Joe Dante And Mr. Beaks Tumble Down THE HOLE (In 3-D)! Also Discussed: "Dante's Inferno" At The New Beverly!
I remember the early evening hours of June 8, 1984 as some of the happiest of my life. It was the last day of school, I'd just shrugged off the fourth grade like it was nothing, and my brother was zipping down Wooster Street on the way to the Cinema 1 & 2 in Bowling Green, Ohio. We'd argued over which film to see, and the only logical option was the one advertised as "Steven Spielberg Presents GREMLINS". My brother was a moody sixteen, and already distrustful of Spielberg's "sentimental bullshit" (even though he would enthusiastically campaign for Reagan later that fall). But, as an avid reader of STARLOG and FANGORIA at the time, I made the case that this ambiguously-titled feature was the new movie from "Joe Dainty", the guy who directed THE HOWLING. Despite the (soon-to-be-controversial) PG rating, this was a horror flick! With a Looney Tunes pedigree! Clearly, we were in good hands!
What I saw that night was a perfect mixture of gore-soaked horror, anarchic comedy and Amblin-esque warmth. I walked out of that movie a) quoting hilarious bits of dialogue, b) craving a mogwai of my own, and c) scared as shit at the prospect of going to bed. This was full-service Hollywood entertainment the likes of which I'd never seen. More than GHOSTBUSTERS, this was the 1984 summer movie that captured my imagination and got it in my head that I'd love to write for or about this nonsense for the rest of my life.
So how to make this plain to Joe Dante (finally got the pronunciation sorted out thanks to sunday school) prior to a fifteen-verging-on-ten-minute interview at Comic Con during the busiest day in the history of the convention? The fact of the matter is, I couldn't. All I could do was stammer incoherently for a few seconds until Dante chuckled, "Is this a career interview?"
"Not today," I replied. The purpose of our conversation was THE HOLE, Dante's first proper horror feature in decades. It's a shot-in-3-D yarn about a couple of kids (Chris Massoglia and Nathan Gamble) who discover a mysterious gap in their basement that, after a few curious experiments, appears to be kind of bottomless. What's in the hole? Where does it lead? What crawls out of it? These are all questions that haven't been fully answered by Dante just yet, but it appears that the hole is a well of deep-seated fears. So if you happen to find yourself in the basement with a creepy jester doll... well, you've seen enough TWILIGHT ZONE episodes (or POLTERGEIST) to know how that's going to play out.
Like some of Dante's best work, THE HOLE looks like a deeply unsettling combination of childlike wonder and dread. We'll find out more when the film opens sometime in 2010. While we're waiting, we've got the return of Dante's Inferno at The New Beverly to remind us why Dante continues to be one of the most inventive voices in cinema today. Starting tomorrow, the filmmaker will be taking over our favorite Los Angeles revival house and programming an appropriately random mixture of personal faves and underloved triumphs from other directors. The week-long shindig kicks off tomorrow with a rare screening of THE 'BURBS followed up by Michael Ritchie's excellent beauty pageant satire SMILE. Joining Dante for the double-feature will be none other than the great Bruce Dern. I've had the great pleasure to interview Dern twice in my checkered career, and can assure you that you do not want to pass up the opportunity to hear this legend dish about his four decades in this business. He is candid and fucking fearless.
The rest of Dante's fest is just as magical: Roger Corman will be on hand Friday evening to talk about THE ST. VALENTINE'S DAY MASSACRE and NOT OF THIS EARTH '57; there's the six-hour MOVIE ORGY on Saturday (which we discuss in the below interview) followed by the GREMLINS work print at midnight; MATINEE and MIRACLE MILE on August 9th and 10th; Norman Lear's COLD TURKEY and Theodore J. Flicker's incredible THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST on August 11th and 12th; and, finally, THE LAST VALLEY and ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND on the 13th.
For the whole lineup, visit The New Beverly's official site. And for more on THE HOLE, THE MOVIE ORGY and whatever else I could squeeze into our far-too-brief fifteen minutes, here's Mr. Joe Dante...
Mr. Beaks: Though you recently directed two episodes of MASTERS OF HORROR, this is basically your first horror feature in some time. Did you find yourself attacking the genre any differently.
Joe Dante: Believe it or not, I do tell my agent, "You know, if the next picture wasn't a horror picture, that would be okay." But somehow when you gain proficiency at something, that's what they want you to do. So I do read a lot of horror scripts, but I frankly don't find many that are [interesting]. This one [by Mark L. Smith] was different because, from the first time I opened it up and started reading it, I liked the characters. I thought, "This is well-written! This is a well-made script!" Believe it or not, and I know this is very hard to believe, but a lot of horror scripts are not well-written. So I went in for a meeting, and talked to these people, and gave them my ideas. Obviously, they were talking to other people, but they finally decided to go with me. And I suggested that the picture might be enhanced if we shot it in 3-D. I expected to be laughed out of the room, but they thought about it and said, "That's actually not a bad idea." Now we're doing it in post, and... it's added some money, but not an incredible amount. I think it's really upped the picture three notches at least.
Beaks: Are you doing many comin'-at-ya gags, or are you mostly trying to immerse the audience in the environment.
Dante: I think the way the new 3-D works is that you do feel immersed, and that you do feel involved with the characters. Of course, you need things to break the frame and come out at the audience because a) it's expected, and b) it's hard to avoid. Even in real life: things do that. The trick is "What is it?" If it's a sharp-pointed object, it doesn't work because your eye doesn't converge it correctly. So there are rules to what works and what doesn't work. And I've already done a 3-D movie for Busch Gardens, a ride called "Haunted Lighthouse". So I've already had some experience. And I've seen all of the 3-D movies more than once. But you learn as you go: there are rules you can break, and there are rules you can't break - otherwise the audience will get cross-eyed. So we staged the movie much like a regular movie, although it's a little different because you're consciously aware of the spatial relationship of the characters and how that impacts the scene dramatically.
Beaks: Even with all of the advances in 3-D, I still see DIAL 'M' FOR MURDER as the one that makes the best use of the process.
Dante: It's my favorite. There are two scenes that stick out at you, and the rest of it is all about placing people within the frame. It's a stage play. I had been watching the film in 2-D for years, but when I finally watched it in 3-D again a few years ago, I was really impressed with how Hitchcock used 3-D - which was kind of an avant-garde thing for him to do. Then again, this was the guy who wanted to make a film in one take. He was always experimenting. And I bring a little of that to this. I always cite [DIAL 'M' FOR MURDER] as the one people should look at if they want to figure out how to do 3-D.
Beaks: It feels like you're sitting on the stage as the play happens around you.
Dante: Right! There's a chair here, and somebody back there, and a lamp here, and there's just something about it that makes you feel like you're up on stage with the actors instead of looking through a window. We used a few of those techniques, although it's very hard to do. On a normal movie, you just get a disc and show it to your DP and say, "Here, I like this." But where the hell are they running DIAL 'M' FOR MURDER in 3-D anymore? It's not like you can just call it up.
Beaks: Every now and then the American Cinematheque does a big 3-D festival with all of the movies.
Dante: And I'm a part of that. They did it twice, and I think Jeff Joseph, who is behind it, is hoping to do one more. There are two or three pictures that haven't been rescued yet, and they're hoping to uncover them and hold another festival.
Beaks: Do you pay homage to any of those vintage 3-D films in THE HOLE?
Dante: There are some homages that astute fans will spot. But they're not particularly 3-D homages; they're just things I like, and directors I like, that I pay homage to. I don't do it consciously; it just happens.
Beaks: It's been interesting to see certain critics vociferously defend you over the years. Jonathan Rosenbaum, in particular.
