Dan: So how did you get THE MONSTER SQUAD?
Andre Gower: THE MONSTER SQUAD was just another audition process. The great casting story with the movie and me is that I originally read for a different role. I read for Rudy. The “cool kid”, because that had been all my roles before. The cool kid with the cool hair. Auditioned for that, called back, went back, went back again, met with the producers and writers and direct – Fred (Dekker) and Shane (Black). Ended up getting cast in the film. Got the call that said: “Oh, you got that film that you went out for, that big Monster film but you didn’t get the role that you read for.” I was actually pissed off because that was the cool role! At this time we’d read the script and seen everything of course at that time the script was a lot longer and had a lot more stuff in it. We shot off of a very short script. A lot of stuff was cut. We shot off like an 82 page shooting script and even edited stuff that we shot! They actually shot and edited 100 minutes of film and edited 17 minutes or something out of it. But the original script was 123 pages with a ton of stuff and that would’ve been a very cool thing. It worked out in the end though, playing Sean.
D: Well, of course because he was the leader!
AG: Yeah, a little more of a role but Rudy was the cool kid who killed more monsters. And he smoked…
D: And he had that great intro.
AG: Great intro! That intro scene was the audition scene. I remember it like it was yesterday. Ryan (Lambert) was perfect though. There were a lot of names that read for that role, including me, and, like I said, it worked out pretty good – getting Sean Crenshaw.
D: So listening to the commentary – I didn’t know if it had been a while since you’ve seen these people or what but it seems like there was a nice natural back and forth.
AG: By the time we did the commentary on the DVD we had seen each for a year. Everything started with, and I’m not trying to take credit with the DVD – that’s not what I’m doing, but everything that led up to the DVD’s creation and release started in ’06. In the Spring of ’06, an email found me through my IMDb page and then got to my personal email by one of the guys at Ain’t It Cool News that was wanting to do a screening of THE MONSTER SQUAD at the Alamo Drafthouse in
D: When did you first become aware that a cult was brewing up for this movie?
AG: Over the years, probably during college years when people would say “aw man, that was my favorite movie growing up!” Because I went to 2 different colleges that had nothing to do with
AG: But you couldn’t get it anywhere. People would have old VHS tapes and they would bring them and want me to sign them. They copied it off HBO. You couldn’t get it in the video store because everybody would just have one and they would steal it! This is the story we’ve heard for the last 3 or 4 years is ‘oh no, I paid the penalty at Blockbuster – I went and stole it. I rented it and stole it because I knew I’d never get it.’ HBO played it a lot! Everybody taped and watched it all the time. That kind of germinated so I always kind of knew. Ryan and Ashley didn’t have any idea - Fred kind of but not really. Then this Alamo Drafthouse came and it was this Sunday night on Easter weekend and they had these 2 screenings at 7 and 10 and the place holds like 250 people, they turned a 100 people away each screening, and it was incredible. Of course the question came out – ‘when’s the DVD coming out?’ Nobody had any idea. Nobody knew who had the rights to make a DVD. It was buried in some box in some vault at Viacom or Lockheart or Spelling or Sony or
D: I heard there was a possible remake rumored…
AG: I think it’s actually official now. It’s Rob Cohen - the original producer.
D: Oh, is that right? Wow.
AG: Cohen – who MONSTER SQUAD fans, if they see him on the street, will put him in the ground! I mean, I’m all for it if they do it but everybody else wants someone else to do it! (laughs)
D: It’s easy to complain about remakes but the one good thing is they make people look at the original again. You know like, I’m not a fan of those Steve Martin Pink Panther movies – I kind of wished he’d never done that but at least it got people to go back and see the original Peter Sellers movies.
AG: They do, and that’s good. You know, a lot of genre fans don’t like Rob Cohen movies because they think he just CGI's it out and takes the money and just goes to the bank. You know what? That’s what you make movies for. That’s why you make THE MUMMY and THE MUMMY RETURNS and THE MUMMY COMES BACK and OH, HERE’S THE MUMMY AGAIN. ‘Cause they make money. They might not like his film style as a director or whatever, I don’t think he’s gonna direct it, but the tough thing about the remake is no one wants them to spoil the original because this is the one thing they finally got their hands on with the DVD and they don’t want anybody to touch it. I don’t know what it is, I mean I figured out a couple of things but this is people’s all time favorite movie. Even people who love other movies, know other movies, and have worked on other movies…there are a dozen known film makers whose favorite movie of all time is THE MONSTER SQUAD. One of which, it inspired them to get into doing what they’re doing because they were either film geeks growing up or nerdy guys in love with filming and they were studying and emulating this…’cause when you back at what the whole story premise was, and how it came to and how it ended up being - Fred Dekker, being a 24, 25 year old director – second time director with technically a big budget studio motion picture, did a pretty good job of putting something pretty cool together that actually holds up. The only thing that really doesn’t hold up is the wardrobe!
D: (laughs) What did you think of the marketing when it was released – the tagline: “You know who to call when you have ghosts…”, of course referencing GHOST BUSTERS?
AG: Yeah, #1 – don’t ever do that. You don’t have to, uh…
D: Mack on another movie?
