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Sunday, May 24, 2015

DANIEL EMERY TAYLOR




It's been a while, huh?

This week, we're talking to Daniel Emery Taylor, mostly because he was in Return of Swamp Thing, but also because he's been up to a bunch! You can keep tabs on him over at his facebook page.


You got a movie banned by the Bulgarian government.  That's gotta be a point of pride!  This is my super subtle way to get you to talk to me about The Hospital.
Well, the fact that it even made it to Bulgaria was quite a surprise!  We made a very lo-fi film with extreme elements, meant to emulate exploitation classics like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE or THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.  We knew it would have limited appeal and would be embraced by a small, niche audience.  The fact that it received a worldwide release is absolutely crazy to me.  They pulled us off of the shelves of Tesco in the United Kingdom.  We were banned by Bulgaria.  We've gotten reviews from folks in South Africa, Australia, Russia, Spain, France, Germany -- I never expected it to be larger than an underground American thing.


They cut about forty minutes out of the film in Germany.  I've watched the German release and it makes no sense.  They cut out all of the violence.  Characters disappear without explanation.  And still people complained about the content.  What are they complaining about?  There's nothing left!

[Laughs]

But I was quite proud of getting banned by Bulgaria.  I hope the sequel gets banned in a few more former Soviet republics.


Let's get the Swamp Thing question out of the way.  You were in Return of Swamp Thing as a kid.  I am not going to ask you the general "what was that like?" question.  It was kind of a weird time that people forget.  In short order, there were two Swamp Thing movies as well as two TV shows.  I was a kid then, but you were in the epicenter.  Was Swamp Thing really this huge thing for a second in the eighties?  What was that like?

You know, I never noticed it.  Now, I hear from fans all the time that THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING was their favorite film growing up and they watched it over and over.  I have since become aware of all of the wonderful, weird merchandise that was release.  I even recently found a Swamp Thing chalk on eBay that I had to have, mainly because on the package is a speech balloon that declares "I'm Chalk!" for anyone who may be confused.

But at the time?  I never knew anything about it.  I just grew up assuming I had been in this movie nobody had seen. And I knew the character was (and remains) popular because of the comic series and appearances but I didn't see the cartoon and toys until years later.  It may have been a regional thing. I grew up in Alabama.  We had swamps.  They weren't very fascinating to us.


And speaking of riding zeitgeists, you were in Road Trip!  That wave of teen sex comedies in the late nineties to early aughts was pretty dang impressive.  Any cool stories from that era?

ROAD TRIP was great because it's the gift that keeps on giving. 

[Laughs]

 It seems to play on TBS about once a week and I have made more off of it than any other film I've done, without a doubt. And it was so much fun to work on. It was Todd Phillips' first feature and I knew he would go on to be huge. THE HANGOVER, OLD SCHOOL, but it all started with ROAD TRIP! And Ivan Reitman, who produced the film, actually directed some of the scenes I was in. He seemed to be mentoring Todd. Do I even have to mention what a thrill it was to work for Ivan Reitman? He literally directed most of my favorite films.


I get asked a lot about working with Tom Green. He couldn't be further from his persona. He was incredibly quiet and polite. A fantastic colleague. His show on MTV was pretty much at its peak in popularity, so crowds formed everywhere he went on set. (We filmed most of our scenes on the University of Georgia campus, so there were excited frat boys everywhere.) We overheard a group of guys planning to ambush Tom to lick him. I suppose they figured this would be a fitting tribute to such an outlandish star. Well, we told Tom and he was appropriately disturbed. He had personal security with him from that point forward.

Let's flash forward to the actual reason I tracked you down: Mountain Mafia. The cast in that film is insane to a pop culture junkie like me. You had Al Snow. You had the late Robert Z'Dar. You had The Ying Yang Twins. Please tell me you have a bunch of stories about this flick!

Well, Al Snow is always a joy to work with.  I cast him in my CAMP MASSACRE.  I've worked with him on three other films.  Wrestlers are generally good, anyway, because they know how to ad-lib and improvise.  They make a scene work.  But Al is like the sweetest guy in the world and always so entertaining to chat with.  And I wasn't on set with the Ying Yang Twins but it probably isn't too scandalous to say that they reportedly smoked an entire gallon Ziplock bag of weed before showing up on set and couldn't remember their lines.  That's just par for the course, really.

