Monday, December 29, 2014

Steadicam Pioneer Garrett Brown on working with Stanley Kubrick on The Shining

Steadicam Pioneer Garrett Brown talks with TV STORE ONLINE about the shooting of THE SHINING with Stanley Kubrick.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How much involvement did you have in the physical pre-production planning  on THE SHINING itself?

BROWN:  The Steadicam certainly had an influence on it because Stanley had seen the early demo and one of his first questions was, "Is there a minimum height in which the thing can be used?"  I'm guessing he had the galley for The SHINING and he had already thought of shooting at Danny's eye level for the movie.    I had been over in London at Film '77 Expo and Stanley had asked me to come out to Borehamwood to meet with him and take a look at the sets for THE SHINING.    I took a rig out there that I had come up with which basically had the Steadicam turned upside down.  It was called "Low Mode", and basically it's just the camera placed at the bottom of the rig and the counter weights put at the top.   So I was able to run around there and I think that convinced him that the Steadicam might actually work for what he had in mind for THE SHINING.

Stanley hadn't projected an exact number of takes that he thought that he might do for any particular scene with the Steadicam and the floors of the sets, no matter how hard the carpenters may have tried, weren't level in spots and if Stanley would've tried to dolly some of the shots that he wanted during the shooting he would have gotten a much rougher result, so one of the first things that Stanley and I did was to go through a list of possible things that I might ride on, because given the amount of takes that Stanley had planned on, and it was not a honest assessment, there would have been no way that I could have done all of them day in and day out over the course of the time that I was there working on THE SHINING as 38-year-old man even in the shape that I was in then.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

FAN GUEST POST: Aaron Graham's Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014

Each December, we here at TV STORE ONLINE have fans of our blog write guest posts about their favorite movies or whatever is on their mind.  In this first installment, podcaster Aaron Graham shares his favorite "movie discoveries" of 2014.

 Aaron W. Graham has an extensive background in freelance film writing.  A partial list of his interview subjects include Terry Gilliam, John Landis, James Gray, Richard Franklin, Charles B. Griffith, Stuart Gordon and Richard Linklater. Graham was also selected to the Berlinale Talent Campus at the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival. In addition, he is also a full member of the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) and was elected to serve on the DGC Manitoba's district council. His favorite filmmaker is John Ford. Follow Aaron at Twitter.

In alphabetical order, the best films I’ve seen for the first time in 2014.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

FAN GUEST POST: Steven Bevilacqua's Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014

Each December, we here at TV STORE ONLINE have fans of our blog write guest posts about their favorite movies or whatever is on their mind.  In this first installment, Steven Bevilacqua shares his favorite "movie discoveries" of 2014.

Here are 5 films that I saw for the first time in 2014.  This list isn’t like other year-end lists because these films are all older and most of them would never qualify for the “best” of anything.  These movies may not all be great, or even good, but each one is a real standout for one reason or another and I’m very glad that I saw all of them.  Here we go…

NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985) dir. John Carr, Philip Marshak, Tom McGowan, Jay Schlossberg-Cohen, Gregg C. Tallas

Night Train to Terror has developed a legendary reputation among cult movie fans as one of the worst 80s horror movies.  Happily, it turns out that everything they say about this movie is true.  Night Train to Terror is a towering triumph of bad 80s horror.  This movie is allegedly made up of 3 unfinished horror movies, and that seems very likely.  This literal train-wreck of a movie takes place on a train that’s about to crash, while God and Satan sit in a booth, debating whether mankind can be saved, or something, which will somehow be resolved by this train being destroyed.  To illustrate their debate, God and Satan look into a window to watch insane scenarios that demonstrate absolutely nothing but are clearly culled from the unfinished films. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

FAN GUEST POST: Marco A. S. Freitas Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014

 Each December, we here at TV STORE ONLINE have fans of our blog write guest posts about their favorite movies or whatever is on their mind.  In this first installment, Marco A. S. Freitas shares his favorite "movie discoveries" of 2014.

I hail from Piauí, in the north eastern of Brazil, some of the first memories I have of being engrossed by film include three animals: a dancing mouse (an animated Jerry appearing opposite Gene Kelly in the classic ANCHORS AWEIGH on late-night television); a fake gorilla being beat up by a blond, Italian knock-off of jungle royalty in the unbelievable micro-budgeted, KARZAN-yes, it was spelled right-, and an elephant-sized albino ruminant battling Bronson in Jack Lee Thompson´s THE WHITE BUFFALO (the last two features in no longer-standing movie theaters). First thinking about caricature drawing that would take me somewhere other than the principal´s office in school, I migrated to the advertising field where I was able to try to extract good performances from mostly heavy machinery while directing corporate videos. After taking workshops with veteran filmmakers like Francis Coppola, George Lucas, Ruy Guerra, Giba Assis Brasil, Jack Hill, Carlos Gerbase, Jorge Furtado, etc., I went on to receive a B.A. in film from Columbia as well as complete the Screenwriting program at UCLA. Since returning to Brazil, I have interviewed film luminaries like Brian Trenchard-Smith, David Winning, Sheldon Lettich, Isaac Florentine, Albert Pyun, Guillermo Arriaga, Randal Kleiser, etc and etc for digital magazines in Belgium, Italy, France, Canada, the UK, etc., as have been a frequent guest in one of longest-running radio programs dealing with movies in Brazil (over 11 years!), Cena de Cinema on one of Brazil´s top stations.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

FAN GUEST POST: STEVEN FAHRHOLZ Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014

Steven Fahrholz has an associates degree in film & video that currently collects dust. He briefly did freelance writing for the Orlando Weekly. An avid film buff, Fahrholz keep a journal on all his theater visits each year. Each of the last three years, he has made over 100 visits to movie theaters. He anxiously awaits the moment he can watch a new John Carpenter film on the big screen.

Here is my list of top 5 favorite older film discoveries I made in 2014 (in order of release date).

Monday, December 15, 2014

FAN GUEST POST: Moviocrity's Scott Davis on his favorite movie discoveries of 2014

Each December, we here at TV STORE ONLINE have fans of our blog write guest posts about their favorite movies or whatever is on their mind.  In this first installment, podcaster Scott Davis shares his favorite "movie discoveries" of 2014.

2014 was one rollercoaster of a year. Personal examination led to some parts of my life coming to a close while new opportunities opened up. I saw my old site of Film Geek Central slowly close up shop, at least for now. I guested on several podcasts and wondered if I would even feel like writing again. I did, and came back in full force with my own site, While I was continually disappointed by the films of 2014, I also discovered quite a few gems. What follows are the best of several film discoveries from 2014. 

VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS  (1970) – It all starts with a pair of earrings. Before it is over, we will explore feelings of love, lust, terror and abandonment. There will be vampires and other fantastic creatures. Themes of incest, religion, repression and murder will shatter the facade of an idyllic estate. Young Valerie is indeed having quite the week.

Probably the weirdest flick on this list, VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS is a Swedish film that blends fairy tale imagery with deep, dark family secrets and  a young girl experiencing the first stirrings of her sexual awakening. For this latter reason, the film is justifiably controversial. Instead of casting older for the role, Valerie is played (quite well in fact) by 13 year-old Jaroslava Schallerová. This can make some of the more lascivious sequences uncomfortable to watch. But the film winds up being so haunting and beautiful on its own that it’s nearly impossible not to get wrapped up in Valerie’s labyrinthine odyssey.

