Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Andre Gower Of THE MONSTER SQUAD: The Film Babble Blog Interview Part 2

This Wednesday at 8:00 PM, The Colony Theater in Raleigh will be screening the 1987 cult classic THE MONSTER SQUAD as part of their popular "Cinema Overdrive" series. In addition to the exciting experience of seeing a rare 35 MM print of the beloved film, what makes this showing extremely special is the star of the movie Andre Gower is going to be on hand as host and will take questions from the audience. We discussed his career as a young actor in the 80's in Part 1 of our chat but here we get to the real meat of the matter - his role as Sean Crenshaw, leader of THE MONSTER SQUAD and how the film keeps winning generations of new fans 22 years after its release.

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 Austin, Texas. I ended up talking to them on the phone and I said “look, if you want to do a cast reunion screening, give me the information, let me make one or two phone calls” because I had just gotten in touch with Ashley (Banks) that year – hadn’t talked to her in a couple of years. Hadn’t talked to Ryan in a couple of years. I stay in touch with Fred regularly. So they were like: “Holy shit! You can do that?” And I said “if they’re interested in going, I’ll get their input and we’ll put everybody together.” Ashley was on board, Ryan was on board, and Fred was on board. Those three had always thought that this whole thing was dead and I always got interest and recognized for THE MONSTER SQUAD plus other things but people love this movie. People love this movie and for a long time nobody could get a copy!

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 Hollywood. You don’t make it too far around 4,000 college kids with out somebody figuring out who you are. I went to college to do something completely different – I went to college to play basketball. But it’s great, you know, every once in a while somebody would say “it’s my all time favorite movie” and they’d recite lines and yell at your dorm room and, uh, it’s great.

D: (laughs)

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 Columbia – this thing changed hands 5 times over 20 years. After that Alamo screening it blew up because Ain’t It Cool News covered it well, all the movie web sites, all the genre sites, publications, it just went nuts. Online it just blew up. Squad fans starting coming out of the woodwork – ‘come to our city!’ and ‘come do this and do that!’ And we just went from one thing to another. Now, a year later I had friend of mine who were industry professionals call me and ask about who had the rights because they wanted to do the DVD…or they wanted to remake it.

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 Enterprise.” Don’t reference a recent successful movie when yours is iconic enough. I mean that was the first time those classic Universal monsters were put together, and what’s funny is Universal passed on it. This is more Fred’s area of story telling than mine but they took this story to Universal because these were the Universal monsters and they passed – they said no. They said we would never do something like this. And then, of course, 10 or 15 years later they did VAN HELSING.

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 na├»ve 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 Alamo thing and going in the next year we were big headliners at monster conventions and things like that, you’re like, what is the hold this movie has on people? Hearing the fans and having them talk about it, that’s kind of what it is. Somebody relates to something or someone in this film, be it the organized leader, the cool kid that’s an outcast, the best friend who pals around with the one who has his head on straight, then everybody knows the insecure chubby kid. There’s nothing to apologize for in this movie – you know, if they remake it now they’re not going to be able to remake exactly it the way it was. You can’t have these kids smoking, cursing, shooting guns, and blowing shit up. Which, like you said, is a good thing, because they can always go back to the original and see it. You just can’t remake this movie today because things are too soft, too sensitive, and too nanny state to do that.

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.

More later...


Matt said...

Fantastic interview! Thanks! Can't wait for tomorrow night's screening!

Unknown said...

My children and I would love the opportunity to meet the members of the MONSTER SQUAD, my children have become such great fans just as I have been since I was a little girl.