can people expect from '2001 Maniacs'?
It's a ghostly revenge story about a group of Southerners from
a town called Pleasant Valley (population 2001) who were massacred
by renegade Northern soldiers. So every year, on the anniversary
of their destruction the town resurrects to lure unsuspecting
Northern travelers into their town to attend the Guts and Glory
Jubilee where they kill them. The town can never rest until it
has avenged itself down to the last man woman and child of 2001
Lewis' take was more of a straight horror piece I thought the
best way to make it work today was to include a lot of black
comedy. In our movie the townspeople always botch things up,
never get enough victims and keep having to come back year after
year. And of course they're still stuck in their 200 year old
Southern mindset so when black visitors come they have to pretend
to gladly wait on them, and they throw their women at some guys
to get them to stay only to find out the guys don't want women!
So the Mayor has to get his son to enlist a sissy detail!! So
we try to poke fun at stereotypes and the way the North and
South view each other. I would say it starts out as a dark comedy
and just gets darker and darker.
'2001 MANIACS' will obviously have a lot of gore, but I'm curious,
are you a big fan of gore in movies?
|HELL YES! When I
was a kid, I was really into magic. I was The Great Sullivini!
Even did magic shows. As a teen, my interest in magic morphed
into an interest in special make-up effects. Particularly gore!
This all came after seeing DAWN OF THE DEAD and learning about
Tom Savini. What is Tom Savini and those like him if not a master
magician? So I went from card tricks to severed heads, but it's
the same thing. Misdirection and freaking out an audience. That's
what I do in MANIACS. Misdirect with humor, then hit them with
a bloody murder! It's all an illusion. Even the fear that is instilled
in the audience is an illusion. No one is truly in danger of the
monster harming them! But for 90 minutes, we have the illusion
of danger, all the while safely seated munching our popcorn, clutching
our date. Since the days of prehistoric shadow plays thru Greek
tragedy thru Shakespeare up until MANIACS, people need that dark
place to safely confront their fears and scream out loud. Gory
illusions enable that release. In a post 9/11 world where violence
and terror splashes across the headlines on a daily basis, we
need that catharsis now more then ever.
I know that John Landis did a Cameo on '2001 Maniacs', but Wendy Kremer
told me that his scene was cut from the final print of the film, why?
John Landis is
one of my all time favorites, both as a filmmaker and as a person.
I was recently given the honor of presenting him with the "Lifetime
Achievement Award for Fearless Filmmaking" at the Fearless
Tales Film Festival in San Francisco. I met him in 1988 on the
set of 'Coming to America', for which I received my first "Hollywood"
screen credit. I was the Parking Coordinator. Basically, I worked
with the locations department mapping out spots to park the
production vehicles. Tough work, especially in the middle of
a New York snowstorm, which was the weather conditions back
then when we filmed that picture. John was my hero for making
movies like AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF and THRILLER.
I knew he was a big horror movie geek like myself, and grew up reading
FAMOUS MONSTERS magazine. So I started talking to John about all things
monsters and we quickly became friends. He told me that if I ever made
it out to LA, to look him up. So I did. He was kind enough to advise
me and guide me in my career, and when I finally had the chance to direct
my first feature, 2001 MANIACS, I asked him to play Professor Ackerman,
in honor of Forry Ackerman.It was unbelievable. I mean think about it.
First time out directing and I am directing one of my favorite directors!
The scene is the first scene in MANIACS in which our three main characters
are being chewed out by their professor for not taking their studies
on the Civil War seriously. John was brilliant. I loved the scene. It
worked perfectly. And by the way, David Friedman, the original producer
of TWO THOUSAND MANIACS, was also in it, playing 'Dean Lewis'. But what
happened was, when we were shooting in Georgia, we ran out of time to
shoot the scene as intended - in a big classroom with lots of students.
So to make sure we at least got the scene "in the can", as
they say, I figured out a way to shoot in the front office of the Civil
War Reenactment town where we shot the rest of the movie. Once we got
back to LA and cut the movie together, it became obvious that the Landis
version was just too "small" a scene to open a movie.
| It might have worked
three or four scenes in, but up front, it just didn't give the
movie the scope I wanted. So my producers were cool enough to
allow the scene to be reshot in LA with a huge classroom and tons
of students. Unfortunately, John wasn't available to do the re-shoot,
but he gave me his blessing and the scene was shot with the awesome
Peter Stormare taking over the role. Peter was the killer in FARGO
and is now playing the Devil in CONSTANTINE, among a ton of other
great stuff. Although I regret losing John and Dave, the scene
with Peter is, however, more along the lines of what was originally
in the script. And yes, the Landis version will be available on
How were you first involved with the movie? Did H.G. Lewis take
part in any way to the project?
