Greg Stacy’s FAT LOT OF GOOD

December 21, 2006

Emma Caulfield on BUFFY’s final days

Filed under: Darkworlds.com,Geekery,Interviews,Movies,TV — gregstacy @ 11:11 am

(Originally posted on DARKWORLDS.COM)

 The following interview with BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and DARKNESS FALLS star Emma Caulfield caused a lot of controversy with the show’s fans. This surprised us, given her reasonable, non-gossipy tone and the fact that she never even names names. Still, we just couldn’t resist revisiting this story…

DW: By some accounts you were pretty determined to leave BUFFY by the end, and you wanted Anya killed in the series finale so that even if there was a BUFFY movie or whatever, it’d be clear that you would not be back. Is that true?

Caulfield: Well, that’s all been exaggerated. I had a fantastic experience on BUFFY and I thought it was a great show, but in some ways I didn’t feel that character was reflective of everything I could do. And by the end, I felt very unappreciated by certain people. Almost everybody was great, but certain people…

DW: You don’t want to name names? Even off the record?

Caulfield: No. No reflection on you, but I’ve been burned too many times! It wouldn’t be smart for me to say, but the people I’m talking about know who they are. By the end it was just no fun to come to work and be continually disrespected. But if they ever do a BUFFY movie and (BUFFY creator Joss Whedon) wants to bring me back as a ghost or something, I’d be glad to do that.

DW: Now, I’m sure you’ve been asked this to death, but what the hell. Can you tell me anything about if there’s a BUFFY movie on the way?

Caulfield: Honestly, I don’t know anything. I know that Joss is busy doing the FIREFLY movie right now, but that’s all I’ve heard.

DW: Do you do the conventions and fan cruises and stuff like that?

Caulfield: I have, sure. I’m doing a con in England at the end of the month.

DW: I’ve been to conventions myself, and fans can be so gushy. If strangers are coming up and telling you you’re the best thing ever, how do you keep that from screwing up your values?

Caulfield: Well, I guess if anybody comes up and says anything like that to me… I just don’t really believe them. I mean, I’m just not that impressed by anything I’ve done, acting-wise. I think I do good work as an actress, but in some ways I’m not sure acting is what I’m best at. I’ve always said that if acting doesn’t work out I’ll move on and do something else, I’ll make my mark some other way.

JEEPERS CREEPERS star Jonathan Freck

Filed under: Darkworlds.com,Geekery,Interviews,Movies — gregstacy @ 11:09 am

(Originally posted on DARKWORLDS.COM)

Jonathan Freck, who stars in JEEPERS CREEPERS and its new sequel, JEEPERS CREEPERS 2, recently sat down for an interview with DARKWORLDS.COM. Fortunately Freck proved to be far more personable than his onscreen alter-ego the Creeper, the flying monster that comes out of hibernation every 23 years to feed upon humans.

Asked if the considerable prosthetics he wears for the film are uncomfortable, Freck was good-natured but blunt: “It can be pretty tough, yeah. I Usually spend about four hours in the makeup chair, but it can be more like seven sometimes. We were shooting nights, so usually I’d get in there at 3 or 4 in the afternoon and then I’d be in the makeup for 8-10 hours at a stretch, we’d work all night and then finish around 6 or 7 a.m.”

Asked if the film’s nocturnal schedule complicated the rest of his life, Freck once again pulled no punches.

“Oh, it was awful. We were filming for like six weeks, maybe eight weeks, and I got completely turned around. The actual shooting days were one thing, but then I’d have days off and I’d just be completely out of step with the rest of the world. Thank God my girlfriend was so patient, she was really great and kinda said, ‘Ok, you just go off and do this thing, you get it done.’ She gave me a lot of freedom.”

One of the Creeper’s most frightening attributes would be the large, bat-like wings he uses to soar through the air and swoop down upon his victims; we asked Freck if he had to wear the wings as part of his costume, and if so, how cumbersome they were.

“When you see the wings in the film, that’s mostly CGI,” Freck said. “We experimented with some prosthetic wings on the set, but in the end almost all of that stuff was done by the CGI people.”

