Mad Dashiell Talks With Daniel Waters about Heathers' 30th Anniversary!
MD: Hello this is Mad Dashiell.
Daniel Waters: Hey there, great name.
MD: Thank you (Laughs) steeped in madness. love your work, love everything you do. Thank you for joining me and the readers at AICN. Alright, so let's dive in. 30th Anniversary of Heathers, what do you think that audiences are connecting with it 30 years later?
Danie Waters (DW): Well I think that especially nowadays you get all these messages of "Hey kids everything's going to be ok, it gets better and I think those are great messages to send to the nation's youth but I think there's also something really comforting about a movie telling you oh no your right HighSchool is a terrifying hellscape that will infect you for the rest of your life and here's a HighSchool that's even worse than yours. I think there's something comforting about that too so I think as much as we try to make everything pleasant for people and woke for people that there's something intoxicating about making it phantasmagorically awful too that confirming worse stuff, your worse fears about everything that I think there is something actually cozy about it, that like... (Laughs) Don't worry I'm gonna show you a highschool even worse than yours.
MD- Absolutely, love it. In terms of the dark ideas matched with the highly camp performances and visuals did your vision for the satire in the film match the final outcome?
DW- Ya, Ya I mean you know probably my 1st draft was a little more apocalyptic in a satire that I think I would say Veronicas Diary entries are almost like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and that she was a more willing participant in the killings and there were a lot more killings and at the end she kills JD and saves the HighSchool but then stares at the HighSchool then looks at the bomb ticking and just watches it go off anyway and it all ends in Heaven with a blue toxic punchbowl, what have you and that you know, maybe I had to come down a little bit from my original vision but I do think the satire comes through. I do think you know, I didn't wanna do a documentary version of HighSchool, I wanted to take what I knew about real High School and what drove me nuts about HighSchool films at the time that said your heart dies when you grow up when really we all know your heart dies when your 12. But I wanted to kinda play with like you say mixing camp and darkness. You know, George Bernard Shaw has a line "If your gonna say something serious it better be funny." Every time I watch the movie I think somebody told me this is the greatest movie ever made. Then I watch it again and am reminded, alright it's not the greatest movie ever made but its pretty funny, its got some great stuff. That I think the fact that me and Michel Laiman were willing to pull back when everything started getting too pretentious we would pull back with a goofy joke or something silly and outrageous that I think that's what makes the movie last even more.
MD- Ok, so on the topic of those multiple endings, how did you end up coming to the idea of using the one you ended up using?
DW- I knew it was the one everyone wanted so you know, I just kinda wrote it and you know at the time I was oh god I can't believe they made me make that ending but you know now talking with people today that they kinda need that mint at the end of the thing and I like to think its not a straight happy ending there is something self-consciously over sweet about the ending that, you know, that people can see there is a link to it. But you know, the good thing is that the guys that wrote & made the musical, they wouldn't have had the idea to make the musical if it didn't have that ending and I love the musical and the musical has turned it on to generations of new people. When I'm drunk and lonely at night I'll watch Heaters the Musical bootlegs from different HighSchools and you can really see the passion and the love for the material. So, the musical has been a gift to me. So I feel better about the ending. While my brother reminds me there was an ending I wrote just for him that when I tell people, ok that's the fucking ending dude. Where basically, Veronica comes up to Martha in the end and says hey you wanna get together tonight and watch some new releases? And she gets up off her wheelchair, stabs Wynonna in the stomach and says fuck you Heather, then Veronica falls to the ground, while Veronicas bleeding she says: My names not Heather, my names not Heather, my names not Heather. Slam cut to black Heathers. Now, that's the ending.
MD-Wow, that's amazing. Do you have a favorite scene or line in Heaters?
DW- Um, my new favorite line just to deal with, you know, the new culture we live in is the line like- Weather to commit suicide or not is one of the most important decisions a teenager can make. Wich was just completely satirical back in the late 80s but now it's like, I feel like I hear people saying shit like that now. So I have a special love for that line and also like there's lines like every quote they have a good time with like hey fuck me gently with a chainsaw, what's your damage, like all those fun lines then but the line I always liked that still shuts people up and silences a room is "Football season is over, Veronica. Kurt and Ram had nothing left to offer the school except date rapes and AIDS jokes." That one still has a sting.
