Interview by Staci Layne Wilson  for Horror.com
When hard-rocking showman / musician Rob Zombie's long-awaited directorial debut, The House of 1000 Corpses, was unleashed in limited release earlier this year to mixed reviews, it wasn't a blockbuster - but based upon the per-screen take, Lion's Gate Films offered Zombie another go at film directing. This time, he will enjoy a wide release and plenty of publicity.
Even as he put the finishing touches on his 'House 2' script, Zombie sat down to discuss some of his expectations and ideas for the sequel (set for a 2004 release) with Horror.com.
STACI LAYNE WILSON: I liked 'House of 1000 Corpses'. Congratulations on the success of the DVD release. And I hear Lion's Gate obviously believed enough in the first movie to give you a chance at making another one.
ROB ZOMBIE: They've been great since the git-go. When they picked up the movie, I was so sick of everything that went on before [the film was dropped by two studios], I said, 'I don't want to change anything. Are you guys good with that?' And they said yes. So, they didn't make me change anything with this film. And the second one, hopefully, it'll be good. So it's gone from three years to get this one out, to now 'Let's make a sequel,' and it's like, 'Where the hell's the script?' I'm almost done with it, though.
WILSON: I understand the second one takes place a few days later…?
ZOMBIE: I think it's about a week later. Shortly after, anyway. It's sort of like the aftermath of everything that took place. I didn't want it to take place in the house again. I wanted to take the characters someplace else - it's more like Bonnie & Clyde [on the road] then like, 'OK, more victims come to the house and they die' - I thought that would be boring.
WILSON: When I saw the movie on DVD, I must say I was very impressed with your cast. Especially Sheri Moon. I'm a fan of your music but I don't follow your personal life, so I had no idea until later that she is your wife.
ZOMBIE: Yeah, she's really good. Well, we weren't married when we made the movie. We got married after. We've been together for about ten years so it's not like we met on the movie set. But yeah, she's great. She'd never acted before. She did music videos, but no acting. I had faith that she'd be great. It was kind of weird in that Sheri, and Sid Haig, and Bill Moseley, and Karen Black, weren't really pretending to be like this - there's not a lot of difference between their characters and their real-life personalities. They're all crazy and outrageous people and that's great because sometimes you get actors that are nothing like that and so this was fun.
WILSON: I met Sid for the first time at your DVD launch party. What a neat guy he is! I'd seen him in Spider Baby years ago, and of course in Jackie Brown. How did he come to be cast?
ZOMBIE: I've always liked Sid. I think I first discovered Sid when he was on Jason of Star Command, that kid's show. It was on in the late 70s… it was after Star Wars, when everything was Star Wars crazy. He was Dragos, the villain, and I remember thinking, as a kid, 'Wow, that guy's freaky!' And of course, seeing him in other movies and things. He was one of those actors that always sort of frustrated me in movies because I liked him so much, but he never got to do enough. They cast him because they knew he was great, and he was sort of a scene-stealer. I mean, yeah - Spider Baby, he's all over that, but I'm talking C.C. and Company, Black Mama White Mama.
WILSON: Yeah - a long, dry spell between starring roles.
ZOMBIE: In the sequel, he's got an even bigger role.
WILSON: Good. I love Captain Spaulding. He's like, the loveable asshole, as you say on the DVD commentary.
ZOMBIE: That's how we always discussed him. That how a lot of the characters are. I wanted to create something like that. I mean, even Otis. Otis isn't even lovable, he's just a mean asshole and everybody's like, 'I love that guy!'
WILSON: What is your process as a writer? Do you need privacy and quiet, or can you just write anywhere?
ZOMBIE: No, not really. I'll take notes everywhere and I'll constantly think about the story everywhere. I've tried to write with other stuff going on, but I really can't function like that. My process is, I usually get out of bed really early - I force myself to get up at 5 a.m., or 6, and just sit there and write. That's the only time of the day for me that's mellow. Once the phone starts ringing, the dog's awake and the cats are up, my brain just goes crazy. But that early, it's just so dead, it's the only time I can get it done.
WILSON: Do you like writing scripts?
ZOMBIE: I like it, but I also like the idea of someone else doing it. I got a script the other day that someone else wrote, and I kind of liked it and wouldn't mind directing it. But I like writing. I would like to collaborate with someone, too.
WILSON: In my review of 'House of 1000 Corpses', I likened your style to a cross between Mario Bava and Oliver Stone.
ZOMBIE: [Laughs] That's funny.
WILSON: I would like to see you tackle a different genre...
ZOMBIE: I would like it, too. That's why there a lot of stuff in the new movie that - a lot of people get it, and some people don't - is not what you'd think of as being a horror movie. I'm a big fan of 70s movies, and 70s movies had a different way they handled things. Like that Jack Nicholson movie, The Last Detail. They could never make that movie now. It's basically just those three Navy guys doing stuff. It's got such a rambling quality. Now movies are so, 'Get to the point! Get to the point!' I like it when movies are sort of free flowing. But Bava, yeah, that's funny. A lot of the lighting tricks, we stole from him.
