AICN LEGENDS: Capone talks THE BLUES BROTHERS, Eddie Murphy, and Ed Wood with John Landis!!! Part 2
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here, with Part 2 of my hour-long interview director John Landis. If you missed the first part, you can find it HERE, where we talked about his early years working as a stuntman for Sergio Leone and making his first three films--SCHLOCK, KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE, and the groundbreaking ANIMAL HOUSE. We also covered his latest film, the bloody period comedy BURKE AND HARE, starring Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis. There's still so much more to come, and Landis is such a wonderful storyteller…
Capone: I read an interview with you where somebody asked, “How did you get into comedy?,” and you turned around and said, “Well, actually comedy found me,” as if it were something you didn't choose. Can you explain that?
JL: First of all, film directors get typed just like actors. So, if you have great success in comedy, then they think that’s what you do, comedy. And if you say, “Well, I want to make a horror film,” they say “Well, we're very sorry, you don’t make horror films.” I’ve had great success in comedies, horror, and musicals, so they want to offer me THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. “That’s a comedy, horror film, and a musical.”
They're very narrow in their thinking, and it’s quite remarkable in retrospect that I was able to make ANIMAL HOUSE as freely as I did at Universal, which is a tribute to Lew Wasserman, I think. At the time, that was quite a radical movie. Now with people like the Farrelly brothers and others, everyone has copied that style so much, like OLD SCHOOL and all of that. It’s been copied so much that I think it loses something. Like PSYCHO or TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, there are some movies that were very different at the time, but they were very influential. So, if you see them now, they don’t have the impact maybe they would have had when they were released.
Capone: You still see your influence on the landscape of today’s comedies? I’ve heard people--actors and directors--talk about the influence of your films, of Harold Raimis as well.
JL: I think that has a lot to do with their age. These are the films they saw when they were growing up. It’s kind of shocking to me, when I go to talk at film schools sometimes, I’m always amazed at how ignorant the students are of film history. They don’t know Laurel and Hardy or the Marx Brothers or Harold Lloyd or Buster Keaton or Chaplin or Abbott and Costello, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Jerry Lewis even. They don’t know these films. I’ve actually met people who thought comedy started with me, and it was like, “I hate to disillusion you, but there were brilliant comedies before I was there.” I don’t think I’ve ever really made a great film, but I’ve made very influential films, which is good and bad.
Capone: I might have to disagree with you there. My being in Chicago, I would be remiss not talking a little bit about THE BLUES BROTHERS. A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with Michael Mann where he told me something I had never really considered, which was that because the original Mayor Daley didn’t ever let movies get shot in Chicago, that when he stopped being mayor, THIEF and THE BLUES BROTHERS were the first two post-Daley films shot in Chicago.
JL: Right. That was Mayor Byrne, Jane Byrne, who allowed filming in Chicago. She encouraged it. There was THIEF and THE BLUES BROTHERS and ORDINARY PEOPLE. We were all shooting at the same time, and then also was that Steve McQueen movie THE HUNTER, where the car goes off the Marina Towers. What was funny was when we arrived, our film company stayed at the Holiday Inn City Center, and Steve’s company stayed at the Holiday Inn City Center. So, the top floor or the penthouse was divided in half. I had half, and he had half, and every morning we would come out at 7:00am at the elevator, “Good morning.” “Good morning.” We'd ride down the elevator. Have you ever seen those cartoons with the coyote and the sheep hound working on the clock?
Capone: Exactly, yes. I believe that's a Looney Tunes cartoon.
JL: We were terrible. The units of his movie and my movie, we used to do terrible tricks on each other. We would steal their walkie-talkies and send drivers to the wrong location. When we were shooting on Lower Wacker Drive, they were across the street at the Marina Towers, and their catering truck and everything was set up. We had a huge food fight across the river.
Capone: The stuff that you guys did on BLUES BROTHERS, especially along Wacker Drive and Lake Street, was obviously unprecedented for Chicago. Today, maybe not so much, because they shoot a lot of movies in Chicago, but could you even pull off what you pulled off in that film today? I don’t think so.
JL: [laughs] I don’t know. What we did that was the most remarkable were, we had 10 or 12 shots in there where there are over 30 cars going over 100 mph in downtown Chicago, and those were very complicated shots. We had to block off like two whole miles at every entrance and exit. In fact, there’s a shot where the Blues Mobile is coming towards us and the camera pans right as it makes a left turn, followed by all of those cop cars, under the 'L' tracks. I’ve forgotten the name of the street.
Capone: That’s Lake Street.
JL: Right. We shot most of that stuff very early Saturday and Sunday morning, and when I looked at the dailies, I had cleared the street of pedestrians and stuff. I said, “You can’t tell that it’s fast. It looks like we just sped up the film.” So, we reshot it and put people on the sidewalk and paper in the street, so you could see it was real. [laughs]
Capone: When you put out the DVD of THE BLUES BROTHERS a few years ago, you expanded it, put some scenes back in. Were you hesitant to mess with perfection?
