Troma’s Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Vol. 1 is enjoying tremendous success, and the legendary Mr. Troma himself, Lloyd Kaufman, sat down with Dread Central along with stars Asta Paredes, Katie Corcoran and Clay von Carlowitz to discuss the making of the film.
It must be noted that interviewing Mr. Kaufman and the cast members of Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Vol. 1 all together on Skype is almost like participating in a sitcom as you watch it unfold in front of you.
Beginning with a virtual tour of the Troma offices (complete with video proof that Michael Herz does exist, or was that Joe Fleishaker?) that consisted of Kaufman carrying his laptop around and pointing it at whatever he wanted to show, it was clear early on that this was not going to be a typical interview. The group was candid and loved chiming in on each other’s answers. We’ll try to convey the enthusiastic mood of the interview here as best we can.
Lloyd Kaufman began by speaking about how lucky he felt to have the talented cast he was granted for this film. “We had certain themes we were interested in and lucky for me we had an amazing cast,” Kaufman said. “Katie (Catherine Corcoran)and Asta brought the script we were working on for three years from the fifth floor to the 45th floor. They brought it way up there and enhanced everything. If the movie really is our Sistine Chapel, then it’s really due to Katie, Asta and Clay.”
Kaufman discussed how Clay Carlowitz fit into the film. “When we made the first turn on, Vincent D’Onofrio had a very small part, but every time he showed up on the set he was so good we kept expanding his role,” Kaufman said. “Clay had a featured role and now it’s major and as you’ll see in part two, his part grows and grows and grows. But the point is, Clay is a star.”
At this point Clay chimed in, “Lloyd encouraged us to flesh our characters out. There was a great collaborative relationship among all of us.” To which Kaufman added, “Not since the Nazis and the French got together has there been such a great collaborative effort!”
Kaufman continued, “The smart people can get that this is a love story, a comedy, an anti-bullying tract. A cry for rights for all humanity! It’s a very interesting film and it’s got all the magic of Troma. And Asta and Katie really made that happen, that the serious themes and the tenderness of the relationship really come to light.”
For those who have yet to see Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Vol. 1, the film is Troma at its best. All the humor and the gore are there and the traditional no-holds barred approach Troma is famous for is absolutely present. In fact, from the moment the film takes off, it’s clear that nothing is off limits in this movie. Asta Paredes, who at one point in the film sprouts a monstrously large penis (monstrously large!), talked about preparing for the role and sporting a four-foot wang.
“I think the camera adds a foot, because it was only three feet long,” Asta said, delivering the funniest line you’ll hear all day. “Lloyd had us read for an audition. He had us read the entire script and just watched our reactions. He prepared us. He made us watch behind the scenes documentaries like Poultry in Motion. I was prepared and I think as long as you bring something genuine to your character, anything is plausible. It’s, of course, physically taxing, but luckily we were all living together. We had a sense of camaraderie on set so it was easier to depend on people to help me ‘carry the weight,’ so to speak. It was a 20-pound member. Overall, I still have literal scars from the set, but now I look back at them as fond memories of how willing I was to go there because people were encouraging me to go further. I was ready, but I think it was way easier than I could have imagined.”
Katie (billed as Catherine) Corcoran spent a good portion of the film with a duck stuffed in her mouth (this must be seen to be believed). She talked about her feelings leading up to shooting this insane film, and having a duck crammed down her throat. “I think it was more strenuous for him (the duck) then it was for me. He had the difficulty of being forced in there,” Katie said. These girls are not only gorgeous, they’re funny as hell!
“As you can see (here she holds up the stuffed duck from the film) he’s still a little traumatized. I remember when we read the script, we weren’t really sure who was who yet, so we were kind of preparing ourselves for both things at first, which was a lot to take in at once. To prepare yourself for a) to have a giant member or b) pregnant on camera and kind of a large object attached to your body in one way or another. What I remember though is Asta and I became friends right away, so we really relied on each other. Both of us were only somewhat familiar with the Troma world, so it was a new territory for both of us. Having that friendship really helped us navigate the waters of what was our first feature film. And a supportive cast, crew, director, as time went on, we learned to shed our inhibitions about the project and just have fun with things. And Lloyd is great because he gives actors the freedom to do that. I had this idea I thought would be really funny and said to him, ‘What if my boobs started bazooka-style squirting?’ He was like ‘Yes, yes! Let’s do it!’ A couple minutes later we were doing the take.”
And not to miss an opportunity, Lloyd chimed in, “And luckily, Katie was lactating at the time. It was very easy.” Katie added, “Yes, it was very method. And those are really what my breasts look like. They’re that veiny and everything. Dead on.”
