Slither Junket (Slither)


Last week I got the chance to take part in a press conference for James Gunn’s upcoming directorial debut, Slither. Along with Gunn, we were entertained by stars Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, Greg Henry and Elizabeth Banks. The press conference was almost as much fun as the film so enjoy!

Q: James, Slither is a hybrid; it’s monsters you never heard of before. How much fun was it to sort of create your own set of rules?

James Gunn: I had to map out the whole biology of the creature, which I did pretty early on but I still think it’s something that only I understand. [laughter] You just got to be on set all the time.

Elizabeth Banks: He gave me an entire exposition line about, in the car about the disease being conscious … I still don’t think it makes any sense in the movie.

JG: I know, every time I see that line I’m going “I should have cut that! One step too far!” I like the scene in the car because it’s really funny; it’s an exposition scene that’s actually really fun to watch.

Nathan Fillion: That was great that it didn’t get cut.

JG: Well the beginning part I wrote the night before because my the role my wife plays, Shelby, was supposed to be played by a man who backed out on us two days before shooting to go do this TV pilot. Fortunately my wife was in town and I’m like “Thank God!” because we’d already shot a bunch of his sides of the conversation with Shelby, a name that could fortunately be a man or a woman. I rewrote the scenes to fit a woman.

Q: Can you talk about some of the influences that went into this? It’s obviously packed with genre influences.

JG: The biggest influence would be Cronenberg, whose movies I loved when I grew up. One of the things I like about Cronenberg is his movies aren’t always scary, but they’re creepy as hell. I just wanted to bring some of that creepiness back. Movies like The Fly, are actually quite humorous, and the characters are great. Jeff Goldblum, I mean I think he deserved an academy award for Brundle.

So it’s Cronenberg and then all those movies of the eighties. Re-Animator, Basket Case, all Frank Henenlotters films, which I’m a big fan of and I think he’s an undervalued guy. John Carpenter’s The Thing was a huge, huge influence. In some ways the movies of the thirties and forties, the Universal horror films because they were films in which the monster had a heart and he was in love. There was The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein and his Bride…That’s what Grant Grant was, he’s really in that tradition of Universal horror creatures that are destroyed because they love. Which I think is sort of the message of the movie. If you love you will be destroyed. (laughter)

Michael Rooker: If you love enough. If you can’t give it up. You know, give up that love buddy and you’ll be fine. You’d be able to take over the world, eat everybody, impregnate everybody and make the other people your slaves. They’re all dead and gone and you move on to another planet right? No, I’ve got to love. Jeez! That was definitely the true line. When I read it I thought “You know what? This is really a wonderful love story.” If you know anything about my career, you know this is as close as I’m ever fucking going to get.

NF: You kiss two girls! Nobody gets to kiss a girl in the movie except for you!

MR: I know! I kiss two and I don’t even kill them! Well, I love one. I don’t really kill her. She splits, right. It’s not my fault.

JG: Rooker would come to me with these notes on the page and he’d be like “This is beautiful. This is beautiful’ he says and “She gives birth in a manger, just like Mary.”


MR: What do you all think, that I grew up Baptist? Ok, all of the sudden there’s cows and there’s… well they’re dead. But there are cows and sheep and all these and there gutted animals and everything and I have this image: “wow, she’s in a little manger. She’s giving birth to the new human race.” It was wonderful… Did you get it?

JG: Oh yeah, totally I did. A lot of the script I switched back and forth from this guys point of view to seeing it from his point of view. Part of the time during the script I think of him as the hero because he’s just doing what he needs to do and you kind of fuck him over. You’re the hardest hearted person…

EB: Hardcore.

Greg Henry: The bitch is hardcore.

Q: How was getting into make-up every morning? And what was like staying in that the entire day?

