LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Exclusive Interview with Lloyd Kaufman
By James Whittington, Thursday 15th June 2006
We’ve been talking to Troma head honcho Lloyd Kaufman about his eclectic career -- which includes Horror classics Class of Nuke ‘Em High, Hellblock 13, and The Toxic Avenger series.
THC: First of all Lloyd, can you tell us a bit about yourself, how you got started in the film industry and who were your major influences?
LK: Well I made the mistake of going to Yale University, where God gave me a movie nut as a roommate and f***ed up my life. My roommate introduced me to directors like Chaplin, Keaton, Ford, Lang, Renoir, and Brakhage, who are, to this day major influences on my movies. Also, I had a socialist grandmother who instilled in me a hated of large corporations.
So I decided being an independent filmmaker was the best career choice for myself. At least until my Cambodian sweat shops can reopen.
THC: You’ve worked on mainstream hits such as Rocky (Pre-Production Supervisor) and Saturday Night Fever (Location Executive) how did these jobs come about? Were they enjoyable experiences?
LK: I got those jobs thanks to having lips like a woman. Instead of going to film school, I attached myself to talented directors like John G. Avildsen and John Badham. I smothered any crappy job I was given and moved up the food chain quickly. I would agree to lower my salary in return for greater responsibility. At least that’s what I tell everyone who works for me.
THC: Troma Entertainment is (deep breath) the oldest continually operating fully independent movie studio in the world, what do you think has been the key to its global success?
LK: We make movies we believe in. We follow the maxim “To thine own self be true,” a phrase coined by William Shakespeare. . . I believe he wrote the Harry Potter books. Also our strategy has been to spend 34 years building a brand name. Troma is a classic cult . . . sort of like the Manson family cult.
THC: You and Troma have given many stars of the future their first big break including Samuel L Jackson (Def by Temptation) and Kevin Costner (Sizzle Beach USA). Do they ever acknowledge what you did for their careers? If not are you offended by this snub?
LK: Kevin Costner obviously loves Sizzle Beach USA; since he returned to the water years later wand spend $200 million on Waterworld, the best film of all time. “Cannibal! The Musical” directors Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park) were on the cover of Newsweek Magazine and their next career move was to play a hermaphrodite couple in my film Terror Firmer. So they can’t hate us too much. And James “Tromeo and Juliet” Gunn recently cast me in Slither. But I did have to sleep with him.
THC: Is it true Robert De Niro has appeared in a Troma movie?
LK: Yes. 76 years before The Wedding Crashers, Robert De Niro’s first film was Troma’s The Wedding Party, which was also a bold first film by Brian DePalma. In it, De Niro plays a cyborg ninja assassin who must travel back in time to fight against a lesbian coven of strippers who are plotting a nuclear orgy. . . and even worse, they are part of a syndicate that downloads Spielberg movies from the internet illegally. Which was revolutionary, since it was shot decades before the Internet was invented.
THC: The Troma movie Mother’s Day caused controversy in Britain and was originally refused a rating by the BBFC when submitted in 1980. What was your initial reaction to this and are you pleased its being shown now to a mass audience?
LK: Of course, my brother Charles (who directed MD) and I were delighted when our film was refused a BBFC rating. We spent two years making Mother’s Day just so that no one could ever see it, so really the BBFC played right into our hands. We are very upset that the public is now permitted to see this filthy, gory, sexy, hilarious and profoundly thought-provoking entertainment. Please tell your audience to heed the BBFC—they know how to think for you, people! Stay away from Mother’s Day!
THC: Have any other Troma movies been banned in other territories?
LK: Yes. Blockbuster and others have banned all of our films. We and our fans are so used to being marginalized and economically blacklisted that when one of our films actually penetrates the smelly hymen of the mainstream, we are the ones who get f***ed . . . if by chance one of our films does go mainstream we are offended. Thank god the internet is now being bought and regulated so Troma can die and I can die the way my father always said I would—alone, naked, drunk, and in the gutter—but not one of them fancy store-bought gutters. . . I’m talking major slum gutters in Glasgow.
So even though every Lloyd Kaufman movie has been banned in every country, there are still a few bright spots. For example, the delightful Troma remake of Snow White—Bloodsucking Freaks—is being enjoyed by families and orphans everywhere. So go see it, orphans! God knows you deserve some joy in your meagre, pathetic lives.
THC: The Toxic Avenger is surely the most famous Troma character, but where did the idea come from? Were you making a statement about global pollution?
LK: In 1981, I was getting various newsletters concerning how toxic waste dumps were ticking away all over the world like time bombs, and that the atmosphere and environment were being despoiled. However, we now know, thanks to George Bush, that there is no such thing as global warming. So that’s a relief. And I can stop writing my script for The Gradual Climate Change Revenger, which to be quite honest, kind of sucks anyway.
With Toxie, I was trying to create a monster more hideous than Fergie, but yet beloved by the masses. I did not succeed—besides Frankenstein, Fergie is still the most grotesque creature on the face of the Earth.
THC: You seem an easy going guy, have you ever lost your temper on set?
LK: Except for the time I killed a child actor—well, two child actors—I am pretty calm on set. But they were asking for it. Money, I mean. Ingrates.
Check out Farts of Darkness: The Making of Terror Firmer or Apocalypse Soon: The Making of Citizen Toxie, which are behind-the-scenes documentaries that showcase my style of directing.
THC: You’ve performed many Hitchcock style cameos throughout your career; is there one moment that particularly stands out and how many offers do you get a year?
LK: One cameo I really enjoyed is when he comes out of the pet shop walking his two dogs—God, the Birds is a classic. Or in North by Northwest when he misses the bus at the start of the film. Talk about high hilarity!
Did you know that I also do cameos in movies? I get probably a solid hundred offers a year, and I try to do as many as I can. Anything to support independent art.
My most enjoyable appearance would probably be in Poultrygeist the film we shot this past summer and will hit theatres this year. I got to be a monster, fire a gun, and wear a pretty dress—it’s a lot like New Year’s at my house.
THC: Troma Entertainment is actively searching out new film talent and is asking for people to submit finished feature length or short movies to be considered for distribution by you. Has this search proved fruitful at all and have you made any real discoveries?
LK: Very much so. We pride ourselves on accessibility, especially given how exclusive the film industry is. And by embracing independent artists, we’ve found treasure like Giuseppe Andrews Period Piece and Jenna Fischer’s Lollilove that might otherwise never see a release. There’s also Aidan Dillard’s Meat Weed Madness. All of these titles are great and available now at troma.com!
THC: And finally in as few words as possible, can you sum up your whole career?
THC: Lloyd Kaufmann, thank you very much!
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