LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Brand New Interview With Joe Dante
By James Whittington, Thursday 18th June 2015
Joe Dante has been behind some of the most memorable and entertaining movies and television shows of the last 40 years. From Piranha to TV revival of Hawaii Five-0, Joe has produced a body of work that is as inventive and eclectic as it is entertaining. His latest movie, Burying The Ex is packed with references to past horror movies, old fashioned romance and a devilish sense of humour and is available to download and view-on-demand from June 19th.
Here, Joe chats about working with the legendary Roger Corman, how Burying The Ex came about and his thoughts on remakes and reboots.
HC: How did you get your big break into the movie industry?
JD: My first big break was that friends of mine went to California to work for Roger Corman, and Roger had used up all the students in Southern California schools and started importing them from the East Coast and through a complicated chain involving Martin Scorsese and Johnathan Kaplan and Jon Davison I ended up being one of the people who was asked to come out and cut trailers and after only a year and a half I ended up directing a movie which is the kind of the way it used to work there.
HC: And those days are gone now.
JD: Those days are long gone I’m afraid.
HC: What was it like working with Roger Corman?
JD: It was fabulous, we really didn’t know it at the time of course because we were under paid and over worked but it was a Film School and you learned by doing.
HC: What sort of things did you learn from Roger that you still use today?
JD: How to make decisions quickly and how to shoot in the most economical manner possible and to get as much work done during the day as you can that is quality work.
HC: You made a huge impact with superb movies like Piranha and The Howling, what impact did the success of these movies have on your career?
JD: Oh it was quite different, all of a sudden I was making B-movies with A budgets instead of making B-movies with B budgets and I just happened to be lucky that the industry was going in a direction where people of my age were growing up and starting to run companies and the kind of movies that we all liked when we were kids suddenly became mainstream movies. A picture like Raiders Of The Lost Ark which is based on serials that Spielberg and Lucas liked when they were kids and you got Jaws which was essentially Creature From The Black Lagoon, and Star Wars which of course was Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers and all these things became such hits that the lowly genre movie suddenly became the mainstream.
HC: It must have been an amazing time bringing that sort of creativity, that sort of entertainment to the masses?
JD: Yeah, although when you’re in the midst of these things you don’t really notice things happening, you just go with the flow and then when you look back and see the trajectory and realise the kind of movies that were basically spat on by the general industry in my day suddenly became the backbone of the industry. Who’d have ever imagined that Westerns would disappear and be replaced by Horror. That was unthinkable when I was younger.
HC: How did the project for Burying The Ex come about?
JD: The writer Alan Trezza had written it a number of years ago and made a short film version of it which he liked and then expanded into a regular structure and I think this was in like 2008, long before all the other zombie movies were hitting the screens and we tried over the years to get it made. Sometimes we came close, sometimes we didn’t and basically I think the success of The Walking Dead and World War Z managed to convince some investors to come in with not a lot of money and we managed to make the picture very quickly and very cheaply, very much like a Roger Corman movie.
HC: It doesn’t look cheap!
JD: Well that’s good to hear because it really is a cheap movie! (laughs)
HC: You’ve got a superb ensemble for it.
JD: Yeah, we really do, we really lucked out. The charm for me in the movie is the cast I think they are just so much fun to watch and so attractive and it was a pleasure making the movie even though it was hard work.
HC: There’s an obvious chemistry between the whole cast, what was the atmosphere like on set?
JD: Well, you know when you make a movie like this it’s kind of like a guerrilla war. You have only have so many hours to make in the day and make sure everybody is on the same page and you need to do things often enough to get them right. You sometimes have to take a little more time in one place and rob a little time from another. There was such a feeling of camaraderie and everybody entered into the spirit of it that it looks like they’re having fun when you watch the movie and they really were.
HC: Dick Miller appears in Burying The Ex as he does in many of your movies, is he a sort of good luck charm?
