LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Exclusive Interview With Director Jeff Burr - Part 1
By James Whittington, Sunday 16th May 2010
Writer, producer, director Jeff Burr has been behind some of the most inventive horror movies from the last twenty years. He gained notoriety in 1990 when he unleashed (well tried to anyway) Leatherface, the third instalment in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. Recently on Horror you may have caught his movies Werewolf Reborn and Devil's Den. Jeff has also made memorable contributions to the long running Puppet Master franchise and produced some pretty cool kids TV shows so we thought it was time we tracked this man from Georgia down to see exactly what inspires him to make such a diverse range of movies. In this, the first part of an exclusive interview, Jeff talks about his early career and his time with Vincent Price.
HC: Were you a horror fan when you were growing up?
JB: Yes, I was a big horror fan growing up. I totally got into the genre through Shock Theater, which aired on Channel 9 out of Chattanooga, TN and featured Dr. Shock and his pet bat Dingbat. Dr. Shock was a guy named Tommy Reynolds, and Dingbat was a puppet operated and voiced by Dan East. They showed all the Universal 30's and 40's horror package, and I fell in love with those films. They also showed stuff like The Thing, The Giant Claw, and stuff from the 60's like the Philippines John Ashley Blood Island movies, etc. I also would seek out any horror/Sci-Fi film in the theatre, and saw many many films at the Wink Theater, the Capri Theater and the Cherokee Drive-In. It was a great experience going to films in those days, as you knew that if you didn’t see the film in the theatre, you might not get a chance again for years, and then it would be on TV, cut up! Some horror/Sci-Fi stuff that made a big impression on me were Phantom Of The Paradise, Phase IV, Equinox, Land That Time Forgot, 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (which I saw in the '75 reissue) King Kong (which I saw in the '76 reissue before the DeLaurentis version came out) Silent Running, 2001 and on TV, Five Million Years To Earth, The Time Machine, The Conqueror Worm, too many to mention! And one of the most evocative theatre experiences I had was in early 1979, when I was in high school, the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga showed Citizen Kane, and I went nuts. I had read about that film, but had never seen it, and then seeing a great print in a big theatre was magical. Other guys who really influenced me were Jerry Lewis, because I loved his films, but also because his book on filmmaking (The Total Filmmaker) was the first book on filmmaking I ever read, and it was magical (in the pre-internet days) to actually see what a real script looked like, etc etc!
HC: Did you have a favourite director?
JB: I don’t know if I had a favourite director when I was growing up, but certainly I loved all the James Bond films, all the Clint Eastwood westerns and action films, Burt Reynolds films from the 70's probably just what you'd expect a boy from Dalton, Georgia to like! The town I grew up in was about 20,000 population, so we didn’t get some of the more "prestige" movies sometimes, but Chattanooga was about 30 miles away, and on very rare occasions, Atlanta was about 100 miles away. Even though I loved horror and Sci-Fi films, I also loved almost any other genre too...but I do remember suffering when my mom told me to come with her to see A Star Is Born with Barbara Streisand... I read about all the directors in magazines (when I could find them) like Castle Of Frankenstein and The Monster Times, which I always preferred to Famous Monsters. Although Famous Monsters always had the best covers! So, I certainly knew who Roger Corman was, I loved his Poe movies and Little Shop Of Horrors, I of course knew who Stanley Kubrick was, as I saw 2001 as a very little kid and it totally has burned itself on my brain for the rest of my life. That is one movie that I will drop everything to see on a big screen!!! But of course in those days (the 70's) it was a lot harder to find out things about movies if you lived in a small town, nothing like today. And I would have to say that I knew and loved Spielberg's work, because I saw Duel when it first aired, and it riveted me, and of course I loved Jaws and Close Encounters too.
HC: Were your family supportive of your decision to go into the movie business?
JB: My parents were supportive...both of them had a creative side to them, and they both appeared in community theater in Dalton. I vividly remember the thrill of being around backstage on a play when it was in rehearsal, and seeing the sets built, etc. So that had to have an influence on me, and all the people in my family, my grandparents, my uncles, etc were good storytellers and when we got to see them at Christmas or whenever it was always fascinating to hear their stories, of World War 1-2, etc. My mom also had a radio show in Dalton called Coffee Time, and she would interview all kinds of people. As a matter of fact, I got to interview Robert Vaughn and James Francicus because of her. She set it up through her station, and Robert Vaughn was doing a play in Atlanta, and I was a huge fan of his, so I got to interview him backstage. And Francicus was in Chattanooga doing a celebrity golf tournament. Of course I bent his ear about Valley Of The Gwangi! Also, with most people, when you have a hobby as a kid, the enthusiasm dissipates as you get older, but with me, when I started making little Regular 8mm movies in the backyard, with neighbourhood kids and my brother, it only got more intense the more I did it. So, I am one of the lucky people that found out very early in life what he wanted to do, and was able to pursue it. Of course there have been many bumps in the road, but I owe a lot to my parents early support...by that I mean that they never once said "Oh, that is a ridiculous idea...a film director? From Dalton? Get serious!" Or anything like that. And, my brother was always supportive too, he was a movie fan and could figure out great ways to rig certain things for special effects in my Super 8mm movies, he would act in some of the films, he would turn me on to films I hadn’t seen (he was a few years older), etc.
