Here is part 2 of our interview with the man Bruce Campbell calls “the Forest Gump of Hollywood”, Mr. Scott Spiegel.
DAILY GRINDHOUSE: So after your gig on EVIL DEAD 2 you hooked up with Bill Lustig who we talked to a few months ago. Talk to us about working with him.
SCOTT SPIEGEL: Oh Bill was great and really helpful. He got me a re-write gig on a Jan Michael-Vincent movie called HIT LIST. I didn’t get credit but all my lines are still in there and a lot of the gags I came up with are on the video box. It was really cool to see Lance Henriksen and Dick Miller saying your dialogue even though I never got the credit. I am jumping the gun a bit but I hooked Bill up with Tarantino to buy a script from him called TRUE ROMANCE and that was kind of surreal how interconnected everything is in this place.
Man Bill has done some really incredible stuff. VIGILANTE is up there at the top of the heap for me.
Oh hell yeah, I love VIGILANTE man, that’s got The Hammer in it and Robert Forester in it, God I need to go back and watch that again.
We talked a lot about that movie and about the car chase which is in my Top 5 probably when it comes to chase scenes. He was saying that he set that thing up like an homage to western films. The car is essentially Forester’s horse.
Oh man I love that. That is great. Has that had any kind of audio commentary or special treatment as of late?
Yeah it’s on Bill’s Blue Underground label and it’s jam-packed with all kinds of good stuff. It has two commentaries actually. One with Bill and Andrew Garroni (Producer) and then one with Bill, The Hammer, Forester, Richard Bright, and I think Bill may be on that track as well.
Oh man I have to grab that. Steve James is in that movie who was the nicest guy in the world, he got a raw deal the poor guy (Editor’s Note: James died of cancer in ’93). Oh man and Woody Strode, I was in Sam’s (Raimi) movie THE QUICK AND THE DEAD. We hung out and talked about SPARTICUS and KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS. He thought it was so cool when I asked him about SPIDERS because he didn’t have to talk about SPARTICUS for once you know? I am grabbing VIGILANTE though for sure. All I have of that is a VHS tape.
Do you have the VHS with original artwork?
I don’t know I hope it’s not a rip.
What do you think about the resurgence of VHS tapes and all the underground titles like THINGS getting released on big-box VHS?
Quentin said that, and I am paraphrasing, in the blasted future there will be cockroaches and VHS. He just loves them! He was like they are multi-purpose tools. You can prop up furniture with them; you can use them all these ways. He’s just infatuated with them. Me, I just like to put in a VHS tape and fast forward through all the junk which you can’t do on a DVD, operation not possible, I hate that. Well so talking about VHS what about Pan and Scan?
Nothing like removing 45% of your image.
Check this out. I was just watching ISLAND OF TERROR with Peter Cushing, 1966 directed by Terrence Fisher and I have a really good German version with subtitles and it’s a gorgeous letterbox print. Then I put on my VHS tape and it’s like they zoom in 1,000% and I thought, man, DVD is where it’s at brotha and that’s where I’m staying.
So in addition to hooking up Bill and Tarantino, you also hooked up Tarantino with Lawrence Bender who has produced just about every movie QT has done except DEATH PROOF and DJANGO UNCHAINED I think. How did that go down?
My friend, writer/director Sheldon Lettich (RAMBO III, BLOOD SPORT, LIONHEART) told me that he ran into Quentin Tarantino who at the time was working at Imperial Entertainment shoving VHS tapes into video boxes. Sheldon told me that Quentin knew all about THOU SHALT NOT KILL…EXCEPT a movie I produced and co-wrote, Sheldon Lettich and Bruce Campbell shared story credit. Sheldon said that Quentin was a big fan and I think Sheldon gave Quentin my number. Quentin called and we went out to lunch at the Hamburger Hamlet across from the Mann’s Chinese Theater. We hit it off right away. He blew me away with his incredible knowledge of all things film. He gave me his original version of the NATURAL BORN KILLERS script which I read and loved. In this business this almost never happens usually, if it’s from a first timer the script sucks. After that Quentin gave me the TRUE ROMANCE script and that was great too. I just wondered why these excellent scripts weren’t optioned at least or made already. Hollywood needs a kick in the ass once in a while. I got those scripts to people like Lawrence Bender and Bill Lustig and the rest is history. Quentin is one of the most inspiring people I know.
And Lawrence kind of got the ball rolling for you on INTRUDER. He came up to you and told you that he had like $100,000 to make a horror movie and asked if you had any good stories for that right?
Yeah that’s right and it was about 1987. I met Lawrence through my buddy Boaz Yakin who I met through Sam Raimi. We were going to do INTRUDER for like $60,000 with Jerry Pfeiffer and so Lawrence and I hashed out a story and we had like a two week schedule.
And you based it off of a short film you did called NIGHT CREW.
