Friday, October 1, 2010

Hooper and Garris Talk The Funhouse

"On the afternoon of August 14, 2010, six young people went to a
screening of The Funhouse and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre at
the Aero Theater in Santa Monica, California. All six of them were
heard from again. The next day, one attendee not with this group
posted a video of the event on YouTube.

The director mumbled a mad tale: a director of cannibals in an isolated
funhouse. Trigger happy teamsters with guns. His cast, his crew
hacked up for freak chow. Puppets in chairs.
Then he sank into a Q and A session.

Officially, on the records, the Tobe Hooper / Mick Garris interview
never happened.

But during the over the months, over and over again, JR and Chip Butty
have recounted the Tobe Hooper / Mick Garris interview. The Funhouse
Blog has not stopped. It haunts Blogger.

It seems to have no end."

Mick Garris: ...After having done Chainsaw and Eaten Alive -

Tobe Hooper: Uh, Salem's Lot -

Mick Garris: Well, Salem's Lot. Yeah, okay.

Tobe Hooper: The, the the -- [UNINTELLIGIBLE]

Mick Garris: And, uh -- the two way -- it -- it's so not like a studio movie. It's such an independent movie, and an independent Tobe Hooper movie, which is all good. The two ways that it's -- it seems like a studio movie is just that, it's widescreen, and the orchestral music, which was great. Um, did you find them -- were those things that the studio wanted you to do, or, were they choices you were able to afford to do?

Tobe Hooper: Well I -- I could, uh -- well, within limit. Within the budget. So -- so, uh -- I think it's like a 35 piece orchestra. And uh -- relatively quick shooting. It seems like it was six weeks.

Mick Garris: Six weeks. And, and -- one basic location, right? Or did you shoot on the sound stages as well? 

Tobe Hooper: Well we shot the interior of the funhouse on, uh, the uh -- Ivan Tors Studios, in Miami.

Mick Garris: Ah.

Tobe Hooper: And uh, y'know -- where "Flipper" --

Mick Garris: Right.


Tobe Hooper: -- Was shot. And uh, and uh, the reason I shot on the West coast is uh --

Mick Garris: Or, the East Coast.

Tobe Hooper: Er, the East Coast, is uh, um -- that the labor laws -- I needed the child to work at night. [ AUDIENCE LAUGHS ] So that's why. And I'd also -- they had, they -- it was the Summer of [UNINTELLIGIBLE] for uh, carnivals and, circus and such as that.

Mick Garris: So did you actually go to the -- the town where they have the -- the, uh, touring, uh, freak show people, where they hang out in Florida there?

Tobe Hooper: The, uh -- yeah, there was, there was quite a lot, to select from. Uh, but -- [ AUDIENCE LAUGHS ] there was one basic show that we hired, uh, and then the, um, the animal anomalies, came from someplace else.

Mick Garris: That's really disturbing, seeing the actual anim -- uh, animal anomalies, uh, on the screen like that. So, did you actually go out and cast freak animals?

Tobe Hooper: I, uh, I saw photographs first.

Mick Garris: Ah. [ AUDIENCE LAUGHS ] Very disturbing. Well, what about the -- the casting. Uh, Elizabeth Berridge went on to do Amadeus, shortly after.

Tobe Hooper: Uh huh, that's right.

Mick Garris: Um, and how -- uh, tell me a little bit about the process of how you assembled the cast, and Hoop -- er, Cooper Huckabee, looks exactly like Tom McLaughlin, doesn't he?

Tobe Hooper: Yeah, he does! Yeah. Cooper came from LA. Um, and uh -- at least I cast him out of LA. Uh, Largo Woodruff came from Los Angeles, and -- Beth from New York, casting. Um -- Kevin Conway, uh, New York. He just won, um, uh -- a Tony, for "When You Coming Back, Red Rider?" Something like that. And um, and he agreed to do it if he could play three parts. [ LAUGHS ] So that added a dimension to the -- to the whole carnival.

Mick Garris: That's for sure.

Tobe Hooper: And -- yeah, he and I -- really, I really liked him in the film.

Mick Garris: Well, this being a studio thing also, brings up the question of, y'know, handjobs with Sylvia Miles, uh [ AUDIENCE LAUGHS ] -- various other, uh, elements that -- first of all, studios don't understand and don't really like horror movies except the money that they make. So, did you have dealings with them where you had to convince them, that you wanted to do things a certain way? Or did they just say "Oh, it's just a horror movie, do whatever you want"?

Tobe Hooper: Well, I was in Florida.

