Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Conversation with Writer-Director Don Mancini Pt 2: FILM CRITICISM, THE STATE OF HORROR, THE MOVIES OF 2007 (so far) AND WHAT'S COMING NEXT...

Before we get started, a quick report on the Seed of Chucky screening at the Egyptian on October 30, which was a grand time indeed. I got to meet a few folks I’d never met before, including SLIFR reader and proprietor of the fine blog Forward to Yesterday Bob Westal. Bob and I, it turns out, have a mutual friend, and we really enjoyed talking about old Hollywood movie theaters and adventures in the blogosphere. (I’d forgotten about Bob’s aversion to gore, but he confided afterward that he had such a good time with the movie that it was barely an issue.) Even my supervisor from work showed up, accompanied by her very own Tiffany doll housed in a vintage violin case, which Jennifer Tilly kindly signed for her!

Three's company: Jennifer, Tiffany and Kimberly after the movie

I attended the screening with an old friend, who happened to be a graduate teaching assistant in many of my film classes back at Oregon in the late ‘70s. Until about a month ago, we hadn’t seen each other for about 25 years, and as the movie was about to begin I got that old feeling of being intimidated by someone you know is smarter than you who is sitting next to you and waiting to see what the big deal is about this movie you seem to like so much. Well, it only took the first few frames of the credit sequence for Seed of Chucky, which documents the travel of Chucky’s little swimmers down the path to fertilization, followed, of course, by the eventual development of the plastic starchild fetus that will become little Glen/Glenda, to send her into paroxysms of laughter. Which was, of course, the proper response. And she stayed in stitches throughout, as did the entirety of the very appreciative audience that gathered that night, which made for a very delightful screening indeed.

Left to right, Mike Werb, Guy Louthan, Jennifer Tilly, Don Mancini

Don and Jennifer Tilly were there, along with producer Guy Louthan and moderator Mike Werb, and the foursome made for a very entertaining Q & A. Miss Tilly is as bigger-than-life in person as she is on screen—gorgeous and funny and clearly enjoying her place as the big star in the Chucky firmament. The banter onstage between Don and Miss Tilly was very reminiscent of their terrific audio commentaries on the Bride and Seed DVDs. And it was very nice to see Don have his moment with this movie with an audience that really got it and enjoyed it. I’d never seen it on the big screen before myself, and as I said to Don during the Q&A, coupled with the fact that I’ve liked the movie more and more each time I see it, seeing it on the big screen played up for me how sophisticated it actually is as a piece of filmmaking, especially compared to many of its Jason/Michael/Freddy-populated contemporaries. I came away from the Egyptian convinced that Seed of Chucky is just too smart to not someday get its due. (Click on the display case photo for a much bigger, better look at the Egyptian's bloody good one-sheet display.) I think the movie is ripe for rediscovery— or in this case, just plain old discovery, considering the frosty shoulder given to it by critics and audiences, who have up till now received the bad reviews and accepted wisdom about the prospect of a fifth Chucky movie being a piece of shit as gospel. Well, over the course of the many times I’ve seen it since my own semi-thumbs-up review a couple of years ago, I have come to see the light-- Seed of Chucky is, no qualifications, a terrific horror comedy, and it bodes well for things to come from its creator. Speaking of whom, here it is, ladies and gentlemen, only about four days late—part two of my lunchtime chat with writer-director Don Mancini, the father of Chucky the killer doll. We start with some thoughts on criticism, move on to a discussion of horror movies in 2007, head on toward a look at some of Don’s favorite movies of 2007 so far, and then talk about a couple of fascinating projects coming up from the Eyegore award winner. (If that reference escapes you, go directly back to part one and read it before diving into the deep end below.) Enjoy!

Jennifer Tilly signs Seed of Chucky memorabilia (while the popcorn guy pretends not to notice) at the Egyptian Theater Tuesday night.

(All photos of the Egyptian screening, with the exception of the shot of the one-sheet display case, come courtesy of Ken Braasch. Thanks, Ken!)


DC: One of the things that I’ve always been impressed with in talking to you is the way you deal with criticism. It’s hard to imagine being as open-minded to the negative things that people say about your own work as you seem to be. In that light, do you think you’re your own worst critic?

