Zach Galligan Interview

Zach Galligan

Zach Galligan is best known as being Billy Peltzer in Gremlins 1 & 2, but he’s also so much more. He’s acted in classics such as Waxwork 1 & 2, cameoed in Warlock 2 and Hellraiser 3 (wonderfully impaled with a pool cue), walked the boards on stage, starred in TV dramas as diverse as Dr Quinn Medicine Woman and Tales From The Crypt and teaches at NYU.

His latest film, Cut, is released on February 22nd and is a genuine world first (Guinness World Record confirmation pending).

Gorepress had the honour of chatting with Zach about Cut, directing, horror porn, zombie films, a bawdy sex comedy, Gremlins 3 and filming in Wales…

GP : You’re in Britain for the premiere of Cut on Friday.

ZG : That’s correct.

How did you get involved with Cut?

The internet age is a funny thing. I opened up my e-mail box one morning and Dominic [Burns - Cut’s Michael] had sent me a script for a comedy called The Ten Year Itch and he tried to get financing for it. He came close but he didn’t manage to do it, and he sort of disappeared for a couple of years. The next thing I know I’ve got another message in my e-mail box at the end of 2008 saying “Hey, you remember when we were going to do The Ten Year Itch? We couldn’t get financing for it, but we can get financing for this movie. What do you think about it?”. So I read it and I was like, I sort of feel like we’ve seen this movie before, and then he explained to me the whole thing about it being in one continuous take and that got me really intrigued.

It’s a very unique idea – where did that come from?

I’m pretty sure it was Dominic’s idea, ‘cause he presented it to me pretty much as a done deal and said “this is the way we’re going to do it”. I was intrigued by it because I basically thought it was pretty much impossible.

It must have taken a huge amount of rehearsing.

Yeah, it was much more like a play really. I mean, we probably rehearsed it for ten days and then shot it for about six.

You’ve done a lot of theatre in the past – do you prefer theatre to film?

I think both have really good qualities. Theatre you get the immediate reaction of the audience and immediate feedback. But film, if it’s good, you get to keep it forever and watch it forever, but if it’s bad the same rule applies.

What is Cut about?

It’s about five people trapped in an English countryside mansion suddenly under attack by people they don’t know for reasons they can’t comprehend. Most of the movie is kind of ambiguous, you don’t really understand what’s going on or why and hopefully that’s exciting. Towards the end of the movie they kind of reveal what is going on.

Is Cut a ninety minute film even though it’s one continuous shot?

Well… the way it’s done – it’s not ninety minutes, no – it’s a bit difficult to explain, you have to see it. The opening of the movie is shot just like a regular movie, and you think “wait a minute, I thought this was in one continuous shot?” but then it pulls back and you realise that the regular movie you’re seeing is on a TV screen. And then the credits roll and it picks up from where you saw the TV screen and the guy turns the horror movie off. From the second the guy turns the horror movie off it’s sixty-six minutes of new film and all done on one steady-cam shot.

There’s no room for mistakes there.

[Laughs] Absolutely not.

Is this the first British movie you’ve worked on?

I did a movie called Prince Valiant back in 1996 with Steven Moyer, who is now in True Blood, and we shot that in Wales, so I guess Cut’s my second. But I don’t really count the Prince Valiant one ‘cause it was so removed from civilization, it was like three weeks shooting on a heath.

That’s Wales for you.

[Laughs] Surrounded by sheep and hills. It was in the UK, but it didn’t really seem like I was part of civilization, it was like I was just shooting it in a field.

You work with Danielle Lloyd on Cut, which is her first feature film. She’s probably best known in the UK for being herself rather than as an actress. How was she to work with?

I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised by how she acquits herself in it. I don’t want to give away too much, but she’s only in the film for about three or four minutes. I would imagine people’s expectations will be surpassed.

Now inevitably, there has to be a question or two on Gremlins. How do you feel about people still recognizing you mainly for these iconic films, even though the last one was made twenty years ago?