I had just finished
co-producing DETROIT ROCK CITY and was looking for my next project.
One day, some guy walks in my office named Chris Kobin, and
tells me he has the rights to remake the films of HG Lewis.
Well, at the time, Bob Zemeckis was remaking the William Castle
movies (HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL/THIRTEEN GHOSTS), so the notion
or remaking the films of HG Lewis appealed to me. Especially
the idea of doing them in an independent fashion, away from
the big studios that always try to censor and dilute. Rather
than commission a script, Kobin and I decided to become partners
and write it ourselves, which was a blast. There's something
to be said about working with a total stranger. You don't bring
a lot of baggage into the relationship, and you can't hide behind
friendship if you don't live up to your side of the deal. So
within a month we had a script that got a lot of buzz. I initially
just expected to set the movie up and move on, but five years
later, it seems to have become an unanticipated odyssey. Next
thing I knew, everyone was telling me to direct it. I was nervous,
but secretly thrilled, as directing has always been my end game.
|So we set the picture
up with Blockbuster, and then the deal fell apart due to a corporate
shake-up within the company. I then set the film up a second time
with an independent producer, but that deal also fell apart when
the financing fell out at the last minute. Man, I didn't know
whether to keep going or let go, but my determination (or stubbornness?)
got the best of me and I finally set the film up with BloodWorks
and Raw Nerve. This time everything worked out. Through it all,
HG Lewis was very, very cool. Chris Kobin had optioned the MANIACS
rights him and Dave Freidman, and there were many times where
I wouldn't have blamed them for not renewing those rights. It
did seem like the film was never gonna happen. But they continued
to believe in me and the script I wrote with Kobin. They were
very supportive, yet hands off, executive producing pretty much
in name only. Their spirit was always felt. After all, they created
this genre knows as the "splatter genre", and I was
determined to make them proud.
I think one of the greatest moments for me was when Dave Friedman came
to LA and watched the film with me and Chris Kobin, just the three of
us. When it was over, he turned to me and Chris and said, "If this
is my last hurrah as a filmmaker, I'm going out in a blaze of glory.
You guys made a modern film, but you kept the joke intact." Man,
after all those years of starts and stops, I wanted to cry. What more
can you want than the original filmmaker giving the blessing to your
In '2001 Maniacs', together with some icons of Horror Movies
such as Robert Englund, you have some actresses in their debut. Could
you tell me why did you choose a cast of newcomers? How was the casting
and the atmosphere on the set?
From day one
I envisioned Robert Englund in the role of Mayor Buckman. In
fact, I wrote the part for him. I've known him for years, having
met him in the offices of New Line Cinema where I worked in
the mid 90's. When the script was done, Robert read it and said
he would very much like to play Buckman. The part of Granny
Boone was written for Lin Shaye, whom I adored and admired having
worked with on DETROIT ROCK CITY. Once I had Robert and Lin,
I was allowed by my producers to cast whomever I felt was the
best performer for all the other roles. As you know, this is
show business. The business side of things dictates that you
must have a "star" or "stars". Well, Robert
and Lin were our two stars. They filled the quota that the money
people needed to be able to sell the film. So as I said, this
allowed me the freedom to pick fresh talent for the other parts.
Some of the actors, like Adam Robitel who plays Robert Englund's
son, Lester, and Ryan Fleming, who plays Hucklebilly, were friends
of mine who happened to be actors and who I knew would be perfect.
