Even though I didn’t care for Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem, I was interested in speaking to him, having dug White Zombie growing up and enjoying The Devil’s Rejects. A friend of a friend had met Zombie through his job and said he was a really nice guy, and he was right. Zombie’s got an ease to him and struck me as down to earth, comfortable, and free from pretentiousness or irony.
He’s also a really busy guy: the book version of The Lords of Salem was released this week, which is closer to the film’s original script; he and his wife Sheri are shooting a music video this weekend for his new single, “Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown”; and he’s got Broad Street Bullies coming up to direct, his first non-horror film that focuses on the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1970s.
Zombie sat down with me and a few other journalists for a roundtable interview where we talked about the divisive reaction to The Lords of Salem, Hollywood’s hatred of horror movies, the nitpicking of horror fandom, that thin line between comic absurdity and horrific absurdity, and hockey.
[This interview was originally posted as part of our South by Southwest 2013 coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release of The Lords of Salem.]
[Editor’s note: Some of the questions and responses have been altered to avoid spoilers.]
What do you think about the way people have been reacting to The Lords of Salem so far?
It’s great! I’m very excited. I’m not really that worried about reactions. Most of the time I don’t even pay attention because it is what it is? I don’t sit there watching the audience in fear. But, it’s great — it’s exactly what I thought. Some people love it, some people hate it. [a beat] Shocking.
I assumed the release of the film and the release of your new album is intentional. Can you just talk about how you divide your energies between getting the word out on both?
Well, getting the word out on both is actually a littler easier, because I would normally have to do all of this twice. So now I can just sort of do it all at once. It was getting the two things made simultaneously that was the tricky part. That was a great idea on paper, but in execution it was pshew — fucked up! A lot of work.
Would you mind speaking to the process of making the book in addition to the film?
Well the book was 100% based on the original shooting script. It almost at this point bears very little resemblance to the movie, which is kind of cool. I mean, I forget when that started. That started during the shooting of the movie, and at some point I realized I was trying to keep the book updated and current to the changes that were happening on the film, and then I just gave up and said “This is impossible.” Because the film was changing so much everyday due to just–
I mean, you know, this was a very short shooting schedule. It was four and a half weeks, so I just decided at some point that the book would be all about the original shooting script that we never were going to shoot, so they’re very different.
At the Q & A [after The Lords of Salem] you mentioned that this loose thread you shot but were unable to complete because of the death of Richard Lynch. Could you talk about how that would have changed the story on the screen?
Well yeah, I mean… Let’s see… Originally Richard Lynch was playing Jonathan Hawthorne, and then the guy who now is playing Jonathan Hawthorne was playing a different character whose name I can’t think of right now. And it was just all the people that were getting killed and dying and getting killed by the Lords music were all linked back through these characters throughout the course of the film, so there was more of a thread.
There was sort of a domino effect, and once I couldn’t finish those scenes with Richard, what I had shot was useless, so then I just changed it around. But then the characters in modern times who were supposed to be connected [to that footage], they didn’t make any sense either, so they all got the hatchet too. So that’s why I had to cut so many people out of the movie. I tried making it work, but I just realized it was becoming so convoluted and so confused without the [missing] information that I just chopped it all up.
Was tackling your own take on the Salem witch stories something you’ve wanted to do for a long time?
Well, I mean, not really. It’s funny, because I came up with the idea about six years ago, maybe. Just like any idea, you have this sort of half-assed idea and you write it down and forget about it. And I kind of forgot all about it, and it wasn’t until I was approached to make a movie–
Because the way this project started was someone came to me and was like, “Oh, do you want to make a movie with us? This is the budget, you have total control, blah blah blah. Our only request is that it’s sort of more of a psychological horror movie.” And I was like, “Okay, that sounds good,” but I couldn’t think of anything. It was actually Wayne Toth who did all the effects — who’s done the effects on all my movies — that said, “Hey, how about that Lords of Salem thing you mentioned like a thousand years ago?” I’d completely forgotten all about it. I went back and pulled it up, and I’d written like 20 pages. That’s how it all came to be — it was actually something I’d forgotten all about.
You mentioned yesterday that one of the notes production gave you was to make all of the characters 18 and sexy.
