Celebrating the 35th Anniversary of TROLL ft. Charles Band, Phil Fondacaro, Noah Hathaway & MORE!

Troll, one of the most beloved B-horror movies of the ‘80s, was released on January 17th, 1986. To celebrate its 35 year anniversary, we spoke with several members of the cast and crew to learn more about their experiences and favorite memories while working on the film!

When the Potter family moves into an apartment building, teenager Harry Potter Jr. notices his younger sister, Wendy, has begun acting unlike herself. Eager to find out what has happened to her, Harry seeks the help of his neighbor, Eunice St. Clair, who just so happens to be a witch. Upon discovering what Eunice reveals to be the work of an evil wizard-turned-troll named Torok, Harry begins his quest to save his family and end the war between humans and rebel fairies before it’s too late.

This imaginative cult classic was written by Ed Naha, directed by John Carl Buechler and produced by Charles Band. The cast includes Phil Fondacaro, Noah Hathaway, Michael Moriarty, Shelley Hack, Jenny Beck, June Lochart, Anne Lochart, Sonny Bono, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall.

Love little monsters? Horror/fantasy flicks? Magical scores?

Prepare to read about all things Troll from exclusive interviews with Charles Band, Richard Band, Gino Crognale, Phil Fondacaro and Noah Hathaway

Charles Band:

To say Charles Band was busy in the ‘80s would be a massive understatement. His distribution company, Empire Pictures, was in high gear — meaning Band was usually shooting 2-3 movies at a time.

A few years into producing and distributing horror and fantasy films like The Dungeonmaster and Trancers, Troll was introduced into the mix. 

“We were looking to make kind of a strange horror film, but more of a fantasy horror film that would have some magic,” Band tells Dread Central.

Band had worked on multiple films with special effects legend, Stan Winston. When Band approached Winston to work on Ghoulies, Winston introduced him to his protege, John Carl Buechler. This marked the first of many films Band and Buechler would work on together.

After Ghoulies, Band decided it was time for Buechler to direct a film.

Troll was the perfect directorial debut because of the organic, real effects he wanted to incorporate. The film, Band says, acted as a precursor to the movies he would later make.

The film was shot at Dino De Laurentiis Cinematografica Studios in Italy. Since Band was busy flying back and forth between Los Angeles and Rome, his father, known as veteran filmmaker Albert Band, was the line producer and on set full time. He was a “big fan” of Buechler’s and vice versa. 

Band says the crew built everything that’s seen in the film, including the apartment building. And unless you’ve read about Troll online, it’s likely you wouldn’t be able to tell it was shot in Italy as opposed to San Francisco. 

He says the cast was “eclectic” and that he considers himself “very lucky” to have everyone attached to the movie.  

Band remembers the film being one that people enjoyed at the time, so much so that it ended up being a big video hit. It brought in a larger audience due to it incorporating family and fantasy with PG-13 horror.

“It was just such a fun, unique experience that even today, movies either stand the test of time and you watch them and go, ‘Oh yeah, that’s really dated and kind of silly’ or ‘Wow, this is kind of fun and different and it doesn’t seem to age,’” Band says. “I think Troll is one of those movies that we could have shot last year.”

Band is working on several projects at the moment. Follow him on Twitter (@RealCharlesBand). Also, check out Full Moon Features to get instant access to all content with new releases added weekly. Available on multiple devices. 

Richard Band:

For many horror fans, Troll’s score is monumental and instantly recognizable. Composer Richard Band considers his work on Troll to be in his top five favorite films that he’s ever worked on, which is saying a lot considering he’s scored more than 140 projects!

Band was brought in early on to write “Cantos Profanae” prior to anything being filmed so it would be ready for the infamous scene of the “trolls” singing along to it. 

“What was important about writing that song was that it would set up the entire sort of vibe of what the score and the movie would be about,” Band says. “It was quite important to do that and to nail it in the right way, so it really did set the whole tone for the movie.”

Band says he’s always been asked about the lyrics and sets the record straight that the words are not gibberish, but a language he created that’s a cross between Latin and Old English. The lines are a combination of both languages that have “a very specific meaning.”

The lyrics give the song an overall message of “be aware of the oncoming war” between the trolls and humans. 

While made with intent, Band also admits some of the lyrics are an inside joke between him and his older brother, Charles.

Those lyrics are none other than “herba herba wea.” 

“With incantations, witchcraft, good or evil dating back as far as we can tell, one of the main things that were used throughout our entire history were herbes: medicinal herbs, herbs to get high, herbs for this, herbs for that, herbs for everything,” Band says. “The first part is herba, translation — herbs.”

“Wea” is a phrase the brothers used while growing up in Italy. Band says it’s like a greeting to acknowledge someone that you’re there, similar to “What’s up?”. 

Band says the literal translation is “herbs, what’s up?” and what was in his mind while writing the song.

He says he and his brother start off their conversations with “wea” to this day.

Jokes aside, Band takes pride in that the music for Troll doesn’t sway listeners into feeling like they’re watching an intense horror movie. He believes one of the reasons Troll was successful in its own right was because it was not sold, nor was it ever intended to be a flat-out horror movie. 

