Moving away from the real life horrors and into the celluloid ones . . . Bubba Ho-Tep has been doing very well in the markets where it’s been available and getting raves from both fans and critics. Will it be getting a wider theatrical distribution?
Bubba’s been out in the theatres for about ten weeks. For about four weeks it was running second in the box office. Of course that market is very fluid and can change quite a bit. But any time when you’ve got a film out working and expanding its presence in the theatrical market, then you’ve got to be pretty happy about that. In terms of distribution, right now it’s being distributed by Vitagraph, which is a small company. So if someone comes along and says, “Hey, I think this should be in wider distribution” that’s gonna be great and, hopefully, that will happen. We don’t have the kind of money that folks like the producers of My Big Fat Greek Wedding had to throw at the picture on the promotion side of it. Everyone goes, “Wow! My Big Fat Greek Wedding! That was independent film and that’s really great! And it only cost $5 million to make!”

Only half as much as the original “Star Wars.”
Yeah, that’s low budget these days. I think the most we ever had on a “Phantasm” film was on “Phantasm II” and we had a little over $4 million because Universal stepped in. Throw $5 million at Don Coscarelli and let’s see what we can come up with! But once you put a $5 million movie into the independent, limited theatrical release thing and your names are Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson who own the production company that produced it . . . They had to have thrown $15 million into advertising. Every time I turned on the TV I saw “My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the biggest movie in America.” I hope I’m not pissing anyone off! But I’m just saying that there’s almost no relationship between that and Bubba Ho-Tep. I don’t know how much Don spent. I’m sure it was probably well under a million. And he put his money where his creative juices are and really pushed this thing to the max. So, there’s been a lot of love and “Taking Care of Business” on this thing. Hopefully, it will get a wider release. If it doesn’t, boy, it sure made a difference to independent film in my estimation.

How has the landscape of independent film changed since the first “Phantasm” (shot in 1978) to 2003’s Bubba Ho-Tep?
It’s gotten harder. Back in the 1970s if you were able to actually complete a film, distributors were willing to look at it. Don’s first film, “Jim, the World’s Greatest,” his very first film, was distributed by Universal. The second one, “Kenny and Company” was Avco-Embassy, I think. And, for sure, “Phantasm” was Avco-Embassy. They all had theatrical releases. So, now because there’s so much independent film and distributors are so unwilling to look at anything that has a budget less than $5 million – and that estimate’s probably going up to $10 million shortly – by necessity, the independent film market has been created with the formula of the limited release. If you can get your picture into a couple of theaters and it makes enough money then you can get enough money to make some more prints. The independent market has spawned so many film festivals. On the negative side of that, the large distributors, always looking for the chance to rape a market, have disguised their films as independent films. I’ve mentioned one to you.

When Bubba Ho-Tep opened, the first weekend we came in second to the independent film, “Scarface,” which is just totally laughable. That was a $20 million dollar film in nineteen-eighty-something. Basically, the distributor was using the independent film market to promote the DVD that they wanted to bring out.

Will the critical and financial success of Bubba Ho-Tep aid Don Coscarelli in jumpstarting the long awaited 5th installment of the “Phantasm” series?
Yes, I think it will. Don’s talked to me about getting together in the first quarter of 2004 to mount that production. He’s got some great ideas and I think we’re going to do it and I think it will make it much easier for him riding the success of Bubba. Again, when everybody gets to see Bubba, and hopefully everyone who reads this interview will get to see Bubba on the big screen, you won’t believe Bruce Campbell’s performance (as an elderly Elvis). Wow . . . and Ossie Davis. The ensemble performance is wonderful, as well. Everybody’s great in it. I was happy with my stuff. But when you see Ossie and Bruce. . . They should get Oscars for their performances. I’m serious.

For fans who just know you as Reggie from the “Phantasm” films, your role in Bubba Ho-Tep is a bit of a departure for you.
Yeah, I love these little jewels that get thrown at me from time to time. I really enjoyed my part as the rest home administrator. I got to use a little dialect because it takes place in an east Texas rest home and that was fun. It was fun working with Bruce Campbell and we get along very well. He’s just a pro and of course just being in the same movie with Ossie Davis is more than most actors can ever hope for.

The interview continues in part four of REGGIE BANISTER: HOT AS LOVE>>>

Posted on March 4, 2004 in Interviews by

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