29 July 2014

[continued from Part I]

The Terror Trap: What can you tell us about making Escape from New York and working again with Carpenter? Was the relationship as easygoing as it had been on The Fog?

AB: Yes, definitely. John is a great director. He knows what he wants and he knows how to get it. It's simple and it's easy. The hard part about Escape is that it was filmed in St. Louis and it was the summer and it was hot...oh, and there was night shooting. But in terms of the actual work, it was a pleasure.

TT: Any personal thoughts about the early scene in which Snake lands on the World Trade Center in light of September 11th? We watched it recently and being from New York, it was chilling and eerie...Have you seen the film since September 11, 2001?

AB: I haven't. I actually haven't seen Escape since it came out and I don't even remember that! He landed atop the World Trade Center?

TT: Yes, he's given a glider and that's where he lands...because it's the highest point in the prison that is Manhattan.

AB: Oh man...

TT: Any interesting recollections about Escape?

AB: What I remember about Escape is that it was before cell phones and John's image of what portable phones would be like twenty years hence...he went the exact opposite of what they've become. There was no miniaturization. I tend to recall that Lee Van Cleef uses a huge phone!

TT: But the old modular phones were BIG.

AB: They were. In those days they were. I was one of the first ones to have a car phone where you had to call the operator and she placed the call for you. It was a big, clunky thing. So we sort of went with that and thought that twenty years from now, that's what it'll be.

TT: For Escape, Carpenter at this point used what was undeniably becoming his own ensemble cast...Donald Pleasance from Halloween, you from The Fog, etc.

Not to mention you were also working with Western legend Lee Van Cleef, character great Ernest Borgnine and Kurt Russell, who would go on to appear in Carpenter's The Thing the following year. It's a terrific cast and it seems like you had a wonderful time.

AB: We did. We had a blast filming it. Donald was hysterically funny and just kept me laughing all the time.

TT: Was he a ham in real life?

AB: (Laughs.) I wouldn't say a ham. He was just very witty. I wish I could remember what it was that he was saying all the time, but he often did this whole running commentary while we were filming and I was on the floor. Donald was very dry, very witty.

TT: Tell us about working on Swamp Thing. What was it like to work with director Wes Craven?

AB: Wes was great. But Swamp Thing was harder because we were under-financed. And that was one film where I did feel I was isolated.

TT: In what way?

AB: I wasn't hanging out with anybody...they had me staying in a different place and we were working long, long hours.

I remember every day just going right from the set to the hotel and then to bed...and getting up and going back to work the next morning. Sort of isolated.

TT: But you enjoyed working with Craven?

AB: Wes was lovely and wonderful. I loved his script for Swamp Thing. I especially loved his original script. He had to make a lot of changes as we were going because they were under-budgeted.

TT: The character you played, Alice Cable, was originally male in the comic book.

AB: Oh really? I didn't know that.

TT: Making him a female added a "beauty and the beast" quality to the story...

AB: That's true.

TT: Were you asked to appear in the sequel?

AB: No.

TT: After Swamp Thing, you worked with another iconic director in the genre, George A. Romero.

What do you recall about playing that nagging Wilma in "The Crate" segment of 1982's Creepshow?

AB: (Laughs.) Aw, Wilma...She's my favorite. I had a great time on that one. I loved George and I loved being in Pittsburgh. In a way, it was unlike anything I had ever been asked to do.

So on Creepshow, it was really a question of my just sort of putting myself in George's hands and trusting that he knew what he wanted and that I should act the way he wanted me to act...which was much bigger than anything I had done up until that point.

TT: And you got to work with Hal Holbrook again.

AB: Yes!

TT: He must be fun to work with...he just seems like a nice guy.

AB: He really is. And I appeared again with Fritz Weaver, who I really enjoyed. He's a lovely man.

TT: Do you remember how long you were there for the shoot, considering that you were in one segment of an anthology and not the entire picture?

AB: I think I was probably there for three weeks. Certainly no more than that.

TT: Those great shots of you dying at the hands of the Tom Savini-devised creature...they're so stylized like a comic book...

