no backside.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What do you think it was about this idea that kept him always thinking about it?

BIXBY:  Well, my Dad always loved the film 12 ANGRY MEN (1957).  It was directed by Sidney Lumet and what he liked about it so much was how good dialogue and a good idea can completely carry a story.

He really wanted to do a thinking-man's Sci-Fi film.   But, he was always trying to do that.  Back in the '70s, he had an idea to make a film called ELSEWHERE.   He had wanted to do this right around the same time that Steven Spielberg was starting on CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977).    But, when he heard that Spielberg was working on something with aliens he decided to wait it out to see how Spielberg's film would turn out.  He was hoping that the film would fail so he could make his, but in one of the very rare instances that he went out to the movie theater, he saw CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and it just blew him away.  It really made him forget about doing his own alien film.    But my Dad's idea was a really interesting one because his story was from the alien's point-of-view.    We would see what it was like for them to come to Earth through their eyes.    

He really liked the idea for MAN FROM EARTH because it wasn't a Sci-Fi film with explosions and special effects, it was just dialogue and that was the reason why he was always interested in bringing the project to the screen.

TV STORE ONLINE:  The screenplay for MAN FROM EARTH has many historical ideas swirling around in it.   How much research did you or your dad put into it to get all of those things correct?

BIXBY:  My Dad just knew all about those things in the script.  He was such an avid reader that he really knew everything on everything.  When he passed away, he probably had about three semi-truck trailers full of books.   I'm sure he researched a few things, but for the most part he really knew all of stuff from his years of reading.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Were there any ideas in the script that weren't directly translated onto the screen in the film we see today?

BIXBY:   Well, originally my Dad didn't want "John" to drive off and come back at the end of the film.  He wanted him to just leave alone, but I really bugged him about that.  I said, "C'mon, C'mon...He has to come back."  My Dad just said, "OK, write it both ways and we'll look at it later."    The next day, I brought him a couple pages to look over for the ending and he said, "Yeah, OK...You got it."   There were two characters that we cut out of the movie from the script. They were sort of similar, so we edited them and gave most of one of these character's dialogue to actor John Billingsley.    But other than that, the first draft of the screenplay that my Dad did is pretty much what you see in the film today.

After my Dad passed away I had producers offer me big money for the script but I just couldn't give it up.  The producers that wanted this script wanted to take it and shoot it and add in all of these explosions, and I had one guy who wanted to insert a series of flashbacks that featured "John" riding a Velociraptor and leading an army of cavemen.  I told him where he could go, because none of those ideas were true to my Dad's vision for this story.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Working so close with this concept and this script for MAN FROM EARTH why didn't you just direct the film yourself?  Did you ever consider doing that?

Yes, I did.    I got really frustrated with producers telling me that they wanted to throw in explosions and  naked chicks.  I got really annoyed by that, but luckily Richard Schenkman came along and he had a very clear understanding of the script and he agreed with how I thought it should be made.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What do you want people to take from MAN FROM EARTH when they see it, and what do you think that your dad would have wanted people to take from it?

I think that he would've wanted people just to think.  If my Dad were around today, he'd be very happy with how the film turned out.

Friday, February 21, 2014

INTERVIEW: Actor Wings Hauser talks about his 1991 dark Hollywood noir THE ART OF DYING

Actor Wings Hauser talks with TV STORE ONLINE about the making of his cult B movie film noir THE ART OF DYING...

TV STORE ONLINE:  This was the third film that you directed...The first two films being COLDFIRE (1990) and LIVING TO DIE (1990)....With this third film THE ART OF DYING (1991), what was your process for casting?

HAUSER:   It was pretty simple...We put out a casting call, then we got a bunch of head shots and then we called in some people that we liked and we took it from there.  It wasn't like a studio film where we had someone breathing down our necks telling us that we needed to cast someone in particular...   A interesting story behind the casting of the film....Actress Kathleen Kinmont...You remember her from the film?

TV STORE ONLINE:  Of course.  How can one forget some of those scenes that you share with her in the film...

HAUSER:  Right, well, Kathleen is such a wonderful woman.    The role that I cast in her required some partial nudity and when she came in to audition with me she mentioned that she had a bad scar on her breast and she was concerned of how it would look on film.    So she showed me her breast right there in the audition and she did it very technically.  I mean, what a professional actress.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Of course, the film has a very notorious sex scene that involves a  gallon of milk!   Was that something that you had written into the script?