Asta talked about her creative expression on the film and the freedoms of working on Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Vol. 1. “Katie and I were cast before everyone else, so we’d been rehearsing the movie for almost three months before we started filming and whatever felt right, whatever served the story, stayed. Everything else we just stripped right away,” Asta said. “The essence is there and then some. There are a lot of things that we coined. I don’t know where or why it even stayed in the movie, but I came up with this thing in rehearsals where I said ‘skinless furbees’. I don’t even know what the hell that means, but it someone made the final cut. The script provided a guideline, but the movie magic is that things change on set. Time changes, costume changes, the camera angles change. So many things change that it seems like they change constantly so you just have to hold on to the essence of your character and be ready to roll.”
The mention of costumes seemed to trigger a memory for Lloyd. “We did not have a costume department on this movie,” Kaufman said. “We hired people, but they just smoked cigarettes and ate pizza the whole time. Katie and Asta created all their costumes, kept the continuity, chose their colors…” “You chose our colors,” Asta replied. “And you said I should have a crop top and short shorts for the entire movie!” Suggestions like that is why Lloyd Kaufman has been successful in the business for 40 years.
Katie also noted how all the film was a complete group effort with everyone pitching in in multiple ways. “The Cretin makeup was done by the actor who played Principal Westley, Babette Bombshell,” Katie said. “You talk about multi-faceted artists now, I think this cast and crew was a complete example of that. In addition to working on the film, we all had to be our own stylists, script supervisors, continuity experts and actors and on top of all that. Now we’re in post, we’re our own marketing team. I’ve learned so much from this. Working on a Troma film is like the ultimate film school.”
Clay addressed the costume issue also, “Lloyd wants you to make strong choices even down to the costumes,” he said. “I had a call out for a scene and I was going to wear a t-shirt and he was like ‘No. Eugene should wear cutoffs. He should look like that! Isn’t that sexy?’ It was good because he and I had a lot of talks about my character and what to do with it because he knew what I was trying to do, but wanted to work together to make something that made sense in that world.”
Clay is an intense actor and we asked where his energy came from. Before he could respond, Asta replied, “He napped a lot. When the chuckles subsided, Clay said, “I’ve spent a good deal of my life trying to fit in and learning that sometimes you just try way too hard. I had this urgency to be liked. I still have it. With this character, you have a guy that should be cool. He should be getting all the chicks, but he doesn’t have the confidence. It’s a miscalculation on his part. But he keeps trying different things to get attention and failing. But he thinks someday, someone will get him.”
And in a moment of true sincerity, Kaufman added, “Sort of symbolic of my career, the rejection part. My 40 years of Troma, the word rejection works pretty well.”
However, the word rejection does not apply to Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Vol. 1 at all. In fact it’s being recognized in huge ways. Like Museum of Modern Art ways. Asta talked about the film being included in The Contenders series. “The Museum of Modern Art has a series of about 20 films that they call The Contenders,” she said. “This series shows films that have made waves in the festival community and movies they think deserve a special screening at the Museum of Modern Art. So our film has gotten some legitimate critical reviews and has affected a lot of audiences so we are considered a cult classic in our own time and are put amongst films that have social relevance and should be seen. Others in the series include Blue Jasmine, Gravity, The Wolf of Wall Street, Saving Mr. Banks, Captain Phillips and 12 Years a Slave.” And amongst those films sits Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Vol. 1. Nice.
Katie talked about her excellent experience working with Troma. “The film is really a story about acceptance at its core and that is the message that Troma preaches as a company,” Katie said. “They’re the place that you can go when you don’t feel like you fit in. I know all of the actors and crew in this didn’t feel like we were making headway as artists in the film community and Lloyd and Troma gave us this platform. They had confidence to let us experiment and grow as artists. The actress I was coming into this film is completely different than the actress that I am now and that’s a complete testament to everything I’ve learned here with Troma.”
Kaufman took this opportunity to address the group of office workers who had gathered around them as the Skype interview rolled on. “I’m here in the Troma bullpen and there’s about 15 people watching this interview and I hope they heard that because they have no respect for me whatsoever! They make fun of me and put things up online. When I got beaten up by Morton Downey’s friends they put that up on YouTube!” Check that! A Morton Downey, Jr. reference. You don’t see that every day.
And to wrap the festivities, we asked the girls what viewers could expect from the upcoming Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Vol. 2. “There are more monsters. It’s more F/X heavy than Vol. 1, if you can imagine that,” Katie said. Honestly, we cannot imagine that. “A lot more use of practical F/X. The monsters were actually built for this film and had actors inside them, which is really cool because that doesn’t happen that often anymore with the advent of CGI. For F/X fans, for horror fans, it’s a must see. And it’s a great story.”
Asta added, “In Vol. 2, you’ll realize this is a sequel and it does play right back up to the very first movie and we tie it up beautifully. Everything comes back and you’ll realize that there’s a reason we didn’t tell you in the first one and the second one will reveal some very major answers from the first movie.”
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