A Conversation with Chillerama Director Adam GreenNovember 29, 2011
Adam Green has been involved in the filmmaking business for almost 12 years now. Garnering much praise for his Horror/Comedy debut, Hatchet, Green has gone on to make several films that run the gamut of genre classification.
Now, he and fellow Directors Joe Lynch, Tim Sullivan and Adam Rifkin have put together a Horror/Comedy anthology titled Chillerama (now available on Blu-ray and DVD) that is not only a fun, gross out film but also a love letter to that idea of making films that are fun in the first place. I had a chance to discuss the film and his segment, Diary of Anne Frankenstein, as well as his future projects and how he doesn't really see himself as the "Horror" guy that he's made out to be.
Oh yeah, and we talk about his cats.
Hi!, How are you?
Exhausted, actually. It's been a long day. [Laughing]
[Laughing] The Friday after Thanksgiving? It shouldn't be a long day. It should be an easy day.
Haha, I wish! When I'm not writing I'm a retail slave so I've been working my life away today.
Oh God, yeah. You've been really busy then.
How about yourself? How are you doing?
I'm doing good. I'm in Texas right now locked away in a hotel room working on Killer Pizza (an upcoming film slated for a 2013 release). It's nicer to be in Texas, I guess [Laughing]
[Laughing] No doubt. I wanted to say upfront that Chillerama is just awesome. It seems rarer and rarer nowadays to see a movie and when it's over you that it just feels like a lot of fun, and I genuinely had fun time watching it.
From some of the interviews featured on the disc, it seems like the project was a long time in the making. What was it that got everything started and brought the four of you (Green, Joe Lynch, Adam Rifkin and Tim Sullivan) together to make the film?
It started with Adam Rifkin and Tim Sullivan back when they were making Detroit Rock City. They sort of bonded over their love of Famous Monster of Filmland magazine and just sort of classic monsters and they started talking about, "what if they made this anthology" and "what if it was super stylized?" ya know, very film noir, and then they kind of forgot about it for about a decade because everybody got busy with other stuff.
There's these Masters of Horror dinners that happen every year in LA and a few years ago when I first got the nod to attend, which, still when I go I feel like I should be serving drinks to the other guys there and that I have no business actually being there. But we all sort of became friends there and they brought up the film to me and Joe Lynch and, everybody in this genre is always saying, "Let's make an anthology!" and the question is, "Why? What's going to be different about it?" because there's so many of them and they usually aren't really that great. It's usually just a bunch of short films put together but the idea, which I think is all very well summed up in Joe Lynch's segment at the beginning when Cecil Kaufman (actor Richard Riehle) does that whole speech to his Orson Welles' poster about "Where did the magic go?" and "Why don't people go to the movies anymore?" and that's really what sort of captivated all of us to take part in this.
Going into it, they already had titles in mind. The Diary of Anne Frankenstein was one of them. I actually did not come up with that title. When they said it I laughed and thought, "well, that's a funny title but who's going to make it?" and they said, "You!"
And I'm like, "Me?! I don't want to make that!" But once I sort of embraced the idea of a kind of Universal Monster movie and then, the sort of back story behind the movie is that there was a really good actor that was supposed to play Hitler but he dropped out at the last second and so they grab the gaffer and have him play Hitler even though he doesn't know how to speak German. None of that is really said in the movie and no one really needs to know it, but for the crew and all of us making it that was sort of our joke going into it. Then, as a Jewish-American to be able to spend 20 minutes making Hitler look like a clown really made me feel ok with going ahead. I mean, you saw it; there's no holocaust jokes or anti-Semitic jokes and we were very careful to not even walk that line really. It's all just Hitler being a buffoon.
And also, when I am ever going to get the chance to make a German movie in black and white like that? Probably never again, so that's what really made me jump on board with it. Even then, it was about 2-2 1/2 years before it was actually done just because it was so hard coordinating everybody's schedules. We did this in our spare time and did it for the love of it. It wasn't like you could stop what you were doing on so-called "real movies" or "real projects" where there's all this money involved, so you sort of had to work on it in bits and pieces here and there and try to line everything up. But, I think that's why the movie is so fun. You have to know when you watch this that it was made for no other reason than for the fun of it and there are not a lot of movies like that.