And Robert Z'Dar ...good old Bobby Z.  Man, there are so many stories and I'm not sure if any of them are safe to tell.  He arrived on set and made the producers buy him a haircut, some sweatpants, and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black.  He refused to leave his hotel room and put filming behind by seven hours.  He kept switching accents during the scene.  Southern.  English.  Irish.  And, as he was being driven back to the airport the next day, he demanded to be let out on the side of the road where he promptly took a shit in someone's front yard.

Now, granted, he was having a major problem with alcohol at the time and is reportedly doing much better these days.  But it was a challenging shoot.


Low budget film making leads to all kinds of MacGyver-esque special effects cheats.  Are there any in your films you are especially proud of?

Near the end of CAMP MASSACRE, there's a scene where Andy, played by the excellent T.J. Moreschi, runs through a wall.  I thought it would be funny to see a fat guy run through a wall.  The film is full of these great sight gags.  You seldom see overweight people in horror movies so I thought it would be a great opportunity to poke fun at some of the slasher cliches.  We can't hide in the closet or under the bed.  We can't outrun the killer.  So, we have to think of other methods of survival.  So, the character slings his girth through the wall to escape, LOONEY TUNES style.

It looks fantastic.  A lot of it was just framing the shot.  We shot it at an angle so you never actually see the point of exit.  We constructed a basic frame and leaned it against the back of the cabin.  Three or four of us hid in the shadows with armloads of wood and debris.  On action, T.J. takes off running as we drop the frame and toss the wood.  It sounds so simple and ridiculous but it really does look great.  The frame hits the ground and this big cloud of dirt and leaves flies up.  Movie magic.


Okay so Camp Massacre: One: how bummed are you the original title of "Fat Chance" didn't go through?  and two: actually, I didn't plan a two, this is an excuse for you to talk about it!

I had a ... period of adjustment.  FAT CHANCE was a labor of love that I had worked on since I first wrote the script in 2008.   I know all of these great character actors, many of them overweight, and we all lamented at the lack of truly iconic roles for guys like us.  As I said earlier, you don't see many roles for big folks and the roles that are there are usually lame.  It's usually there to make a point, like a positive affirmation "don't make fun of fat people" message.  The characters aren't treated like real people.  I wanted to change that and the best course of action seemed to be to put as many fat actors into a film that I could find.  FAT CHANCE - They're starving ... to death.  I always loved a good catch line.

And then the distributor decides to play down the entire "fat" angle.  CAMP MASSACRE - Survive the night!  It doesn't even mean anything.  It's about as generic and milquetoast as it comes.  But what do I know?  I'm biased.  Their job is to make money.  I can't complain ... it's still my film, my vision.  My only fear is that some people may be disappointed when they're expecting to watch a sleek, sexy slasher and instead watch a bunch of funny fat guys running through the woods.
 


I am a Cannon Films Junkie, so I ask everyone this: what makes the perfect action scene?

It's got to be over the top and ridiculous.  Have you ever seen a real street fight?  It's boring.  There's a lot of hair pulling and t-shirt tugging.  Some grappling.  A stray punch may actually get thrown here and there.  But they're seldom very exciting.  It's the same reason I prefer WWE to MMA.  Sure, you occasionally see a really balls-out MMA fight but, more often than not, it's just two guys hugging and rolling around on the mat.  WWE is great because it's always this spectacle of bodies flying around, falling off ladders, slamming through the barricades.

Movies should be the same.  Choreographed fights are never going to look "real."  They've got to look better than real.  It's not a Cannon film but one of my favorite fight scenes is the one in THEY LIVE.  Roddy Piper and Keith David have this long, drawn out, ridiculous fight scene in an alleyway over a pair of sunglasses.  It goes on forever and it's perfect.  In CAMP MASSACRE, we had a fight between Ritz, played by Al Snow, and our killer.  It devolves into them throwing snack cakes at each other ... just the way it should.


Remember when I said I was done with Swamp Thing questions? I lied. Swamp Thing vs Man-Thing: who's cooler?

I'm actually a big fan of both.  I think Swamp Thing is easier to relate to but Man-Thing has the metaphysical stuff down.  

Finally, is there anything you want to ask me? 

Who is your Daddy and what does he do?

My daddy's just some guy who was born in Egypt and when you figure out what he does, please tell me. 

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