Saturday, October 15, 2011

Step Into This Incredible Doc -- Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel

Having grown up enjoying Roger Corman’s filmic retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s horror tales -- many with the legendary actors Boris Karloff and Vincent Price -- his garish productions were lodged in my brain forever. This was the guy who inspired so many trendy directors -- such as Quentin Tarantino -- to go into film-making.

So when I saw Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, director Alex Stapleton’s relatively short doc on the great master of indie, genre, and cult cinema, at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, a flood of memories returned.

Thankfully this film has gathered steam, hit the festival circuit, and has landed in this year’s New York Film Festival on its closing day -- October 16th -- with a special screening at 1:30 pm. Since Roger Corman has been in town for the NY Comic Con, hopefully he will join the director after the screening.

The following short Q&A is culled from comments made after her Sundance showing.

Q: What inspired you to make this film about this legendary Hollywood rebel?

AS: I'm a secret nerd on the inside. I grew up watching most of all these movies, and growing up in Texas, I was obsessed with Pam Grier as a nerdy, black, young woman.

So I grew up totally in love with [Corman]. Probably when I was 19, I learned he did a film called The Intruder, which is a big part of this film.

And that's when I got the idea that it was so amazing that one man could be responsible for so many types of cinema and could do a movie like that before Martin Luther King was even a household name. I just wanted to celebrate his legacy, so that's basically it.

Q: What was the movie you saw 10 years ago that changed your life?

AS: Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It was a midnight screening, and it was awesome and the energy of the crowd was awesome. I can't believe that this film got a midnight slot. And you guys were great; you laughed.

Q: A lot of great people weren't in the film. Will you include them when the DVD comes out? Why didn't they make the cut? How long would it have been if they had?

AS: Six hours.

Q: Is there anyone you regret not including?

AS: I have no regrets. I'm really happy with this film. The great thing is that when we put out a DVD, we have our work ahead of us when we get back to LA.

This will be the biggest, badass, most bitching DVD you will ever have in your entire life. There are probably going to be five DVD extra discs -- like Jack Nicholson going on and on about more stories. It will be like a galaxy.

Q: When Jaws and Star Wars were released, that was a rebirth of Hollywood cinema. In this light, those big fun movies are now the big money makers.

AS: Everyone in this movie is a graduate of Roger Corman -- except for Eli Roth, who started with James Cameron. James Cameron also started with Roger, [but] he's not a part of the story.

[Francis Ford] Coppola was as well. He made the first blockbuster with The Godfather, and then obviously we all know what James Cameron is up to today. There's a great irony that these guys came from the biggest penny pincher in the industry.

I hear all the stories of these young filmmakers who are out there making features for a hundred thousand dollars or less and working really hard and tirelessly to just go out there. They have that DIY attitude of just getting your hands dirty, using what you have access to, and making film.

There's a renaissance happening of that culture again. Hopefully, [with] a film like this, you can look and see that these guys were doing this in the 1950s.

And everything's cyclical, so hopefully you'll be making the next best thing and you'll change the system.

Q: With the popularity of superhero movies, it was surprising that you didn’t include something about Corman’s version of Fantastic Four. Was that ever part of an initial cut?

AS: It's a 90 minute movie. We leave the chronology in the early '80s. Fantastic Four was made in '92 or '94, and Roger did it for like $2 to try to keep the rights.

That was kind of the beginning, the brink of the resurrection of comic book movies in mainstream cinema. There's not enough room, not enough time.

Q: When did you make a movie for Roger?

AS: I was the second unit director on Dinoshark, I recorded sound, was an actress in the movie, and those were all things that I had to do. That was the deal that Roger made with me in order for me to go to Mexico and make that movie. I feel like I'm now a graduate of the Roger Corman School.

Q: Halfway through the movie he says he thinks it's morally wrong to make $35 million a movie, and that that kind of money would better be used to [build a city].

AS: When Roger was here at Sundance, this question came up and I agreed with his answer. Talking about a movie like Avatar, [by] one of his protégés, he doesn't mind it when there's money used towards films at that level, when it's innovative and you're using every dollar. The money is on the screen, right?

But there are all these movies that are made that have these huge budgets and it's just two people talking to each other for an hour and a half. I think that's where he draws the line; he's like, it's a waste. That quote was said in 1981, and it's coming off of the Spielberg-Lucas bonanza, so you've got to put it in context.

Q: What was his relationship with agencies and managers? Were they willing to work with him or were some agencies just not willing to work with him at all?

AS: I think they appreciated him over the course of history because great talent came out of him. I don't know if it was "fun" to work with him, because there wasn't a lot of money. I don't even think agents and managers were really in the picture for most of these films. These are kids that didn't have agents and managers when they were working for Roger.

Q: How much money will Roger make off of licensing these clips to you?

AS: Roger really likes me, so he gave me the rights. Well, this is a fair use documentary, first of all. Second of all, with the clips that he owns, he agreed to let me use all of his films for free. So I'm very honored and blessed that we got that opportunity.

Q: Earlier in the film somebody said nobody really knew what Roger did after the shooting was over, what kept him occupied and what he liked to do. Is he still a mystery once the shooting is over, and on a personal level, what gets him excited?

AS: What gets Roger excited is being able to get a deal, like Paradise Village. He gets really animated. He's an engineer; that's what he studied. He has that kind of a brain, so figuring out really hard problems gets him really, really excited.

He still is very mysterious even to me. I've been working on this for five years and I still don't understand the boiling inferno completely. But I like that; I think it's a little interesting.

Sometimes the point of a movie like this is not to really explain it, because who knows? It's all in Roger's head. I was more fascinated with the extreme difference between his conservative nature, [and being] a Stanford grad.

Q: Does Corman have any regrets about not being more [vocal] about social issues?

AS: I don't think that Roger cares. Roger is a walking legend. He's a mascot for independent cinema, and that what's more important for him is to stay in business and be his own boss, which is like the great American tradition.

I mean, that was me -- I aspired to. So I think that comes with a price, and the film shows you that he went down that way to maintain his independence, and I think he got what he wanted.

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