The following interview with conducted (July 97) at the recent Monster Bash in Ligonier, Pa. The con focused mostly on classic horror (i.e. Wolf Man, Frankenstein, Dracula, etc), but one of the guests of honor was Tom Savini. As you can tell from my page I am a big fan of Tom and was lucky enough to sit down and do an interview with the King of Splatter himself. So enjoy!!!
Caretaker: I am here at the Monster Bash talking with Tom Savini, the King of Splatter. Tom, I have read many of the articles you have done over the years and was wondering who your influences were? I know Lon Chaney, Sr was one of your idols, but who else?
Tom Savini: Definitely, Jack Pierce, of course. Because to me Frankenstein existed and I didn't realize or discover to some years later that he existed because of Jack Pierce and James Whale and other people. But as far as the actual monsters, something I would duplicate on myself was inspired by Jack Pierce's efforts. Dick Smith, of course. Dick Smith was the only guy who you could call up and he would share information with you, secrets of make-up techniques. Before that I was sticking chewing gum in my ear. Later on you have Staurt Freeborn, Rob Bottin, Rick Barker, Stan Winston. You know all the walking ones today.
Caretaker: How about as an actor?
Tom Savini: Not that they are great actors, but personalities. Actually when you are watching a movie, you are watching a series of takes that work. An actor is only as good as he was within that take. Tom Lee Jones, to me is like one of the greatest actors around. But growing up, I was influenced by Charles Bronson, Charlton Hestion, John Wayne, Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin, the tough guys. Again, personalities and not so much the actor. But as far as actors go, Tom Lee Jones, Lawrence Oliver, Burt Lancaster, and Tony Curtis were all big influences.
Caretaker: Are you a horror fan?
Tom Savini: I thought I was the horror fan. No, I am the fan that made it good, well at least that is what they tell me. Horror is such a right turn off the path, the beaten kind of everyday normal path. Also, its a scary thing, anything that gets your adrenaline going . Endocrinologist will tell you a horror movie, a roller coaster ride that sort of thing releases in your system a chemical. I don't know the name of chemical, but it's a cancer fighting chemical. That if you were to go get a treatment of it would cost you $40, 000. So watching a horror movies, riding a roller coaster or that kind of thing produces millions of dollars of this chemical in your body. But horror is such a...its the weirdness of it. We all love a freakshow. We all stop to look at the accident. It stems from that.
Caretaker: Speaking as a fan, what is your view on the state of horror today?
Tom Savini: Well, I don't think that horror has reached the point where they are making movies as an excuse to sell hamburgers, button, etc. I am a little afraid that the danger of a movie like Scream making so much money, is that it trains people to except such stupidity as a horror movie. I prefer the classic horror, the monsters, but they are not scary anymore. The only horror that scared me was The Exorcist and the Alien trilogy. So it is possible to be inventive and unique in the genre of horror. Who is going to do that I don't know, but I 'll be waiting for them and hopefully I can be one of them.
Caretaker: Tell us a little about what it felt like working on your first film "Deathdream"?
Tom Savini: Well, it was my first movie so being in a room with lots of people with a big camera on a dolly...it was like "Wow, hey I am where they are making a movie", someplace where I always wanted to be. Then it was like the Peggy Lee song, "Is that all there is". The things that stick out was doing the effects, when they didn't work we could do them again, but when they did, it was very rewarding.
Caretaker: How did you come to meet George Romero?
Tom Savini: Well he came to my high school, I think I was a sophomore. He came looking for actors for a film he was making called "Whine of the Fawn", which was never made. I was one of two actors that he took down to his studio for a screen test. Years later when I heard he was making "Night of the Living Dead", I went down with my portfolio to say "hey, I can do make-up effects." George said he could use me, but I had just enlisted in the army and was in Vietnam when the movie was made. But a few years later, I heard he was making "Martin" so I went down to audition for the vampire, but he was already cast. So I stayed on and did the effects for the film.
Caretaker: How did you come to do the make-up effects for "Dawn of the Dead"?
Tom Savini: I was in North Carolina doing a play when I got a telegram from George that said "start thinking of ways to kill people." That's all it said.
Caretaker: I just finished watching the recently released Director's Cut of "Dawn of the Dead" from Elite and heard George and you discussing a suicide ending for the film. Was that ever shot?
Tom Savini: He doesn't remember shooting it, but we definitely shot it. I was on the roof of the Monroeville Mall in the snow with the helicopter with a big bracing 2 x 4 systems that was holding up the dummy with fishing line. After the head explodes, we cut the fishing line and the dummy dropped. We definitely shot it and I saw the footage, but where it is now who the hell knows.
Caretaker: Which ending did you prefer?
Tom Savini: Definitely, his ending.
Caretaker: How did you get involved with "Friday the 13th"?
Tom Savini: That was right after "Dawn" and they saw my name on it and so they called me. They wanted to get the guy who did those effects.
Caretaker: Any effects on that film that really stick out in your mind?
Tom Savini: Everything was new in those days. We were inventing it. Probably, the arrow through the throat of Kevin Bacon, but that was more of a magic trick.
Caretaker: "Day of the Dead", was that the movie that George Romero really wanted to make?
Tom Savini: No. We went through 3 or 4 scripts on that one. Every time they gave him a budget cut, he had to make it smaller and smaller. It was an epic. An zombie epic film. It just got too expensive.
Caretaker: Hopefully, with the next one in the series, George can make the movie he wants to make.
Tom Savini: I don't think he wants to do another horror movie.
Caretaker: That's our loss as fans if that's true. Well can you tell us a little about working with Stephen King?
Tom Savini: It was a blast. He's a funny guy, but brilliant. He is like a 13 year old kid. You could sit around all day talking about your favorite Twilight Zone episodes with him.
Caretaker: "Night of the Living Dead 90", I think was better than the original, whose idea was it to do the remake?
Tom Savini: Thanks. I wish you could have seen the movie I wanted to make. But budgetary and rating constraits kept us from doing that. Oh yeah, your question....actually, it was George's idea. I think he finally got the financing. When he asked me about it I said, "great I guess I will be doing the effects", but he said, "no I want you to direct." George gave me a lot of freedom on this film.
Caretaker: Whose idea was it to change Barbara's character?
Tom Savini: That evolved from us trying to think who we could bring back and George said "no one." I said what about Barbara. We see her dragged out, but never killed. Why couldn't she escape, grab a gun and help these people. Than George began writing the Sigourney Weaver/Barbara part.
Caretaker: What part did you play in the effects for the film?
Tom Savini: I picked the effect team and designed what I wanted to see. John Vulich and Everett Burrell from Optic Nerve Studio had just worked with me on "Two Evil Eyes". I had wanted to take cadavers and mechanize them. We couldn't do that, but that's the look I was after. They did a great job for me.
Caretaker: I am a big fan of the Italian Horror scene, any favorites?
Tom Savini: Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Lamberto Bava.
Caretaker: What did you think of Fulci's zombies?
Tom Savini: Great effects. The eyeball puncturing scene was wonderful.
Caretaker: What does the future hold for Tom Savini?
Tom Savini: Two possibilities immediately. One is called "Claustrophobia" and the other is "Vampirates". Promises, but not contracts. Hopefully, they will lead to contracts.
Caretaker: To direct, act, or do special effects?
Tom Savini: To direct and play parts.
Caretaker: Tom, one final question. Why the web?
Tom Savini: Two guys in Ohio called me up and said they wanted to do a website. I said "website, what's that"? So the website was created well before I had a computer. It was their idea and I love it. I love plugging in my laptop and being able to talk to the world. I love getting e-mail.
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