Definitely. It's very obvious while watching the film that you guys were having a great time making it.
Yeah, it was great.
With your segment of the movie, Diary of Anne Frankenstein, as you were saying it's a probably the most shocking, title wise, out of all the other segments, yet the film itself is surprisingly the most tame. Was that intentional on your part or is that just how it ended up fleshing itself out?
Well, I started, a lot of people always forget it, but I started out as a comedian. I was a comic and a TV writer for sitcoms and comedies and, as far as I'm concerned and a lot of other people that worked on it are concerned, Hatchet is very much a comedy. I've been sort of pinned this "Horror" guy which is why I was so excited to do Anne Frankenstein because, out of all of them, it doesn't really have any gross out jokes, it's not gory. It's just a straight Mel Brooks type of comedy, which is my favorite type of thing to do. So, it wasn't that I tried to make it the tamest. I just did my thing.
I think that's one of the things I like most about Chillerama. I don't think every segment is going to be for everybody, but every segment is very personal to the director that made it and the fact that they got to do what they wanted to do and nobody messed with it. That's sort of why Anne Frankenstein is probably the tamest out of them, but I also think it's the funniest out of them because there are just so many jokes in it and it's such a comedy whereas the others do have more violence or gore or effects or gross out stuff. I think that answers the question. I think that's why it ended up being the least offensive while having the most offensive title.
[Laughing] I completely agree with you on Hatchet, how it's just as funny as it is gory and with Anne Frankenstein it was just, so funny, especially Joel Moore as Hitler. It was all just incredible.
There's so many layers to what he's (Joel Moore) doing because we tried to do it in a way that, at the beginning, if you don't know any better you may begin to think that he actually knows how to speak German and then it just keeps getting worse as it goes. Then, I'm throwing out words for him to say like Boba Fett and Salacious Crumb. I also did teach him some German because the whole rest of the cast is speaking authentic German and sometimes Joel does actually say something in German but he didn't know what it meant and it's not what the translations (on screen) say. So, he walks into the war room and, if you know German, he's saying, "I have worms in my penis."
And when we watched it in Germany they were laughing on a whole other level because you can tell Joel doesn't know what he's saying. My favorite, though, is the last line when Meshuggannah (Kane Hodder) kills Hitler. On screen, Hitler says, "Why's everyone always so mean to me?" but if you know German what Joel is actually saying is, "I'm such a shitty actor." [Laughing]
[Laughing] Yeah! I saw that in the special features on the disc and, as you said, it adds a whole other layer of comedy.
That was the true test watching it with a German audience in Germany. I got to see it in Hamburg and I got to see it in Berlin and I was terrified. It's got to suck to live there and any time there's anything about Germany it's always Hitler and it's always the Holocaust. It'd be like every other country every time they made a movie about America it'd be about what we did to the American Indians. It's just after a while you say, "Enough. We wanna forget about this already." But they do have a good sense of humor about it and I think they would rather watch something like this and laugh at Hitler. When Hitler's head got knocked off at the end they all stood up and cheered.
I think rather than seeing so many movies that are so sad and awful about the tragedy of the Holocaust if anybody wants to forget that, it's them at this point. You know it's, what an awful thing, but I think the more you, you know... it's a fine line. You don't wanna go start making a comedy about 9/11 right now but the more you can start to laugh the more you can start to heal. You also start to take the power away from the bad guy, ya know. As a Jewish person, to make fun of Hitler like that and turn him into a clown it is a little empowering and it feels great.
I can imagine!
And no one was more worried about the title of this movie than my own parents. When I told them what I was doing they were like, "What?!"
They've been fine with everything I've done so far but my mom, who's a Hebrew school teacher was a little bit like, "Are you sure you really want to do this?" [Laughing] But once they saw what it was they really like it.
I had read some interviews you did recently where you mentioned that by the end of Hatchet II you had become a bit burned out on movie making. From watching the behind the scenes moments on the Chillerama Blu-ray it seems like you're having the best time. Did working on this project revitalize that feeling inside that got you stoked on movie making again?
