Thursday, June 26, 2014

INTERVIEW: Curt Kirkwood talks about The Meat Puppets Albums

 Frontman Curt Kirkwood talks with TV STORE ONLINE about  The Meat Puppets and  Greg Prato's 2012 book on the band 'Too High To Die'

TV STORE ONLINE:   Thanks for speaking with me today....In my research on you I read a ton of interviews that you've given in the past and I want to let you know that I promise there will be no questions for you about Nirvana or Kurt Cobain...

KIRKWOOD:  Laughing...Alright, great.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love listening to your records....It's fun to listen to your stuff like Meat Puppets II (1984) or Up On The Sun (1985) or the your newest LP Rat Farm (2013) and sort of pick and guess who are some of the musicians that have influenced you in your work...Gram Parsons once said that he played "Cosmic American Music" and I was curious to see if you thought that somehow The Meat Puppets fit in any way under that moniker or ideology?

KIRKWOOD:  Well, I don't think that we're all America in that sense.   We take influences and vibes from all over the place, but I guess its not a bad description for our music.  I think we follow that basic form for sure.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I read recently that you were a big fan of The Grateful Dead...What are some of your favorite Dead albums?

KIRKWOOD:  I've always really loved American Beauty (1970) and Workingman's Dead (1970) the best. I've always owned those two albums.   I have Aoxomoxoa (1968) as well.  I think that's a great record.  I've always thought that their records are great but I've always thought that they were a better live band.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How do you think that The Grateful Dead influenced the music of The Meat Puppets?

KIRKWOOD:   Just because they always did exactly what they wanted to do.  I grew up playing in bar bands and while it's fun to play any kind of music, I noticed how bands like The Dead and The Allman Brothers would always go on the stage and just jam out and they didn't limit or encapsulate themselves while they were on the stage.  Eventually, they did get into that years later though when people started to expect them to play through these really "trippy" jams on the stage, but I think the way they influenced our band is just with their ability to play whatever they wanted and when.

TV STORE ONLINE:  One thing I've always really admired about The Meat Puppets is how you often reinvent yourselves on a per album basis...For example... There is that big jump musically from Meat Puppets I  (1982) to Meat Puppets II...Then there is that wonderful progressiveness and funk sound to Up On The Sun or the jazz and classical music feeling of Mirage (1987).  Was that something that was a conscious idea on behalf of the band over the years as you writing and recording?

KIRKWOOD:  Not really.  It was more like just what we had at the time.  I've never sat down and said, "I'm going to write this type of song..."   I usually just write songs until I have enough to put together an album.  I think the period that you're talking about was just a great period of growth for me and I think that we were just taking advantage of SST Records and their ability to just put out anything that they wanted.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love how you hear musical remnants across your records too...For example with Meat Puppets I...It's a very hardcore punk album. Meat Puppets II has a couple of cuts like but the sound is radically different over the rest of the album and this seems to be a pattern across your catalog of work...

KIRKWOOD:   Most of the time those were left overs from the previous album and because we record very lean and very fast we just use what we have done at the time that we record.  I've never really been a very disciplined songwriter to be honest.  I don't lock myself away to write songs.   It usually happens when I'm just sitting down and playing the guitar.  There are some songs that I can't even remember writing now, but there are some that I can totally remember writing.  Some of that stuff is a little hazy...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:   Can we talk about this "haziness"?    In Greg Prato's book there are some fun stories of the bands antics...In particular, I'm reminded of the story about the band "daytripping" during the recording of Meat Puppets I...

KIRKWOOD:  Right, yeah...laughing     It's funny, because I actually remember recording most of that album though.   We recorded it so quick and it was almost experimental in that way.   I think the haziness is more just part of my general nature.  I'm forgetful of certain things. It's really odd what sticks in your brain.  It is the same things with shows.   People will come up to me and say, "I loved you guys when you came here last year..."   And I have no memory of coming to that town or that venue whatsoever even though I was there just a year before.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Yet, we can't deny the presence of LSD in your work?   In the book there is a mention of you writing a few of the songs on Meat Puppets II while you were under the influence of hallucinogens....I think you wrote "Lake Of Fire" while on LSD?