DM: That’s a nice, flattering way of putting it. Yes, I like the sound of that. (Laughing) Part of it is, as you know—this is one of the ways we became friends. I am really, really interested in film criticism. I read a lot of film criticism, I think probably more than most filmmakers. And it’s not just of my own stuff. I’m just very, very interested—always have been, since I was a kid. So I think there’s a part of me that is still this green, wide-eyed kid from Virginia who—“Oh, my God! I was panned by Kevin Thomas in the Los Angeles Times! Cool! I’m part of the club!” There’s a part of me that responds to it that way. It’s kind of like Steve Martin’s character in The Jerk-- “The new phones books are here! Look! I’m in the phone book!” But it’s also that I’m arrogant enough to think that sometimes people are just wrong! (Laughing).

DC: Why not? There’s room for that.

DM: “They don’t like my movie? Oh, they’re just stupid!” (Continues Laughing). Even your initial review of Seed of Chucky was not, by any means, a rave. But it was sort of— How do I describe that review? I thought it was intelligent, for one thing. It’s very easy to condescend to this kind of movie. I mean, it’s not much of a surprise if the fifth in the Chucky series gets bad reviews. Bride of Chucky got a lot of bad reviews too—better than Seed, however. Your review was sort of lukewarm, but you appreciated things about it and you found it funny, and I really do think—I look at that movie, and it makes laugh. It still makes me laugh. It’s got its problems, but it’s funny.

DC: That’s one of the things that has made my estimation of it rise in the last year or so. Every time I do look at it, it gets funnier and funnier. And the thing about my first review is, I took that as evidence that the movie wasn’t working— “No, no, it’s too funny. It’s not scary enough.” Well, it certainly seems clear enough, and it should have then, that that was the intention. It’s not like an Ed Wood movie, where the laughs are rooted in the movie’s sincere incompetence. I think a lot of people come to this movie looking for reasons not to like it—“I gotta be smarter than a movie about a killer doll, right?”

DM: I definitely wanted it to be funny. I think I wanted it to be—I hesitate to say the word “scary,” because the context of that movie is very deliberately silly and stylized and cartoony. The leads are a trio of dolls, a doll family. And then your human lead is Jennifer Tilly playing “herself,” and she’s very stylized by nature. Placed in that context, how scary can it really be? I did try, the various set pieces, to do what you do in these movies where you set up expectation and then try to subvert it. I certainly could have been more successful in that regard. But then again, I was a first-time director making a movie in Romania, for God’s sake. And making a movie with puppets. Puppets are really difficult. It’s very slow, tedious work.

DC: That’s made clear enough from the bonus material on the DVD. How difficult was it to maintain focused on the big picture in this situation?

Mancini (right) on the set of Seed of Chucky with special effects supervisor Tony Gardner

DM: It was tough. It’s very complicated trying to coordinate performances from the puppets. And the last thing you want to have to worry about is whether, on take 15 of a two-shot of Tiffany and Chucky, when you’ve finally got the performances right, you’re going to lose the shot because you lost camera focus. Because you’re dealing with puppets, you can’t move the camera as much as you might want, and that’s definitely one of the things that I found frustrating. As far as my own aesthetic taste as a filmmaker and a filmgoer, and certainly in the realm of suspense, I like camera movement. The reality of working with puppets really limits that, and I think that’s something that hurts the movie as well. But I do think it’s funny—it amuses me. I’m sure I’m not the only one who goes on IMDb to see what people say, and there was one reviewer that hated the movie and said, “This seems to be a joke that only Don Mancini and Jennifer Tilly are getting.” And I was, like, well, yeah, I can live with that, because it was a movie that was kind of conceived in that way. I first proposed what I wanted to do with it to Jennifer and we immediately started giggling and said, “Can we possibly get a studio to give us $10 million to do this? Tee-hee!” And we did!

DC: In the years since the movie came out, I’ve talked to several film critics and serious moviegoers who really seem to have an affinity for it and I always wonder, where were these voices when the movie was released? The received wisdom about a movie like this gets set in stone pretty quickly, so it’s fun to discover, years later, how many people actually like it.

DM: It’s great to come across that— it’s how I met you, of course. It’s great to read someone who’s obviously intelligent, who writes intelligently about film, even if they didn’t entirely love the movie, who will talk about it in that same way. And I do console myself that there are a number of critics that I really admire that did say some good things about the movie. So maybe my career isn’t over!

DC: What kind of stuff did you watch when you were a kid? Were you mainly into horror movies, or were you soaking up everything you could get your hands on?

DM: I did love horror movies from a very early age. As a little, little kid I loved Dark Shadows on television. To give you an idea of how little, I learned the word “shadow” from watching that show, so I must have been only three or four. I was just naturally drawn to the genre. The first R-rated movie I ever saw—my dad brought me, when I was 13, I guess, to see The Omen, which I loved. And having been raised Catholic, it kind of resonated. And as a fellow De Palma fan, you know—I was very into the early films of Brian De Palma-- Carrie, Obsession, the Fury, Dressed to Kill.

DC: One of my favorite moviegoing experiences was seeing Carrie and Dressed to Kill with you last year.

DM: That was so much fun! Did you know there’s going to be a screening of Carrie in New York next week that both De Palma and Amy Irving are going to attend?

DC: Oh, God…

DM: I know. Wouldn’t that be great?

DC: Yeah, that kinda would be great. There was just something about seeing those movies on the big screen. It had been at least 15-20 years since I’d seen Dressed to Kill like that. And having gotten used to seeing it on DVD—

DM: It does make a huge difference to have that mass experience, especially in that genre. I think if I had to name one movie—It’s always hard to choose one, but if I had to name my favorite horror movie, it would be Carrie.

DC: And what’s interesting, in the way the movie is structured, it doesn’t even function as a horror movie in the traditional sense. The first two-thirds of the movie are about horrible things the character endures, and certain imagery De Palma uses isn’t intrinsically horrific, but he definitely locates the horror in it. It’s a great sustained, agonizing exercise in audience empathy.

DM: In a lot of ways, it’s a tragedy. It is horrifying.

DC: We used to watch a local weekend horror movie show out of Portland, Oregon, called Sinister Cinema, which is where, in addition to Famous Monsters of Filmland, I ended up getting exposed to a lot of classic horror films. Did you have anything similar growing up in Virginia?

DM: We had something called Shock Theater. I certainly caught up with a lot of old horror movies on that show. But I was also really into disaster movies, as you know. (Laughs). In fact, on the way over here I was listening to my Poseidon soundtrack, and it’s not even a good score!

DC: You’re talking about the Wolfgang Petersen remake? I don’t even know who wrote that score.

DM: Klaus Badelt!

DC: Of course.

DM: I was driving somewhere with a friend recently and I brought my Hairspray CD and put it in her player, and it just wouldn’t spit it back out. So Poseidon was only a substitute. I have been primarily driving around listening to Hairspray for the last two months, as you know.

DC: What’s at the top of your list for the year?

DM: Definitely Hairspray. That’s my favorite of the year so far. Loved 3:20 to Yuma.

DC: I did not expect to like that movie as much as I did.

DM: Me either.

DC: Here we go with another remake, right? It’s almost exactly the same set-up and structure, but it manages to have a completely different feel to it. I think the director and writers did a very smart job of rethinking it as an action movie without violating the spirit of what made the story good in the first place—it’s an interior character piece unfolding in the great genre of the exterior.

DM: It’s a great script, really good cast, really well directed. One of the really smart things about that movie was the way that assault on the stagecoach was staged with such a modern sensibility. Everything about the look of it was very true to the classic elements of the western, but the way it was shot, especially with the stunt of the stagecoach overturning was very much—What they must have said was, “We’re gonna do this like a modern-day car chase.” And it was exciting like that, as were many of the action sequences. They very obviously decided, “We’re making a traditional western, we know what that means, but we want to bring something modern to it because audiences are going to demand it.” I had not seen the original, and I really want to now, but it’s such a great, simple, mythic story which is really about the battle over the kid’s soul between these two men, and that’s so satisfying. I’ve seen it three times now, and the ending moves me to tears every time. I certainly didn’t expect that. I also loved Grindhouse.

DC: Have you seen the extended version of Death Proof yet?

