Cecil b Demented is a film about film making
Yeah, it's a film about terrorism, about politics - a satirical comedy, a political comedy.
Are you getting people saying you are trying to appease that - the whole post modern Scream crowd?
No, most people see it as it's supposed to be, a comedy about how what you have to do to have an edge. Hollywood thinks it has edge, do I have to set myself on fire, trash a fancy hotel room and kill two people, would that make you prove I have edge still? To me that's kind of a joke, but that's sort of a spin on it too.They say write what you know, I knew 60's terrorism really well and radical terrorism and cults - I still know a lot about that - I read all about them - I have a giant library on them and I know the movie-business and I put them together. And think how exciting it would be, if movie going was that political. It started with Film Direct and in Film Direct they had a joke as an article saying that readers should attack the offices of Premiere Magazine, only some did and their lawyers, like flipped up and had to put a retraction in. I love that idea of Screen on the Green forming a pact and just started whacking the multiplexes - if you had wars here - if people lost their lives through their taste in film. If reviewers attacked other reviewers; If there was complete war because of movie-taste. I felt that could be funny.
Some critics are bound to say that you are Cecil
I am and I'm not - I didn't have cinema in my family. My father lent me the money to make Mondo Trasho and I paid him back. He lent me the money to make Multiple Maniacs, I paid him back and then he lent me the money to make Pink Flamingos and then I started to pay him back and then he said you're set up in business, don't pay me back and don't ask again. I had very loving parents, even though every one of the movies I made were completely against everything that they believed in, and no one said they were good for ten years. Cecil B Demented's parents do not give him any money, they force him to work in a movie-theatre, which would drive anybody crazy. Then even after his big moment when he's known all over the country - it's his Oscar, when he's going to kill himself at a drive-in movie, as he gets the last shot for his movie, they humiliate him by standing out in front of the press and the national guard, and say whatever made you think you could direct? So that's very different.I'm like him because I was demented enough not to realise that when we were young. Like asking Divine to eat dog shit, I asked Mink Stole to set her hair on fire and she said yes, so that's why I put that in this movie. But that's because we were on marijuana and he's not on marijuana, but we were! (laughter) In a matter of fact he doesn't take drugs. He encourages drugs in his leading man because all cult leaders don't allow humour and they encourage drug use so that they are more controllable. If I controlled my actors it was so that hopefully they'd still get money from movies and I think it was a little more communistic - semi-fascistic at the time. Even though Mink Stole saw the movie and said to me - that is you, she was angry that I'd put the hair burning thing in there but I'm glad she said no. You could be disfigured, I could be put in prison! I meant it as a tribute to youthful lunacy but its just as much about Jim Jones and Manson and the Meinhopf gang, there are cults everywhere and they'll continue to be everywhere and I tried to make a comedy about a cult.
There's an Internet review that has asked that if you are in the underground why criticise Hollywood? In the film the line is, "what ever made you think you can direct" but the review is reading that as, 'why criticise Hollywood when they clearly make a better product?'
I don't think that's true though. I think there are terrible Hollywood movies and terrible independent movies, you don't judge it like that, you judge by it's genre, its script and whether its original or not. I've said this before but its true, Cecil says that Hollywood corrupted our violence, stole our sex and there's nothing left but this. That's bad for Cecil B Demented and very good for John Waters because I wouldn't have been able to make this movie if that hadn't happened, I couldn't have used this subject matter 10 years ago. Its a Hollywood underground movie maybe, I've made every kind of movie and there's nothing that's different any more! (laughter) What's the first Blair Witch? The second one's exploitation, good, we finally have an exploitation movie again! They had no choice in following it up in that way, everyone was waiting for it. What would call the first one that grossed $150m? It's not an underground movie but it certainly was because it came from nowhere - it defied every rule of professional filmmaking and Hollywood is looking for that. There are no rules now - the paycheques are different because if you make a Hollywood movie you get more but they give you more shit!
Given what that reviewer said, do you think that there is more reading and psychoanalysing of your films?
You just have to sit back and watch it. I used to read reviews about Pink Flamingos that would say its a Capitalist movie or a Communist movie but, believe me, I wasn't thinking about that when I wrote it! Its like art talk. I love really extreme art writing, its really funny and quite impossible for people to understand. "We've been agonising over the mutated grid!" (laughter) I love all that and I can write it but the one's that take it most seriously can write it the best.
Are you seeing anything at the London Film Festival?
I'm not even going to be here! I'd like to be I'm doing a thing in Oxford tomorrow and then I have to go back for a lecture in Montana on Wednesday.
Are you still lecturing and teaching?
Yeah, not teaching though because that was in prison, I just visit now! (laughter)
What's the lecture about?
Well, its about everything. Certainly it's about good and bad taste, everything from hairdo's to murder trials to nudist camp movies to obscure foreign art movies. Its a portrait of everything that I like.
Do still go to trials?
I can't anymore because I get recognised and I'm afraid that the jury will take it out on the defendant and give them 10 more years! (laughter) Then the press come over and think I'm making a movie out of it!
What was the last trial you went to?
The last time I was recognised and that's why I haven't been since and it was a touchy case. It was a kid and his girlfriend who had murdered a psychiatric nurse in a hospital after supposedly watching a lot of violent movies. It was a loaded case, the nurse was black and they were white so there were so many issues and he had the worst lawyer. As soon as the press came over I left, I couldn't do it anymore. OJ ruined it! Before court TV it was much more glamorous because there were 10 seats open to the public, you had to wait for days to get in. To see Patty Hearst I slept there! You had to go to another state, wait in line for days on end and they hated you. You were scum for wanting to see this so they make you stand up in the line. At the Watergate trial I went with my mother and my father said (mimics deep Neanderthal voice), "What would make you want to see other men's misery"! (much laughter) We had to stand up for like 14 hours in the cold night outside. But it was worth it because they gave you earphones and I'm one of the few people in the world who heard Nixon say 'Arsehole.' (laughter) It was worth it!
Have you done anything to embrace new technologies?
I'm for it but my friends say, "you who's written 15 movies and 4 books with pens on legal pads. You who can't even turn on your computer but make your assistant look up all the perverted web sites. You who would never shoot on digital unless they were ripping my 35mm camera from my cold dead fingers!" (laughter) But I'm for it because all the kids are starting their criminal artistic behaviour on web sites and its anarchy, there are no rules or laws or parents, its the Wild West. It's already a secret world of deviancy and so its already a new underground and I'm for it.
I remember you saying in an interview that video is best suited for porn.
I'll say this at Oxford tomorrow. I think kids should make nudist camp movies with their friends on digital because they can then alter their crotches! (laughter) Think how much fun that would be? We've had body piercing and tattoos but now you can switch crotches and mutate them! (laughter) I'd shoot on it if I wanted it to look like digital but generally people want me to shoot on it because it will be cheaper. I think it worked very well on Dancer in the Dark, it became a style and looked great but I don't want to do it. The money people don't know one thing about the look of it, they just know it'll be cheaper.
What do you think about Dogme 95?
Its the best piece of marketing since William Castle put buzzers under the seats in The Tingler. I don't remember people talking about Scandinavian films until that year! (laughter) It is a brilliant, hilarious marketing tool that they also thought was funny themselves, I believe. The Idiots was the best one for me, I loved that one.