Is what happens in VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS the strange daydreams of a young girl? Is it real? What is real? Your mind will reel while watching this film, because you instinctively know that no interpretation is too out there, nothing is off limits. Gothic horror, fantasy, your most sensual dreaming and your most terrifying nightmares all intersect in this wild flick from Jaromil Jires. The film makes for an intriguing companion piece to Neil Jordan’s THE COMPANY OF WOLVES.

PUNISHMENT PARK (1971) – In Peter Watkin’s mockumentary, an executive order is enforced and groups of anti-government “extremists” are rounded up. Their crimes range from non-violent protests, controversial song lyrics, draft dodging and legitimately violent acts against the state. After being put through a kangaroo court, they are given the choice of harsh prison sentences or a few days in Punishment Park. Choosing the park, the hippies and revolutionaries are expected to walk across over fifty miles of desert with no water. The event serves as a training exercise for law enforcement that chases the lab rats and insists there will be no problem, provided no one resists arrest. A deputy is supposedly killed, which makes the already aggravated police ready to step things up. That we never met the deputy, never saw him being assaulted and only have a prop body and the word of the police spurs some important questions. Did one of the radicals kill a police officer? Did the police stage the event? Or are government officials playing law enforcement against the citizenry in an attempt to retain their power and exterminate society’s so-called problem elements?

2014 is ending with images of protests in the streets. My country is becoming involved in conflicts halfway across the world, while at home, poverty and allegations of police brutality dominate the public consciousness. Hence, this film does not feel like a time capsule from more than forty years ago. Take out references to Indochina, and it feels as though it could have been made this afternoon. Shots of police opening fire on unarmed civilians and an African-American being deprived of oxygen while a half dozen men subdue him recall the very real images that have sparked so much outrage. Peter Watkins film about the widening divide between government bodies and the people they are sworn to serve is both tragic and terrifying.

SKATETOWN U.S.A. (1979) – For years, I have had fuzzy memories of watching SKATETOWN U.S.A. on the Movie Channel back in 1981. I remembered a guy with big glasses and hair of tinsel that shot lasers. I remembered Scott Baio disappearing into the background (which is the best way to treat Scott Baio). I remembered an evil roller disco gang, if that’s even possible. I remembered a plot that went from one inane thing to the next without making a lick of sense, all to the pulsing beat of a never-ending soundtrack of disco, funk and soul. Surely, this must have been the inaccurate, cobbled together memories from childhood. Surely, none of that could have been real.

It was. All of this happens and so much more. Young stars of the day (Patrick Swayze! Ron Palillo! Maureen McCormack!) join forces with confused relics of vaudeville and television (Flip Wilson! Ruth Buzzi! Billy Barty!) for 98 minutes of glitter-soaked nonsense that I loved from beginning to end. It will likely never see a legitimate DVD or Blu-ray release thanks to soundtrack issues, at least not unless someone takes a major interest.

NIGHT OF THE JUGGLER (1980) – Here it is. If I had to narrow this list down to one film, one film I consider the most amazing discovery of the year, it would be NIGHT OF THE JUGGLER.  Sean (James Brolin) is an ex-cop and divorced father trying to raise his daughter in New York City. He drops her off at school and watches in horror as a lunatic snatches her and drives off. Sean immediately starts chasing after the two on a daylong, citywide trek to get his daughter back. Even when he encounters demons from his own past and the distance between him and his little girl seems to be widening, he never falters.

NIGHT OF THE JUGGLER is non-stop. No big special effects or lousy comic relief. It's an exciting, dramatically-charged film from beginning to end. The film is a time capsule of a dangerous but nostalgic time. Sean may race across the city, but there was no way NIGHT OF THE JUGGLER made it into any NYC tourist packages. New York is presented as a sprawling hell on Earth. We get an up close look at the genuine 42nd Street grindhouses and sex palaces. We get dangerous neighborhoods where certain people shouldn’t venture; unheard of today, but not in 1980. We see miles of abandoned buildings, an important plot point it turns out. The film shows the most disgusting worm-infested crevices of the Big Apple while also celebrating the city as a living, breathing, vibrant part of the American landscape.  Be sure to look for adult film icon Sharon Mitchell in a bit role.

FINDING BLISS (2009) – Speaking of adult stars, now we speed ahead nearly thirty years to this overlooked but completely charming comedy. Jody (Leelee Sobieski) has won a prestigious award for her student film, but she finds the realities of Hollywood are stacked against women. The only job she can get in the industry is as an editor for Grind, an adult film company. The sexually repressed young filmmaker is shocked by the graphic nature of the videos she cuts, and wonders if she is somehow sacrificing her feminist ideals by taking part in such a venture. So, why does she do it? Because Grind has their own studio and top of the line equipment. Jody can’t get any of the studios to bite on her dream film. But she figures she can always shoot the film on the Grind set when no one is looking.

It would be easy to simply poke fun at the porn industry and drag it through the mud, but FINDING BLISS doesn’t do that. In fact, the more time Jody spends with Grind, the more she starts to respect some of the cast and crew at the studio. Jody starts to question everything she once believed as she is not only aroused by some of the material, but surprised at the thoughtfulness of those she works with. This is further solidified when she realizes that Grind’s star director Jeff Drake (Matthew Davis) was the previous recipient of her film school’s award. At first confused by conflicting emotions of idolization and betrayal, she realizes she is developing feelings for this unlikely kindred spirit.

Why doesn’t FINDING BLISS judge like so many of its critics would have liked? Perhaps because it is a romanticized yet semi-autobiographical film. Director Julie Davis – a truly underrated talent – was also a blazing talent from AFI. Like Sobieski’s character of Jody, she raised money for her own film, I LOVE YOU DON’T TOUCH ME while editing promos for the Playboy Channel and even directing the horror flick, WITCHCRAFT 6. Whatever the case, FINDING BLISS is a funny, sweet film with plenty of eye-opening and touching moments, no pun intended.

Please check out Scott's video series of Moviocrity on Vimeo here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I beat Stanley Kubrick at chess! Actor Tony Burton on working with Stanley Kubrick on The Shining (1980).

 Actor Tony Burton (Rocky) talks with TV STORE ONLINE about working with Stanley Kubrick on the 1980 film THE SHINING.

TV STORE ONLINE:   How did you come to work with Stanley Kubrick in THE SHINING (1980)?
  Stanley Kubrick had seen me in a film I had done with John Carpenter called ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13.   He saw that and someone who worked for him called my agent.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Did you shoot your scenes in the film in England?

BURTON:  Yes, I did.  I was originally scheduled to work over there for just one week but I ended up staying around for several.

TV STORE ONLINE:   In my research,  I've read how you became one of Kubrick's favorite people to play chess with during the shooting of the film...

BURTON:  Yes.  We played a few games together.    They were good too.    I hadn't been playing chess for as long as Kubrick had--in fact, the game was something that I had picked up only early on when I first started acting.  I picked it up when I was living down on the beach in Santa Monica in those early days.    It was in my very early 20's.  I went on to study chess a bit after I got the hang of it.    When Stanley and I played--I beat him!   When we got going, and really got into our first game--he decided to shut the set down because I had opened up the game with what is called the "King's Indian" opening and he didn't anticipate that. It really shook him up.    No one gave up in the game and it went right down to the checkmate each and every time we played each other during the shooting of the movie.   In that first game, we both ended up with only pawns on our sides of the board.   I just happened to make it to the other side first--got my queen back, and then, was able to finish him off.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What kind of director was he for you?   How did he direct you in scenes that you appear in?

