Interviews

LARRY COHEN INTERVIEW

By • Dec 21st, 2009 •

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Although he now lives in Hollywood, you just can’t think of a Larry Cohen film without synonymously thinking of New York City. His insurgent style of filmmaking has helped to capture the best and worst of the greatest city in the world to the point where the city itself became an essential character in many of Cohen’s films. Born in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, Cohen got his education in film from the City College of New York, as well as New York University.

Cohen has virtually spent his entire life working in show business. A career that began in the 1950’s as a page for NBC. There he witnessed how teleplays were brought to life by cast and crew alike, most shot live- an aspect of television that’s not been practiced in prime time for decades.

He quickly broke into writing and developing television shows, such as THE DEFENDERS, BRANDED, and ARREST AND TRIAL, to name a few. He conceived THE INVADERS series from the ground up and CBS just recently released the DVD set, for which Cohen contributed new supplemental content.

His first film as director was 1972’s BONE and featured Yaphet Kotto in a brilliant performance in the leading role. Cohen’s screenplay included his trademark penchant for satire. The combination of those factors did earn BONE a momentous following. Cohen secured his spot in the history of the blaxploitation genre a year later with BLACK CAESAR, which ultimately led to its sequel HELL UP IN HARLEM. That same year, Cohen simultaneously shot the film that made him a contender in the independent horror genre with IT’S ALIVE. It was the story of a mutated baby born into an ordinary family and continues to be the one film of Cohen’s that garners him the most recognition. IT’S ALIVE is also well-noted as being the film on which he employed legendary film composer Bernard Herrmann to create the film’s score.

Cohen continued to write, direct and produce numerous noteworthy films, including the two sequels to IT’S ALIVE, GOD TOLD ME TO, Q: THE WINGED SERPENT, MANIAC COP, THE STUFF, I, THE JURY and A RETURN TO SALEM’S LOT.

In 1989, he directed screen superstar Bette Davis in her final film, WICKED STEPMOTHER, which was released as direct-to-video fare due to Davis’ ailing presence in the film. In 2002 and 2004, Cohen possibly reached a whole new and much wider audience to date with the screenplays to PHONE BOOTH and CELLULAR, both released by major studios and directed by established filmmakers.

His last directorial effort was for the MASTERS OF HORROR cable network series, entitled PICK ME UP and stood out as one of the best from both seasons. It was an artist at the top of his game. The story of competing serial killers, and sports Cohen regular Michael Moriarty in the leading role, as well as Cohen’s unmistakable sense of humor.

Cohen’s remarkable power to remain a valuable name in show business for over fifty years is proof enough of his ability and talents to tell a story, both on paper and on the big screen. He is steadily having his body of work rediscovered by new contemporaries of moviegoers and filmmakers. And despite the fact that he feels that his pictures aren’t “horror” films, being included with a mere handful of directors considered to be Masters of Horror isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Bryan Layne: Do you remember any early films that might have influenced your decision to enter the entertainment field?

Larry Cohen: When I was a kid we went to the movies at least twice a week. It was always a double feature, so I usually caught four movies during that week. There was no television back then, just radio programs. I always looked forward to seeing a movie and tried to sit through the feature a second time before the manager threw me out of the theater. I particularly loved The Warner Brothers movies. They were hard-boiled, fast-moving, very swiftly edited and they had high-energy actors like Bogart, Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. They were usually very gritty stories and that’s the kind of movies I tended to like. I also liked the movies with Errol Flynn: ROBIN HOOD, THE SEA HAWK and THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON. I liked YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, also with James Cagney. That’s probably one of my favorites. They were all directed by Michael Curtiz. I always found that most of the pictures I enjoyed were directed by Curtiz. He’s not too well-remembered today, but he directed CASABLANCA and won an Oscar for that title. He was the number-one director on the Warner’s lot for a number of years. Those were the kind of films I liked and later on, when I made BLACK CAESAR, it was kind of an homage to the Warner Brothers gangster movies.