The Creeper is Freck’s best-known character, although the actor has also appeared in such pictures as SPIDERS and GOOD ADVICE and such TV series as STAR TREK: VOYAGER. We conducted the interview before box-office figures were available for JEEPERS CREEPERS 2’s opening weekend, but Freck was fairly confident that another sequel could be on the way.

“I think people would like to see more of this character,” Freck said. “He has a really interesting backstory, and there are a lot of possibilities: I mean, you can jump ahead 23 years, or go back 23 years, learn about his past or go into the future.”

“Leatherface” interview

Filed under: Darkworlds.com,Geekery,Interviews,Movies,Weird — gregstacy @ 11:04 am

(Originally posted on DARKWORLDS.COM)

At a hefty 6′ 4″, with piercing eyes and a voice that makes Darth Vader sound like a big sissy, Gunnar Hansen at first seems only slightly less intimidating than Leatherface, the mindless, hippie-killing freak he portrayed in Tobe Hooper’s ‘70s horror classic THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. But you don’t have to chat with Hansen for long to realize that this thoughtful actor has little in common with the role that made him famous.

Born in Iceland, Hansen moved to America at the age of five and grew up in Texas. A gentle giant with an academic temperament, Hansen was not far out of graduate school when he auditioned for Hooper and won the role of Leatherface. The character has become an icon in the years since the film’s release, inspiring a figure from McFarlane Toys, comic books, a punk band and a lot of ghastly nightmares for anybody who has ever seen the film. Hansen has stayed active as an actor, but he’s also worked extensively as a writer for film and print while also dabbling in web design.

Hansen was kind enough to chat with us at the 2002 Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, answering questions while excited Leatherface fans buzzed around. (Interview for Darkworlds conducted by Greg Stacy.)

DW: Will we see you playing Leatherface again anytime soon?

Hansen: No. They’re making TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 5 right now, actually, and I’m not in it. They offered me a part, but not as Leatherface. I was going to play Ed Guinn’s role from the original picture, the cattle truck driver. I told them I’d be happy to do it, but they’d have to pay me more than scale. So, I’m not in it.

DW: So, is it safe to say you don’t think you’ll ever play the character again?

Hansen: I wouldn’t think I would, no.

DW: Out of everything you’ve done, what role are you the proudest of?

Hansen: Well, I’m very proud of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. I think it’s one of the best horror movies. And I’m also pretty happy about MOSQUITO, a movie I co-wrote and starred in a few years ago.

DW: Are there any films you regret?

Hansen: Sure. There was a picture years ago that was just a disaster, the director couldn’t direct because he was too busy in the kitchen trying on his dresses.

DW: Sounds very ED WOOD.

Hansen: It was awful.

DW: Do you have any projects coming up?

Hansen: Right now I’m trying to find funding for a horror parody I wrote with a friend, it’s called THE LAST ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. It’s a parody of a bunch of movies, but in it I parody CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Except instead of Leatherface I’m called Babyface, and the reason he never talks is because he’s always stuffing food in his face. He always seems like he’s ABOUT to talk, but then he just eats a chicken leg or something. I really hope we can get it off the ground. I’m also waiting to see what happens with a project called THE NEXT VICTIM, an anthology film where I play a mental patient in the wrap-around segments. In the meantime, RACHEL’S ATTIC is just coming out on DVD now, so people can go buy that.

DW: Lastly, how do you feel about being so closely associated with the horror genre? Are you comfortable with that, or would you rather work on more mainstream projects?

Hansen: Oh, I’m not one of those actors who are so hung-up on that sort of thing. Really, I consider myself primarily a writer, and for me, movies are just fun.

George Romero talks LIVING DEAD rights trouble

Filed under: Darkworlds.com,Geekery,Interviews,Movies — gregstacy @ 11:02 am

(Originally posted on DARKWORLDS.COM)

During a recent stop in LA for the 2002 Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, celebrated horror director George Romero (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE DARK HALF, BRUISER) sat down with Darkworlds for an extensive interview. At one point, while we were asking Romero about upcoming DVD releases of his work, the conversation took an unexpected turn as the director explained to us why he doesn’t receive a penny of the profits still coming in from his most famous film. (Interview for Darkworlds conducted by Greg Stacy.)