Others, like Jay Gillespie who plays the lead, Anderson, and
Dylan Edrington, who plays his best friend, Nelson, were discovered
in the audition process.
|We must have seen
hundreds of actors for every role. After the success of FREDDY
VS JASON, every young actor in Hollywood wanted to be in the next
Robert Englund horror movie. Well, as I said, I picked whom I
really felt was the best. I knew that we wouldn't have much time
for a lot of takes, as this was a low budget film with a short
shooting schedule, so I wanted actors who were gonna get it right
the first time. I was blessed with my cast. They are an incredibly
good looking group of upcoming stars. Talented and full of energy
and enthusiasm. Everyone was so excited about either getting killed
or killing! Those that "die" had to endure a lot
having their body cast ahead of time. Those that "killed"
had to wear a lot of make-up as well. It was a very messy set,
with lots of fake blood being thrown around. Everyone went home
red and sticky everyday. It was freezing in Georgia, where we
shot it, and let's just say there were a lot of scenes that do
not involve much clothing, but everyone was a trooper. They showed
up, got naked. Got killed. And did it all with a smile!
You took part
in '2001 Maniacs' also as an actor, tell me about the experience,
do you intend to repeat it?
What can I say? I'm a ham! I play Coffin Harry in a brief moment
when the hero and heroine are trying to leave town. They move
in for a kiss, only to look up and see me nailing their coffins.
It's a typical moment that you see in Clint Eastwood westerns
like HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER. It was tough, I tell you. It was hot
as hell, I had to wear this overcoat and top hat, wear lots
of make-up, and then wear that outfit for the rest of the day
while directing. Worst of all, the character had to bang the
nails without looking at what he was doing. I must have smashed
my thumb twice. But, yeah. I love performing. Love being
in front of a camera. And as far as repeating the experience,
sure. Matter of fact, I was just asked by a filmmaker friend
of mine, Philip Nutman, the infamous FANGORIA journalist who
also wrote the brilliant zombie novel WETWORKS, just asked me
to play a defrocked priest in his upcoming movie WITCHBITCH.
How did you get to write the new Tobe Hooper film? Has it anything
to do with the 'Masters of Horror' group? Can you anticipate something
|Thanks to my friendship
with John Landis, I've been blessed to be a member of the "Masters
of Horror" group of horror film directors that meets periodically
over dinner to talk about the horror genre past and present. Tobe
Hooper is a member of that group. Well, I recently interviewed
him for an internet column I do for UpcomingHorrorMovies.com
called Shock and Roll. We were discussing the DVD release of "Funhouse"
and started talking about clowns and freaks and how scary that
kind of stuff was. Well, next thing I know, Tobe calls me up and
asks if I would like to write a film for him as part of his "Tobe
Hooper Nightmares" series. I was flabbergasted. So, of course
I said yes. I just handed the script in, which I also wrote with
Chris Kobin. I'm sworn to secrecy by Tobe to keep the story under
wraps, but I can say that the film features a deranged family
of very unique psychopaths who take a suburban family hostage.
Imagine if the creeps from TEXAS CHAINSAW invaded the Brady Bunch!
It's dark, gritty, yet still has that sardonic humor that marks
the kind of writing I do with Chris Kobin.
We watched a lot of 1940's gangster movies to get in the mood, so the
film will have that film noir CAPE FEAR flavor. I love what I call "hybrid
concept" versus "high concept". I love combining genres.
Comedy and horror. Gangster and horror. For me, life is not a genre.
You don't wake up and say, "Today, my life will be a comedy. No
drama or action, please." No. You just roll with the punches that
life offers. Sometimes it's humorous. Sometimes it's dark. That's how
I would describe 2001 MANIACS. That's how I describe my project with
Tobe. And that's the kind of storytelling that excites me most.
I am also a big fan of KISS, what can you tell me about your relationship
with Gene Simmons?
I saw KISS in
1977 as a kid and it changed my universe. I was a chubby boy,
didn't feel like a rock star or super hero. But when I saw those
guys on stage, larger than life, flying thru the air, spitting
blood, breathing fire. I knew that I had to somehow work with
those guys. I became a fan and have remained so ever since.
In fact, I just took the stars of 2001 MANIACS, Jay Gillespie
and Dylan Edrington, to meet KISS after their recent LA show.
You see, I made a pledge as a member of the "KISS Army"
to spread the word of KISS. So every time I see them in concert,
I have to bring someone who never saw them before.