WILSON: In one of Bava's movies, there's a scene showing a horse and cart seemingly going for miles, but it was really shot in a small courtyard. I learned about how they did that in the DVD commentary. You did something similar with the underground caverns in House of 1000 Corpses.
ZOMBIE: Yeah. The tunnels were horrible to film, just because they weren't constructed right. The people who built them did a great job and they looked good but they weren't really made for filming. Nothing was cut away so we had to be inside the tunnels the whole time, and we had to seal them up and it was 110 degrees in there. And then the video monitors were outside the tunnel, so we had no communication. It was complete chaos. That was the only time on set people were like, yelling and mad and pissed off because nothing was working and nothing would fit. The camera wouldn't fit. There was nowhere to put a light. It was terrible.
WILSON: Earlier you mentioned liking movies with a 70s feel. Right now, a lot of horror movies are going back to the old school. Like yours, Cabin Fever, and Freddy vs. Jason. Have you seen any of the new horror movies this year?
ZOMBIE: I've seen some stuff. I saw 28 Days Later, obviously. It great, I really loved it. I haven't seen Freddy vs. Jason. I've been away [in England, promoting Corpses] since it's been out. There are a lot of movies I have to catch up on. I saw May, and I thought that was a cool movie. That about it. The other day I was on the set of Toolbox Murders, and Tobe Hooper was wrapping it. That looks really cool, too.
WILSON: And Sheri's in that, right?
ZOMBIE: Yeah, I went and hung out. I thought it would be fun to watch Tobe work.
WILSON: Now that you've directed a movie, do you sort of watch movies with a different eye?
ZOMBIE: Not really. I've always watched movies with that sort of thing; picking them apart and driving people crazy. Like, 'Can't you just enjoy the movie? Do you have to analyze everything?' So… (shrugs).
I think I just appreciate them more. If you're not connected to it, it's easy to just say things, but [for instance] I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean. Whether you liked it or not, you just have to appreciate it's on such a monumental scale. Then I'd read a review, they'd just slag it off, like, 'Whatever!' It's an incredible achievement, whether you like it or not. So, it just kinds of makes you appreciate how incredibly difficult it must have been. Especially with old movies, like the John Ford westerns - no monitors, no playback, no nothing.
WILSON: Are you the type of director who reads reviews?
ZOMBIE: Not really, because I don't feel good about the good ones. You know, they only work one way, so it's like, what's the point? Feedback is okay, but with reviews it's just some faceless guy's opinion. So, if I don't know the person… it's like, if you know the person you can take their feedback into account and go, 'Oh, that makes sense.' But if it's just some guy, it doesn't mean anything.
WILSON: For the second movie, you'll have more money to work with. Do you think in some way that might add up to more problems?
ZOMBIE: Maybe, in some respects. I don't know what the budget is. I know it's more, but not insanely more. Budgets are funny, because on something like this I wouldn't want too much money because the more money you spend, the wider audience you are expected to appeal to. So with a horror movie, the more you would have to water it down. 28 Days Later, as an example, was made so cheaply that it's raw and in your face, but if it cost 100 million it probably would have been watered down so much it would have been boring. So, you know, what I want is more time. We had no time on the first one. Twenty-five days is very quick to make a movie. There was no time for error. If something goes wrong, you lose your day and whether it's good enough or not good enough, you've got to move on anyway. So, yeah, I want more time.
WILSON: And I take the second one won't have so much rain?
ZOMBIE: Yeah, that was a mistake! There was actually more - in the original script, I had it raining throughout the whole thing. Luckily we shot enough in sequence to where I could eventually say, 'You know, it's stopped raining at this point.' It was so miserable, day after day, night after night, being in the rain.
WILSON: Will we be learning more about the characters next time around?
ZOMBIE: Yeah, we'll start explaining everything. The first movie just had so many characters just running wild, you're not sure who they are and what they're doing. We'll start clearing that up.
WILSON: There is so much about the second movie online already. Message boards, rumor sites, and whatnot - do you read those?
ZOMBIE: It's funny what's online. It just cracks me up. I don't know where these things come from. Kids must just sit home and go, 'OK, let's start this rumor. This'll be funny.' They'll say they found out what the plot to the new movie is, and I'm like, 'What the heck? I didn't even write the script yet and suddenly this kid's got the whole plot.' I read one [post] where some guy's like, 'My friend's got a four hour version, but he won't show me.' Of course he won't show you, because he obviously doesn't have it! The internet is insane.
WILSON: Is it fun to go back and revisit these characters?
ZOMBIE: Oh, yeah. I really love the characters and that's what I want to do. They're all on the borderline of another film like that - that they would become too campy, and say, too loveable. I don't want that to happen, so this film is almost like going backwards, where I'm making the whole movie darker, and the characters more serious and trying to - once Captain Spaulding becomes too funny and loses his edge, he's becomes useless. So I'm making a darker, grittier and meaner film.
WILSON: Sounds good to good me!