MR: Well I didn’t have to do it every morning. They gave me a break. They really scheduled it quite well; I was very pleased by that. There were some times when I got in about four, five hours before any of these other schmucks even cracked an eyelid. You know I’m there literally in the middle of the night. It’s like three AM. I’m coming in there and I sit down and we’re working for five hours before anybody else gets on set. Must be rough! You can’t sleep either cause as I said earlier I snore, and Todd Masters would go like this (makes a loud sound), and I’d go “Oh, was I a sleep?” but it came out like “auhh ahheep?” and he’d say “Yeah, you were asleep. Stop talking. You’re going to break the seal.”

But we had varying levels of make-up and some of them weren’t so bad. Taking it off ended up being the worst part cause if you go too fast you’ll rip your skin off. If you go too slowly you’re like “Come on! I want to get the hell out of here!” you know.

JG: He put up with a lot of pain. I mean the guy is amazing, truly amazing because not too many people would have put up with what he had to put up with. He really deserves props.

EB: Very impressive professionalism.

MR: It was a little bit painful at times, you know but it wasn’t… Well, it was okay; I mean my neck hurt a little bit.

JG: You’ve still got a bump on your shoulder.

MR: My shoulder was dislocated because I had to hold the arm back all day long. When I swing the prosthetic arm around, I swung my shoulder out of place. One time I went so hard that I heard “crack” and I broke my shoulder.

JG: He worked for another four hours after that!

MR: I know!

JG: And you never told me until the other night!

Q: You just found out?

JG: Yeah, I just found out.

MR: But it’s all better. I can do all kinds of stuff with it now.

JG: Yeah.


Q: The film is full of really great one-liners and great moments that people will be quoting for years. How much of that is improve and how much is in the script?

NF: Whatever you liked and thought was the funniest, those were mine.


MR: And I wrote them for him.

JG: You know, most of the lines are scripted, but there is quite a bit of improv. There’s quite a bit of stuff that we would do back and forth on set. We would yell lines. Nathan and I did this a lot where we would yell lines back and forth. I’d yell, “Say this!” and then he’d say that. In fact when he’s looking at the monster getting attached and he goes you know “That is some fucked up shit.” You can hear me two seconds before hand saying that. A lot of those lines we would just make up. So we would do what was scripted, and then we would kind of throw out a bunch of other ideas. “That fell off my dick during the war” I told that actor to say that like five minutes before we were shooting. He didn’t have a line in the movie either so he was really happy!


EB: And it’s a great line.

MR: It is a great line and it really fit him very well.

EB: A lot of it is you just get there and you have a visual, then you have the situation and you just have a lot more information. So you can discover something really fun to say.

JG: Yeah because, “that’s some fucked up shit” came from seeing that chubby guy in there with his ass hanging out and rubbing his body into the thing.

EB. Yeah, he was inspiration

GH: Almost all of my lines were written, everyone, and I have some great lines It’s all James.

EB: Yeah, James Gunn is a funny man.

Q: Were you pleased with how the film played to the audience last night?

JG: I was happy with the reactions. I am always afraid of a screening. We screened it last week in Chicago for horror movie fans and it played very well, but it’s always scarier going into a screening like last night because of all of the industry folk there. Just a lot of people like you guys, frankly, who watch a movie and enjoy it but you’re also watching the movie and saying, “How is this movie good? How is this movie bad? What do I like about it? What am I going to write about this?” Then you have directors there who may or may not have something to prove, you just don’t know. You have a bunch of industry people coming, people’s agents and managers who would probably much rather be seeing Capote (laughs). You don’t really know how it’s going to play, so I was very pleased with how it played last night.

MR: Oh I thought it was great man. I thought we forced you guys to stop thinking about those thoughts and just started grooving on the situation on the screen, because I heard a lot of hoots, hollers, screams and laughter. I saw some eye covering. I looked around and saw a couple of girls going like this. (Covers his eyes with his hands)

NF: My mom.

JG: I got to sit behind Nathan’s mom and she was hilarious. All I did was watch her the whole time. She was so scared I was seriously afraid.

