Exclusive Q&A: Producers Thommy Hutson and Michael Perez Dish on More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead
In case you haven't heard, several members of the creative team behind the award-winning Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy and Bio Channel’s Inside Story: Scream have joined forces once again to pay homage to another genre classic, Dan O'Bannon's The Return of the Living Dead.
Officially released today, More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead (review here) has been called by those involved the definitive exploration of the outrageous splatter classic which has continued to terrify and entertain horror fans for over twenty-five years now. With its delicious mix of blood, guts, sex and one of the most iconic zombies ever, it's easy to see why O'Bannon's cult classic's legacy continues to grow even now.
Directed by Bill Philputt, More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead features for the first time ever interviews from the flick's entire main cast as well as clips, photographs, storyboards, conceptual art, publicity materials, archival documents and behind-the-scenes footage.
Dread Central recently checked in with executive producer Michael Perez and producer Thommy Hutson to talk all things Return of the Living Dead and hear more from the pair about their experiences collaborating on the brand new retrospective.
Dread Central: Talk a little bit about what made you decide to revisit the Return of the Living Dead series- was there something in particular about that franchise that piqued your interest?
Michael Perez: Well, most of the cast have been a part of my PR Agency (K!SSPROOF Entertainment) for some time now. Starting with Linnea (Quigley) and Beverly (Randolph), eventually leading to everyone else (with the exceptions of Miguel Nunez and Clu Gulager), which has been for about five years, so they had already acquired a good share of my time and life until this.
Working with Thommy on Never Sleep Again and Scream: The Inside Story were situations where I was not only working with one of the best producers, but I began to see a trend happening. A lot of 80's retrospectives were being done, and since I was so close to the cast, I thought that who else should do it other than me? So I called Beverly (who also serves as executive producer) and told her I had the perfect producer to artistically put this together. She was on board; then I caught up with Thommy and he was all for it, and the rest is history!
Thommy Hutson: The question of “what are you doing next” is always inevitable so after Never Sleep Again there was Inside Story: Scream, and before I had time to wonder what could be next, I was contacted by Beverly Randolph and Michael Perez to gauge my interest in putting together the definitive ROTLD documentary.
The very first thing I did was watch the film again. It was pretty clear pretty quick that there was so much fun to be had in doing a retrospective on this so I called them up and said, “I’m in!” I think the fact that the film is scary, funny, sexy and punk made me want to explore it further than it ever has been. It’s like a scary comic book come to life, and that got my creative juices flowing to tackle it. It’s just a roller-coaster ride of a movie.
DC: Since there have been a lot of great recent horror docs that have been released over the last few years, what was the approach to this documentary in order to keep the format feeling fresh?
Perez: Well, a lot of the horror retrospectives that have come out recently have been about slasher films, and ROTLD is a whole different playground. We had done some brainstorming on how to make this something new and fresh, and with Thommy suggesting the idea of doing the animation, that lent a really great 80's feel to More Brains. We also wanted to build the sets to give it more of a realistic perspective too.
Hutson: Because the film is juggling so many different things and emotions, it was important that it be creative and fun. I think the hardest part was finding one of the hooks that built a through-line in the show. With Never Sleep Again there was the stop-motion animation which, for me, is so absolutely mind-bogglingly awesome and fun (thank you to the uber-talented Michael Granberry and team) and on Inside Story: Scream there was the Bio Channel narration to bridge everything. I knew there had to be a way to bridge that creativity and story without repeating it so we went with these really fun, stylistic animated vignettes (kudos to writer Gary Smart for his tireless drawing and editor Michael Benni Pierce for bringing them to life). It’s a total throwback to the EC Comics stuff, and it just fits so well with ROTLD and the mood it conveys.
I think it feels fresh and fun for a documentary in this arena, and we wanted to try something new instead of copying something recently done. The other thing was to keep things fast-paced and fun while still being informative. ROTLD is a great ride, and we wanted to make sure the documentary had the feeling of the film: fun, sexy, cool.
DC: How long was the process of getting More Brains! completed, and were there any surprises/hiccups along the way?
Hutson: For me the process from “are you interested” to final delivery was about 10 months. I like to refer to the show as my overdue baby! As for hiccups, there are always hiccups. But, thanks to a team that was on top of things every step of the way, we got through them relatively unscathed! Then again, I feel that the little things that throw you for a loop, even when you’ve been to this kind of rodeo before, keep you on your toes, help keep things fresh and make you think outside the box. As stressful as that can be, it’s exciting at the same time. To borrow a line from James Karen: “It keeps you young.”
DC: Can you tell us some of your favorite interviews from the doc and maybe give us a tease of what's in store for fans with this latest retrospective?
Hutson: Speaking of James Karen! You will absolutely fall in love with him all over again- he is so funny, so smart and so insightful. All of the interviews were great, and it was so much fun to hear stories that are brand-new. John Philbin is a riot, and Beverly Randolph gives the show such heart. Brian Peck is literally a walking encyclopedia of ROTLD, and I don't think there is anything he does not know about the film.
All together, they make for a show that really tells the story as it was and how it’s remembered today. And it’s the first time the entire main cast is together talking about the film, which is a treat. They don’t pull any punches or sugarcoat things either.
Perez: I think for me- I thought John Philbin (Chuck) gave an amazing interview; he is so incredibly funny. But one of my favorite things is that nobody held back their feelings on situations that took place on the set of the original film now that everything is pretty much out in the open.
I really think the fans are going to enjoy this film because you get to see what made the original ROTLD film so amazing. It's the magic between the actors, and this shows they really had chemistry. The documentary is really funny, and I think it had a lot to do with the cast because the energy levels are just off the wall.
DC: What would you say was the most surprising thing you learned along the way while making the documentary?
Michael Perez: Oh my- how about what really happens in mortuaries; you have to watch to learn!
Hutson: That Miguel Nunez could have seriously ever worn the outfit Beverly wore in the film and also (for me) the history of how ROTLD came to be and the struggles it had to actually get made.
DC: Was there anything you wanted to make it into More Brains! but didn't in the final cut? What kind of bonus features did you cook up for fans?
Hutson: Oh, what could have been. There’s always something more you want, I think. But aside from interviewees who weren’t available, I think we put a lot into the main feature (which is two hours) that tells a complete, interesting, informative and fun tale. As for bonus features, we have deleted stories we had to cut from the main show, a music video by Stacey Q, featurettes on ROTLD 2 and 3, a locations segment and more.
But what was really exciting is that we got to include Dan O’Bannon’s final interview- it’s candid, open and really shows the legacy that he created.
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