So it’s finally come to this. At this year’s New York Comic Con, I got to interview one of my personal heroes, Roger Corman. He was there promoting the upcoming documentary Corman’s World. I learned about it approximately four hours before it happened, so I was unable to ready any video equipment for the occasion. Nonetheless, I got to interview him, and he told me some pretty cool stuff too. Since, as I said, he’s one of my heroes, I gushed a little bit. Having done thousands of interviews, he’s quite good at answering questions in as few words as possible, so a number of the questions are longer than the answers.
Regardless, it’s Roger f*cking Corman, guys. And I interviewed him. Read on to see what else he’s got up his sleeves.
First up: How does it feel to be Roger Corman?
Roger Corman: It’s exciting, and it’s gratifying, and to a certain extent, it inspires me to keep me in the game. I’m still making about four or five movies a year. Formerly I made ten to twelve a year, but I’m slowing down a little bit now.
How do you feel about the so-bad-it’s-good phenomenon, and how it’s seen a resurgance in recent years thanks to thinks like digital video. What do you think about those films? Since you are in a many ways the creator of modern day exploitation films, you have a big part in that. Are you happy with that kind of legacy or do you regret that a little bit?
No, I made exploitation films, and I think there’s nothing wrong with it. Every film must be exploited to get it to the public, and I think it’s very good that now with the digital equipment and the light and portable equipment that independent filmmakers are able to make films for such a small amount of money. Most of them, frankly, will not be very good, but some of them will be good.
Why did you choose to just become a producer?
I didn’t really make a decision to stop being a director. I directed, I’ve got 57 or 58 pictures in about 15 years and I just got tired, so I thought I would sit back and start a production and distribution company, and it became so successful that I just never got back to directing.
As a producer, how much control do you have over any given production? Are you really hands-on or do you sit back and let people do what they do?
I’m very much hands-on until the first day of shooting. During the shooting, I step back, because then I believe it’s the director’s job.
Are there some projects that you feel more attached to and that you think, “Well, I know this is my policy, but I’ll break it just this once”?
Well, we’re doing a picture called Virtual Heroes, which is a Vietnam war picture in which the characters begin to realize late in the picture that they’re not characters at all, they’re characters in a video game, and I think it’s a very original idea. G.J. Echternkamp is doing it. He’s a young filmmaker just out of film school.
Has there ever been any one dream film that you could never realize?
I had two pictures I wanted to make. One was Robert E. Lee, the confederate general. The other was Crazy Horse, the great Indian warrior chieftan. I developed scripts on both of them, but they cost a little bit more than I had to spend. I may still go back to them.
I know that Death Race came back a couple of years ago; are there any other films from your body of work that you’d like to see remade and shown to a new generation?
Well, Ron Howard’s first picture for me was Eat my Dust, and Ron and I are partnered in doing a remake of Eat my Dust, which was a comedy car chase film that was very successful.
How do you feel about where Little Shop of Horrors has gone? It’s nothing like your original film, but it’s a huge phenomenon.
I’m very pleased with it, because I get a percentage of the profits, and I thought the musical was very good. I’m possibly going to make a sequel myself to it.
You’ve been a major player in a lot of documentaries lately. I recently saw Machete Maidens Unleashed (I thought it was amazing) and now you’re in Corman’s World. How do you feel about documentaries about you or in general?
I think this one, Corman’s World, is a very good documentary. I think she did a very good job, and she got more people who I worked with in the early days to reminisce and tell stories and she cut them together with clips of the film, so I think it all worked out well.
Any interest in making a documentary yourself?
I’ve never worked in documentaries, and I don’t have any plans.
Is there anybody in particular that you’d like to work with that you haven’t, actor, director, anybody?
[Note: The following anecdote came from Mark Thomas McGee’s book Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures.]
One of my favorite anecdotes about you is that when you were working on Dementia 13, after Francis Ford Copolla told you it’s the dirtiest, most violent thing in the world that after you saw it you broke your pencil and stormed out of the room, and then hired Jack Hill onto the picture.
That is totally false. I thought Dementia 13 was an excellent picture,but it was a little bit short, and Francis had gotten a job at Warner Bros. and wasn’t available, so he suggested Jack Hill come in and shoot three or four more minutes to lengthen the film. I was very pleased with the film. This is an example of stories about me that have no basis in reality.
Last question: you’ve worked on Sharktopus, Crocdawhatever, and now Pirhanaconda. What’s next in the mutant-animal hybrids?
Pirhanaconda is the last for the moment. I may do a sequel to Sharktopus.
Fantastic. Thank you so much. It was really a pleasure.
Thank you, Alec. You’re the best. If you ever want to make movies, you know who to call.*
*Didn’t actually happen.