KIRKWOOD:   I have done a few songs that way.  I wrote Lake Of Fire when I was really young and at the time I wasn't really aware of what I was doing.  It wasn't like I was always tripping on acid.  It was more of a experimental thing for me.   Most times, when I'd try writing back then... It would come out as total crap.  At the time you think it's really great then when you look back at it, you realize it's not good.  You say, "Oh...I was tripping."

TV STORE ONLINE:  On Meat Puppets II...What about "Plateau"?   In the book you mentioned about how you can't recall what that song was supposed to be about?  You've said that you can't remember who the talk show host is that is referred to in the song either...   But what about that incredible crescendo that occurs at the end of Plateau that leads right into "Aurora Borealis"?   Do you recall how that came about it?  Was that something planned from the start or was that something that just came in the spur of the moment in the studio?

KIRKWOOD:  I don't have an answer for you on that one either....That's just how I wrote the song.  It probably just came from listening to The Beatles as a kid and hearing the cool parts in their songs.  I think it might have just came that way.  I've always done stuff like that.   It took me a while to figure it out.  It is an odd part because it's not really a bridge or a chorus, so it must be an outro.  Sometimes trying that can be really awkward but that seemed to work pretty good.. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  Right, it can remind one of how The Beatles end "She's So Heavy" on Abbey Road (1969)..

KIRKWOOD:  Sure! Sure! There you go!

TV STORE ONLINE:  I'm a huge fan of your album Up On The Sun...I've mentioned earlier how I thought it was a major departure for the band, and I hate to suggest these types of labels... But where Meat Puppets I was a punk record, Meat Puppet II was a hybrid of punk and psychedelic country...Up On The Sun is this crazy funk progressive sort-of-hippie-dance-record....Where did that combination of sounds come from?   In particular the opening track on Up On The Sun...Where did come from!?!?

Probably from The Who's Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy (1971)...Or The Who Sell Out (1967) era of the The Who.  Shit, Jimi Hendrix.  Then The Minuteman were an inspiration at that point as well.   Wire too.  Of course, Parliament Funkadelic.   It was a cool little riff.  I was trying to do more with harmony vocals.   I was really starting to understand harmonies outside of country music and that came to me from the music of The Who.  Then also through the music of The Eagles as well.  I was really working on that with Up On The Sun.   I was also working on overdubbing guitars on Up On The Sun too because on Meat Puppets II we didn't have any of that.  With Up On The Sun we had a full studio at our disposal...

TV STORE ONLINE:  When Mirage (1987) was re-released a few years back you guys put an awesome cover of Elvis's "Rubberneckin'" on the disc....So you're an Elvis fan?   Do you like '50s or '60s Elvis over '70s Elvis or vice versa?

KIRKWOOD:  There is no difference for me.   I love all of his stuff.  I have just about everything he ever did.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Yeah!  Me too...  I love that solo LP you put out a few years back called Snow (2005)...That has always reminded me of that stuff that Elvis did in the mid '70s where he's just singing all of these really just gut-wrenching and heartbreaking songs like "Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues..."

KIRKWOOD:  Thanks. That's a great song too.

TV STORE ONLINE:  On The Meat Puppets Mirage... I hear all of these incredible classical music types of things going on...For example in the song "The Wind and the Rain"....   The guitars are very Bachesque...

KIRKWOOD:  I'd say that's in there for sure.   We've always been interested in that stuff.  When my brother and I were younger we used to always mess around with this friend of ours and try to play some of that stuff on the guitar.    I took classical guitar lessons when I was a kid and I probably learned a few things like that here and there.   I don't know composers names per say always but I do like a lot of classical music.

TV STORE ONLINE:    The author of the book "Too High To Die" Greg Prato mentions in the introduction that his first exposure to the band was the band's LP Too High To Die (1994)...Given the mega success of that album and the single "Backwater"....How many fans do you meet today out on the road or wherever that tell you the same thing?

KIRKWOOD:  Quite a few....That was a big period of us as a band and that record sold more albums for us than any of our previous records.

  Where the hell does that album title come from though?

KIRKWOOD:  I think it was something that our sound man came up with or something.  It was just one of those things like "Party until the world obeys.."  It was just something that was floating around our tour vehicle.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Did the success of Too High To Die and Backwater take you by surprise?

