EXCLUSIVE: Tom Savini Talks The Theatre Bizarre
Horror legend Tom Savini directs and co-stars in Wet Dreams for this horror anthology, in theaters at Midnight, January 27th
Down a seedy city street, a young woman is obsessed with what appears to be a long abandoned theatre. One night, she sees the front door slightly ajar and impulsively decides to sneak inside. But there in the vast, eerie auditorium, a show unlike any other unfolds before her eyes. Its host is an odd marionette-like man who will introduce her to six tales of the bizarre: A couple traveling in a remote part of the French Pyrenees crosses paths with a lustful witch; A paranoid lover faces the wrath of a partner who has been pushed to her limit; The Freudian dreams of an unfaithful husband blur the lines between fantasy and reality; The horrors of the real world are interpreted through the mind of a child; A woman addicted to other people's memories gets her fix through the fluid of her victims' eyeballs; And a perverse obsession with sweets turns sour for a couple in too deep. But as the stories unfold, something strange is happening to the woman. Something irreversible and horrific. Something that awaits its next audience in The Theatre Bizarre.
Acclaimed former special effects make-up supervisor, beloved cult actor, and horror directing maestro Tom Savini is responsible for co-starring in and helming the Wet Dreams segment of this creepy anthology, which finds a man's sex fueled nightmares coming to life. As The Theatre Bizarre debuts tonight, Friday, January 27th, at Midnight in New York, Los Angeles, and other select markets, we managed to catch up with the always awesome and gracious Mr. Savini for a chat about nightmares, sex, and The Walking Dead.
Check out our conversation below.
There are a lot of talented filmmakers here that seem kind of far flung, and all over the map. How did you all come together to forge this wicked piece of cinema?
Tom Savini: I don't know how anyone else got involved. But Michael Ruggiero, who is an old friend, and who has hired me many times, on other projects...He used to work for Starz. He's worked for IFC...He got me involved on mine. I didn't know about the other ones being done until we were well into this. I think they went to Greg Nicotero first, of KNB. He had to turn them down, because he was so busy. I decided not to do Greg's episode...The beginning of mine was my own idea. It was a dream I had when I was nine years old. It was an insecurity dream. That is the beginning of my episode, with the pussy monster. The rest is something that John Esposito fleshed out.
That's a pretty scary dream to have when you are nine years old.
Tom Savini: I know. But think about it. I was an Italian kid. Puberty was coming fast. Here was a girl in my neighborhood that I was curious about. This was someone I lusted after. There was an emotion that existed in me. I was curious about it. So I imagined her, being face to face with her...She is naked. When it came time to get close to her, that insect like thing appeared. What you see on film is pretty close to what I dreamt. Greg Nicotero built that monster for me for my birthday. We were in Spain for a film festival. I told him about the episode. He said, "Let me build that thing." So he did. That was a whole fake body. It had an insect clapper thing attached to it.
It must have been a pretty impactful dream to remember it some fifty years later...
Tom Savini: What I orchestrated in my film wasn't exactly like my dream. There, I was in the basement. The only similarity in the dream is when I looked down and saw that...Thing! When I orchestrated this, I had the girl...The real girl...Touch herself, and move her hand down. I then cut to James. When I cut back to the girl, I had her put her hand down in front of the fake body, and continue down. It was a visual link that added credibility to that fake body, even though the body was really good, you know?
Do you think it was some of those childhood dreams that pushed you towards this career path?
Tom Savini: No! Definitely, what pushed me was seeing Man of a Thousand Faces. That is when my whole life turned around. I realized, "Of course, someone creates monsters." Before that, I thought they were real. From there, I decided I wanted to be the man that created the monsters, you know.
You put yourself in this particular episode. What makes you decided whether you want to direct yourself, or hand it off to another actor?
Tom Savini: Michael Ruggiero suggested that I play the psychiatrist. And I agreed with him. I didn't just put myself into it. Only after his suggestion did I think it was a smart idea. But even when I am just doing effects on movies, I always try to play a small part. That soon led to small parts in other people's movies. Soon, that led to just doing parts in movies. I don't do effects anymore. Now, I am concentrating on acting and directing.
Do you find that a lot of people only know you through your acting?
Tom Savini: Absolutely. I will be at a convention, and inevitably, someone will come up to me and ask if I'd done anything before From Dusk Till Dawn. They are not even aware of my effects background. They will look at me and say, "Oh, you do effects too?" They have no clue. But these are the same people...I remember this girl, once...She asked her father, "Did Paul McCartney have a band before Wings?" (Laughs)
Knowing that the directors of The Theatre Bizarre weren't really aware of each other, or what they were shooting, its remarkable how well each piece compliments the next...