JL: With THE BLUES BROTHERS, it’s hard for people to understand this now, which is a good thing, but when we made THE BLUES BROTHERS, it was insane. The whole thing of “Mission from God,” that was me. I put that in the script. I was making fun of Danny [Aykroyd], because Danny was downright evangelical about rhythm and blues. This music was passé at the time. If you look at 1979 and ’80, when we made the movie, it was all disco. It was all ABBA and the BeeGees. To give you an idea of how outrageous it was, MCA Records, which was Universal’s record label, refused the [BLUES BROTHERS] soundtrack. They said, “Who’s going to buy this?”
We went out on Atlantic Records, and even with Atlantic I had a fight with Ahmet Ertegun, because he wouldn’t put John Lee Hooker on the album. His quote was, “He’s too old and too black.” I have to tell you that six years later, John Lee Hooker had a platinum album. I sent it to Ahmet saying, “Dear Ahmet, have you seen this?” [Laughs] But you know, it was really Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. It was an unusual thing, they were using their own celebrity to focus attention on these remarkable acts and this great American music. I still get asked, “How did you get Aretha Franklin and James Brown?” These people weren’t working. They were thrilled for the call, and all of them acknowledged what it did for their careers. The movie really brought attention back to that music, and that’s such great music. I’m happy to say it was very successful, but it was difficult, because when we had our exhibitor screening… Do you know what those are?
Capone: Sure. You mean the screenings for theater owners.
JL: Now, they don’t have the power anymore, but then after the breakup of the trust, exhibitors, if they didn’t like your movie, they wouldn’t book it. On THE BLUES BROTHERS, people told Universal, “Only black people will see this movie. No white people will see the movie.” Isn’t that bizarre? We had a terrible problem with it. The movie originally was a road show; it was meant to have an intermission. And Lew Wasserman said, “John you have to cut 30 minutes out of it.” So we did big lifts, and then I had a preview in L.A. and then I made some more lifts, and that was the released version. I’ve always felt the movie was kind of strangely lopsided, because of the rhythm and how I intended it to be, that was gone. But nonetheless, I don’t know how many years ago, Universal found this exhibitor print.
In 1985, Universal threw out all of the outtakes and trims, so the negatives are gone. So, all of the other stuff that was cut out is gone. However, the print from the preview showed up. It turns out it was stolen by the theater manager’s son, and he put it on eBay about seven or eight years ago, so Universal and the FBI swooped in to retrieve it, and that so-called “Expanded Version” is that preview print. It’s not my first cut of the movie, but it has like three scenes that weren’t in the movie, and we were able to extend some songs. The John Lee Hooker number is longer. The James Brown number is longer. The Cab Colloway number is longer. It’s like 15 minutes longer, but it isn’t the movie either. [Laughs]
Capone: But it’s closer.
JL: It comes out on BluRay this year.
Capone: Oh great. When's that happening? Do you know?
JL: I don’t know, but I just approved it. It’s gorgeous. They cleaned it up. The picture is well photographed by Stephen Katz, and they really cleaned it up. It looks polished. It’s beautiful.
Capone: Anything new on the BluRay?
JL: I don’t think so. I mean, they're making new extra stuff, but they wanted me to do a commentary, but I don’t do commentaries.
Capone: It’s ANIMAL HOUSE that has that great making-of documentary on it, right?
JL: Yeah, they made a documentary that was fun. That was a few years ago. Martha Smith, who plays Babs… We had this ANIMAL HOUSE reunion with everyone all together and she said, “You know, John, if they make another one of those making-of things, we are going to have to call it ANIMAL HOME.” [laughs]
Capone: Do you deliberately structure the humor in your films to work on a couple different levels, from utter mayhem to more subtle moments?
JL: Everything works on many levels. Everything works that way, and it depends on the film. The thing with casting directors in my films, that’s the Internet. The Internet is full of people who have too much time on their hands. [Laughs]
Capone: I’ll say.
JL: No one ever noticed that before, and then somebody noticed that at the end of the night there are a lot of directors. In fact, in all of my films, there have always been directors. It’s just for me; it’s for fun. I don’t want people to go “Oh look, that’s Steve Spielberg,” [in THE BLUES BROTHERS], he’s supposed to be a clerk. Lucky for me, he looks like a clerk.
Capone: That’s true. Still, it was nice of you to give him a job in the clerk's office. I just watched AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON recently, when the BluRay was released…
JL: Did you see that documentary that Paul Davis made, BEWARE THE MOON? That English kid?
Capone: Yeah, that’s the one I just saw.
JL: I was very impressed with that. He made that on his own. What I was thrilled about was to see all of those members of the cast and crew. That was so nice. It was amazing. I really enjoyed that. His fucking documentary is longer than the movie. [laughs]
Capone: There are a lot of cases like that. One of the best ones I’ve ever seen is the one on BLADE RUNNER. It’s two-and-a-half hours long, but it’s great. I was going to say about AMERICAN WEREWOLF, watching it again, reminded how much of a tragedy it is.
JL: It is a tragedy. Listen, my wife once said to me, “John, you put the 'b' in subtle.” But when you meet those boys, they're in a truckload of sheep, and the first place they go is the “The Slaughtered Lamb [Pub].” Those two were dead from the first frame, and it is a tragedy. You're absolutely right.