That’s the note every studio gives you, actually. [laughs]
[laughs] What other problems did you encounter while filming?
I mean, problems kind of get forgotten because there are problems like every second of the day, unfortunately. But really, the biggest problem was just I’d never made a movie this quickly or for this amount of money, so I wasn’t ready for that. So when you have the script, you’re going through it and you’re like, “Oh crap!” There’s a certain point after the first week of shooting where you realize, “We’re never going to get through this script in four weeks.” And you just start ripping pages out and rewriting stuff, and that went on every single day.
And then it sort of became a good thing, because stylistically it became– Well, there’s like a scene where one character is laying there dead with three other characters around, and I’m like, “Okay, all this stuff needs to be condensed into one shot, and that’s it.” There was a lot of that, just figuring how we can turn seven pages into a quarter of a page, because that’s what we did everyday. And everyone got like one take because we were running out of time.
Was there a lot of research done on your part about what happened in Salem? Does anything sort of stick out in your mind?
I did a lot of research and I didn’t use any of it, really. Because the one thing that became apparent to me was — this sounds kind of weird — but the Salem witch trials were kind of boring. They just hung everybody, you know? Until I started researching it, I think a lot of people confused the European witch trails with the Salem witch trials. In Europe it was the iron masks and the spiked chairs and they’re lighting people on fire and doing all this crazy shit. They didn’t do any of that in Salem. They just took them out and hung them by the neck. It’s like, “That’s no interesting.” So I sort of abandoned factual things quickly.
Can you talk a little about the community of actors you work with, like the actors who come back time and time again?
In this movie I actually tried to bring in people I’ve never worked with, because for me I want to mix it up too. Or if I bring somebody back, I want them to do something different. But sometimes it’s hard not to write something with somebody in mind. It makes it so much easier, and I did it again on this one. At the same time, I always try to keep my mind open for like the Bruce Davison role. I don’t want to have anybody in mind for that. Or like Judy Geeson’s role. I always wanted Pat Quinn, although almost to the last second I didn’t think we were going to get her due to visa issues.
So yeah, it’s kind of a little bit of both. With the next movie that I’m working on, Broad Street Bullies, I don’t see anybody that I’ve ever worked with before being in the movie, truthfully.
Not unless they can put some skates on.
Yeah, I doubt they can.
[laughs] What made you decide to make the leap from horror movies to true-life sports?
It’s just a great story. I mean, I just love movies and I hate being pigeonholed over stuff. It becomes a real bore, and I don’t ever want to be labeled as, “Oh, the guy who does that.” It’s boring. So I like breaking out, but I was always looking for the right project. Nothing ever came up that I thought, “Oh yes, that’s it.” Stuff would come to me and I was just like, “Ehhh” — just couldn’t get on board. But Broad Street Bullies takes place in 1974, which is a time period I love. I was a huge hockey fan back then during that time period, so it just had all the elements. I mean it’s just a really rough, dirty, nasty story, but it just happens to be a sports movie.
Who was your team?
Well I was from Massachusetts, so I was into Boston, but I still love the Flyers — even though they were hated I still thought they were cool.
You know, they were the outlaws. I think it’s something that’s a big departure, but given the nature of the story, fans will still dig it even I they don’t care about hockey because that’s sort of irrelevant in a way. Like most people love Rocky even if they’re not boxing fans because it’s not really about boxing per se.
How are you going to approach this film stylistically? Your five films have a very specific visual look to them and tone. I’m wondering if you’re looking to use the same tone and style or if you’re going to do something a little more mainstream.
Well, I don’t like the term “mainstream” because I just find “mainstream” everything boring.
No, and I don’t like “polished” either.
No, but I like things being raw. It’s so easy to polish things. In fact, I like mistakes because things have become so polished. When I see certain movies I go– I mean, maybe I know too much [about the process], but I can look at something [and know it’s polished]. They go through frame by frame and digitally airbursh every actors fucking face until I feel like I’m watching an animated movie even though it’s a live-action movie. And I hate that.
So stylistically, I would want the movie to look like it was shot in the 1970s, because if it’s going to be a period movie, I want it to feel like it was made in that period. A movie that has a look that would be perfect is something like The French Connection. If it could look like The French Connection, that would be the perfect look for Broad Street Bullies.