Well, I had seen how it worked before.  I didn't really catch me by surprise. I saw through friends how it worked.  I saw how it was built up through various components.   I always thought that it was different for us though because of what type of band we were.  We were quite the anomaly in comparison to the other acts of that time that were having success.   We were being pushed by that record label at the time.   We were lumped into a particular genre at that point, and by that time, it was like the fourth or fifth genre that our band had been lumped in with.   There was a trend happening at that time too, but considering who we were as a band I thought that it was really cool that it happened to us at that particular time.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Right!  (Laughing)  So how do we label The Meat Puppets today? (Laughing)   Are you "Steam-Punk" or "Emo"? ( Laughing)

I know, right?  There isn't really much punk to us anymore, but there never really was that much punk to us at the start.   We just got lumped in with that because of the sound of our early records and people didn't really know how to take us.   There are so many little sub-categories out there.  I really don't even know what we are today.  As we're making new music today I'm often wondering, "What is this supposed to be?"

TV STORE ONLINE:  Then with Backwater....What was that song about for you?

KIRKWOOD:   Hmmm....Well, with Backwater...When I first wrote that song I wrote it on an organ.  I think I was trying to write a Gospel song.   I think I was just coming up with wordings and phrases that to me sounded like they were out of Gospel music.  

TV STORE ONLINE:   Did you ever record that slower organ version of Backwater?

KIRKWOOD:  I did, but I can't find it now!   We had a practice space in Phoenix and around the mid-to-late '90s we started to lose a bunch of stuff out of there.  I'd love to re-record it again that way someday.

TV STORE ONLINE:   I just love how Backwater is structured musically...The bridge to that song comes early at the 1 minute and :20 second mark which is really interesting...Do you think about experimenting and breaking the versus/chorus/versus tradition often when you're writing?

KIRKWOOD:  For sure.  A lot of times I'll say, "Well this is nice, but it's kind of repetitive..."  I remember when we were working on that song thinking that it just needed something different...

TV STORE ONLINE:  All these years later....I've read what you've said about that song recently and also what you said about it back when it was first released....Do you deny the inherent greatness of that song still?

KIRKWOOD:  Well, I think I'm just to close to the song.    I think it's a good song.  It's catchy.  Most things that get onto the radio are catchy, and when I'm writing a song it has to catch itself in my head in the first place in order for me to stick with it.

TV STORE ONLINE:   You joked a bit about the production on Too High To Die and No Joke (1995) in Greg Prato's book about the band....But both of those records just explode sonically for me...They do that unlike any records I've ever heard.  Your guitar playing on something like "We Don't Exist" on Too High To Die is incredible. It's like something you'd hear on a Megadeth record or something.... How did you guys get that sound in the studio, and what was the collaboration like for the band with Producer Dave Jerden and Paul Leary?

KIRKWOOD:    All of that was part of the co-production between us.  Paul always made sure that the guitars sounded good.  I did the arrangements and Dave mixed Backwater and We Don't Exist on Too High To Die for example.   Dave got what I was doing with the guitars. It was that old '70s rock thing where you put a guitar on each side and make it big.   We hadn't really done that before, but I saw that it would work really well for both of those songs.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  What about something like "Scum" on No Joke (1995)?  That's an incredible arrangement...   Do you write songs off of riffs more that anything else?

KIRKWOOD:  Not really. Sometimes I'll write around a riff but I usually start with the melody.  Scum really just came out of great '70s rock.  That's me remembering things like Black Sabbath or those great '70s British space rock bands...

TV STORE ONLINE:  One of the coolest parts of Greg Prato's book on the band is the chapter on your guitar playing and what your peers have said about your work....Was there anything in there that was said that just completely blew you away when you read it?

KIRKWOOD:   For sure.  It was all flattering to me.  There are some people in there that said some things about my playing that I know would never say that stuff to my face, so that was pretty incredible of all of those people to do that.

TV STORE ONLINE:   The Meat Puppets have paid some serious dues over the years...What do you think about the state of music and how the internet can produce a artist in five minutes after they get discovered on YouTube?   Also, how about the fact that someone can download the entire Meat Puppets catalog in 10 minutes if they are fairly smart enough and now how to use the internet?