AB: That was George's intent. When I first read it, I didn't get it and I thought, "Oh...this is really gory and bloody and I'm not so sure I want to do this." And then I talked to Tom Atkins and he told me that I should read it like it's a comic book because that's how George was gonna film it. Then it all made sense.

TT: Thoughts on your 1987 slasher film Open House - with its strange 'psycho stalks real estate agents' premise?

AB: Open House was a money job. (Laughs.) I needed to pay for my son's tuition. The only good thing that came out of that one was I became close friends with the casting director, Lori Cobe...and we have remained friends ever since.

Oh, and I liked working with Joseph Bottoms certainly. Other than that, I don't recall too much about making the film.

TT: And Lori is related to Sandy?

AB: That's her dad. You're talking about the Producer of Open House, Sandy Cobe?

TT: Yes. He had also produced other horror films in the early 80s, such as To All a Goodnight (1980) and Terror on Tour (1980).

AB: He's listed as the producer on Open House and yes, that's her dad.

TT: You were reunited with George Romero for Two Evil Eyes, his collaboration with Dario Argento. Your performance in The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar is classic Gothic and one of your most enjoyable. What are your thoughts about your part in this Romero-Argento twofer.

AB: What I recall most about Two Evil Eyes is that I was alone in Pittsburgh with my five-year old and I was taking care of Cody at the same time I was trying to do the movie.

I've gotta go back and watch these movies! I'm glad that's what you think.

TT: Romero enjoys shooting in his hometown of Pittsburgh...

AB: Yes, up until Land of the Dead (shot in Toronto), most of his films have been filmed there.

TT: Terror at London Bridge, the 'Jack the Ripper reanimated in Arizona' film. Care to say anything about it?

AB: Damn you guys! (Laughs.) You know, I made them and I watched them once...and I walked away...

TT: Well, you worked with David Hasselhoff on it...

AB: I worked with David, yes. I do remember that I had booked my first voice-over commercial the day after I finished filming that movie.

And in my last scene, maybe I was getting killed...I was screaming a lot...and I woke up the next day and drove back to L.A. to go to the studio to do this national television commercial for Jack In the Box and I couldn't talk. I had screamed my way out of a job.

TT: Did you ever get to do that commercial?

AB: No, they had to hire somebody else. So THAT'S what I remember about Terror at London Bridge. (Laughs).

TT: And you know what? People might remember that commercial more than they remember London Bridge.

AB: (Laughs.) And I would have made more money!

TT: Now that we've talked about films you made with three key horror directors, how would you describe the differences or similarities between the styles of Carpenter, Craven and Romero?

AB: I don't think of any differences when I think of the three of them...only the similarities...they all know what they want, they keep a gentle set, a lovely set.

Their working styles are all quite similar. They're extremely professional, know what they want, don't waste any time. In fact, they know what they want before they get there, I think is what I would say. And they can think on their feet. Wes certainly had to make changes and adjustments every day as we were working on Swamp Thing.

I would also say that they are very respectful of their tasks and their crews. Those are the things I think of when I think of the three.

TT: So. How's this for us taking a movie and making it sound much more pretentious than it actually is? We say: 'Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death is a light-hearted sex spoof of Joseph Conrad's classic Heart of Darkness'.

AB: You're right, you're absolutely right. It's a remake of Apocolypse Now!

TT: With you in the role of the mad Kurtz.

AB: Yes, I'm Kurtz...I'm Marlon Brando, man!

Actually, I think if they had had some money, it probably could have been better. I mean, it's a fun film and I thought it was a very amusing script. It was done during the Writer's Guild strike and the production company got a dispensation from the Guild to film. They offered me the job and I thought it was a hoot.

TT: It is a fun film.

AB: You know, that was one of those things where I did seventeen pages delivering dialogue to no other actors. (Laughs.)

TT: Why?

AB: Because my contract was like for two days and they had to wrap me. And they couldn't afford to keep the other actors on the set so they just sent everybody home and I was saying lines to people that weren't there...

TT: Let's move from avocados to rodents. Roger Corman produced Burial of the Rats for cable television. Any thoughts on that one?