Capone: I think the score reflects that. Watching it again recently, maybe the adult version of me identified more with David, who clearly doesn’t want this curse.
JL: Curt Siodmak, when he wrote THE WOLF MAN, that was his contribution to the werewolf mythology. Every movie invents its own rules, and when Curt Siodmak wrote THE WOLF MAN, he’s the one who basically made the Wolf Man a tragic figure, because Larry Talbot is cursed and not happy about it. It’s not like JEKYLL AND HYDE, where Dr. Jekyll drinks a formula and he becomes Hyde; Hyde is actually a reflection of him, his evil self and his lust and desires. The Wolf Man turns into a completely other creature that has nothing to do with him. It’s kind of like getting cancer, except that it kills other people, too. That was Curt Siodmak’s thing and that’s what I was trying to honor.
Capone: I do want to talk about the work that you've done over the years with Eddie Murphy. You’ve certainly captured him at different points in his career. When you made TRADING PLACES, was he a direct-able actor at that point?
JL: Oh my God, yes. TRADING PLACES and COMING TO AMERICA, he was very direct-able. On TRADING PLACES, he was fantastic. He was very young. It was his second movie, and he was full of enthusiasm and he was happy. He was a pleasure and a joy. On COMING TO AMERICA, he was kind of a horrible, depressed, creepy guy, but a great talent. He always took direction from me. He was great. On BEVERLY HILLS COP III, it was bizarre, because he didn’t want to be funny, and there was nothing I could do to make him funny. I actually learned later that he was very jealous of Wesley Snipes and Denzel Washington and Sam Jackson, all of these guys who are making these big action pictures.
I actually gave him a gag, and he said to me, “John, Axel would be a wiseass if he did that.” I said, “Eddie, Axel is a wiseass.” He says, “No, he’s a man now.” I thought, “Uh oh.” If you look at that movie, it’s like, “Come on Eddie, be funny,” and he’s not. He’s a very interesting guy. He’s really quite gifted with extraordinary talents, but now you only really see it when he’s in disguise.
Capone: One last thing, and I’ll let you go. This is obscure, but I actually loved watching "Dream On" when I was in my early 20s. That was really HBO’s first original series, right?
JL: It wasn't their first series, but it was their first series to win an Emmy. I won HBO its first Emmy. That was actually their second or third series.
Capone: Whenever I watched that show, I always think of the people who were doing all of the archival digging. What a job. I could never wrap my brain around how they put an episode of that show together. How did you write a show like that? How did you find those moments?
JL: The show came about because Sid Shineberg came to me and said, “John we own…” It was something like 300 hours of black-and-white footage from early television, and because it was MCA, the agency that made these shows, they were “General Electric Presents,” "G.E. Theater," "Heinz 57 Playhouse," and all of these different anthology shows. A lot of pilots were done in those shows. They're mostly melodrama, and most of them are not great. But what was amazing was who was in them. He couldn’t give the footage away. He couldn’t sell it anymore, because it was black and white, but I looked at the stuff, and what was incredible was there were people like Bette Davis and Edward G. Robinson and Henry Fonda, The Marx Brothers, extraordinary people. Then I saw that tons of people were in it who were young, up-and-coming actors, so you had small parts played by Bob Redford, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Tony Curtis. I thought, “Wow, it’s incredible who's in this footage.”
I spent a long time trying to solve it: “How could I use this footage?” Then I came up with the idea of using the footage as thought balloons, like in a cartoon. Then I got these kids who were college kids named Marta Kauffman and David Crane, who were very clever, and they created the show and they ran the show for the first two years, and then they left me, the bastards, to do "Friends." [Laughs] Now they're billionaires. That was a tough show. We did that for seven years for very little money. Every year, my writing staff would be raided. I would hire kids from college, because I didn’t have a lot of money, and if you did one season on "Dream On," then you went into, if not "Friends," then "Mad About You" or "Seinfeld." I just kept losing writers every season, so it was a struggle, but it was fun. I only directed about 12 or 13 of those.
Capone: That’s a lot, though.
JL: Well, we made 120, and what was interesting were the people we had working on the show--Betty Thomas, for example. I gave a lot of people their break, and it’s amazing, when you look at those old shows, who's in them. I got everyone. It was Salma Hayek’s first American job and Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox. So many people were in that show.
Capone: Wendie Malick is still working. She never really stopped working.
JL: Brian Benben is still working. I did DEER WOMAN [one of Landis' "Masters of Horror" entries] with him. I love him. He was the lead.
Capone: That’s right. One last thing and then I’ll let you go, because you mentioned Famous Monsters magazine earlier, our site is now running the website for Famous Monsters. I read an interview with you once where you mentioned that you met Ed Wood at one point when you were younger. How did that happen?
JL: That was at the cast and crew screening of SCHLOCK. What happened was I made SCHLOCK. I finished it, we tried to get a distributor, and everybody laughed in our face. Then Jack H. Harris, who is most famous for producing THE BLOB, was the SCHLOCK distributor, and he saw it and he said to me, “If it was 10 minutes longer I would distribute it.” So I said, “Well give me $10,000, and I’ll make it 10 minutes longer.” So, I shot three additional scenes. That’s why Forry Ackerman’s in it. But I met Forry at the cast and crew screening of SCHLOCK. How he got there, I don’t know, but he was there at MGM, and his date was a kind of shabby guy that he introduced me to, and it was Ed Wood.