MD- Ha, It does.
DW- Which I appreciate.
MD- Wonderful, well this one's gonna get a little heavy. Your writing is almost Philip K Dickian in a way. How do you feel you foresaw the current mass shootings and tv induced desensitization?
DW- Ya, may have been, you know at the time, there was so much teenage suicide at the time I wrote the movie I was kinda trying to subvert that. Why are you committing suicide? Try homicide! Is almost kinda the secret thing of the film... and like, oh boy. It was hard to even think about it because it wasn't even on the menu back then and now it's so part of our culture. Not to toot my own horn or not to pat these active shooters on the back but it does give a certain frisson even more now that It was more like a science fiction comedy back in the 80s but now it has this whole level of reality now that even the fun musical has got this real dark underbelly that it may not of had if the musical had come out in the 80s that it did, whether I like it or not ties into something primordial that the realness of it now. It still gives the movie a fantastic feeling but its now the emotions that hit you are even more weird & varied. It is funny that I still have people come up to me and tell me and telling me, the 1st time I saw Heathers I hated it but then the second time I saw Heathers I finally found a way to laugh with it. That's an interesting thing. I feel like nobody comes up to the guy who wrote Notting Hill and says you know the 1st time I saw Notting Hill it really fucked me up but you know the 2nd time, terrific. I think Heathers is unique in that it does create weird feelings in people. I think that is part of why it still lasts, is when you have 25 percent of the population hating the film, thinking its outrageous, thinking it goes too far, thinking its offensive. That makes the other 75 percent love it all the more. It's not funny if everybody's laughing, that's my secret motto.
MD- So the other day my friend's kid was quoting Heathers when he hadn't even realized they had seen the film yet and it was the 1st DVD I ever bought with my own money.
DW- Oh, Nice!
MD- Therefore the 1st commentary I ever heard and hearing your commentary blew my mind around the early 2000s.
DW- There's this new DVD coming out and its still the same commentary. I'd like to hear a commentary of now me, Waters in his 50s looking back on it. I wonder how it would end up? But with putting both the commentaries on there and see how different I was from a chipper child.
MD- So then there's the camp of new Heathers viewers completely misunderstanding the satirical nature of the film, they think the film is pushing JD as an antihero. Do you have any thoughts on that? Should we even try to make others understand? What do we do?
DW- Oh I mean, ya, you know, It sounds like you saw that thing the poor young reporter wrote for the Hollywood Reporter, for The Raft where he was a millennial saying millennials don't like Heathers because it's not funny and it goes too far and we don't like Taxi Driver and things like that and then the comments section, which I now have bookmarked, for my ego, it was just the entire world rising up against him, representatives of every age group. Including millennials apologizing for this mellinial that reminded me- Hey again, Its part of what makes Heathers, Heathers. If you want a movie about High School with 3 girls everyone likes, go watch my brother's (Mark Waters) movie Mean Girls, have a good time, it's a hilarious movie, I highly recommend it highly. But Heathers is only for a certain person, it's not an age thing it's an attitude thing. It's not a generational thing it is really a pass/fail coarse to you and I got so many stories of people, lonely in college, lonely in High School, Lonely at they workplace, where they find their people, where they find their best friends because they overhear them quoting a Heathers quote. It's almost like... I'm a big believer in secret handshake cinema, that's my favorite kind of cinema. Where it's like you against a heavily part of the world. My favorite story of all time is a double date, 2 people tell me they were on a double date with different people. His girlfriend and her boyfriend started talking about how much they both hate Heathers and they broke up right then and started going out with each other because basically, they loved Heathers.
DR- That's the kinda movie you wanna make, that's what it's all about. Beaking up double dates.
MD-(Chuckling) That's amazing. It's been really great talking with you, I would love to just talk on about your influences but looks like we are out of time.
DW- Thanks for buying that DVD with that awful cover wich I even learned to love the awful cover of that movie, It allowed a whole generation of people to be able to rent it.
MD- HAHA Is this a date movie?
DW- No way is that an R-rated movie that's gonna mess up your mind.
MD- You have a wonderful day Daniel Waters, thanks again.
DW- Thank you, see ya.