That’s right Troma fans! I had a nice, long, friendly chat with Uncle Lloydie about POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD
which is premiering tonight in Tucson, AZ and screening tomorrow night at the Calgary International Film Festival!
Read on for all the juicy and delicious deep-fried madness of His Lloydship!
Lloyd Kaufman is the absolute example of Winston Churchill’s phrase “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. This is a man who makes movies about roving gangs of diaper-clad hooligans, mutated tutu wearing giants, NYPD cops turned Kabuki-faced superheroes and now, zombie chicken-monstrosities and lesbian anti-conglomeratists. This is also a man who fills his films with classical music, Shakespeare references and sociopolitical commentary; a man whose favorite films include Stan Brakhage’s THE ART OF VISION, John Ford westerns and … STRAP-ON SALLY #13. Kaufman is a rogue, a raconteur, a carnival barker and a politically minded, yet conscientious citizen of the world who is just as much at home discussing World Cinema as he is making fart jokes and engaging in locker room banter.
POULTRYGEIST is the story of a young man named Arby, who goes to work at the American Chicken Bunker, a new fast food chain opening in Tromaville and unfortunately built on an ancient Indian burial ground. Arby, his ‘lipstick lesbian’ ex-girlfriend Wendy, and the usual Troma crazies fight for their lives against an onslaught of zombified chicken monstrosities in this musical/horror/comedy/political commentary from the makers of THE TOXIC AVENGERTROMEO & JULIET. and
I caught Kaufman, by phone, as he was arriving at the Loft Cinema in Tucson AZ, a first-rate arthouse/indie theatre that is hosting the official North American premiere of Troma Films’ newest opus – which will be showing at the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) Saturday and Sunday at The Plaza Theatre with Kaufman in attendance. Here’s a little taste of his irreverent thoughts on the film, the state of modern society and the war on democratic art.
Axel – Mr. Lloyd Kaufman – Uncle Lloydie – always a pleasure, sir. Will tomorrow be your first time coming to Calgary and the CIFF?
Lloyd Kaufman – Yes it is. I was scheduled to come up there on September 11, 2001 but there was some kind of problem. Something happened that day, something… I don’t remember what, but it couldn’t have been that important.
A – The date does ring a bell.
LK – Don’t laugh. If we laugh about it, the terrorists win.
A – But right now, you’ve thwarted their best efforts and you are in Tucson, AZ about to unveil the film for it’s official North American premiere, right? Why Tucson?
LK – Well, the Loft Cinema here in Tucson has been very good to Troma and have worked with us before, and it just seems like a great place to show the film.
A – And you’re there with lovely co-star of the film, Ms. Elske McCain?
LK – Yes, Elske is here and her father, John. He’ll be joining us later, the senator is taking time out from his busy schedule to see Elske in POULTRYGEIST.
A – How would you describe the film?
LK – Well Axel, it’s a remake, really, just like everything else these days. It’s a remake of that great musical comedy SCHINDLER’S LIST. We couldn’t afford Liam Neeson but we have a great Shakespearean actor named Ron Jeremy, whose just finished a run in Twelfth Night in New York…
A – POULTRYGEIST seems like it could end up with the kind of cult following that lends itself to ‘interactive’ viewing, like THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. Is this Lloyd Kaufman’s personal ‘Sing-along SOUND OF MUSIC?
LK – No. Well, there may be a sing-along tonight in Tucson. You could try to do that in Calgary if you want. ROCKY HORROR is more of a true musical, POULTRYGEIST is just a wild and crazy horror movie with some jokes and a few sudden moments of singing and dancing thrown in.
A – Would you be averse to hundreds of people singing along, or simultaneously raising a Starbucks cup and uttering a united lipsmacking ‘Aaaaaaaaaaah’ in a certain part of the film?
LK – That’s funny. That’s good. That hadn’t occurred to me, but I like it. Maybe you should start something like that in Calgary.
