John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars: Part I: Pam Grier
Ghosts of Mars, John Carpenter's new Outlaw Western disguised as sci-fi sh*t-fit, is sure to usher in a new era of "just dumb fun" movies pleasingly absent of any cynical self-evolvement. Seeing the movie, getting three hours of sleep, then waking up to sit next to its entire cast (with the exception of Ice Cube) and creator while they yammer on about barbecue, drugs, and being pregnant is a surreal experience, to be sure. Yet, it doesn't top having Andy Gibb's son take you to Cheetahs on Sunset where you unblinkingly blow $200 in under 15 minutes on 3 fully-clothed lap dances, 2 beers, and a glass of wine for the lady. I guess I topped out. Life can't get any better than this. There is that Debbie Gibson family bris next week, followed by the Two Can Play This Game screening, but these last couple of days have been 'special.' Everything else pales in comparison.
Frankly, I don't know how I found my way to the Four Seasons Sunday morning. Suffering from sleep deprivation, I was ushered into an empty room where I grabbed a seat next to the speaker. This insured I'd be able to engage in some blatantly weird eye contact with the celebrity at hand. The room soon filled to capacity. You know that saying, "He's got a face for radio'" It aint half the insult, "He's got a face for Internet journalism" is. (Hidden dig at myself) And that's all I'm going to say about that. There were far too many of us to identify which questions came from whom. I'll just keep it at Table...
First into the room is Pam Grier, who you may remember from Snow Day. She comes in, takes one look at our extra-rare Ghosts of Mars cheeseburgers, and it's off from there...
Grier: They don't barbecue a lot in Hollywood. I was lookin', like, "Where's the ribs'" It's barbecue time in the summer. I barbecue in the winter. There could be snow outside; I'm out there smellin' in the storm.
Table: I'm still trying to find good barbecue here. The one place is JR's. Have you been there?
Grier: I wouldn't go to one place. There used to be a place on Santa Monica. I'd get off the plane and go right to a barbecue place to smell the smoke...So, what'cha guys up to this morning'
Table: Eating Burgers and Fries.
Grier: Just burgers and fries' Okay. And...
Table: Watching movies.
Grier: Which ones?
Table: This one. And some of us saw American Outlaws.
Grier: Yeah, yeah' That's a good one. Who's in it'
Table: Collin Farrell and Scott Caan.
Grier: Okay. All right. I can't wait to see it. And trash it. I can't wait. My people were at home, stuck in Colorado before the emancipation, and we still don't exist. All right' So I've got something to say. Anyway...
Table: At what point in this did you know you were going to be the first one to go?
Grier: Oh, we're the first in all the movies. I didn't even have to read the script. But when John called me, I would have done it without looking at the script. I love science fiction. I have a wide spectrum of work. Most stories are based on Greek Tragedy and Shakespeare in structure. So you have the serious films'(Someone comes in late) Come on in.
Table: How are you ma'am'
Grier: Good, how are you' We'll wait. Have a seat. Take off your shoes. Kick back. You're in the house now. (Points to the guy across the table) He asked a question about doing the movie. Was I surprised to be the first to go' No, I wasn't. Secondly, I like to do all types of films. I like to do the serious films. I like to do the moneymaking blockbusters that make no sense. And I like to do John Carpenter. Each time you work, you gain a lot of experience. Plus you build your visual. People get to know who you are. And you get to do your work as an actor. I don't believe in, for me, doing only 'A' movies. Then that would only be every ten or fifteen years. 'B' movies, or 'C' movies, I only do movies that are an art. Just plain art films, because I'm a very passionate person about life. I'm passionate about my work. So, I'll always work, because I haven't lost a love for life. I'm extremely passionate. I get a chance to work with all kinds of people. And, yes, I don't care if Ice Cube, a rapper, is in the movie. And he thinks this is a hobby. Making movies. That's fine, because he'll have to work as hard as all of us. John won't work with you if you don't work as hard as he works. Ice Cube put in the work. He did a great job. Got bruised, bumped, thrown around. Natasha came in, got bruised, bumped, thrown around. I didn't have to. Usually, that's what they expect me to do. I said, 'Johnny, sure, you want me to do some of these stunts' A little something-something. Give me something to jump off of.' He said, 'No, no, that's okay. We'll let Natasha do it.' I said, 'Okay, that's fine with me.' I said, 'I'll come in and out. Bye.' Natasha was, 'Pam, can't you just share'' I said, 'No, uh-uh. No, girlfriend. It costs to be the boss, don't it.' So, I was in and out doing Pluto Nash with Eddie Murphy in Montreal. I'd come down and do a week of Ghosts of Mars, then go up and do Feast of All Saints for Anne Rice. Come back to Ghosts of Mars. Because I wasn't a big star doing all the stunts, I got a good opportunity to do a film set in the 1820s. Then do Pluto Nash with Eddie. We're on Pluto now. We've jumped from Mars; we are now Negroes on Pluto. I had a great time. I like to do a lot of different films. And get the experience of working with all types of great directors, and all types of actors. And people, whether they think it's a hobby or whether it's serious, that's what I look for. That's what I crave. Being here, and I don't know how I did it, cause I have worked seven days a week now for the last six weeks. I've had no days off. I just said, 'Hey, clean my clothes for me and I'll buy some at the airport.' I wear a lot of airport clothing. I optioned a book by E. Lynn Harris called Not A Day Goes By. To produce it, and play Eva, the mother from Hell. Which is going to be a great love story. Funny, funny, funny. A love story, which will be my first time producing, and hopefully'I don't want to direct, but I'd love to get a great director for it. That takes a lot of work. Getting the first draft done, the second, and getting it ready for directors and sending it out to actors. So, we're talking a seven-day week and a thirty-six hour day.
