This is my first interview for Film Threat in some time and as a fan of Rick Sloane’s since growing up with his films, I have always been chasing an interview with him and I couldn’t think of a better way to break my long hiatus.
When I was an impressionable kid here in Australia, Rick’s films would play on pay-TV endlessly and I would watch marathon after marathon of his enclave of films that only he could make. A cacophony of uneven line delivery from some of his performers, stories with a monomaniacal predilection for silliness and throw in “BimboCop” to boot and you have an indelible career from a director who was not always overwhelming with savoir-faire but nonetheless a guy who set out to make great campy movies. That is exactly what he did, and he made some successful genre deviations along the way as well. Comedy is where the man’s best (or worst) work is done, however… depending on your sense of humor, that is.
Now after an eight year absence, Rick Sloane is finally making a comeback with a long-awaited sequel to his 1988 hit “Hobgoblins.” For “Hobgoblins 2,” Rick has assembled a great new cast and has employed the exact same wardrobe from the original, which he has obviously been saving all these years in case something like this might happen. A lot has happened in the film world since 1998 and now that Rick Sloane has been unleashed after just short of a decade, in 2007 can we expect that all that built-up energy is going to make for one of his best films yet?
I now present to you the man who showed me that it is possible to make six installments of his own B-movie franchise and be quite willing to make several more if given the chance. The following interview celebrates the long career of Rick Sloane and his return to the director’s chair with “Hobgoblins 2.”
How did you get into this crazy precarious business?
Originally, I wanted to be an animator. It’s one of the reasons that some of the titles in my early films are all animated. I also considered being a trailer editor, since I always found trailers incredibly fascinating. It’s funny how really bad films usually have really good trailers. The tag lines they use, especially the ones for horror and exploitation films, are always really clever. My personal favorite tag line, I can’t even remember what movie it was for, I think someone was hanging on a meat-hook and it went: “by sword, by pick, by axe, bye-bye.” I went to junior college when I was 18 to study animation. In the film history class, we had to sit through all those boring pre-requisite films. I could barely keep my eyes open during “Potemkin” or “The 39 Steps.” On the last day of class, the instructor thought it would be funny to show a really bad low-budget exploitation film. He introduced the film as being 1/4 comprised from stock footage from other films, and the rest of the movie was shot in a week for something like $30,000. I instantly sat up in my seat, I had never heard of any feature being shot for so little money. I was immensely interested in seeing what this movie looked like. The film was “Hollywood Boulevard,” shot in 1975 by Joe Dante and Allan Arkush. I sat in awe for ninety minutes, by what they were able to pull off in that movie. I always thought of feature films as costing millions of dollars, taking months to shoot, and that it was a pointless goal to aspire to, since the likelihood of being a studio director is about a million to one. Watching that film was possibly the single biggest career changing moment I had. I knew by the time the end credits rolled, that I wanted to be a director, and make films exactly like “Hollywood Boulevard.” I have tried to mimic that film repeatedly, it’s one of the reasons I have relied on stock shots to provide car crashes and explosions rather than trying to stage dangerous scenes myself. I loved Mary Woronov in that film so much, that when I did my first feature three years later, she was the one name actor I chose to be in the film. Of course, I was the only one in that film class who liked the film. Everyone else hated it, one person said, I bet no one who worked on that film ever went on to do anything else in the industry. Let’s see if I remember a few of the key people who worked on it. The director Joe Dante, went on to “Gremlins.” The art director, Jonathan Demme went on to “Silence of The Lambs.” And some of the stock footage was from early Corman films, one directed by Francis Ford Coppola and one by Ron Howard. I can’t think of any other film that can boast of that many A-list directors working on it.
What was it like being a low-budget filmmaker in L.A. in the late 80s and early 90s?
I got in the business at a very good time. It was right when there were about 40,000 mom and pop video stores across the country, and you could get instant distribution on practically anything that was feature length. The boom ended in 1991, and as the corner shops closed down, the buying price for video rights plummeted. To give you an idea how badly the bottom fell out of the market, for “Vice Academy 3,” I was able to get $75,000 for domestic video rights, for “Part 4,” the best offer I could find was $7,000, and that was only 2 years later. By the time I did “Part 5,” not one company would pay any advance to get the film, so it debuted on USA Network and never had any video release.
How did “Vice Academy” come about?
I came up with the concept of that one, and it took forever to find the right title for it. It was based on the concept of “Charlie’s Angels” and “Police Woman,” about female undercover cops who are always chosen to be hookers, or strippers, or anything with an excuse to be barely dressed and heavily made-up.