B.L.: You got your start writing and developing television programs in the 1960’s. Is there anything about television you prefered back then as opposed to they way the television business is ran today?

L.C.: When I worked in television, you usually only dealt with two people – there was a head of development, and somebody else would be present. When you went in to pitch an idea, you usually only pitched it to two people. Today, when you go to a network, you go into a room and they bring eleven people into that room, all with yellow legal pads. The notes you will receive come from so many different people. Also, very often when you are pitching an idea today, you’re pitching it to people who do not have the authority to buy it. They simply write down their version of what you tell them, then they go down the hall and attempt to retell the story to their bosses in a capsulized version. You can imagine how accurate the similarities between what you pitch and what the studio executive, who is the only one who can buy the property, finally hears. It’s only coincidental, at best. It’s harder to sell something because you’re not pitching ideas to the people who can buy it, and you’re having too many cooks spoil the broth.

B.L.: I’ve always been a big fan of your very first film, BONE. Any memories come up when I mention that title?

L.C.: I did that one because it had a very small cast and a limited number of locations. I saw it as a way to break into the business as a director and take the time to learn my craft. I actually think it’s one of the best pictures I’ve ever made because the script was so good. I was lucky to get a wonderful cast, as well. It was a pleasure to work on that film.

B.L.: How did your blaxploitation films come about?

L.C.: I did two pictures back in the 1970’s and then another one in the 1990’s called ORIGINAL GANGSTERS. It was a reunion picture of all the black exploitation stars. The first one, as I said before, was an homage to the Warner Brothers gangster movies and it was called BLACK CAESAR. It was similar to LITTLE CAESAR, only it had a black cast. I got involved with that one when I was approached by the manager of Sammy Davis, Jr., who was tired of playing stooge to Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra in their pictures. He wanted to do something on his own. He asked me if I had any ideas for Sammy and I suggested redoing LITTLE CAESAR as an all black gangster movie. The gangsters in the Warner Brother films, like Jimmy Cagney and Edward G. Robinson – these were little guys, like Sammy, yet they were able to play tough guys. So, we agreed to do a BLACK CAESAR treatment and they were going to pay me $10,000. I went ahead and wrote that. It wound up that Sammy didn’t have the money to pay me. They claimed he’d gotten in trouble with the IRS and didn’t have the dough anymore. I got stuck with the treatment and later on I ran into Sam Arkoff, who was the head of American International Pictures. He told me that he was looking for something in the genre of SUPER FLY and SHAFT; a black action film. I just happened to have that treatment ready to go. We showed it to him and made a deal right on the spot. That’s how that one all came about, really.

B.L.: Those films were massive hits financially for you and the studios, correct?

L.C.: Yeah, we all made a lot of money on those pictures. I honestly feel that the first one was an extremely good picture and the second one [HELL UP IN HARLEM] was fair. We really only made the second one to kind of cash-in on the first one because it was such a big hit. I think Sam Arkoff thought, “Larry Cohen can handle that film because he directed Yaphet Kotto in BONE and got such a good performance out of him.” As if there is any difference directing a black actor from a white actor – which there isn’t. I went ahead and did the project and BLACK CAESAR was my first box-office hit.

B.L.: Did you learn anything from your earliest work in television that you still apply to filmmaking today?

L.C.: When I first started working it was in live television and it really has become a lost art form. With live television, the writer was around all of the time. He’d be there for the reading with all of the actors and then you’d come to rehearsals, as well as the day of the show. That was all because sometimes you had to write an additional scene or delete some things to account for the running time of the show. The program had to be an hour long and sometimes they’d run too long or short in rehearsals. You’d work like this and an hour or two later the show went on the air across the country. So, you were involved with every phase of the production in live television.