JL: I was blown away. I said, “Ed Wood! You made PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and GLEN AND GLENDA,” and he looked at me, he was genuinely amazed that I knew who he was, because at that time, nobody knew him. Now that Tim Burton made the movie ED WOOD, Ed Wood is a known figure. But at that time, you had to be pretty on the fringe to even know who Ed was. I was thrilled to meet him. He was kind of a sad guy. At the time, I learned later, he was directing gay porno.
Capone: Right, I'd heard that. Was he happy at least that you knew who he was?
JL: Oh, he was absolutely delighted that I knew who he was. He was kind of drunk. But Forry and I struck up a friendship, which lasted the rest of his life.
Capone: John, thank you so much for taking time to talk to me.
JL: Thank you so much. All right, bye.
-- Capone firstname.lastname@example.org
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March 5, 2011, 12:50 a.m. CST
by jimmy rabbitte
The link didn't take.
March 5, 2011, 12:50 a.m. CST
by Bob Loblaw Law Blog
And I don't see the link to the first part...
March 5, 2011, 12:51 a.m. CST
by Bob Loblaw Law Blog
Damn the refresh!
March 5, 2011, 12:52 a.m. CST
on cable, even though I have the blu-ray, and just marveling at how good it is. And then I see this interview... where's part 1? What makes a Landis movie good is hard to describe, because it's a cinematic sensibility, and it's also a very unique humor sometimes derived from the edits. I really think something like "The Hangover" was a failure in comparison. A million dollar student film level imitation of the Landis genre.
March 5, 2011, 12:54 a.m. CST
That movie introduced me to TONS of great music! Shame we'll never get to see the super-extended roadshow cut,but the directors cut thats out now is pretty damn good.
March 5, 2011, 1:02 a.m. CST
That's my fault; I forgot to include the link. Should be there now.
March 5, 2011, 1:09 a.m. CST
Eddie lost his comedic sensibilties by the time that film was made.
March 5, 2011, 1:34 a.m. CST
by The Bear
How many times did you use that line? Capone, you're the Lieutenant Columbo of interviewers! Great interview.
March 5, 2011, 1:37 a.m. CST
by The Bear
I would have enjoyed hearing more about this great, underrated movie. Don Rickles as a vampire! Robert Loggia as a vampire! And the incredibly beautiful Anne Parillaud naked and in handcuffs!! Mr. Landis, you are a genius!
March 5, 2011, 1:40 a.m. CST
March 5, 2011, 1:40 a.m. CST
by The Bear
The thing I've always liked about Mr. Landis's directing is how elegant it is. In comedy or horror, it doesn't cut-cut-cut every half second. It lingers, let's the actors do their work, and thus lets the person on the screen provide the proper timing (for a laugh or a scare or even a pile-up of dozens of cars). There's precious little of that kind of directing these days. Too damned bad.
March 5, 2011, 1:56 a.m. CST
March 5, 2011, 1:56 a.m. CST
i think that explains his meltdown of a career...people wanted him to keep being funny and i think he just wanted to get outta that.
March 5, 2011, 3:23 a.m. CST
Tonally, it was so different from the first two. Where 1 and 2 were grounded in gritty realism w/ Murphy being a wiseass. 3 was almost farcical. Serge's Microwave/CD player/Radio/Rocket Launcher/Machine gun? Seriously? and Foley in the chop shop car that starts to fall apart? Not to mention Rosewood's job as head of D.G.I.J.O.C....whatever. C'mon. From this interview it sounds like Landis is a little full of himself. Yes he's made some classics, but it seems like according to him all his celebrated works are because of him and all the failures are because of someone else.
March 5, 2011, 3:53 a.m. CST
where landis said that Murphy did his head in. and that murphy was an arrogant son of a bitch. Steve Martin Nailed that perfectly in bowfinger. especially with the scripts scenes in bowfinger. that sums up murphy and landis's relationship, murphy would be given the script and then throw them back in landis's face.
March 5, 2011, 4:05 a.m. CST
Besides asking him about into the night, also ask him when we'll next see him and Leonard Maltin in the same place together...
March 5, 2011, 4:17 a.m. CST
by Col. Tigh-Fighter
I put off watching the film for years as they were both great, big comedy blackholes at that point. And what an absolute gem of a film it turned out to be. Very, very funny with a big slab of pathos in the middle. And a killer ensenble too. Quite the surprise when I finally watched it.
March 5, 2011, 5:38 a.m. CST
Hey, someone was going to go there eventually. May aswell be me.
March 5, 2011, 6:27 a.m. CST
And yet he followed BHC3 with the Nutty Professor 2 years later. He did make Metro which was kind of like a serious action film, but I would have to agree with someone above that John Landis and Eddie are equally to blame for BHC3 sucking, because the scenes without Eddie that were supposed to be funny were shitty, too. For example, the chop shop scene with the fat Mexican from 3 Amigos mouthing the words to some old song sung by a lady. That scene was horribly unfunny, and to start the movie with that scene, you could tell BHC3 was going to suck right from the beginning. I have to think that was Landis's idea because that fat guy did something similar in Three Amigos where he finishes the song "My Little Buttercup".
