Exclusive: Stuart Gordon Talks Re-Animator – The Musical, The Men, and More at Screamfest LA Mixer
While co-hosting (with festival head Rachel Belofsky and Jonna Jackson) last week’s Screamfest LA mixer at Te’Kila and 504 on Hollywood Boulevard (in attendance were horror movers and shakers John Skipp, F. Javier Gutiérrez, Stephen Goldmann, John Michael Elfers, Drina Durazo and more), I caught up with Re-Animator filmmaker Stuart Gordon in order to discuss his current projects as well as the currently previewing play Re-Animator – The Musical.
Opening on March 5th at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood, CA, the stage musical incarnation of Gordon’s 1985 filmic hit (both of which center around Dr. Herbert West, a medical student obsessed with reanimating the dead) runs Friday through Saturday nights through March 27, and Gordon told us of the play over a cocktail amid the boisterous din, “Audiences seem to really like it, which is great! We’re previewing all weekend, and those nights are already sold out, which is a wonderful thing.”
In regards to the cast of Re-Animator – The Musical, “George Wendt is playing Dean Halsey,” said Gordon, “and Chris McKenna is playing Dan Cain, and we have this wonderful guy, sort of a discovery, Graham Skipper, who is playing Herbert West, and he’s amazing.” The cast is rounded out by Jesse Merlin, Rachel Avery, Mark Beltzman, Cynthia Carle, Brian Gillespie and Liesel Hanson.
While the musical aspect is certainly a departure from the source material, the production does remain loyal to not only the black humor evident in the Re-Animator film but also the gratuitous gore, and audiences can expect just that, with the first three rows of the theatre designated a ‘splash zone.’
“There’s a lot of liquid flying through the air,” said Gordon of the play’s copious gore. “It’s the original group from the film providing the effects. Tony Doublin, John Naulin and John Buechler all came back to do their thing, and I think it’s even better than it was in the film.”
Reflecting on the longevity of Re-Animator a quarter century after its release and its current sonorous metamorphosis, “It’s amazing that people are still enjoying the film,” said Gordon, “and I think doing it as a musical kind of puts a whole new spin on it, and the guy who wrote the songs, a fellow named Mark Nutter, is inspired. I mean his stuff is kind of twisted and cheerful at the same time. He sort of reminds me of Tom Lehrer (writer's note: an American songwriter known for his lyrical black humor, evidenced in his song ‘Poisoning Pigeons in the Park’, among others), who was this guy who wrote all of these weird songs in the 1950’s, and he kind of inspired me and gave me that thought that one could do a horror musical, and I think Nutter was the guy to write the songs.”
Regarding the filmmaker’s future hopes for Re-Animator - The Musical, “Our hope is to ultimately take it to New York,” he effused. “I don’t know if it’s a Broadway show, but it’s certainly an Off-Broadway show. We haven’t got any reviews yet, since it hasn’t officially opened, but it has been blogged about, and one of the blogs said that they thought the play was better than the movie, which I thought was kind of cool. I mean, there’s nothing like it. The play happens right in front of you. People are excited about 3D, but this is 4D! This is reality, and you are breathing the same air, you are right there, and having Re-Animator happening right in your face is quite an experience. I do have to say our cast is amazing. They make you believe that all sorts of carnage is taking place.”
As for what cinematically is exciting the director at present (who previously helmed Dagon, Castle Freak and episodes of the series "Masters of Horror", among others ), “I’m working on a couple of projects,” revealed Gordon. “One of them is with Brian Yuzna, who produced Re-Animator. It’s from a Dan O’Bannon script, the guy who wrote Alien and Total Recall, and who unfortunately passed away last year. This is a script of his, though, that Brian and I have been wanting to do for a long time called The Men. The basic idea of it is that Earth was taken over by aliens about a half million years ago, and I can’t give too much away, but we are in early pre-production on it and are just starting to cast it. We are working with Robbie Little and The Little Film Company, and they are bringing in the financing.”
“The other project I’m working on is with Ed Pressman that I’ll be directing, and it’s called Mud Duck and was written by John Strysik, the guy who wrote Stuck, the last film I directed. Like Stuck, it’s based on a true story and is about a massacre that took place in Wisconsin about five years ago. I wouldn’t call it a horror film, although it is horrifying, but I guess it’s like an action movie, really, because it’s about a shoot-out that took place in a morgue.”
The conversation turned briefly then to the challenges which face filmmakers in funding projects given the standing economic downturn, and Gordon waxed, “These are rough times. People call it a ‘recession’ but I really think it’s a depression, much like the 1930’s. It’s one of the reasons, though, that I like doing theatre because you don’t need a million dollars to do it. You can kind of make it happen with very little money. A couple of years ago I did a project with Jeffrey Combs called Nevermore where he played Edgar Allan Poe, and that show is now touring all over the country, and I’ve had a great time with it.”
To purchase tickets to Re-Animator – The Musical, visit the Steve Allen Theatre online here, and stay up-to-date on all things Screamfest LA (the film fest runs this year at Hollywood and Highland from October 14 through the 23rd) here.
"Bill Millsap and Stephen Goldmann"
"Craig Ouellette, Rachel Belofsky and Javier Gutierrez"
"Drina Durazo and Mayra Rodriguez"
"Stuart Gordon and Rachel Belofsky"
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