Then, when filmed television came along, the writer became less involved. In the early days I got a chance to work with actors and witness the characters being developed. I also picked up the way the directors were staging those shows. I thought I learned a lot from that, but basically you do it all from your own instinct. I find that to be particularly true if you’ve written the script, because you already have in your mind what the scene is supposed to look like, and when you direct it, you just bring it to life.

I did find out that I was good with actors – that I could talk to the actors. I could relax them and make them feel comfortable on the set. I could make them feel appreciated. I always felt that was the best way to get a great performance; not to try to intimidate them or to throw your authority around, but rather to just make them feel like you are having a wonderful time watching them work. It gets them to relax and they try things that they may not try otherwise. You wind up getting surprisingly good performances.

B.L.: When you started filming the sequel to BLACK CAESAR, HELL UP IN HARLEM, you also started filming IT’S ALIVE simultaneously, correct?

L.C.: Yes. AIP wanted the sequel for immediate release to cash-in on the success of BLACK CAESAR. Fred Williamson, the star, was tied up with projects for six months. I said to him, “What are you guys doing on Saturdays and Sundays?” He agreed to do my film on the weekends. I had the crew shooting IT’S ALIVE already, so I kept them on for Saturdays and Sundays to shoot HELL UP IN HARLEM.

B.L.: How did you find the experience of shooting two films simultaneously?

L.C.: I knew what was going on. Everybody else was kind of dazed. They weren’t exactly sure which picture they were shooting. I had the film editor piecing one picture together for three days a week and then the other picture the remaining days. So, half of the time he wouldn’t know what the hell picture he was going to be working on that day. We all got through it though.

B.L.: Would you film like that again?

L.C.: No. I guess I could do it again, if I had to. You’re only doing it for a limited period of time, maybe four weeks. I think you can do anything for four or five weeks, as long as you realize it’s going to be over. If it was going to be a picture that took six months to shoot, then it would be a different story. Once you’ve begun to shoot the first couple of days on a film that consists of an eighteen or twenty-four day shooting schedule, you start to realize that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You know it’s going to be over soon.

B.L.: How did the concept for your classic horror film IT’S ALIVE come together?

L.C.: The period in which that film was made, which was the early 1970’s, was a period of big change for family life in America. Teenage kids were growing up wearing their hair long and they were listening to music that was kind of alien to their parents. They were using drugs – they were doing a lot of things that separated them from the normal family life. The parents were starting to feel like they had a stranger living under their roof. I had read in the paper that one father actually shot his son with a shotgun because he felt his kid had turned into a monster. I said, “How about a movie where people in a normal family give birth to a monster as an allegory for what was going on here.”

B.L.: Is IT’S ALIVE the film of yours that gets the most recognition?

L.C.: Yes, it’s well-remembered and it was a big hit. It made a lot of money and it still continues to bring in a great deal of revenue. Then there is the remake that was recently released.

B.L.: Have you seen that version of your original film?

L.C.: It’s a terrible picture. It’s just beyond awful.

B.L.: I take it you were not involved with the remake?

L.C.: Not at all. I did give them a script and they, more or less, ignored what I gave them completely. I did make a lot of money on the deal, so I really can’t complain. I certainly didn’t want to give them their money back, so I’ll just have to live with it. I would advise anybody who likes my film to cross the street and avoid seeing the new enchilada.

B.L.: How about your film GOD TOLD ME TO? That’s a great film. What inspired that story and film?

L.C.: I have no idea. That was one of those films that I just sat down and wrote from scratch. I didn’t really ever know where it was going or what I was going to do next with the story.

B.L.: It is a unique film.

L.C.: Yes, it was very different and special. We used documentary production values to tell a kind of science fiction fantasy story and nobody else did that before us. I guess things like THE X-FILES owe a little bit to that picture when it comes down to the style we used.

B.L.: That film is also well-known for featuring comic Andy Kaufman in a bit role. I have to ask you about his involvement.