KIRKWOOD:  I think it's fine.  I've never made much money off of our records anyhow.  I've always kind of thought of our records as calling cards.  There is always a hope that you can sell millions of records, and I think every musician thinks about that.  But the reality of it is that you have to go out and play shows.   I would rather go out and play shows than record.  I get bored pretty easily.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Top Five Albums?

KIRKWOOD:   Oh Shit...I don't know.  That's way too much!  My favorite album...I couldn't even tell you.   What have I listened to the most over the years?  Led Zeppelin probably.  

TV STORE ONLINE:   In Greg's book you mention that you've often thought about how your music has held up over the years...There's that early work that perhaps you're known for to the casual listener...But has there been anything that hasn't gotten the attention that you think it deserves in The Meat Puppets catalog?

KIRKWOOD:  Well, I always think that whatever I'm doing is really good and at the time I'm doing it I think that it should get notice.  Afterwards.... It has had its chance out there, so it is what is is...

Purchased Greg Prato's book on The Meat Puppets on Amazon HERE:
For more with The Meat Puppets please visit their official website HERE:
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"I bought Jack Nicholson's trousers for The Shining" An Interview with SHINING wardrobe assistant Veronica McAuliffe

 TV STORE ONLINE talks with THE SHINING (1980) Wardrobe Assistant Veronica McAuliffe...

TV STORE ONLINE:   How did you come to work on THE SHINING with Stanley Kubrick?

VERONICA McAULIFFE:   Well, at the time I was working on a project called for ITV called Disraeli (1978).  I was working on that for about a year and after that was over with, very luckily, I simply just applied to work on the film because I was a big fan of Stanley Kubrick.   That lead me to have many conversations with costumer designer Milena Canonero and I was offered the job of being her assistant on THE SHINING.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Getting the job...Did you go off and read the book The Shining written by Stephen King?

VERONICA McAULIFFE:   I didn't read the book at the time that I was hired to work on the film.  Eventually I did read it though.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What were some of the ideas behind the look and style of the costumes that we see the actors wearing in the film?

VERONICA McAULIFFE:  Well, I was involved only in the first few months of the production of the film.   Basically, one of the jobs that I was assigned that I remember specifically now is that I was sent all over London in search of gray flannel trousers for Jack Nicholson to wear.  I went to every shoppe that I could find and I bought up all of the gray flannel trousers each store had and then took them all back to the studio for them to pick and choose from.  I think I bought up every single pair of gray flannel trousers that existed in London at that time!   It was very extreme really, but then again, why not right?  It makes sense that if you want a pair of gray flannel trousers then you want to see every pair for sale.

I was also sent out to buy clothes for Stanley too!    Stanley told me that he wanted me to go out and find him some shoes...He said, "I want boxes...  Just get me some boxes to put on my feet..."  He always wore the same clothes every day.  So he had like ten pairs of the same shoes and the same ten pairs of trousers.   I also went out and looked for clothes for Shelley Duvall to wear in the film but I can't remember exactly what I bought for her now all these years later.   I also bought little bits of things for the young boy Danny Lloyd to wear as well.  Nothing out of the ordinary though.  I just bought him clothes that any little boy would wear.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What size trouser was Jack Nicholson? (Laughing)

VERONICA McAULIFFE:  Surprisingly large, but I can't recall the exact size now!  (Laughing) There's been a lot of water under the bridge since then!  (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE:  The costumes in the film share very similar colors. There is a usage of a lot of reds and browns in the film....

VERONICA McAULIFFE:   Yes, we were sure to follow a particular pallet when we were out looking for the clothes for the actors to wear.   Milena really didn't tell me exactly why we were setting out to buy specific colors of clothing but I'm certain that she and Stanley were having conversations about it as they would often speak into the late hours of every day during the production of the film.

Did you observe any of the scenes in the film being shot while you were working on the film?

VERONICA McAULIFFE:  I did.  I saw them shooting the maze scenes.  It was quite extraordinary because they would shoot a bit and then the prop guys would rearrange the walls of the maze to make it look like it was bigger than it actually was.  The other scene I saw shot was the scene with Jack Nicholson in the ballroom with all of the supporting artists in the background.   It was important for the supporting artists to be very realistic so we gave many of them very heavy bags to carry around in the scene. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   Costuming all of those supporting artists...Were those costumes made or did you go out and buy them?