Very good, yeah that’s right, kind of a lost movie now. Then we started pre-production and then somewhere along the way the script ended up in the hands of Charlie Band (Empire Pictures) and he said he would do the script for like double the money and so we went back to Jerry Pfeiffer and he said to just pay him back the five grand we spent in pre-production and we had a deal, he was really great about it. One of the more unusual deals I have come across.
We just got that thing together really fast, shot it on short-ends, and Lawrence was just brilliant as the producer. He was always reminding me that I didn’t have to move lights and that kind of stuff. We both had the drive and energy to make that first movie. Nobody was more excited than the other. It was right after the EVIL DEAD thing and I have always loved when films shot around the same time use the same cast so it was cool to have Sam and Danny Hicks and there I go talking shop again.
So speaking of Danny Hicks I have to ask about the 9 mile story. Danny tells a story about patrolling down 9 Mile and that is the same exact story that M. Emmet Walsh tells in RAISING ARIZONA to Nic Cage. What is the origin of that connection?
The 9 Mile story starts at 6:11
There was this guy I worked with at Krogers and he told this story and he was a part-time fireman. He told us about this horrible accident where this guy on the motorcycle got hit and his body ended up on the other side of the road and then he got hit again; the poor guy, and ended up decapitated. Then this guy Bill Roberts and his other fireman buddy whose name is Parker go to the scene. Well Parker hasn’t eaten all day, it’s like a gag from LETHAL WEAPON, he hasn’t eaten all day and they have to go to this accident scene. Everybody is losing their toenails looking for this poor guy’s head and screaming at him HOW CAN YOU EAT WITH ALL THIS STUFF AROUND! All of a sudden Parker disappears and then all of a sudden there’s fucking Parker walking down 9 Mile with his head in one hand and a sandwich in the other. This story is go good I tape recorded it. I must have told Joel and Ethan that story and I guess it traveled from Danny Hicks to M. Emmet Walsh.
One of the things I dig so much about your direction of INTRUDER is the use of POV scenes, they’re all really interesting and effective. From the telephone shot to the shot of Danny Hicks through the green glass which makes him look like the MCP from TRON. What do you think POV shots add to a film?
There’s an actual reason for some of those. Yeah they look arty sometimes but most of the time I am trying to disguise the killer. You know you just hopefully can do it as opposed to that classic shadow shot. I just try and also keep you off kilter you know? When you’re doing a film in such a short amount of time you want to get as much mileage out of the setup or location as we can. I just want to keep the camera moving and just kind of mix it up a bit. I think those kind of shots add spice. In certain scenes they can heighten suspense or add tension. I always appreciate a cool shot. I always look at Spielberg’s shots and think how cool they are and it makes me think how interesting shots can be and how they can work in the movies favor.
Who are some of your favorite filmmakers in addition to Spielberg?
Scorsese, Hitchcock is my all-time favorite. Also love an old school director named Sutton Roley. He directed classic episodes of 60s TV shows like COMBAT, LOST IN SPACE, MISSION: IMPSOSSIBLE and a classic TV movie called SATAN’S TRIANGLE. He had such a great visual style. He was such an influence because he showed you could do cool visual stuff on a tight TV schedule and budget. I love Spielberg’s early TV stuff for this same reason.
Let’s talk about location and setup a little because I think this is where INTRUDER just kills it. INTRUDER uses its location better than most films, in fact I would say if a young filmmaker wants to find out how to use what they have, watch INTRUDER.
When Lawrence Bender and I first started scouting grocery stores not one had all of the elements we needed: A working band-saw, trash compactor, meat locker etc. We finally found a market in Bell, California that had been closed down awhile. It was just perfect and we could afford it too, and it had a huge trash compactor that really worked! And a band-saw and everything you see in the movie, so we just dressed the place up, got the machines up and running and started shooting the movie. We added more stuff with Burr Steers in the trash compactor scene because it was so creepy and we loved giving Burr more stuff to do, also we added stuff in the beer cooler scene with Craig Stark.
We took advantage of the entire store, virtually every section and department except the produce section. There wasn’t any produce; the store had been closed for some time. Also, that big slide on the second floor, the one Liz Cox tumbles down; we came up with all of that stuff on location. The old angled conveyor that Ted Raimi goes to pieces on, that was all there and written into the script. Lawrence Bender and I really nailed it with that location. If you’re going to do a low budget horror film the location is really one of the stars. It is really that important. The right location can make your no-budget film look more impressive.
The initial release of INTRUDER was butchered, I think Chas. Balun gave the edited release a 2 on the Gore Score but like a 9 on the un-edited version. Can you walk us through what that feels like as a filmmaker to have something chopped and cut up like that?
I kind of sum it up like this – the edited version has the cool Paramount logo on the film and if that’s the price to pay, so be it. COLORBOX in the U.K. accidentally released the un-cut version of “INTRUDER” so at least some version of the un-cut film escaped. Some people got to see the un-cut version. Quentin Tarantino had an incredible idea at the time– he thought I should rent all of the “edited” VHS versions of INTRUDER and then copy the UN-EDITED version of INTRUDER over the edited versions. Of course I never even entertained such an outlandish idea.