Mick Garris: [ LAUGHS ]

Tobe Hooper: I was in Miami, and they were here. And, so -- so it -- it made it easier. And y'know, and also the, uh -- Verna, Verna Fields was the Production Supervisor -- Post Production Supervisor, y'know --

Mick Garris: Right, the editor of "Jaws."

Tobe Hooper: And -- and also Vice President --

Mick Garris: Yeah, she became a studio executive.

Tobe Hooper: And, um -- and -- and y'know, they let a lot go? Y'know, I mean, they let, uh -- I -- I guess because we didn't understand. Uh, I mean -- like take two or take three, uh -- when Sylvia, uh, gets up and, uh -- uh --

Mick Garris: Wipes off?


Tobe Hooper: Wipes off. That was in like take three, I said "Wipe your hands of it."

Mick Garris: [ LAUGHS ]

Tobe Hooper: And she said, "Did I just end my career?" I said, "How can you?"

Mick Garris: HER career? Y'know -- I mean, this was after "The Sentinel."

Tobe Hooper: [ UNTILLIGIBLE ] Uh, "Midnight Cowboy," y'know.

Mick Garris: Exactly. Um, so -- how did the project come about? Was this something you came to the studio with? Uh, an idea of yours, and they had to hire a writer to develop, or they sent you a script?

Tobe Hooper: They sent -- they sent a script. Um, uh -- uh, a script of, uh, Larry Block.

Mick Garris: Mm-hm.

Tobe Hooper: And um, so -- I wanted to work on it, through, through the shooting. So Larry came to Miami with me, and we continued to finesse things.

Mick Garris: How much does the film resemble the first draft of the script that he sent to you?

Tobe Hooper: I don't rem -- I don't really remember. I, um -- I -- I don't, I -- I don't know. Uh, I mean -- what he provided me with was -- was my own carnival. To play with, you know?

Mick Garris: Right.

Tobe Hooper: And um -- And um -- It, I mean, it was -- it was enough like it, that there was an anomaly underneath the mask. And then, with Universal, uh, I was able to use the -- the -- the trademark Frankenstein.

Mick Garris: Right, so then you used "Bride of Frankenstein" in the -- in the film --

Tobe Hooper: Right, right.

Mick Garris: Early on, and all that. Um, so, were there any other benefits, or deficits, from do -- working within a studio system?

Tobe Hooper: Well, I -- I was really, um -- the only thing they, asked is I stay on schedule.

Mick Garris: Right.

Tobe Hooper: And, and uh -- I mean there were a lot of problems making the film. [ UNINTELLIGIBLE ] Well it was, um -- that, there was a -- I didn't know, but I got, uh -- I got the -- I was shooting in the Teamsters strike. Uh, the transportation captain was murdered. 

Mick Garris: Oh my god. Little problems.

Tobe Hooper: Yeah. And then people were taking pot shots at the studio, driving by, because of, um -- um -- I don't know, it was all in the -- in the midst of the cocaine wars, so. [ UNINTELLIGIBLE ] So it's a lot of -- it's a lot of danger.

Mick Garris: Now, Florida's a Right-To-Work state. Which, doesn't require, uh -- union membership there. I -- I assume that's why the film was shot there.

Tobe Hooper: Um -- no, that -- it was -- it was, uh -- there was [ UNINTELLIGIBLE ], right? There was --

Mick Garris: Yeah, there was [ UNINTELLIGIBLE ].

Tobe Hooper: A--Andrew Laszlo shot it, and he shot, uh -- the, uh -- "Warriors" for Walter Hill. And -- and I chose Andrew because of his -- the colors.

Mick Garris: Mm-hm.

Tobe Hooper: Y'know, the -- "The Warriors" had that.

Mick Garris: All those primary coming from the sides, and hall -- contrasting primary colors, it's a really nice theme.

Tobe Hooper: Yeah, and y--y'know, film stock was slow back then. Y'know, compared to now. So, um -- and I love those anamorphic flares, that -- y--y'know, I love blocking, the anamorphic. And, um -- 

Mick Garris: Was this your first experience, with a widescreen --

Tobe Hooper: It was, yeah.

Mick Garris: And, did you find yourself shooting, less coverage because you could include more in the frame?

Tobe Hooper: Yeah, it -- it wasn't as, like, like the next film that comes on [ REFERRING TO TEXAS CHAINSAW - ed. ] has a lot more, imperfect cutting than this had. 

Mick Garris: Uh, that's one thing that, people don't seem to understand, is that the widescreen process was created, to make movies more quickly, and cheaper, because you do less coverage. Because you can fit so much more into the frame. And it has only become over the years a more creative choice than that. So what about working with an orchestra? You famously did a brilliant sound score, sound-scape, for "Texas Chainsaw." And so working with a 35 piece orchestra as -- as a more traditional way to go with music, how did that come about?

