Set Visit: Interview with Devil's Rejects director Rob Zombie
Rob Zombie / Sheri
William Forsythe / Sid Haig / Bill Moseley
Recently, along with a few other journalists, I was given the opportunity to visit the set of THE DEVILS REJECTS, the sequel to HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES.
To be released tentatively around January or February of 2005, THE DEVILS REJECTS continues the story of the horrific Firefly family, and there attempts to escape the vengeance of Sheriff John Quincy Wydell (William Forsythe), whose brother and niece were murdered in the first movie. Aside from Karen Black, whose Mother Firefly character was now being played by Leslie Easterbrook, the majority of the main players made their return to the sequel. Although, I wasnt a huge fan of HOUSE, I was excited to see the set, meet the actors, and find out what makes the director, Rob Zombie, so damn intimidating. Im sorry, but any guy that writes songs about living dead girls and directs films about mad, malicious, maniacal, murdering (hows that for alliteration?) families has my vote for intimidating
Driving to the set easily put me in the mood for a horror film. Oddly enough, Ive found that driving to the middle of nowhere and losing cell phone service on the way, often does that. When I arrived to the set, I found myself at what seemed to be a small ranch-like town, complete with creepy-ass buildings, and plenty of adult-themed shops (think ghost town with perverted ghosts). I felt more like I was on the set of a western rather than a horror film, which makes sense, because REJECTS apparently has more of a western flair to it.
Unfortunately, while on set, I wasnt able to view any scenes being filmed. In between takes, however, I was able to meet with Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, William Forsythe, Sherri Moon, and the surprisingly down-to-earth Rob Zombie. They all had their own perspectives on what makes REJECTS so much creepier than its predecessor.
When I first heard I was going to be interviewing the Zombie, I about crapped my pants. You hear the music, you watch the videos, and youve seen the pictures, the dude is just damn freaky, I dont care how you look at it. Although hes still damn freaky, surprisingly enough, he was incredibly kind and down-to-earth as he answered some questions regarding his second helm in the directors chair, why he has such an amazing work ethic, and how he really felt about getting dragged around by the studios before the final release of HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES.
After what happened with the first film, do you feel like you got the last laugh in regards to making a sequel, do you feel like you won in a sense?
I guess so. I really dont look at it that way because I dont feel like there was anyone to get the last laugh over. You know because I never really, everyone wants me to tell some story about, oh I got fucked by Universal, but I never really felt that way. To me, I looked at it like its so hard to make films and get them made. The fact that Universal made it and then dropped it, at least they made it. And once it exists, it exists. I mean the whole cast put in a lot of time and never gave up on it. Now to be back here with more time and money and everything to make a bigger better movie, you know its great.
Different approach to making this film than the first one?
Yeah, one hundred percent different. On your first film you cant even assume to have an approach. Because everything is new, so I have a pretty fast learning curve on things so any problems we have patched up. We have much more talented people behind the scenes in all departments. From camera operators to art directors and it makes a big difference. Because it is a group effort and you are only as strong as your team. And we have a killer team. They are really pros. I think people are gonna be shocked. Ive seen people I have shown some edited scenes to that are just like there is no relation to the first film at all.
How do you think youve grown as a director?
Its amazing how much you learn. I dont know how Ive grown. I just get a better understanding of what works. I think a lot of actors what they learn to when you talk to them for the first time they think, Oh this is good. Until they see it and they say, What am I making a silent movie? Whats with the gesturing? Its sort of like when I first started making music. You have a song in your head and it just takes a while to figure out how to get it from your head on to a record. And in between like thats not what I had in mind. And thats the process of getting it from your head to on film. Sometimes it has been astonishing with certain scenes that can be done and go, This is exactly what I fucking had in mind. Where has last time Id go, Ah well alright thats as good as thats gonna get. (Laughs)
What do you feel was the success in getting the last film out of you head and on the screen? And how does it compare with this one.
Its not even close. Truthfully I dont like to go back. I think everything has its place for what it is. Like a lot of times, Ill go back and talk about early records and Ill go I hate that record. And someone will go, Oh thats my favorite record! So you never know. I mean, what I see and everyone else sees is different. I never, ever felt like I had the scenes where I wanted at any moment during the last movie. Everything was like I was trying to do this and it ended up here. But this time with time and patience and more time to work with people a lot more pre-production to really fine tune itself whats going on film is what I wanted where as last time I cant even think of one moment where this movie wasnt exactly what I had in mind.
Is Eli Roth here trying to pick up some tips? (Eli Roth standing nearby)
(Laughs) I dont know he just lingers and write things down (From afar with much sarcasm Eli starts praising Rob as his reason for directing) Im having trouble sitting with Elis face attached to my ass. (Rob looks down). What? Eli what? (Laughs)
Is The Devils Rejects a better film than House of 1,000 Corpses?