  I believe that they were hired.  That scene in the ballroom went on for a week or maybe longer if I recall correctly.   Stanley did a lot of takes, and I was very impressed with Jack Nicholson over the course of that because he always maintained his patience.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What were your impressions of Stanley when you met him for the first time?

I thought he was very nice.  He treated me very well while I was there working on the film.  I got to talk quite a bit with Shelley while I was working on the movie.  She was very sweet.   I remember now that the hotel that Shelley was staying in at the time...There had been a robbery at the hotel and she lost a camera during that.   She was very upset by it.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

Friday, June 20, 2014


TV STORE ONLINE: In preparation in speaking with you...I discovered these two films that you did that haven't been released onto DVD yet called SANDMAN (2003) and LOVE SUICIDES (2007)... 


TV STORE ONLINE: Tell me about them? They look amazing... 

BRASSARD: Well the SANDMAN was based on the E.T.A. Hoffman story. Both films were shot for almost no money. Both were shot on Super 8 and we had a great group of people working on the films. All of the crew came from North Carolina, but we shot the films in New York City. Both are filmed in the German Expressionist style of the '20s and the '30s and both are silent films. The director, David Teague, is fascinated by that period of cinema. With LOVE SUICIDES, there are books in Japan that were just about double suicides. It is very much part of the culture over there. I play three roles in LOVE SUICIDES. LOVE SUICIDES is almost like a Kabuki play. It was really a thrill on work on both of those films. 

TV STORE ONLINE: Can you tell me about your time working on the WWF in Canada as a commentator? 

BRASSARD: Well, the years that I spent doing that were one of the greatest adventures of my life. Like a lot of people, I grew up watching wrestling on television as a kid, but I really wasn't a fan of it. I got called in to provide the co-commentator for the WWF in their French markets. This was in 1994. It was fun because I got to learn everything about this completely fantastical world that is wrestling. I was with them for about five years, and eventually left because the WWF decided to close down their French market. It was fascinating, because while I was doing that I was also doing a lot of improve and it was wonderful to see how those character became so big and Shakespearean. It was really a soap opera, fans at home follow the characters over the years as the archetypes change. It was a lot of fun. 

TV STORE ONLINE: I was on your official website today...You have a stage show that is a tribute to actor Yves Montand? 

BRASSARD: Yes, that is one of my favorite things to do. It's sort of like Cabaret and a musical revue. It's me on stage in vignettes from various aspects of Montand's life. We recorded a CD of Montand songs. I love that French music from the '40s and '60s... 

TV STORE ONLINE: Does the show cover Montand's history with Marilyn Monroe? 

BRASSARD: It does. That's one of my favorite moments in his story. His relationship with her was very fascinating. The show isn't touring now but we do have some more shows coming up in the Fall of 2014. 

TV STORE ONLINE: You really have a great comedy sense of timing and delivery in your work...Where do you think that comic sensibility comes from? 

BRASSARD: I think it is just part of my nature. I'm always trying to play pranks on people, and my favorite roles that I've had to date have been those where I can explore that. When I was a kid, I was inspired by the films of Cary Grant. He was an everyday guy but the characters that he played always had great senses of humors. 

TV STORE ONLINE: Tell me about your part in the THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (2014)....

BRASSARD: Yes, the film is doing quite well. What can I say? 

TV STORE ONLINE: What was the experience like? 

BRASSARD: I just went in to audition for it. I went in to audition for the role of the 'Waiter' that appears in a very important scene in the film. The writers behind the story gave me some wonderful dialogue, and they have to be the best lines ever given to a Waiter in any film ever made. 

TV STORE ONLINE: What are you working on now? 

BRASSARD: I'm writing songs! I'm back into music right now and I'm getting ready to record a new in New York City. I've got some other things in the works too, but I can't talk about them just yet, so if you'd like to follow me on Facebook you can see what those are when they are announced!

More with Jean Brassard?  Check out his official website HERE:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

INTERVIEW: Hope Holiday on Billy Wilder, The Apartment (1960) and Irma La Douce (1963)

Actress and Producer Hope Holiday talks with TV STORE ONLINE about THE APARTMENT (1960) and IRMA LA DOUCE (1963).