Tobe Hooper: Well, it was a -- y'know, it's like, uh -- sit back and listen and be happy and, uh -- 

Mick Garris: [ LAUGHS ]

Tobe Hooper: If anything's wrong, change it.

Mick Garris: Yeah.

Tobe Hooper: Change it on the spot. And so -- I'd done that, once already. With "Salem's Lot." That was quite -- quite a large, uh -- uh, orchestra. Same -- same production designer, Mort Rabinowitz, uh, who did "Salem's Lot," did this. He also won the Academy Award for, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"

Mick Garris: Oh, that's such a great -- it's a beautiful movie.

Tobe Hooper: Yeah, that is -- it's why I really -- love Morton. It's -- y'know, his use of color.

Mick Garris: Well, what about the set. With -- did you basically just hire a carnival, traveling carnival, show, with all the rides and tents, or was it more, uh, constructed than that?

Tobe Hooper: Uh, it -- the -- the -- the funhouse was constructed.

Mick Garris: Right.

Tobe Hooper: And the facade was.

Mick Garris: Well, the interior of that funhouse is like no funhouse I've ever been in.

Tobe Hooper: Yeah.


Mick Garris: It's one I'd love to be in.

Tobe Hooper: Yeah, it was -- it was -- it was -- it's quite -- quite a big funhouse, actually. But uh -- that was inside the s--sound stages.

Mick Garris: What was it that, drew you to this in the first place? Just the, uh -- opportunity to put on your own carnival?

Tobe Hooper: I think that was, probably the main attraction.

Mick Garris: Well, some of your subsidiary characters, um, are notable for their lunacy. And -- [ LAUGHS ] I think, there are characters within here -- I mean, you're drawn to that. Is that part of your Texas background, or --

Tobe Hooper: Oh, well I think that's part of me.

Mick Garris: [ LAUGHS ]

Tobe Hooper: At least it's part of my trying to get out of -- get away from Texas background.

Mick Garris: [ LAUGHS ] Not because of it. Well, it--it's one of the things that distinguishes the remake of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" from your "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Y'know, it's a well made, decent horror film, but there's an insanity in your film that is -- is what makes the movie the classic film that it is, and so brilliant, and so unlike anything else.

Tobe Hooper: W--well with -- with, uh -- that insanity, and you even have a name for it, uh --

Mick Garris: "Red humor" is what I call it.

Tobe Hooper: "Red humor."

Mick Garris: It's way beyond black humor, it's -- it's too wet for that.


Tobe Hooper: And, um -- and -- and so I -- I don't know, I just like to -- to pick out the eccentric, potential of the characters. And -- and -- and -- and make them, uh -- th--their behavior, tell most of the story, and what they really are.

Mick Garris: Well people who know you, know how quiet and shy, and sweet you are. And people who only know you through your movies, see the lunacy. Uh, is this a way of -- is this your primal scream?

Tobe Hooper: I--I -- well, yeah. Well, yeah, of course it is. And -- and then there's that person too, that you -- only you -- a few people have seen, because you produced for me, um, like -- yet again, another person. When I get my [ SOUNDS LIKE: DOUBLE SEVENS ] license.

Mick Garris: [ LAUGHS ]

Tobe Hooper: And then a lot of that, y'know, I -- I don't ask of an actor, something in -- in terms of, uh -- uh, hysteria. As you know. It's --

Mick Garris: Yeah.

Tobe Hooper: I--I--it -- if I can't -- if I can do it, well they can do it. And so that's how I, uh -- am above the hysteria. 'Cause it can get kind of hysterical.

Mick Garris: Would you like to have been an actor?

Tobe Hooper: Uh, that was the first thing I ever really wanted to do.

Mick Garris: Really.

Tobe Hooper: And, uh -- and -- and -- and I started shooting -- uh, 8 millimeter films, and I -- sixteen millimeter films, and I was an actor, in it. I'd set the camera up -- y'know, it was lock off shots -- so I'd turn the camera on, run in front of the camera on my mark and slate it.

Mick Garris: [ TO AUDIENCE ] And I have had the pleasure of directing Tobe in "Sleepwalkers." And it's a wonderful performance, I think anyone who's seen it would agree. Right?


Tobe Hooper: I quite enjoyed that.

Mick Garris: That was so much fun, to have you and Stephen King and Clive Barker together, not only in a scene, but in a single shot. That just moves from one to the next.


Mick Garris: Um, what about the creation of the music, for example -- we're going to see "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" next, and I know nobody here has seen that before --


Mick Garris: But -- but the creation of the music, it's really a soundscape. How did you -- you do it? I mean, what was your process there?

