March 30, 2007

Unless you live in a cave then you know all about Grindhouse. It’s the new Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez exploitation double feature that arrives next Friday at theaters everywhere. While Robert made a zombie flick, Quentin made a car movie and it’s called Death Proof. So who would Quentin pick to be the lead? Yup, Kurt Russell.

Old Snake Plissken plays a killer of women, but he doesn’t kill with a gun or even a shovel, no – he uses his car. Just like some of Kurt’s other iconic characters, this one as Stuntman Mike will go down as a classic.

While I could go on and on about the film, I’m just going to say the entire thing is over 3 hours so get ready for some fun next weekend. And the fake trailers and scratches on the film that everyone is talking about, yeah it’s amazing.

If you want to read a great interview read this one. Kurt talks about everything including the remake of Escape From New York and all about what went on behind the scenes while making this film. But if you want to fully enjoy it I would listen to the MP3, especially as you can hear all of us who were in the room laughing as the stories are great. Click here to download it.

Now here is the interview with Snake Plissken.

Slight spoilers are discussed

You were awesome in this film.

Thank you very much.

How about the comment that Entertainment Weekly reported about Gerard Butler and Escape from New York?

I was just kidding around I think that a long time ago John and I had a lot of fun making the movie. It was a John Carpenter creation the Snake Plissken character and how it plays — my creation. Our movie will always be there. They’ve done a television series off of Stargate. They did a television series off of Backdraft. They’re going to redo The Thing. Remake Escape from New York. They did some Disney movies that I did. Listen, I had a long career and I’m only happy to have had it. Good luck to everybody and see if you can keep up. Cool. My personal statement was “wait until stuntman Mike hears about this.” He might want to rethink that. Like anybody else I’m concerned about Grindhouse. I want people to have fun at this night which I think is a tremendous invention of the 2 fellows–Tarantino and Rodriguez. I think it’s going to be a hoot of a night and I was really happy to have a part of that.

Did you ever go to grindhouses?

Oh sure. I went to double features all the time and I was also interviewing for them because I was an actor. I do remember sitting around the room sort of look at each other and say how did he get this part, are you actually going to play it? We look at each other and say “Man, I really need the work. I have to put food on the table.” What about that scene where you’re eating the rat? Hey, man, I don’t even know how they’re going to do that but I’ll worry about it when it happens. I never had to cross the bridge. I never really did anything that qualified for that world so I just go watch them. It was a lot of fun.

What were some of your favorite grindhouse movies of all time?

Well, the one that qualifies I guess was Vanishing Point. I always thought that Vanishing Point was on the existential level really cool in that world and I kind of liked Death Proof in that regard. Death Proof has that kind of sort of just off thing. It’s just off. It has sort of spectacular moments.

What was your prep for, I mean because the character was very specific with the clothes, the car and stuff. How much of that was in the script and how much of it was you?

You know, when you read a script to me it’s kind of becomes clear and there’s quite a bit of stuff that’s not there and it’s not in the movie. Quentin and I got together and once again it was like, yeah, the scar should be over the eye right? We looked at the first one and I said this isn’t big enough and he said yeah deeper and he said right. There was a standee or something and I said more like that guy’s right there but just deeper and more obvious right? So we came back out and said like that and he said yeah there it is. We did some wardrobe things but we said a black t-shirt. Keep it simple. Kind of black pants, cowboy boots, stunt man. We got that jacket and started fooling with the jacket and sort of that kind of like Burt Reynolds in Hooper and that kind looks like ….yeah we want that and do the old 50’s, yeah that’ll work it kind of retro’s him out. What about your hair? I said (Kurt makes a swooshing sound) just right. So it took about 8 minutes — there it is. But playing the character was a little different. There’s a lot of versions and when we rehearsed I said I really have to go through some crazy things that might look really bad and sound really bad and he said no absolutely do them. I did all those for 3 or 4 days. He was great. Never said a word just let me do it. I was doing Marlon Brando at one point, I was doing it as John Wayne. I was just going all over the map I was just doing it as a complete screaming queen at one point. Trying all these different things, sort of a Snake Plissken version. then finally the day before we started I said I’ll try that thing yesterday at the end of the day where we redid something where it was just sort of a loose straight thing and he said yeah, I think that’s pretty much it isn’t it. I said yeah. So we started it out and by the time we got to the end I said you know you did write one word here that I really didn’t take to heart and I think it’s the core of all of these psycho killer characters especially this one the one that kills women. He said what word is that? I said coward. I said I really want to do that. I said I want to get there and he said ok. I said if we’re going to talk about character arc the guy knows who he is and I think a lot of times these characters cover who they really are so I thought that would be fun to do because I’ve never actually seen that at one of these characters at the end of the movie completely fall apart. Actually the only time in the whole 3 or 5 months of shooting whatever that Quentin ever came over and Dennis Leger the makeup man that I’ve done 20 movies with was standing there working on the blood and stuff and he sees Quentin coming over and Quentin had never come over to me during the entire shoot of the movie. I’m thinking what can this be? Quentin is kind of holding his mouth and thinking and I said what is it? And he looks at other people and drifts backwards and he says maybe a little less? I came out of the car and said I finally did it. I finally went too far. Guess what? What that was…I saw the movie the other day with him and at the end of the movie when I’m screaming, he used that take! I had never gotten that far, I never reached that level. That was sort of what the whole thing was, just have a great, great time. This is why you get into this business. This is what you hope to do. Every great once in a while it happens and boy you certainly relish it when it comes along because it may never happen again.

