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 Julien Seri, director of Anderson Falls
Posted on Tuesday 18th February 2020
Ahead of the UK premiere of serial killer thriller Anderson Falls at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020, director Julien Seri reflects on this, his first 'American' experience, challenging fight scenes and the importance of personal vision.
It has been five years since we premiered Night Fare at FrightFest London, what have you been up to since then?
JS: I worked on two, very singular, projects as a producer and/or director. I signed for both with Wild Bunch, but we've failed to produce them yet. So I keep fighting. And I did a lot of commercials, TV series and music videos.
When did you first hear about the Anderson Falls script and why did you think it was perfect for yo...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Adam Stovall, director of A Ghost Waits
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2020
Ahead of the World premiere of A Ghost Waits at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020, director Adam Stovall reflects on getting through depression, creating paranormal romance and the influence of Tom Waits...
You have an interesting CV - from comedy theatre and film journalism to writing for The Hollywood Reporter and second assistant directing. Was all this a game plan to becoming a fully-fledged director?
AS: I've known since I was a little kid sitting in the basement watching the network TV premiere of Back To The Future while holding my Back To The Future storybook and waiting for them to premiere the first footage from Back To The Future 2 during a commercial br...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Simeon Halligan, director of Habit
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2020
Simeon Halligan is one of the busiest people working in the industry today. Writer, director, producer, director of celebrated film festival Grimmfest, in fact the list goes on.
His latest film is the neon tinged, blood-splattered masterpiece Habit which is showing on Horror February 14th so we thought we should get the story on how he brought this shocker to the big screen.
HC: When did you first become aware of the book by Stephen McGeagh to which Habit is based?
SH: I read the book a couple of years back and really liked it. A combination of gritty realism and dark fantasy; set within a very recognisable Manchester. There's a juxtaposition in the book; from a kind of soc...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Jackson Stewart, director of Beyond The Gates
Posted on Wednesday 22nd January 2020
Jack Stewart's sublime retro horror Beyond the Gates was recently shown on Horror. Jackson is one of the strongest creatives around at the moment but he took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about this contemporary classic and his future movie plans.
HC: Was there one film that you saw growing up which gave you the idea that you wanted to work in the film industry?
JS: There were definitely a number of them; I think the ones that stick out strongest in my memory were Temple Of Doom, Batman '89, Nightmare On Elm Street 4, Raising Arizona, Back To The Future, Marnie, Army Of Darkness, The Frighteners and Dirty Harry. All of them had a big emotional impact on me. Dirty Har...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with acclaimed author Shaun Hutson
Posted on Friday 20th December 2019
The British horror legend Shaun Hutson is back with Testament, a new novel featuring one of his fans most loved characters, Sean Doyle so we decided to catch up with this talented chap about his acclaimed work.
HC: Was there one author who inspired you to become a writer?
SH: My inspirations were always and still are cinematic if I'm honest. Even when I first started writing my influences and inspirations came from things like Hammer films, from TV series like The Avengers (with Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee) and from old Universal horror films. I read the Pan Books of Horror Stories when I was a kid and I think they were probably the first "literary" influences I ever had. I also read lo...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Tyler MacIntyre, director of Patchwork
Posted on Thursday 12th December 2019 On the eve of Horror Channel's UK TV premiere of Patchwork on December 14th, director Tyler MacIntyre reflects on body image issues. twisting audience expectations and his admiration for current female genre directors.
HC: Patchwork finally gets its UK TV premiere on Horror Channel. Excited or what?
TM: Relieved actually. It's been a long time coming. The third screening of the film ever happened at FrightFest in Glasgow and since then I've had people asking me when it was going to come out. The UK genre fans are among the most diehard in the world, so I'm very excited to finally have it available for them.
HC: You were in attendance when Patchwork, your directorial feature debut, rece...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with James Moran, writer of Tower Block
Posted on Monday 25th November 2019
Writer James Moran is about to do what few other writers have done in the past, the Horror Channel Triple! He is one of the few creatives who has had three of his movies play on the channel; Cockneys Vs Zombies, Severance and now Tower Block which is playing on November 29th. So, we decided to chat to this talented chap about this superior thriller and the rest of his career.