I think it is an infinitely better film. I mean its not done yet so I dont have the total impact. Thats the weird thing about movies. Like I know scenes that have been finished, like any given scene I feel is better than the entire last movie. Does it work completely? Its not finished yet so it hard to say. But I think it is a far superior movie. When I think of all the cast we have a lot of people who are new like William Forsythe & Ken Foree who are just amazing actors and have really upped the quality. People returning like Bill, Sid & Sheri, I think when people see them in this movie they will go, Wow! They will be shocked when they see them. Theyve really done stuff that I dont think that they knew they had inside of them.
How does it feel to have been able to revive the careers of some of your favorite cult heroes and do you feel at all unappreciated by Karen Black?
Nah, I dont look at it that way. I mean Ive really liked calling people up and having them come in. You hope people come in happy to do things and they always do. Because you are never meeting everybody until its almost too late. Like everyone from P.J. Soles to Steve Railsback, who ever weve had come in theyve just all been super happy to be there, super cool. Gave us one hundred percent. You know they all come in suspicious and they all kind of admit after that they thought they would have a miserable time, but this is like the best fucking time Ive ever had on a movie because its a pretty low-key atmosphere. Theres no yelling and screaming and horse shit like that.
What is P.J. Soles really like?
Shes great, shes funny. She was only here for one day and we were working the whole time. She is fun to be around and we were chit chatting and talking about Its funny because I was just talking about her the other night because I was over at my friend Johnny Ramones house and him and his wife twenty years later got into an argument about P.J. Soles. She was like; I remember seeing her coming out of your fucking hotel room when you were making Rock and Roll High School! What the fuck was that all about! (Laughs) And I brought it up and asked what that was all about and she said, Oh, that was nothing. The director wanted me to talk to Johnny because he was nervous and I was married to Dennis Quaid at the time.
How important has the internet been to your film's success?
The internet is such a mystery. You know its important but its really hard to gauge and you dont know what its reading sometimes because you just dont know. I feel it more on this movie because it seems like in the last four years its gone from, Oh theres this horror website that mentioned you. Now its like you can really feel the effects when people mention us because its so fat. Like tonight, Ill go home and read, Eli Roth was on the set of the movie, where it would take a magazine two months to mention it, where it would be on someones website tonight. You know you can really feel it.
Do you have any projected date for release?
All I really know at this point is that Lions Gate have been super cool and they are like, When it is done it is done. We are not going to rush you to make a release date like Halloween or something crazy. I figure you know we are talking January or February after Christmas.
What kind of freedom have you had as far as casting and do you have a wish list as far as other cult faves?
As far as freedom, its almost unheard of, but I have like one hundred percent freedom with everything. At no point has Lions Gate ever told me anything. You know, I just cast who I want.
They havent told you to stick any hot teens in the movie?
Nothing. They dont say anything. Because our casting is old when you look at movies. I dont want to give their ages away but between like Bill, Sid, Ken who knows. The youngest member of our cast is Sheri but other than that the next youngest person is like in their forties.
Do you have a wish list though for future films? Somebody you would really like to work with some day?
Not off the top of my head. As it is now, E.G. Daly just joined the cast like two days ago, so Im still sucking people in on a daily basis.
Whats the inspiration behind this one? I know before was like Texas Chainsaw Massacre & Spider Baby
The influence on this one is sort of different. I wasnt really trying to make a horror movie. I wanted to make something that was almost like a violent western. Sort of like a road movie. Something that has more of the flavor of THE WILD BUNCH, BONNIE & CLYDE or BADLANDS, you know.
It kind of sounds like you dont want to be stereotyped as the horror guy and you might be trying to move away from it with this film?
Not so much. I just think that this is what this film was meant to be. It is a sequel in a sense to the last movie, but I dont want to be held to the rules of the last movie. There are things in the last movie that just dont play in this movie. They just dont make sense.
Was this always your goal even during making albums that you always wanted to direct?
Yeah, thats what I always wanted to do when I was a kid. You know having a band and playing music is something you do for fun. I wasnt like, Oh thats my career. I just want to do everything. As a kid, I wanted to do this, this, this and this.
Is that what Spookshow International is all about?
Yeah, I just want to do everything all the time.
The first film was billed as sort of like the movie you could see or the movie that was withheld from you how is this film is going to be marketed?
I dont know, I dont want it to be in some gimmicky way. I am a little bit fearful of the MPAA because compared to the last film this film is brutal. We went into it with a very humorless attitude. I mean, there are funny moments because the characters and actors are charismatic and I sort of took the approach that basically my villains are my heroes. That works sort of like Charles Manson does. I mean you dont like him but he is charismatic enough that you want to watch him and that is what these characters are like.