A – I’ll put it out there and try to arrange it. People of Calgary! Be sure to sneak in your Mocha Latte’s tomorrow night! Maybe they could throw chicken carcasses…
LK – At the screen? That’s hilarious. You know, that’s what the film is really about. POULTRYGEIST is a sociopolitical satire about the huge multinational conglomerates that are taking over everything. The fast food places, the coffee, the media. We’re all being brainwashed by these conglomerates, that throw cheap toys at kids and spend $80 million dollars on a commercial to get you to eat at McDonalds or Burger King. We made our film about a chicken place. We have zombie chickens and undead Native Americans and Ron Jeremy.
A – Troma films are notorious for their gross-out humor, over-the-top gore and gratuitous nudity…
LK – Gratuitous? I don’t think it’s gratuitous. Gratuitous means it doesn’t fit. All the nudity in our films is there for a reason and works with the film…
A – Well, some people find it gratuitous. Or excessive. I would call it tasteful…
LK – beautiful and artistic…
A – Magnificent. Tasteful, glorious and magnificent. So your films are notorious for gross-out humor, over-the-top gore and tasteful nudity…
LK – I like to think that our films have something for everyone – drama, tragedy, comedy, a little gore… as well as sensually beautiful erotic moments.
A – Well that’s just fun for the whole family.
LK – Is it OK that we have erotic moments? Can we call them erotic moments? Is that OK, Axel? Is that allright with you?
A – Absolutely allright. It’s one of the things you’re most beloved for. I’ll just put that out there.
LK – You say that now. You guys. You’re the guys that always say ‘yeah well it was OK, but it wasn’t as good as CITIZEN TOXIE’ and seven years ago you were saying, ‘CITIZEN TOXIE is great, but it’s no TROMEO AND JULIET’, but now, because this is the new movie you’re gonna say you love me…
A – Oh sure, now I’m just an asskissing media son of a whore, right? I’ll play that James Lipton bit, and I will tell you, right now, that my all-time favorite performance in any indie film is Lloyd Kaufman as ‘the janitor’ in Chris Watson’s ZOMBIEGEDDON. You, sir, were a revelation!
LK – See, now you’re kissing my ass, and showing that you are just a really sick man. I certainly did bring, well, something to that part. I don’t know what… but thank you for appreciating it…
A – No, no, thank you for portraying it.
LK – Really, that’s the great thing about what’s going on right now. The democratization of filmmaking. Anybody can get out and make a film. POULTRYGEIST was shot on 35mm film and cost $500K… but somebody like Chris Watson can go out and make ZOMBIEGEDDON for $10K and have a day job and still make a zombie movie in his spare time. He didn’t have to move to L.A. and work at Cartoon World for Disney and wear the dog costume or park cars at the studio for 15 years to get a chance to make a movie. He could stay in Kansas and be a teacher and still make that movie.
A – How do you feel, then, about the big studios co-opting the exploitation/gore-horror subgenre with relatively big-budget films by Troma alumni like Eli Roth and James Gunn?
LK – Well the difference there is that those guys make great movies. Eli and James are both great filmmakers and making really different enjoyable stuff. And good for them. They’re using the system to their advantage and still doing the films their way. And if they can get big bucks and studio resources for it…
A – word around the campfire is that POULTRYGEIST has the highest production quality, best writing and best acting of any Troma film to date.
LK – Well, definitely the best acting. When you see Jason Yachanin and Kate Graham and what they bring to the film. Rose Ghavami, who plays Humus has an amazing voice. They are phenomenal. But, there have been a lot of great Troma films. The Sam Jackson film DEF BY TEMPTATION, Trey Parker and Matt Stone did CANNIBAL: THE MUSICAL…
LK – Of course it is. There’s also Giuseppe Andrews – he made TRAILER TOWN and the great TOUCH ME IN THE MORNING for Troma… A lot of great films. But POULTRYGEIST is the best film I’ve been directly involved in, and definitely has the best young cast I’ve ever worked with.
A – How about some of the old standby Troma family in POULTRYGEIST, who can we look for?
LK – Ron Jeremy, of course. We have a great stable of actors, The Troma stock players… Joe Fleishaker, the 400 lb Superhero… Caleb Emerson… Debbie Rochon, the lovely and talented Debbie Rochon… Elske McCain, who we’ve mentioned.
