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.
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The latest episode of South Park helps to explain a phenomenon I’ve never personally understood: the ongoing obsession with musical theatre. I’d say Trey Parker’s well qualified to enlighten us… he’s won 9 Tonys. But more importantly, I learned why so many men put up with taking their women to musicals; the magic of subtext!
Starring my favourite adult South Park character Randy Marsh, Broadway Bro Down pits him against some of the most hardcore musical composers in the industry; and also reveals that despite recent events, Randy and Sharon’s marriage is stronger than ever… thanks to blow jobs. Oh, and vegans suck.