Director Rick Rosenthal
Born in New York, Rick Rosenthal majored in Economics and Government at Harvard. Rosenthal had a "religious" experience watching shipbuilders, and he later became a metal sculptor. He turned in his Senior thesis on reel to reel videotape.
After graduating, Rosenthal made documentaries for New Hampshire public television. He attended the American Film Institute, where he made a film called MOONFACE, a black comedy which no one seemed to understand. Following that, he made a 30 minute psycho-killer movie called THE TOYER, which landed on the desk of John Carpenter's agent. This led to directing Halloween II.
Rosenthal's style is said to come from the German expressionist movement. In Halloween II, it expresses itself with long, contorted hallway shots and strange lighting.
Rick is married to Halloween II actress Nancy Stephens, whom he cast in his 1984 film American Dreamer and his 1987 film Russkies.
We spoke at his office March 12, 2002.
Luke: "I've learned that in television it's the producer's vision."
Rick: "Because the producer provides the continuity. During one 22-episode season, a show might have 11 different directors.
"The first movie I ever did [Halloween 2] was a sequel, but it was supposed to be a direct continuation. It started one minute after the first movie ended. You have to try hard to maintain the style of the first movie. I wanted it to feel like a two-parter. You have the responsibility and the restraints of the style that's been set. It was the same crew. My philosophy was to do more of a thriller than a slasher movie.
"I've just shot Halloween 8. The cyber age is upon us and that opened up the rules of the game.
"I subconsciously developed my own theory of point of view but never codified it as a spoken philosophy until I started teaching at AFI, when students asked me, 'Why do you do what you do?'
"It boils down to this question: Who's point of view are you telling the story from? And once you make that decision, say Sean Penn's point of view in Bad Boys, you begin to film in a certain way that allows the audience to identify with that particular character. The audience is alerted whom to root for. And that was something I did purely by instinct.
"It's a rudimentary philosophy. It means that when the character moves, the camera moves with him, in front of and behind him. When people come toward that character, the camera stays within the circle of the character and people get bigger and smaller. It's a strong identifying tool.
"You typically need a reference shot to tell the audience who's point of view they'll be watching the scene from, and then the point of view shots are filmed from within the space of that character. We reference the character and then show what the character is looking at.
"On Halloween 8 [which debuts July 19, 2002], when all these kids go into the [internet broadcasting] house, they're wearing these small digital cameras behind their ears. You get a pure point of view. It's what they're seeing through the digital camera. It gives a documentary feeling. And as the story progresses, and there are fewer characters, you increasingly root for Sara Moyer (Bianca Kajlich) and you sense what is at stake for her. Suddenly we have at our beck and call these six points of view [from the six major characters]. And it just creates a pace and energy that I've never seen before. And people just get caught up in it and they don't know why.
"Halloween 8 mixes humor with horror, but doesn't poke fun at the genre like Scream. There's one scene that gets spontaneous ovations, and it's not because it is horrific. It's just because it is funny. And I've never seen that in a horror film before.
"Once Miramax decides they like a movie, they're smart at marketing."
Luke: "Reading about the film on the internet, I read that you were fired at one point."
Rick: "There's always talk. I can't make a movie like this without rumors that [original director] John Carpenter is coming back. That [producer] Moustapha [Akkad] is unhappy. Moustapha is never happy until the movie makes a lot of money.
"We reshot an ending because Busta Rhymes emerged as a star. And that wasn't the way the script took it. After the first cut, it was clear that we were foolish if we didn't take advantage of this starring presence. And the moment you go into additional shooting, the rumors start flying. The film was never in trouble. The initial ending didn't make sense. We didn't have a visceral confrontation between the heroine and the killer. It was never cathartic.
"After we shot and edited that second version, and screened it for test audiences, the film went up. And the approval rating of Bianca Kajlich jumped 20 points. I have a conference call at noon to discuss what we're going to do with the last minute of the film."
Luke: "You turned in a video as your Senior thesis?"
Rick: "I was in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies. It was trying to merge Visual Studies with the Environment, a mixture of urbanology and design. But Harvard doesn't believe that the subconscious exists. I was able to do a thesis on half-inch reel-to-reel video."
Luke: "Tell me about Halloween 2's hot tub scene."
Rick: "Pam Shoop is pretty. At the first preview I was at in Las Vegas, when she drops her towel, there's a collective sigh, followed by a collective 'Ow!' The sigh was from all the guys in the audience followed by the elbow from their mates.
"I'd been studying acting with Milton Katselas at the Beverly Hills Playhouse and I brought many people from the Playhouse into Halloween 2, such as Leo Rossi. He played Budd, the ambulance driver, who ends up in the jacuzzi with Pam Shoop. Gloria Gifford who plays the black head nurse and Ana Alicia who played one of the candy-stripers."
According to this unofficial Halloween 2 website: "Acress Pamela Susan Shoop is in reality a rather shy person when it comes to exposing her body so she was uncomfortable when shooting the nude scene. Director Rick Rosenthal offered to have the crew take off their clothes to make her feel more comfortable but they flatly refused, which meant that it was back to Shoop and Leo Rossi being two naked people surrounded by clothed people. (NOTE: This officially makes Rosenthal a wimp because he suggested the whole 'have the crew get naked' thing but did not have the guts to take the initiative and remove his own clothes.)
"While fooling around in a hydrotherapy pool with Budd, she shows her perky breasts several times. As she gets out of the water there are some side views of her fully nude body. Than as she is killed, those perfect breasts are shown a few more times."
Rick: "I might not have taken my clothes off, but, believe me, I was naked through a lot of the film!"
