Following deserved high praise from full house screenings at festivals such as Dead By Dawn - Stuart Gordon's STUCK gets a very welcome (albeit short) run of theatrical screenings in the UK during January so to celebrate the occasion SGM's Al 'Sex Gore' Simpson talks to filmmaker Gordon about his work…
Alan: The core set piece of STUCK on paper seems somewhat incredible, but is in fact based around a true story - how did you happen upon this?
Stuart: This story was front page news for weeks in the States. And the more I read, the more incredible it seemed. Why would a young woman who worked as a caregiver in a retirement home behave so monstrously? So I decided to try to answer this question with STUCK.
Alan: Once the draft script was in place how hard was it to get producers onboard with what for some would seem a risky niche project?
Stuart: Strangely enough this film was relatively easy to find backing. Unlike DAGON which literally took 15 years.
Alan: STUCK is the debut production of the revived production company Amicus, are you a fan of the original company's output and will we be seeing any further Gordon/Amicus productions?
Stuart: Yes, I'm a big fan of the old Amicus films and would have loved to work with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. I'm working with Amicus on a Lovecraft project, THE THING ON THE DOORSTEP.
Alan: We'll all look forward to that I'm sure. STUCK is quite an exhilarating movie that challenges viewers own morale perceptions, how has this been received at screenings so far?
Stuart: The response has been amazing. It's a very participatory film. Audiences yell at the screen. Very gratifying.
Alan: It's quite an intense movie which must have been quite a gruelling experience for leads Mena Suvari and Stephen Rea (more so considering Stephen spends much of the movie embedded in a car windscreen), did you have any tricks to lighten the tone during the shoot between takes?
Stuart: We tried to make Stephen as comfortable as possible but as he said, "The real guy was in the windshield for three days, and I've been in it for three weeks." But both Stephen and Mena are consummate professionals (and real troupers) and we had a good time making the film.
Alan: Your earlier film career involved a fair amount of work with the legendary Charles Band with his Empire and Full Moon Pictures, how did you meet and what was it like working then in what (to the outsider looking in) seemed to be one big fantasy horror production 'fun' house?
Stuart: Working with Charlie was always an adventure. Brian Yuzna introduced him to me when we were making RE-ANIMATOR. Charlie and his dad Albert both love making movies, and I was always given a tremendous amount of freedom. Often Charlie would sell pictures on the basis of a title and a poster alone. When I asked him what CASTLE FREAK was about he told me, "There's a castle and a freak." The rest was left up to me. Working at Empire and later Full Moon was great fun. You'd walk down the hallway on the editing floor and hear screams coming out of every room.
Alan: You went on to work with Spanish genre production company Fantastic Factory and now with STUCK Amicus Entertainment, are there any particular benefits to working with genre specific production houses?
Stuart: It's always a pleasure to work with companies that appreciate the genre and don't think of making horror movies as slumming.
Alan: Two key recurring names in your career are that of Jeffrey Combs and H P Lovecraft, what is it about Lovecraft's work that appeals so much and will we be seeing any more Combs/Lovecraft spectaculars?
Stuart: Lovecraft's stories are still the most imaginative and mind boggling creations out there. And his audience is growing by leaps and bounds. It's a shame he's not around to see this (and collect the royalties). And Jeffrey Combs is an amazing actor who can literally become anyone. When he played Poe in THE BLACK CAT, I felt like I was actually hanging with old Edgar himself.
Alan: Your wife Carolyn (Purdy-Gordon) is a very accomplished and talented actress in her own right but similar to Jeffrey has recurring roles in your movies, mainly though in smaller parts - will we have the opportunity to see her centre stage with a lead role at some point?
Stuart: I agree, Carolyn is my secret weapon and I'm hoping that she can play a greater role in my films.
Alan: Horror fans would kill me if I didn't ask so what's the current state of play around House of Re-Animator and what's the deal with the recently reported issues around copyrighting of Re-Animator as a brand?
Stuart: Unfortunately we weren't able to find financing for HOUSE even though we had the entire original cast lined up and William H. Macy to play the president. The story involved re-animating Vice President Dick Cheney and the studios were scared to death of offending the Bush administration. I guess they didn't want to be water-boarded.
As for the copyrighting issues with RE-ANIMATOR, this involves some shyster lawyer who had nothing to do with the production attempting to steal the name and merchandising rights. Apparently he forgot what Herbert West does to those who try to claim credit for other people's work.
Alan: There was talk at one point of you adapting Jack Ketchum's Ladies Night, any progress with this?
Stuart: Still working on getting it made.
Alan: Challenging scenes of sex and violence are often well utilised in your productions which at times has been problematic in relation to censorship, do you intentionally seek to push boundaries and is there a line that you yourself cinematically wouldn't cross?
Stuart: I've learned never to censor myself.
Alan: You make an amusing Hitchcock-esque cameo in STUCK, do you have acting ambitions yourself (perhaps from your early days in theatre)?
Stuart: I'm the world's worst actor. Every time I appear in front of a camera, it reminds me how hard it is, and increases my respect for those who do it well.
Alan: Your name Stuart Gordon is indeed a very Scottish name, so have you any Scots blood coursing through you and if so will we be seeing you make an appearance here during festival time some point? Perhaps even make a movie here? (I'm sure we can work a Lovecraft angle with a kilt!)
Stuart: Unfortunately I'm not Scottish, but my wife Carolyn is. Her family comes from the town of Thurso at the most Northern tip of Scotland. We visited there once and everyone looked just like her. In fact one of the locals asked her, "What's a bonny lassie like you doing with the likes of him?"
Alan: Working mostly in the independent field, budget constraints are likely to be a regular consideration; do you have a dream project that you would love to handle if budget was not a contention? Perhaps a splatter musical, I know there was an interest in musicals at one point?
Stuart: At one time I was trying to get the rights to SWEENEY TODD but they went to Tim Burton who did an amazing job. Right now I'm looking for a studio to back a very bloody pirate movie that I've always wanted to make.
Alan: Another one for the fans to keep an eye out for I'm sure! Thanks for your time Stuart and best wishes for 2009 to both yourself and Carolyn from everyone at SGM.
Special thanks to Stuart Gordon and Chris at Organic