HAUSER:  God No.   In the script it said something like, "They have sex".   Somehow the sink in the kitchen came into play and then we both thought it would be fun to play around with food and the only thing we had available was that gallon jug of milk and so we started to pour it over each other.    That was a tough day...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:  There are some great actors in THE ART OF DYING....Michael J. Pollard and Sarah Douglas...

HAUSER:  Right.  Michael J. Pollard was a human being all to himself.  He's just an amazing guy.  He insisted on being picked up every day before shooting by me because I was the director.   He had a lot of thoughts that went into that character.   When Michael Pollard stops talking on film and he starts thinking it really is the most amazing thing you'll ever see.    As for Sarah Douglas, I had first met her on BEASTMASTER 2: THROUGH THE PORTAL OF TIME (1991). She did THE ART OF DYING for me for almost nothing.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  Your character "Jack" in the film.....Who was that guy?  He's very hard-boiled, but there is also a another side to him that isn't spoken about....

HAUSER:  Well, I think that other side has a bit to do with me.   Growing up in Hollywood myself, I've seen actors come out here and get chewed up and spit out.   I think that's why he was so comfortable in helping out that little girl throughout the film.    This is a tough town, and you really have to love your work otherwise you're done for.  There is a least ten broken hearts out here for every star down on Hollywood Blvd.   I think Jack really cared about those kinds of things in Los Angeles. I think he had seen so much of that, and that is what drove him to drink.

Then there's the girl who is told that she'll become a star if she goes and gets her photos taken.   Shooting that  scene...That was as real as it could get.  I knew a guy once who was a drug dealer and a photographer.   He would tell girls that they would be star if they'd go with him and shoot some photos with him.  He's take them up to his loft, and the cocaine would come out and then he's get them naked and he'd shoot photos of them and then sell them off to a magazine.  He was a master at that.  I thought that was a total degradation of women, and that was what that scene was about.   But that stuff actually happens out here in Hollywood. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  The film has such a strong visual style about it..   What kinds of prep do you do as a director by the time you begin on THE ART OF DYING?   Are you a believer in story boarding?

HAUSER:   No, I don't storyboard.   I just try to put it together all in my head.  I read the scene and then go to bed and try to dream on it.    I do the same thing as an actor, and I think a lot of it also has quite a bit to do with confidence.   We really wanted to go with that jazz side of Los Angeles and I wanted to use a lot of reds and greens in the shading in the film.

TV STORE ONLINE:  There's a great tension in the film between the characters, and not just because one is good and one is evil, there's something unique in that the villain plays with the hero by visiting him at his own home for a chat for an example...

HAUSER:   Right, that was fun.  Gary Werntz is a great guy and a great actor.  He played that scene beautifully.   That character probably wanted to be a filmmaker, but it didn't work out for him and he got frustrated.  That happens out there in Hollywood.   I thought that Gary's character offered a great examination of bitterness and frustration.

TV STORE ONLINE:  And he's got a great sidekick in "Latin Jerry".

HAUSER:  Oh Yeah, He's a great actor that Mitch Hara.   I came up with the name "Latin Jerry" because there was a L.A. Rams football player that went by the name "Latin Barry".   He's a great character, and Mitch was great to work with.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Of course, the killer mimics some great Hollywood films with his killings... Who came up with those movie that he uses like THE DEER HUNTER (1978) and PSYCHO (1960)...

HAUSER:  I did.   I loved that aspect of the story.  Gary Werntz and I actually came up with the PSYCHO sequence together. I do remember that because his daughter would come to the set with him often and I remember that the day that we were going to shoot that, he had told me that his daughter wouldn't be coming.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love the juxtaposition there between the sex scene and the murder.   There's something there to that whole orgasm sex and death thing...

  Right, that was a fun sequence to cut in editing.  I thought those murder sequences really helped as anchor points to go back and fourth to in the editing.

Interview Segment By: Justin Bozung
Watch the Trailer for THE ART OF DYING (1991) HERE:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

INTERVIEW: Actor Scott Wilson looks back with TV STORE ONLINE at AMC's The Walking Dead

Veteran actor Scott Wilson talks about bringing "Hershel Greene" to life on the hit AMC series The Walking Dead...

TV STORE ONLINE:   Now that The Walking Dead has returned from mid-season hiatus....It was quite the shock to see Hershel's severed zombie head a couple episodes ago...Was that a strange thing to see for you?