AB: I had a GREAT time in Moscow...

TT: That's where it was filmed?

AB: Yes, we landed on the night of the attempted coup and they declared martial law...and I wasn't sure I was ever going to see my family again. I really took the job because they were filming in Moscow and I wanted to go there. I had never been and I'd always wanted to go. There's an entire chapter you'll read in my book about that.

TT: In Burial, you look fantastic as the Queen...decked out in full regalia. Do you wish that you had been given the opportunity to make more costume pictures or do you feel your persona lends itself to modern women and stories?

AB: You know, I loved doing Carnivale for HBO. That period...but also the locale in that period...

TT: During the Depression?

AB: The Depression. And being in the farmland during that time. The look of the people captured by the famous portraiture photographer, Dorothea Lange. I responded to that.

No make-up, real earthy...pain in their faces.

I think I related to it because I was raised on a farm and my grandparents, of course, went through the Depression.

TT: What kind of a farm was it?

AB: A grape farm...twenty acres in the middle of Fresno and Central Valley, California.

TT: We noticed that both Cannibal Women and Rats had comedic bents to them. Along with Rodney Dangerfield's Back to School, did you make a conscious effort to return to comedy after some years of making straight dramas and horror/adventure pictures?

AB: It wasn't a conscious effort but I think what happens is when I get offered a script that has comedy in it, I respond. I loved The Convent.

I'll get a script and sometimes what sets it apart, especially in this genre, is that it does have a sense of humor about itself. And that grabs me.

TT: Tell us about doing voice-overs for animation projects such as Scooby-Doo and Batman. Do you enjoy doing that stuff?

AB: I love it. It's so much fun. You don't have to get dressed up, you don't have to put make-up on. (Laughs.) And you never know who's gonna show up to play the other characters so it's always great fun. It's just a fun job.

TT: From an actor's perspective, do you approach your science fiction/fantasy work like appearances in Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 differently than your roles in more straight-forward horror films and TV projects?

AB: No, I don't. I approach everything the same way.

TT: What's currently on your plate, acting-wise?

AB: Right now, I'm in rehearsals on a Judy Garland project in New York. It's a two-character study called The Property Known as Garland. I'll be playing Judy. We're scheduled to open March 13th.

TT: How long is the run?

AB: We run 13 weeks and then if it's a success, we may go on. Check out propertyknownasgarland.com. You'll get all the information, it tells where the theatre is, about the cast members, etc.

TT: The title is significant...

AB: Yes. That's how Garland was referred to at MGM.

TT: Do you sing in the show?

AB: I do not sing, no. It's a very amusing play. Judy was probably one of the funniest celebrity women storytellers. She was a brilliant raconteur.

TT: True. You can clearly see that on her own variety show from the 1963-1964 television season. And she was so bawdy in real-life...

AB: She was very bawdy. And I think that's been captured with this project. It's a really positive look at her life, a tribute to her sense of survival and her spirit and her wit.

TT: Good thing. Judy's legacy has too often been hijacked by the tragic elements of her life and career. So focusing on the positive power of her talent will be refreshing.

AB: Yes, absolutely.

TT: Switching tracks a bit. In your career, did being a sex symbol help or hinder you?

AB: (Pauses.) I don't know. I honestly don't know because I never thought of myself as a sex symbol.

TT: But you must have known that you were, or at least perceived so by many of your fans...

AB: You know, it probably helped me get some jobs and it probably eliminated me from being taken seriously for others. It was what it was, I guess.

TT: To date, what are you most proud of?

AB: Well...I'm most proud of my three sons. In fact, Cody just scored one of the episodes of Masters of Horror.

TT: The anthology program on Showtime.

AB: Right. He scored his dad's episode and his band is just starting to get a lot of notice.

TT: What's their name?

AB: The Cody Carpenter Band. They just played at Sundance. Truly, I'm most proud of my kids.

TT: You made headlines when you had twins at the age of 51...would you call that one of your proudest achievements?

AB: Oh yeah. Not necessarily that I had them at that age but the kids are the best thing in my life.

TT: And in terms of your career?

