My particular favorite of yours is the action/thriller “Marked for Murder” starring Wings Hauser. I think it needs a good DVD release. Quite a jump from your usual comedy genre but you pulled it off. What is your preferred genre to work in?
I always hoped “Marked for Murder” would get me work on bigger budget films, it didn’t. Distributors told me, we have a dozen directors who can do our bigger budgets, there’s no one else but you who can make a real looking feature for so little money. I was glad I made the film, it was a good departure from the campy movies I always did. I’ll take comedy over drama any day. Comedy comes naturally to me, directing drama is what I call, directing with handcuffs on. I know exactly how the same scene would play if the film were a comedy, but I have to remove all the stuff that makes it funny. I try to stay away from drama. It’s always funny that so many people think “Hobgoblins” was made as a horror film, and was meant to be taken seriously. It was shot as a campy comedy from the beginning, it just took years until anyone figured it out. Listen to some of the dialogue in the film and look at how ridiculously the characters are dressed.
What was it like to have Martin Sheen in “Marked for Murder”?
Martin’s daughter, Renee Estevez, was the lead in that film. She told me stories of how often she’d be called in to read for a part, only to have the director give her a script and ask her to pass it along to her brother Charlie Sheen. I could never afford Charlie’s salary, regardless of how he got the script. When I called Renee to read for the film, it was because I wanted her, not her brother. Martin was very protective of his only daughter, and he visited the set daily to see how things were going. He surprised me one day by asking if he could be in the film. I warned him that I knew the distributor would want to put his name in the credits, even for a small appearance, but he didn’t mind. Thing was, he only gave me five minutes to use him, and it had to be in the next scene we were shooting. I would have preferred him in Jim Mitchum’s role, but I was glad to be able to have him in the film. He’s basically a glorified extra, but it was a wonderful favor of him to do.
I noticed that oddly the only two more serious films you made “Marked for Murder” and “Mind, Body & Soul” both starred Wings Hauser. Did you ever try to get him to act in one of your comedies or was that not his style?
Wings Hauser had the highest paycheck of any actor I have ever used. He’s known for his action roles, not for comedy. I don’t think his name value would have added anything to the “Vice Academy” movies. He’s also very intimidating to work with, I was very young and he was the first real name I had ever worked with.
Any interesting stories about films that never got made or actors that almost got cast?
Wow, I’ve made 14 features, but written 40 scripts, so there are a lot of ones I really liked that never got made. “Mall Cops” was a follow-up to “Vice Academy.” It was like the girls from “Clueless” if they worked at a Valley mall doing security. Never got made, USA Network didn’t like the script. I had a comic book movie which I still think is my all time best script, just every company that read it said they couldn’t afford the effect shots the film would require. Don’t want to give the story away, I still might shoot it one day. I had one script based on the real life event of when the US military accidentally dropped an atom bomb in America; it was instantly rejected after 9/11. Distributors have a fairly good sense of knowing what will be a hit and what won’t. I didn’t listen to them and did “Mind, Body & Soul” anyway, and learned an expensive lesson. I vowed to never make that mistake again. If they say they don’t think the film would do well based on the script, I don’t make the picture. It was either for “Hobgoblins” or the very first “Vice Academy,” but I swear I think Matt LeBlanc came in and read for one of the roles. He didn’t have any real credits yet, but I could tell he intentionally read the part poorly because he didn’t like the script.
What was the reason for your eight year sabbatical from the director’s chair?
I never wanted to stop making films, just the market changed drastically by the mid-nineties. Video was dead after 1992, so I lost the biggest source of revenue on each film. Foreign distributors constantly ripped me off, so that was no longer a reliable source of income either. When USA Network was sold in 1997 and they stopped licensing my films, no one else took their place. There was no longer a demand for the type of films I made. I could have gotten into soft-core porn like most other B-directors did, but I choose not to. Because I was never a gun for hire, I retained ownership of my films, and was able to constantly re-license the old ones to new markets. “Hobgoblins” was long forgotten, til Mystery Science Theater picked it up in ’97, today it’s possibly my best known film.
What did you do during your hiatus?
I kept writing scripts, hoping I could find something for USA Network, they just weren’t buying. I rent my house out frequently as a film location. I deliberately choose an oversized house with lots of parking since I knew I’d be shooting my movies here once I moved in. I was fortunate that many other people wanted to shoot here as well. It also made me feel like I was still on set, cause I’d usually watch and throw in some unwanted advice.
Now tell us about “Hobgoblins 2,” the sequel to your 1988 film “Hobgoblins”?