It doesn’t bother me. You know, most actors want to be recognised for something as opposed to be being recognised for nothing. One of the reasons Robert Downey Jnr. decided to do Iron Man was because he’d been an actor for, what, twenty years and he’d done a tonne of stuff and there was a huge number of people who hadn’t really seen him in anything. And one of the reasons he did Iron Manwas because he thought “I’m guaranteed that people will go and see this movie and see my work in it”. I mean, if you look at Johnny Depp, he had been an actor for about fifteen years before Pirates of the Caribbean and a lot of people who watch films knew him and knew he was really talented but a lot of casual movie-goers had absolutely no idea who he was. And then he did Pirates of the Caribbean and everyone was like “Woah, who is this guy, he’s so great?” and I was like “Are you kidding me? That guy’s been around for fifteen years!” But, you know, not everybody follows movies as closely as cinema buffs, a lot of people just go to two or three movies a year – the big blockbuster ones – and they know about ten or fifteen actors and that’s about it.

You’ve managed to work alongside some horror’s iconic figures – Christopher Lee, Malcolm McDowell, David Warner and even Bruce Campbell. Who are you inspired by, personally, and who would you want to work with that you haven’t already?

Well, funny you say that about Malcolm McDowell, because even though we were both in Cyborg 3: The Recycler together we shot on separate days. I never met the man, even though we were in the same movie. I would love to actually work with him, because he’s one of my favourite actors – I saw Gangster No. 1 when it came out and I thought that was absolutely brilliant. That was a great British film.

Are there any parts you’ve turned down before that you now regret?

[Pauses to think] There are not any parts I’ve turned down I regret, but there are parts I tried out for that, boy, I would’ve loved to have gotten. But there’s nothing I’ve turned down that I’ve thought “boy, that was
stupid”
.

Zach Galligan & Phoebe Cates

Have you heard anything about Gremlins 3?

I haven’t heard anything yet, but that rumour literally just broke a couple of weeks ago, and that leads me to believe that they’re probably between six to nine months away from a finished script or an announcement or anything like that. Until that happens, I would have no idea if they would be interested in Phoebe [Cates – who played Kate in Gremlins 1 & 2] and I participating in any way, or whether they’re just going to reboot it. Who knows? It’s so impossible to tell. I’m hoping they’re going to do something like they’re doing with Ghostbusters where they have something like Phoebe and myself as the parents and us, now it’s been twenty years, having a couple of teenage kids.

People would want to see you back in it, so it would make sense to do something like that.

Well, if you go to any of the horror boards there seems to be two camps. A lot of people are like “I have no interest in the remake” and some people are like “bring back Zach and Phoebe or else I’m not going”. So there’s been a lot of speculation and chatter on the internet about it and hopefully I’ll have a reasonably good part in it. I really wouldn’t be interested in doing a couple of lines, walk-on thing; that’d be like “what’s the point in doing that?”

I’m hoping that Gremlins 3 and Ghostbusters 3 will be continuations and not remakes. Recently, they’ve remade pretty much everything from Halloween and Friday the 13th to Last House on the Left to A Nightmare on Elm Street. Are you hoping they stick to their guns and make it a third one?

Right.

They may of course move towards CGI and 3D – how do you feel about that?

Well, I really wasn’t that much of a fan of CGI until I saw Avatar, and the CGI in 3-D is so amazing.

It’s pretty epic.

[Laughs] It’s pretty epic. The real problem with CGI is that on 2-D it looks like a cartoon. With 3-D it looks much more like a real thing. I think 3-D is really cool if it’s done properly. I don’t think people should start doing regular movies in 3-D, like I can’t imagine why you’d do Gosford Park in 3-D. You’d have to something – it can’t be like a drawing room comedy – it has to be something spectacular.

Well, in regard to Gremlins 3, or the potential of it, would you prefer the puppets to come back or have them CGI?

I think probably a mix. I think that’s one of the false kind of things where people are like “Puppets? CGI? Puppets? CGI?” I’m like, why don’t we do a mix of puppets and CGI and do a little less puppets than the second one, as that one nearly killed everyone involved as there were so many bleeding puppets in it! Let’s throw some CGI in when we can, and use puppets when we can’t.

You’ve moved through the horror genre for over two decades, have things vastly changed in how horror is made and perceived?