JD: Well he is for me as he was in my first movie because I had seen him in so many Roger Corman movies, I liked him and we got along great and so he became a talisman for me. I would get a script and the first thing I would do is read to see if I wanted to do it and second was to see if there was a part for Dick in it! (laughs)
HC: How difficult is it when directing a horror comedy to get the balance right?
JD: Well over the years I found my feelings that horror and comedy are very similar, one can become the other very quickly and if you’re not careful you have people laughing in the wrong place. Because, let’s face it, horror movies are basically absurd and you have to do a lot of suspending of disbelief in order to be able to take them seriously and so I think you can make fun of the clichés and you can make fun of the tropes but I don’t think, when push comes to shove you have to actually treat it very seriously and I find that it often makes the comedy aspect stick out a little more. There are different ways of doing it like the Shaun Of The Dead approach which is basically a comedy but all of the horror stuff is pretty gory and then there’s the Abbott And Costello Meets Frankenstein approach which is of comedians doing funny things but then you have monsters that are played straight and I think that approach is probably something closer to what I enjoy.
HC: If you had been around at the time would you liked to have done and Abbott and Costello movie?
JD: Oh, absolutely! I grew up with Abbott and Costello , I was a Jersey kid and they were Jersey comedians, East Coast comedians and very popular when I was a kid and of course when they broke up I was devastated and then Martin and Lewis broke up and I was even more devastated! (laughs)
HC: Talking of old films you always manage to get film references in your movies, do you enjoy doing that?
JD: Well it’s just a way of sort of paying back you know, these are the reasons that I am making movies. There’s a lack of film literacy today, most people don’t know too much about older movies so the Max character in this movie is pretty retro, he’s got a memorabilia shop and seems to specialise in older movies which is part of just trying to get people back into the idea of examining older pictures which are in short supply, they are not part of people’s lives anymore. That’s what’s I created my website Trailers From Hell which is filmmakers talking about trailers for movies that made them want to make movies. It’s to try to get people to try and bring these those things back into the dialogue.
HC: I was dragged along to see the recent remake of Poltergeist, are you tired of such things?
JD: I was at the movies yesterday watching trailers and they were all franchise movies that were sequels to other movies or remakes and I think it’s a general lack of imagination, it’s playing it safe. They think they’re playing it safe but in fact more often than not these reboots and remakes don’t work because either these movies are too obscure to the audience or the audience doesn’t want to see another version of it or they’re just not good.
HC: But that’s why your films such as The Howling and Gremlins are so good as they are of their time.
JD: Well they are, they had elements of previous movies that lead up to them but I tried to put them in to a context so you’d sort of say “OK, this is where we’ve been and here’s maybe where we’re going”.
HC: Do you get tired about people asking if movies from your back catalogue are being remade?
JD: Oh yeah I get tired, you know the Gremlins reboot or remake or whatever it is has been rooted about for the past 20 years and every so often there’s an announcement that it’s going to get made, somebody’s going to get hired and then it doesn’t work and they don’t make it.
HC: I don’t understand why they would, Gremlins is such a great movie why don’t they look for something fresh?
JD: Well because I think because it’s a major title, it’s still popular after all these years even more so than many movies that were more acclaimed at the time and so I think there’s a feeling that this is company asset and we need to exploit it.
HC: Are you surprised about how many of your movies and TV work is so well loved, especially such pieces as your Police Squad episodes?
JD: Yeah, Police Squad was really a lot of fun. I thought it was much better as a TV show than it was as a movie. There were so many more aspects to make fun of as a TV show.
HC: I think the episode length is perfect for them.
JD: Oh yeah and also its got all the gimmicks like the freeze frame and the end credits and all that stuff that’s not in the theatrical version.
HC: You’re a director, producer, writer do you have a favourite role?
JD: I started as an editor. As much fun as it is to make a movie and being on the set and sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s hard. I find the discovery of where and what movie you’ve actually made happens in the editing room and that can be very exhilarating. Unfortunately if you’re not working with sympathetic producers it can be very depressing. There are a lot of things that can be done to a movie in the editing room.
HC: So what plans do you have at the moment?