A – I have to ask. Why do Troma leads always end up in drag?
LK – Who’s in drag? What do you mean drag? What characters where in drag in Troma movies?
A – Well, Melvin Junko in his tutu in THE TOXIC AVENGER…
LK – That was a prank they played on him in the movie, that was part of the plot…
A – And now you and Jason Yachanin in Girl Scout uniforms in this film…
LK – Well that’s just what they call men that work the counter in fast food resteraunts – ‘Counter Girls’ – Ask your friends that have worked fast food. That’s what they’re called, ‘Counter Girls’.
A – In Girl Scout uniforms?
LK – It just seemed to fit. It’s an integral part of the film.
A – Fair enough. Is it true that George Clooney ‘screwed the chicken’ and stole the original title for the film?
LK – It is true, the son of a… he did. The original title was going to be GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD CLUCK, but he took it… and laid an egg of his own.
A – Well, I know you are short on time before the big premiere so we’ll wrap things up here. As a legend and an icon in the independent film community, do you have any words of encouragement for the young indie filmmakers coming up?
LK – Wow, well thank you for those lovel epithets. The only thing I would say to them is that they should just do it. Do what’s in your soul and in your heart. If you have an idea and it is something you love, don’t take no for an answer, get out there and make it yourself.
A – Here come the other requisite cheeseball James Lipton questions from the University de plee-ba-blu-ba-boo… What is your choice of stimulant?
LK – Diet Mountain Dew. That, or Diet Code Red, if I can find it. I don’t drink coffee anymore.
A – You quit drinking coffee!? I have heard many stories about how you don’t eat on set, you just subsist on coffee and directorial fury.
LK – No, I’ve pretty much given up coffee. Breakfast now is usually Diet Mountain Dew.
A – What are your Top 5 ‘Desert Island DVD’s’? Movies you can’t live without?
LK – Stan Brakhage’s THE ART OF VISION. Kenji Mizoguchi… PRINCESS YANG KWEI FEI… Chaplin’s CITY LIGHTS. CHEYENNE AUTUMN?… maybe 3 GODFATHERS… a John Ford western. I’d have to pick a John Ford western… and STRAP-ON SALLY #13, of course. You know there are 22 STRAP-ON SALLY films. Some say 21, because #15 was titled STRAP-ON SALLEY, with an E… TABOO, there’s about 85 TABOO’s and they’re all official TABOO’s…
A – It is hard to pick just one adult title from so many millions, isn’t it? Now, What about POULTRYGEIST? When will it be added to that list? Is a DVD on the way?
LK – Again, it was shot on 35mm, so that’s about 2 years away. We have to work on the full-blown documentary. We always like to do those, and there will be loads of extra material…
A – Finally, After 35 years and a career that has seen you work on ‘classic’ Hollywood films like ROCKY, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, write, direct and/or produce 50 some films and appear in 96 films! Will Lloyd Kaufman ever just sit in an office and spend his days drinking coffee and sexually harassing the copy boy?
LK – Well, I would never sexually harass the copy boy. I would say copy person. You have to be non gender-specific. But I could harass the copy boy, sure. Do you want the job Axel? Do you want to be my copy boy tomorrow night in Calgary? We could put on the counter girl outfits and get to know each other…
A – Anything for you Uncle Lloydie.
LK – I also just wanted to mention that the Independent Film and Television Alliance, which is a collection of independent film producers including 5 or 6 big Canadian companies and most of the real independent studios in the US, has just elected me to the board of directors.
The IFTA is working to lobby the Canadian and American governments to stop media conglomeration and industry consolidation by the big money studios and the continuing threat of destroying ‘net neutrality. Check out the website at http://www.ifta-online.org/ to find out how you can help make a difference and keep independent cinema alive and the internet a free and neutral space for everyone.
A – and they can also check out your hilarious rant on Hillary Clinton and that ridiculous SOPRANOS spoof on YouTube. Thanks for your time Lloyd. As always, it has been a pleasure and an experience.