But with Lords of Salem I’d argue that’s a very polished movie. The cinematography alone is very much different than Paranormal Activity.
Would you mind speaking about the cinematography?
The cinematography was a conscious decision because– You know, Lords of Salem is a low-budget movie and it had a short schedule, but I didn’t want to make it look like a low-budget movie. It’s really easy to say, “Aww man, we’re going to shoot everything handheld! We’re going to shoot some of it with our iPhones! It’s all rough because we got no money! Whoopdedoo!”
And I was like, “Fuck that! Let’s make it look like the grandest film I’ve ever made even though the budget of [The Lords of Salem] is not even a third of The Devil’s Rejects.” I mean we had nothing to work with, and I thought just because of that it doesn’t have to look that way. So in some ways I think people like it because they do think, “Oh, this is the most normal-looking movie,” in a way.
I thought that was important for the story too. It had to feel normal and safe in a certain way with the cinematography so that when it got grand and weird it went somewhere. If it was already rough and nasty at the beginning, then you kind of have nowhere to go with it, and I didn’t really think that fit the grand visuals. Like [it was] the exact opposite with the Halloween movies: I wanted to take something that had become commercial Michael Meyers and make it all dirty and filthy.
Would you ever want to shoot a movie as fast and quick as this again?
Not a movie like this, no. I mean, I would like to have more time. Because really, the funny thing is that having too much time and too much money doesn’t mean that what you’re going to do is good. Sometimes I think it hurts people because there’s a certain rhythm you get on set. It’s just the adrenaline you get of working. Because I’ve been on sets of other people’s movies where I’m like, “Nobody’s fucking working!“
They have so much money where there’s literally nothing going on! They’re taking like four hours to set up the most nothing shot, and you can just feel it. The actors are all in their chairs falling asleep and they’re bored. They’re like, “What are we doing now?” They’re not even paying attention. And I’m like, “This is no way to work.” So there’s that perfect middle ground where you’re moving fast but not so fast where people are confused, which is… [laughs]
It’s also not a good thing when your actors go, “Wait, what are we doing?” They’re like, “I’m changing my clothes again. What scene is this?” There were certain times where I’d say to the actors “Change your clothes, come through the door. Change your clothes, come through the door. We’re only going to be here five more minutes and I need to use this. We’re going to get all your entrance and exists right now.” And they’re confused.
I dunno. How long is a piece of string? How long do you need to make something good? The right amount of time.
I wonder if you accepted these conditions to work fast and for x-amount of money and creative control– Was that any reaction to working on the Halloween franchise with the Weinsteins at all?
Yeah, I mean, it really was. I didn’t realize because of the limitations how hard it would be at certain times — I didn’t really think about it. I think all of us — me, my crew, and a lot of the actors — after the Halloween stuff we were like, “We need to make a movie that’s fun.” Because those movies were so stressful and not fun to work on that nobody could remember why they wanted to make movies anymore.
[laughs][laughs] Y’know? But that was a big part of it.
What was the most challenging thing about the shoot?
Any of the scenes, kind of like the last shot of the movie, that was the most challenging. It was kind of a complicated thing to set up because nothing’s digital. It’s all practical effects. We did it all live, and when you’re trying to work super fast. [laughs] It’s five hours to set up this one shot, you really start question [yourself]. “This shot better look cool because we wasted half a fucking day on it.” Thing like that tended to be the most challenging.
Can you talk about working with Meg Foster? She does some ridiculous shit in that movie. [laughs]
I mean working with Meg Foster was fantastic. I really love Meg. It’s funny because after I cast her, I started worrying if she would be great. Because when I went back and watched a lot of her movies… People always go “Oh, Meg Foster in They Live!” but they didn’t give her anything to do in that movie. She’s in there. No one ever gave her much to do, like they just thought, “Oh, she’s pretty. Let her be in the movie.”
But then once I got to know her and we started working I’m like, “Why isn’t Meg Foster talked about like Helen Mirren?” You know, I mean, it’s sad sometimes, the way things go. Yeah, she’s just phenomenal, and would clearly do anything for the project.
Was she was completely gung-ho about anything you said?
Yeah! Yeah! She’s not anyone I had to convince about anything.
What about Judy Geeson? What led you to her?