March 5, 2011, 6:41 a.m. CST
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tXjEl8qVX4 <p> What's even more puzzling is, those 2 fat dudes are lip syncing to the camera. They broke the 3rd wall. There's no reality to the scene whatsoever.
March 5, 2011, 6:58 a.m. CST
by Peter David
All the critics were being dismissive of it, talking mostly about the car crashes, the chases, and dismissing it as a mindless waste of time. And I saw it the day it opened, and I couldn't believe the reviews. I'm going, "You idiots! This film has Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, on and on, all in one place! Not to mention the accomplished musicians who form the Blues Brothers band. This film is Rhythm and Blues 101! You should be telling anyone with a fragment of soul in their soul to see it and bring the kids!" Not to mention the inspired casting. Henry Gibson as a Nazi? Henry Gibson, of all people?!? The guy who anyone old enough to recall "Laugh-In" remembered as this soft spoken guy who recited inane poetry? Plus you can't go wrong with Carrie Fisher threatening people with firearms. But mostly it was all about the music. When you consider the once-in-a-lifetime collection of musical talent in that film, how the critics of the time could be so freaking blind as to dismiss the film out of hand because of the car chases, as if it was just another "Smokey and the Bandit" movie or something, just staggers me to this day. It makes you wonder if they had ANY appreciation of the history and legacy of R&B. PAD
March 5, 2011, 7:42 a.m. CST
by Sicuv Uyall
What a failure when everyone's laughing their asses off and they make a sequel. Oh yeah, i'm sure you thought Oscar was great too.
March 5, 2011, 7:43 a.m. CST
Also wasn't the film originally considered something of a box office disappointment, only becoming a hit once it landed on cable? Either way, a classic comedy.
March 5, 2011, 8:35 a.m. CST
...and it never cedases to amaze me how much he deflects any blame for that movie. I idolized landis for his early work and couldn't wait to watch him. Basically what I saw him do was let mac ahlberg do all the set ups, which he barely even paid any attention to, he was busy just sitting there or bullshitting with people. Nothing with the actors. Action cut that's it. To call it dissinterested would be an understatement. I've never seen a director whose chops abandoned him as precipitously as landis. Its like after coming to america he not only forgot how to direct a movie, but forgot how to even piece a scene together competently. His movies are techincally inept now. Look at bhc 3... anyone reading this could have done a better job with that. The script was actually good... it was ruined with lazy directing and a horrible murphy performance. That was supposed to be a big landis comeback... instead it put the final stake in his career. He was supposed to do nutty professor after that but universal wisely dropped him. You can afford to be arrogant when u can back it up but he has been irrelevant for nearly 25 yrs now. He comes off like a cocky 25 year old trapped in a washed up has beens body. I direct movies now and watching him provided me with the biggest lesson I was ever taught... never be apathetic toward your craft. And most importantly, to remember everything landis did on set and do the exact opposite.
March 5, 2011, 8:44 a.m. CST
Completely agree on Bowfinger. I saw it in the theatre, and one of the times I've laughed the hardest at the movies was when Martin had Murphy run across the highway...a second time. "Oh God, Oh God..." Hysterical. If that was made 10 years before it would have been another huge commercial success in Murphy's belt.
March 5, 2011, 8:52 a.m. CST
Surprised more love hasn't been expressed already for this one...not a perfect movie (the conclusion felt too abrupt, for one), but certainly perfect moments. The opening sequences in the the UK - particularly the puffy jacket hike on location - lent the film a sense of reality and foreboding that reeled me right in. Fantastic. Great performance by Griffin Dunne too, in and out of make-up.
March 5, 2011, 9:01 a.m. CST
I'm sure I could wiki it, but does someone want to help a brother out and summarize what everyone keeps referring to?
March 5, 2011, 9:27 a.m. CST
Other than a couple of moments with Griffin Dunne, that movie was straight out classic horror film. I could never figure out why, other than the involvement of Landis, people considered it a comedy.
March 5, 2011, 10:06 a.m. CST
A thousand times yes!!!!! And a great commentary on the disc with Frank Oz. Chubby Rain forever!
March 5, 2011, 10:42 a.m. CST
by Peter David
What's being referred to is that during the filming of The Twilight Zone movie, a character played by Vic Morrow is experiencing an incident in Vietnam involving a helicopter. He's running either towards or away from the chopper (I forget which direction) while carrying two Vietnamese children. The shot went horribly awry and both Morrow and the children were decapitated. Landis was subsequently put on trial for the accident, I assume on a charge of negligent homicide. He was cleared of the charges, but many have felt that he was given a free pass. PAD
March 5, 2011, 10:45 a.m. CST
by Peter David
The charges were involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. Basically a pyrotechnic explosion brought the copter down on the actors. All three were killed but only Morrow and one of the children were beheaded. Which obviously doesn't make it any better. PAD
March 5, 2011, 10:45 a.m. CST
Because they ran that movies damn near 24/7 for awhile. As a kid,everyone I knew had a copy of The Blues Brothers taped off of TBS.