Do you have some kind of vindication with the new Blu-ray releases?
Oh sure. Don May Jr. and Synapse have done an incredible job. I am blown away. They really know what the fans want.
Just after INTRUDER you worked with some no-name called Clint Eastwood on a big-budget action film called THE ROOKIE. What’s that like going from relatively small budget horror films to something like THE ROOKIE?
Yeah that was an awesome time, it was great. I was flat broke when they were having a bidding war on our script and Charlie Sheen was kind of the decider on the whole thing. He said that the script for the THE ROOKIE was like DIE HARD without the building and I thought wow what a huge compliment. It was just a really awesome time. Well Warner Brothers won the bidding war and then they fired us. They told us that they were going to get the KARATE KID writer to re-write our stuff. So, the good news was we have all this money but then Clint had someone look at the re-write and it was terrible so he told Warner Brothers to get the original writers back so we were re-hired.
We met with Clint and we were in his office and he comes walking in and that dude is way, way taller than he looks and the guy just looks like Clint Eastwood should look you know what I mean? He was gracious and cool and we talked PLAY MISTY FOR ME which was the first flick I saw Clint in at the drive-in. You know PLAY MISTY ME FOR ME really created FATAL ATTRACTION and DIRTY HARRY created LETHAL WEAPON and I got the sense that at that point in his career he felt like everybody was kind of ripping him off. We were on the set, we got to be in the movie, shit man I was directed by Clint Eastwood how freaking cool is that? I remember at one point he’s running through the airport at like 4 in the morning chasing Raul Julia and he sat down next to me and said “next time, how about writing a movie that takes place in the day.” One of the coolest guys I have met.
And now here you are after producing the first two HOSTEL films taking over the director’s chair for HOSTEL III, what can you tell us about that?
Oh man this one is going to be really cool. We kind of created this world where nothing is as it seems and I know that sounds corny but it’s 100% true with this one because you really care about these characters. It’s kind of an Americanized HOSTEL movie in a sense. The first two were very European even in their sensibility.
Have Boaz Yakin and Eli Roth seen the film?
Boaz has and he got into it and dug it a lot but Eli hasn’t seen it yet, we just officially completed it so hopefully he’ll see it soon. Eli is just slammed, he’s wrapped up in a myriad of projects.
At some point you became the guy to trust with directing sequels: HOSTEL III, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2: TEXAS BLOOD MONEY. Speaking of FDTD2, Robert Patrick was pretty awesome in that. I know Seth Gecko was going to return originally for FDTD2 but you ultimately ended up with Robert which ain’t half bad. What’s he like to work with?
Robert Patrick is awesome! A very talented and under-rated actor – he did a great job in that role. There was a lot of stuff to do on a tight schedule and budget and Robert never complained or had an attitude. He inspired the cast and crew with his professionalism. He did many of his own stunts too! He’s so great with the hardcore drama and he’s great with the comedy. It was cool, the main cast and I went to see fellow cast member Muse Watson’s film I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER which just came out there in Cape Town, South Africa where we were shooting FDTD2 and you should have seen the crowds swarm Robert Patrick after the movie ended, you would think it was just after a screening of TERMINATOR 2.
In addition to writing and directing you always seem to end up in all these flicks including LIONHEART with one of our favorites Mr. Jean-Claude Van Damme. Any good JCVD stories?
My friend Sheldon Lettich put me in that movie. At first I was an extra and having fun but then we started rehearsing and Sheldon said, “Hey Scotty, why don’t you be a bookie?” and we came up with a line or two and shot the scene. That was so fun and the girls were so hot. Man, I love LIONHEART. I remember Jean-Claude calling out to Sheldon and then pointing to his knees and asking, “Shel-don! Bottom frame?” Sheldon nods.
Jean-Claude Van Damme is really hilarious in person. He told us this joke about the difference between a guy falling out of a 10 story window and a guy falling out of a one story window. 10 story window guy falls and screams “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” BAM! Guy falls out of the one story building…. BAM! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”. Don’t know if that translates or not but the fact is Jean-Claude is a very funny guy. Wish more of that ended up on the screen – trust Jean-Claude with a joke – he will make you laugh.
Well Scott, it’s not often we get guys like you who hit us right in the geek. You and Bill Lustig were two guys I wanted to talk to when my buddy and I fired this site up so it’s a real pleasure to be able to hang out with you.
No problem man, I think I am in some good company and in good hands on your site. Thanks so much for having me.
Thanks again to Mr. Spiegel who couldn’t have been more gracious with his time. Dude is one cool cat. Make sure you pick up your copy of INTRUDER (out on 12/13 from Synapse) and pre-order HOSTEL III (out on 12/27 from Sony).
SEE YOU ON FORTY DEUCE,
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