EXCLUSIVE: Part 1: MovieWeb talks to George Lutz - the original owner of The Amityville Horror!
"Jody Doesn't Like George…And Neither Does MGM."
PART 1 - By B. Alan Orange
Everyone knows the legend of the Amityville Horror. Right? Well, up until a few weeks ago, I knew little to nothing at all about the events that supposedly happened there. I knew of the iconic house. I knew about the flies. I was overtly aware of the movies, yet I'd never seen them. I was a baby when everything went down. I‘d just started walking when the first film hit our local theater. Truth be told, the bulk of what had actual happened escaped my formative youth. Mostly because my mother wanted me to stay away from it.
Now, with a new reimaging of the classic horror series hitting theaters this Friday, I've been thrust face first into a supernatural world I wasn't quite prepared to deal with. Last week, I was invited to attend a press junket with the cast, the director, and two of the producers in tow. I heard their side of things. Certain obtainable elements began to fall into place, and I took an immediate interest in the actuality of the content. The one thing that really surprised me was, no one in attendance seemed to want to discus George Lutz, the real-life father figure upon which Ryan Reynolds' on-screen persona is based. Every question asked about the man was evaded and tossed aside, especially by Reynolds, who has been quoted as saying; "It's not a biography of George Lutz so I never met George. I never got into what he is like as a man and a person. I know that something awful happened in that house. We know that six murders happened in that house. We know a family moved in there a year later and lasted 28 days. We know that. My job was just to bring that character to life in the script." He then joked that the new movie was actually a biopic about James Brolin.
This is a lite take on things, and is a statement being made by a comedian. But the real George Lutz isn't laughing. He feels the new film does a great disservice to not only his name, but also himself as a person and his family. And rightfully so. The movie is straight up claiming to be a true account of what actually happened in that house. Which subjectively, and unavoidably, calls Lutz's character as a human being into play, and could be considered defamation.
Initially, I didn't know this. Or even consider it, until George himself contacted me out of the blue to discuss a few things. He relayed some of his concerns regarding the new film, and I found myself more interested in his take on events than most of the press I've investigated thus far. For instance, did you know that MGM is suing George simply for making an inquiry about the intent behind the impending film? I had no clue. To better understand some of the details myself, I requested a formal interview with George and he obliged. A lot of outlets have already given ample time to the junket information that has been passed along by MGM (including our own). I wanted to give George a chance to tell his side of the story, especially considering that he was actually in this house currently illuminating screens across the country.
The next day, when I returned George's phone call, I told him about what had happened. He told me he wasn't surprised. He has a hundred stories like this, and could never find the time to tell them all. It seems like something weird is always going on around this supposed haunting. It never ends…
But we'll save that for a little later. Here's what George Lutz has to say in defense of himself, his family, and his name…
O: George, I'm glad we could talk this afternoon. I'm finding the information you have to provide ten thousand times more valuable than the information I've gotten out of the cast and crew of this new Amityville Horror film. They should make a movie just about all the events and occurrences surrounding the people involved in keeping this legacy alive. First off, we are a movie site. So, I'd like to touch on some of the stuff you talked to me about the other day. Probably the most important aspect of this whole thing. You discussed with me your disgust at the way you're being portrayed in these movies?
LUTZ: Yes. (Laughs) That's right.
O: I was reading your website, and someone had misquoted you as saying that you "hated" the first film. But you've never come out and said that on record.
|George, Kathy and Harry|
back in the day!
O: Are you aware of what George Lutz does to the dog in the new film? (Ryan Reynolds version of the Lutz "character" brutally dismembers the dog with an Axe.)
LUTZ: Yes, I am.
O: How do you feel about that? That's pretty brutal.
LUTZ: I think it's beyond brutal, and it's quite an accusation to make about someone that is being portrayed in a movie based on a non-fiction book. A true story. And that person is still living as well. That really is quite an accusation.
O: They are going out of their way to promote this new version as a true story. And they are claiming to portray you as a real individual in the film. I have to image that's hard to live with sometimes. Do you believe people will see this version, and perceive you as something you're not?