DM: Not yet. Is it good?

DC: I loved it. One of the things I loved about the theatrical version was the extent to which you end up enjoying hanging around listening to, and enjoying listening to, these basically narcissistic women chattering through this kind of autopilot night of bar-hopping, and what you think of the movie largely depends on whether Tarantino can translate his enthusiasm about that experience.

DM: It’s curious how, even people who loved Grindhouse as a whole, seem like they can’t help but prefer one of the features over the other. I guess I’m more in the minority camp, but I was more into Planet Terror. I mean, I liked Death Proof as well, but I did find those characters overly chatty—I found the movie to be a little overwritten, and I wasn’t as interested in those characters, initially, as I was meant to be. But once Kurt Russell’s character is revealed— all the stuff when he’s talking with Rose McGowan in the bar, I loved all of that.

DC: I loved his introduction, wolfing down the nachos.

DM: He’s brilliant in that role. Not that I actually think they would have done this, but I’m sorry the movie didn’t do better because I would have totally welcomed another movie about that guy. I guess I wanted Death Proof to be more about Stuntman Mike—he’s a slasher, and this is his m.o. The whole second half of the movie is fantastic, and I love Zoe Bell—she was wonderful! And Rosario Dawson is incredible.

DC: Seeing the extended version was my fourth go-around with Death Proof, and a big part of what I found myself looking forward to were her little moments of disbelief and annoyance as the two stuntwomen reveal to her what it is that they want to do. She has a moment when they’re trying to snow her into staying behind because, well, you know, she’s a mother, and she interrupts them with this really funny, impatient “Ah-ah-ah-aaaah!” It sounds insignificant, but the movie is full of bits like that that really add up to something special.

DM: She’s stunning beautiful, very charming, very funny. There’s an actress just waiting for the right role to turn her into an enormous star. She has everything. I loved her in Clerks 2.

DC: I liked her more than I liked the movie.

DM: I liked it much more than you did. I believed that she loved (Brian O’Halloran, who played Dante). But I loved Planet Terror, even people who were fans of the movie looked askance at that one—they thought that was the lesser one. And actually, I think Robert Rodriguez sometimes doesn’t get as much credit as her deserves. I think, within the parameters of what they were doing there, Planet Terror-- If I were teaching a screenwriting class, I could use that screenplay as a model of construction. It’s very efficient. And part of it is because it’s so simplistic. But for what it is setting out to do, I thought it was 100% successful. I loved Rose McGowan’s character and her relationship with Freddy Rodriguez—and there was a relationship there. Some you link to on your sidebar—I can’t remember who at the moment—wrote an essay about Grindhouse, and he said something really evocative about the moment in Planet Terror when they’re having their love scene, and that’s when the print disintegrates, and he said that he had tears in his eyes. And I had a similar response—it was just such a great conflagration of the narrative and the way it was shot, and then that great visual meta-metaphor. That would be the movie where the celluloid melts! And I really loved Rodriguez’s score—it was a really great parody of those ‘80s John Carpenter scores.

DC: It is a terrific movie, and Rodriguez definitely had his shit together as a director better in Planet Terror than perhaps he ever has. I’ve not been a fan of most of his stuff.

DM: Did you not like Sin City?

DC: I thought it was effective in the moment, but when I walked out of it, the movie evaporated. It was very interesting as a visual exercise. But I’m thinking more of the Spy Kids sequels—

DM: I liked the first one.

DC: Yes, that was wonderful. For a long time I thought it was his best movie. The Mariachi series, on the other hand-- Once Upon a Time in Mexico is disgracefully bad.

DM: That’s the one with Johnny Depp?

DC: Yeah.

(Both laugh).

DC: I’m someone who loved the entirety of Grindhouse. But of the group I saw it with, there was a definite preference for Planet Terror, which was the opposite of your experience.

DM: It’s a shame they’re apparently only releasing the movies separately on DVD. I mean, if there was a DVD of the complete theatrical version, I could imagine only watching one or the other. But what was so great about that movie was that it was singular experience, and it’s a shame that it didn’t do better. You can’t say you didn’t get your money’s worth at that movie. And those trailers were stunningly good.

