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Frank Oz and Ellen Greene discuss feeding the need for “Little Shop of Horrors: The Director’s Cut”

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It’s hard to believe it’s been over 25 years since director Frank Oz brought the quirky brilliance of an off-Broadway musical about a killer plant to the big screen. Still, a quarter-century later the award-winning “Little Shop of Horrors” is back on shelves with a new “Director’s Cut” featuring the original, darker ending of the film that Oz and screenwriter Howard Ashman intended for the film.

While sketchy black-and-white prints of the original ending — which featured an army of massive, man-eating alien plants destroying the world — have been circulating online for years, the Blu-ray features a fully remastered, colored, and otherwise restored version of the ending (and the rest of the film, of course).

Meticulously restored by Warner Bros. Pictures Vice President of Assets & Technology/Post Production Kurt Galvao, the “Director’s Cut” of the film offers a cornucopia of features that go a long way toward making the “Little Shop of Horrors” experience just as memorable now as it was back in 1986.

IFC had the chance to sit down with Oz and actress Ellen Greene, who played Audrey in both the original stage production and the movie with Rick Moranis, to reflect on the “Little Shop of Horrors” legacy and their wildly imaginative film’s return to the spotlight. Oh, and we couldn’t help asking Oz about another green-skinned character he’s often associated with, too.

IFC: When you come back to a movie after so many years like this, what’s going through your head?

FRANK OZ: I look back on my work and I think, “Oh, why didn’t I do that differently?” [Laughs] But mainly I look back and every shot is a memory for me. You guys see what’s on the screen, but I see what led to it and I see what happened on the set and all that stuff. But I’m proud of the work. I’m very proud of it.

ELLEN GREENE: I’m just so proud that they did this. To be here and share in the excitement of it all, I’m so proud.

IFC: This version of the film is called “The Director’s Cut,” so is it safe to assume that this is your preferred version of the film, Frank?

OZ: Yes, it is. Oddly enough, though, I have not been a party to putting it together. Kurt called me about a year ago saying that he’d done this. So I was in L.A. and I went to a screening of it and I thought it was great. They were very true to my notes. They had a black-and-white dupe from years past, which was the template. If I had to do it over again, I would change my notes, not their work. [Laughs] But I would shorten it. They stayed true to it, though. I’m really thrilled because Richard Conway, who spent almost a year of his life on the miniatures at the end of the film only to have me call him 26 years ago and say we wouldn’t use them, now I got to call him six months ago and say, “You’re going to see them!” That was the thrilling part for me: that people could see his work.

IFC: What about you, Ellen? Is this your preferred ending? As someone who played Audrey for years on the stage with the same ending, it must have seemed a little weird to change that ending for the movie…

GREENE: Well, they said that when they tested it, the audience didn’t want Audrey and Seymour to die. And if you notice, the film is a little darker than the stage production. The stage production is a little sillier, with more… Audreyisms, I guess. The death scene in the stage production is funny as well as being sad, but the death scene in the movie as I recall it is not funny. Frank made me more of a heroine. But you know what? I love them all like different children, but if Frank says this is the best version, I believe Frank. And hey, it will be [the best version], because how can you top the destruction of the world as an ending?

IFC: Can you take us back to the moment you realized that you were going to have to change the ending of the story? This had to have been a tough decision…

OZ: Well, both the screenings in San Jose and Los Angeles were fantastic, with the audience applauding after every single number. It was just great until we had the plant eat Rick [Moranis] and Ellen. That was exactly what Howard [Ashman] and I wanted to do to stay true to the stage show. David Geffen said at the beginning that you can’t do that, but we asked him to do it and he said, “Fine.” He respected us and honored our desire. But he was right, we couldn’t do it. And once we knew the audience was angry at us for doing that, we knew what we had to do and how the ending would work. We knew it would grow out of the theme “Somewhere That’s Green.” We knew that the wish of being somewhere that’s green would be resolved at the end of the movie. Howard wrote it and I knew it. We just had to go back and re-shoot it for several weeks. What we actually had to do was not as difficult as the fact that we had to do it.

IFC: Looking back on it, “Little Shop” is such a unique project. Do you think anyone could ever make a movie like it today?

OZ: No. You couldn’t make this movie today. First of all, even at that time Warners had a hard time marketing it. It’s 14 songs with a plant that talks and people being killed and cut up. How do you sell something like that? No one would take a chance on that now.

GREENE: It’s all an act of love, too. What’s interesting is that when the stage production began, we were just a bunch of amazing kids creating something for $50 week that was so brilliant. And then Frank came along and equaled or maybe even topped it. Not many people can do musicals, and not only is it exciting and funny and visually amazing, but the casting brilliant and the direction is outstanding, and it’s only becoming more and more famous through the years. Both were acts of love, and successful acts of love that stand the test of time. How often does that happen?

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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