DW: So, are you going to be involved with any of the DVD or special editions of your work coming up?

Romero: Yeah, I was just here (in LA) on Thursday, I did the color track on THE CRAZIES and I did the commentary. Shot a bunch of interviews.

DW: A DVD edition of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is about to come out that features the film in 3D. Can you tell us anything about that?

Romero: (Stunned) What?!

DW: (The release) is news to you?

Romero: It’s news to me! In 3D? How could they do it? It’s a flat image. We didn’t shoot with two cameras.

DW: How could anyone do a project like this without you being involved in any way?

Romero: Well, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, the original I assume you mean, is in the public domain.

DW: How did it work out that way?

Romero: Well, we fought it for years. Our original title was THE FLESH EATERS. And when (distributor) Walter Reed picked the movie up, we were just (naive kids) who’d made a movie, you know? We made it in Pittsburgh and threw it in the trunk of a car and drove it to New York. We put the copyright sign on the title card (at the beginning of the movie), which was our mistake; we didn’t put it on the end of the movie. So when they changed the title, the (title card with the copyright) came off. It took about three or four years for people to realize that there was no copyright. We fought for years, our lawyers thought the film itself was the proof, but we didn’t win it. The US government said, nuh-uh.

DW: Do you get any share of the revenues?

R: Never have. We did in the beginning, when Walter Reed first picked it up. We wound up spending, after we’d paid off all of our debts, about 150 grand. It wound up making about 500 grand, in the first six months. After that, no one’s made a nickel on it.

DW: What about merchandising?

R: Are you kidding? Nah. And normally, even with everything (I’ve) done later, even done properly, you usually don’t get any of that action. Unless you’re the producer, or you’ve got a really malleable contract. There’s always ways to do creative accounting. For example, you make a movie for Paramount; the contract says, well, (the director) will get so much of the video market as well. And even though it’s (Paramont’s) own company, they basically sell it to Paramount video, with a very bad deal. So, no money ever comes back (to the filmmaker). There’s a million ways to skin a cat. Unless you’re Arnold or Bruce, you’ll never see those percentage dollars.

A chat with BUFFY’s Clem the demon

Filed under: Darkworlds.com,Geekery,Interviews,TV,Weird — gregstacy @ 11:01 am

(Originally posted on DARKWORLDS.COM in 2003)

When Clem the demon first made his debut on UPN’s BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER in a scene where he and a group of other vile-looking creatures were playing poker for kittens, it was immediately clear that a floppy-eared, saggy-skinned star had just been born. Hideous though he was, Clem’s cheery, homespun personality immediately won the hearts of both the show’s characters and fans; he’s since become something of a regular on the series, frequently babysitting Buffy’s younger sister Dawn and advising the tortured vampire Spike on the mysterious ways of the human heart. Clem is a true stand-up guy, the kind of demon anybody would be glad to call a pal, even if they did have to keep a close eye on the cat whenever Clem dropped by.

Whatever Clem fans imagine the actor who portrays him looks like under all those pounds of rubber, they’re not imagining James C. Leary, a slim, young fellow who looks like he just stepped out of a toothpaste commercial (and possibly just did, given all the commercials on his resume). We sat down with Leary at the 2002 Fangoria Weekend of Horrors in LA, and the actor proved to be every bit as charming as the character he portrays. (Interview for Darkworlds.com by Greg Stacy)

DW: Can you give us any spoilers for the coming season of BUFFY?

Leary: Nope. I would, but honestly, I don’t know anything! Right now they’re filming the second episode and they’re still writing the rest of the season.

DW: Can you say if we’ll we be seeing Clem again anytime soon?

Leary: I hope so! But honestly, I don’t know yet. I’m not even sure if (BUFFY’s creators) know, it’s still just too early in the season. They’ve told me that they’d like to use me again, though.

DW: Clem is such a great character. He’s been really popular with the fans.

Leary: Yeah, (BUFFY’s creators) originally only planned to use him for one episode, but apparently he was pretty well-liked, so they’ve kept bringing him back.