Table: Is E. Lynn doing the screenplay?
Grier: No, he can't do it all either. His new book came out. He just can't do it all. You don't have the time. You have to eat, sleep, go to the bathroom once in awhile.
Table: We're you a Carpenter fan?
Grier: Oh, yes. Very much so. I thought I'd be Sheena of the Jungle as a little girl. I used to tie ropes from trees and swing out to the roof from the garage. I have that gift to be in the fantasy world. I just love it. I would love to go explore interplanetary exploration. Wouldn't we all like to go to another planet' That would be fabulous. Write about it, do a movie. Have one of those survivor shows up there, you know' 'We're taking away your oxygen, lets see who survives first. Let's see who eats whom first.' Yeah, I love science fiction. The first movie I saw was Godzilla. I was seven years old and I stayed in the movies all day. My relatives were out in a search looking for me. I sat and watched five Godzilla movies in a row. Seeing that rubber tail going, 'Boink, boink, boink!' And him eating the taxis and the people, that horrified me. I was scarred to the seat. That's what my fascination was with the movie. The whole creation, I was fascinated by it. As a woman, if you grew up and you looked cute, they didn't want you to be a debutante; they didn't want you to learn marshal law. It's everything everyone told me not to do. I did it. I have a drum set at home. I have horses. I ride, I jump, I do crazy stuff. I usually say, 'Crazy Shit.' But I'm on the spear here. I just want to do everything and work with everyone. If it means science, whether it's science fiction and special effects, and if it's a 'C' movie or a 'D' movie, no one's ever going to see it, I'll still do it. 'Oh, you shouldn't do it because people will think you're stupid and you can't act.' Talk to the press hogs, you know' Life is too short.
Table: When the kids found out Pam Grier was going to be in this movie, they'd heard so much about you from their parents. This Foxy Brown thing, Foxy Brown came from you'
Grier: That's my child. I gave birth to her, full blown. Full grown, she came out in thongs.
Table: I know you're busier than thou, but do you have a chance to get to some of the youth groups'
Grier: That's why I have these seven days. Oh, yes, I love the hip-hop nation, and the rap nation. You know it emerged out of the Reagan Administration' And I like bashing Republicans. I believe in a lot of Republican sensibility and Democratic sensibility, but when the Republicans took the art and music classes out of the schools, the inner-city kids didn't have music lessons. Their way of filling a musical urge was to sample music, make music out of paint cans, and rapping, and dancing. It started in '79, or as early as '77. Out of it came an art form where it is not a major universal industry. Which, maybe it will go away. It provides employment, and is an art form here again. Through it, they sampled music from the 70s in which their parents bragged about the Ohio Players and James Brown. Through that homage, I am most grateful. When they come to me for information, it's a history class. It was part of the women's movement. That we were trying to take away the man's job, compete with the man, or be a man. We wanted to be the best woman that we could be, so when the man isn't there, we can take care of business and not lose the house. And not have our purses stolen. Because of poverty, and other stuff going on. My mom was Coffee, and my Aunt was Foxy Brown. They would whoop your ass if you tried to take their last five dollars, when they've got eleven kids to feed. They would just stomp you into the ground. Drive over you, what ever it took. They had to take care of the children. Period. Also, there were Foxy Browns and Coffees who were white and Asian, Hispanic, around the world who had to do the same thing. We were in a place, progressively, where we could put it on film. I was the one that took the chance, unknowing and ignorant that it would have such an impact. Being a military brat, I was taught martial arts. The gender issue was very minimum. Because you were a soldier, you were going to be a pilot, and there was no female pilot or male pilot. It was one gender; you had to be the best that you could be. Or you're not going to fly the plane. There were a lot of women that weren't allowed to fly because of the G-forces. They couldn't react to it. They couldn't shift the plane; the G-forces were so strong. Some women were strong enough from throwing around 75 pound stacks of hay that they could shift the plane. They got the job. Finally, as you know, gender has floated towards the person that has the best ability. Intellectually and physically.