Yeah, it really reinvigorated me again because it... I've been slowly sort of burning out for about 7 years now because I've gone non-stop movie into movie. I never want to say that in a way the I'm complaining about it because I'm so fortunate to have had the success that I've have and that I get to keep going and that there's a demand for my product and I think that's fantastic. But, I haven't taken a day off, I haven't stopped and Hatchet II was supposed to be the big, fun victory lap for the crew and I because we never would have thought in a million years that the first one would have been such a hit and the fact that we got to actually make the sequel that we all talked about while making the first one was great. Then it just turned out to be the most grueling shoot. It was so hard. It was way too ambitious for the budget.
I love the movie and I'm so proud of what we pulled off but then at the finish line we had all those problems with the ratings board then AMC saying they would take it unrated and I'm like, "Oh my God, victory!" Then all of a sudden it gets yanked from theaters in the first 48 hours and it's just like, "Are you fucking kidding me?!" We were so beaten down by that point. Then I had to go right into this (Chillerama) and being able to do something so fun like this was really helpful in reminding me why I like doing this. It really helped me get back on my feet from the assassination of Hatchet II a lot faster than I might have. Some people might have just crawled into the fetal position for like a year and not come out of the depression of having their movie get yanked from theaters. [Laughing]
[Laughing] For sure.
There's nothing you can say or do about it. The best revenge, really, was being able to make something like this, which, by the way, the MPAA loved my segment. [Laughing]
[Laughing] Well, there ya go!
But then the fact that Hatchet II became such a huge success. I believe it was 12 days on DVD and they wanted a third one, so that's really the final word on it. Now, it's a great story that it got pulled from theaters. It took a while for me to see that. At the time everyone was like, "Don't you see how cool this is? This has never happened before!" and I'm like, "Yeah, well you try going through it!" [Laughing]
Exactly! It's very different when you're the one who made it.
Yeah. And now it's not just a story, but a funny story. When you see it (Hatchet II) you're just like, "How did this get pulled from theaters? What was the problem?" And that's part of the joke almost, you know? What was the problem? Why did they pick that of all things? I mean, I know why they picked that because I fought back and went around them and you're not supposed to do that but I still got it out there. I got it in theaters! It may have only been for several minutes, but I got it in there! [Laughing]
Hopefully someone else tries again at some point. I don't know why the ratings board has such a problem with the Hatchet movies but it's kind of laughable. When you think of all the torture porn and realistic suffering and violence and rape yet Victor Crowley (from the Hatchet series) is where they have a problem? [Laughing]
[Laughing] For real! I've seen on Twitter that you and Joe Lynch promoting "A Very Green and Lynch Christmas" that is happening Nov. 28 (TONIGHT!) at the Alamo Draft House in Austin, TX. Would you like to give any background on this event?
Yeah, it's a fundraiser for the American Legion Hall which is the spot for all of the disabled Veterans here. They don't have a working elevator in their building which is a travesty so we're trying to hopefully raise enough money to, if not build them the elevator at least get them on their way to getting that elevator built. So, we're putting on this night and donating all the proceeds and all the tickets, everything is going towards the Veteran's to try and build them an elevator. We're bringing all kinds of props from the movies and giveaways. What was really great was how many studios, when we told them we were doing this, like Lionsgate, Dark Sky and Anchor Bay, Image, they all sent stuff that we can raffle off and we think it's going to be a really big success. We're going to show some of Chillerama there and we're going to show Knights of Badassdom , which is (Joe) Lynch's new movie and what we're really excited about most is we're going to show some stuff from Holliston, our new sitcom. This will be the first time anybody, anywhere ever sees it. Even people that worked on it haven't even seen it yet. In fact, FearNet doesn't really know we're going to do this, so... [Laughing]
I do think that they're on to us, though. They're like, "What are you going to show?" and we're like, "Don't worry about it." but we're actually going to show a lot. So, [Laughing] I figured we'll be amongst an audience of friends so no one sneaks in any video cameras and everybody's cool.
I love being able to do stuff like that. I think it's been one of the things I've enjoyed the most in this process is being very accessible and real with my fans and be able to share the process with everybody. Normally you wouldn't want to show something that's so unfinished but I think it's going to be cool to get to see what it looks like right now. It's a sitcom. It looks just like Friends, it sounds like Friends, except that there's the guy from GWAR in it and people's heads explode every now and then. It's a very, very weird thing but it's been my most favorite thing that I've ever done and it's been the thing that I've worked on the longest. It's taken 13 years to get it to this point and to get it made the right way and it just couldn't have gone better and we're so excited for it.