TV STORE ONLINE:  I have to ask if the thing with the straw was scripted for your character 'Margie MacDougall' in THE APARTMENT (1960)?

HOLIDAY:  Everything was scripted.  Every word.  There's a scene where I walk with Jack Lemmon over to the apartment and he asks about my husband.  The line in the script was "He's like a little Chihuahua."  When we were shooting I said,  "He's kinda like a little Chihuahua."  Billy Wilder said, "Hope, he is like a little Chihuahua, not kinda."  I said, "OK."  So we tried it again and I said the same thing!   I said the same thing over-and-over.  Billy made me do it over-and-over until I got it right.  I.A.L Diamond would lean in every time and say, "LIKE a little Chihuahua."   You had to say every word exactly the way it was written in the script. You couldn't change one word of dialogue with Billy Wilder.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Following THE APARTMENT you also worked on a amazing episode of Bob Hope's Chrysler Theater with Milton Berle in 1963 called 'The Candidate'....

HOLIDAY:  Oh Yeah.  Milton Berle was a friend of father.   He threw me my sweet sixteen birthday party.   I had some very heavy and dramatic scenes in that.  My father had just passed away when I did that.   There was a scene where Berle and I were in his character's hotel room and I break down and start to cry and he comforts me.   I started thinking about my father and the years that had passed for that.   When we were shooting it, Berle started acting like a schmuck.    After one scene he said, "Have I ever gone to bed with you?"   He didn't use those nice of words when he said it to me though.   I said, "No!  You've known me since I was a little girl! Never. Never. Never."  

TV STORE ONLINE:  You worked with Billy Wilder again after THE APARTMENT on IRMA LA DOUCE (1963)....

HOLIDAY:  That was fun. That was like being at a camp.  All of us girls worked on IRMA LA DOUCE from day one until the end of the shoot.   Billy Wilder was such a character.  I remember one day at the end of shooting,  a friend of mine Diki Lerner...She was in the picture with me...We were standing around talking one day after shooting and it was suggested that Grace Lee Whitney had gone off into Billy's private dressing room with him.  We went and knocked on the door.  We knocked a couple times.  We knew that they were in there and then finally I said, "Billy?  It's Hope and Diki....We want to ask you something."  There was a pause, and then Billy said, "Just a minute".  Finally, the door to his dressing room opens up a crack.  He had a chain on the door and he wouldn't open it up wide and he was standing behind the door. We knew.  I looked at him and said, "Nevermind... Nevermind...  We'll talk to you about it tomorrow.  We're going home now."     Diki and I went downstairs at Samuel Goldwyn Studios and waited in a doorway.   Finally, Grace Lee Whitney came down. I said, "Uh-Huh. Uh-Huh. He's misbehavin!'".  It really made me angry for some reason and for the rest of the shoot I really didn't want to talk to him.

TV STORE ONLINE:  You have some great scenes in IRMA LA DOUCE....

HOLIDAY:  When Billy directed me for that scene where Shirley MacLaine and I fight...He told his Assistant Director Hal Polaire, "Tell Hope...I want her to really slap Shirley in the scene where they beat each other up."  He knew that Shirley and I didn't like each other.  I don't know why he did that to us, but it was kind of fun.  We really went at it. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   So you didn't get along with Shirley MacLaine?

HOLIDAY:  She didn't like me.  She wouldn't talk to me during the shooting of THE APARTMENT for some reason, and that really hurt my feelings because it was my first break.  I was hurt by that.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I guess that's why that fight scene is so wonderful...laughing

HOLIDAY:  Laughing....Yeah. Yeah.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Especially when you walk up and kick her when she's on that bar stool...

HOLIDAY:   I know.  We really meant that.   When she kicked me in the rear end I really went flying and fell on the floor.  Then when I hit her over the head with that big, huge purse I really slammed her with that.   When I kicked her she went flying.  It turned out good, because it was realistic.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love that scene in the Paddy Wagon too.   I love the heart-shaped glasses that you wear...

  Wardrobe gave me those!   (Singing) Little Birdy, Pretty Little Birdy -- Little Birdy, Fly Away with Me.  We Will Build a Little Nest, We Will Build a Little Nest..GET THE BEST...GET THE BEST...In my nest, in my nest!   I loved singing that.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

Thursday, June 5, 2014

INTERVIEW: Director Bruce Pittman On HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II (1987)

 Director Bruce Pittman looks back with TV STORE ONLINE at his 1987 film HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II (1987).   