LUTZ: Absolutely. It's appalling that someone would do this to a living person. This kind of fiction touches real lives. Let's reverse it for a moment. Maybe it's the best way to do it. Let's say I put together a movie, or some kind of screenplay, and get it depicted on film, about the people that made this movie. Some of the key players involved. The people responsible for this. What if I created some type of biography about them that said they lived in a house. And that they went back and forth to work, and that they worked in these offices…But then I added all of these horrible things. Just because there's an element of truth in there still doesn't make it a true story.
O: Did you read the script for the new movie?
LUTZ: I really should not answer that. I'm in litigation about this.
O: The other day, you told me that you were being sued by MGM. Can you tell me anything about the case?
LUTZ: Free speech still exists, doesn't it?
O: I'm interested in why they are suing you. That part of it, I don't understand?
LUTZ: From the court documents, I can only surmise that the three letters we sent them in 2003 and 2004, that were never responded to by them…They were letters of inquiry about what MGM was doing as far as the film was concerned. We said straight out to them that, "We don't believe you have a right to be doing what you're doing. And we'd like to go over this." We were inquiring about their intent. The events that led up to that, I can only surmise, had to deal with my conversations with Brad Fuller (one of the Producers of the new film) on the phone. I was told by my agent/manager Steve Whitney, in December of 2004, that Platinum Dunes' President was trying to get a hold of me. Whitney made sure they had my phone number, evidently, and the call never came. So I called them. He took my call and explained that he'd been trying to reach me. It was a surprise to me, because he made it sound like I wasn't home. This had gone on for quite a few weeks. There were no messages. We don't usually answer the phone, but we always do return calls to people that leave messages for us. He explained that he wanted me to come over and meet with the producers and writer, and he kept going on about all this free stuff he wanted to give me. I was very pleased that they wanted to bring me over and involve me with this remake they were doing.
O: What kind of free stuff were they offering you?
|James Brolin as George Lutz!|
O: I will tell you, I went to the Amityville junket the other day, and I met Ryan Reynolds, the guy that is portraying you in the new film…
LUTZ: How nice for you.
O: No, no, I'm not bragging about that fact.
LUTZ: I meant that tongue and cheek.
O: I know. I was just going to tell you, when I asked him about you, he was very evasive, and wouldn't really answer any questions about you. And neither would anybody else at the junket. At that time I didn't realize you were being sued by MGM. So, in hindsight, it kind of makes sense.
LUTZ: There's got to be a bit of an embarrassment about that. They've made a movie about my family.
O: Reynolds, and others, expressed the consent that this new film is not about your family. It is about the house. I found that a little off putting, since they're really pushing the fact that this is a true story.
LUTZ: What do you think the book is about? The House? All of the events in there happen to a "family". Every event in there has to do with "family".
LUTZ: Originally, those documentaries were called Amityville: The Haunting. (MGM has changed the name to Amityville: Confidential for the new box set) Those are still available if you go to www.amityvillehorror.com, and click on links. It will take you to a link for the History Channel. Those were Histories & Mysteries episodes, those two episodes.
O: Now, they didn't change anything but the title when they went to DVD, right?
LUTZ: That's correct.
O: Speaking of the DVD that just came out, do you have the new box set?
LUTZ: Yes, I do.
O: There's a commentary on the first movie by a doctor…His name escapes me…
LUTZ: His name is Holzer.
O: Is he a friend of yours? What's his story?
LUTZ: I'm really careful about using the word "friend". It's a very dear kind of expression that I value. He is an acquaintance. I have spoken with him since 1979, or so, very occasionally. Probably less than five times.
O: Do you think he's an authority on this case to be talking on a DVD?
O: I hope that's a legitimate question.
LUTZ: He's…Let's understand this. Hans Holzer has always been a gentleman when I've spoken with him. He is a scholar. He has credentials. He is a prolific author. I have always found him very pleasant to talk with. He had toured the house to investigate it in '76. This was a full year after we left. He is an authority in the fashion that he was in the house, and he did investigate it. And he did bring in a qualified transmedium. And he did make a record of that investigation. And he found the house to be uninhabitable at that point. Is he an authority on what happened to Kathy and I? No. You've got a loaded question that needs to be answered in two different ways, there.
O: I'm not trying to throw you off or anything.