BURTON:  He said, "Let me see what you got."    Before he would tell you or instruct you in any way, he'd allow you to run through the scene and then after that, he would talk to you.  I was only in a couple scenes in THE SHINING so he really didn't mess with me much. I just thought that I was giving him what he wanted.   But that's how he approached the other actors that I saw him work with while I was over there in England.

Did you prepare or give that "Larry Derkin" character any sort of back story?

BURTON:  Well, I really didn't do that much.  I did rehearse my lines a lot though. I would practice them by reading them into a tape recorder and then I'd listen back.    He did a lot of takes with some of the actors, but we did just a few for the scenes that I worked in.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Did you spend any time off-camera with any of the other actors from THE SHINING?

BURTON:  Sure, I spent some time with Scatman.  Nicholson had already finished and he had left back for home by the time I arrived in England.  I never met him.  Scatman--he was always "on".   He's always joking and life was a stage to him.    It was a thrill to meet him because I had grown up with him and I had read so much about him.  

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Douglas Trumbull on SILENT RUNNING (1972)

Visual Effects legend Doug Trumbull talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his 1972 science fiction landmark SILENT RUNNING...

TV STORE ONLINE:   So is there any truth to what I've read in regards to the rumor that you originally conceived of the idea for Silent Running while you were working with Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey?

  Yeah, I did.  I just came up with the initial idea though.  I think I may have seen the Tod Browning film, Freaks (1932) while I was working on 2001.  I really can't remember what the exact time frame of it was now but the idea of making a robot character using a human person inside that was an amputee was an idea I really liked.  It was an idea I kept in my head for quite sometime.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Prior to starting production on Silent Running, didn't you have another project in the works? Something about UFOs?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  Well, I was sort of a consultant on it. There was a funny movie that wasn't my film that was made by another guy.  It never got completed but it was in pre production.  Of course, I can't remember the name of it but it was about aliens coming to Earth and it ended out at Giant Rock, California at an annual UFO Convention.  It was pretty interesting and pretty funny too for the time, but it never got made.

TV STORE ONLINE:  And you had no intentions of directing Silent Running originally did you?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  Right.  I just had no expectations that I'd be doing that whatsoever.


DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  I don't know...I mean, I knew that I was a creative guy that had good ideas, some visual ideas and some story ideas and when I wrote the treatment for Silent Running it was quite different from what we actually ended up shooting. And I had never directed a film either. My original idea that I wrote out was a six page outline based upon this idea of doing robots with bilateral amputees and it was seen by a friend of mine who had another friend who in fact had a friend at Universal.  Silent Running was the type of idea that wasn't made at a studio though.  But when Easy Rider came out in 1969 it surprised everyone.

You had this low budget independent film that made a huge amount of money and the studio wanted to be a part of that.   So the studio heads at Universal decided to conduct an experiment.  They green-lit five films in attempt to duplicate that Easy Rider success.  So they agreed to giving each a budget of one million dollars and Silent Running was one of those five.

So then the question came up, "Whose going to direct it?"  And someone at the studio said, "Well, why doesn't Trumbull just direct it?"  So I said, "Okay."  I had never thought about it, but I just decided to do it.  I mean I had no idea how to direct a movie when I started Silent Running.  So the crew on the movie actually trained me in screen direction and photography.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you think that had Easy Rider not come out when it did that you would've been able to get Silent Running made?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  I don't know.  You never know how things are gonna happen. It's always a big surprise when something happens.  So I'm not sure.  It would be impossible to speculate on that scenario.

TV STORE ONLINE:  In an earlier version of the script for Silent Running that you came up with initially...that was based around the Freeman Lowell character meeting aliens wasn't it?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  Well, there was a six page outline, not really a finished screenplay, and yes, that was the original idea.

TV STORE ONLINE:   So how would all of that come about in the story?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  Well there really wasn't an outcome.  The treatment really didn't go much into it except to go into this territory where he, by virtue of himself being totally alone and out in the middle of space is approached by an alien. Who asks Freeman Lowell  if they can explore his ship and read his mine and come aboard and that was about as far as that idea went.  I mean, it never had a real beginning or an ending, it was just an idea.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So at what point do the film's other writers get involved with you?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  Well, various steps along the way really.  I mean you probably know as much about the history of Silent Running as much as anyone I've talked too.  Steven Bochco was one of the new, young, hot writers at Universal and he had a deal there plus I believe he was a relative of somebody at Universal or something.  So he helped out, and he was really good and very intelligent.  Then Deric Washburn (who I didn't really know) came aboard and he was a young rising writer as well.  Finally Michael Cimino came in and he had just written Magnum Force (1973) for Clint Eastwood.

So they were young guys at the time who were coming through the portals of Universal and they were kind of assigned to me as contributors and they each wrote drafts of the story and I didn't like any of the drafts but I like some of their ideas, so I rewrote the whole thing myself by literally cutting their drafts apart and pasting them together with scotch tape and then rewriting it again to clean it up.  So I had a lot of do with the actual final screenplay even though they each contributed components of it.

TV STORE ONLINE:  And you had originally thought about casting Larry Hagman in the role of Freeman Lowell right?


TV STORE ONLINE:  What did you like about Hagman so much that you considered casting him?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  I just thought he was a kind of warm, charming, kind of character and I thought he could actually play the role convincingly.  I met with Larry, went to his house, and hung out with him talking about the film in his hot tub.  I'm not so sure he was interested in the film.  Then Bruce Dern's name came up, so I decided to go with Dern as Lowell.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So how did his name come up?  Did he audition, or did you have some sort of secondary interest in him?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  I think he just came to my attention through an agent or something.   He was about to start work with John Wayne on The Cowboys (1969) but he had some time in between and I went and looked at some of his work, and it seemed like he had already been type cast in his career.  He was always some kind of monster or bad guy, a baby killer or something.  There was just something about him that I really found interesting.   So I met him and he was really charming and I really liked him personally.  And I could see right away that he could do something quite different with Freeman Lowell.

I just didn't want to type cast anyone either.  I wanted to do everything differently than the way Hollywood was traditionally doing things, so Dern just seemed perfect, like he was somehow against the grain.

TV STORE ONLINE:   As the creator of the concept of the film, developing the Freeman Lowell character, who do you envision this character to be in terms of a human being?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL: Well you know I don't think of any prototypical character because I don't know any historical characters that could have been Freeman Lowell.  I'm sure there is someone or were some people in history that one could create a parable with, but I just thought then that he was a completely different character than we had seen before in any film.  I thought of him as a man with strong ethics and moral feelings that realized that those feelings were being compromised.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you think there is any Douglas Trumbull in the Freeman Lowell character?


TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you think Silent Running could be looked at as this film commenting on "Death of the '60s" idealism that you see running through film criticism these days?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:   Well, in retrospect, I guess you could say that.  That certainly wasn't the concept behind it when we made it though.  If you want to say that, be my guest.  Those statements are for other people to make, not me.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film and the Freeman Lowell character is how you've written him.  Did you ever worry when you're writing the Lowell character that you'd possibly have a hard time convincing an audience to get behind a hero that was actually a killer?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  Yeah, I really like that aspect too.  I wasn't too worried really. You know, I really like the fact that the audience doesn't have any clean flat answers and that he is in fact a killer and he knows in the end that he's gonna have to pay with his life for his actions.  So there's kind of a classic retribution that takes place and he does it himself because he knows he's guilty.  Sometimes we get caught in circumstances in our lives that we don't have any control over and if we have to shred ethics or morality and we're not ready to compromise...that's the kind of thing that can happen.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you think fans over analyze or create meanings and metaphors within Silent Running?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  Sure I do, yeah.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Because some would say that there's this whole religious utopia thing happening in the film in which Freeman Lowell has created a world and he's taking a bite from the proverbial apple and then he kills a man.

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL: Yeah, I don't know about that.  You can take anything from the film that you want to I guess. I think a lot of movies get over analyzed including 2001: A Space Odyssey.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Indeed. One of my favorite moments in Silent Running comes not in the story but in the cinematography with that absolutely stunning hand-held camera work at the beginning of the film, was that some sort of camera trick?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL: Thanks. I thought it was a very nice way to open the film as well.  No trick really, just a special lens. I had this lens built for a television commercial that I had done years before Silent Running. It was this kind of probe lens where the end of it was only about half an inch in diameter and it was about a foot long and it fit onto my Arriflex camera.  And those shots were done with an f stop of f/22.  That's very much a pin hole opening in the lens. I then rigged up the camera on this motor controlled track and it went through the flowers. And that's pretty much how it was done.

TV STORE ONLINE:   You know, going back quick to something you said earlier about the film Freaks.  What did you find so compelling about Freaks that was enough to take inspiration from it?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  Well, did you see Freaks?

TV STORE ONLINE:  Of course, dozens of times.  I guess I was just looking for a specific point of inspiration in regards to Silent Running?

  Well, Freaks is an amazing movie and the character that's played by Johnny Eck..I thought was just an incredibly powerful character.  And he was a very very handsome guy.  He just didn't happen to have a lower half to his body but he could dress in a tux, walk around on the table with a glass of champagne with anyone else.  And I just thought that was an amazing thing that someone could move on their hands with such dexterity and that gave me the idea that you could create this kind of robotic creature that would have all the attributes of a living being who would actually move and wouldn't be mechanical in movement.

It would be organic in movement, but it wouldn't look like a person in a suit.  And then also, it wouldn't be something that looked like the classic midget in a suit, or a man in a robot costume. It would be something completely fresh and different

TV STORE ONLINE:  So being a first time director your crew is helping you along the way?  Do you take any inspiration from any directors, that perhaps, as someone younger in business you admired?  Are you inspired by something unconscious that perhaps you've seen in the past as a kid growing up?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  No, I don't do that.  I mean, I know other directors who do that, but I've never wanted to do that. I've never wanted to emulate anybody.  I just wanted to make something that was true to me and that was my idea and I wanted to embrace that and do the best I could do but I was never trying to copy any other great movie directors.  Whenever I see something I think is great in a film, my whole attitude is do just the opposite.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Like with 2001: A Space Odyssey you're using a front projection system for some of the effects work on Silent Running.  Had that front projection process evolved any in the few years since 2001 had been completed?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  Not as far as I could see.  I thought the front projection system usage on 2001 was a really great idea because it allowed you to bypass blue screening, green screening now, matte shots, com-positing, and optical printing.  So I thought it was a great technique.  It had it's limits of course, but it was great for the time.  I felt confident with the whole system and I thought that it could be miniaturized down quite a lot.  I didn't need it on such the large scale that 2001 did, so it worked perfectly for me on a much smaller level.

With 2001 they were projecting 8x10 Ektachrome plates. I was using 4x5 plates, so all the optics and lenses for Silent Running were much smaller.  I found an engineer in L.A. and he helped me build the projector and let me just tell you what a beautiful engineering job it was.  I still have it.

We did all of those from projection shots for Silent Running quickly because we planned ahead and built miniatures and shot the plates and made Ektachrome transfers and put them on glass and had them ready to project way ahead of time.  I mean we were shooting like fifteen projection shots a day plus our normal action coverage and when we got ready to apply for an Academy Award for special effects, the Academy said, "Well, that's impossible. We think you're lying."  And they wouldn't accept my application for Silent Running for visual effects.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So Silent Running comes out and you get a wonderful response from audiences and critics alike right?  I know that Silent Running opened some doors for you, wasn't there a film you were planning after Silent Running with the title Pyramid?  What was that about?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  Pyramid was a movie for MGM that fell though.  It was an idea for a kind of end-of-the-world movie where it started out and then Earth stopped rotating and there was this cataclysmic disaster and there's only one city left and it's completely solar powered.  And so, the whole last remnant of society is in jeopardy and they've got to figure, "What the heck is going on?"  And there's seismic activity on the other side of the planet which was in perpetual darkness.  So the big adventure has been launched into the dark side of the Earth.  I'm not going to tell you much more about besides that it was a cool movie and Kirk Kerkorian who ran and owned MGM at the time decided to build a casino in Las Vegas and closed the studio.

So the movie ended, and not because it wasn't a good movie but because of a poor business move.  And then, I had a project over at Warner Bros that was called, The RideThe Ride eventually became part of what happened to me over the years with the theme park attractions I developed like Back To The Future: The Ride that were really successful.

Then what about another idea I've researched out that I heard you were trying to get off the ground around this same time, Journey Of The Oceanauts?

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL:  That was a project I was working on at 20th Century Fox with Arthur Jacobs, who of course, had done the original Planet Of The Apes (1968) film.  I was going to co-direct Oceanauts and it was to be a big underwater futuristic adventure, very much like how James Cameron's The Abyss (1989) turned out years later.

Then Arthur Jacob's died suddenly of a heart attack, and the project got tied up in his estate and that was that.  At that point I realized that this whole Hollywood thing isn't what it was all cracked up to be.  You can't make a living on development deals, especially if they all go bad.  So with all of those projects gone I put together a company called Future General Corporation and did some technical work with Paramount Studios.  The purpose of this was to look into the future of cinema as a kind of broad stroke RND company to see how we can make movies even better than they are now.

Because I had really got to know the the giant screens of Cinerama because of 2001: A Space Odyssey I knew that they also had shortfalls. I thought, maybe we can come up with some interesting ways to entertain people and so in the first year of operation, we built the first prototype simulation ride by adapting flight simulation technology to entertain people.  This concept again, became what would turn out to the Back To The Future ride.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

Friday, December 5, 2014

Hope Holiday on Jerry Lewis and the shooting of The Ladies' Man (1961)

 Actress Hope Holiday "Miss Anxious" from Jerry Lewis's comedy masterpiece THE LADIES' MAN (1961) talks with TV Store Online.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How did the role of "Miss Anxious" come to you in THE LADIES' MAN (1961)?

  Well, I did the film THE APARTMENT.  It was directed by Billy Wilder and it featured Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lennon. I played the drunken barfly in it named "Margie MacDougall".   

 Jerry Lewis, had been a long-time friend of my parents.  My dad used to produce stage shows at the Capital Theatre in New York City and Martin & Lewis had played there.   So I met Jerry went I was a kid.  After I did THE APARTMENT, my parents decided to move from New York to Los Angeles.   