March 5, 2011, 11:38 a.m. CST
Landis is just like anyone else who did brilliant work...they fade over time as age takes its toll...same with a talented athelete. But Animal House and Blues Brothers are two classics...you can add some of his other achievements in there too. You have to give him props for those even if he "lost it" later on like they pretty much all do.
March 5, 2011, 11:50 a.m. CST
at London Frightfest. Nice guy. Without Blues Brothers, American Werewolf and Coming to America i don't think i'd be into film.
March 5, 2011, 11:59 a.m. CST
Thats a fucking shame. John Lee Hooker 'too black and too old'? What a fucking disgrace. He made a point of being oh so mister hip smoking weed with Ray Charles and other soul greats before plundering the english progressive rock scene. I'd hate to hear what comment he made about why he started signing Led Zeppelin, Yes, and ELP. Turkish Nazi bastard. That breaks my heart, I had such respect for the guy. But Robert Fripp said he was a typical music executive con artist...too much cocaine in the 70s music business made people extremely evil.
March 5, 2011, 1:28 p.m. CST
Great, informative and funny interview. Cheers
March 5, 2011, 1:55 p.m. CST
Nope, hated the Oscars... much worse then "The Hangover". Are you talking about how they wrote and directed the last Oscar show? Or are you talking about the awards given out? And since when is popularity or a sequel a sign that something is great in context of other great movies? "Look Who's Talking" made money and sequels. But sorry, "The Hangover" does strike me as kind of flat. That's not to say it's horrible. Just not with the depth of style, personality, and performances that something like Animal House, or Blues Brothers or Coming to America has. Those movies have this sense of "Americana" (kind of like old Warner's cartoons) and so many cinematic types of humor (outside of the script and acting). There are jokes made with the compositions of the shots and edits, and that's quite beyond the creative content of "The Hangover". Not to mention the sense of music and sound in those gems by Landis and his team.Of course Landis has had his duds too.
March 5, 2011, 1:55 p.m. CST
GREAT POST about Landis dropping his mojo for Beverly Hills 3.
March 5, 2011, 2:18 p.m. CST
by Kelly Grimes
Thanks for that post. I've always wondered what went wrong on BHC3. I loved the first 2 as a kid and really felt like the third had just completely lost direction and the humour was stunted.
March 5, 2011, 2:18 p.m. CST
to the uk and ireland. and to my knowledge the movie has never been broadcast over here. I read in easy rider raging bulls. the spielberg refused to take part in the police investigation. even though he was one of the directors. and landis never really forgave for the berg less then full support during that time. or since.
March 5, 2011, 5:35 p.m. CST
March 5, 2011, 5:38 p.m. CST
March 5, 2011, 6:08 p.m. CST
on UK tv on ITV during the late 1980s.....
March 5, 2011, 7:06 p.m. CST
...actually, some of my all time favorite horror films are tragedies. Besides American Werewolf there's Carrie, The Dead Zone, and The Fly. Probably a bunch more if I think about it.
March 5, 2011, 8:36 p.m. CST
There is a book all about it, that I got and read back in 1993. "Outrageous Conduct: Art, Ego, and the Twilight Zone Case" (c. 1988) get it here: http://www.amazon.com/Outrageous-Conduct-Twilight-Zone-Case/dp/087795948X it tells you everything that the author researched, including the actions of the other bigwigs working on the film. It will also answer your questions about why Landis was brought to trial. Yes it is horrible that people died in the process of making a movie. It is very disturbing. It was a foolish accident compounded by breaking certain union rules as well. That's why the blame falls into a gray area and it wasn't just considered an accident.
March 5, 2011, 8:39 p.m. CST
The Twilight Zone movie then this interview shouldn't have happened. Doing a look on a man's career should include the good, bad, and the ugly. If not then don't bother.
March 5, 2011, 8:59 p.m. CST
On August.13, 1982, just 21 days later, Fast Times at Ridgemont High was released, where his daughter, Jennifer Jason Leigh, does a sex scene as an underaged girl getting porked by an older man. 8 years later, Leigh would get gangbanged on screen in one of the most disturbing rape scenes of all time in Last Exit to Brooklyn. <p> Before that last exit, there's a signpost up ahead...you have entered, The Twilight Zone.
March 5, 2011, 10:14 p.m. CST
by slappy magoo
This piece of the interview, with much discussed of The Blues Brothers & Animal House, is published on the anniversary of Belushi's death. Just sayin'...
March 5, 2011, 11:04 p.m. CST
I love a couple of Landis's films, but think several are over-rated, way before Cop 3. Coming to America was a showcase for Murphy's talent and some amazing Baker make-up, but the story was cliched, stupid, and sugary-sweet beyond belief. Plus, under Murphy were some truly shitty performances. Worst of all, Murphy's ego seems to be muscling out the funny in many scenes somehow. He seems to be...I don't know...preening when he isn't buried under latex or hair gel. Like...can you BELIEVE how irresistable I am? And I'm willing to give the Brothers a re-viewing on account of everyone loving it so much, but back when I saw it (more than 15 years ago now) I was less than impressed. Great music, sure, and some clever lines...but the show went on far to long already with that eeeeeendless car chase. I can't imagine sticking around for fucking four hours in a cinema with it. Listen to the music, hell, that's another story.