I was actually going to ask you about Holliston but you beat me to it. It sounds great and I'm sure it's quite fulfilling to see something you've worked on for so long finally come about. It's also awesome to hear, as you said, about all those studios coming together to help out with your event. I saw a list of everything and it's rather astounding how much is there to help raise money as well as collector's item people would kill for. I'm personally going to be very jealous of whoever ends up with the Saló Blu-ray autographed by Fernando Phagabeefy (Director of Saló 2: The Next Day).
I saw that was up there and cursed myself for living so far away! [Laughing]
[Laughing] All the people that work at the studios are all real people too and they will step up. You just have to ask them like real people. Rather than saying, "We're doing this event, blah blah blah" just saying, "Hey, there's these Veterans. They are crippled and they don't have an elevator. Is there anything you can give to try and help out?" and instantly people start pouring in and, who knows how much we'll actually end up raising but whatever it is it's great to be able to do something like that.
Definitely. I can't see asking someone, "Hey, these guys need this." and anybody saying no, so I really hope that this goes well.
It seems like Chillerama is getting lots of good feedback. Have you guys discussed making a sequel or handing the reigns over to another group of Directors?
Yeah, originally that was sort of the idea was that if this turns into a success that we'd make another volume but what we would do is come up with four more titles and pick four other Directors and stick them with the titles that we came up with and let them try and figure it out. Kind of like what happened with us. I will say thought that as much as this was a labor of love and it looks like it was really fun it took a lot out of us. It was really, really hard to do and we had to cash in every favor that we had. So, right now, starting on a Chillerama 2 is the last thing anyone wants to do right now because this was really hard. But, hopefully, we'll see how the next few months go with DVD/Blu-ray sales and if they want to do another one then we're all definitely open to figuring that out.
I'm also, aside from doing a sequel to Hatchet, I'm trying really hard to never repeat myself. That's why Spiral, Frozen, and Grace are all so different and now I'm working on the sitcom and a children's movie (Killer Pizza). So, I wouldn't personally like to do another Chillerama type thing. I feel like one was enough but the idea of having other Directors' step in and do them would definitely be cool. Especially if we could try and give some young, up-and-coming people their first chance. I'm always trying to do that as best I can and sort of help somebody else get a leg up. Like, with Grace, that was Paul Solet's first chance at making a movie and I feel like he totally knocked it out of the park. So, yeah, I think it would be nice to see that happen with Chillerama.
Awesome. I know we're running out of time but, being a fellow cat lover myself, I wanted to ask you about something funny with your cats. I read that you have two that are named Perry and Tyler, after Joe Perry and Steven Tyler from Aerosmith. As I read it, though, it hit me: Tyler Perry. Has the rise of Tyler Perry caused you grief or do you feel cursed now by these names?
[Laughing] My wife and I now have four cats and a dog. She had a cat already, Chewbacca, and I had Tyler and Perry, and now we have this new cat that decided to adopt us and lives in the back yard named Patches because she looks like Frankenstein. She looks like she's sewn together from pieces of other cats [Laughing] But yeah, it does suck when you tell people I named my cats Tyler and Perry and they're like, "Madea's Big Family Reunion?"
It's like now I have to say Perry and Tyler and people get the Aerosmith reference right away. One of my friends actually knows the guys in Aerosmith and so she got Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to autograph a picture of them when they were kittens.
That might be the most awesome thing I've ever heard.
It's really funny when people come in and they see that. But, yeah, it does suck that there is a Tyler Perry [Laughing]
[Laughing] You get mad at them and curse them for all the schlocky movies they make.
I want to say thank you so much for talking with me today. I'm a huge fan, your segment in Chillerama is just excellent and I'm looking forward to what you've got coming up next with Holliston and everything else.
Thank you! Holliston is by far my favorite thing and it should begin airing in April, so hopefully you dig it when you see it.
Awesome. Thanks so much, Adam.
Thanks, you too!
- Matt Hardeman
Special thanks to Adam Green for chatting with us.
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