LUTZ: I didn't think you were. I'm trying to be as candid as I can be, and as specific as I can so that there are no misunderstandings. Ask me whatever the Hell you want to.
O: My intent is not to downplay any aspect of this.
LUTZ: I want you to ask me whatever it is you want to ask me. If I can't ask answer it, I wont. And I'll tell you.
O: All right. Now, have you ever considered this, and I don't believe that there would be a legal issue with it, but I could be wrong. How about recording DVD commentaries for both the old and new movie and putting them on your website for people to download while they watch their DVD in the DVD-Rom drive of their computer?
LUTZ: (Laughs) I haven't thought about that. That's a fascinating idea.
O: I'd be fascinated to listen to you watch the movies and talk about them. The one thing I agreed with on your website is a desire to see a true depiction of the events that actually happened in the house, instead of this clichéd spook show they are currently presenting.
LUTZ: Absolutely. There's a whole story to that. We've been trying to do that for more than twenty-five years.
O: Why can't you get it made?
LUTZ: Well, how do you want me to put this? Kathy and I own the sequel rights. We do not own the rights to the "28 Days".
O: How is it possible that you guys don't own those rights? Who owns those rights?
LUTZ: From what I'm told, and this is part of the litigation, MGM does. And actually, that's not a clear answer. What we've learned is that Orion Films owns it. Orion Films is part of the Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer conglomerate.
O: I remember Orion films.
LUTZ: Well, they're the ones we sued back in 1982, or 1983…Whatever it was.
O: Why did you sue them?
LUTZ: For producing Amityville 2, which at the time of the lawsuit was named Amityville Horror 2. And eventually it was added in, Amityville 3-D.
O: I never realized that looking at the DVDs; that those two films are just called Amityville 2 and 3-D. They're not called Amityville Horror 2 and 3-D.
LUTZ: Those were two movies that traded on the Amityville name. They were considered unfair competition. And it took twelve years to come to a resolution. We were in court 12 years over that.
O: Have you ever seen either one of those movies?
LUTZ: I've seen both of those. But it's been a long time.
LUTZ: How much information do you want? My understanding of the second movie is that it was changed to be called a prequel. Then, it was supposed to be about the murders. It strays very, very far from Hans Holzer's book about that. But they did buy his rights, and Holzer did have a deal with Defeo's attorney. So Defeo's attorney actually got paid for that. So, if you can imagine that, Defeo's attorney profited off of that movie. His name was Webber.
O: That guy is in the documentaries.
O: That guy looks just like Jon Polito. A character actor that the Coen Brothers use a lot. He was in The Man Who Wasn't There. Have you seen that movie?
LUTZ: I have. I really have no memory of that. The most recent Billy Bob film I saw was Bad Santa, which I'm still cracking up from.
O: That movie's awesome. I like that movie…
LUTZ: I could replay moments from that film forever.
O: Let's go back to the new Amityville Horror for a minute. I asked the director (Andrew Douglas) if the film was a metaphor for domestic violence and abusive stepparents wrapped in the trappings of a horror film. And he said that was part of his intent. I'm wondering what your take is on that?
LUTZ: That's like having your best friend killed, and then someone sticking a microphone in your face and asking how you feel about it. It's like, God, (B. Alan), that's awful. That's the kind of thing that hurts us for the next thirty years. We've dealt with the original movie for twenty-five years. And know we have to deal with this one too? The pain and suffering this will cause my children? The problems this will cause in ways you can't possibly image? They can't even begin to be foreseen.
O: That goes directly back into some of the scenes from the movie. Personally, what was your deal with cutting the logs? Or, rather, the firewood?
LUTZ: You have to understand, I haven't seen the movie. But from what's been described to me, that's just uncalled for…
O: I'm wondering, from your own standpoint, when you were in the house, were you obsessed with cutting firewood? Or is that another fallacy?
LUTZ: No, I absolutely was not.
O: That's a theme that runs through both films.
LUTZ: It seems to be adapted from the idea that I could never get warm there, inside the house. In reality, in the book, I could not get warm. But that's quite a different thing from obsessively going out and chopping wood.
O: Usually, when a house is haunted, it does tend to remain cold inside, right?
LUTZ: Yes. Have you ever seen the In Search Of episode with the priest that helped us back then?