Check out Pittman's latest film THE LAST MOVIE on Amazon Instant here.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I remember first reading about HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT 2 (1985) in pages of Fangoria magazine back when I was kid...

PITTMAN:  Right, Yeah.   I remember that.   They sent a guy to talk to me and some of the cast on the set of the film.  They gave it a nice splashy write-up if I remember correctly.

TV STORE ONLINE:   One thing that gets pointed out in that Fangoria article that isn't mentioned anyplace else is how you shot the film, or portions of it, in an empty furniture store.

PITTMAN:  Right.  We built sets in that place.  That place was 300,000 square foot.  We shot the film out in Edmonton.  The money came from Alberta and we needed a number of sets because we wanted to do all of the effects in camera.  We needed all that space for that reason.  It was a very large space and we also used a few different locations around town too.

TV STORE ONLINE:  The thing that I admire most about HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT 2 is just how striking it is visually...That end sequence where the camera almost sort of fast forwards in movement through the high school and ends on the grave stone is really wonderful....

PITTMAN: Thanks. Peter Simpson, The Producer was really great about allowing us to go and do things like that in PROM NIGHT 2.   His company wanted to do three budget movies and the idea behind that -- was that most films are financial failures but we figured that out of three films we might be able to have at least one success.    Simpson thought that I'd make another script that he had at the time which was a serious drama, but then I read the great script that Ron Oliver wrote.  That script was wonderful, it was very tongue-in-cheek and it really played with a lot of horror conventions that were around then and still around today.   It was originally going to be called THE HAUNTING OF HAMILTON HIGH.  We had a great special effects guy on board with us.  I had a great cameraman and designer on board. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   That Ron Oliver dialogue is so fun in HELLO MARY LOU as well...

PITTMAN:  Exactly.  I would agree with you.  His script was so good.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love how PROM NIGHT 2 opens with Lisa [Schrage] as Mary Lou in the confessional booth and how you force perspective in that opening with the actors looking directly into the camera.  The way you frame those opening shots is really incredible...

PITTMAN:  Well, I was just doing what a director does.   I was trying to shoot the film and cut it in the camera too while gathering the best possible shots for the editing room.   I still go after the master shot but I do tell actors to save emotion for the close-up.     It has to do with being very prepared going in to shoot the film because it was a low budget film and I had a plan to go after what I wanted, and I had to do that because of the budget and because our shooting schedule was only 30 days.

TV STORE ONLINE:   PROM NIGHT 2 also has this wonderful lucid dream-like quality about it...

PITTMAN:  It's as if all of the characters in the film are living in the milieu of the horror movie really.

TV STORE ONLINE:  There are references in the film to THE EXORCIST (1973) and CARRIE (1978) as well...

PITTMAN:  Right, those come from Ron Oliver and his screenplay.    And those characters were off-shoots of the characters that everyone was seeing in horror movies.  That was the idea there.   We didn't want to make the characters cliche, we wanted to make them ideal characters in the horror genre.    I think we tried to make the film timeless as well. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  How did the film do when it was released? 

PITTMAN:  Well, I didn't see all of the reviews.  It wasn't like today where you can Google what a critic in Des Moines, Iowa thinks about your film.  But I did see some of the reviews and they were mixed.  The film was dismissed here in Toronto, Canada, but we got a really great review by critics in New York and Los Angeles.   I didn't think the film was a bad as the critics wrote that it was here in Canada, but I didn't think it was as good as the critics said it was in New York and Los Angeles either.   The nature of the beast though is that some people like the film and some don't.    I get emails from people today such as yourself who tell me how great of a film it is, and that's a nice perk to receive as these years later.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Horror fans know the name Ray Sager for his work with Herschell Gordon Lewis... But some don't know that Sager was one of the producers on HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT 2...How did he become involved with the project?

PITTMAN:  Ray and I had known each other through a producer that I had worked with previously, and Ray was friends with Peter Simpson and he suggested me to Peter as a director of one of the three low budget films that he wanted to make.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Again, the film is so visual...and in particular the death scenes in HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT 2 and how the camera captures them.....Did you storyboard any of that stuff out prior to shooting?