NF: I was too. I thought she was going to drop dead from a heart attack. She wasn’t feeling well, either. Earlier in the day she said she was light headed and dizzy so every time something scary was coming up I would squeeze her hand and say, “Okay, here comes one.”


NF: “It’s going to drop down and fall on her face.” Actually I got scared one time, I felt like an ass because it was in one of my scenes.

MR: When did you jump?

NF: When the deer passes by…

MR: That’s when I jumped! You know what it reminds me of? Throw Mama from the Train, when he smacks the guy with the frying pan. I saw it fifty times before I ever went to see the movie but I get there and I know it’s coming and all of a sudden, SMACK! and I pee my pants.

JG: I’m so sick of this movie being compared to Throw Mama from the Train.


MR: It’s the idea. I knew it was coming but I jumped any way.

JG: People laughed at all the right spots.

EB: Yeah.

NF: They laughed over a lot of jokes but that will bring them back.

Q: How did your start with Troma Films, making low budget indies, influence how Slither was made?

JG: Lloyd Kaufman is the president of Troma studios, and people think of him as a schlockmeister, but he loves what he does. I think the only thing that has kept them alive for over thirty years now is the fact that he puts his heart into everything. You may hate it, but there are obviously people out there that like what he does and it keeps them barely able to scrape by. He taught me a lot about passion and perseverance and to just continue going for what I wanted and what I believed in. So I am real grateful to Lloyd. I didn’t go to film school, but I was able to start work at Troma and learn how to make a movie from pre-production, how to location scout, how to cast, how to actually produce the film, how to release it in the theaters, how to deal with the MPAA… all of this stuff that was just a very practical education.

MR: You’re very lucky my man because you don’t learn that in school.

JG: That’s true! You learn certain things in school but a lot of that you don’t. You don’t learn how to deal with the MPAA.

Q: We hear that the MPAA has different standards for more serious horror movies as apposed to the more spoof-oriented horror movie. What was your experience with Slither?

JG: Well my experience was very good because we didn’t have any problems with them. Eli Roth, who is a friend and a great guy, gave the MPAA Hostel right before we gave them this movie [laughter] and I’m eternally grateful because if you watch the actual amount of gore, we’ve got more but because we were more surreal we got away with a lot more.

Q: What kind of extra material can we expect on the DVD?

JG: We have ton and tons of extra material because I tried to cut Rooker out of the film as much as I possibly could. [laughter] We have tons of Rooker…

MR: I was just going to but in and say that all of my best stuff will be on the extras. All of my favorite lines that I ended up writing…

JG: That didn’t even make it to the extras my friend. [laughter]

MR: It certainly didn’t make it to the real movie.

Q: Elizabeth, with all of the disgusting things you had to put up with in this movie is there anything that stands out?

EB: Rooker. [laughter] Honestly Nathan and I were talking about this; we shot this movie at night in the winter in Vancouver, it rained all the time and it was freezing. When you are making it you are like, “It’s so much fun!” and then you look back and go, “Well it was fun but I mean it kinda sucked.” It was just a great environment to work in, though. It really didn’t matter what was being thrown at me, the KY Jelly that was being smeared on me. To be honest with you, my main thing was walking around on that set with bare feet. I was very nervous about having bare feet because the whole floor was covered in fake glass and wood and blood and splinters and feathers; my feet were just caked with a whole layer of things on the bottom.

MR: That was intentional to protect your feet.

EB: It did actually protect my feet after a while. That was my main concern.

JG: It goes to show you that it really has to do with how pleasant a movie is. You hear people complain about how difficult things are all the time. Well, our film was extremely physically rigorous, very, very difficult stuff and yet it was pleasant, which was 100% because of the people. It’s these people here that we got really lucky with, and our crew was awesome, too, they were so committed; we just got lucky with a huge group of people that were extremely inspired.