DC: Being a big fan of the old Amicus horror movies, Edgar Wright’s was a real treat.

DM: Don’t!-- brilliant. Thanksgiving-- brilliant.

DC: There’s a frame or two near the end of Thanksgiving-- I think I see something really disturbing in there and I’m not sure I want to know—

DM: You mean with the cheerleader?

DC: No, no, no. At the very end of it— There’s something going on--

DM: Oh, when you see the guy fucking the turkey!

DC: Exactly! Oh, God, do I really wanna know? And the “print” is kinda jerky and mangled, so there’s this unnerving jump-cut quality to it…

DM: I think everyone really wants Eli Roth to make that movie.

DC: I’d pay to see it.

DM: Me too. Oh, and Bug! That was my horror movie of the year. The audience, such as it was— There were probably five other people for a weekend matinee—hated it, hissed at the end. It so wasn’t what they expected. That movie was so disturbing, but at the same time I found it very inspiring, because it’s so simple. It’s basically two characters, two actors quietly going insane together. There’s not a bug in the entire movie, which is, I’m sure, what pissed off the audience. But I thought it was such a smart movie about paranoia. And Ashley Judd was fucking awesome. I mean, I’ve never disliked her. I’ve just never really had an opinion about her one way or the other.

DC: Which can probably be laid at the feet of the kinds of movies she’s largely known for—those none-too-distinct woman-in-jeopardy thrillers.

DM: But she was great in Heat. She has one incredible scene with no dialogue. She’s standing on the balcony of her apartment and Val Kilmer, who is either her boyfriend or her husband, is coming to see her, but the cops are moving in. They each know he has to go away, and they’ll never see each other again. It was devastating. And she was brilliant in Bug.

DC: What do you think about horror movies right now? Do you think they’re in a creative lull after the market became saturated with extreme films like those in the Saw and Hostel series?

DM: I don’t know that I’d call it a creative lull, but I do think that as always happens, because it is a cyclical process—I sense a change. I think what we’ve seen in the last few years, where the torture movies and the Asian remakes were sort of “it,” is that those strains are starting to dissipate.

DC: The last one I can recall was barely even released.

DM: What one was that?

DC: The Messengers, directed by Corey Yuen. See? (As correctly informed by a reader, The Messengers was actually directed by the Pang Brothers, directors of The Eye. Thanks, Anonymous.-- DC)

DM: (Laughs). God, even the names are all starting to sound alike. What was the one with Sarah Michelle Gellar? I even saw it, and I can’t—

DC: The Grudge?

DM: No, not The Grudge-- The Return. How could I have possibly forgotten that? (Laughs). But that wasn’t even an Asian remake.

DC: No, it was just marketed like one.

DM: It’ll be interesting to see how well Saw IV does. I bet it’ll do well, but perhaps not as well as the last two, which I believe were in the $80 million range. Hostel Part II’s relative failure at the domestic box office, in my opinion, was really all about the release date. It came out in June against these big summer juggernauts. Again, we saw that one together, and I liked it.

DC: I did too.

DM: I liked it better than the first one. But I think if it had come out around this time of year, it would’ve done better. Is it possible that people are tiring—But as I say that, Rob Zombie’s Halloween made quite a bit of money. I mean, part of that is the brand name. Rob Zombie himself is a brand. I do think that the genre is waiting for the next new thing that everyone will then chase and copy. Certainly the Hostel movies, and even the Saw movies, though perhaps less explicitly, are very much post 9/11 in their intent and effect. Hostel was about xenophobia and Americans’ fear of the “Other.” But what’s going on in the Saw movies is, there’s this guy who’s largely invisible, who visits spectacular violence on people from out of nowhere to teach them a kind of moral lesson. That, to me, sounds like bin Laden. And I wonder if, on a certain level, that’s part of what those movies are speaking to, why people in part respond so strongly to them. I think the Final Destination movies work in that way too, although the first one predates 9/11, I believe. They’re these movies about horror coming at you from out of nowhere, it’s gonna get you spectacularly. That’s just in the national psyche now—it’s something we’re so terrified of.

DC: And there’s a level on which the Saw movies operate in which they ask you not to accept Jigsaw’s moral reasoning—you don’t appreciate your life, and here’s what you have to do to restore that appreciation—but they are asking you to understand it.