Jerry Lewis was preparing for something at Paramount and he spoke to my dad one day and asked him if he'd like to have lunch.   He said, "Why don't you bring Hope along... I'd like to give her a screen test."   It wasn't for THE LADIES' MAN though.   He was doing a television pilot.  It was called Permanent Waves.   He wanted a girl for the lead; who could play a lady barber in the Navy Waves. He would say things like, "Well, we're not ready to start rolling yet, but why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself and what you've been up to."  But I knew that the camera was rolling.  He told me that so that I wouldn't be nervous.   

At the end of that, he said that he'd like me to be in the pilot episode of Permanent Waves.  It was myself, Kathy Freeman, Dee Arlen and Beverly Wills.   Jerry tried to make a female Jerry Lewis out of me, and that's not what I am.  So it was very difficult for me to do that type of schtick.  I could only do what I knew worked for me.   The pilot didn't sell.   Once that happened he asked me if I'd like to be THE LADIES' MAN.

The shooting of THE LADIES' MAN was a lot of fun.  It was almost like being in a boarding school.  We had a lot of laughs.   

TV STORE ONLINE:  Could you talk a bit about the size and scope of the set for THE LADIES' MAN?

  It was like a doll house. It was so big.  The stairway and the hallway, the rooms--my bedroom set was unbelievable.  It was like an actual real room. When I was in there I never felt like I was on a movie set.   I felt like I was actually in my bedroom.   All of the rooms were wired for sound and lights.  When I did the scene where Jerry comes to my door and knocks--he was in a hallway.  It wasn't like we were working on a set.   When he knocked on the door, and I opened it--it didn't feel like a set.   The dinning room, the living rooms felt the same way.   It all felt totally real.

TV STORE ONLINE:  That scene is such a wonderful and strange moment in the film...Was any aspect of that improvisation between the two of you?

HOLIDAY:  That was scripted out I believe.   But we did do a lot of improvisation during the shooting of the film.  I remember, actress Peggy Cass stopped by the set one day for a visit and Jerry invited her to come back the following day to do a scene.     He didn't have anything written for her.  She showed up at 7 a.m the next day, and Jerry said, "Okay, here is what we're gonna do.  Hope you go and stand over there behind the sofa..."     The scene never made the picture.

TV STORE ONLINE:   There was quite a bit that was cut out of the movie...

Right, because so much of it was just schtick.    The scene with Jerry and Buddy Lester and the hat was improvised as was the scene with Jerry dancing with George Raft.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Going back to that scene with you and Jerry at the door...How many takes did you do with Jerry on something like that?

HOLIDAY:  A lot! I'm tell you why.  Every time that I slapped him--I really gave it all my energy.  I never meant to hurt him.   But after it was over--his face was all red, and he went back to his dressing room to sulk.  He was really upset with me.    There's a photograph of Jerry and myself from the shooting of the scene in THE LADIES' MAN where he had a paddle that reads "The Not Listening Stick".  He hit me on the fanny with that and he hit me hard.  I think he did it to get back at me.  He was annoyed with me.   Afterward, he pulled me aside and said, "Do you not like me?"  I said, "Jerry, of course I do. I'm acting. I'm not trying to hurt you."  While we were shooting the scene--the second time we did it, I hit him so hard that when I slapped him I swung myself around.  

When we shot the scene of the Ballet, which comes close to the end of the film...That was all improvised.  It was myself, Pat Stanley and Lynn Ross.  I had a tutu on and toe-shoes.  I was put up on a pedestal to pose.  The others were sitting.  We were to pose and then get up and start to dance around.  Before we started, Jerry came out and started to sprinkle Talcum Powder all over the floor.   He wanted us to slip and fall on our butts.  It was really something else.

I know you don't want to hear it, but Jerry was almost like a dictator on the set of THE LADIES' MAN.   He did what he wanted to do.  He had a lot of power at the studio.   I had been invited by the studio to attend the premiere of EXODUS (1960) and they lent me a mink coat to wear.  I went into the ladies' room at the end of the day of shooting to get cleaned up.  I put on my regular make-up.   A friend helped me get dressed up. I looked nice.  I went back out to say goodbye to everyone because there was a car waiting for me.  Jerry looked at me and said, "Okay, get Hope Holiday ready for the scene with George Raft."   I said, "WHAT?" and in front of everyone:  "Who do you have to #### to get off of this picture!?!"   I stormed out and went to the premiere.   I was tired and when I arrived there, not long after sitting down I fell asleep and missed EXODUS.

There was a whole section of the scene that Jerry and I shot that was cut out.   As it is now, my character shuts the door after she has slapped him several times.  We did shoot a whole other section which was to come right after--where he goes down the hallway and does something else, only to return, and knock on her door again.   She opens the door and Jerry is wearing a deep-sea diver's helmet because he is afraid of her.   He comes into her room, and she opens the little hatch in front and then pokes him in the eyes and pinches his nose.
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Actor Dennis Christopher on Breaking Away (1979) and the almost-made sequel to Fade To Black (1980)

He jumped on a bicycle for the little 500 race in the 1979 film BREAKING AWAY, but he wasn't racing for just a trophy, he was actually racing for a glory that all of us could identify with. BREAKING AWAY was the little film that could, and it's because of Dennis Christopher's performance that the film was nominated for a Best Film Award at the Academy Awards in early 1980.

Christopher was born Dennis Carrelli on December 2, 1955 to a modest sized Italian family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and at an early age Dennis knew that his life's path would be that of actor.

Christopher's performances in films of the '70s and '80s like, BREAKING AWAY (1979), FADE TO BLACK (1980), CALIFORNIA DREAMING (1979) and DON'T CRY IT'S ONLY THUNDER (1982) should be considered as - simply important to film history. These are performances - major achievements that are overlooked by a few, foolishly forgotten by some, but remain truly big, essential and wondrous to those in the know. Christopher would go on in the '90s and beyond garnering acclaim on the theater stage in New York and Los Angeles, as well as appearing in countless other films.

In addition, Christopher has remained very busy appearing in various television series over the years from everything from, C.S.I. (2000-current) to Deadwood (2004-06) and the amazing and now sorely missed HBO drama, Six Feet Under (2001-05). Dennis Christopher is by far one of most under-rated character actors of his time.

TV STORE ONLINE: What were you like as a kid growing up in Philly?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: I was the last born in the my family. My father was Italian, and my mother was Irish, 2nd generation. Their parents were born over in Europe. I wasn't an athletic kid. Which is funny considering the first few movies that I did were about athletics. Aside from the period where I thought I wanted to be a priest in grade school, after that I was always involved in the school productions. Plays and musicals like that. I think doing that was someway an extension of me wanting to be a priest though. But of course, puberty set in and all bets were off for me being a priest.

TV STORE ONLINE: You started acting very early, where does that interest in acting come from?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: Who the hell knows. I think for most actors... I mean, if I can speak for other people, part of being an invisible person has something to do with it. The chance to express yourself. As a kid I always felt invisible cause I was the last born, and my parents thought they couldn't conceive any more children.

I was an outsider too, definitely an outsider growing up. It seemed like the outsiders were all artistic. I'm not sure really. Someone once asked me why I became an actor, and I told them that I wanted a 'witness' to my life. That was sort of the answer that came off the top of my head without thinking..and I think it's kinda true.