The tone of the film is really dark and really brutal. Like there is a scene where Otis and Baby, when they first escape, take this sort of country western group husband and wife couples hostage in a motel, its sort of like a home invasion and they sort of just torture them. With Otis there is sort of like a rape scene and its not like, Oh lets cut away to the machete hitting the head. We are not trying to make a gore movie its more psychological and it is really is brutal to watch. It was brutal to film and it really was tough for the actors and that was never the experience before there was always that, Oh its a horror movie isnt this spooky and this is fun. This one really hits some tones. It was really bothering people.
Any thoughts on a trilogy?
Trilogies are bullshit man. Because the way I think it is, is that the first one is what it is and if you do it right you can usually make the second one better. And the third on is always crap. Always.
Whats going on with the Ed Wood one you have been talking about?
Thats the next one up. Im going to readdress that script next week when Im wrapped on this.
One of my favorite scenes in the first film was when the father finds his daughter in the shed.
Yeah, that is probably my favorite scene too.
Are there any powerful scenes like that in the new film?
There are scenes like that. There was one scene when we filmed it that we were like this is sort of like that moment of this movie. But I cant remember what it is at the moment.
Is Wayne Toth one of the key people returning from the first film and how is what your approach to that type of work going to be different from the first film? It was very surreal in a way in the first film.
Wayne is, besides the actors, a major key returning player and Marco the first AD. I think everyone else is new. The big thing Wayne and I worked on in this film was Tiny. Because the movie is so real and then you have that character and if it doesnt work as a real character it fucks up the whole movie. In the last movie, we had enough wackiness that okay Ill buy into that but that was Waynes big challenge.
Since the success of House have you had any comments or feedback from Universal or MGM?
Ive talked to both of them since. Ive just run into them and had meetings with them and its pretty funny because no one bullshits. They will straight up go, Hey we fucked up. But hey, what do we know!
You go from one project to the next project to the next project. You never seem to rest. Do ever feel like you may be burning out?
Not really, only because it takes so long to get projects going. If I start the next movie the day after this wraps it would still take like two years before it comes out. I just get bored.
Does the movie production cycle frustrate you in any way?
Nothing about this has frustrated me because it has been very, very, very different process. Like at Universal it was a much more corporate structure and literally was like every little thing was a huge meeting in a giant boardroom with twenty-five people and you dont even know anyones name and you dont know what their job is. Halfway through that movie I just wanted to bang my head against the wall because I was so frustrated with everyone opinions & comments and, Heres our notes! And the notes are thicker than the script and thats why things get confused.
Here its like when your left alone like well figure it out. You know we are smart. The crew is smart, Im smart, the actors are smart. Well work it out and make it work. When you have so many people that just want to weigh in with their half ass comments just because they think they should have one. That is why movies suck for the most part because no one can be left alone to think for two Goddamn seconds. Everyone has to go, Well what if we do this? No because that is totally stupid. And Lions Gate doesnt do that, they are very much like, we trust you, go make a good movie. If we think the movie is bad, trust me we will be there. They come down and go, Hey it looks great. And leave.
Whats the best new movie you have seen recently?
Well, the last movie I saw was SHREK 2 and I thought that was good. Ive been here all the time.
I dont know. Listen, I havent been to the movies in a while.
Kill Bill Volume 2?
I like it. I didnt think it was a guilty pleasure. Maybe something like the ANCHORMAN, Ill go see that.
Any plans for another DVD of the first film?
No. Theres something about that I hate. I guess Ill do it some day maybe but the director's cut is kind of like, hey you wanna go retake your high school yearbook photo because maybe look better now. God, can we move on! (Laughs)
One thing we havent touched on at all is the score for the picture. How are you going to approach the score?
The score is tricky. Im not doing any of the music myself this time because its just too much work.
Do you have a composer in mind?
No, Ive talked to a bunch of people. I really havent gotten into it because until I have a rough cut I wont know who for what. It definitely needs a compelling score because anything too grand will kind of overshadow the sort of low-fi quality of the movie. Thats a tricky one. Thats something that needs to be worked out.
Who is your cinematographer on this project and how did you pick him?
Phil Parmet and I picked him because he had done a lot, a lot of documentaries. He did Harlan County USA which won an academy award. And the vibe I wanted to get was a very like you are there you know. As soon as it looks like a frame from a movie I go, Okay lets change it. Because I never want it to be like, Oh look, horror movie. So thats why I picked him because I thought he had a lot of experience and I knew he had done a lot of movies also. I thought the documentary experience would come in handy that he wouldnt be afraid to go hand held on things. The whole movie is almost shot hand held. We used the dolly track once in the whole movie for one shot.
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