HC: Your first directing job was on the movie Divided We Fall which you co-directed with Kevin Meyer. Were you nervous and did you have any artistic differences?
JB: Well, Divided We Fall started as a student project at the University of Southern California. It was made in the winter/spring/summer of 1982, and premiered at USC Norris Theater in November of 1982. It was an incredibly ambitious, epic Civil War tale, running about 30 minutes long, shot in black and white with no sync dialogue. Kevin Meyer was an incredibly talented guy who I met in a class at school in fall of 1981. We teamed up to make this film, and I have to say it was a great partnership all the way, and in many ways it still might be both of our best films! We did everything...write, produce, direct, edit, photograph, etc. Certainly one of my best experiences making a film. The film won many awards around the world, and a clip from it can be seen on the American DVD of Straight Into Darkness, in the documentary made by Dave Parker. The film featured John Agar, who was a joy to work with, (and he hung in with the project over several months) Nick Guest, who was a blast (and I worked with him again on Puppet Master 5) David Cloud, who was a really talented guy who is now a teacher, Willard Pugh (who I worked with many times later and he also did The Color Purple, Robocop 2, etc) and two future "Leatherface" alumni...R.A. Mihailoff and Michael Shamus Wiles. Courtney Joyner did special effects makeup (he was the co-writer of From A Whisper To A Scream) and Will Huston and Mike Malone were production assistants (they were integral parts of the production of from a whisper). Kevin Meyer went on to do some thrillers for the producer Bruce Cohn Curtis, and he wrote the studio film A Smile Like Yours with Greg Kinnear. Of course we had some differences, and we have somewhat different sensibilities, but we meshed on that film and as I say, it may be the best film with our names on it so far! We worked from January 1982 to November 1982 on the film, and dropped out of school to finish it. We broke a lot of rules, and pretty much did what John Carpenter had done with the short film Dark Star, i.e. do things your way and alienate most of the faculty! The only difference is that he had the foresight to expand it into a feature, and that is what we should have done! Of course you realize this in retrospect. But I have great memories and feelings on the making of that movie, and want to repeat that experience, meaning how the film was made. In a lot of ways, Straight Into Darkness was a very similar experience. But, Divided We Fall won a lot of awards, but it really didn’t do that much for our careers right away. It did a little later, as it was a great thing to show potential investors for my first feature.
HC: The next project you directed was the anthology movie The Offspring starring the legendary Vincent Price. How did you get him involved?
JB: We got Vincent Price involved with the film by first going to his house (we got his address from a celebrity address service, such services don’t exist anymore in the wake of anti-stalking laws). We knocked on his door, he answered, he actually invited us in, and we talked for a bit and gave him the script. All true. He had every right to throw us off his property, tell us to submit the script to his agent, or that he wasn’t interested! But he was truly gracious and charming. So, he read the script, thought it was good but it was the type of film he was avoiding at that time in his life, and that was that, or so we thought! Months later, we had shot the stories of the film and were preparing to do the linking sequence, which was always planned to do in Los Angeles. I thought that it would be great to have Max von Sydow in the film, so I tracked down his agent, and his agent Walter Kohner reads the script and says Max won’t do it but he has the perfect client for me...VINCENT PRICE!!!! So, that's how we get Vincent! Totally a coincidence that he had the same agent, and his agent liked the script and recommended it to Vincent again. I think Vincent probably thought that this project was stalking him, so he better do the film or be harassed forever!
HC: Did Vincent talk about his career to you and was he an easy person to direct? He must have had a lot of presence on set, how did the rest of the cast react to him and was it an enjoyable experience?
JB: Vincent was a total pro, and was a total dream to direct. He made it clear to me that he WANTED to be directed, and trusted my guidance. So, I must say, that after maybe one-half day (we had two days of shooting with him) I talked to him director to actor, as opposed to say, fan to legend! But that was his doing, and his grace and professionalism. He was incredibly open on and off the set, and it was a great moment when Roger Corman came down and had a little reunion with him. We were shooting at Roger's studio in Venice, CA. The rest of the cast came down for photo shoots with Vincent...there is a lovely picture that I treasure of Rosalind Cash and Vincent, taken by the very talented photographer Dan Golden. Clu Gulager and Miriam came down, Martine Beswicke was there, and Hazel Court came by to see Vincent...so it was a great time. I am telling you that Vincent never stopped talking from the time he came on the set to the time he left. Everyone I had ever met called me and asked to come to the set to meet him! And also, Otto Preminger had just passed away, and he gave a lovely interview to Entertainment Tonight on our set, talking about Laura. Vincent loved talking about his career, but he was bored with mundane questions and certainly blanched at being referred to as a horror actor. Of course we know that he was so much more, and the longer it is since he has gone, the gap he has left gets wider. So, overall, I can only say that it was a total honour, and I don’t use that word loosely, an honour to get to direct a bonafide cinema legend like Vincent.
In the next part of this exclusive interview Jeff talks about Stepfather 2 and horror movie remakes.
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
Sunday 8th August
Sunday 1st August
Wednesday 4th August