DW: Clem looks like a character who would require a lot of time in the makeup chair, with that saggy neck and the floppy arms and everything.

Leary: Ah, it’s about two and half hours, it’s not too bad. I’m a lot better off than some of the people who work on the show.

DW: I’ve heard that after a while under the hot studio lights, heavy prosthetics can really begin to stink. Is there any truth to that?

Cleary: Not so I’ve noticed, no. Although the rubbery smell can be pretty strong when I first put the makeup on.

DW: Looking up your bio, I didn’t see many credits besides Clem. Is he your first onscreen role?

Leary: I’ve done a lot of commercials and lots and lots of theater. My biggest part before this was on a Telemundo sit-com called LOS BELTRAN, I was on there for a couple of years as the gay neighbor.

DW: Oh, so you speak Spanish?

Leary: No! It was all completely phonetic for me. It worked out ok, because I was supposed to be kind of the token goofy gringo on the show anyway, so my language skills weren’t really a barrier.

DW: Would you prefer to continue working in genre projects like BUFFY, or do you hope to work on more mainstream fare eventually?

Leary: Oh, I’ve always been a big sci-fi and horror buff, I was a fan of BUFFY before I got on, so this has been great. Mainstream, genre, I’m fine with anything. Right now, I’m just happy to work on anything I can get paid for!

HELLBOY insider special effects report

Filed under: Darkworlds.com,Geekery,Interviews,Movies — gregstacy @ 10:58 am

(Originally posted on DARKWORLDS.COM in 2003)

An anonymous source within the HELLBOY effects shop has offered DARKWORLDS an exclusive peek behind-the-scenes at the work that’s going into creating Ron Perlman’s elaborate demon makeup for his starring role in Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming supernatural adventure.

“Perlman is getting a full torso makeup,” the effects artist told us, “which is really rare because it’s hard to hide all the seams. Typically when we do a full torso, we’ll give them arms and a chest but we’ll cover their shoulders with something to conceal where everything joins up. If you look at Darkness (Tim Curry) in (Ridley Scott’s) LEGEND, he had arms and a chest built up but he had a cape to hide the join. And in FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING they had a full makeup for the scene where the first Urah-Kai is being created, but that was just the one scene and he was covered with muck and slime to conceal the seams. For HELLBOY Perlman will have the full torso makeup, and it’s been complicated to do but it looks really good.”

Our source reveals that the film will not attempt to be slavishly faithful to the highly-stylized look of the Mike Mignola comic book it’s based on.

“It just wouldn’t be possible to be that stylized. For one thing, Hellboy is huge in one panel of the comic and then in the next he’s smaller, there’s no consistency that way at all. We’ve had to make Hellboy’s look more organic and less angular, but we have done a lot of work to include the tattoos across his body and things like that. We tried to go with the smooth horns like you see in the comic, that goggle look, but we did some research and it just didn’t look right in reality, so we’ve given them some texture, like they’ve been broken off.”

Our source says that unlike some temperamental Hollywood stars, Perlman (best known for roles in such genre fare as TV’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN and BLADE 2) has been remarkably easy-going to work with considering the extensive and potentially uncomfortable prosthetics required for his role.

“Perlman’s had a lot of experience with effects makeup, so he has no problem with it at all. He’s been really great, he just sits there and doesn’t complain and he’s very chatty.”

George Romero on what might have been

Filed under: Darkworlds.com,Interviews,Movies,Weird — gregstacy @ 10:52 am

(Originally posted in 2002 on DARKWORLDS.COM)

During a recent appearance at the 2002 Fangoria Weekend of Horrors in LA, director George Romero (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE DARK HALF, BRUISER) consented to a lengthy interview with Darkworlds, video excerpts of which will soon be available on this site. Having already discussed THE GIRL WHO LOVED TOM GORDON, Romero’s upcoming collaboration with Stephen King, in this excerpt the director provides details on other upcoming projects and talks about his involvement during the early stages of the RESIDENT EVIL film. (Interview for Darkworlds conducted by Greg Stacy.)

DW: Can you tell us what you’re working on right now?

Romero: I have another zombie film in the works, I have the script finished. I think we’re real close to a financing deal on that.