   I didn't know what to think about that...laughing    Hershel's gone now but I'm so glad that the fans of the show really embraced him for the time that he was on the show.  

TV STORE ONLINE:   It seems like the fans have really become interested in some of your past work too, like in the films IN COLD BLOOD (1967) and THE NINTH CONFIGURATION (1980)...

WILSON:  Right, Yeah, it's been really great in that way.

TV STORE ONLINE:   What was your favorite moment from this current season?

WILSON:   I have a lot of moments that I'm fond of from this season.  I really liked the speech I got to do as Hershel in Episode 3 from this season and I really liked getting the opportunity to watch the actors evolve over the last three years that I've gotten to work with them too.  That would probably be my favorite aspect of working on the show....It would probably be just getting the opportunity to work with such  amazing actors, and working with all of the amazing directors and directors of photography and make-up artists on the show.  Everyone that works on The Walking Dead is just wonderful.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Speaking of Walking Dead alumni....Did you see Martin Scorsese's THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013) yet?

WILSON:  I did.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Wasn't Jon Bernthal great in WOLF?

WILSON:  He was.  He was really terrific.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Do you have that one favorite episode from Season 2 or 3 or from this latest season?  Which would be your favorite and why?

WILSON:   Well...How can I overlook Episode 5 from this season?  It's mainly dedicated to Hershel.  It was so much fun and it was a challenge.   Hershel was very proactive and reactive in that one.
TV STORE ONLINE:   How do you think that Hershel had progressed from Season 2?   How had he grown as a character and how did you find him as the actor that brought him to life?

WILSON:  I found him through the scripts.   Before I had came on board in Season 2 I had read eight scripts in advance. Also, wardrobe plays a huge part in a character for me as well.  I spent a lot of time thinking about Hershel's attire, and I worked with the costume designer using that approach.

Also, [Executive Producers] Frank Darabont and Gale Ann Hurd had some very specific ideas about who Hershel was too.   I think a look is very important to any character.   I've always taken that approach for any of the characters that I've played even going back to my first film IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967).  
TV STORE ONLINE:   Fans of the show have been very vocal about their love of the Norman Reedus character "Daryl Dixon", but Hershel has to be right up near the top after Daryl as the fan favorite character...What do you think it is about Hershel that has resonated with the audience of The Walking Dead?

WILSON:  I think that Hershel is like everyone's grandfather, or father, or older brother, or uncle and I think he reminds everyone of someone or he represents someone that people would like to have in their lives.   It's interesting for me, because, all you can do is play the character from your gut and hopefully people will respond to it.

Being on The Walking Dead was an interesting experience for me as an actor...While it's a very cinematic show, the character doesn't have a arc like he would in a movie or in play. With something like The Walking Dead you don't experience the full character in one evening.  The arc comes across several scripts or across three seasons.  

You'll see a line in the script that you hope will pay dividends down the road in a later episode of the series, so you'll use it as a way to plant a seed in the hopes that it will bare fruit later on down the road in another episode that you'll shoot, and sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. It was really fun in that way. Between the second and third seasons, I decided that I'd let my hair and beard grow out until we started shooting again.  I thought that I could just cut my hair if there was no time lapse between those seasons, but it turned out that there was in fact a lapse in time, and I thought that in doing that, it really gave Hershel something interesting.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Have you heard from the fans of the show in regards to your character's departure?

WILSON:  Sure.  I've had fans come up to me and say, "I cried when they killed you" or "I'm so sorry that they killed you."  It's been really nice, and it's very interesting too, because it is a little like going to your own funeral in a way.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

INTERVIEW: Actor / Director Scott Coffey looks back at the 1989 film SHAG

 Actor and Director Scott Coffey talks with TV STORE ONLINE about SHAG (1989).

TV STORE ONLINE: How did SHAG come to you?

COFFEY:  I had just read the script, but I can't remember how I got my hands on that script exactly, I think that my agent or manager might have gotten it first and given it to me.  When I got the script I was in the middle of rehearsals for a film I had been cast in already called SATISFACTION (1988).  When I got the script for SHAG I read it right away, and I just loved it.  It was so smart and it really articulated an exact moment in time.  I did everything I could do to get an audition, but they told me that the role had been cast. I decided to press the producers for a meeting and I went in to see them.  I went in with the intention of convincing them that I was the only person that could do that role. The actor who had been cast in the role... Something happened and his deal got screwed up or something like that and that opened the role for me.   Which was great for me...laughing  I was so happy to get that role.  When I first read that script I knew that I was the only person that could play that role, and I don't feel that way very often.  But I really felt that way about getting that role in SHAG.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Who was that "Chip" character to you?  How did you find him after you had read that script for the first time?