Dante: Yes, Jonathan has been very loyal. When they defend THE 'BURBS, that's when I know they're serious.
Beaks: There are plenty of good reasons to defend THE 'BURBS.
Dante: Well, I'm running THE 'BURBS at The New Beverly!
Beaks: I know! And I'm very excited because I was out of town the last time you did a festival at The New Beverly.
Dante: Oh, well, you've got to see THE MOVIE ORGY.
Beaks: And you're doing a six-hour version of THE MOVIE ORGY this time?
Beaks: Whenever I try to explain THE MOVIE ORGY to people, I fail miserably.
Dante: It's impossible. I tried to explain it to the audience before I ran it and realized I was getting nowhere. But once it was over, they got it. I was worried that it was too dated, that they weren't going to get the references because it was so specific to the time. But general, cumulative stupidity works on them to the point where they can [understand] the whole thing.
Beaks: It's just pieced together from a life of watching movies?
Dante: It started out with a bunch of movies I had - clips from movies from some rental library that went out of business. I spliced them all together on reels with commercials and pieces of TV shows. And then we'd rent a movie, run about twenty minutes of the movie... [Appropriately, this is where the volume in the room overwhelmed my recorder. The precise secrets of THE MOVIE ORGY shall not be revealed.] But then we realized we couldn't keep renting these movies; it was too expensive. So we bought the movies, cut them up, and ended up making this one single cut which has eleven reels or whatever. And we'd take it around to colleges, and Schlitz Beer would give us money. It paid my way through Roger Corman. Otherwise, I couldn't have afforded to work with him.
Beaks: (Laughing) When did this process start?
Dante: There was a BATMAN serial released in 1966, which was the 1943 serial. They released the entire serial, and we saw the whole thing in one sitting with chapter endings and the credits again... all that stuff. It was this monumental sit. People would laugh. They'd boo the producer and cheer the director, and I thought, "This is really interesting, this mass hysteria that happens when people sit in a movie theater for a really long time." That was really the basic idea of doing it. So the first one I did was with the Bela Lugosi serial THE PHANTOM CREEPS. We rented the serial and spliced all of this stuff into it. It was very funny and people liked it, and it evolved over the years into this very popular campus thing where we'd travel all over the country with it. They would sell beer, people would pass out, and it was... phenomenal.
Beaks: If people start getting excited after reading about The New Beverly screenings, do you think you might try to take it out on the road again?
Dante: I can't. I don't own any of it. I don't know what half of the stuff is. Some of them are clips from movies I've never seen. And the amount of time it would take a lawyer to clear all of the clips in this thing... it wouldn't be worth it. The only way we get away with running it is by running it for free. It's never going to get released commercially.
Beaks: I was just thinking that you could announce you're running a series of Joe Dante movies and then spring THE MOVIE ORGY on them.
Dante: I just can't charge admission. I guess The New Beverly makes enough money from the concession stand that they're happy to run it.
Beaks: Of your films, GREMLINS is always the title that comes up as a probable candidate for a remake.
Dante: If they're remaking DROP DEAD FRED, they're going to remake GREMLINS.
Beaks: And they'll probably just CG the Gremlins.
Dante: No one knows what they're going to do. They don't know what they're going to do. Otherwise, it would've happened by now. But that's what happened with the sequel: they tried to make a sequel, but realized they couldn't figure out how the other movie worked. So they said, "Get that guy back, and let him do what he wants." They did, and it was great to do whatever I wanted. It was a parody of sequels. Their only problem was that they waited six years to make a sequel - and they spent $30 million instead of $11 million.
Beaks: And opened against DICK TRACY.
Dante: There are a lot of reasons why it wasn't more successful. But it's popular. People like it.
Beaks: I think GREMLINS 2 is pretty much the ultimate Joe Dante movie in that so much is stuffed in that movie, you're finding new gags on your fourth or fifth viewing.