Keeping this in mind, Band knew the score had to have a fantasy, magical quality to the entire score. He also knew there was a sweetness to the characters that had to be incorporated into the music. Then, of course, the music had to match the mood of each scene.

“There’s a nature of it within the score that is actually uplifting when you listen to it. Even though there might be some parts that are a little scary or suspenseful, you never get the feeling that there’s impending doom,” Band says. “In fact, if anything, it has a little bit of the opposite — that you’re rooting for the Good Witch and the good scenario. Those are all aspects…near and dear to my heart. Those are the things I like about filmmaking and specifically film scoring.”

One thing Band remembers about Troll in particular was how the music came to him “very easily and naturally,” almost like second nature. He believes this is because of how much love he had for the movie’s genre.

Band shares that there are multiple factors in making a project, such as Troll, rewarding. These include hearing your music be performed, getting it mixed with the film and being asked to put your music out as a soundtrack. But, the most rewarding, he says, is if your music survives the test of time. 

“If you can go back and listen to something that you’ve done 35 years ago, and it still stands up and doesn’t sound totally dated or weird, then that’s a big reward. Standing the test of time is a huge reward,” Band says. “And of course, that goes along with the fact that it’s been released, re-released, re-re-released and re-re-re-released and so forth. It’s a life span of 35 years now, so that’s something that brings me joy.”

Richard Band is currently working on David Allen’s The Primevals, a project that has been over 20 years in the making since Allen’s passing. 

Follow him on Twitter (@RichardBand_) and Instagram (@richard.band).

Gino Crognale:

Gino Crognale (L) and Tom Savini (R)

Gino Crognale was only 19 years old when he traveled from Philadelphia to Los Angeles in pursuit of becoming a monster maker. Magazines like Fangoria and Famous Monsters, he says, spurred on many in the ‘80s in hopes of making creatures.

In reverence of an opportunity to work with Buechler at Mechanical and Make Up Imageries (MMI) in North Hollywood, he wore a suit to his interview and was hired that day as a fabricator for Troll. He would be in charge of adding the finishing touches to make the creatures look their best — painting them, doing hair work and making teeth, eyes and nails.

“After working as hard and as diligent as I could, I was asked to be part of the Troll set team, which would also include John Vulich and Cleve Hall,” Crognale says. “We left for Italy in the summer of 1985, and I was so excited that my dream had come true. It meant the world to me because this was my first film, and now I had my foot in the door of Hollywood.”

Crognale remembers Buechler as being a great guy. He was someone who was “funny, silly, extremely fair and kind” and gave a lot of makeup effects artists their start in the industry.

He recalls a funny memory of Buechler and the team working late to try to meet a deadline. He says they were tired, worn down and kind of punchy from the crazy pace of the MMI studio. At the time, they were also working on TerrorVision, Zone Troopers and Decapitron.

“John brought in boxes of fried chicken for a 2 a.m. food break. We were thankful and ate quietly in the breakroom. After a moment, John began to read the chicken boxes ingredients as famous actors, like he was doing a commercial for the chicken place,” Crognale says. “He did impressions of Schwartzenegger, Stallone, Eastwood. It was hilarious. It was the shot in the arm we needed to plow through till morning to get the job done, which we did.”

Crognale worked on every creature in the film, but the one that won over hearts (or at least, mine!) was the oddly adorable magician-turned-mushroom named “Galwyn.” He painted Galwyn and did the finishing work on him.

During lunch one day, Crognale sculpted a tongue for Galwyn after Buechler expressed he wanted the mushling to stick his tongue out in a scene. He then painted layers of latex over the sculpture. Once he rolled the dried latex, it looked like a tongue and he painted it. 

“It was like a condom for your finger,” Crognale says. “We hid under the set piece, maneuvered the tongue inside Galwyn’s body and popped it out the mouth out on que! Worked great!”

Harry Potter Jr. & Galwyn meet (0:37-0:53)

Fun fact: Buechler actually had Crognale play the troll in the shot where Wendy is attacked at the beginning. Crognale put on a pair of troll-like monster arms, rode on the side of the camera dolly and grabbed her, a moment he says was “super fun” for him! 

Crognale was excited to see the finished film, especially since Troll was his first job, experience and opportunity. He says it was “very special” to see his work on the big screen 35 years ago and that he was so thrilled that “barely minded” his name was misspelled in the credits. 

“Inevitably, people on movie sets today always talk about their careers. ‘What was the first film you worked on?’ is always one of the questions. When I say Troll, I usually get a great response,” Crognale says. “People who saw that film as kids love it! The film is nostalgic and kind of a cult classic now. I love having worked on films that have a sense of enjoyment from younger generations of monster fans. It’s found new love in a whole different way.”

For Crognale, Troll represents his birth into the industry. He refers to it as a “baptism by fire.” One moment, he’s looking for a job then the next, he’s on his way to Italy to do what he always wanted to do.

