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The Wizard of Ozploitation

The Wizard of Ozploitation (photo)

Brian Trenchard-Smith on action films, Nicole Kidman's nicknames and "Leprechaun 3."

We had someone else in mind for the role, and she elected not to do it because her mother thought BMX riding was a working-class fad, and she didn’t want her nice middle-class daughter in such a film. So we were auditioning others, and then Nicole came in, did a magnificent reading, and one of the producers said to me, “But you can’t cast her, she’s taller than the two guys.” Who cares? Just look at her, she’s luminous! You see the size of that hair in the picture on the blog! Now that hair, which looks like some sort of enormous Afro, that’s the size it is because there’s a backdraft blowing. Her hair wasn’t really that large and poofy. The two improv comics I cast as the crooks — John Ley and David Argue — would refer to her as “The Mop” or “The Beanpole.” [laughs] We all loved her.

Which of your movies would you say are the most undervalued?

I’d certainly say “The Siege of Firebase Gloria” is the most neglected. It’s highly valued by those who have seen it. It’s Quentin’s favorite film of mine. It’s even appreciated by Vietnam veterans who say it really captured a lot of their experience in the ’68 Tet Offensive. “Dead End Drive-In” was totally dismissed critically in Australia at the time of its release, and given a premiere at a theater that was still under construction. It got critical acclaim in America, but then, naturally, like a lot of New World [Pictures] pickups, it vanished. Luckily, it’s been rediscovered with a new DVD transfer from Anchor Bay. So those are two.

I’ve made 38 crimes against cinema, and I’m about to do 39. It really depends on your viewpoint. People either get the wry underbelly of my genre work, which is not necessarily just self-referential, [or they don't]. For those who do, there’s maybe a few more nuggets of gold [among] the formulaic movies that others might be able to see. I also have an affection for “Tyrannosaurus Azteca,” which is a camp dinosaur picture that the SciFi Channel repeated 20 times since its premiere last year.

You’ve directed sequels based on films you had no involvement in, such as the upcoming “Porky’s: The College Years.” Is it challenging or liberating to work with previously established properties?

I always put my own spin on things. When I was asked to make “Night of the Demons 2,” I wanted to make it more outrageously funny than number one. I’m a little peeved that no one asked me to make the recent remake of “Night of the Demons.” Maybe I could’ve brought a certain something to that with $5 million dollars instead of, like, $1.4 million, which is what I had to make “Night of the Demons 2.” It had, amongst its stars, Christine Taylor, who was unknown at the time, but then developed a nice career and is now married to Ben Stiller. She’s a great comedienne.

07282009_Leprechaun3.jpg

The “Leprechaun” pictures, that’s an interesting story. Basically, the producers] had a disappointment with number two. It hadn’t done the numbers that they wanted, so they were just going to make a three-part franchise, and that would be it. They said, “Look, set it in Vegas, shoot it at the Ambassador Hotel in L.A.,” and we ended up [shooting part of the film] without permits in Vegas to pepper it with the leprechaun in real Vegas backgrounds. We tried to do 14 days, plus our one guerrilla day, with seven people, avoiding the cops in Vegas. It turned out to be the bestselling direct-to-video of 1995. So they said, “You gotta make another one,” so we made “Leprechaun in Space,” which is an even broader, wilder pastiche than number three. I don’t know which of the two you prefer — opinion divides.

“Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!” opens in New York and Los Angeles on July 31st.

[Additional photos: "BMX Bandits," Nilsen Premiere, 1983; "Leprechaun 3," Trimark Pictures, 1995]

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