JD: I have more projects that I’m trying to get funded and a lot of the funding is coming from Europe so I end up going to Europe quite a lot and now I have an Italian passport so I can work as a European. My guess is that probably whatever it is I do next will probably be done in Europe.
HC: Joe Dante, thank you very much.
MORE INTERVIEWS Interview with Alexis Kendra, the writer and producer of The Cleaning Lady
Posted on Tuesday 15th June 2021
Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of The Cleaning Lady on June 26, the film's star, writer and producer Alexis Kendra talks about playing a 'Goddess', coping with lockdown and why she can't watch horror films on her own.
HC: The Cleaning Lady is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?
AK: I love you guys. Always have, always will. I'm honoured.
HC: It's a very disturbing film, dealing with abuse, addiction and hidden rage, yet the characters are sympathetic and have real depth. It's horror with a twisted heart. As a co-writer, alongside your director Jon Knautz, what were the main challenges in getting the balance right between acting and writing? <...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Jen and Sylvia Soska, directors of Rabid
Posted on Tuesday 1st June 2021
Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of Rabid on June 12, Jen and Sylvia Soska reflect on the challenges of re-imagining Cronenberg's body horror classic, meeting the great man and their new monster movie, Bob.
HC: Rabid is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?
SS: The Horror Channel has supported us and our work since the beginning, so it's a special treat to have the newest film premiere there!
Js: We are so excited. Having Rabid on Horror Channel feels like coming home. They've been very kind to us. We are happy to have so many of our films on there.
HC: We all, of course, remember that Rabid was one of David Cronenberg's earli...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Mickey Fisher, creator of sci-fi series Extant
Posted on Thursday 6th May 2021
Horror Channel will be continuing its commitment to bringing cult and classic sci-fi to its audience with Seasons 1 and 2 of the CBS Studios/Amblin Television production of Extant, starring Halle Berry as astronaut Molly Woods, who returns home to her family, inexplicably pregnant after 13 months in outer space on a solo mission.
The series begins on Horror May 11th so, we decided to chat to its creator, Mickey Fisher about how the series came to be produced and what it was like working with Hollywood royalty.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a writer?
MF: From the time I was maybe five or six years old I wanted to be an actor. Going to see Star...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Gary J. Tunnicliffe, writer and director of Hellraiser: Judgement
Posted on Saturday 20th February 2021
Director and long-time Hellraiser franchise SFX artist Gary John Tunnicliffe has a new entry into the Hellraiser series for us all to enjoy, Hellraiser: Judgement. Here he chats about this gritty horror.
HC: Was there one person or film which inspired you to want to be in the effects industry?
GJT: I can't remember one film that directly inspired me to be in the effects industry, it would definitely have been around 1982 (when I was 14) when The Thing AND American Werewolf in London came out (as well as a mass of FX laden movies) but more than anything it was when s...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Chee Keong Cheung, director of Redcon-1
Posted on Wednesday 17th February 2021
Fast-paced British zombie thriller, Redcon-1 will be having its UK TV premiere on Horror on Saturday 20th February so we decided to chat with its writer and director Chee Keong Cheung about this acclaimed movie.
HC: Where did the idea for Redcon-1 come from and are you a fan of zombie movies?
CKC: I'm a huge fan of the zombie genre and in particular, Danny Boyle's '28 Days Later', Zak Snyder's 'Dawn of the Dead' and of course George Romero's original works which helped to pave the way for the genre and was a real inspiration for me growing up. I remember watching 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Black Hawk Down' on TV and had always been drawn to the men on a m...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Scott Reiniger star of the original Dawn of the Dead
Posted on Sunday 15th November 2020
On the eve of a stunning new 4K box set of George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead from Second Sight Films, we chat to one of its stars, Scott Reiniger about this incredible film.
HC: How did you first become involved with Dawn of the Dead?