COFFEY:  I usually get their voice in my head.  Usually it comes to me through someone I know or from something I've seen in a magazine.  In this case, I had an idea more so of the time and place of the story than of the character.  I really wanted Chip to be a metaphor for what was happening in America in that moment.   The script takes place in the late summer of 1963.  That was the summer right before John F. Kennedy was assassinated.   That was the death of innocence in America.  I mean that in the way that there is this very stereotypical cliche idea of innocence in post war America today.  So I was thinking about that, and with Chip, I really wanted to embody that idea.  

As I was doing research on the era...I found a Life Magazine and on the cover were some kids in a car. One kid was hanging out of the back of a convertible and he had this sort of shaved head.  When I saw that I said, "That's it.  That is who this kid is..." I sort of became obsessed by this and the producers of SHAG had specifically asked me to not cut my hair but I went and shaved it anyhow,  just like the kid had his cut on the cover of that magazine.   I just knew that it was the perfect look for Chip.

TV STORE ONLINE:   How long did it take you to learn how to do the Shag dance?

COFFEY:  The dance took forever.  It was so hard for me.   It so unbelievable difficult for me.  I was so nervous to shoot that big scene at the end at the dance competition.   I had a very hard time with those moves.  They are very specific, small and tight.   Your feet move always in the same pattern no matter what's happening up top, so it is literally like trying to pat your stomach and rub your head at the same time.  

Annabeth (Gish) picked it up the first day and took off with it.   I was hopeless at it.  She was so patient with me.  She was so great to work with.  I was really having a tough time with it.   There was a discussion even about having someone double for me to do the dancing.  They didn't tell me about it at the time, but when I found out about it, I was all about it. I said, "Great.  Get someone. There are a ton of kids here that can do the dance."    In the end they decided that they really wanted me to do it.   I'm really glad that I managed to get it down, but in the end it was really tough for me to do that. 

We didn't shoot the dance competition scene until the end of the movie.  So while we were filming in Myrtle Beach, I would be shooting all of the other scenes and then at night go and rehearse the steps for the dance with Kenny Ortega and Annabeth for a couple hours. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  Well, it really pays off...That chemistry that you have with Annabeth Gish in the film is pretty magical...

   Yeah, that chemistry was really interesting.  I loved Annabeth the second I met her. She was really wonderful.  She was a little bit younger than the rest of us.  She was a bit more innocent too.  All of us were sort of savvy Los Angeles and New York City kids and we more aware of the world than she was I think.   She was like five or six years younger than the rest of us in the film.  Even though she was younger that I was...When we were rehearsing or when the camera was rolling, something magical would happen.  We had this whole other life there than what was happening off screen.   There was something magical that happened there.   I was very comfortable with her physically and I think she would say the same thing about me.   It was really great working with her.

TV STORE ONLINE: What was your experience with Director Zelda Barron?

  Zelda was really great.  She really encouraged us to take big risks and really go for stuff.   We had a couple weeks of rehearsals prior to shooting the film and we took that time and broke down the script and all of the beats in it.   We were all really young actors and with the exception of Phoebe [Cates] it was all our first really big film.    She was very maternal with us.  She made us all feel really safe.   She was funny.   She allowed us to create that chemistry and she helped us along the way, but at the same time kept us on track with the script.  She was wonderful to work with. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  Looking back...What was the best part of the experience for you on SHAG?

COFFEY:   Just the fact that I developed friendships with everyone that worked on the film.   We all spent so much time together while we were working.  All of those girls were all so incredibly smart and it was so much fun hanging out with them and going out to movies at night.  I'm good friends still with one of the producers on the film now.    You can feel how close we became, and you can feel that collected energy in the film all of these years later when you watch it now.  It was hot while we were there shooting, and I don't do well in the heat myself, but I don't remember it as being hot.    Thinking back, that climate just became another character in the film for me.  My memory of that summer is just really great.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What do you think it is about SHAG that has allowed it to become a film that its fans want to revisit over and over again?