March 6, 2011, 12:39 a.m. CST
Adding this in addition to the others that have pointed out what a prick he sounds like.
March 6, 2011, 1:48 a.m. CST
Seriously, I have been watching the replays of the BHC movies on Cinemax lately and I always disliked III but until recently never really put my finger on its problems but you totally confirmed my suspicions. Everything about that movie reeked of a director who took one take on everything and kept the camera static throughout the shot. Not only that, but the scale of the film and the setup of the shots lacked the bigger level from the prior films; the majority of it was obviously shot on sets or in places that couldn't allow for wider shots. And the complete lack of score for many scenes showed how Landis didn't understand that music was a big part of what made the series work. If you compare it to just the opening bit of Part II, you can see the immediate impact Tony Scott's direction brings: the quick cuts between Brigette Nielsen and the robbers, the slow-motion shots of the various glass displays, the tightly-framed shots of Nielsen's sunglasses as she's yelling out the seconds, all the while the score giving it tempo. Maybe it wasn't as funny, but it sure as hell wasn't a Beverly Hills Cop movie. It was a wasted opportunity of a pretty good premise.
March 6, 2011, 5:27 a.m. CST
They knew where those explosive were not supposed to be for the helicopter shot, but they put them there anyway for a bigger stunt.
March 6, 2011, 7:29 a.m. CST
...and against all advice he went and did it his way anyhow, just to get the shot that he wanted. As a result Vic Morrow and two children ended up dead. That is on him. The weakness of others may have contributed, but the primary blame is at his feet, and he should have had to pay for it. As some of you folks know from other posts, I work various low-tier set jobs (usually as grip or lighting tech), mostly these days in productions shooting in Canada (though I'm not Canadian myself), and I've met a couple of folks that worked that show over the years, and they say the same thing - Landis knew the risks, nobody wanted to do it his way, but he wouldn't listen, threw his weight around, and bullied everyone into it, and the people who could, who should, have tried to stop him, or else walked off set and halted production, instead buckled to the pressure and gave in. The result was, sadly, disaster and loss of life. I wasn't part of the industry back at that time, but there are regs and processes in place even today that directly came out of the aftermath of the Twilight Zone tragedy, and if you ask any of the old set dogs, they'll tell you that nobody should ever die for a movie, and these days most of them won't move an inch if they don't believe safety is where it should be. Younger, low budget, or more inexperienced crews might well be different, and full of reckless bravado simply because they don't yet know any better, but you just try getting a seasoned crew on a proper show to intentionally and knowingly break safety regs these days and see how far it gets you. The impression within the industry, at least from what I gather and have seen and heard over the years anyhow, is that Landis never paid his due for his mistake, never lost anything over it, and never apologised for it or admitted any responsibility. And in fact a lot of pressure was applied to certain parties to help cover for his actions so that he couldn't be held directly responsible at the time, and a lot of people still have a real problem with that, and have real animosity towards Landis for it. If he had been seen as having paid a price for his actions that day then I think he would have been more apt to have been forgiven a lot more widely by the industry at large. But to a lot of folks his name is still seen as a black mark even today. Seriously, his name is one of 'those names' that if you mention it on a professional set, you're guaranteed some kind of reaction.
March 6, 2011, 8 a.m. CST
In Harm's Way: Vic Morrow's death on the set of the Twilight Zone movie by Dick Peabody From the Mountain Democrat--Placerville, California Thursday, May 23, 1991 In 1971, I hosted a talk show from Universal Studios in Los Angeles over KFI (NBC radio). I had little to do with selecting the guests. Twenty-five percent of them were chosen by Universal's publicity department and 75 percent were booked by a public relations firm the station had retained for this purpose. Occasionally, I would suggest someone and arrangements would be handled by either Universal or the PR company. Vic Morrow, with whom I had worked on the TV series Combat!, was one of my suggestions. Knowing how reluctant he was to do interviews, I had to cajole him into it. I told him we would just reminisce about how much fun we had playing soldier. During the interview, Vic made what turned out to be a poignant point. He said we had the best special effects team in the business, headed by A.D. Flowers, the first special effects man to win an Academy Award (for Tora! Tora! Tora!). Thanks to A.D. and his team, all of the actors felt secure, despite potentially dangerous explosions going on around us. Vic praised A.D. Flowers and our directors for never putting us in jeopardy during the five years of production. Ten years later, Vic was dead because he worked on a movie in which key personnel were either drunk or stoned on coke, or both. He was decapitated by the rotor of a helicopter which contained, besides the pilot and a camera operator, a cockpit full of drugs. He was in jeopardy from the moment he agreed to do an irresponsibly dangerous shot for a director (John Landis) who had no regard for Vic's safety or for the safety of two illegally hired children. A director, who some crew members say, was out of control and kept screaming at the helicopter pilot over the bull horn, "Fly lower. LOWER!" over the heads of Vic and