PITTMAN: No I didn't create storyboards, but I did sit down with the special effects guy to figure all that out.   We wanted each character to die very interestingly.   My big idea for the film was to put the girl into the locker and then have it collapse from the outside to squash her.

TV STORE ONLINE:    That's a great scene...

PITTMAN:  Thanks.  It took us about six times to get that right.

TV STORE ONLINE:   So how much of that uniqueness was in Ron Oliver's script?   People comment on references to US horror films in HELLO MARY LOU, but I see many references to Italian horror films by Mario Bava and Dario Argento in the film as well....   When actress Wendy Lyon is in that giant spider web...That's straight out of Mario Bava, and then there is that Argento-esque scene where the girl is strangled by the sheet from the ceiling and the giant paper cutter blade attacks her...There's a Euro sensibility to the film...

PITTMAN:  Well, if you look at my other films...I think you'll see more of that.   But Hitchcock had a Euro sensibility in his work as well... He was from Europe, and Hitchcock has always been a huge influence on me as a filmmaker.    In some ways we were really making up a lot of that as we were going along, but not on the day we were shooting the scene.  It was very important to me that we were always making Ron Oliver happy as the writer of the film.  It was Ron who really kept me on track with the original tongue-in-cheek humor that he put into his script in the first place.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Going back to that whole thing with the look of the film and deaths being Mario Bava and Dario Argento- esque....The lighting in the film really feels in that spirit too...

PITTMAN:  Right.  I had worked on two or three films before HELLO MARY LOU with a Director Of Photography named John Herzog.    With lights I've always thought that less is more, and that shadows are much more interesting.   John was really on board with that idea and he really kept that consistant across the shooting.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Can we talk about the casting of the film?

PITTMAN:  Well, Michael Ironside was wonderful.  He was a real pro.   Most of the others were really unknowns at the time that we shot the film.  Three actresses were brought in from Toronto and the rest of the actors in the film were locals from Edmonton.   It's a really good cast too.

TV STORE ONLINE:   I'd agree...It's interesting.  It seems like this film couldn't have been made in the United States.    It has a very unique, Canadian sensibility to it.   The actors, in particular, the boys -- the choice you made for the male characters, they all sort of visually blend together, meaning that you can't really tell them apart from one another but yet you can at certain times...If that makes sense?  It adds a very special element to the film...

PITTMAN:  I understand what you're talking about.  We had some great talent that we put into the film.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I think Wendy Lyon is really wonderful in the film...

PITTMAN:  I'd agree with you. Her performance is really great.   It wasn't an easy role because of how she had to handle the comic elements but also have the character do a complete 360 degree change in personality as well. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   What do you remember about the shooting of that opening sequence where 'Mary Lou' catches on fire at the high school prom?

PITTMAN:   Just that we were very careful with that.  The stunt woman was padded very heavily for that and we had to put the camera up high in the air pointing down at the action because she looked like the Michelin Man because of those pads.  It was pretty intense because once she was lit on fire she had to stay that way for a very long time.   When you're in a situation like that, as the director, you let the stunt person become the director because when they've had enough of whatever it is that they're doing they tell you when to cut.  She was on fire for something like 5 or 6 seconds, and that's a very long time.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  No discussion about PROM NIGHT 2 would be complete without a mention of that nude locker room sequence....

PITTMAN:  It was purely gratuitous...I just went to Wendy Lyon and told her what I had in mind for it.  The other actress in the scene was a bit worried about it, but once she got the towel on she was fine.  I said to Wendy, "What are you worried about a towel for?  It would much more effective if you walked into the scene completely nude."  She said, "Let's do it!"  

TV STORE ONLINE: Well, the sequence is phenomenal because of how you shoot it too.  There's that literal steaminess in the visual of the scene,  but also your choice of angle and the deep focus throughout the sequence that really makes it one of the best sequences in the film...

PITTMAN: Yeah, the deep focus was very difficult to do.   I was always a big admirer of John Frankenheimer and his films and he always used deep focus.   In particular, if you watch what he did in THE TRAIN (1964) you'll see that nothing is out of focus there.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung
Check out Bruce Pittman's latest film THE LAST MOVIE (2012) on Amazon Instant HERE