When you talk about legendary directors, it’s no stretch to put John Landis in that category. Let me just run down a few of the classic films he’s given us – National Lampoon’s Animal House. The Blue Brothers. An American Werewolf In London. Trading Places. Spies Like Us. Three Amigos. Coming To America. It’s a pretty amazing cv, isn’t it? This is the man who directed Thriller, the greatest music video of all time. Hell, he even co-wrote Clue, which is one of the most beloved films of the 80s.
A few years ago, John Landis added author to his list of credits with Monsters In The Movies, a gorgeous DK coffee table book that delivers what’s on the cover. I’d been hoping to talk to him about the book, his movies and the horror genre, and I’m happy to say, the interview finally came to pass, thanks to the folks at DK and the Toronto International Film Festival, who are putting on Toga! The Reinvention of American Comedy, a monthlong film fest which includes among its featured directors, John Landis. It’s all worked out so nicely. Let me preface our chat by saying that, of all the interviews I’ve done on our site, this was the most freewheeling, and in many ways, the most fun.
So, without further adieu, check out our interview with the one and only John Landis.
Andy Burns: I’ve been waiting to talk you about Monsters In The Movies for a few years now, since DK sent it to me, so thank you for taking the time. First of all, how did you wind up writing the book. It’s a gorgeous book.
John Landis: I was in London making a movie, and in the U.K., An American Werewolf In London is a big movie. It’s like being in Chicago with The Blue Brothers. When you’ve made a lot of movies, certain movies have more resonance in certain countries. I was approached by four different publishers asking me to write a book about horror films. And I thought, “gee, I don’t want to”(laughs). But they were offering me money. Then, totally coincidentally, I met a woman named Loretta Dives who runs with her husband The Kobal Collection, which is the largest collection of motion picture photography in the world, and she asked me if I wanted to do a picture book. And I didn’t want to write a book about horror films, but the monsters themselves are so interesting visually that I thought that would make a fun book. She said, “Great, let’s do that”, and she went to several publishers, and we chose DK mainly because of the quality of their books.
It took about three months. I was doing other things too, but the writing of it went rather smoothly. I mean, it’s written in a conversational tone. I wrote the chapters, and then I thought that I wanted to hear from important and influential people in the monster world. So the ones who were in the book – Rick Baker, Ray Harryhausen, who sadly just passed, Christopher Lee, Sam Raimi, Guillermo Del Toro, Joe Dante, John Carpneter – they’re all friends of mine. I’ve known all those guys for 35, 40 years, so I did these conversations where I sat with them and recorded it. I enjoyed those, but unfortunately because of the limitations of the book ,I had to heavily edit them, because they were quite lengthy. The two most interesting things about them were that, they’re old friends, so they can’t bullshit me. I can challenge them. And two – I think they all had really interesting and insightful things to say.
Biff Bam Pop Exclusive Interview: Andy Burns Talks To Girls Against Boys Writer/Director Austin Chick
Last I reviewed the strong new revenge film, Girls Against Boys, which I was hugely impressed with. It tells the story of Shae (Danielle Panabaker), who over the course of a few hours is the victim of some very bad men. Her new friend Lu (Nicole LaLiberte) takes Shae on a vengeance filled day, before revealing she may be just as bad as the men they take down.
I was very lucky to be able to talk to director Austin Chick via email about his film, working with Panabaker and LaLiberte, the origins of the story and much more. There are some spoilers, so tread with caution.
Austin Chick: Thanks Andy. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it.
I wish I had a simple answer for you but I don’t. I guess the idea for the movie started with the character of Shae. I arrived in NY when I was seventeen and I’ve known dozens of women like Shae over the years. Young, perhaps a bit naive, but desperately wanting to be seen as mature, sophisticated, independent. There was a period in the ’90s where I spent a lot of time in and around the fashion industry and watching what happened to some of the young models – both girls and boys, often in their teens, totally on their own but desperate to fit in – I was fascinated and horrified by how some of those stories evolved. GIRLS AGAINST BOYS isn’t about the fashion industry but exploitation is everywhere. The feeling of wanting to lash out after having been wronged somehow – taken advantage of, fucked over, lied to, whatever – that’s a pretty universal feeling and revenge movies tap into our own violent fantasies. But I wanted to explore the repercussions of vengeance on the person who chooses that route. We all get victimized or fucked over at some point in our lives but how we deal with that is what shapes us as people. I see this as a parable about the loss of innocence.
Andy Burns: Can you go a little into the writing process? How long did it take to write the script?
Austin Chick: I had the idea for this movie a very long time ago. I think it was as early as ’04 or ’05. I wrote an outline and started writing the script but somewhere around the middle the violence began to get to me. I’d never done anything with this kind of graphic physical violence and I felt like it was a movie I’d like to see but I wasn’t sure I was prepared to live with it day in and day out for a year or more which is what you need to do when you are making a movie. So I put it aside and ended up working on a couple of other projects and it wasn’t until a few years later that I came back to the unfinished draft and reread it. I still found the ideas interesting and decided to finish it. So to answer your question, I wrote the first draft in two sessions, probably a week or two each, but with several years in between, and it was a few more years until I decided to try to make it.
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The name Quentin Tarantino has become synonymous with film lover’s wet dreams – producing sometimes-obscure reaching films that look like a mess from the outside, but really pay homage to some of the best genres and films styles of days gone past. Django Unchained is yet another of these movies that turns the Italian spaghetti Western on its head.
Check out the trailer and then read my review after the jump!
Yesterday we lost one of the greats in film, undeniably one of the giants in the action film genre, director Tony Scott. The British born younger brother of director Ridley Scott, Tony Scott was 68, and jumped to his death from the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles. A suicide note was left, and sources say that Scott had been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. His frenetic quick cut directing style has been credited with making the action film what it is today.
Scott broke through in 1983 with the erotic vampire flick, The Hunger, taking his cues from the literature of Anne Rice to create a new type of vampire. Rice wouldn’t make it to the screen for decades, so Scott brought her style to the screen with this. In a day when vampires are a dime a dozen, he reinvigorated the concept with the erotica that was inherent in the genre’s source material. Much of our current vamp ideas owe a debt to this film’s realization.
It’s another edition of our Biff Bam Popcast! As we get ready for Fan Expo Canada, our panel will discuss the films of the great director John Carpenter, who will appearing at Rue Morgue’s Festival of Fear August 23-26 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Find out what Carpenter films are our faves and which ones we find lacking. The popcast kicks off at approximately 10pm with JP Fallavollita, Glenn Walker, Corina Newby, Andy Burns and our special guest, Alex West of Scare Tactic and a Rue Morgue contributing writer. Watch us live at 10pm right here, or catch it on demand after 10:30pm!