That was on the the last people cast. I was having a really, really hard time casting that role just because– It was really weird. I mean, there’s a real hatred of horror movies in Hollywood. Hated, especially by actors. They just don’t want to be a part of it. A lot of times people go, “Why do you use the same actors?” Because they’ll do it. It’s amazing the people that won’t do things. I’ll see someone and think, “Clearly she’ll do it. She’s now down to non-speaking roles and background parts in TV commercials!” And you offer them a lead role and they go, “Oh, I don’t want to be in a horror movie.” Like you’re asking them to be in some kind of Asian gangbang movie with like midgets.
You know, they’re really like, “Ewwwooooh.” And really, one person after another. It was like so-and-so is locked in, they fall out. The next person, no. No. No. No. And I was like, “Oh my god, am I just going to have to eliminate this role?” And then at the last second, Judy Geeson came in an read and I was like, “Fuck everyone, she’s great.”
And both Judy and Meg hadn’t done anything in over a decade. They both basically stopped acting. That’s a thing I found with a lot of these actors too: they’re over it, you know? Because like I said, you’re either Helen Mirren and the whole world worships you or you’re 60 years old and [the studios] are like, “Oh, you’re a washed-up old lady we couldn’t give two fucks about.” I think they’re all happy to be appreciated again.
It seems like a lot of people talk about actors not wanting to be in horror movies. A lot of people look down on horror movies overall as a genre and they go in with expectations but don’t like it regardless whether the movie’s actually good or not.
Now you’re making a sports movie, and it feels like it’s almost dealing with the same thing, like if ESPN doesn’t like it–
Well, it’s really funny, though. It’s weird, there’s such a different vibe. The the horror movie… The genre community is so different because it seems like they love horror movies so much that they hate everything.
[laughs][It’s like they only like something] from 30 years ago. “Oh man, I gotta go home and jerk off to fucking Day of the Dead,” but they hate everything. Whatever random movie, you know. But like the rest, they’re like, “Oh, great.” People [outside of the genre community] don’t think of it that way. Like, “Oh, that’s cool.” I don’t think people are at home furious about Argo! “THAT’S NOT THE WAY I WANTED THAT MOVIE TOLD!“
You know, it’s like really weird. People who you think should be the most supportive are always the people the least supportive and hate you the most. Like a regular movie website would be like, “Hey, great,” but the horror movie website’s like, “Fuck you! And fuck you! And fuck you!” [laughs] Okay.
[laughs] It might not be as extreme, but it’s kind of similar to sports. Like there’s some boxing movie [and people are like], “Oh, it’s not as good as Rocky, so it must be shit.”
But the rest of the word doesn’t act that way, that’s the funny thing. They say, “Hey, great, a hockey movie. That’ll be cool.” It’s really weird, and it’s so funny because I think the genre world gets so micro-focused and stuff. You get out in the real world and everyone’s like, “Ah, who gives a shit? That’s a movie, I gotta get to work.” [laughs]
They’re not staying up all night blogging about it, they just don’t care. So it’s a really weird thing, you know?
How much do you pay attention to criticism or media about your films?
I really don’t because it doesn’t matter. If someone goes, “Read that, it’s really nice,” I might look at it and go, “Hey, great, somebody liked it.” But that’s about where it ends. I mean, you can’t… It’s sort of all irrelevant. I think that if I was new to this, I would be like, “Oh my god, somebody [wrote this],” because I know some people who’ve got to read everything. And then they just have a meltdown.
The thing that I’ve noticed is that everyone’s opinion changes with time. Even big film critics go back and change the reviews in their books all the time because they originally trashed a movie that’s now considered a classic. Like, “I’ve gotta go back and add a couple stars to that review or I’ll look like a dick,” you know?
It happens all the time. I had a friend who used to always do that: point out in Leonard Maltin books, “Oh, look, now he likes that movie a lot more than he did back in ’74.” And that’s the thing with all my films. When I made House of 1,000 Corpses, everyone fucking hated it. “Oooh, biggest piece of shit ever made, blah blah blagh,” and now they’re like, “Ohmygod, that’smyfavoritemovie! I love it so much!” And then when I made Devil’s Rejects, “Oh, that sucks compared to House of 1,000 Corpses,” and then now they’re like, “Ohhh, that’s my favorite one!”
