DID YOU READ

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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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