Tobe Hooper: Well, I had, um -- I -- I -- I cut the film, in the -- in -- in my living room. And, um -- and -- and in a spare bedroom, that I had.

Mick Garris: With scissors.

Tobe Hooper: Yeah. Y--yeah. Scissors. Just about. And -- and -- and I had -- uh, in -- in the bedroom, I had my little -- all my music instruments, my Sony tape decks, and all of that set up. And, um -- but I used all kind -- I -- I used a lot of broken instruments. Like -- like a cote, that had been smashed.

Mick Garris: Mm-hm.

Tobe Hooper: Uh, out of tune, uh -- uh, violins, uh -- a bass, uh -- um. I loosened the -- loosened all the, um -- the, uh, the strings on it. Y'know, it's quite -- [ UNINTELLIGIBLE ] loosened the hair, from the bow. So you'd, you know, ratchet it. Drag it, and then, it would --

Mick Garris: Just nerve wracking sounds, that you're creating with destroyed musical instruments.

Tobe Hooper: Yeah, and then I cut it on the flatbed. I cut -- I cut like five or six tracks of music. And, uh -- uh, these disturbing, sounds.

Mick Garris: It's a great score, but I don't know that I'd want to listen to it on CD.


Tobe Hooper: I heard that it's available on CD.

Mick Garris: Is it really? Then I take that back.


Tobe Hooper: Yeah.

Mick Garris: Then I would run out and buy it. Speaking of sound, I mean you've always been very, much in the technical vanguard. You've always been kind of a techie, you've -- equipment and -- and home video and things like that, but -- I think this must be the first surround sound horror film, isn't it?

Tobe Hooper: Yeah! Yes it was. Uh -- uh -- um, Vern -- Verna had also, uh -- the first, um, uh film mixed at the Alfred Hitchcock theater.

Mick Garris: Really!

Tobe Hooper: And uh, and they -- they --

Mick Garris: That's where they mixed "Psycho IV."

Tobe Hooper: Yeah. And -- and, um, they -- they had a, y'know, a big floppy disk, so they could rehearse, and then it would, um -- y'know and -- and then -- the information would go back in the -- the, y'know -- parts would go up and down on the -- but then it broke. So they had to do it by hand. And, um -- and there was, uh -- there was only one executive decision made that, um -- uh, Verna made, that, um -- was, uh, to only kick in the surrounds inside the funhouse.

Mick Garris: Oh, it's very unconventional, that mix. And, when that happens -- I was watching the audience, the first time -- uh, it was before you got here, the first time that surround kicks in, in the whole stage, everybody went "What!" Y'know, looking around. It was a great effect.

Tobe Hooper: Yeah, it is. Yeah. Yeah, it's really beautifully done, too.

Mick Garris: What do you think that you brought to "The Funhouse," when it was brought to you? How did you make it your own?

Tobe Hooper: Well -- well I -- I -- I -- by the adjustments that I made, with -- with the directing the actors, with -- with the -- with the way I used the camera. And, uh -- I mean I came out of camera, and editing. Uh, I -- I cut the film. I mean I had another editor which was, uh, involved, but -- uh -- well, what -- but I made all the marks.

Mick Garris: Right.

Tobe Hooper: And then -- and then some of it I literally cut, there was quite a lot of footage.

Mick Garris: Well, your -- your films definitely have a personality. And you know, a lot of filmmakers are -- are good, competent filmmakers, but they don't necessarily bring their own humanity into it, their own personality into it. And there's no doubt when you're watching a Tobe Hooper movie. And, I think the penultimate Tobe Hooper movie may be "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2," which is, uh, I just -- a masterpiece.


Mick Garris: It's a masterpiece, and those characters could have only have come out of you.

Tobe Hooper: Yeah. Well, that -- I, that -- that is a part of dysfunction I understand.

Mick Garris: [ LAUGHS ]

Tobe Hooper: And I -- and I think I do bring that to my -- all my films. This -- this some measure of, um -- of dysfunction, and, um -- uh, and -- and understanding of, um -- eccentric family behavior.

Mick Garris: Hmm.

Tobe Hooper: Like, um -- I think it was my mother, that -- my mother and my aunt, that, uh -- didn't speak for two years, because my mother called her new car a son of a bitch.

Mick Garris: [ LAUGHS ]

Tobe Hooper: Y'know, and I mean, it's -- I dunno.

Mick Garris: [ LAUGHS ]

Tobe Hooper: No need to go there.


  1. Funny stuff.

    Wish I could find interviews with Tobe Hooper where he talks about Salem's Lot. That's my favourite movie by him.

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