Dante: It's my MAD MAGAZINE movie. There are doodles in the margin. It's HELLZAPOPPIN', which is one of my favorite movies. I was very lucky to make it.
Beaks: When you see a guy like Rosenbaum teasing out all of the themes in your films, do you--
Dante: All filmmakers feel this way. It's nice to be able to have someone look at your stuff and say, "Hey, there's a pattern here! This guy's actually saying something." Very few filmmakers sit down and intellectualize about putting all of these things in their films. They come from your psyche, your id, and of course they're consistent because if you are able to stamp you personality onto a movie - which is difficult - then those things are all part of your personality and, therefore, part of your movie. It's only when you're going movie to movie and tossing them off that you don't get that kind of resonance. You can't do that with all directors.
Beaks: I just know that all of my favorite filmmakers have that element of design whether they're conscious of it or not.
Dante: Sometimes it's just seeing the same actors or the same locations over and over.
Beaks: So where are we going to find Robert Picardo or Dick Miller in THE HOLE?
Dante: You will find two Dante regulars, and everybody else is kids. It's a very small cast. And it was shot in Vancouver, so it was very hard to bring some of the actors up there. You're shooting up in Canada to save money, and part of that is using Canadian actors. But there is [a scene] that's shot in L.A.
Beaks: What's the status of BAT OUT OF HELL.
Dante: I have no idea what the status is on BAT OUT OF HELL. I don't know if the financing ever really came through. Right now, it is on the back burner.
Hopefully, we'll have a release date on THE HOLE after it screens at the Venice Film Festival. Until then, get your movie-lovin' ass down to The New Beverly for some Joe Dante goodness starting tomorrow, August 5th. Faithfully Submitted, Mr. Beaks
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Aug. 5, 2009, 1:53 a.m. CST
Do I have to pay the Troll Toll?
Aug. 5, 2009, 2:06 a.m. CST
Aug. 5, 2009, 2:07 a.m. CST
by GibsonUSA Returns
I want to see the crazy one again....puppetry intact.
Aug. 5, 2009, 2:16 a.m. CST
by GibsonUSA Returns
There is so much to make fun of!...from American Idol to Susan Boyle to remake movies! <BR><BR> Gremlins 1 should be remade in the middle of Gremlins 3 just to make fun of remakes!
Aug. 5, 2009, 2:27 a.m. CST
The man is a legend.
Aug. 5, 2009, 3:02 a.m. CST
Aug. 5, 2009, 3:03 a.m. CST
Aug. 5, 2009, 3:07 a.m. CST
Dude used replica molds and created real Gremlin models which he then GreenScreened into Batman and Raiders of the Lost Ark; looks amazing so do a third movie already Dante!
Aug. 5, 2009, 3:10 a.m. CST
Aug. 5, 2009, 3:54 a.m. CST
What a fucking hilarious movie. Easily Tom Hanks' best.
Aug. 5, 2009, 4:16 a.m. CST
by GibsonUSA Returns
Aug. 5, 2009, 4:53 a.m. CST
Aug. 5, 2009, 5:25 a.m. CST
Probably one of the most easily watchable, enjoyable movies of its time!! Plus Gremlins is the best Christmas movie ever!
Aug. 5, 2009, 5:28 a.m. CST
Still can't believe the douchebag critics panned this fucking masterpiece when it came out.
Aug. 5, 2009, 6:50 a.m. CST
It was the second movie I ever saw at a theatre, Return of the Jedi being the first, and it sparked my love for all things Horror.
Aug. 5, 2009, 7:32 a.m. CST
If only for the "why I don't like Christmas" speech in GREMLINS, and the reprise/piss-take in GREMLINS 2. And THE BURBS is a fine film. Yeah it falls apart at the end, but there's so much good stuff in it. Love to see a workprint of that make it out. And I fully expect to see a nod to AMITYVILLE 3-D in THE HOLE...