L.C.: Andy Kaufman was a performing comic at The Improv in New York and I went in one night to see him. I thought, “This kid is terrific.” I wanted him to be in my movie because I could just tell that someday he was going to be a star. I offered him the role of a cop at a St. Patrick’s Day parade and Andy was anxious to do it. I remember saying to him, “I’ve got to get you a policeman’s uniform, so tell me what size shirt and jacket you wear.” He said, “I don’t know. I wear my father’s old clothes.” I figured he was probably about my size, so we got stuff that would fit me and we directed him down to the St. Patrick’s Day parade on 5th Avenue. We got him dressed as the cop in a bathroom of one of the luncheonettes that was right off the street there. Then we put him into the parade. He was thrown into the ranks of the actual cops that were marching. We just moved him into formation with all of the other officers. They all thought we had permission to be there with all of the cameras. There were four crews covering the parade like a news event. We were actually just winging it and didn’t have any permission to be there at all. Today, with Homeland Security, we’d all be thrown in jail for doing something like that.

Andy only had one line of dialogue at the end of the movie. We didn’t have any microphones or sound recording equipment at the parade. So, there wasn’t any way to record his voice and he just mouthed his line. Later on, when we got into the mix, I did the line myself. That’s actually my voice coming out of him. Andy saw the picture and he said, “How did you get my voice?’ I told him that it wasn’t his voice and he said, “No, I know my own voice when I hear it. Don’t tell me that. That’s me.” I said, “Andy, how could it be you? We didn’t have any microphones.” He said, “Well, I don’t know how you did it, but that’s me.” For years after that, every time we’d run into each other, he’d get into an argument with me again about whether it was him or me that did that line in GOD TOLD ME TO. I did speak with him a few weeks before he died and he was still demanding to know how I got his voice.

B.L.: How often did you film in New York without permits and is that something you would still do today?

L.C.: Not anymore. What has happened is that the whole world has become too litigious. Nowadays, if you do anything, you’re subject to getting sued by somebody. With the things we used to do and get away with – I just wouldn’t try to do those things anymore because there are just too many legalities and too many lawyers running around trying to file a lawsuit against you.

Today, if you shoot something and somebody is standing in the background who is recognizable, there is always the possibility that you are going to get a lawsuit. So, I just don’t do that kind of thing anymore. Maybe I’m just too comfortable now and I don’t want to put myself at risk. In those early days, we could get away with a lot more. There weren’t a lot of lawyers running around, and people just didn’t seem to care as much. We did shoot a lot of stuff without permits, and I usually did it in New York because the city is so teeming with life and character that you only need to hide the camera and point it, because you are guaranteed to see something interesting. It’s a living back lot. You just don’t want to bring in a bunch of professional extras and close down the streets when you film in New York because you don’t get the same feeling of reality as if you shoot on the real streets. I mean real life and real action is going on before you. We got a lot of that for BLACK CAESAR and we got a lot of that for GOD TOLD ME TO, as well as THE AMBULANCE which was probably the last film of mine I shot on the sidewalks of New York City.

B.L.: Do you have problems with the crew shooting in that manner?

L.C.: No, they do what I ask them to do. They get used to it after a couple of days. I’ve had to dispense with a couple of cameramen who didn’t understand the way I work, but then I was able to get somebody else to step right in who went with the flow. After they get used to it, they start to like the way I run a film shoot. At first, I’m sure it scares them because they’re used to getting a shot list before they come to work. I just can’t do that. I want to see the actors performing and then decide where I want to put the cameras.

B.L.: In 1977 you filmed THE PRIVATE FILES OF J. EDGAR HOOVER. What did you think of the man himself and your finished film?

L.C.: Well, that picture tells both sides of the story, much like the film PATTON did years earlier. I tried to show the good side of the man, as well as his bad side. He was certainly far from perfect. He hurt a lot of people and did a lot of damage, but he also did a lot of good. He did a great job of keeping the FBI free from political influence; neither the Republicans nor the Democrats could control the FBI. You didn’t have the kind of scandals with the FBI while he was in control that you’re having nowadays. It seems that every week there’s some other public official who’s being outed. He managed to control that, keep it quiet and keep the government rolling at the same time. He had the whole town of Washington wired, and he knew everything that was going on.

