Scott Spiegel [Interview]

Scott Spiegel
So, for those of us who can be counted as proclaimed independent film nerds, Scott Spiegel might as well be a household name.  Same goes for horror buffs, or every pothead kid who has watched The Evil Dead at least a thousand times.  Scott’s name seems to be thrown around a lot in certain circles.  He’s the man who introduced Quentin Tarantino to Lawrence Bender, and well, we know what happens after that.  He wrote the screenplays for some of the best action/horror/what have you films like The Rookie, Evil Dead II, and From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, in which he also directed.  He has BFF relationship with Sam Raimi, the forementioned QT, and so many more great folks in the independent film world.  But, what about Scott himself?
In a career spanning well over 30 years, Sir Spiegel has done some amazing work of his own.  And he has also managed to work in every realm of the world of cinema imaginable.  From acting appearances in films like The Quick and the Dead and Spider Man, to second unit direction and acting in the cult favorite 2001 Maniacs, and all the way back to being a utilities guru for American Idol.  This is man who obviously loves the world of filmmaking more than any of us could truly imagine.  And it was with this thought in mind, that I decided we needed to share a few words with this illustrious man of cinema, and see if he had any cool stories to tell.  And boy did he!  So take a look at a few questions with the legendary Scott Spiegel, in one of our finest interviews to date.  Cheers!
What initially drew you in to the world of filmmaking?
Famous Monsters magazine was one of the big influences (and the Super 8 horror films sold in the magazine). My friends and I were going to buy the 1925 version of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA advertised in the back pages of Famous Monsters when I realized we should put that money toward making our own Super 8 movie – a horror comedy entitled INSPECTOR KLUTZ SAVES THE DAY (a poor man’s MAD magazine like horror spoof – we had a couple of cool Don Post monster masks featured in the movie). This got laughs from friends and family we showed the film to so we stuck with the comedy and made these 3 Stooges slapstick style romps and we just kept at it.

What was it like being the mind behind the From Dusk Till Dawn sequel?  Were you allotted much artistic freedom on the film’s production? 

Yes, quite a bit. My original pitch included Quentin’s character Richie coming back as a vampire – he is now king of the Titty Twister when a new crop of gangsters comes in looking for Richie (they all were planning to rob a bank in Mexico together). Once the gangsters realize Richie wants to have them for dinner all hell breaks loose and the gangsters nearly escape with their lives, killing Richie and the vampires and burning down the Titty Twister. Luther has been bit by Richie but he doesn’t tell the other gangsters he’s been bitten which causes horrific problems later on as they rob the bank). Bob Weinstein loved this version but Quentin wanted to have all the guys waiting at the motel for Luther, who unwittingly stops off at the Titty Twister and gets bit by a vampire and then joins the guys at the motel for the bank heist and that’s the version that’s in the film.

w/ the cast of From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money

w/ the cast of From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money

Quentin came up with a couple of scenes telling me ‘I don’t even know if you can use this in the film but I’m gonna tell you anyway” and it was the story of a gun toting guy furious his sister is appearing in a porno film and he bursts onto the set, tosses her aside and shoots every one dead, even the guy who brings the donuts. I thought it was hilarious and that scene is in the film. Quentin also contributed several riffs of dialog (pertaining to the guys watching porn at the motel) that I love (when discussing a certain porno film’s plot involving a Dentist’s office Ray Bob asks C.W. “What happened at the dentist?” and C.W. replies “They all fuck each other, what do you think it’s a porno movie”. When I met with Robert Rodriguez to go over the first draft of the script (he loved all the “gags” and set pieces) he had just turned down directing THE MASK OF ZORRO for Steven Spielberg! Robert was really excited that we got Robert Patrick to star and he ended up using Robert Patrick in several of his films after that. I loved working with Danny Trejo and Raymond Cruz (who became a very good friend of mine). Bob Murowski edited the film (and went on to edit Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN trilogy and win an Oscar for co-editing the movie THE HURT LOCKER).

w/ buddy Bruce Campbell, NYC 1981 (post production of Evil Dead)

w/ buddy Bruce Campbell, NYC 1981 (post production of Evil Dead)

What would you consider to be some of your fondest on set memories in your career spanning 5 decades?

Wow, okay, here are some highlights –

-being directed by Clint Eastwood in a cameo I did in “THE ROOKIE” (I get in a crossfire between Clint and Raul Julia) – when we wrapped I noticed all the shell casings from Clint’s gun littered the floor! So I scooped them all up and took them home with me and have them proudly displayed. We were shooting on location at the San Jose International airport at 3 in the morning with Clint directing and acting in the movie, chasing around the bad guys and he sits down next to me exhausted and says “Next time why don’t you write a movie that takes place during the day”.