[Sighs ponderously] That’s an excellent question. It’s difficult to say… but I would probably say… it’s actually a pretty complicated question. I guess some of the trends that I’ve seen have been, like… wow. It’s difficult. You know, in the 70’s there was sort of a certain genre like the original Last House on the Left – this kind of sadistic film, like what people call a torture porn kind of a movie. Then that went out of vogue and got replaced by splatter films during most of the 80’s. And now it seems like a lot of the horror films are combinations of splatter films and more torture porn films like Hostel and Turistas [released as 'Paradise Lost' in the UK], and basically a lot of the horror movies are about torturing people. My friend Cary Elwes was actually in Saw, which I thought was really brilliant, but then Saw 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 were just about torturing people. I don’t think it’s good for the genre, I think it reflects poorly on the genre. You don’t have to make people suffer so much, and makes me wonder why people enjoy watching other people suffer.

I agree entirely. I’ve personally never been a fan of the torture-porn genre. But somehow it’s made horror more commercially viable for Hollywood. How do you think Hollywood perceives horror now? It’s always been viewed as the black sheep of the family.

Well, I think there was a period, like with The Ring (which was a great horror movie) where A-list stars started saying “horror’s really big now” and you’d have people like Jennifer Connelly doing Dark Water, which I thought was a cool movie too. So we started having these A-list people doing horror films and stuff like that, and we still do to a certain extent, but now it seems like because there was no great break-out hit horror movie starring a lead person [it’s unpopular again].

The Crazies is out this month starring Timothy Olyphant, although he’s not huge, he’s a reasonably big name.

Well even the Dawn of the Dead remake wasn’t that huge. What you need to do is a have some horror movies with a person starring in it, a real A-list kind of name, go through the roof. I think I Am Legend nearly came close to that –

The Will Smith vehicle.

Yeah, but in a way that was sort of like a sci-fi movie too, because it was the end of the world, apocalyptic.

It’s a strange genre, horror. You’ve worked in it for years, and your film previous to Cut was Nightbeasts – which was Wes Sullivan’s first feature since working in the animation department at Disney – an amazing crossover from animator to horror film writer / director.

Yeah.

Have you ever considered branching out into directing or writing yourself?

Funny you said that. I teach acting at NYU in the film department; it’s a bit difficult to explain the affiliation. I have nothing but NYU students as my pupils, and I have started directing short films with the kids, or with the college graduate programme. I have actually now started getting high-definition cameras, worked with actors, done the editing, been in the editing room, cut it together, added the sound, added the music and everything like that, so I have started making films – this film was only about nine minutes – now I’m going to start doing a couple more and move onto doing twenty minutes. And once you can make a twenty minute movie, I’m pretty sure you can make a ninety minute movie. Maybe not with sophisticated effects yet, but you can certainly do something like… I mean, I’ve got an idea to do a horror movie. My family’s country house is on this place called Shelter Island, there was actually a bad horror movie made about it, called Shelter Island.

That’s right.

Starring Patsy Kensit and Stephen Baldwin. I’m there every summer, and around this time in February it’s pitch black and unbelievably cold and deserted, and I thought it’s an amazing locale for a zombie movie. It’s so isolated and deserted.

Are you a big fan of the zombie genre?

I think it’s the best one. If I had to pick a favourite genre, I’d pick the Romero movies; zombie movies.

I think the entirety of the people at Gorepress agree – we love our zombies!

I can never get enough of them either. I just think it’s brilliant. It can shed light on human beings in so many ways too, you know, like Shaun of Dead is so brilliant too.

What’s your favourite zombie film in the last decade?

[Pauses for thought] Probably 28 Days Later.

That is an excellent film. What’d you think of the sequel?

I thought it was quite good. It didn’t get a lot of… I dunno. It’s strange, I see a lot of sequels and think “that’s really clever and interesting, good sequel” and people are like “nah, I didn’t like it”. People are difficult to please. I think people wanna go back and, for whatever reason, they want to see the exact same thing again.

I think that’s why Saw does so well, isn’t it?

Yeah, yeah, it’s the exact same thing.

So what’s next for you after Cut?

Well, ironically in about six or seven weeks we start shooting the original script that Dom sent me – The Ten Year Itch. And that’s not a horror movie.

So what’s that about?

It’s a nice bawdy sex comedy.

Is that set in Britain as well?

It is! It shoots in London.

Well, you can’t do a bawdy sex comedy unless it’s in Britain.

[Laughs] Exactly.

And finally, with the internet age as you mentioned earlier, what’s the most ridiculous rumour you’ve heard about yourself online?

That I was found dead in an apartment.

And that wasn’t true?

Well, you’re talking to me now, so clearly that’s not true…

Thanks for talking to Gorepress, Zach.

Thank you very much. Cheers.

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