B.L.: To the extent where he was getting away with doing things the FBI just can’t get away with today.

L.C.: Absolutely. The FBI can’t do anything like they did during Hoover’s administration. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, necessarily. I think we’d be better off if the FBI did have a little more leeway to operate. Today everything is in the newspapers, everything is subject to scrutiny and criticism. You’ve got to remember that Hoover was in there for forty-eight years. That’s an amazing amount of time for anybody to stay in power without any real challenge toward his job. If he hadn’t died at the age of seventy-seven, he probably would have lasted another two or three years. As soon as he was gone, what happened? The administration collapsed completely. The attorney general was indicted, key members of the President’s staff were indicted, the President himself had to resign and narrowly escaped being prosecuted. The entire seat of government collapsed with J. Edgar Hoover’s death. So, for example, if he had been around, there probably wouldn’t have been any Watergate. As far as the film goes, it’s one of my films that I’m the most proud of and we just had a great reception to it at The New Beverly Theater in Los Angeles, where we played it about a year ago for three weeks. It was received very well by recent film-goers, so I was happy about that.

B.L.: Do you prefer to shoot on the lot when you deal with major studios?

L.C.: Well, many of my pictures were financed by Warner Brothers, American International or New Line – they were studio pictures, but they weren’t shot on the lot. It was just way too expensive. By the time you build the sets, pay the overhead and all the other things that they lay on you when you shoot on their studio lot, you’re paying for the guards at the gate and everything else like that. It doesn’t make any sense to shoot there if you can get the real set someplace else. I like to shoot on practical locations and real places, rather than go in and construct a set. Many of my movies were financed and approved in advance by the studios. We did RETURN TO SALEM’S LOT for Warner Brother’s, as well as IT’S ALIVE 3: ISLAND OF THE ALIVE. Even ORIGINAL GANGSTERS was done for Orion Studios and we shot the whole thing in Gary, Indiana. So, I’ve done a lot of films for the major studios even though I may make my films with an independent mentality.

B.L.: How do you feel about dealing with the major studios?

L.C.: I’ve never had any problems. We’ve gotten paid profits on quite a few pictures; some not. I’d say at least half of the movies I’ve made have gone into profits and everybody got paid. They are thieves of the worst kind, but if you make a low budget picture the profits do come in. They probably only pay you a fraction of what you should be getting, but you do get paid and you’re making pictures. The nice thing about it is that if the picture is a flop and they don’t make any money, nobody calls you up and asks you to give back the money that you were paid. You get to keep it anyway. Even if the picture is a failure, you keep the money. So, that’s not such a bad deal.

B.L.: How about distribution? Any problems concerning your films in that respect?

L.C.: Oh, yes. Absolutely. THE PRIVATE FILES OF J. EDGAR HOOVER received very, very limited distribution in America because the company was afraid of promoting a picture that was critical of the FBI. They thought they’d have some sort of repercussion – that the Bureau would take it out on them in some way. The movie companies rely upon the Bureau to police the copyrights that are on the beginning of every DVD and VHS cassette. So who’s going to want a dispute with the FBI? We ended up playing that film at The London Film Festival where it had the highest attendance and then they picked it up for distribution in England. It played at a wonderful theater for eight weeks. Eventually, the BBC bought it and we wound up getting a lot of exposure from it being televised. They also didn’t have any axe to grind over there politically. They could care less about the FBI in England. There also weren’t any Democrats who felt offended because of the way we portrayed Kennedy, or Republicans who felt offended because we mistreated Nixon. In America everybody had a vested interest, one way or another, in being negative about the picture because we were not kind to anybody in the film. Everybody got the shaft, but they deserved it.

B.L.: Why explore horror so much in your films?

L.C.: Well, I’ve never made the so-called slasher movie like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE or titles like that. I try to make suspense movies; thrillers. I don’t consider them to be 100% horror films, or what you’d consider to be the traditional horror film. I like to make my own type of picture. What I like is for people to say, “Hey, I saw a picture the other night on television and I missed the beginning of it, but by the time I watched it for fifteen minutes I knew it had to be a Larry Cohen movie.” That’s the best compliment I could get if somebody can identify one of my movies without seeing the title. Where people would say, “This looks like something Larry Cohen would do.” Q: THE WINGED SERPENT certainly isn’t a horror film. It’s got some of the elements of a horror movie, but it’s much, much more than that to me.

B.L.: Any possibility that you might update a remake Q: THE WINGED SERPENT?

L.C.: I hope not. I don’t think I could make it as good as my first attempt. I wouldn’t doubt that somebody else may want to attempt a remake of that title, but most of these remakes of classic horror films are not very good. They are done just by the numbers or title alone and are usually completed as a botched job. I realize that sometimes you can’t resist the money being offered, but I’m done with that title and don’t really see the point of anyone re-filming that picture.

B.L.: I really dug Q: THE WINGED SERPENT and can’t see the Chrysler Building anymore without thinking of that film.

L.C.: Yeah, I thought the Chrysler Building was a very beautiful structure and that it needed its very own monster movie, much in the way that Kong had The Empire State Building. We shot that way up at the top of the building – about eighty-eight floors above the street. The entire cast and crew was hanging on by our fingernails to keep from getting blown off the building. There were no protective rails and it really was like standing on a platform that was eighty-eight stories high. You could have gone off of it at any second, but nobody did.

B.L.: It has seemed to me that mainstream critics didn’t appreciate some of your films upon their initial release, but came around years later and gave you the praise you deserved. Do you feel that’s accurate and what’s your feelings toward critics in general?

L.C.: Well, we did get very good reviews on THE STUFF from top critics and we got some on THE PRIVATE FILES OF J. EDGAR HOOVER, as well. The reviews in America for J. EDGAR HOOVER were very, very good and were even better in England. If you were to read some of those you’d have thought that they were writing about LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. The problem with all of that is not so much that you get the reviews, but that the movie company is willing to go ahead and take out the advertisements in the newspapers to reproduce the reviews. The review is only effective if the studio goes ahead and promotes it by taking out a big, full-page ad. We got very nice reviews on ORIGINAL GANGSTERS, but the company didn’t want to spend the money to take out those big ads that are necessary to reproduce the reviews and create some buzz on the picture. So, after awhile people are not aware that the picture was well reviewed. I’ve got posters on my walls with all the quotes and if you looked at those you’d think, “Wow, every one of these movies got rave reviews.” And they did, but you wouldn’t know about it because they weren’t carried in the newspapers. They thought that those types of films are not so-called “review pictures.” Gene Siskel gave Q: THE WINGED SERPENT a terrific review. It was one of his favorite films of that year, but that really doesn’t make much of a difference if you don’t promote that fact. Every time I’ve had a movie that’s been properly advertised and promoted it’s turned into a hit. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for every title.

B.L.: I love the way you handle humor in your films and I was wondering where that dark sense of humor might have come from?

L.C.: Oh, I think that’s one of the trademarks of my films – that balance of humor against suspense. The humor can only be attributed to me, meaning that’s just my own personal sense of humor up there on the screen.

B.L.: You cast legendary superstar Bette Davis in your film WICKED STEPMOTHER during the last years of her life. How was that experience?

L.C.: I always loved Bette Davis and I saw her at a Golden Globes award show one year. She was very crippled and frail. She just looked terrible. After that, I started to see her making the rounds on various talk shows and I realized this poor woman wanted to work more than anything else in the world. She was doing all of these appearances hoping somebody would give her a role in a film. She was getting a lot of dinners and honorary things thrown for her to celebrate her past, but nobody was hiring her. I decided I was going to write a script for her. So, I wrote WICKED STEPMOTHER and we sent it to her. She eventually called me up on the phone and said, “You wrote this just for me, didn’t you? I’m very flattered.” I told her we needed to meet and I went over to her house. She was in terrible condition and my agent thought I was crazy for wanting to do this picture with her. I said, “Yeah, but when she starts talking you realize that it’s Bette Davis. It all comes through and as long as we keep her talking…she’s Bette Davis.” So, I took a chance and, of course, it was a mistake because she really wasn’t well enough to do the picture. It was mainly her dentures that gave out on her; not her body. I guess anybody at any age can have dental problems. When her bridge broke, she couldn’t talk anymore, so that was the end of her being in the film.

B.L.: I love filmmakers who will constantly reuse the same actors in their films and a lot of my favorite horror directors seem to have a “go-to” actor for just that in their films. Yours seems to be Michael Moriarty. How did you two guys wind up working together so many times?

L.C.: I had seen him on Broadway and on television with HOLOCAUST. I also saw him in BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY. I considered him to be a superior actor. One day we were sitting in the same restaurant at adjoining tables and I pointed him out to someone who was with me. I was telling my friend how great an actor I felt he was and Michael overheard all of it. So, he came over and we chatted. I said, “I’ve got a movie that I’m going to be starting in a week or two. Maybe you’d like to be in it.” I sent him over the script to Q: THE WINGED SERPENT and he said he’d love to do it. That was it and we’ve been in business ever since.

B.L.: How about his eccentricities?

L.C.: Well, Michael is a very strange fellow and he has a wonderful sense of humor. I love to be around him, but every once in awhile he’ll go off on a tangent about some fantasy concerning some kind of conspiracy or the problems of American politics. One time he decided he was going to leave America and move to Canada because he couldn’t stand Janet Reno. It was that kind of stupid thing that really may have damaged his career. He quit his role on the hit television show LAW & ORDER, went off to Canada and ran a big ad in Variety.

The problem with Michael is that he’s one of those people who can be very happy when he’s in terrible financial difficulties, but when he becomes successful and has a huge bank account balance, then suddenly he becomes miserable. He has to destroy it all. As long as he was struggling, he was happy. As soon as he became financially stable and he had a success, he’d have to destroy that somehow. He had to only exist in a state of chaos. Some people are like that – especially people in show business. It’s like they have to be in a chaotic situation. They just can’t be comfortable and live a peaceful life. They have to have this churning madness going on and that’s Michael. I wish him the best and we always have a great time working together. He’s wonderful at improvisation, which is what I go for, but there’s no way you can alter his life by using common sense towards him and what he believes. Also, to be quite honest, maybe he’s right and I’m completely wrong about his beliefs, you know? A lot of people think I’m crazy because of the way I go out and make movies – shooting without permits, shooting without schedules, without production managers, without a board and just basically making the entire picture in my head. People react to that by saying, “Well, this guy is crazy.” That’s probably why somebody like Andy Kaufman liked me, because he thought I was just as crazy as he was.

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5 Responses »

  1. Bryan

    great interview as only you could conduct! I can see where you two would hit it off as you both have the same sense of humor. lets have more of the same…

  2. Bryan – let me try this again. This was a great interview. Having the expertise you do regarding Larry Cohen and his body of work, had to be helpful. I have not seen any of his movies but you elevated my curosity – I will make it a point to see one soon.

    Thanks for the good read!

  3. Awesome interview Bryan! I can see why this was right up your alley, so to speak. I want more……….

  4. Facinating interview with a fascinating guy. Nice one Bryan.

  5. BRAVO! I would love to know his working relationship with the late film music composer Gil Melle on BONE, Frank Cordell on Q, and Bernard Herrmann on IT’S ALIVE (which, hopefully, will be released on cd by FSM).

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