Can you talk about the importance of science fiction in genre movies?

Every one turns out to be important is something really good is done. There’s no great need to have westerns unless there’s some really good ones. There’s no great need to have mystery films unless there’s some great ones. There’s no need to have these kinds of films unless they do what they set out to do which is deal with in an exploitive way, deal with 3 things. Sex, violence and extreme subject matter. If you deal with extreme subject matter and you deal with it in an extreme fashion then if you do something the audience remembers and has a great time with then it was important to do. You never know ever when you’re making a movie if it’s important of if it matters. It always only matters to you. Everybody on the show, you go out there and give it your best every day, every take you try to hopefully come up with something and make a movie that people are really going to embrace and have a great time with and at a certain age be memorable to them.

Recently Dean Devlin said that he was talking to the MGM folks to try to bring the Stargate films back with the original cast. Has there been any talk or anything on that?

I heard that Gerard Butler was doing that. (massive laughter in the room)

In the bar scene, Jack Burton’s shirt is on the wall, are you aware of that?

Quentin goes “look, look, look, look!” What? “Look on the wall” I’m looking on the wall and what Quentin. And everybody’s standing around and I said wait a minute. What is that? Is that my shirt? And I said it looks vaguely familiar. I didn’t want to burst the bubble but after a while said oh yeah that’s great! He’s crazy for that stuff.

How many hits landed at the end when the girls were beating the shit out of you?

They were fabulous and I liked the kid Zoë because Zoë was the real stunt girl there. She’s the only one who hit me. They were great. They did a phenomenal job. I’ve done lots of those scenes with way less punches than that and been hit way more. They were fantastic.

What’s the difference between playing a bad-ass character like this and playing some of your straighter adult roles? Is it more fun to play this? Is it easier? Is it just as tough?

It’s not as tough because the perimeters are kind of wider. No, it’s easier because you know in the context of the screenplay this character is turning all the moments just by virtue of what those characters do when they do something the audience has to follow it. They have to see the result of it. By nature that’s I suppose egotistically more fun thing to do than it is to do something that’s more subtle and have it go unappreciated. But anyway…you keep trying to do them. When you’re dead and gone somebody looks at it and say you know they missed the boat there. That was actually very good, very subtle, very real. When you look at it closely it was very good. It’s a bit thankless those other things sometimes, but they’re not to me. I like to see if you can accomplish with the other actors and the director that capturing the moment that supposed to be captured just as much as if it were something as broad as stuntman Mike being shot in the arm and reacting to that the way he does

Did you ever drive any 70’s muscle cars back in the day? I’m from back in the day too so I can ask you that.

Back in the day, like you probably, I didn’t think that much of those cars. I just thought they were big and ugly.

They got hot later.

I never quite got it. I was in high school at the time or high school and college age. I didn’t go to college but I was college age. The only thing I could never figure out why girls actually responded to those cars and those guys. You’ve got to be kidding me. What is it? Years later, about 1998, I was doing a picture and I bought a 1932 3 window Ford Coupe. Beautiful hot rod. Real thin windows so they can’t really see who’s in it. Dark and very cool. I suddenly got it. Women just go crazy for funny cars. They see something that has a loud throb to it a loud noise and it’s got a goofy paint job and it’s obvious the guy has a sense of humor and a big cock. That’s what you get. From 8 to 80 they’re going oh, look look. Give me a ride in your car. Clearly it wasn’t me because they couldn’t see me and there was nothing unusual there but I said this car is amazing and I thought back on those guys in high school and said oh they really did know something I didn’t know which is girls love hot cars. I’d get in this thing and to me look like a complete goofball and they’d go it’s hot. What are you talking about? But they respond I got to admit. You hit that thing once and they turn their head. So there’s some kind of DNA connection that I never figured out.

What’s next for you?

Don’t know.

I heard there was some sort of deal and you got something you wanted to do like the first one with John. Was there any truth to that?

Oh no. One day we were going some where. Quentin, Robert and I were riding on the airplane we were going somewhere. We were kidding ourselves and talking about Grindhouse. We were talking about what they really did do back in that day which was they’d sign up an actor for like 6 shows and he’d shoot his part in all 6 movies in 1 or 2 days. I said we could make an announcement that I signed a deal with Grindhouse Inc. that I’m going to make the next 6 pictures and they’ll all be shot in a 3 day period and we were just kidding about that. I don’t know where that came out of.

There’s a very famous story about Travolta when he signed up for Pulp Fiction that they bonded over playing the Welcome Back, Kotter game. Did Tarantino bring out Escape From New York?

I’d be like sitting there falling asleep in the car waiting while they were lighting a shot and all of a sudden I’d hear “You’re going to have to go in after the President” I ‘d look around and then I’d hear “The President of what?” I look up and they’re all in the monitor…all the time. I’d hear something from Used Cars. They love Used Cars and they would go through Used Cars and he’d come to me with some part and he’d say “It’s too fucking high” and they’d all….they’re a moving party. They’re a movable feast. It’s really as much as you enjoy his movies or his approach to making them and understand how intelligent he is about them, I wish you all could spend an entire movie working, come prepared, I do warn you about that, it’s not easy. I watched people come in who weren’t quite ready to go and that’s not good and I don’t blame him but boy it’s what you figure it’s supposed to be when you want to have fun going after something and just really work hard. Really work hard and then when you get it, it’s just the joy of watching someone who really cares.

Any chance you might be in Sin City 2?

I never know about anything. I was in Tahiti eating pineapples and hear Tarantino wants you to do…what, that sounds interesting. I’ll be back in a week.

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