SR: Well, I was in New York, I was a stage actor in New York and I went to college with Christine Forrest, who later became George's wife and she asked me if I wanted to audition for this film called Dawn of the Dead, she wanted to know if I knew who George Romero was and I said, "Yeah, he was the guy who directed Night of the Living Dead". So, they sent the script over and I read it and it was pr...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Steve Speirs, star of Concrete Plans
Posted on Sunday 1st November 2020
Welsh, Scottish and Ukranian dialects clash in Concrete Plans, a stand-out movie from Will Jewell which has just been released by FrightFest Presents via Signature. Its a super and very dark thriller with an outstanding cast headed up by Steve Speirs. Here he chats about this amazing piece.
Be warned this interview contains some spoilers about the movie. If in doubt watch the movie before reading. You have been warned!
HC: Was there one actor of one film you saw when you were younger that made you want to be an actor?
SS: Oh, I've never been asked that actually. When I started to get into watching films, I'd always wanted to be an actor for as long as I can ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Shayne Ward, star of The Ascent
Posted on Thursday 22nd October 2020
A special ops team on a mission in a war-torn country find themselves trapped on a never-ending staircase that they must climb - or they die! This is the premise for Tom Paton's superb, action-packed horror The Ascent which is having its UK TV premiere at 9pm on October 23rd. Here its star, Shayne Ward tells all about his career to date and how he became involved in this sci-fi shocker.
HC: How much did the X-Factor change your life?
SW: Oh, like anyone can say who has been on it, who has done well on the show, it does change your life because it catapults you into the limelight, into the public eye. One day you are relatively unknown...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Ryan Kruger, writer and director of Fried Barry
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
Anyone who as been to Grimmfest will know that the team behind the event try their very best to bring to their audience films that challenge and push as many envelopes as possible. Fried Barry from director Ryan Kruger is such a movie. Packed with mind-bending imagery and and emotional punch, this polarizing movie has to be seen just for its creativity and strong storytelling. Here, Ryan chats about this incredible movie.
HC: Where did Fried Barry come from?
RK: Fried Barry was born out of total frustration where I was in my career. I am known in South Africa as a music video director for doing narrative story telling within music vids and sharp visuals. Although I al...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Deiondre Teagle, star of Death Ranch
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
Grimmfest 2020 is packed with new talent and one actor that stands out is Deiondre Teagle who styars in Charlie Steeds' grindhouse homage, Death Ranch. Here Deiondre explains his role and what it was like being part of such a bold movie.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be an actor?
DT: I've definitely known my whole life I've wanted to be an actor. One of my favourite movies of all time is the original Men In Black. When I was little (about 3 or 4 years old), I would re-watch my VHS copy of that movie over and over and over again. I would re-enact every scene. Since then, my love for acting and film has just grown. I have such a love for the...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Faith Monique, star of Death Ranch
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
Grimmfest 2020 is packed with world premieres and none so bold as Charlie Steed's Death Ranch. We chatted to one of its main stars, Faith Monique about her role in this brutal and brilliant movie.
HC: Was there one person you saw at a young age who inspired you to want to become an actress?
FM: Funny fact, I grew up without a TV! So, at a young age, I never had an actor that inspired me and to this day I still don't. Acting did not become a dream of mine until 2016 and for inspiration, I like to dig deep into my own soul to find truth to bring into each character.
HC: Are you a big fan of horror movies and were you aware of grindhouse and e...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Charlie Steeds, writer and director of Death Ranch
Posted on Saturday 10th October 2020
Horror movies and controversy always go hand in hand but when they tackle serious issues by using extreme violence to hammer home a point they can be very worthy. Death Ranch from Charlie Steeds is having its world premiere at Grimmfest so we chatted to him about this very strong movie.
HC: What inspired you to write Death Ranch?
CS: I'd always wanted to try making a movie with a 70s Grindhouse/Exploitation style and was watching old Grindhouse trailers for inspiration. I came across the movie Brotherhood of Death, where black characters fight back against the KKK for some of the film (the tagline is 'Watch these brothers stick it to the Klan!') and that conce...SHARE: READ MORE Interviews Archive: 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Saturday 7th August
Wednesday 4th August
Monday 9th August