DW: Can you tell us anything about what it’s about? (Romero looks uncomfortable.) Obviously, you don’t want ALL the secrets to get out there.

Romero: No. Well, basically, people are holed up, in a city this time, in a section of a city. And they’re trying to lead a normal life (amid the zombie attacks), which is of course impossible. And the heroes are the guys that they send out in these armored vehicles to procure things, you know, (to) get some wine. (NOTE: The film Romero is discussing was of course eventually released as LAND OF THE DEAD.)

DW: You’re very strongly associated with the horror genre. Have you ever been interested in doing something more mainstream, a drama or a comedy or something like that?

Romero: I’d love to do other things. I came real close, last year. I was working on a thing with Ed Harris (THE TRUMAN SHOW, POLLOCK). Ed got me involved. It was called THE ASSASSINATION; it was this political thriller about the assassination of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. It was great, it was all set to go. Ed was going to be in it, James Coburn (was going to be in it), we had Anthony Quinn. And then Anthony Quinn… went away (Quinn died) and the project sort of blew up on us. They were insisting that the role of Trujillo be played by a Latino, and there aren’t a lot of 71-year old Latino actors that have any meaning on the marquee. They just said they weren’t able to find a reasonable replacement for him. But it’s still sort of in the film miasma, it might still happen.

We were ready to roll. I spent five weeks in Puerto Rico scouting, getting it all together, the designers were on (the project) already. Things blow up for a million different reasons, (such as) somebody just doesn’t like what you do. That’s what happened with RESIDENT EVIL. I was having a ball with that.

DW: That’s right, you were attached to the RESIDENT EVIL film for a while. We would have loved to have seen what you would have done with that.

R: You can read it, apparently. People tell me that my screenplay is on the web. I wrote seven drafts for those guys.

DW: What happened with that?

R: It’s a long story. This was a German company, and there was a little bit of a language problem. The executive I was working with loved what I was doing, but the man upstairs was the guy who made DAS BOOT, and he had some vision of making some realistic suspense movie. That’s not eventually what they did, but he just didn’t like what I did in the end, and they said forget about it. And they got Paul (Anderson).

Richard Kelly, DONNIE DARKO director

Filed under: Interviews,OC Weekly — gregstacy @ 10:44 am

(Published in OC WEEKLY, July 22, 2004)

Affable young geekboy filmmaker Richard Kelly’s strange and wonderful 2001 debut sci-fi/drama indie Donnie Darko spawned a devoted cult following and returns to theaters this week in an extended director’s cut. But mainstream Hollywood’s come calling, and Kelly’s fans have been troubled by his repeatedly stated desire to become more “commercial” with upcoming projects. The following conversation leapfrogs through time, back to the turbulent past that led to this director’s cut, and forward, into Kelly’s possible futures.

 

OC Weekly: I understand that on its original release, Donnie Darko didn’t earn back its budget. If that’s so, what motivated the studio to do this theatrical rerelease?

Richard Kelly: The movie earned about half a million in theaters originally; we came out right around Sept. 11, and we really got buried by that. But overseas, we did a lot better, and the DVD has earned $10 million or something like that. The studio looked at this cult audience that’s found the film, and they thought maybe there’s a bigger audience still out there. So this rerelease is a win-win proposition for everybody, basically; they’re risking nothing by bringing it out again.

Why was the extra material in this edition cut from the original release?

Well, when I first showed the original cut, everybody was baffled. My financiers were worried the film was too confusing, and when that happens, everybody always decides it has to be shorter. I had to cut 10 minutes, and I really had no choice. Eventually, I turned in a version that was seven minutes shorter, and I talked them into accepting that.

How did you feel about that shortened release?

I was proud of it. It ended up being more enigmatic and esoteric, and I think it works in its own way. It doesn’t spell out as much what’s really going on—it keeps you guessing more. There are people who would probably argue that that version is better than this one! There have been director’s cuts of movies like Close Encounters and Blade Runner, and I’m honestly really honored to have the chance to have a director’s cut coming out.