“It’s hard to believe that that much time has passed. I look back at Troll with sweet memories, and now some sad ones. We’ve lost John Buechler, John Vulich and cast members,” Crognale says. “It’s like being part of that championship high school football team and losing the coach and the quarterback. You hold onto the good memories. Time is strange stuff, and you only get that concept when you’re older. I am happy to have been part of that era. I would do it all again!”

Gino Crognale has recently worked on seasons two and three of the Creepshow series and will be working on the final season of The Walking Dead, which he has been on for a decade.

For him on Instagram (@crognalegino).

Phil Fondacaro:

Troll presented new opportunities to Phil Fondacaro. For the first time in his career, he took on two roles as “Torok the troll” and “Malcolm Mallory,” both in and out of costume. That, along with the opportunity to travel to Europe for the first time, made working on the film a worthwhile experience.

“It was a great mixture of everything that I really, really wanted. That’s what makes it special to me,” Fondacaro says. “That’s what Troll was to me in my career, that I could say was the best of everything.”

Buechler sought Fondacaro to be Torok and designed the costume to solely fit him and nobody else. Having been in costumes early on in his career, Fondacaro was enthusiastic about being in a full body costume for the role. However, he especially jumped at the opportunity when presented with an additional role out of costume as well.

Because of this, Troll gave Fondacaro the chance to prove his acting chops. 

As the mischievous Torok, he terrorizes the apartment building and disturbingly turns tenants including icon Sono Bono, into pods. As the kindhearted Malcolm, he moves the audience with dialogue revealing he’s sick.   

Malcolm and Wendy’s bond is undoubtedly the heart and soul of the movie. When Malcolm shares his childhood thoughts about his illness and daydreaming that he was magic instead of sick, she (as Torok) gets the idea to transform him into Brother Elf to save him.

Fondacaro admits he was the most concerned with being believable within his roles. This pushed him to do some of his best work, he says. (And really, who else can say they’ve played both an English professor and troll in the same movie?)

“You study your stuff and you know what you’ve got to do on that day, but it’s really the editor to put everything all together…you look at it and go, ‘Oh my god,’” Fondacaro says. “That’s this example of me looking at it [Troll] and saying, ‘You know, I did a pretty good job, man.’ I mean, it was believable. Then when you have crowds and crowds of people 35 years later saying you were incredible in that, that tells you, for me, that you did a good job. That was one of my better pieces.”

Despite having worked on big name sets, Fondacaro was far more elated about everything Troll had to offer. The film, he says, will always be one of his big accomplishments

“The idea of me doing both parts, the puppets and the things that were made of me was so surreal, especially when it got all put together. It was an amazing piece, and I was more than happy to be involved. It was from that point on, I went on to do a whole bunch of other films, not with me in costume — out of costume — for Charlie and John,” Fondacaro says. “It was a great experience. I’ll never forget it. Plus, we got to go to Rome, and we were across the world. It was a beautiful setting. It was amazing. It was like a once in a lifetime offer, and I took advantage of it. At least, I think I did. I loved it.”

Noah Hathaway:

At the time of filming Troll, Noah Hathaway had already made a name for himself as one of the most famous child actors at just 13 years old. 

He was presented with the Troll script six months after working on The Neverending Story. After seeing everyone attached to the film and where it would be shot, he knew it would be a fun experience and quickly signed on for the role of “Harry Potter Jr.” 

Hathaway, no stranger to puppets and animatronics, was excited to be a part of a much more lighthearted, quirky film. He says going from a set that was “excruciatingly serious” to a set as fun as Troll’s was “like a blessing” for him. 

“It was perfect for where I was at the time, especially coming off of something as rough to shoot as The Neverending Story to nothing serious onset. Everything was fun. It was a godsend to go do something like that,” Hathaway says.

A teenage Hathaway made friendships and learned lessons that he’d carry with him for years to come. For example, he became good friends with Phil Fondacaro, who he still keeps in contact with. He also valued getting acting tips from veteran performer, June Lockhart, the mother of his Battlestar Galactica co-star, Anne Lockhart.

He attributes Troll to becoming a cult classic due to it hitting a note with a niched audience who hadn’t seen that kind of horror quirkiness before in a movie. Hathaway says it represented something “really fun, cool and different.”

“I always trip out when people go, ‘I love Troll.’ I’m like, ‘Shit, that’s 30 something years ago.’ I get that all the time. I just think it’s great,” Hathaway says. “There’s not a ton of movies where 35-40 years later, people are like, ‘Oh, I still love that movie. I watch it all the time. I watch it with my kids. I watch it with my grandkids.’ Oh my god!”

Noah Hathaway is busy working on multiple projects that he plans to unveil in the future. Follow him on Instagram (@noahhathaway666) for his latest posts.

Troll will forever be remembered as an eccentric ‘80s movie that merged elements of horror, fantasy, comedy and family. It gave some of us nightmares as kids. It made some of us laugh. No matter which, it to this day sparks a sense of nostalgia for a decade known for its practical effects and creative story writing.

We would not be able to celebrate 35 years of a movie as charming and bizarre as Troll without the magical minds of an inventive crew and talented cast who helped bring it to life. 

Thank you all!

What’s your favorite scene from Troll? Let us know in the comments below!



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