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Sullivan, Tim (2001 Maniacs)

On Saturday, July 9th, 2005 Fantasia hosted a midnight Canadian premiere screening of Tim Sullivan’s sequel to/remake of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ 2000 Maniacs, apporpriately titled 2001 Maniacs. The full-house crowd really seemed to dig the film’s 80’s teen comedy sense of humor, and over the top gore effects. Tim and one of his lovely maniacs, Christa Campbell, were on hand for a Q&A session following the screening. Dig the results!


Tim Sullivan: We were in Lumpkin GA, a civil re-enactment town. There were 100 civil war reenactment soldiers who were going to be in the film. The day before the first day of filming they finally read the script. There I am on the first day of filming of my directorial debut, my AD comes up to me with a letter signed by all 100 reenactment soldiers damning me and my film with the curse of the confederacy to my grave. I don’t know what the curse of the confederacy is, but apparently I have it.

It was a helluva time making this movie. I wrote it in 2000, hence the reason it’s called 2001 Maniacs. I was naïve to think I would get it shot and released in a year. We shot this movie in 18 days. They shoot a fight scene for Batman Begins in 18 days. It was a real one take film. The key to independent filmmaking, especially horror films, is place. You find a great place, like the true great horror films; Halloween has the house, Night of the Living Dead, the graveyard. We got our location for 10 grand for the run of the show. The only thing was we had to remain open as a tourist attraction from 10 until 5. So every morning, in the freezing cold, we had to shoot all the nudity and violence, before all the kids showed up in their school buses.

When we shot the “Rick on a stick” scene, we had the barbecuties do their ramming speed thing, and we hear all this clapping, and turn around to see all these kids watching.

The town was right next to a crack alley. Imagine, “Crackville”, and you make a right hand turn down a dirt road and you’re in Pleasant Valley. We had to stay an hour away from the location, it was so dangerous. I got shot at one day. Anyway, anybody got any questions?

Q: Was that Eli Roth doing a cameo of Justin from Cabin Fever?

TS: You can always tell the true horror fans because whenever Eli comes on they all go “Yeaaah.” Did anybody else notice another cameo? Ya, Kane Hodder is in the film. They were shooting The Devil’s Rejects one set over from us, and we thought it would be cool to have Freddy and Jason in the same film.

Q: I thought the opening credit sequence was interesting, how did you decide to do them that way?

TS: Good question. First of all, I want to apologize for the print you saw tonight. This film was shot on 35mm, it is going theatrical, we’re going out in October, it’s going to be a limited theatrical run followed by a premier DVD release in January with Lion’s Gate. What you saw tonight was a Beta 5, so some of the colors were kind of murkey, it really is a beautiful film.

I wanted the film to be shot more like a western than a horror film. In a lot of horror films the murders take place at night, but we had a lot of stuff going on at day. In fact the guy that shot 2001 Maniacs shoots the television series Deadwood. I’m a big fan of Clint Eastwood, I don’t know if anybody saw the movie The Beguiled? It’s a great Clint Eastwood horror film. Our opening credits are similar to that. I wasn’t sure who we could kill before the credits. I didn’t want the audience to be introduced to Pleasant Valley until the characters are, so I couldn’t show the massacre that occurred there. So to create the mood, we decided to go for the montage approach. We wanted to have some blood and guts every ten minutes, so we came up for the fake death of Nelson every ten minutes (Travis Tritt is in this scene).

This is a good story. Travis Tritt loves horror movies. He happened to be winning a country music award the day before we were filming. I got a call saying Travis Tritt wants to be in your film. I was like “Sure!” He was such a trooper, he agrees to go in the trunk of the car. I did it first, just to try it out. Then we try it with Travis, and Dillon comes over with the key, and it doesn’t open, and we can’t find the right key, and I’m thinking to myself, great, I’m going to be the guy that suffocates Travis Tritt to death.

Q: Was Robert England your first choice for the mayor?

TS: Robert England was the only choice. I can’t say enough great things about Robert England. I used to work at New Line cinemas, I used to read scripts for them, and suggested which ones should be bought, and I knew Robert from that. When I wrote the film, he was my only choice, and I asked him if he would play Mayor George W. Buckman, and he said he would.

He also does his own stunts. The guy is like this Laguna Beach surfer dude. I’m not kidding you, he’s a surfer, his first movie was Big Wednesday, the John Milius surf movie, he narrates that film. He had a stuntman, but he wanted to do that job where he jumps over the fire. It’s hard enough to do that to begin with, but he had a patch on one eye, and a forty-pound sword. I was terrified, but he did it in one take.