DM: The reason why Jigsaw is such a legitimately great horror villain—And this is a nod to John Doe in Seven-- is that beyond the violence, he’s a genuinely disturbing philosophical provocateur.

DC: As a filmmaker, have you considered a remake?

DM: We’re talking about it.

DC: Really?

DM: We haven’t made any decisions, but I’ve had a couple of meetings with the producers, David Kirschner and Corey Sienega. We want to do another Chucky movie, and I think we all feel—and certainly the audience feels—we’ve gone as far as we can in that comedic, satiric mode. Although, personally, I could do it again. I used to joke with John Waters—“Wouldn’t this be a great musical?” And I honestly do think it could be totally hilarious. I don’t think anyone else particularly wants to see that—maybe you and me and John Waters! (Laughing).

DC: I’d be there!

DM: But I think the most subversive thing we could do with the Chucky franchise now is to make it legitimately scary again. We started out that way—it was creepy—and turned it into a joke, deliberately, and a really good joke. But now what’s interesting to me and David and Corey is the challenge of making it scary again, whether that means a direct remake of the first movie, or whether there will be another sequel. But I think that will happen in the not-too-distant future. (In fact, just days after this interview took place, news of a Child’s Play remake to be directed by Don became public knowledge.—DC.) We’re talking about what that character could mean to audiences in 2007, or 2009, whenever it gets released, how it might speak to the zeitgeist. Whether or not this ends up in the movie or not, it’s interesting how toys are being recalled lately because of toxic materials used to make them or whatever other reason, and this is a result of American corporations outsourcing jobs to cheap foreign labor, and it comes back and bites you on the ass. I think that’s an interesting possible subtext.

DC: And with that subtext, you have a direct link to the first movie that goes deeper than just recreating the basic idea and plot structure.

DM: My script for the first movie was very much about exploring how advertising and marketing affects children. A little bit of that made it into Child’s Play, but not all of it.

DC: Let’s talk about your TV show, which just got picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel through NBC-Universal TV.

DM: Yes. It’s called Kill/Switch. Howie Mandel is attached to produce and co-star. In a nutshell, it’s Agatha Christie meets Quantum Leap. It’s all about a young woman, akin to Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin, but also like Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde, that archetype of the spoiled but decent young woman. In our case, she commits a crime of passion—she kills the guy who killed her fiancé, ‘cause he got off on a technicality. In the process, she herself was gunned down and killed by the cops. So now she’s consigned to this bizarre earthbound purgatory wherein every week she becomes a different person, inhabiting his or her body in life. All she knows about this person is that in the next 48 hours someone’s gonna try to kill them. So her task is to figure out who the potential killer is and stop the murder before it takes place. So instead of a whodunit, it’s a who’s-gonna-do-it.

DC: Is she always successful?

DM: She is not always successful, which gives the show a real sense of unpredictability. Sometimes she’ll succeed a take a step closer to redemption, and sometimes she doesn’t, and she has to suffer that death firsthand. That’s the price she has to pay for taking a life herself.

DC: I like that because it gives the concept a bit of gravity, whereas something like Quantum Leap you always knew that Sam would escape at the last second, everything was going to be okay and he’d just be transferred to another situation.

DM: Part of the challenge was to find the right tone of the piece. My original version, when I initially sold it to ABC, it was not her fiancé who got killed, but her daughter. But the death of a child is so heavy, it’s just impossible—You can’t have fun with the situation of this woman—In the pilot, she finds herself in this bubble bath in this unfamiliar bathroom in a McMansion in Tarzana. She’s looking around and she goes, “Is that chintz? Oh, my God. Am I in hell now?” That kind of thing where she looks in the mirror and we do that conceit a la Heaven Can Wait, All Of Me and Quantum Leap where we look in the mirror and she sees the person she is, and of course our actress, whoever it will be, she looks in the mirror and sees this cheap-looking redhead with fake boobs and says, “God, just kill me now.” We have a lot of fun with it. But when it was the daughter who died, it just didn’t work because the tone was so tragic. So we changed it to her fiancé who gets killed.