It’s just the endless “whatever’s new sucks and whatever’s old is great.” So, bleaughck. But I already went with that with the music business too. I think everyone likes to feel like they’re in the know if they like something old, and they have to shit on everything new, until that’s old, and then they like it.
Can you talk about some of the influences on the film? I mean, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the work of Ken Russell–
What, you think I just fell off the fucking turnip truck?!
[laughs] No. But in terms of The Devils or Don’t Look Now, do you look to those films at all and do they consciously or unconscious perhaps…
Well, I mean, I’ve seen all those films so they’re all in my head, and I went and watched some of them with my cinematographer because that’s the one thing: it’s not like you’re trying to emulate a film or copy a film, but sometimes it’s really hard to explain what you’re thinking with just words. It was a sort of, “Maybe it’ll be like the paces of Barry Lyndon with the visuals of The Devils but sort of filtered through Repulsion, with a little bit of, you know, Tommy thrown in for some pizzazz at the end.”
It’s sort of like a mishmash of everything.
Did you look to any artists at all for some of the visual imagery? I’m not an art scholar or anything, so–
So I can just make up a bunch of names?
[laughs] You can make up a bunch of names, but then I could go and Google them.[laughs]
But I’m just wondering, for example, one of the final images is the most powerful image in the film.
That was pretty much a classic image. We pulled from a bunch of different ones for sure, just so I could show Brandon some of how it was lighted and showed wardrobe that this was what we were going to do. So yeah, there wasn’t any one particular artist. That was sort of a classic look of that person and those kinds of paintings. There may have been some in particular, but I can’t remember off the top of my head.
Sometimes I’ll just see an image and go, “That’s cool. I like the way that street looks,” I don’t even know what it is.
What advice do you have for young filmmakers who may be battling with budget constraints who want to make their films look high quality?
Truthfully, I don’t think that’s important. I think that’s the least important thing you can do, because it doesn’t impress anybody. Think of it in terms of music. You can hand me the worst-sounding cassette, and if the song is great, you’ll go, “That song is fucking genius!” And you can hand me the most overproduced record of all time, and I’ll go like, “That is fucking bullshit.”
And it’s the same thing with movies. You can watch something and it could look– You could film it on your phone and watch it and then think, “Jesus Christ, that guy is a good fucking actor.” And you’ll get it. Nobody cares. Nobody in Hollywood cares, and nobody’s going to be impressed by it. There’s no point. Good work comes through even if it’s through shit materials, so someone could do this giant mural and people will think, “This guy sucks,” and some other guy will fucking draw on a napkin with a fucking pen and people will go, “Fuck, Jesus Christ that guy is talented.”
So yeah, I think it’s irrelevant. I guess long-windedly I’m trying to say that’s irrelevant. [laughs] Good work come through no matter how rough it is.
The characters and the scenery have seemed to become your staple in all these horror movies. People can see a movie without seeing the credit and think, “Oh, this is a Rob Zombie horror movie.” Is there ever a point where you’re looking at makeup or the wardrobe and you’re thinking, “Ooh, too much. Let’s pull it back.”
No, I always actually think the exact opposite. Every time a movie’s done I’ll think, “Fuck! Why didn’t we go even further?” I’ve thought that every time. I’ve thought that on this movie, I’ve thought that on every movie. I always think that. You forget sometimes why you make the choices you did. Sometimes it was the only choice you could make. Sometimes the sun was setting and that was the only shot you could get, or whatever. But you forget that stuff and you think, “Why didn’t I do this?” I mean, all the actors do it. They’re all, “Oh, why did I say that line like that? I should have done this.” It’s a never ending… [laughs]
I guess that’s why other people’s criticisms are irrelevant because you’re so busy criticizing yourself there’s no room for other people. [laughs]
[laughs] Could you talk about the process of writing and recording the Lords song?
The spooky record thing? Yeah, that was something that was a little tricky because I wanted it to be organic in the sense that it really was a group of musicians playing that. It wasn’t like weird sounds we put together, everybody had some weird old instruments; it was recorded live, it was real, because I thought that was important… even though I don’t know if it is — at the time I thought it was.