Q: Your movie reminded me of Deliverance

TS: You might have noticed that Bill Mckinney was in this film. The scene with the chef and his assistant, that was Bill Mckinney, he raped Ned Beatty, maybe that’s why you were reminded of Deliverance. I had to put in the reference with the banjo boy, and it takes place in Georgia. We’re getting a lot of comments from people about red state/blue state, and 9/11, but 2001 Maniacs was written before 9/11 and the election. I think some of the greatest horror films, the people that make them subconsciously tap into the zeitgeist. Whether it’s Romero tapping into civil rights by having a black hero, which was unheard of, and after surviving these horrible zombies, is then shot by rednecks.

Q: Has Herschell Gordon Lewis seen the movie?

TS: I don’t think he has. I don’t think Herschell likes me. I love Herschell, no matter what he thinks of me. What happened was, about 2 weeks before doing this movie, Herschell called me up with this great idea he had, that he should come to Georgia and direct all the murder scenes. That’s the most fun part, I mean I love Herschell, but come on! He hasn’t talked to me since. He liked the script though.

In the original opening of the film John Landis was Professor Ackerman. What happened was that we ran out of time, and we couldn’t use our big college set, and John Landis was there, so we shot it. When we cut it together, we needed a bigger opening, with Peter Stormare from Fargo, and John was off directing something at that time, but the alternate opening will be on the DVD.

Q: What was the budget for the film, and how did you secure it?

TS: Well, they tell me don’t tell, but it was 1.2 Million dollars, and 18 days. I don’t recommend that. My first film 1.2 million, 100 extras, horses, sheep, children, 12 principle speaking maniacs, 8 victims. I should have just done two guys in a room with a dead body and a saw. But we did it.

How did I secure the budget? This movie was up and running several times. But the last time it fell apart, Eli Roth was having this great success with Cabin Fever, and had just put together his production company Raw Nerve, with Scott Spiegel, and Boaz Yakin. I had just met Eli, and he loved the script, so he got Raw Nerve to put up half the financing. The hardest thing about independent filmmaking is getting that first dollar in. Nobody wants to be first, but everybody wants to be second.

When we were filming these movies, these young WB actors, I was going to call the movie 2001 nymphomaniacs…the behind the scenes crap at the hotel…and then when we were editing, the financiers and producers, I wanted to call it 2001 egomaniacs. The sequel will just be 2 maniacs in a room with a saw.

Q: What’s the next project you’re working on?

TS: Well Christa will be the Playmate centerfold, with the cover in November.

(Crowd erupts in applause.)

CC: Thanks Tim

TS: Well you’re following the tradition of Connie Mason, the star of the first Maniacs was a Playboy centerfold. Back in Los Angeles, a film I wrote that I’m producing starts today. It’s an urban horror film, it stars a very famous rapper, who I can’t name, but he hangs out in the dog pound…The next film I’m directing is called Driftwood. It’s the total opposite of this; it’s a teenage Cool Hand Luke set in an attitude adjustment camp, haunted by the ghost of a murdered youth. It’s got a little Devil’s Backbone. In America, they love to take teenagers and lock them away. If you’re under the age of 18, you’re really screwed. If your parents decide you’re into Marilyn Manson, and they like the Carpenters, they can do this. I found an abandoned juvenile corrections facility in LA, so that’s what’s next. And then the sequel, which is being written right now.

Q: Would you like to come back to Fantasia?

TS: I’d love to come back to Fantasia. You guys are great, you can just feel the passion here, it’s like a rock concert. I always thought horror movies are to film what rock and roll is to music. Horror movies are the rock and roll of film. Most people who are in to horror movies are into rock and roll. I guess that’s why growing up I loved monster movies, Fangoria, and Kiss, they all go hand in hand. That’s why it’s so great to have made a rock and roll horror movie.

Q: After seeing Lin Shaye in Dead End, and now 2001 Maniacs, I’m just wondering if there’s anything she won’t do? Did you have to direct her to lick the bloody rod?

TS: She made that up! I didn’t know she was going to do that. I had initially envisioned her as Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies, and she came to it and said no, I want to be an aging southern belle. That was her idea at the end to scream “You raped and dismembered my babies!” We were playing it so comically for most of the film, but the flipside reality is that these people were wronged, and did suffer. Lin Shaye is in the urban horror film I’m doing, and she’s in Driftwood, and she was in Detroit Rock City. She’s my good luck charm.

Thank you all for being the first paying virgin audience to 2001 Maniacs, hope you enjoyed it!

Jon Condit