-I think it was January 1985 and Sam Raimi and I got a tour of THE GOONIES set! A friend of ours, Jane Goe, worked at Amblin Entertainment at the time. We went into the stage and saw this awesome ship – I mean that SHIP WAS GIGANTIC! The sight of it still overwhelms me. We got to hang out on the ship and meet director Richard Donner, stars Robert Davi, Joey Pantoliano, Anne Ramsey, Corey Feldman and Jonathan Ke Quan – it was funny to watch Richard Donner bellow at Corey Feldman like he was he Dad. Great times. We were going to go to the other stage where Steven Spielberg was directing a scene in the grotto but when we got there he had gone. Just us at the grotto and then I noticed all the cool coins in the grotto! When no one was looking I snagged a handful of those coins – what a souvenir! When I met Josh Brolin recently I told him this same story and he smiled and said, “I grabbed a bunch of those coins too”.

-on THE ROOKIE set I was reading THE ART OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK by Donald Spoto and the first photo in the book is of Hitch sitting in his chair on the set of his last film FAMILY PLOT (1976) and standing next to Hitch is first assistant director Howard Kazanjian who was also the producer of THE ROOKIE and who was standing right across the room! I went up to him and said “Howard, is that you?” and he smiled and said, “Yes”. He told me all about Hitchcock and his wife Alma (who was sick at the time) – fascinating – I will always cherish Howard’s stories, as I am a huge Hitchcock fan. Howard was so much fun – (he also produced of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and RETURN OF THE JEDI).

-hanging with Clint, Charlie Sheen, Ginger Lynn Allen, Raul Julia and Sonia Braga on the set of “THE ROOKIE”.

-being one of the knights at the end of “EVIL DEAD 2” and having my gloved fist block the camera at the very end as it cuts to black and the credits roll.

-directing both Robert England and Kane Hodder in the same scene in “2001 Maniacs”.

on set of Quick & the Dead

on set of Quick & the Dead

-talking with the late great Woody Strode on the set of “THE QUICK AND THE DEAD” (his last movie, dedicated to him) as well as hanging out with Russell Crowe (showed me his movie ROMPER STOMPER) and working in the company of Gene Hackman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sharon Stone, Kevin Conway and of course Sam Raimi.

-hanging out on the set one (location) of “PULP FICTION” one night and having John Travolta tell Quentin and me how a homeless black guy collecting bottles out of a garbage can nearby just gave him a run down of where his career went wrong back in the mid 1980’s (STAYING ALIVE, PERFECT) and Travolta totally agreed with the guy! We all had a laugh -this was just before they filmed the scene of Travolta and Uma driving around in that cool Red Chevelle convertible.

-being directed by Sam Raimi in SPIDER-MAN 2 and getting special effects guidance from John Dykstra.

-walking onto the set of SPIDER-MAN 2 and seeing my editing crew, stunt crew and 2nd unit crew from “FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2” all working together – “I told them “You guys are making wayyyyyy more money on SPIDER-MAN 2 than FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2!”

What would you consider to be your greatest non artistic achievement?

Swiping those “GOONIES” coins – just kidding. Man, that’s a tough question. I am proud of my collection of monster stuff although that might not count because there is “art” involved but then again I may be over thinking the question. Even Forry Ackerman was impressed with my collection when he was over. He said it reminded him of all the kids “monster” rooms he visited on his tour across the United States back in 1963 to personally visit all of his fans. I’d like to think of my place is the 7-11 version of the Ackermansion.

 Why?

Because I never get tired of it and it always makes me happy.

You have worked in almost every behind the scenes realm possible in the world of filmmaking.  What aspect would you consider to be your favorite?  

Directing, writing and producing.

Least favorite? 

Doing a budget.

What sort of influence has growing up in your hometown of Birmingham, Michigan had on your illustrious career?

I was fortunate to have Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell as friends. We all shared the same zeal for filmmaking and we worked well together and learned a lot about filmmaking from each other. Our parents were very encouraging and let us do the craziest things. We also acted in local theater productions and enlisted talent from there. A film we made entitled SIX MONTHS TO LIVE (1977) premiered on THE GHOUL SHOW in Detroit and I was a guest on the show – we even got fan mail from the showing of the film. By this time we had a group of reliable players and were really rolling. We would show up at parties with our Super 8 projector and screen our home made movies to great audience response (in the days before VHS/DVD players) this was a unique experience. If a scene didn’t play like we thought it should we would go out and re-shoot and or re-edit and it always improved the film. In 1978 we made a feature (in Super 8) called IT’S MURDER and it had a few jump scares that really worked and with HALLOWEEN, ALIEN and FRIDAY THE 13th lurking around the corner, EVIL DEAD wasn’t far away. But we kept rolling into the 1980’s and eventually we all ended up in Hollywood.