But how we came up with it. I was on the East Coast and John 5 was on the West Coast, and we were basically on the phone basically humming different weird note patterns back and forth to each other until we arrived at that one. And truthfully, I don’t know if he thought of it or I thought of it or if it was a combination of both. I mean he can’t remember either.
It’s sort of one of those things where I needed it to be catchy enough that people could remember it when it came up in the movie, but odd enough that it didn’t sound like a song. Because it’s not really supposed to be a song.
You mentioned wanting to push things further. Even in this movie which does go to extremes. Is there any particular scene you can think of, like with one of the insane midget turkey-baby thing?
Yeah, everything. Literally everything I think that. But I know at the time I didn’t do things because I could. You know, like when we shot the scene of Sheri with the skull make-up walking up the stairs with the little guy. That was our last day of shooting on that set, it was 5:00am, we had been there forever. She was so delirious she didn’t know where she was. My biggest challenge at that point was to keep Sheri from having a laughing fit because she was so punchy that anything would set her off.
And you know, you walk up the stairs and you see that little guy, it’s like you want to burst out laughing, because it’s so funny. I still laugh every time I see him. So yeah, every scene has something like that.
It’s actually kinda weird. The creature is absurd but I found it terrifying at the same time because I was like, “What the hell is that? My god!“
She was actually scared. She hated looking at it. Because he’d be walking around the set in that suit, and he’s only like 2’6″, I think. He’s so tiny. You have to be really careful because he literally was like the size of a baby walking around. [laughs] It’s pretty freaky.
Is that you find kind of challenging when you’re making a movie: turning something funny into scary, or turning scary into something you may think is funny?
I mean, I knew I wanted something that was absurd, because the basic story, if I just read you the one line, you’d go, “Oh, that’s been done before.” Which is fine, that doesn’t bother me. It kind of like how every note’s been used, but it’s just how you put the notes together. But I knew when we finally saw the thing I didn’t want him to be some giant demon creature. So then I thought the reveal would be this weird little Kentucky Fried midget.
You know, maybe it’s funny, maybe it’s terrifying — but you’ll remember it. [laughs] It’s like thinking of this other creature was a challenge, you know. I didn’t want it to look like a baby with like contact lenses. It’d probably be something more disgusting than that.
You had mentioned in the Q & A you’re not thinking sequel with this one, but it does leave the door open somewhat to a sequel if you wanted to come back and revisit.
I mean every movie kind of does in a way, because I think we now see it that way. But I don’t think it would make sense. To me the power of so many movies was that feeling when the movie stops. And then coming back a couple years later and going, “Oh, I know I left you with that weird feeling. Now let’s explain it.” And you’re like, “Really?”
Sorry if I’m–
No, not [to your question]. I mean the feeling that really, we need to explain it?
And you feel the same with The Devil’s Rejects: you wrote down an idea but it’s not something that you’re going to [necessarily] act on.
Probably not. Doing another Devil’s Rejects thing is the only time I’ve ever felt like I want to do something because of the fans. And I don’t want people to misinterpret that. I always want to do things as great as possible for the fans, and that’s really important. But I can’t be dictated by what they want. You can’t work that way. But that’s the only one that just seems like people just love it so much that I feel… That’s the only time I’ve ever toyed with the idea of doing another one. It seems like that movie has become so insanely popular as the years go on, but…
It always seems when you go back for the third one. Nothing quite cuts it.
We hear Sam Raimi say, “Well, I want to do Army of Darkness 2 for the fans,” but there’s that sense that it nothing I want to do but something I have to do. I assume the same would probably be with Halloween 3, if Weinstein just dumped a shitload of money on you.
Yeah, I mean, it’s like I’d never approach is as, “Ughhh, I have to do this.” would always try to approach it like I wanted to make it special. Things just happen. Like whatever we did when we did Devil’s Rejects, you wouldn’t recapture it again. It just wouldn’t happen. The actors have aged, they’re different, the relationships between the actors have changed. You’d come back and… it’s like you’re trying to force a high school reunion to happen.
I mean, maybe you’d get something great, you know? What I would try to do would be to try something different just so that it wasn’t feeling like you’d try to recapture something.
And it’s like you said before: as soon as it’d come out, people would just be like—
“This is shit! This isn’t what I wanted!” [laughs]
“The first one was so much better.”
