|Hi James --- can you start everyone off
with a visual and describe the room where you are
answering these questions?
I'm in my office. The walls
are crimson red. I have a wall rack of
power pop CD's on one side of me, a shelf with
some of my favorite toys -- Rom, Spaceknight,
some Ultramans, and so forth -- on the other, and
a computer in front of me. Also in front of
me is a big bulletin board with index cards
mapping out an entirely different screenplay than
the one I'm doing now. Sometimes I use the
cards, sometimes I don't. These ones are
Okay, first off I
want to talk about 'Slither' (2006). As
writer and director why not give us a plot teaser
that will make seeing it irresistible to all the www.racksandrazors.com readers?
You get to see an eleven-foot high
deformed blob of a woman explode, unleashing
27,000 slithering red parasites onto our
heroes. Then the parasites slither into our
heroes' mouths, burrowing into their brains and
taking them over. We had one woman at a
test screening vomit during this scene. I
consider that a standing ovation.
Cool. This is the
first movie in a long time -- perhaps even
the first feature -- that you have directed
entirely. Was that a decision that came
about out of a desire to control and maintain the
vision of your script or was some other factor
I didn't originally plan on
directing the script. I was attached to
another film. But as I wrote it I fell in
love with it. It's unusual tonally,
and I wasn't sure anyone would get the particular
balance of humor, horror, and character.
How was the
experience -- was directing a feature tougher or
easier than you imagined? What was the most
challenging aspect of that whole process for you?
It was easier than I
imagined. Physically, it was brutal.
But I got lucky with a great cast and crew who
made it all flow smoothly. The most
challenging aspect was the visual effects -- some
of the companies were a pain in the ass -- and
the puppets, who have a mind of their own.
The puppets are a bunch of bastards.
What was your
predominant memory of filming -- any instance
that make you squirm or beam in the director's
Sure, lots. But my most
embarrassing memory was off-screen, when I walked
in on Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, and Gregg
Henry having a threesome. Together they
formed a more hideous creature than I ever could
So you got into
the business working for Troma -- how did you go
from applying for a job there to writing and
(partially directing) the classic 'Tromeo and
Juliet' in no time flat?
Lloyd heard I was a writer, and
offered me the screenplay job the first time we
met. He'd already had two drafts of Tromeo
written by dudes who weren't
writers. So knowing what a past participle
is was all I needed to get the job.
Now I think most
of the readers have fantasies about what it would
be like working for that studio -- you created
the 'Tromaville Cafe' series, did a Sgt
Kabukiman Public Service Announcement, and
God knows what else. What was the most
surprising thing about working day to day in
It's remarkably like any office,
except with more people screaming at each other.
As co-writer of
the Lloyd Kaufman memoir All
I Needed To Know About Filmmaking I Learned From
The Toxic Avenger what do
you see as the key to the man's success and the
success of Troma?
I think Lloyd would disagree with
you about his success. He calls me on a
weekly basis telling me Troma only has weeks to
live. He's been telling me this for almost
ten years. But the key to his success is
his perseverance, his shamelessness about
self-promotion, and that he loves making
You also wrote the
screenplay for the 2004 "reimagining"
'Dawn of the Dead'. First off --- was
reimagining your word? Is that
basically "inspired by, and we're using the
title" or does it mean something different
No, reimagining was
Universal's word. It's basically an
acknowledgement that I didn't use the plot from
the original Dawn, only the
premise and title. Our Dawn is another way the story could have
What did you want
to achieve with the screenplay -- did you have
any goal or message or objective?
I wanted to have a great
time writing, which I did. It had been too
Any feedback from
George Romero on what he thought about it?
Yes. He said it was
much better than he thought it was going to
be. Considering he probably thought it was
going to be the biggest piece of shit of all
time, that's not saying much. The second
biggest piece of shit of all time would be better
than he thought it was going to be.
I also read
somewhere that you have had recurring zombie
nightmares since you were a kid? Did they
increase, decrease, vanish, or continue
unaffected after you penned the screenplay for
the zombie movie of all zombie movies?
They disappeared after I
wrote Dawn of the Dead. I
passed them on to a new generation of kids too
young to see the movie.
You also wrote the
screenplays for both the 'Scooby Doo'
movies. That brings up an interesting
question -- is it easier or more challenging
for you as a writer to work with characters that
have already been imagined & established
in another medium or form?
challenging. At least for me. I'd
rather create my own characters, which is one of
the reasons Dawn is the way it
is. That's why I'd find it very difficult
being a TV staff writer, writing around these
characters who have already been established.
Going along with
that how does your writing process vary with
original versus adapted material? Is there
a creative difference in the process?
Well, I had to do more
research with the Scooby movies
than with anything else. Watching the old
episodes, reading the old scripts, and so
on. Besides that, I find my process varies
from project to project, more based upon my
feelings than the material. Sometimes I
feel like outlining, sometimes I feel like just
writing away and seeing what happens.
Do you have any
other future or current projects you would like
to plug, promote, or mention for the racks and
The movie my wife
Jenna Fischer wrote and directed, LolliLove,
is being released on video on March 7. It's
more fucked up than anything I've ever
written. Also, we're going to keep putting
up new crap at the SLITHER web
site, www.slithermovie.net .
We're pulling the
car into the James Gunn Drive In. What
three horror movies are you going to be showing
on the triple bill and what goodies are you going
to be serving up at the concession stand?
I'd say Basketcase,
Rosemary's Baby, and maybe Alien.
At the concession stand there will be Red Vines
fresh from the factory and small cartons of
1% milk. Oh, and barely legal
prostitutes. You know, for after.
What frightens you
in real life?
People who don't use their
blinkers and black licorice.