The “Phantasm” series is pretty much a catalogue of primal fears. Why have they been so successful and popular?
Well, number one, it’s all about that paradigm of things beyond your control. Obviously that’s the basic premise. And I think it’s gotten scarier as we go. It’s really interesting because a lot of horror series – and I don’t want to name names – but in talking to people, a lot of series of films that have come through the years, sequels and stuff, they say, “Oh, I really liked 1 and 3, but 2 sucked or 4 was bad . . .” But, if something can continue to get creepier and scarier . . . For example, in “Phantasm IV” when Michael (Michael Baldwin) lands out in the desert and he sees all those portals, the chromium posts, and there’s tons of them out there. How can you be sure that the portal you go through will be the one that puts you in your correct time or place? You could get lost out there and most likely, you’re already lost. In the “Phantasm” paradigm (the main characters) are lost. Lost in space, time and dimension trying to figure it out. And here’s Reg in the last picture leaping through this portal in hopes he’ll be able to stop Michael from dying in that time frame. But where’s he going? Does he know? No. It’s all guts and balls. You’ve gotta love that. But, the idea of moments out of time and not really being able to call the shot on where you might end up. I think that’s kind of scary. The uncertainty of the unknown is always a scary thing. And I think that maybe because the story is a fairly nonlinear one and things can happen that you can’t explain and you find yourself in places that you don’t understand. I think the “Phantasm” series has that atmosphere and has carried it through every sequel from the first one until now.

The Reggie character is very popular with fans. Why do people like him and identify with him so much?
Reggie is every man’s man. It’s an easy call as to why everyone digs him because he certainly didn’t sign on for all that’s happened to him. In the first movie, he was just an ice cream man. He just wanted to hang out in a small town, play music with his friends, sell ice cream to the kids and be in his small town community thing. He just wanted to kick back and love life. And all of a sudden he’s thrown into the mayhem that’s brought on by the Tall Man. By the second picture, Mike’s still trying to convince him that they’ve got to join together and go after this dude and stop this thing that’s going on in the world and he can’t buy into it until his family gets blown up. Then it’s “no more Mr. Nice Guy.”

It’s very similar to me being conscripted into the army. In 1966, I was drafted. I was in a very popular musical group (The Greenwood County Singers) at the time. We were in Lake Tahoe playing with Andy Griffith and I got my draft notice. Once I realized that I was going to end up in Vietnam, I just went, “Dude, you’d better hunker down and be the best soldier you can be.” Originally, I used that feeling of being trapped into survival and being put on a mission that was certainly no part of my life. Hell, I was a musician. I was an actor. And now you throw this automatic weapon at me and tell me I’m a soldier. Wow. I know that’s what I used to recreate Reggie in the “Phantasm” series. Reggie had to get serious. He had to take life if necessary. He had to be willing to go through the gates of hell and throw himself on the flames of hell for his friends. So that’s how Reggie grew into the character he is from part 1 to 4. And by “OblIVion,” he’s totally down with it.

Where does the real Reggie Bannister begin and the onscreen, “Phantasm” Reggie end?
Reggie is a caricature of me. So, if you know me, it’s really easy to see the things that are part of me in Reggie. As an actor, I can only be me portraying somebody else. The character of Reggie really is a characterization of myself. So, where does he end and where does he begin? He’s kind of an overt Reggie Bannister. I can relate to a lot of stuff that goes on with Reggie. He’s a horndog. That’s for sure. But it gets hard on the road (laughs). No one can ever accuse me of not liking the ladies. I can see those feelings that I have for my wife, Gigi kind of manifesting in Reg as he’s always trying to get laid. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Then there’s his loyalty. I’m a very loyal person. He’s a nice guy. I like to think that I’m a pretty nice guy. I’m tolerant. I grew up in the ‘60s. I took a lot of consciousness expanding drugs – I don’t feel bad about saying that because it’s like looking over the garden wall, man. I gained a lot of truth out of the ‘60s and I try to apply it to my life in everything I do today, and in that way I think the Reg character is a bit like me as well.

One of the great and often overlooked elements of the “Phantasm” movies is that, when you strip away the horror elements, they’re about family. You really get the feeling that, behind the scenes, these guys really like each other and are 100% behind what they’re doing.
Yeah, and I must say that when we get together to do one of these things, it is like a family. And even some of the folks behind the scenes who’ve come on over the years have started off as huge “phans.”

One more “Phantasm 5″ question. Will the next film continue with the style of “OblIVion,” which hearkened back to the first Phantasm as almost a mood piece rather than an action-oriented-balls-out-Reggie-kicking-the-hell-out-of-dwarves thing?
I like action, I really do. And I like atmosphere. I think Don’s got a fresh look at the series and I think it’s time for a fresh look at “Phantasm.” The world has changed dramatically since we made the fourth one. I think we need to look at the environment that we’re in and the culture and how humanity sees itself right now and we have to relate to that stuff. We need to “refresh the screen” with a new splash of a “Phantasm” that will certainly stand on its own and hopefully continue the great feeling everybody gets from “Phantasm.” The fans feel like they own it. If I can make somebody feel the same way about a movie as I feel – like I own it, that’s great. I think most “Phantasm” fans feel pretty prideful in the fact that they own this film. That’s a good thing and that’s a great feeling.

Visit Reggie at his official website.

Posted on March 4, 2004 in Interviews by

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