COFFEY:  I think the film is shot really well.  It is a great ensemble piece.  I love how it focuses on the girls.  They are all very different characters apart from each other.   The narrative is divided evenly between the four girl characters.  When you watch it today you don't notice the film's structure either.  It really keeps you in the moment that it exists.  That's what is so cinematic about it.   That makes it classic in a way.   There's something very honest and truthful about the moments in the film that resonate out of the time period that the film takes place in.  

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

Friday, February 7, 2014

INTERVIEW: Actress Page Hannah looks back at SHAG (1989)

Actress Page Hannah talks with TV STORE ONLINE about SHAG, the 1989 dance coming-of-age cult film...

TV STORE ONLINE:   How did SHAG (1989) first come to you?

It was just one of the movies around  to audition for as a girl being of the age that I was at that time.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What did you think of the script when you first read it?

HANNAH:  I thought it was really unusual to find a movie about four young girls, and to me that was really exciting.  Generally, the girls parts are the "girlfriend" or the "best friend" or both.  Not very often is there a film that revolves around four really defined young women.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Did you have to audition for the role of "Luanne"?

HANNAH:  Yes, I did. During the audition process they had me read for all of the girls.  When you went in to read you didn't know who you were actually auditioning for.   In fact, you would go in and read with a group of girls and then they would ask you to come back in with a completely different group of girls.   Once I knew what part I was really focused on, I envisioned her as someone who grew up always playing by the rules.  She grew up with those three girls and she felt safe with them and that allowed her to break away from those rules that she grew up with and got to go wild for a couple days.  She was really a fun character to play.

  Did you learn the dance for the film?

All of us learned to dance.   I started working with Kenny Ortega about two weeks before we starting shooting SHAG.   It was really fun.   When we weren't shooting at night, I would go out to some of the clubs in Myrtle Beach and practice.

TV STORE ONLINE:   How was working with Zelda Barron?

  She was lovely.  It was a woman directing women and that was really great.   She really immersed herself into the music and the period.  I really enjoyed working with her.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How was shooting in Myrtle Beach during the hot summer?

HANNAH:  It was beyond fun.   We were a young group of actors in a very summer oriented town.  I don't remember it being super hot, except for a few days when we had to shoot the scenes in the car.  It was really a fun time.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did all of the actors become close during the shoot?  The film has such a wonderful energy in it...

HANNAH:  Yeah, everyone became very close. But that always happens on a film set.  It's like you live in a bubble. But with SHAG, in particular, this one was special because it really created some special bonds between us and those continue on all of these years later.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What do you think it is about SHAG that has its fans returning to it over and over again?

  I think it is because of the four different girls.  Each character sorta represents something that everyone can relate to I think.   Then, the story takes part in that time when these characters are going to be transitioning into another part of their lives and I think it reminds people of a more innocent time in their own life.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

INTERVIEW: Actor Robert Rusler looks back at SHAG (1989)

Actor Robert Rusler talks with TV STORE ONLINE about SHAG, the 1989 dance coming-of-age cult film...

TV STORE ONLINE:  Robert, did you have to audition for the role of "Buzz" in SHAG (1989)?

RUSLER:  Well, I went in to audition through my agent.  I went in to a hotel in Beverly Hills where the auditions were being held.  I walked in and literally kicked the door in.   I auditioned for [Director] Zelda Barron and [Producer] Stephen Wooley.     I went like I was a Adonis and I tapped on my genitalia and I announced to them that I was "Pee-Pee Man" and that I was there to save their day.

But, before I had gone in... While I was out waiting in the lobby for my turn to go in, an actor friend of mine, Gary Hershberger, who I had done a film with before had just came out of his audition and he said, "Boy, it's like someone died in there.  It's like their waiting for someone to come in there and wow them..."

So I went in as "Pee-Pee Man"...Director Zelda Barron said, "Well, it is nice to meet you Pee-Pee Man.  Have you read the script?"   I said, "Yes, I have".   Then she said, "OK, let's give it a go. Let's see how you read".

So I read for them, and in the midst of thinking I had done really well, Zelda said, "What happened?   You came in here as Pee-Pee man, but I'm not seeing him when you read.  He's gone away".    