I wanted a film about the training school they would go to, where they’d learn all the top secret tricks to act like cheap sluts. It was also inspired by “Angel,” an 80s exploitation film with a tag line, “student by day, hooker by night”. The poster showed her innocent on one side and tramped out on the other. I wanted the girls in “Vice Academy” to look innocent in the school scenes, than show a startling difference when they were undercover as hookers. There was a problem, both Ginger Lynn and Linnea Quigley were so trashy looking, that even with make-up and wardrobe, I was never able to make either one of them look wholesome.
“Pulp Fiction” actor Duane Whitaker was a staple of your films in the late 80s/early 90s. What did you see in him that made you want to re-use him over and over?
Any actor I like, I will always write a role for in my next film and work with again and again. Some actors have been in as many as ten of my films. Duane was one of the first real actors I worked with. Doing comedies with people who’ve never done a movie before is very tough, they never got the jokes in the script and their delivery always ruined the punchline. When Duane came in to read for “Hobgoblins,” he was the first actor I ever met who nailed every single line exactly as it was meant to be said. He would have been in many more of my projects, but by the time he was in “Pulp Fiction,” I think he had outgrown my films.
I am going to go through some of your other staple performers from your earlier films and I would like you talk about each of them.
Let me talk about the actors I enjoyed working with first, then I’ll get to the ones everyone really wants to hear about.
My all time favorite actress to work with. Jayne and I are still very close friends. I call her my surrogate mother, though she’s only nine years older than me. I love her as Miss Devonshire; she really brought that character to life. It is a true pleasure to work with her. I was so disappointed when she had to bow out of “Vice Academy 3” because of a job conflict.
Jay was so perfect to play the Commissioner. He had such an uncanny comic delivery. With each sequel, I would write his dialogue the way he would have reworded it himself. He never liked playing that milk-toast character. He preferred villain roles much more. He was usually the most work to return for each sequel. Starting with “Part 4,” he just got tired of the role, which I still think is one of the best characters he has ever played.
I actually went to junior high school with Honey. We weren’t friends, she was smoking at 13, and I was still reading comic books. But we knew each other from class. Twenty years later, she came in to read for “Good Girls Don’t,” she had changed her last name by then. We recognized each other instantly, she also became a cast regular. She was classic as Tiffany Berkowitz in the “Vice Academy 4 & 5.”
I’m the only person who calls her Tami. I gave her the very first role when she first came to Hollywood. I think she’s in more of my films than almost anyone else I’ve worked with. We hadn’t spoken in years; I really wanted her to reprise Fantazia in “Hobgoblins 2.” She got greedy and wanted $500 for four hours work, I told her no.
How can I say this politely? With Linnea, there is only one direction she knows how to take, speak louder. She’s very cute and sweet, but I think she has no sense of comic timing. Her delivery was always painful for me to hear. More than once, I would give her lines to Ginger, who understood the jokes better. Linnea also took really bad advice from her agent, when she passed on “Vice Academy 3,” even though it would have been her biggest paycheck. Let’s see, when I offered Linnea the script for “Vice 3,” her agent read it and said she considered it “far beneath Linnea’s abilities.” (Is such a thing possible?) She alienated so many directors with ridiculously high salary demands that no one wanted to work for her after that. Sorry Linnea, but I think the “Vice Academy” films improved when Liz Kaitan took over the lead role.
I know everyone is waiting to read this one, the feud between Ginger and I is fairly well known. I really liked working with Ginger in the first two “Vice Academy” films. She was the first porn star I ever worked with, and I was amazed at her comedic abilities. I think she’s very underrated at doing comedy. I think she’s God awful in dramatic roles, as I painfully learned in “Mind, Body & Soul.” She doesn’t come off as likable, and her delivery is always deadpan, and that’s when she is able to remember her lines. She burned her bridges with me on “MB&S.” She was three and a half hours late every day, drugged out of her mind, (how badly was she stoned? think of Britney Spears today), she never learned any of her dialogue, then it would take two hours to do her make-up, since she constantly left to use her cell phone for long personal calls, or do a little pick me up in the trailer. We were lucky if she even got on set before lunchtime. “MB&S” was a flop, she was terrible in it, then to add insult to injury, she did interviews calling me the worst director she ever worked with. Hey, I guess she’s prouder of her porn work. I got even by using outtakes from her “Vice” films in the later installments. Since she went to prison in real life, so did her character. Hey, payback is a bitch, but so is, let me stop there.
The interview continues in Part 2 of Born to be Bad: Interview with Director Rick Sloane>>>