TV STORE ONLINE: How did you get involved in your first film, BLOOD AND LACE (1971)?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: That was so long ago, I don't know if I can remember... I think I had just turned seventeen, I had just left home. I had a court struggle with my dad, my mother had already passed on. I had myself declared an emancipated minor. I had been supporting myself for the few previous years prior, cause that's what you have to do in order to prove to the courts that you can be an emancipated minor. I wanted to be an actor. I thought that I was an actor, but I decided to try college out. I paid for my own college. I went for one semester, and then saw my grades, and said "what the hell am I doing this for?" So, by the time I turned 18, I sold everything I had, and I moved out to California.

One day I picked up the trade paper, and I was looking through the production listings. I saw this little thing about BLOOD AND LACE So I did what I was doing everyday, and I put in my resume, and they called me in. I auditioned and I got the part. The outstanding thing about working  on BLOOD & LACE was the fact that I got to work with an actress named Gloria Grahame. She was an Academy Award nominated actress, that got nominated for THE BAD & THE BEAUTIFUL (1952). I was the only person there that knew who she even was. I think they looked at her like she was just this old lady, but to me, she was a heavyweight. I would spend every day talking to her at lunch, asking her about the director's she had worked with, and the leading men she worked with. She worked with Humphrey Bogart. She was just the sweetest lady.

TV STORE ONLINE: Even though it's uncredited--you landed an early role in Fellini's ROMA (1972). I was curious to see what it was like to be around him however short of a time it may have been for?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: Well, I fell in with this girl at the time and she was going to Europe on a charter flight. I had never been to Europe. She had, and she had filled my head with all these stories. So she took off, but she didn't know that I had bought a one way ticket to go to on the same flight. So we went. Also, I was desperate to be a hippie. Which was over with in the United States. Also, I had a secret desire to meet Fellini that I never told to anyone but her.

I eventually got to France, and I got a job as a PA on a film that was directed by Claude Chabrol. Actually I got the P.A. job on the film because of Anthony Perkins. Prior to coming to Europe, I was working in Los Angeles at a health food store. Perkins used to come in all the time, because he was an advocate of health food and we got to talking a lot. So in France I saw him, and I found out that he was shooting this film, and it was Perkins that got myself and my girlfriend jobs on this movie..

After that adventure was over, I hitchhiked to Rome. My very first night there, my girlfriend and I were sitting at this cafe with the people we hitchhiked to Rome with. There was this beautiful girl that was walking barefoot down the street. She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. So I said, 'excuse me' to the people I was with, and took off following her. I tried to follow her, but I got lost, and I walked onto this movie set. I realized that there in front of me was Fellini. I flipped out, ducked under a barricade, and accidentally walked into the middle of a scene that was being shot. Fellini was quite angry. I was dragged down this alley around the corner, and I was freaking out. I was in a foreign country, and I was separated from the girl I was with. I didn't know where I was, didn't know how to get back to the cafe I had left.

So after like twenty minutes, Fellini came walking down the alley towards me. He had this big black cape and black hat on. It was so cinematic, and the movie lights from the set were shining behind him. I really thought he was gonna kill me. I'm this guy dressed in hippie clothes. I guess from the way I looked he must have thought I was either American or English. He walked up to me and said in English, 'what was so important that you had to ruin my movie?"

I could barely speak, and I just blurted out like a school kid visiting the principal's office for the first time, "Mr. Fellini, I had a dream about you..." That was all he needed to here. ROMA was his movie about his youth, re-constructed by using his dreams that he had wrote down in a dream journal. We talked for about an half an hour about dreams, and clowns, stones and colors, all this stuff. He told me to come back the next night wearing the same clothes that I had on. That was it, I had a job. I worked for Fellini for like six weeks or something. We always filmed at night. He had his chair roped off away from everyone. He had what he called, 'his dream people' and he only admitted these people inside this rope, and he allowed me there.

The people he let in were all these people you see in his movies from the beautiful to the grotesque. It's people that he used to create his dreams, and he had labeled me one of them. So on my first night in Rome I had steady work. I think we became kinda close. I think he took comfort in me, cause he always spoke Italian to me, and I didn't know what the hell he was saying. I heard from an A.D., who was English, that I reminded him of his wife, whom which he introduced me to once. It was a very high point in my life.

TV STORE ONLINE: What was it like working with Robert Altman?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: Well I worked with him twice, and that too was a high point in my life. What had happened, is that I went up to visit Shelley Duvall on the set of 3 WOMEN (1977) and I met Robert Altman. And he put me in the movie. I have that nice scene in the movie at the end with Shelley and Sissy. And from there, Altman hired me to do A WEDDING (1978). I had a wonderful part in that film. There were thirty-two main characters in that film, and the character's were largely improved. We all received a background on who our character's were, and some information on what Altman wanted to see from those characters. He gave us all a certain time frame to come up with what you were gonna do, and then you'd present your ideas to the writers. All my ideas for my character were used in the film, even the ideas I came up with for scenes that I wasn't in, got used. He was so encouraging. He created such an amazing atmosphere on the set. 

Altman had six cameras running all the time, and he was always quick to mention to everyone how great your idea was if you came up with something great. If you had a bad idea, he'd mention that too of course. Altman was one of the greatest guys I've ever met in my entire life. I miss him. I'd give anything to be able to spend one more day on a set with Bob Altman.

TV STORE ONLINE: How did you come to be part of BREAKING AWAY (1979)?

 DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: Peter Yates and Steve Tesich had seen A WEDDING before it was released. Altman was with the same agency as them. They liked me, and during one of many re-writes they wrote 'Cyril' with me in mind. So I went in for a pre-read; it's where they have like the movie stars in there reading the script together. It's not like a audition or casting session with a lot of people. So I went to that, and took my turn. Then they told me that the part was mine. So I started reading 'Cyril' with all these actors that were auditioning. I'd read with a group of three guys. Then they would walk out, but I'd stay. Then another three would come in a read, and I'd read 'Cyril.'

One thing about this was that you were just reading scenes. There was no way that you could script. You had no way to know, you really couldn't even tell what the story was all about.

So on the second day of this, they started to get backed up out in the waiting room, and in the next group of guys that came in, one kid was late. So I think Peter said to me, "would you mind reading the part of Dave." So I read the parts of 'Dave' and 'Cyril.' Reading 'Dave', I thought the character was really weird. He was talking about shaving his legs, and he was talking fake Italian. When I got to the Italian part I had some fun with it. They didn't know that I was actually half-Italian, cause I had changed my name. They didn't know that I had lived in Rome.

After it was over, they had the next boys come in, and they had me stay and read 'Dave' again, and then the day was over. A couple days later, I got a call from my agent, and she told me that she had a deal memo on her desk for a project called, BAMBINO. This was the original title for BREAKING AWAY. So, I said, "great, I got the part of Cyril." She said, "no, it's for the part of Dave." I didn't want to do 'Dave.' I thought he was too weird, he wanted to shave his legs, and he's spouting Italian all the time, and he was terrible. I thought he was sorta like a cartoon, and I didn't know how I would play him.