MR: Those guys work together all the time. They rotate around about every three, four weeks, their system is like that. I notice that every time I got up there to work I see, “My gosh, didn’t I work with you then and there.” They learn how to deal with each other just like actors when we hook up and start working we jive well together. The crews do the same thing.

JG: Yeah, and frankly on most movies you usually have an actor who’s a nice guy tand treats everyone on the set like a human being and then the other actors are like, “Yeah the director, the producer and the screenwriters are human beings and everyone else is just kind of an object moving around.” On this movie all of our stars treated everybody equally and it just created this tremendous amount of energy. Everybody was so committed to working for the film. I honestly got really lucky with these guys.

MR: You know I think what it was that we couldn’t go back to our trailers and be actors like, “I’m hanging out in my trailer.” We couldn’t go back to the trailers! [laughter] We were forced to be nice to everybody because we were all in the same muck together.

NF: Wait, you couldn’t… Who else couldn’t go back? You couldn’t go back because [of the makeup.]

MR: They parked them 10 miles away. To make us bond, you know, be nice to each other.

NF: It also helped too that it was freezing cold, it was kind of raining so- –

MR: We were all huddling together.

NF: …under these tents with a couple of furnaces blairing. We’d be huddling together for warmth.

MR: You’ve heard of the avian flu, right? Well, we ended up having the actor flu. We were all together breathing on each other’s faces. It’s freezing cold up there. It’s deceiving because it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s not so cold.’ But after about six hours of being out there in the rain, man, it sneaks up on your ass. All of a sudden you’re going like “I’m not cold but I can’t stop shivering.’

NF: I’ll never be warm again.

MR: It’s not snow and ice and sleet and hail and all this stuff, but it’s like all of a sudden you realize you’re shaking and you can’t stop shaking. It got pretty ugly with the weather.

NF: But we were all in it together.

MR: One happy family.

Q: James, when’s the last time you tried to guess the speed of a bird?

JG: Last time I tried to guess the speed of a bird? I don’t think I ever did. The last time I did was when I wrote that line and I tried to go on the internet and figure out how fast birds actually go.

NF: There’s a Dick Cheney joke in there somewhere.

Q: What do you think of the potential of life on other planets?

JG: I actually like this theory that they talk about life being created in water, since that’s where life originally came from on this planet. They’re talking now about how there was water on Mars many millions of years ago and, if life is created in water, life was initially created on Mars, which could have gotten stuck to a meteorite. So in fact, life began on Mars, came to earth and we’re all Martians! I love that because as a little kid, I used to draw Martians all the time. I love that fact that I might be a Martian.

MR: Is a Martian an alien?

NF and EB: Yeah.

EB: All Martians are aliens. Not all aliens are Martians.


EB: I mean , I have no idea. I’m open to it. Sure.

NF: Yeah, I say it’s for real. The odds of it not happening more than once…

EB: That’s what I think. I love science and to me, the odds are sure.

GH: Something’s out there. Have they been here yet? I don’t know.

MR: Oh God, yeah. My cousin Earl is a Martian. You talked to him, right? You know he’s an alien, he truly is and he’s got the accent to prove it and. He even has a ray gun. He does have a ray gun. He carries it with him all the time.

JG: Oh, you’re crazy.

MR: I have no idea. Usually when I get those kinds of questions, I reverse the question with a question. What do you think, sir? That’s my only way of getting out of those ones.

Q: Nathan, you’re doing White Noise 2?

EB: Well, they’re going to have Nathan.

NF: Yeah, they got me. I go to work every day and I say, “How do I save this movie?”

MR: You’ve got to let it go, Nathan. You’ve got to let it go.

NF: With White Noise 2, I’m saying, ‘Guys, the name. Let’s go Whiter Noise. Let’s go White Noisier. Still White Noise after all these years…”

MR: Stark White Noise.

NF: What was the question?

Q: Doing the sequel?

MR: How are you saving the movie? That was the question.