DC: I like that it doesn’t invite you to speculate as to why this person is being followed around by all these murders. Angela Lansbury shows up at a book convention or someplace, and you automatically know somebody is going to get killed.

DM: Yeah, you’re surprised after a while that this woman has any friends at all.

DC: Or why she hasn’t been hauled in as a suspect herself.

DM: They must have done that at some point, right? There must have been some episode—They had to have done an episode where she became a suspect.
DC: The show was on over 10 years, for God’s sake.

DM: What I always loved about that TV genre was, a different murder every week, a different case every week, and you had your small core cast, but an ever-revolving roster of “special guests suspects” that are always these kind of B-list—Actually, it’s probably not fair to call them “B-list,” ‘cause sometimes they were Hollywood royalty, like the way that disaster movies were cast—people who were incredible but maybe now past their prime.

DC (Imitating Quinn Martin Announcer): “Special Guest star Barry Sullivan!”

DM: Yes! Columbo-- there were some amazing people on that show. That show has had some many incarnations, but in the ‘80s version Faye Dunaway was on. Jack Cassidy was on, like, four or five times as different characters every time.

DC: Robert Culp.

DM: Johnny Cash.

DC: Johnny Cash?!

DM: Johnny Cash was on one episode. John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands together in one episode, which was really cool. So that aspect of Kill/Switch I love, and I’ve already hit up the few celebrity friends that I do have—“If this thing does go, John Waters, Jennifer Tilly, you’re doing an episode!” (Laughing)

DC: Is it weird for you when you’re going to a movie at the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard and Chucky walks up to you?

DM: I must admit, I love it! (Laughing). Of course it totally tickles me that this character has become such an icon. It’s great. And I’m perfectly happy with his apparent status, at least currently, as the jokester amongst movie slashers. But if I run into Chucky on Hollywood Boulevard, I do have to hold my tongue and keep from insisting to him, “I invented you!” That would just be too lame!


Larry Aydlette said...

Marvelous interview, Dennis. As you know, I am no fan of the horror genre, but I really like Mancini as you have revealed him to me through this interview. I am especially impressed by his openness to being friends with you. Impressed, but not surprised, because anybody who is your friend is obviously a person of taste and discernment. Plus, he's from my home state. I wonder if he grew up in Norfolk/Virginia Beach area as I did, because we had a Shock/Chiller Theater I used to watch some as a kid. In any event, you've convinced me: I'm Netflixing Seed of Chucky. Nice work, Dennis. This was worth the wait!

Adam Ross said...

Excellent interview, Dennis. I put "Seed of Chucky" on my queue last year after you recommended it and finally saw it last month, and it really is a special gem. The casting of Redman was perfect, and seemed like something out of a Zucker-Abrams movie.

Anonymous said...

The Messengers was directed by the Pang Brothers, not Corey Yuen.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Anonymous: You are righter than right. Dunderheaded faux pas fixed.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Shamus: I'm so happy to have convinced a notorious non-horror fan to give Seed of Chucky a try! Instantly, I'm more nervous about how you'll react than I was about my friend at the screening! Thanks so much for your very kind words in general, too. Don is a genuinely great guy-- his own words are more than enough to convey that.

Adam: Did you ever see the trailer for the movie? I love the way the announcer, with great gravity, intones the names of the cast-- "Academy Award nominee Jennifer Tilly... MTV Award winner Chucky... and Redman! Beautiful! And I'm really glad I didn't cause you to feel like you'd wasted a spot on your queue.

Anonymous said...

I'm immersed in Fossemania at the moment, but, thanks and bravo for a fun interview that I wish I could concentrate on more fully.

(I will say that Don -- who looks way too young to have seen "The Omen" when it came out -- and I are on exactly the same page about Robert Rodriguez. Yes, I liked "Planet Terror" a lot, and wasn't bothered by some of the over-the-top gore -- even back when I was "Dawn of the Dead" virgin -- because, at bottom, Rodriguez and the word "disturbing" will never be in the same universe. Except, of course, that you wonder about yourself for not being disturbed, which can be kind of disturbing.)

Anonymous said...

Fabulous, enjoyable and insightful interview. I liked it a lot. Good work, Dennis!

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