Crazy, I know. But once a fan always a fan. You see, KISS taught me
that we all may look like Clark Kent on the surface, but inside our
hearts, we are all Superman. We can do anything. And if a chubby little
KISS fan from New Jersey could grow up to co-produce the KISS fan movie,
than I guess anything is possible.So that is what my relationship with
KISS and Gene Simmons is all about. Dreams coming true. I met Gene for
the first time when I was going to NYU film school. I lied and told
him I was a reporter for FANGORIA.Well,
he agreed to do an interview with me, making the lie reality, because
I did become a journalist for FANGO, and my interview with Gene was
my first article. Gene LOVES horror movies and is an expert on the subject,
so that has been the bond between us ever since. Throughout the 80's
and 90's, he always wanted to produce movies, so when I was working
at New Line, he passed along the script for DETROIT ROCK CITY. I was
able to convince the studio to make the film, for which I was given
to job of Associate Producer. It basically began my career in the film
business which led to 2001 MANIACS. So I thank KISS for inspiring me,
and I thank Gene for turning that inspiration into reality. We remain
friends, as I remain friends with all the members, but Gene will always
be a "father figure" in my life. A role model and mentor.
He taught me to make art firstly for yourself. Please yourself first.
He said that he created KISS because there wasn't a band out there like
that, and he wanted to see a band with make-up and costumes. Well, when
I wrote 2001 MANIACS, there hadn't been a film like that for some time,
that kind of gross out horror comedy that was so fucking cool in the
80's. Movies like AMERICAN WEREWOLF, EVIL DEAD, FRIGHT NIGHT, MOTEL
HELL! So I made 2001 MANIACS basically for the 16 year old inside of
me. Just as Gene formed KISS for the 16 year old inside of him.
What do you think of Italian Horror movies? Which are your favorite
This is so cool to be interviewed for an Italian horror magazine because
Italian horror movies are my absolute favorite. Ever since I first saw
BLACK SUNDAY as a kid, I have been obsessed with the way you guys made
horror movies. I can't get enough. Bava, Argento, Fulci... SUSPIRIA
is not only my favorite Italian horror film, it's one of my top ten
horror movies period. You guys understand that true horror is not just
about blood and guts (which, of course, you do so well!), but first
and foremost about atmosphere. The color of horror. The sound of terror.
Man, I have this remastered surround sound mixed DVD of SUSPIRIA and
I simply cannot watch it alone. The sound design is more terrifying
than most anything I've seen. A master like Bava knows how to
be subtle one minute and graphic the next. Argento's giallos to me are
as influential as Hitchcock. And Fulci... Whoa. He truly knows how to
take levels to extreme. Sometimes the plots are a bit fuzzy. The characters
broadly sketched. But even in the weakest Italian horror films, the
pure SENSE of horror is always there. And sometimes, it is more important
what you FEEL during a film than what you are thinking. I know it's
a matter of time before Hollywood begins remaking Bava and Argento and
all the rest, and all I can say is, I have a feeling they are not gonna
get it right. They are gonna be gory without being stylish and atmospheric.
That's why I want to take a shot at a remake (laughs)! I've got a great
idea for expanding the "wurdelak" episode of "Black Sabbath"
into its own feature!
Any news about the remake of 'She Freak'? Is Asia Argento confirmed to
|SHE FREAK is a project
dear to my heart. In fact, its my homage to the Italian horror
film. That's why I was thrilled to hear from my producer that
Asia Argento read the script and was interested in playing the
title role. However, the plan for this to be my follow-up to MANIACS
has been put on hold, as the Tobe Hooper project, as well as an
urban horror anthology hosted by Snoop Dogg which I've created
and am producing with Blood Works, have taken precedent. I will
make SHE FREAK, and when I do, hopefully Ms. Argento will still
be interested and available.
What do you think of the recent big budget Horror movies from Hollywood,
as 'The Ring' or 'The Grudge'?
What can I say?
In both cases of RING and GRUDGE, I preferred the original Japanese
versions, however I do acknowledge their ability to effectively
scare PG-13 audiences who like their frights a little slicker
and what I call "sanctioned by Hollywood". Personally,
I like my horror more independent and R rated. The passion just
seems to be more prevalent in films made outside the studio
system, particularly in the case of horror films.
Consider the best horror movies ever made: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.
TEXAS CHAINSAW. HALLOWEEN. FRIDAY THE 13TH. All made independently.
So in today's horror market, give me SAW. Give me SHAUN OF THE DEAD.
Give me HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES. Edgar Wright, James Wan. Rob Zombie...
These guys are the next John Carpenters and David Cronenbergs. That's
my aspiration with 2001 MANIACS. And that's my aspiration for myself