Donnie Darko strikes me as a movie that could have some scary, intense fans. Do you get a lot of weird mail, or do people come up to you and insist all this time-travel stuff has happened to them? Has anybody camped out on your doorstep?

So far, pretty much everybody who has approached me in person has been great. I do get some scary mail; sometimes I look at the envelope, and I’m like, “Should I open this?” There are a few kinda scary people out there who are like, “I’ve been through a wormhole, too!” I have an unlisted number, and I haven’t had any serious problems. I guess if this rerelease gets the film a lot more attention and it brings a lot of weirdoes out of the woodwork, I can always hire some bodyguards or something.

You’ve been attached to a lot of projects, and I understand you’ve written a script for Tony Scott of all people. Your fans are having these big arguments online about what you will do or should do next.

I’m writing and directing a thing called Southland Tales.

Oh, is this the sci-fi/comedy/musical/thriller I read about?

Yeah, that’s it.

You’ve repeatedly said your next project will be more commercial. How so? A sci-fi/comedy/musical/thriller doesn’t exactly sound like a sure thing.

Well, I don’t know what commercial means exactly. When I say commercial, I’m thinking of comedy. I think the two most commercial things you can do are comedy and drama; people go to Titanic to cry, and they go to Meet the Parents to laugh. Comedy travels, and I’d like to do something that will make people laugh.

Now, you’re not going to be one of those directors whose first film is really cool and quirky, and then each movie after that becomes more commercial and less interesting, and eventually you end up doing boring action pictures and Reese Witherspoon romantic comedies?

Am I going to lose my soul? [Laughs] I hope not. I don’t think so. If I’d wanted to sell my soul, I could have directed another film by now. I’ve had some offers to do some big things that wouldn’t have been artistically fulfilling at all, and I’ve turned them down. I’ve been very selective. I’m really trying to hold onto my roots. I’m fortunate enough to have people around me who would probably beat me up if I ever sold out.

December 19, 2006

Thankyuhverymuch: Kavee Thongprecha’s journey from Thailand to Graceland

Filed under: Humor,Interviews,It's a Living,Movies,Music,OC Weekly,Weird — gregstacy @ 12:38 pm

(Printed in OC WEEKLY, September 25, 2003)

For far too long, those lucky hound dogs in LA have had Kavee Thongprecha, the Thai Elvis impersonator, all to themselves. Well into his 60s, Thongprecha still performs nightly at Hollywood’s Palms Thai Restaurant, and he is sometimes glimpsed cruising the streets in a spectacular automobile adorned with Elvis gewgaws and a license plate reading, T ELVIS. But next Thursday, the humble people of Orange County will at last be graced with the presence of this singular entertainer, as he performs at the UC Irvine screening of the Elvis Presley film Flaming Star. Our conversation was complicated by Thongprecha’s somewhat uncertain English and a phone line that sounded more like he was calling from Thailand than LA, but I’ll always treasure our brief encounter for the sheer, wonderful strangeness of it all.

 

OC Weekly: Have you seen Flaming Star, the film that’s going to be screening at UC Irvine the night you perform?

Kavee Thongprecha: It’s . . . I’m sorry, there is a film?

Yes. Flaming Star.

I . . . no. I don’t know this.

Oh. Well, do you remember when you first discovered Elvis?

Nineteen fifty-seven, I think. Yes.

This was back in Thailand? How is Elvis regarded over there?

Oh, people love him, I think. He is very popular, of course.

When did you come to America, and when did you start performing as Elvis?

In 1957. I came to America in 1972. My mother was living here. I started performing then.

Wait . . . you started performing in 1957? Or in 1972?

[Very long pause indeed.]

Hello? Mr. Thongprecha?

[Otherworldly, echoing sounds on phone line, until the voice of Thongprecha returns, forlorn and far away.] Yes? . . . Hello?

Uh, okay, let’s move on. How often do you perform, and how would you describe a typical performance for those who’ve never seen one?

Five nights a week. From 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Wow! That’s a long performance!

Oh, I don’t perform the whole time, no. They have other things there, too.

Still, five nights a week is impressive. How long do you see yourself doing this?

[Very long pause.]

How long do you think you’ll keep performing . . . ?