Your screenwriting work on the 1989 action flick Hit List was essentially uncredited, but it is rumored that much of your writing made it in the final cut.  Why do you think you failed to receive ample credit for your work even though you obviously had some great stuff to contribute?

I was brand new and non-union but I knew going in that there weren’t any guarantees and I was happy for the work and needed to build my resume. I got paid however and did some more un-credited screenwriting work on later Bill Lustig films.

The RookieAnother amazingly underrated action flick you co-wrote a screenplay for in the early 90’s was the prolific and entreating Clint Eastwood fronted film The Rookie.  When you were writing the script, was Eastwood always considered?  Did you originally see him as the lead?

Sean Connery was briefly mentioned for the Eastwood role. Also talk of Nick Nolte and Matthew Modine in the roles that Clint and Charlie ultimately played. There was a brief discussion of having Don (DIRTY HARRY) Siegel direct the film but he was ill at the time so Clint decided to direct the movie. In our meeting with Clint I told him that there was a sequence in the film (Charlie Sheen racing though the streets on his motorcycle to save girl friend Laura Flynn Boyle from the bad guy who is trying to kill her) that was inspired from the exciting climax of PLAY MISTY FOR ME which Clint directed back in 1971 and Clint looks at me and says “It worked then. It’ll work now”. Cool.

Loved when we met with Charlie Sheen and he complimented the script by saying it was “Die Hard without the building” – later Boaz Yakin and I were working with him at his place to polish the dialog and I told a bad joke and Charlie pointed a gun at me jokingly – I told better jokes after that.

The ever knowing Wikipedia informs me that you shared a house in L.A. with your old pal Sam Raimi, the Coen Brothers, Frances McDormand, Holly Hunter, and Kathy Bates.  Wow. What did you do to keep the walls from exploding due to the immense creativity they tried to hold?  What was that scene like?

It was incredibly cool! And I have the pics to prove it! BLOODSIMPLE was taking Hollywood by storm and there I was with Sam about to write EVIL DEAD 2. The Coen brothers were so nice to me – even after I did the old shaving cream on the end of the phone receiver gag. I called from another phone in another room and Ethan Coen picked up the receiver and got an earful of shaving cream! The look of horror on Sam Raimi’s face that me, a guest in ‘their” house would dare pull a prank like that on one of the Coen brothers but all Ethan did was laugh uproariously (I do a really good imitation of his laugh by the way). I was off the hook in more ways than one. Fran was working on HILL STREET BLUES and SPENCER FOR HIRE at the time – she let me keep the teleplays, which I eventually sold to finance my way out to Hollywood. I’ll always remember Holly Hunter sitting on her futon in her room in sweat pants reading scripts. One day she was dressed in a mini skirt and I said “Holly, you look really nice” and she snapped “I’m going to an audition and am dressing the part of a hooker. I don’t take that as a compliment” and she stormed out the door. Ouch. Sam and I wrote the role of Bobby Joe for Holly but the producers wanted a “babe” for the role. Holly showed us (Sam, Fran & me) the awesome slasher flick she co-starred in called ‘THE BURNING – it had Fisher Stevens, Jason Alexander in it and it was written & produced by Harvey Weinstein.

The glorious Wikipedia also informs me that you are responsible for the now illustrious duo that is Lawrence Bender and Quentin Tarantino.  What was your act in the manner? 

I have those guys on video back on memorial day 1990 at a big party I had with neighbor and actor D.W. Moffett – I actually introduced Lawrence Bender to Quentin a few months earlier while waiting in line to see Vincent Price in person at a 3-D screening of HOUSE OF WAX (he autographed my lobby cards!). At the Memorial Day party I re-introduced them and then I gave Lawrence a great recommendation and off they went to make RESERVOIR DOGS and movie history. I gave Quentin my FRUIT BRUTE cereal box and it makes a fleeting appearance in RESERVOIR DOGS but is featured prominently in PULP FICTION.

Big-El-Paso-ScottWhat does the future hold for you?  

I’m hoping there is a “Zombie Wedding” in my future.

Is there any new ground you would like to tread in the near future? 

There is this wild fantasy film I’m executive producing that I find very exciting – never really done a film of this sort before. I will fill you in as it happens. I would love to make a HOSTEL film in 3-D – it would be a no-brainer. An animated film would be interesting. Ah, the possibilities.

What was the last thing that made you smile?
Tommy Wisseau’s film THE ROOM.
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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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