I think fans will be very surprised by “Hobgoblins 2.” I tried to make it look identical to the first one, but with twenty years experience between making the two films, it wound up looking much slicker and bigger budget than I was expecting. I found actors who were look-alikes to the original cast. To me, it was like when they made the “Brady Bunch” feature, you knew who everyone was just by their looks. It’s a true sequel, painstakingly faithful to the original. McCreedy has been locked in a mental hospital for twenty years, after blowing up the movie studio and blaming it on the Hobgoblins. Kevin and his friends are now in college and their Professor introduces them to McCreedy. He warns them that they can still be attacked by the creatures if they aren’t careful. Of course, they do everything they’re warned not to, and one by one they each get revisited by the hobgoblins and have to fight for their lives. I wanted the film to look like “Grindhouse,” exactly as if it were made twenty years ago. We shot on 35mm film, no cheap video, then I dressed everyone like it was still 1987, and did all the effects in camera or optically, nothing was added digitally. The finished film really looks like it might have been made a year after the first one and never released.
What made you decide to pick that as your comeback vehicle?
After having so many scripts turned down in the past eight years, and watching “Hobgoblins” go from obscurity to Mystery Science Theater’s highest rated episode ever, I asked my agent if he thought he could sell a sequel to it. Without even writing a script, there was already interest in it. I was concerned it wasn’t going to be an easy film to make into a series, like “Vice Academy” was. It lent itself to a sequel that is much superior to the original film. To be honest, I already have the complete story for “Part 3,” and with any luck, it will go into production for 2008 release.
Did you try to get any actors from the original to make cameos?
The original McCreedy agreed to reprise his role. It was funny, he was never old enough to play McCreedy when I did the first film, he was only 55. In the flashback scene, you can see what he really looked like. It was all make-up to help him look in his seventies. Now, he’s the exact age of the character. He had some health problems at the last minute and wasn’t able to do it. The actor who plays his role looks like they could be twin brothers.
When is “Hobgoblins 2″ set for release?
It’s being shopped around right now. I was trying to have it signed with just a twenty minute promo I had cut, but my agent wanted to wait til the film was completed before showing it to anyone.
What may or may not be up next for you should “Hobgoblins 2″ perform well?
I am known for beating a dead horse repeatedly. If I made six “Vice Academy’s,” I can make endless sequels to “Hobgoblins.” As long as the characters remain incredibly stupid, there will always be new plotlines.
What do you have to say to your vitriolic bashers who spout diatribes about you and your films? Among the vituperative comments floating around are “What possesses a man to knowingly and intentionally make an awful movie? If I ever meet Rick Sloane, I’m going to punch him in the kidneys as a token of retribution for the pain he caused me.” I get annoyed reading this kind of crap about you. I mean these people must be pretty stupid if they honestly think you set out to make the next “Gone with the Wind” and accidentally ended up with “Hobgoblins” and “Vice Academy.” Now is your chance to take a return verbal swing. What do you have to say to them?
I just wish they’d come up with something original to say, instead of endlessly quoting MST3K’s jokes over and over. It’s funny, for everyone who really hated the film, they always manage to write a ten page synopsis of the story. With the high ratings the film got on TV, it means they must have watched it over and over to get every story detail. They’re the ones that made the film famous and the sequel possible. It’s funny, when I don’t like a film; I turn it off in five minutes and don’t bother watching the whole thing. I’ve always liked really bad films like “Robot Monster” and “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” when I was a teenager, so I know where they’re coming from. A truly bad film is immensely entertaining, just not for the right reasons. I was really young when I made “Hobgoblins,” and had no budget to speak of. I cringed at how bad the puppets looked when I was shooting the film, I hoped adding their voices in post would help, it didn’t. When “Hobgoblins” was released in 1988, it sold very well, especially overseas. It was my first hit film; it made me a working director. Charlie Band offered me a ten picture deal at Empire when he saw it, but the pay was too low, and I already had “Vice Academy” in production.
I must say counteracting these comments are also ones that are in strong support of you and “Hobgoblins 2.” A message for your fans?
I think “Hobgoblins 2″ is one of my all-time best films. It’s full of inside jokes and has a great plot and the puppets are in about half the film this time. The sequel lends itself to multiple viewing, I think fans will love it, and so will everyone who says they hated the first one. I think the curiosity level alone will be hard for many people to resist. It’s like if they found Ed Wood’s sequel to “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” people would line up to see it, I don’t know if Mystery Science Theater is returning, which is too bad, this film would be so perfect for them. It was a long wait to get the film made, but it was worth it.
Posted on October 12, 2007 in Interviews by Daniel Bernardi
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