Aug. 5, 2009, 7:37 a.m. CST
Not exactly a hard thing to do in a way that starts fresh but is not a reboot. The concept still works. Gizmo is still alive out there, somewhere. If need be, continue the story without Billy. Let it stand alone.
Aug. 5, 2009, 8:05 a.m. CST
I met him at a 24 hour horror film festival in Chicago a few years back. He signed my DVD's of Hollywood Boulevard, Gremlins, Gremlins 2, Innerspace, Pirhana and The Howling for free. I never do that but he is one of my favorite directors. i apologized for handing him so many movies and he laughed and thanked me for liking his films. i started stuttering like a jagoff and he told me it was ok, he too was nervous when he first met Vincent Price. He was a real nice, down to earth guy. Very friendly.
Aug. 5, 2009, 9:51 a.m. CST
The Hole. When I saw the title, I was hoping that our beloved Dante was finally getting a chance to tackle his long awaited passion project biopic of film sensation Teri Garr...
Aug. 5, 2009, 9:56 a.m. CST
I hope so.
Aug. 5, 2009, 10:11 a.m. CST
But I'll still watch it, probably.
Aug. 5, 2009, 10:22 a.m. CST
they are also remaking The Gate, unfortunately.
Aug. 5, 2009, 10:56 a.m. CST
the whole concept of hidden realms and secret magic unknowns tucked away in the neatness of suburbia is awlways fun and not used enough
Aug. 5, 2009, 11:01 a.m. CST
It is time. And Phoebe Cates still looks good so bring her back...
Aug. 5, 2009, 11:52 a.m. CST
by Bouncy X
bring on Gremlins 3.
Aug. 5, 2009, 11:52 a.m. CST
was always a childhood favorite. Interesting that I've never seen Gremlins.
Aug. 5, 2009, 12:17 p.m. CST
Bill Hader can do all the Gizmo voices himself...
Aug. 5, 2009, 12:43 p.m. CST
And then fuck you too!
Aug. 5, 2009, 12:48 p.m. CST
Matinee, Explorers, even though a lot of Looney Tunes Back In Action is awful, you gotta love all the movie references, props and stuff Dante adds.
Aug. 5, 2009, 12:56 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
The idea of a new Dante movie without Jerry Goldsmith makes me sad, though.
Aug. 5, 2009, 1:13 p.m. CST
by Nice Marmot
But, sadly, Small Soldiers is the only, I mean ONLY, quality piece of work he's made since Innerspace. Yes, since 1989. And yes, The Burbs and Matinee SUCKED.
Aug. 5, 2009, 1:22 p.m. CST
Agreed. Love the fact that he used Goldsmith time and time again. I can imagine Michael Giacchino doing a fine job in his place.
Aug. 5, 2009, 1:28 p.m. CST
by Nice Marmot
... start out showing some wize old Japanese dude knowing where to find Mogwais in the wild, send some into the wrong hands somewhere, and then reintroduce Gizmo, wherever he is. Let him deal w/ it all on his own.
Aug. 5, 2009, 2:20 p.m. CST
Until he did that little toy movie, Small Soldiers. JESUS what a trainwreck! Since then he's been relegated to inconspicuous TV crap. If he can bring back even half the talent he displayed with Piranha and The Howling, I'll be giddy as hell.