She called me out on my charm...laughing  She asked me to go home and read the script again and study the character.   So I went home, and the next day I came back in and Zelda and Steven sort of laughed at me because of how this time I had come into the room sort of meek acting, when the day before, I had came in acting so cocky.   So I read for them again, and I gave "Buzz" some depth and emotion in the reading and they cast me on the spot.

TV STORE ONLINE:   What did you take from that second time reading the script?

RUSLER:  I just got a hold on the overall story.  Then I figured out what I could contribute to the character in the story.  I wanted to figure out what I could bring to the character, and instead of someone telling me who that character was, I tried to show them who the character was.   I think that's 9/10 of the acting process.

TV STORE ONLINE:    Who did you decide that "Buzz" was after that second script reading?

RUSLER:  He was a local guy.  He was young and curious.  He was cool.  He was looking for, very simply, sex.   But what was underlying in that...He was looking for hope, love and some fulfillment.  But I think,  it needed to be kept simple.  He was on vacation with his buddy in Myrtle Beach in the summer of '63 and he was looking to get laid.   But there was obviously much more under the surface of Buzz. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you learn to dance for the film?

RUSLER:  Yes, I did.  We had a great choreographer on SHAG named Kenny Ortega.  He was so great.  He had just finished up on DIRTY DANCING (1987).   It took me about a week to get the basic steps down and then from there it was just a matter of keeping polished, because Scott Coffey really had the bulk of dancing in the film.    It's a cool dance though.  It's very sexy.

TV STORE ONLINE:   What was Zelda Barron like as your director?

RUSLER:   Zelda was amazing.  She was super cool and creative.  She called me her "treasure". I was just so honored and grateful to have had the opportunity to work for her.  She had had a big career before she even started directing films.   She had worked with Warren Beatty and as a Script Supervisor, she had worked with Monty Python.

She was really awesome.  Her son is a great director, and her daughter is a very accomplished artist.  She had a very wonderful perspective and approach to the script for SHAG.  She knew that we were making this little teen dance movie, but she was also really interested in giving all of those characters some really wonderful depth.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Many of your scenes in the film are spent one-on-one with actress Phoebe Cates in SHAG and there is a magical chemistry between the two of you in the film...

  Phoebe was a blast.   First of all, I adored her because I had been a fan from all of the films that I had seen her in previously.   I thought she was the cats meow.  When I got the chance to work with her I was really pleased because I thought that I was going to be working with the Phoebe Cates from FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982), but when I went and met that fake Phoebe, she was quite different.  I don't know why I thought I was going to be meeting the character she had played in that film, but I did.   When I actually met her and started to work with her,  I found her just so funny and smart.  I really loved worked with her.    

We had a great relationship and all of these years later I look back at my time working with her as a priceless experience.   Her fiance, actor Kevin Kline was there with us during the rehearsal process in South Carolina as well.  He was about to shoot A FISH CALLED WANDA (1988) as I recall.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Your character in references Paul Newman  in THE HUSTLER (1961) a few times in SHAG...I was wondering if you studied Newman in that film prior to playing Buzz?

RUSLER:  Of course.   Buzz was very impressed with THE HUSTLER.   He was impressed with him because Newman's character is such a complex guy and he's in an equally complex situation too.   Newman's character learns that life is an inside job, and what is going on in the inside is much more important than what is happening around him on the outside.  I think, Buzz learned all of that from the Newman character.   He learned to just be true to himself.   That's how Buzz approached life after seeing THE HUSTLER.

TV STORE ONLINE:   SHAG has developed a cult movie following over the years...What do you think it is about the film that affords people the desire to watch it over and over again?

RUSLER:   I think because of it's authenticity.  It was made by some great filmmakers. The production was of the highest quality.  I mean Peter McDonald, the Director Of Photography had been a camera operator on David Lean's LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962).    SHAG captures the essence of the era.  It captures the feel of the south of the early 1960's.   What was going on in that time...The assassination of John F. Kennedy and what was going on in the world, and the changes in people because of that...The common denominator in that all, is that the people all still need to connect with each other.    In SHAG, the lives of these kids are connecting and it's just before everything is going to change for them in their lives.  They're coming out of high school as close friends, and from there, they'll all go off to college or to the military. They'll never again be as close as they were when they were younger, and I think that time of innocence is such a magical thing. It allows for the audience to live vicariously through those characters.   It also shows us that we need to stop living for the future, and just live in the moment.  If we stop to enjoy the moment that we're in now and we smell the roses, we'll all realize just how special it really is.