AG: Yeah! Don’t do that. I don’t think many people do – the new STAR TREK didn’t come out and say “we don’t have light sabers but we’ve got the
D: Now, this is obvious because like you said they’re all classic Universal monsters with their classic names, Dracula, Wolfman, Frankenstein all are the same but then there’s the swamp creature who’s named “Gillman”.
AG: That’s because of a rights issue. If Universal had done it we could have called him “The Creature From The Black Lagoon.” But Universal passed and they owned that name so we had to call him “Gillman”. The others were public domain.
D: Is it true that Tom Noonan stayed in character as Frankenstein for the whole shoot?
AG: Tom Noonan is a method actor through and through. He had more scenes with Ashley and Ryan one on one but as an ensemble we did a lot. Never saw him out of his make up, never saw him out of character.
D: There wasn’t some end wrap-up party that he showed up at and it was suddenly him?
AG: I don’t think he would even come to that because he didn’t care. He’s the kind of guy who just shows up to do a job and he’s not associated with it. He was an established actor at the time but I had to go rent MANHUNTER just to see what the guy looked like.
D: In watching this movie again right before this interview, it struck me how this seems so much like a kid’s dream come true – you’re fighting classic monsters but with a foot in reality with bickering parents…which was the bottom line tone. The idea that like in THE BAD NEWS BEARS which was a decade before that there were cursing kids, but in this there was more of a reality thing to it because of that scene of you in the kitchen where you say “Holy shit! I mean cow…” in front of your mother. That’s pretty grounded in the idea that kids know these words but know not to say them around adults. But was it like a dream like that or was it just another job?
AG: You don’t see it as that out there because, yeah, it is a job – you’re cast and you show up on the set and I had enough experience over the last 8 years prior to that of working decently steady to understand what’s going on. Someone like Ashley who was 4 or 5, she has no idea – these monsters are real to her – they aren’t actors in a suit this shit’s real. It scared the piss out of her all the time which was you know kind of mean. (laughs) Someone like Brent who played the fat kid Horace – this was the first thing he’s ever done. Ironically at the time I foolhardily admit that I had an 180 degree turn around because working with him at the beginning – he was so new and so fresh, so inexperienced being on a set at all, let alone a big set where you got to do stuff. So you might think ‘oh, it’s not working – he doesn’t know what’s going on’ but it’s just like putting kids together in a class. We were in a classroom but a social situation and everybody had little growing pains of adjusting around each other and finding out your place in the group there, let alone you got to pretend to be somebody else 5 minutes later.
D: Well, did you have an adjusting period before shooting? Like when you hear stories of the STAND BY ME kids or the ANIMAL HOUSE group trying to become these people before they actually do it…
AG: Yeah, we had weeks of rehearsing. There were plenty of weeks of pre production and shooting and rehearsal and things like that and that’s where those pangs go out but I think one of the reasons this movie is a success is the stress on those central characters. There’s really only 2 characters who get lost in this movie – every one else has an anchor place in it. You know, Horace is one of those iconic characters because Brent Chalem was a couple of years younger than everybody and it showed. I mean, that plays like when your 13,14 and somebody is 11 or 12 there’s a big difference. Like Ryan is a year or 2 older than I am. But when you watch this, the reason his character works because he is so sweet, he is so young, so naïve coming in – and it just works. And I think one of the reasons why everybody loves this film is that they all saw it at that age. Or at one of the ages that’s one of the kids in the movie. They find a character or a situation or a combination of to relate to in that movie. It affected them fundamentally and very profoundly for some reason back in ’87, ’88, ’89, ’90, whenever they watched it on HBO and they loved it. Then, of course, the fact that they could never see it again, or get it, or that they had to steal the video cassette made it even more coveted. I tried to figure it out once the
D: Well, when you talk about the appeal of THE MONSTER SQUAD, whether or not people relate to different characters, I think we all have that notion we remember from when we were kids that we know something that parents don’t know or wouldn’t believe. So many movies in the 80’s like LABYRINTH or TIME BANDITS have this portal in the kid’s room to other dimension…
AG: Right, but in all those other movies – they discover a portal and go somewhere else. In this the portal opens up and monsters come here! It’s that fantasy kids all have – whether you’re in your backyard pretending you’re a knight with a broad sword killing a dragon, or you’re a ninja killing bad samurais, or you’re a space ranger killing aliens…every kid is doing that. This is why this movie is celebrated so. This wasn’t adults that were fantasizing and getting the bad guys – this was us! That was kick ass to everybody. I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and said “you don’t understand – everyday we replicated your tree house! We were your club! We went out as the “Monster Squad”! We created a board game – a role playing game!” I’d be like “wow” that’s pretty interesting! Some people just went out and pretended, others actually created their own stuff around it and continued the story!
The story begins again at The Colony Theater tomorrow night so if you live in the area (or even if you don't) be sure to make it out. Much thanks goes out to Andre Gower for this great interview.
Oh yeah - the yellow poster above on the right will be available as a very limited edition print at the Colony tomorrow. The posters are numbered and signed by the artist Danny Miller - a Carrboro artist who does ultra cool genre-inspired graphic art.