HC: Your first movie, Severance is a huge favourite with Horror Channel viewers, were you ever tempted to pen a sequel?
JM: Thank you, I'm really glad that people can still discover it with every new screening. Everybody wanted to do a sequel, we actually had several meetings about it. Nothing came of it, they carried on with...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Gary Dauberman, writer and director of Annabelle Comes Home
Posted on Saturday 23rd November 2019
Gary Dauberman has been the scriptwriter for some of the most successful horror movies of the last few years including IT: Parts 1 and 2, Annabelle and The Nun. His latest movie, Annabelle Comes Home which is also his directorial debut, has just been released onto DVD and Blu-ray. We caught up with this talented chap about his career to date.
HC: What was it about the horror genre that grabbed your imagination and made you want to become a writer?
GD: The earliest movie going experience I can remember was my parents taking me to Raiders of the Lost Ark and I was 4 or 5 or something and I had to sleep with them for a week, you know the opening up of The Ark and the face melting, a rea...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Cameron Macgowan, director of Red Letter Day
Posted on Friday 1st November 2019
FrightFest 2019 exposed a lot of new talent in the movie industry and one of the stand-out pieces was Red Letter Day from Cameron Macgowan.
HC: Where did the idea for Red Letter Day come from and did it take long to write?
CM: I have long been a fan of the 'Humans Hunting Humans' subgenre of film (Battle Royale, The Running Man, Hard Target, etc.) and was inspired to set one of these films in what many people consider the 'safe' location of the suburbs. Suburban communities feel like the perfect setting for a horror film as you can walk for miles without seeing a single soul all while knowing that you are surrounded by many people. This mixed with a desire to satirise the current socio-political climate ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Carlo Mirabella-Davis, director of Swallow
Posted on Wednesday 30th October 2019
Ahead of the UK premiere of Swallow at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween, director Carlo Mirabella-Davis reflects on the personal inspiration behind his feature debut, healing psychological wounds and his empathy for the genre.
HC: Swallow is your directorial debut. How difficult was it to get the project off the ground?
CMD: Getting a film made is a fascinating process. My late, great teacher at NYU, Bill Reilly, would always say "script is coin of the realm". The early stages involved perfecting the screenplay as much as I could, writing and rewriting until I felt confident sending it out. The sacred bond between the producer and the director is the catalyst that brings a film into being. I ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Paul Davis, director of Uncanny Annie
Posted on Wednesday 16th October 2019
Ahead of the International premiere of Uncanny Annie at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween 2019, director Paul Davis reflects on working for Blumhouse, bemoans attitudes to British genre film funding and reveals the movies that inspire him the most...
HC: Tell us how Uncanny Annie came about?
PD: Uncanny Annie is my second movie for Blumhouse as part of Hulu's Into The Dark movie series. I had the opportunity to actually kick off last October with a feature adaptation of my short film The Body (which had its world premiere at FF in 2013). The concept was to release a movie a month, for twelve months, with each revolving around a holiday or particular day for the month of its released. With The Bod...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Lars Klevberg, director of Child's Play (2019)
Posted on Thursday 10th October 2019 It was the remake everyone was against! The interweb was ablaze with negativity but director Lars Klevberg and his team managed to pull off one of the best horror movies of 2019. Here he chats about the smart shocker, Child's Play.
HC: How nervous were you taking on a re-imagining of such a beloved concept and franchise?
LK: I was in fact very nervous the minute I signed on to do the movie. Before that, I worked relentlessly for weeks to get the job, but immediately after getting it my body had a very stressful reaction. I was fully aware of the legacy I was about to re-open so, I didn't sleep one minute that night.
HC: W...SHARE: READ MORE Interviews Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Saturday 7th March
Monday 2nd March
Sunday 8th March