Basically what I was saying.
But then give it six years and then all of a sudden…
There’s something about the horror genre though, when fans like a movie, there’s always a movement behind it. Like, “Yes, let’s make another one. We’ll do three more sequels!”
Well, yeah. It’s weird. You never know how much was dictated by the fans and how much is dictated just by the business. Because it used to be like, “Oh, check out my new project! It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen!” And now when you say that, people just sort of glaze over. But now, [if you say], “Check out my thing! It’s just like Paranormal Activity!” People are like, “Really?! Let me see it!”
It’s like that with music. It’s like that with music. It’s like there’s this quest to give me more of exactly what I know I already like. That’s why, you know, it’s all the same.
“Play the hits!”
And that’s why when people ask, “Do you listen to what the fans say,” I’m like you really can’t because The Beatles would still be playing “She Loves You.” They never would have got to The White Album because the fans would have been like, “Harumngph! ‘Revolution,’ please! Give us another ‘Help!'”
What do you consider to be your biggest career success and your biggest career failure?
I don’t know. I always feel that both of those things are in the future. I don’t feel like anything has really been a failure, because it always seems like it made sense and worked out in some fashion. There have been things that have taken strange paths to getting there.
Like [The Haunted World of El Superbeasto] was one. Working on it, the company kept changing hands until by the time we wound up at the final place, they’re like, “We’re horrified by this! We’re not releasing this! This is nothing but dirty jokes and cartoon tits!” But the people we started with were very excited about that aspect of it, so, yeah, that was kind of a bummer, but someday it’ll be resurrected in some way, somewhere else probably.
As far as the biggest success, I always think that’s the next thing, you know? I’m never satisfied with it. [a beat] Everything has been the biggest failure, I guess. [laughs]
[laughs] You brought up Tommy earlier, and I’m kind of wondering if at some point you’d be interested in doing… I don’t want to say a rock opera, but at least something where music is a factor in the narrative.
I think it’d be great. I mean, there are certain types of movies that just have disappeared. They’ll make things like Chicago or Dream Girls, but Tommy and The Wall — that type of thing is gone. I just don’t know if people would go for it. But every time I think people won’t go for something, that’s exactly when they go for it. But yeah, some sort of music-driven film would be great.
They’re turning a lot of those movies into musical theater. Any artist with a multitude of hits seems to be approached about that. Have you ever been approached about something like that?
I have not, but I mean, I would always say this seriously — and it sound like I’m joking — but House of 1,000 Corpses as a Broadway play makes total sense. It seems like anything that’s weird and odd and a little bit campy, it seem now like, “Yeah right.” But who would have thought any John Waters project would somehow be this multi-million dollar bonanza on Broadway. Or even Monty Python or anything.
Fucking Spider-Man! [laughs]
[laughs] They’re doing Silence of the Lambs right now.
Silence of the Lambs. [a beat and then laughs] It’s just so strange!
Really just like anything else. Any kind of known property is what they want, because they just never want to do anything new. That’s the whole thing with the industry. New is bad, built-in audience is good.
Going back to a couple questions ago, are there any other actor you want to resurrect from being in career stasis? People who haven’t worked in a while that you think should really be in a movie.
I mean, probably. I see people all the time that I really like. I don’t have any names that jump to mind at the moment. A lot of times… What’s been the sad case sometimes, and I don’t want to mention names, there are people like that and you get with them and you realize that they’ve gotten too old and there’s a reason why the don’t work anymore.
Even with Richard Lynch it was sad. When I worked with him on Halloween he was phenomenal, but when he showed for The Lords of Salem, his agent sort of neglected to tell me that he was basically completely blind. He literally couldn’t see. And I couldn’t understand it because the camera would be here, six inches from his face, and he’d be yelling “Rob, where’s the fucking camera?” Is he joking? It’s six inches from his face. And then I was like, “Oh…” You literally had to walk him and place him and sort of direct him that way.
So, he didn’t seem healthy, but, you know, the agents don’t tell you, and that’s happened a few times with people where they show up and you go, “Well, I guess that’s why so-and-so hasn’t been working a lot lately.” But, then again, some people are like Eli Wallach. [laughs]
Keep charging along! [laughs]