Tom Savini: I didn't need to care about anyone else's episode. I was only focused on my own. I am sure Michael Ruggiero might have known about the other ones. He may have guided John Esposito. But we just did ours. After that, I was doing this convention in Germany, and this woman comes up to me. She says, "I'm in The Theatre Bizarre." I said, "Oh, interesting..." I knew they were doing other ones. But I didn't' know they were doing one in France. Or that they were doing one in Germany. After the film was finished, and I started going to festivals, and I met some of the other directors...Then I kind of cared about the rest of episodes. There are two that I think are really terrific in The Theatre Bizarre. Buddy Giovinazzo's. I love his. And Douglas Buck 's episode. I think it was a huge change from what I know Douglas Buck to be like. I think he softened a bit after he had his daughter.
The Accident? With the young girl and the deer...That short kind of takes the film in a new direction. Its kind of the midway point. Short and sweet...
Tom Savini: I don't know. I don't know if you should quote me on this...But it seems really scattered towards the end. I'd watch Douglas Buck's again. And I'd watch Buddy's again. But I don't think I want to see those other ones...Like the episode with the syringe in the eyeball. I don't need to see that again. Or the last one. David Gregory's, with the food. Or the frog thing at the beginning. I didn't care for those too much. But I like the other two a lot.
Was it the grotesqueries on display that turned you off?
Tom Savini: The acting and the directing was terrific. But the food? The production value...It just wasn't my cup of tea. The frog thing was...Interesting...But it went awry for me. The eyeball thing? You can suck out part of my eyeball and then inject it into somebody else? All of a sudden you can see stills from somebody's past? It wasn't even action! It was just stills from somebody's past. I get what they were after. I'm just not sure it worked.
That brings up an interesting point about how all of these shorts sort of work together, or don't. It has to be a challenge once you get in that editing room, and you know all of these pieces have to be a particular length, and that they have to fit together somehow. How did you find an in and an out for your piece, especially one that works for audiences? Jumping from story to the next could be very jarring. Its not...
Tom Savini: It's hard for anyone to get invested in any short, especially in an anthology. Now, Creepshow? That was easy to watch. It was just five movies, but you enjoyed the Hell out of those. There are too many movies in this one. I think it's too long. Even Grindhouse...That was just a double feature. It didn't do very well. When I was a kid, you went to the movie theater on Saturday morning at around 9. You saw seventeen cartoons, newsreels, previews, and then two movies. You came out at 6 at night. Your eyes couldn't adjust to the light, because you'd been sitting in the dark all day. Kids today can't sit through a double feature. Or an anthology, perhaps...My episode was the first one for a while, then they moved it to the third or forth...I don't know. You look at the first one? I don't know why they chose to show it that way. Even with Grindhouse, Quentin Tarantino's episode should have been first. It was so slow, and plodding. Until it took off. When it took off, it really took off. It would have went perfectly into Robert Rodriguez. Which picks up from the very beginning. The way they put it out, Robert's is first. Is a gangbuster, it's a free-for-all. Then all of a sudden, Quentin's just slows to a halt. I thought. It didn't work.
Speaking of Quentin...Aren't you going to be working together again on Django Unchained?
Tom Savini: Yes I am. They started shooting this past November. I don't shoot until march. The script is just brilliant. It goes off on so many turns. In fact, you're supposed to think I'm the bad guy. They have to catch up with me, and give me my comeuppance at the end. But I'm whipped out around page 38. Leonardo DiCaprio comes in, and it turns out that he's the real villain.
We know how Quentin likes his characters and his film universes to tie-in with one anther. Is there any hint that your character in Django Unchained is an ancestor of Sex Machine?
Tom Savini: No! Here I am playing the most loathsome, vile, slimy villain you could image. We are talking about the 1850s. This is Quentin Tarantino's pre-Civil War Western. He is going to out Peckinpah director Sam Peckinpah. This is going to be his The Magnificent Seven. His The Wild Bunch.
Are you going to solely be an actor on set?
Tom Savini: Yeah, on this one, I am just an actor. I Facebooked Quentin Tarantino when he was casting and I said, "Hey, man, if you need someone that is energetic and good with a bullwhip..." He called me in the car on the way to the Montreal Film Fest. He said, "Hey, man. Thanks for reminding me about that bullwhip. I think I do have a part for you." That's when I got cast.
We want to know when you are going to show up on the Walking Dead?
You should be!
Tom Savini: Listen, I have been campaigning to be the governor on that damn thing with Greg Nicotero for over a year. Everytime I see the graphic novel, and I see a picture of the governor, who looks just like me, I send Greg a picture. I just won't give up. Last time I talked to him about it, when I was in Los Angeles, he said they were going after a name for that part. I said, "Who?" He said John Hawkes. Well, I never heard of John Hawkes. But then he reminds me that we were in From Dusk Till Dawn together. He is the guy at the beginning in the store that fires on them. Apparently he was up for an Academy Award. He was up for something called Winter's Bone. That's whom they are going after for The Governor. But everyone I talk to, the people that read the graphic novels...They've all said that I would be the perfect governor. Because he is tough and brutal. And...I look just like the graphic depiction of him!
Isn't that character based on your likeness?
Tom Savini: I've never heard it confirmed that it was based on me. I wish the writers and the producers would remember that if I was. Because I'm available, and I want to do it. Tell everyone to vote: Tom Savini for Governor on The Walking Dead!