Aug. 5, 2009, 2:50 p.m. CST
tee hee, i made a funny
Aug. 5, 2009, 4:09 p.m. CST
Aug. 5, 2009, 4:41 p.m. CST
Aug. 5, 2009, 5:06 p.m. CST
by Major Hockshtetter
Interviewed Dante for the UWM Post back when Matinee came out. I was a stammering twit since he was my hero but he was very gracious and downright hilarious at times... though he was rather shocked that I had seen HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD about twenty times... I assured him it was more about Candace Rialson than the movie itself! :D
Aug. 5, 2009, 5:09 p.m. CST
What is this shit again? First i have to read about how Beaks made it through fourth grade "like it was nothing" (Congratu-fucking-lations you idiot). And then there's useless paragraph after useless paragraph of this pretentious fuck giving a blow job to the visionary director of Small Soldiers?! You gotta be kidding me. The Gremlins movies are fun, sure, but lets be honest here people: Joe Dante hasn't made a watchable movie in almost 20 years! This alone would be reason enough to at least ask the guy some questions and not just drop on your knees and open wide like beaks does here. What an useless asshole. <p>Some classical Beaks suckup moments:<p>"There are plenty of good reasons to defend THE 'BURBS." "I know! And I'm very excited because I was out of town the last time you did a festival at The New Beverly." "I think GREMLINS 2 is pretty much the ultimate Joe Dante movie in that so much is stuffed in that movie, you're finding new gags on your fourth or fifth viewing."<p> Quit your job and get into advertising, they can use sycophantic cum stains like you Beaksy. What a tool...
Aug. 5, 2009, 5:33 p.m. CST
is criminally underrated. No longer available on dvd. Literally one of the best movies of the nineties!
Aug. 5, 2009, 7:44 p.m. CST
He's still around, right?
Aug. 5, 2009, 8:16 p.m. CST
He was a huge influence on me becoming a filmmaker with movies like Pirahna, The Howling and Gremlins in particular. His segment in Twilight Zone is also pretty incredible. I love Innerspace and Matinee too (although not as much as his early work). And Gremlins 2 is the closest a film has come to replicating the feeling of a Tex Avery cartoon in my opinion. But...I really didn't think he did as good a job with the Masters Of Horror series as I think John Landis did (who really knocked it out of the park with Deer Woman and Familiy). Love the poster for this new one though. And the idea of a new Joe Dante film in 3D no less sounds like a must see. I just hope its good.
Aug. 5, 2009, 10:06 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
Aug. 5, 2009, 10:07 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
[under breath] God help us.
Aug. 5, 2009, 10:07 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
Aug. 5, 2009, 11:02 p.m. CST
Aug. 5, 2009, 11:11 p.m. CST
As did his bit in TZ the movie (and the Howling's not bad) but everything has sucked. Including, yes, Gremlins 2. Prove me wrong.
Aug. 6, 2009, 2:13 a.m. CST
by GibsonUSA Returns
The only old ones I want to see again are the mohawk leader gremlin and the crazy eyeball spinning gremlin. I want a whole new batch otherwise.<BR><BR> The three I have thought about through all the rumors of Gremlins 3 are...a really FAT obese gremlin....an emo gremlin all depressed with hair over face lol...and a GW Bush Gremlin! A Transformer Gremlin would be really over the top.
Aug. 6, 2009, 8:18 a.m. CST
Giacchino is terrible, his Trek score was the worst ever. <p> Javier Navarrete is doing the score for The Hole.
Aug. 6, 2009, 11:16 a.m. CST
what with Joe's dick in you mouth the whole time. gfy
Aug. 6, 2009, 12:14 p.m. CST
on me, unlike Goldsmith's iconic score. But I did love his work on The Incredibles and the closing to Cloverfield...finding someone to fill Goldsmith's shoes is damned near impossible.
Aug. 6, 2009, 2:56 p.m. CST
Aug. 7, 2009, 7:57 a.m. CST
I fucking loved that thing. the design was awesome. too bad it didn't last long.
Aug. 7, 2009, 4:22 p.m. CST
even Looney Tunes Back in Action has some of the coolest scenes. Joe Dante payed a great tribute to the late Chuck Jones and the Area 52 scene... wow!
Aug. 8, 2009, 11:28 a.m. CST
Wasn't it Joe that was the creator of that wonderful Eerie Indiana tv series, with the lead actor (Omri Katz) going on to star in the hugely underrated Matinee? I would kill to see at least a feature-length Mant!!
Aug. 8, 2009, 11:29 a.m. CST
Joe Dante is a bit of a true movie legend!!
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