the children and the massive explosions that under the insistence of Landis had been set and were being detonated beyond recognised safety parameters. All of this carnage was shot under the supervision of a producer (Steven Spielberg) who, despite eyewitness statements of crew members to the contrary, maintains that he was not on the set that night. Vic's last words in life, while holding two children and waiting for the director to say "action," were, "I've got to be crazy to do this shot. I should've asked for a double." The next day Barbara Turner called. She was Vic's first wife and the mother of his two daughters, Carey and Jennifer (actress Jennifer Jason Leigh). Even though divorced from Vic for 16 years, Barbara felt obliged to guide her children, who were in their teens, in arranging Vic's funeral. She asked me to be a pallbearer and to help the girls in any way I could. Carey and Jennifer wanted Rick Jason (good friend, and another former Combat! star) and myself to give the eulogies. I rode with them to the funeral and sat with them in the section of the chapel reserved for family. Moments after we arrived, an audible shock wave of reaction from Vic's friends and co-workers who came to pay their respects, grabbed my attention. A thin, bearded man was coming down the aisle, seemingly unable to walk without assistance. He was supported by a woman and another man (Mrs. John Landis and George Folsey, Jr., the production manager of the "Twilight Zone" movie). The bearded staggerer was "Twilight Zone" director, John Landis. His stooges helped him to the lectern and he began a rambling eulogy - unplanned, unrequested, unwanted, and shocking to Vic's family and friends. His mere presence at the funeral was offensive to them. He did this, presumably, on the advice of his attorney. The most obnoxious remark he made, among many, was that he was "proud to have directed Vic's final performance in what Vic, himself, considered the best performance of his career." Vic's girl friend and his ex-wife Barbara both said Vic thought the movie was a piece of s..., and he was ashamed to be connected with it. John Landis' eulogy sounded more like a promo for the film. The following day, I called the Los Angeles Country District Attorney's office and told them I had a tape from my radio show in which Vic expressed his confidence in the Combat! special effects team. My thought was that having worked for five years with pros, he was lulled into a false feeling of security. He had expected the same professionalism on the "Twilight Zone" set. The D.A.'s office sent out an investigator that afternoon to pick up the tape. Everyone I know who knew Vic hoped Landis and Folsey would get at least a year in the slammer. After all, they were responsible for the deaths of three people. They were tried and acquitted of manslaughter and their careers have escalated since. As hard as I try, I can muster no charity for these butchers.
March 6, 2011, 8:22 a.m. CST
"and not dwell on the unpleasantries.." 2 kids and an actor got beheaded cuz Landis was a cheap fuck and you cal it unpleasantries? Anything for a buck right...? ps Rick Baker and Rob Bottin invented the modern werewolf transformation. If Landis went with, say, Stan Winston it would have looked different. This site is getting more retarded by the minute.
March 6, 2011, 9:44 a.m. CST
by Arnold Van Seagal
The moment is when Hector Elizondo shouts, "SOMEBODY TURN THAT FUCKIN' SONG OFF!" I find that bit hilarious. But like I said, the film is liquid shit.
March 6, 2011, 10:57 a.m. CST
Twilight Zone The Movie has been on TV here in the UK for about 20 years. It was on just a few weeks ago.
March 6, 2011, 11:17 a.m. CST
what station was the twilight zone movie on. digital was it?
March 6, 2011, 12:28 p.m. CST
Actually was very good. I've never seen a shooting script before or since that so little resembled its film. Had a way better opening they just ditched. Better gags they didn't use and some really cool action that just didn't translate through landis. The script was a cross between bhc and die hard. It was really painful to watch how it unfolded. Thanks for the nice comments!
March 6, 2011, 1:43 p.m. CST
March 6, 2011, 2:30 p.m. CST
Landis is one of those guys who has little interest in the people around him. That the film is the most important thing on the planet, so yeah, have two childrenin a pond with explosives around them and a helicopter hovering. These were his calls to make. I've directed a movie with kids and you DO NOT put kids in harms way. On a set the director is god and he should have had the ability to see beyond his precious shot that this was not a safe place for kids. Stunt coordinator, fx guys, producers, sure, everyone gets a piece of the blame. But the director conceives these shots. He put morrow and the kids there. Anyone who's ever made a movie knows that was fully on him. But this seems to be vintage landis. Its someone elses fault. Gee eddie decided not to be funny for bhc 3. Not my fault. Try being a director and get something out of him rather than shrugging as you flush 70 mil of paramounts money down the toilet.
March 6, 2011, 4:48 p.m. CST
What in the holy hell was wrong with that movie? Don't get me wrong, the musical sequences were fantastic, but the script and the plot was the most disjointed mess I've ever seen, DESPITE it being a complete rip-off of the first Blues Brothers (which, BTW, is one of my most favorite movies of all time).
March 8, 2011, 5:01 a.m. CST
by my liege
Haha, I watched Blues Brothers 2000 just before Christmas and it wasn't as bad as I remember. It was still bad though. Imagine it was the worst movie of all time, but after I watched it again it became the 2nd worst movie of all time.
March 8, 2011, 5:02 a.m. CST
by my liege
...has the most blatant boom in shot I've ever seen in a movie.
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