My agent accepted the deal memo, and begged me to do it. Plus, she said, "I think this is the lead." She asked me over and over to do it, so I said,"OK, I'll do it." I was working on another movie at the time, so I actually missed all the rehearsals and the first week of shooting. When I got to Bloomington, Indiana I figured out a way into the character and made it my own. It sort of happened right away. They had a completely different idea of the character, and we shot it their way for one day. They had died my hair dark, they put this dark orange make-up on me, gave me a high collar shirt, and they put these tight pants on me. I looked like a reject from SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977). They had him smoking pot in the back of a van. It just wasn't what I had in mind for the character. I didn't think he wanted to be Italian cause he wanted to get laid, I thought he wanted to be Italian cause he thought he was part of a loving family. Anyhow, we started to look at the rushes and it just wasn't working. So they came to me and say, "we need to talk about what you had in mind for this character."

The whole time I was saying, "No that's too sleazy." This was the type of Italian they were going for. It was awful. I said to them, "This guy wants to be Italian cause he wants a large family. He wants the traditional Italian thing." I think that had a real impact on Steve and on Peter.

Changes were made to the script. The next thing I know we started re-shooting everything we had shot already. I asked that it be my own hair color. They weren't even sure what this new version of the character would wear. I said, 'I know what he'd wear." The producers sent someone back to Los Angeles to my apartment to get my own clothes that I had suggested. Everything I wore in the movie was my own, except for the bicycle clothes.

It worked out well, it made the character more innocent. The Italian influence had an impact on all the characters in the movie. It deepened out the whole thing. It came together. It was such a magical sort of coming to together of all the people involved. Steven was such a great writer. I mean, the bare bones of it all was already there. I mean, no one in America at the time was doing a movie about class struggle. Peter was English, so he was well aware of class struggles. It was really interesting. The movie really holds up yet.

TV STORE ONLINE: You won a British Academy Award for your performance as 'Dave Stoller', right?
DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: Yes, I did. Steven won best writer too. Our little movie was up for "Best Picture" at the Academy Awards. This little movie going up against all these big films. Peter was up for "Best Director." Steven was up for "Best Screenplay" Barbara Berry was up for "Best Supporting Actress." It was great, we did pretty good.

TV STORE ONLINE: Working with a great cast like you had on BREAKING AWAY do you guys all form a bond, and become friends after production is over?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: Dennis [Quaid] and I were very close at the time. We had did a film called, SEPTEMBER 30, 1955 (1977) together. So we had already spent a lot of time on location together. At the time he was married to an actress named, P.J Soles. So we became all very close. All of us were very close during shooting.

TV STORE ONLINE: Over the years, you've worked with Paul Dooley many times in the father/son combo. Do you think you guys have a certain chemistry together?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: One interesting thing, Paul wasn't a first choice for BREAKING AWAY They originally wanted Charles Durning. I had worked with Paul on A WEDDING, he played my dad. I was in the office one day before this table reading, and they wanted Charles Durning to come in, but he wouldn't without a offer on the table. There were money things, and he was busy doing something else. So I said, "I know this guy who played my father in A WEDDING and I'm sure he'll come in and do it, if you pay him." They said, "even if he has no chance of getting the part?" I said, "Yes, IF YOU PAY HIM. I'm sure he'll do it, even if you don't give him the part... " So they called him, and he came in. So we got to the end of the table read, and there was no question, that part belonged to Paul Dooley. There was no discussion about it.

We've played father and son at least three times. There is an very easy chemistry between us. There are some very poignant moments between us in BREAKING AWAY. I think these came from our connection together. Paul really identified with my character. As a youth he really thought that he had the same kind of relationship with his own father, that 'Dave' had with his father. There are a couple really sweet moments that weren't scripted that just came out of us working together. We fit very well together. I really love Paul Dooley.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So are some of your scenes with Dooley some of your favorite scenes from BREAKING AWAY?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: Certainly. But it's so hard to tell. I don't know if I have a real favorite scene. I've never worked so hard in my fucking life. BREAKING AWAY was my first leading role. I was always working, non stop. I was either working on the bicycle, or I was working with the opera teacher, cause of that opera I sang in the movie.

Usually you have down time in a movie, if you're a supporting character. I was always working, cause I was the lead, there was no down time for me. You really grow up fast, when you're in almost every scene. People always ask me if I had fun making that movie. I say, "no, not for me." It was hard work. My idea of fun is staying in bed on Sunday with the New York Times with a toasted bagel and lox. That's my idea of fun. Rewarding, Yes. Stimulating, Yes. Hard Work. Yeah. Satisfying. Yeah. Fun, No. It was a little scary on that bike. That bike weighed about as much as a bag of pretzels. I mean, I'm no athlete. I was putting down a cigarette and getting up on that bike. That scene in the race where I gashed my leg, that really happened. The other racers weren't actors either, they were really just trying to win that race, they weren't concerned on hitting any type of mark, or having to be behind me at ant certain time. It was scary. They shot that gun off to start the race, and you saw my blood shortly thereafter.

TV STORE ONLINE: So how did you get cast in FADE TO BLACK (1980)?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER:  A week after BREAKING AWAY opened in New York, I went skiing, and had a terrible accident. I broke my leg in four places, and I got put into traction for a month, then they put me into a wheelchair, and I had to spend another month in a bent cast on my leg for a month or so after that.. When BREAKING AWAY came out I had a big article in People Magazine. So there I am in my big People Magazine article in a wheelchair vacuuming my loft in New York. So, there was a gap. I couldn't work, it was very frustrating. I was offered this movie called, FADE TO BLACK. I thought it was a fascinating premise, but something about it seemed kinda sketchy, the script wasn't really up to par. So I said no.

Every time I said No, they would offer me more money to do it. I really meant it, it wasn't a bargaining ploy. Finally my agent called me, and said, "Dennis they wanna give you your name over the title, and they wanna give you creative input, and a whole bunch of money." So I said, 'Fine, if they're gonna give me creative input. OK" Finally, Linda Carriage called me and she had already been cast in the film. I knew of her from seeing her picture in a magazine prior were she was all dressed up like Marilyn Monroe and I couldn't take my eyes off her. So I met her for a drink, and I fell head over heels for her.

I met with the writer and director of the film, and we broke the script down. I said to him, "this scene is a great idea, but the dialogue is shit. What did you do re-write this thing for a bunch of different investors?" He did. So we went through and attacked every scene. For example, that scene were I masturbate to the Marilyn Monroe picture. In the script, originally Eric's aunt leaves and he started to waltz around the room with a life size cut out image of Marilyn Monroe. So I said to the director, "what does this mean? Does this mean that he's alone now, he can turn the music up, and have his fantasy without it being interrupted?" It didn't make sense to me." So the director asked me what I would do. So I said, "I'm gonna do what every single man in America and the world would do, I'm gonna jerk off!" Marilyn Monroe was always marginalized as a sex symbol. So that's what I did to her. That's why after - I said, "Sorry Marilyn."

One thing I want to mention about FADE TO BLACK. At the time, I was good friends with Chris Stein and Debbie Harry from the band, Blondie. Chris wrote a theme to FADE TO BLACK. Chris Stein is a fantastic composer. Anyhow, the director didn't even use it! I couldn't believe it. Talk about a wasted opportunity. If you're familiar with the Blondie album Autoamerican (1980)--it was used on there for the first song. It's that very long orchestral piece. That was the theme to FADE TO BLACK that Chris wrote. Had they used it, can you imagine what kind of lyric's Debbie would've came up with for that piece of music?