NF: Here’s the idea. I think we all know that in the first one, he was trying to receive messages through de-tuned televisions and what not from beyond the grave. In this movie, I have a near death experience and it allows me to be the detuned receiver. I can see the white noise. I don’t need a receiver of any kind. I can see it but no one else can. So now I’m crazy.

Q: No radios or TVs?

NF: Oh no, that’s all happening, but I’m the only one who sees it.

MR: Nathan Fillion is the transmitter.

EB: It’s still everyday objects.

NF: Yeah, it’s all the same thing. It’s just that I’m the only one seeing it and everybody else is going, ‘Cuckoo.’ Which adds for tension. Drama? Tension. A little bit of comedy.

Q: Can you do your eyebrows like Michael Keaton?

NF: [does it] He also purses the lips. He always makes like he’s in mid-kiss, which I think is sexy.

JG: You’re going to do well in Mr. Mom 2 as well.

NF: Yes, I’ve been working on that.

JG: Beetlejuice 2?

NF: Thank you, doing that.

JG: Night Shift 2?

Q: Nathan, what’s more fun, the Serenity character or this ill prepared bumbler?

NF: Oh geez, which is more fun? Malcolm Reynolds was the kind of hero who didn’t want to be hero. He refused that role and was thrust into it. But Malcolm Reynolds had experienced enough that he could handle that kind of stuff. Bill Pardy I don’t think could handle regular police work, never mind these extreme circumstances. He’s not only irresponsible, he’s not only a little lazy and ill prepared, and he’s just calm. Throughout the movie I’m just trying to just stay calm. He’s trying to hold on and he’s trying to do it in front of the girl he’s got the big crush on. He’s trying not to look stupid in front of the girl all the time. It just doesn’t happen for him. He’s not the cool guy. That’s what I love about him. He’s a real person.

JF: I think Bill has dealt with a life in which the bar has been extremely low for him. And so suddenly the bar is lift much higher, but he’s excelled. He’s chief of police but it’s only because everyone around him is just- –

EB: Chief of police of Wheelsy isn’t saying much.

Q: Elizabeth, do you have a bigger part in Spiderman 3?

EB: You know, I learned my lesson a long time ago that everything can be cut. So I don’t know.

Q: Were you aware that Betty was Peter’s first girlfriend?

EB: I am well aware. You should maybe write Sam Raimi a letter and make him aware.

JG: Tell them us how you become Venom.

EB: Yeah, and then I’m actually Venom.

JG: What, was I supposed to say that?

JG: Now everybody knows.

Q: What horror movies do you like?

NF: Jaws changed my life. I can’t go into a pool by myself and be comfortable. It’s ridiculous. I look for reasons to hate sharks.

EB: For me it was Poltergeist and Clowns. I don’t like anything under my bed. That and Alien for the female ass kicking.

GH: I’m a big Carrie fan. The end of that movie gets me every time. Every time.

MR: I don’t go to these things. I’m more of a musical guy. I like musicals and I don’t really have any favorite horror movies at all. I remember a lot because they would drop me off at a theater and make me watch them and not pick me up until they’re over. So I was forced to watch when I was a child, and it sort of effected me in some other weird ways I don’t know. I don’t know; they’re scary to me. I can’t deal with them. I like Climb Every Mountain kind of things.

JG: Rooker, no one in this room knows if you’re being serious. I’ve known you; I talked to you every day. I have no idea what you’re talking about.

EB: I think he’s saying he loves music.

JG: My favorite horror movie is Rosemary’s Baby.

MR: I love those slow tracks down the hallway. Awesome.

EB: The tension is amazing.

MR: Hardwood floors, bare feet.

EB: And the environment.

Q: Slither 2?

JG: I don’t know.

GH: I’d prefer a prequel.


I would like to thank Tyler Fowler and Universal Pictures for all of their hospitality. Look for my one on one audio interviews with James Gunn and Michael Rooker later this week! Slither hits theaters on Friday, March 31st, so be damn sure you don’t miss it, and check out the official Slither site for more goodies!

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