Table: This movie has a theme, it's based on a Matriarch'
Grier: Yes, it's suppose to be matriarchal. I asked John when we were doing research. I said, 'John, so, if it's matriarchal, is it because it has happened' And it's the evolution where men are disappearing' Because if it happens, it is the end of the human race. Our existence is based on the male and female of every species. Animal, to plant, to human. If there is no man, is it the end of the human beings' Because women can not survive without men. Unless it becomes a scientific, synthetic, tubular within the lab of evolution. You have to have males, or we'll just be using sperm to stay alive. I don't think it would work. I think it would be the end of our human race if it happens. If history has taught us anything, there's no telling where we could go. Scientifically, at the end of the universe, it could be all men and no women, and you're giving birth. And you're screaming cramps. Who knows where it can go' Throughout history, there has always been a balance. John said, 'I don't know. What could happen'' I said, 'It's your movie. But, is it matriarchal on Mars because we were sent away'' 'Honey, wouldn't you like to go take that job on Mars' You're good at this. I don't want to go.' And that's why women went. He said, 'That's another movie.' I said, 'That's fine with me, but for me to know this gives me a subliminal way of reacting.' In the sexual tone, when I'm hitting on Clea, they said, 'Ugh, you're a lesbian.' I said, 'Maybe not.' Maybe, and this is fooling about here, you know a lot of people, especially high schoolers, who are playing around and don't consider themselves gay. 'We're girlfriends. We're just having fun. We're going to get a nut with each other, but we aint gay. We don't want to marry each other.' You know what I'm saying' People are doing that now. A lot. It may not be as open, but high schoolers and junior high schoolers are doing this. Just playing around with it. Maybe she can have sex with both, and she's not gay. And she's not by. She just wants to have fun wherever she is. Maybe that is the mentality. These were the questions that came up. It wasn't like A to B to C, this is it. I said it would give the audiences who see it something to talk about other than just that ugly motherfucker killing everybody at the end of the movie. You don't want to meet him in a dark alley, babe. But, those are great issues that John put in a film that everyone thinks is just escapism. But it is deep escapism, because who knows what its going to look like, or what it's going to be then' Will they look at a John Carpenter movie and say, 'Hey, lets use that architecture'What's that guy's name from 2000 years ago that had that movie Ghosts of Mars' We like those buildings. Lets build those on Mars and see if they work.' We don't know if he's that far advanced in his imagination, but since he has one that's so profound and he's such a legend that a film company would allow him to do that, I just wanted to be a part of it. And hope he'll be in mine, in whatever I do. I really enjoyed it.
Table: Would you be interested in remakes of some of your older movies, maybe in the tradition of Shaft'
Grier: Quentin did his version of Foxy Brown. A more sedate Jackie Brown, which was his Foxy Brown. If we did it, the agenda would have to be conceived of the political agendas that made those films interesting. It was the first time we saw a woman with a gun, doing all these suave things women weren't really aloud to do. It was the beginning of the women's movement. Your moms, most of you, weren't aloud to do a lot of things because your dads said, 'No. You stay home. I'll take care of you and the house. If I lose my job, well'I just do.' Women weren't allowed to use their degrees or go to school. If they paid a hundred thousand dollars for a degree, and went out into the workforce, they got paid 15% less than a guy did. Yet, she paid the same amount for her college education. That's unfair. That's why a lot of kids in the hood say it's unfair that, 'I pay the same fare, but I get a job, and I get paid less.' You create a sense of hopelessness, and that's what was happening with the women. The women's movement. I want to pay 50% for my education, because I'm going to get 50% for my job. That's how I see it. Fair is fair. Of course it's wrong. Of course it's asinine. I think the evolution of doing one of those films, the agenda was political. Do we have the same political agenda today' I don't know. It's too frightening. I can't say, because women have gone so far in advance, I don't know if I have to make those movies again'
So, we end on that note.
Next up: Jason Statham. And stay tuned for more with Natasha Henstridge and John Carpenter, coming soon...
Dont't forget to also check out: John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars