The Wizard of Gore, an interview with Jeremy Kasten

Not a year goes by when I don’t get an e-mail from some movie dude trying to tell me about some film they just made that I should care about, not a year! Usually these get trashed outright, however earlier this month when I got a message from Jeremy Kasten telling me about an upcoming screening of his remake of HG Lewis’ Wizard of Gore my initial reaction wasn’t to delete it, but rather I was shocked someone else had actually seen Lewis’ original version. I jumped at the chance to see the flick (screening info after the jump) but also knew I needed to talk to someone who was clearly a huge fan of this genre of film. A few e-mails later and we set up an interview over IM, which is hands down the coolest way to interview anyone ever. We talked for over an hour about making indie films in LA, working with Crispin Glover and what it’s like to make movies, but more importantly what it’s like to make movies on your own terms – whatever the cost. Here you go… (all photos by Mike Manasewitch)

WoG_JK_800.jpgSean Bonner: …like I said I kinda prefer the informal approach, so want to get going?
Jeremy Kasten: hee hee – yes – lets “get going”
JK: thats sexy!
SB: ha!
JK: so…
JK: tell me about the movie, sean?
SB: OK, so, you just directed “The Wizard of Gore” – assume I haven’t seen the original and tell me what it’s about.
JK: HG Lewis’ film is about a cabaret stage magician who does these horrific act where he cuts women up on stage in really disturbing ways – the film used a chainsaw death YEARS before “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” in fact.
JK: the trick, of course, is that by the end of the act, the women are seemingly fine.
JK: that is until 24 hours later when their guts suddenly pour out of them and they die, eviscerated, sitting in a restaurant.
JK: you get the idea.
JK: its a really odd film
SB: Yikes!
JK: sorta psychedelic
JK: and famously bad. wooden acting and the like. But beloved to horror fans like me.
JK: I grew up in Baltimore and the HG Lewis films
JK: were a huge influence on John Waters – thats where I discovered him.
SB: Obvious inspiration for the five point palm exploding heart technique
JK: indeed.
JK: all indie filmmakers owe a huge debt to Lewis for pushing the boundaries.
JK: and clearly Quentin is no exception.
SB: So you were a fan of this before, how’d you get this project? Rather, were your brought into it or did you go find people to do it?
JK: no – this has been my baby for a LONG time.

JK: I know it sounds nuts, but I wanted to do this remake since I was, like, 12.
SB: Let’s talk about that for a second – why the interest in a remake
JK: it really started to gel as the remake madness got going with the studios remaking fantastic horror movies for the sake of the built in audience. This was just such a natural.
JK: I am, like every other film goer, sick of seeing movies I love remade poorly.
SB: Don’t get me wrong, some remakes are amazing, some not so much, but it’s an interesting approach as no matter what you do it’s going to be compared against something else.
JK: for sure. but, like, why redo psycho
JK: when its good – and not being anything new to it.
JK: I love Lolita, but I can see the argument for redoing it.
JK: going further, being truer to the book, whatever. not that the remake worked
SB: So you thought you had something to add to this story
JK: but my point is
JK: exactly that.
JK: look, even people who love the original, myself included, wouldn’t call the film an artistic achievement. Its a weird, cool hypnotic, but decidedly poorly made movie.
JK: and I wanted to try to go as far as Lewis did in 1969
JK: but in another way
JK: rather than push the gore to the limits,
JK: push what audiences are used to seeing as far as dark subject-matter.
SB: Do you think you were you able to pull that off?
JK: make a movie about and icky PERSON.
JK: I do.
JK: I am really, really proud about that over everything else the film does.
JK: its a true noir in that sense.
JK: with a real antihero. who maybe can;t be redeemed.
SB: And that’s a good lead in actually, tell me about that character and who you got to play him
JK: Kip is the lead. the noir antihero.
JK: Kip has been around for awhile and I feel like he hasn’t really gotten to explore the real depths of his abilities as an actor.
JK: he’s perfect in the role in so many ways.
JK: the thing is: I got my dream cast.
JK: its literally everyone i ever imagined playing these roles
SB: Not many directors can say that as far as I can tell
SB: Especially younger folks

JK: absolutely! especially on an independent film – a genre film! and I know people are excited to see Crispin or Bijou or Brad Dourif in the movie

WoG_Kasten_Duddy_800.jpg

JK: but I know once they see it it’ll be Kip’s absolute immersion into insanity that they’ll be floored by.
SB: I can’t wait to see that myself!
JK: Not that Crispin isn’t incredible or whatever.
JK: you are gonna be blown away.
JK: I really thin so.
SB: So that sounds interesting actually, this was your idea since forever, so what had to happen from you sitting in your house watching the original flick to actually remaking it with your dream cast.
JK: wow. the path was intense and ridiculous – as I think it always is finding financing for a movie outside of a studio or company with distribution stakes in it. Just getting the remake right alone took over a year of negotiating. My best friends and partners and I all put up our own money to do it
JK: and it was exhausting. emotionally. that was before we even started to look for financing.
JK: as it seems to go for a lot of these films we were really close to making it, three weeks away for shooting, with another company
JK: and at the last minute they admitted they didn’t have the cash
JK: and took us to an infamously meddling exec who agreed to pay for it.
JK: and we decided not to do it. to sit on our hands and wait.
JK: wait – that decision was probably the hardest I’ve ever had to make.
JK: but totally the right decision – the movie would’ve been ruined by him in the end.
JK: the company that did raise the money is young, smart guys and they were amazing.
SB: Wow, that’s definitely a turning point
JK: absolutely.
SB: Congrats.
JK: and you know, you have to wait, like a year or more trying to set it back up.
JK: everyone warning you that once the train derails you’ll never get it back.
JK: thanks, Sean.
JK: it feels so surreal sometimes.
JK: getting it finished, I mean.
SB: No really, a lot of people are quick to take the easiest route, so it’s impressive that you took the bigger chance, against what is considered the normal logic, in favor of keeping the movie headed the way you wanted it to go
SB: I wish more people made decisions like that honestly
JK: thanks. it feels good now. it was so fucking scary at the time.
JK: whenever you do something like that you feel like you’ll never be given another chance.
JK: but yeah,
SB: When was that? When did you get it all set with the new people and you knew you were actually going to start making it?
JK: we started really prepping in the fall of ’05. Preproduction in January of ’06 and i shot until MArch of last year.
JK: I edited the film all last Summer and just got all the music and effects (there are, like, almost 200 digital effects shots in the movie) done by the end of January of this year.
SB: And now it’s officially coming out, or just some screenings in efforts for it to come out?
JK: its premiering at the Los Angeles Film Festival – not coming out in theaters nationwide yet.
SB: Any super interesting production stories? I mean, I’m sure there are tons, but any you want to tell me?
JK: I really believe that if the audiences respond to it here then it has a good chance of seeing a real release BECAUSE its not the typical horror fare.
JK: sure.
JK: give me a sec…
JK: okay well,
JK: Crispin is a force of nature
JK: and I mean that in a really GOOD way. he
JK: is incredibly intelligent and persuasive and works really hard.
JK: the Montag the Magnificent we had in our script was straight up
JK: underground post-punk magician
JK: tattooed and ripped and disgusting
JK: well that was not as appealing to Crispin as playing in contrast to the world he inhabits in the film – the really kind of
JK: cacophony society, old skool loft district world.
JK: you know knida what I mean?
SB: I do
JK: anyway,
JK: good. good.
JK: so,
JK: Crispin feels really strongly about it and I am pretty into encouraging the creative development with the cast – it really is collaborative this little moving pictures business, and I think my job is to know when they are breaking the movie and when they aren’t.
JK: and at first i was thrown off but Crispin’s very flamboyant approach was exciting and I saw that.

WoG_Glover_camera_800.jpg

JK: So he worked with the costume designer, Carrie Grace, to create this Librace type approach that was ridiculous.
JK: with a huge codpiece custom built in every costume.
JK: and the financing producers were only mildly involved or engaged with the creative stuff – making movies is busy and hard and you can’t oversee everything.
JK: well the first day Crispin worked everyone was nervous.
JK: there was a ton to do and he’s CRISPIN GLOVER – you don’t really know how he’s gonna be.
JK: if he’ll slow you down or be erratic or what (turns out that stuff isn’t really true anyway)
JK: so he comes out onto the set
JK: and one of the financing producers FREAKS!
JK: completely.
JK: sends the crew away and says that the film isn’t gonna work.
JK: and tells me that I have GOT to change Crispin’s mind or the budget will be slashed severely.
JK: and I knew that once Crispin has made his character choices for months there was no doubling back.
JK: so… under extreme duress and threat of losing my movie
JK: I asked Crispin to speak to the producers.
JK: and six guys end up in his tiny trailer sure that they have GOT to change his mind….
JK: and in 30 minutes he’d convinced them. completely. from them being terrified and horrified and totally sure the movie was ruined.
JK: the funny part is that in the film i think the cod piece works great!
JK: so there
WoG_Combs_Kasten_Pardue_800.jpgSB: Wow, that’s totally amazing.
JK: ‘s that story.
SB: Maybe he actually is a magician
JK: he’s really fucking smart.
JK: he acts a bit eccentric to keep people on their toes
JK: but seeing him in that mode in his trailer
JK: I saw what a shrewd business man he is.
SB: That’s a fantastic story actually
JK: god I hope so.
SB: totally different side of someone that EVERYONE has an opinion about
JK: you never remember or are allowed to tell the GOOD ones.
JK: yeah. for sure.
SB: hahah
SB: OK, so, I’ve got like 5 more minutes and don’t want to keep you for ever either, so what else do I (and whoever has read this far) need to know?

JK: I’m sure your friend Kip has regaled you, as well.
SB: I’m totally sold already
JK: ha!
SB: but anything else?
SB: I haven’t talked to him too recently actually but I remember him talking about this when he was filming it

JK: lookit – this movie is the real deal as far as an Los Angeles centric horror picture that should satisfy a more discerning movie goer
JK: its a remake of a classic psychotronic film
JK: not to be all sales-y
JK: but it really is a movie that should sate a certain type person. I love it and that’s important.
SB: Excellent. Thanks a ton man.
JK: but, you know, the sight of Crispin Glover smelling the innards of a still breathing suicide girl all naked and bloody makes me giddy.
JK: of course. thank you so much man!

Screenings:
Friday, June 22nd at 11:59 p.m. at The Majestic Crest Theater (1262 Westwood Blvd.)
Thursday, June 28th at 10:00 p.m. at Landmark Theatres (10850 W. Pico Blvd.)

Tickets are available at lafilmfest.com or by calling 866-345-6337 after June 8th. You can get additional information at
www.wizardofgorethemovie.com