[Another long pause.]

. . . Before you retire?

Oh. Well, it depends on my health. I am getting older, and I have some health problems now, you know. But I say, as long as I can still do, I will do.

Back in Black: The voluptuous something-or-other of Karen Black

Filed under: Interviews,Movies,OC Weekly — gregstacy @ 12:31 pm

(Originally published in OC WEEKLY, May 20, 2004)

 Karen Black has acted in hundreds of films, some of them classics (Five Easy Pieces, Nashville), some of them forgettable schlock (Children of the Corn IV), and some of them fascinating schlock (Plan 10 From Outer Space, a sequel of sorts to the Ed Wood masterpiece). Whether she’s working with Robert Altman or Rob Zombie, Black absolutely owns every film she appears in; there’s just something about the woman that commands your attention. She certainly commanded my attention during the following interview, which reads as much more contentious than it sounded. In person, Black comes across as sweet, smart and strikingly un-horrifying.

 

OC Weekly: I was looking up your résumé on the Internet Movie Database . . .

Karen Black: I’m not that old! [Chuckles] I just thought I should make that clear.

Oh. Okay. Well, your career has been amazingly eclectic, and I wondered what film you’re most often recognized for.

I hate to tell you, but it’s probably [the ’70s TV movie] Trilogy of Terror. Or, surprisingly enough, it might be The Great Gatsby. I think mostly people just know my face, but they’re not sure where they’ve seen me before, you know? Not too long ago, I did some TV parts I get recognized for now; I was on Party of Five and some other things. I guess those would be considered “comeback” parts or whatever you’d call them.

Alfred Hitchcock had that famous line about how actors should be treated like cattle. Did you find any truth to that when you worked with him on Family Plot?

Not at all! He corrected that later; he’d really said . . . what was it? [Thinks for a long while] Er, something like, “Actors aren’t animals, but they should be treated as if they are!” He was very charming, very shrewd and avuncular. He was this amazing collection of playful beings, rather vaudevillian in spirit, in a way. He liked limericks, and he’d test our vocabularies. He’d say, “You were very perspicacious in that last scene, my dear.”

Moving on to your latest film, Gypsy 83 . . . I see it was filmed in 2001. Why has there been such a delay getting it to theaters?

Oh, you’d have to ask Todd [Stephens, the film’s director]. I don’t know. Actors are never told these sorts of things. We do a role, and then we move on to the next thing, and we don’t hear any more; we don’t look back. I’m sure you’ve heard things like that before?

Uh . . . well, sure, I guess. On the film’s website, Stephens has this essay about making the film and about how personal it was. He makes himself sound kind of high-strung. Was he neurotic on the set?

[A little huffy] Well, I’m not sure I understand how you’re connecting the first thing you said with the last thing you said. What was it you said? About it being personal?

I . . . well, he has this whole thing about how his last film, The Edge of 17, was very autobiographical and how he eventually had to step down from directing it because it was too stressful to go back into his past like that. And this new film is also rather autobiographical . . .

Oh, well, I wouldn’t say he was neurotic at all. Quite the reverse. He ponders things in the most attractive way. If you’d lost your bag or something and things were in utter chaos, he’d think things through in the midst of utter chaos and he’d always have the most pragmatic advice. He was just a joy, honestly.

Great. Now, I have to ask you about this band, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black . . .

[Quickly] They’ve disbanded now.

I’d heard that. But that name really stuck with people, and I’ve always wondered what you thought of it.

Well, I think they should have asked before they just used my name like that. When you become famous, you lose control of your public image to some degree, and you can’t control things like that or the things they write about you on the Internet. I’ve made something like 13 scary movies and something like 110 art films, and the art films are really what I’m passionate about. I never wanted to have my name associated with horror like that. I don’t particularly like horror. Somehow, that’s what stuck in people’s minds about me. But that’s okay. Kembra [Voluptuous Horror’s lead singer] is a friend of mine, and I thought they did some very good music. But they should have asked.

You’ve said your career was really hurt by some bad experiences on the set of Day of the Locust. Could you elaborate?

No, I don’t want to. I’m in a good mood today, and I don’t want to complain.

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