His name flew into my radar in ’96, when “Tromeo and Juliet” found its way into our happy household. The delightful movie, both horrifying and erudite, quickly became a favorite among the Happy Cloud Picture family and over the years we got to know most of the Tromaniacs responsible in one way or another, particularly Lloyd Kaufman and Debbie Rochon, who remain close friends of ours to this day. James Gunn was a name I would remember and watch out for.
When the new millennium kicked over Gunn’s underrated superhero comedy, “The Specials”, arrived on the scene and, for my money, tromped the s**t out of “Mystery Men”. It was cool to see a pair of Troma guys (namely Gunn and his brother, Sean) hanging out with Rob Lowe and Thomas Hayden Church. It seemed to justify what we were doing on the ultra-low end of the indie scene.
A lot of Troma fans got excited when it was announced that Gunn was writing “Scooby-Doo”. It made him the ultimate “Troma-boy done good”. The ultimate pre-Boomer cartoon comedy was going to be a cool, subversive live-action feature rife with drug humor and post-modern philosophy—or so we thought. Those in the loop learned as it went along that much of the (im)mature humor was being jettisoned to keep “Scooby” in the realm of kiddie culture. Resulting in a movie that was surprisingly fun, but minus of the desired drug-references we had all dreamed of. (“Yeah, Scooby Snacks are, like, hash brownies and Gun’ll finally make that clear!”)
Then came the heresy news: he was writing the script for the big-budget remake of “Dawn of the Dead”. Romero fans across the world were calling for his blood. How dare he? He was going to desecrate a classic! When it was released, they all calmed down. The consensus: the new “Dawn” was a terrific zombie movie. Zombies were scary again. Not so great a “remake”, per se, but a wonderful gut-muncher.
And what was more, even when Gunn was getting showered with Hollywood money, he never seemed to forget or even shy away from his roots. He’d still pop up in Troma extras—most notably in the otherwise execrable “Tales of the Crapper” where he admits he sold his soul to the devil.
And then “SLiTHER” was announced. Gunn’s directorial debut was going to be a balls-out aliens-attack bloody-fun throwback to the good ol’ days of “Re-Animator”.
And then we saw the trailer.
It was a red “R-Band” trailer, for Christ’s sake! And it starred Nathan Fillion, the new King of Cool thanks to “Firefly” in the minds of the uber-fans. So across the country, horror geeks are bouncing in their chairs, waiting and waiting for March 31, when “SLiTHER” will finally be released.
Amy and I actually got the chance to meet James Gunn last September at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors in New York. Appropriately, Debbie introduced us, and we hung out for a few minutes, talking about “SLiTHER” and trading contact info. So a few weeks later, I dropped Mr. Gunn a line and sent him some interview questions.
While I don’t usually like email interviews, preferring the spontaneity of phone or in-person talks, I felt that I’d asked some good questions and was confident I’d get good responses. I did, less than an hour later.
What follows is the James Gunn interview, virtually every psychotic word of it, both on his part and mine.
Get the interview in part two of WHAT MAKES JAMES GUNN SLITHER?>>>