TV STORE ONLINE: Where do you think 'Eric Binford' comes from inside you?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: Again, I did a lot of work on the script for FADE TO BLACK. Also, all the things that are stuck up on the walls in Eric's room I put those up. When I first walked on that set, they only had two movie posters on the wall. I said, "what the fuck is this? He's supposed to be a total movie buff extraordinaire and he's only got two crappy movie posters on his wall?" They told me that they couldn't afford to have more, cause having a movie poster on your wall on film meant you had to get a clearance, you had to pay money. So I asked, "do you have to have a clearance to use pictures from a magazine?" They said, "No." So I had my assistant go to my apartment, and grab every magazine I had, and bring them back to the set, and I spent that entire day cutting out and pasting up pictures on that wall." I decorated that whole set.

Ultimately, I just identified with him. I loved movies too. In the original script, he was just a killer. It didn't make any sense. You just don't become a murderer on a Tuesday. So I said, let's just have the aunt - who's really his mother - comes in and break his projector. Originally I was supposed to throw her down the stairs. I said, it's a perfect opportunity. Let's just re-create the scene with Richard Widmark that Eric's watching when his projector get's broken. I said, 'he shouldn't push her down the stairs, she knocks over the projector, he picks it up, and he finds the electric cord in his hand, just like in the movie he's watching, and he should just push the wheelchair in anger, and it should start rolling toward the open door."

Instead of stopping the wheelchair from rolling down the stairs and preventing this horrific accident, he goes into a psychotic state and he thinks he's Richard Widmark in that movie, and for the first time in his life, he's feeling powerful. If you watch the movie, you'll see it, he doesn't push her down those stairs. So when he went into that state of mind, the movie that he was watching started to become real around him.

Same thing, when I'm Dracula. In the original script I was just supposed to murder her, and bite her neck and drink her blood. I said, "No..I don't murder her. I don't have fangs, how the hell am I gonna bite a big chunk out of someone's neck?" I told the director I wanted to chase her, like a kid in a Halloween costume, and she falls. Where she trips on a kid's toy and impales herself in the neck. I came up with all that shit. They put that in the script. At this point, there's been two deaths, and they're sorta by accident, but Eric feels great. So by the time Mickey Rourke starts fucking with him, he says " I'm gonna get back at everyone that's ever done me wrong, and I'm gonna do it by re-creating scenes from my favorite movies."

TV STORE ONLINE: So did you come up with the make-up for the Dracula section of the film?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: Yes, I did. I think I put everything into it, cause I wanted to save my reputation and the movie. Even the ending at Grauman's Chinese wasn't in the script. In the original script, it just ended in a shootout. So I thought, what would Eric wanna do? How would he end it so it was cinematic? I thought, the only thing he would want to do, would be to get back into the screen. He wanted to be in the movies he loved.

TV STORE ONLINE: Didn't you actually come up with a concept for a sequel to FADE TO BLACK?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: I did, I wrote FADE TO BLACK 2. I had the character that Linda Carriage played coming back. She goes completely insane, and she becomes Eric Binford sort of. It's a big case in Los Angeles. This guy is shot off the rooftop of Grauman's Chinese Theater and he dies on the footprints of Marilyn Monroe. There gonna make a television movie about the story. They hire actor Dennis Christopher to play Eric Binford. Things ensue. Linda starts to go off the deep end. It was shot down instantly by the producers. It's too bad cause there was a window of opportunity there, but that's since long gone passed.

TV STORE ONLINE: After FADE TO BLACK you did an AMAZING film called, DON'T CRY IT'S ONLY THUNDER (1982). Talk about an under-rated film. How was that experience for you?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: Yeah, it's fabulous. It got bungled at distribution. It's a fantastic movie. It was one of the very first movies about Vietnam. It's about a guy in Vietnam. The script was written by a guy named, Paul Hensler. He was Francis Ford Coppola's right hand man on APOCALYPSE NOW (1979).

This film was his story. He was in Vietnam, and Coppola had encouraged him to write his about his experiences. It's got a hell of a title doesn't it? When people saw it, people were raving about it. The New York Times review for the film was a love letter. Instead of having it distributed by a company like Paramount or something they chose this Japanese company for it.

In fact, the company that was supposed to distribute it is the same company that makes, "Hello Kitty." These guys had no clue how to distribute a film. This film was the first theatrical film to be shown on HBO. It only played in theater's for two weeks in New York and L.A. I had to beg them for that, so we could get Academy Award Consideration. So when it went to HBO, it looked like HBO had produced it. So that was a killer for us.

TV STORE ONLINE: So what about Stephen King's IT (1990)?

Yeah, they just offered me it. That film is very dear to a lot of people. My character was just so weird. He had this weird thing going on with his mother, and this weird sexual thing. But all that was cut out. Everyone's story was there but Eddie Spaghetti's. They kept saying that there wasn't any time for his back story so I said, "look you can do it all in one broad stroke. What if he's a thirty-five year old virgin?" They all looked at me. Eddie is the first one killed by the monster. I was the virgin sacrifice. I loved working with all those guys too. I had worked with John Ritter once before. I had worked with Richard Thomas once before. Tim Curry was great too, he has legendary status. I couldn't even believe that I was working with him. He was also a great guy to have a drink with in the bar after a hard day of shooting.

TV STORE ONLINE: I really love the commentary you and John Ritter did for the DVD release of IT.

Yeah, that was great. We were the only ones that showed up to do that. I had worked with John once before on a short lived television series called Hooperman (1987). We got kinda close on that. At that time I had never done television before, but the script was great. John was really fabulous. We did that commentary for 'IT' about three months before he passed away.
TV STORE ONLINE: What's your favorite movie of all time?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: Of all time? A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951). That's my favorite of all time movie. I can see it over and over again. I became an actor cause of a movie called, THE ROBE (1953). I was a tiny little kid, like five or something when I saw it. We watched it on television, I remember it was on around Easter time. When I was young I thought movies were real. I thought they were documentaries. When I saw this actor, "Jay Robinson' as Caligula in THE ROBE. I just thought he was the most evil person I had ever seen in my life. I was freaked out. My older brother explained to me that it wasn't real. I said to him, "you mean that guy wasn't real?" I knew I wanted to do that. It's funny. I wasn't influenced by cowboy movies or gangster movies...laughing It was a sword and sandal movie...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE: Isn't it frustrating to you that you're so under-used as an actor?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: I have a wonderful life that I love. I've worked with a lot of fucking amazing people. There is a mold that I just don't fit. I really don't know. If you're asking me if I'm frustrated I'd say, maybe a little bit. But again, I have a life that I love, and things in my life fill me up, that have nothing to do with the business. I'm really grateful for everything that's happened to me, the opportunities that I've had in my career to date. I'm working on a couple theater projects that I'm writing now, and I'm doing those for myself at the moment. I wanna live day to day, so I'm really getting more satisfaction from that now.

You've done a lot of theater as well, between film projects. Is theater work more fulfilling to you than film work?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: Yeah. I've done a lot of theater in between. I've done three Broadway shows. I've originated the parts in several plays. Doing theater is a completely different animal. You do all the work in rehearsal. Then every night you go in, and you've got two and a half hours of just rocking and rolling. You're surfing on the audience reaction. It's just amazing. I did Little Foxes for almost a year that way.
TV STORE ONLINE: What's one thing that nobody knows about you?

DENNIS CHRISTOPHER: Well...I've just spent two hours telling you all kinds of things haven't I? I suppose I could tell you about a time spent in an Italian prison with Père Clément, but I won't. I wanna save that story for the book.....

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung