This Friday sees the release of director Rob Zombie’s sixth film, The Lords of Salem. Having seen the film at its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September, I can tell you that, in my opinion, Lords is Zombie’s greatest achievement yet. You can read our review here to get an idea.
I make no bones about being a huge Rob Zombie fan, so you can imagine my excitement when I had the chance to talk to the director about his latest film, the creative process, his music and much more. On the phone, Zombie is a friendly, welcoming guy to talk to. You can tell that not only is he a creator, he’s also a fan of pop culture in all its various forms. He’s also given Biff Bam Pop a lot of support over the last year, putting our interview with Lords actor Dee Wallace on his own homepage. On that note, check out the trailer for The Lords of Salem and then jump right into the first part of our interview with the one and only Rob Zombie.
Andy Burns: I was at the premier of Lords of Salem in Toronto and as a guy that’s a big fan of yours, I was pretty eager to see what you’d come up with. So I’m wondering, when your film is screened for the first time, do you get excited at all? I always kind of view you as a pretty laid back guy. Do you get nervous?
Rob Zombie: I don’t get sort of anything. I don’t get excited or anything. I mean, I want people to see it, obviously. I wouldn’t make it if I didn’t. But I don’t get excited like, I can’t wait to show it. And I don’t really get nervous, like “oh, what if people don’t like it”. You just kind of show it and see where it goes.
Andy Burns: It kind of is what it is, eh?
Rob Zombie: It is what it is. I think if I was newer to this I would have a different reaction. But now this is my sixth movie, plus all the music I’ve done, I’ve gotten used to the fact that it doesn’t matter. Everybody has a different opinion, everybody’s opinions change. I find it funny. With House of 1000 Corpses, the first movie I did, now that movie is beloved, everybody loves it. “I love that movie, that’s the best one.” When that movie came out, everyone hated it. Hated it! Like it was the worst film they’d ever seen. Now everyone loves it! That’s why it doesn’t matter. Same thing with people who say, “you should get back together with White Zombie, those records kick ass.” Really? Cause back then everyone just fuckin’ hated them! So it’s just like, time changes everything. I figure, no matter what goes on, it doesn’t matter.
Andy Burns: You know, I’ve been watching your films since House Of 1000 Corpses, and after watching Lords of Salem I just sat there and thought, “this is the best film he’s ever done.” For many different reasons. One of them is that I thought that this is you, no holds barred, your full on vision. I had spoken to you a couple years ago around the time that Hellbilly Deluxe 2 had come out, and you were pretty upfront that there had been meddling going on with the Halloween films. I thought at the end of Lords of Salem that this was your vision, this was your art, no compromise. Is that a safe assumption? You’re in control – do what you want, how you want it?
Rob Zombie: Yeah, it completely was. The films are always kind of like that, in a sense. Theyre all different. Corpses was like that. There was no meddling, but there was no support. That one was just crazy, chaos. Devil’s Rejects was like that. Totally pure. That was what I wanted to do. No one changed anything, no one meddled. One hundred percent. When that one was done, it was one hundred percent what I wanted to do. Both Halloweens were nonstop meddling and fighting, all day long, every single day, on both movies, to a point where you kind of feel like you’re losing your mind. It’s a really hard thing to explain unless you’ve been there, but it’s kind of like, you build a sand castle and every five seconds a wave destroys it. And every five seconds someone says “where’s the sand castle?” You just destroyed it! And that goes on month after month and you’re losing your mind. So with both of those movies, I don’t even know how I feel since they were both such miserable experiences to make. Funny thing, same with the cast. When we wrapped both those movies, the cast would come over and say, “Rob, I love you, but I’ve got to get out of here.” They were both really hard. There’s the parametres that it’s Halloween, it’s Michael Myers, you’re sort of locked into some expectations that people have.
Lords of Salem is the first time I felt like I had a situation where even when the producers were like “we hate that, you have to take it out”, I’m like “sorry, I love it and I have final cut, so fuck it.” That’s the one thing I did feel when I was in Toronto watching the movie. This movie is a movie that normally nobody would let be made. Especially when you get to the ending.
Andy Burns: Oh yeah.
Rob Zombie: Especially from the studio. “What are you doing, this is insanity.” And that gave me some really good satisfaction because I love movies like that. So many of my favourite movies I watched growing up were movies that you can’t believe got made. And maybe the person who made them never worked again, but they’re great movies. So many movies now, I watch and I feel like I’ve seen them before or they’re so safe. I’m like, whatever. You don’t go watch Eraserhead and then go, “let’s go watch every movie like Eraserhead!” There is no other movie like Eraserhead! Or “I like Rocky Horror, let’s go watch the other Rocky Horror type movies.” There are no other movies like Rocky Horror. And that’s the nature of why cult movies became what they are, because (people) formed a cult around these unique movies, and those are the movies I love.
Andy Burns: I think that’s what it’s going to be with Lords, man. And as you said, those last twenty minutes, I remember, it just blew my mind. It’s exactly like you said. I’ve never seen anything like what you put up on the screen in the last twenty minutes. It was pretty spectacular. That’s why I thought that this was pure, unadulterated Rob.
Rob Zombie: That’s what I love about it. You love it, and that’s awesome, because it makes me feel like I’m not completely crazy, because other people love it. Then I’ll read a review and they say “the first half of the movie is perfect, it’s the second half that lost me.” And I’m like, the second half? That’s the good part! I mean, I like the whole movie, but I feel like each reel gets more exciting for me. But then, it is what it is. I feel like with Lords of Salem, someone could watch and hate and then watch it again in five years and go, “I love this movie.” It’s weird. Movies are just like that. The only thing in Toronto that I felt being in the theatre….a lot of directors I know sneak into the theatres and watch the movies with the crowds. I never do that. But I felt that when the movie started, for the first fifteen minutes the crowd was reacting as if they thought knew what they were going to watch.
Andy Burns: Right.
Rob Zombie: They thought they were watching a movie that was like Evil Dead or something. “Oh, we’re gonna laugh at stuff. We’re gonna hoot and holler cuz it’s gonna be wacky and crazy.” And they kept doing stuff that seemed like…that’s inappropriate. I feel after about fifteen minutes people sunk into their seats and were actually watching the movie that was playing, not the movie they thought was going to be playing. And that felt good. It felt like people were paying attention and getting it. Or not getting it, but at least were excepting it for what it was.
Andy Burns: I totally agree with you. I remember being in the crowd and thinking about it, because there was a little bit of laughter as people were trying to figure out what it was. And I wondered what you were going to think about it, and then pou get fifteen, twenty minutes into it and you realize that, oh, there’s nothing to laugh at here.
I did want to ask you, because you mentioned Eraserhead, and I’m a huge David Lynch fan, and one of the things I dug about Lords of Salem is, I thought you did some really cool long shots that I thought were Stanley Kubrick-like or very David Lynch-like. Is it safe to say you go inspiration from those guys or was it just the right style for the right scene?
Rob Zombie: You kind of take inspiration from everything. It was specifically any David Lynch movie or anything. I knew I wanted to do the opposite style of what I would naturally do.
Andy Burns: Oh, interesting.
Rob Zombie: With Halloween 2, I love the way that movie looks. Love it. Devil’s Rejects, I love how it looks. I love that sort of really rough, handheld, grainy look. I’m drawn to that. I could have easily shot this movie that way, but I wanted to do the exact opposite. I wanted very wide-open, grand cinematography where the camera hardly moves at all. It’s a little stagey and weird on purpose; awkward. I wanted to do something I don’t usually do. That way, as each reel unfolds, you’re like, is the movie surreal or am I just thinking it feels surreal? It does feel like a David Lynch thing. You watch his movies and it’s like, nothing weird is happening, why does it feel weird? Why are these two guys talking in a diner? Nothing weird is going on. I kind of wanted that to set in, where you’re watching a totally normal scene but it just gets more and more surreal until you watch and think, is this in her head? What’s happening? Is she on drugs? She’s not on drugs? And I like that feeling of not quite knowning.
Andy Burns: I thought Sheri was amazing in Lords of Salem. Did you always envision her in the role of Heidi? Did you bounce the script off her of her or do you just kind of keep it to yourself until your done and say, hey, I’ve got a part for you?
Rob Zombie: I always wanted Sheri to play Heidi. That I always knew. She’ll probably see the script before anybody else, obviously. But I don’t give it to her extra early because I feel like it’s confusing to her, because it’s going to change. It’s almost unfair to give it to her, she starts wrapping her head around a certain way it’s going to go and then I change it. With other actors who won’t come on board for six months or so, they don’t have to deal with that. So she doesn’t really see it until I feel that this is the script. Not that it would change every single day, but she’s suffering through that along with the other actors.
Check back tomorrow for the second part of our exclusive interview with Rob Zombie!