AB: I'm very proud of Rizzo. I loved Billie in Creepshow. I loved playing Ruthie in Carnivale...

TT: Why was that not picked up for a third season?

AB: It was too expensive and they felt they could use that money to make six other various pilots that might work out.

I'm also really excited about my book. And I'm actually now writing a vampire novel.

TT: Really?

AB: Yes. And I'm very proud of this Judy Garland project. I did a workshop of it last summer and it went very, very well. I think it could be really good if it goes the way we plan it. Those are the highlights for me.

TT: Any regrets pertaining to your career?

AB: Hmmm...I regret that I wasn't more confident about myself as a singer. Even though I earned my living as a singer when I first started out, I didn't spend the time to find out who I was as a singer until much much later. And to have a specific image of myself.

TT: The self-titled CD of yours released in 1997. Is that the only recorded singing work of yours besides the original cast recording of Grease?

AB: Yes, that's it.

TT: So a regret would be that it was an area in which you wished you had more confidence?

AB: Yes, I started out with confidence and I lost it. It took me years to regain it. I've done so many things in my life...I just sort of jumped all over the place.

I was a talk show host in L.A. and I've gone from one thing to another...whatever came along that seemed interesting. I never really concentrated on one thing.

TT: Your remake on that 1997 CD of "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" is a great rendition.

AB: Well, thank you. That's the way I did it when I did it in New York. It was really a great career highlight to be able to do that, to originate that number.

TT: Have you ever written your own songs?

AB: Not really. I've written some lyrics and I actually had worked with a composer on one. But I never did anything with it.

TT: Is there anyone living or dead that you would like to have worked with?

AB: ...Sean Connery, Sophia Loren, Jean-Paul Belmondo. And Charles Aznavour.

TT: Loren and Aznavour! You could make a French-Italian sex comedy! Seriously, those are fun answers. Whom have you worked with that made the biggest impression on you?

AB: Bette Midler.

TT: You met during Fiddler?

AB: Right.

TT: Larger than life?

AB: Definitely.

TT: We know you're not the biggest fan of the genre, but is there a particular horror film or thriller that you do admire?

AB: I loved Klute. Does that count?

TT: Sure, absolutely.

AB: I loved that role. Jane Fonda is wonderful and that film always stayed in my mind.

TT: We couldn't agree more. What can fans expect from your book There Are Worse Things I Could Do?

AB: I think they can expect to laugh and I think they can expect to get a real exposure of me. I hope they laugh...I certainly intended for some of it to be witty. They'll probably get a sense of what it's like to make a low-budget horror film, if nothing else...and starting a career as a nineteen-year old in New York, not knowing a soul.

TT: It sounds like a diverse read. And should be a treat for horror fans in particular.

In a 1981 article promoting Swamp Thing, you were quoted as follows in answer to a question about where you would like to be in 10 years: "I hope I have a child...I see myself married to the same man, with one child - I don't know if we'll go any farther than that. And I'd like to be working."

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now in 2016?

AB: I will still be working.

TT: With three children?

AB: (Laughs.) I'll still only have three. Maybe there will be a grandchild, wouldn't that be fun? That would be great. You know what? I'll be on the road at Cody's concerts...in the front row.

TT: You'll be a roadie.

AB: That's where I'm gonna be...having a ball at one of his shows. And the other two kids, I'll probably be at the Olympics.

TT: How old are they now?

AB: They're gonna be nine on St. Patrick's Day. I'll probably be at some professional soccer game with Walker and William, both of whom might end up running the 40-yard dash at the Olympics.

TT: You'll be like a soccer mom-roadie-horror icon?

AB: Right! (Laughs.)

TT: Do you have anything planned beyond your new memoir, your vampire novel and the Garland show?

AB: That's all that I have planned for right now. Garland could go for six months, we'll see. After that, it's up in the air.

TT: When you're no longer on this Earth, what do you want people to say about you?

AB: (Long pause). I think I'd just like them to say, "She was a good person."

TT: Can't ask for better than that. Adrienne, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It's been a lot of fun.

AB: Thank you, guys!

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