In this internet interview, Pam Shoop discussed her dunking scene in Halloween 2: "Now that was hard! The water was freezing cold, and poor Leo Rossi and I could barely keep our teeth from chattering! The water was also pretty dirty and I ended up with an ear infection. But the stuntman who played Michael Myers, Dick Warlock, was just terrific. He was very gentle...or I should say, as gentle as could be! It took us two days to shoot the scene. They would dunk me and then the make-up people would put latex on my face and inject Vaseline into it to create the blistered effect. We'd dunk, then add more Vaseline. We had to do it over and over until it looked as if my face was "boiled." Yikes! But it was not difficult in the sense that I was afraid being under water at all. Just cold!
"Most of the work I did was under the direction of Rick Rosenthal. John [Carpenter] only came in at the end and added some extra scenes which I shot. Both guys were wonderful. They had different visions of the film. Rick put a great deal of emphasis on character study, while John was a genius at suspense."
Pam Shoop wrote a book with her husband, a former Jesuit priest. I found this description on a website: "WHAT GOD HATH JOINED is the real-life love story of Terrance A. Sweeney and Pamela Shoop Sweeney. Terry was a Jesuit priest in the Roman Catholic Church for 24 years. He and Pamela, an actress (Pamela Susan Shoop), were the first priest and woman to marry publicly in the United States. The book is written in alternating chapters so that the reader can "hear" what takes place in the heart of a priest who falls in love, and in the heart of a woman who lives the despair of realizing that she is in love with a man she can never have. It explores their crises of conscience; how they dealt with the guilt in the eyes of the church for their love; the realization that their love was from God and that it was, indeed, a blessing, not a sin; the difficulties for the two families involved; the decision to make their love public and dedicate their lives to changing the laws of the church to allow priests the option to marry; and it traces their love from the first meeting to their wedding night. It is raw and extremely personal. The book was published by Ballantine, Hardcover. If anyone is interested in buying an autographed copy directly from the authors, they can send a cashiers check for $20.00 plus $3.50 shipping & handling to Pamela S. Sweeney, 13601 Ventura Blvd., Suite 100, Sherman Oaks, CA. 91423. The authors like to describe their book as "The Thornbirds" with a happy ending!"
According to the Imdb.com: "A veteran character actress with a prolific career, Pamela Susan Shoop began acting while in her teens and established herself as a television regular in the early seventies. Since that time, she has appeared in several guest spots on a variety of television programs while occasionally working in theatrical films. As recurring player for Glen A. Larson, Pamela has made many appearances in at least nine different shows associated with the famed TV writer, director, and producer. While she has worked primarily in supporting and guest roles, Pamela did hold the regular part of Allison MacKenzie in the television soap opera 'Return to Peyton Place' from 1972 to 1973."
Luke: "Tell me about 1983's Bad Boys."
Rick: "I was offered Bad Boys on the strength of my 30-minute short The Toyer. Mick O'Brien was a strong character and his moral dilemma at the end was powerful. I reached the point where I said, 'If he kills Esai Morales, I'm not interested because I think it gives the wrong message.'
"We screened that film for a mixed audience in Philadelphia, filled with gangbangers. And there's a moment where this ice pick comes down and you think he's killed him. And the audience is silent. Then it shows he's still alive. And half the audience is silent and the other half calls him a pussy. I have a 19-year old son and all his friends know the movie.
"I then made a romantic comedy [American Dreamer, 1984] in Europe. I'm constantly approached by people who say, 'American Dreamer is my mother's favorite movie.' It was the highest testing movie at Warner Brothers in eight years but they couldn't figure out how to market it. They didn't have marque names starring. They didn't have a great poster. The poster they ended up with looks like a tax shelter movie from the 1970s.
"There was a great review in Cosmo that said if there was an Oscar given for a weepy loony performance, JoBeth Williams [lead] would be a shoo-in. She plays a housewife who wins a writing contest and goes to Paris where she gets hit by a car and suffers from amnesia. When she comes to, she thinks she's the heroine of the writing contest. So we see her as a browbeaten housewife whose husband doesn't tolerate any flights of fancy and then we see her as this fantastical heroine. She breaks your heart as this housewife and she's fun as the heroine.
"People discover this film all the time. There but for the grace of God goes a career that would've blossomed into making some more of those kind of movies, like Working Girl and some of the Goldie Hawn movies that came out. My two favorite movies I've directed are Bad Boys and American Dreamer."
Luke: "You keep switching back and forth between features and television. What are the differences?"
Rick: "You don't get as much time for rehearsals in television. You almost never have an hour for rehearsals in TV. If it's an incredibly complicated scene, maybe you get half an hour. Most of the time you get five minutes of rehearsal.
"I feel that I work under the radar. I don't feel my profile is as high as if I'd just concentrated on television over features or vice versa. I love to work. My colleague at AFI Martin Brest works every three or four years. I'd go nuts. I'd miss not working. Similar to the way I miss not playing ice hockey. If I don't play hockey for three weeks, I get out of sorts.
"Directing is an infinitely interesting job because you're dealing with people. We were doing [a TV show]. On the last day, we went to lunch. I had five set-ups left. That's two hours of work. It was a Friday and everybody was going, 'We'll be out of here by 4PM.' I wasn't so sure. Something always changes.
"We come back from lunch and we're doing the second shot. And suddenly we hear the two actors get into an argument. 'I don't treat people the way you do.' 'Well, thank God you don't.' Next thing we know, they're [both women] in this all-out screaming match. They storm off the set and go to their trailers. Make-up comes in and says, 'This will be a big repair job. And they're not coming to make-up because they don't want to be in the same trailer. One of the actresses is really puffy because she's been crying. You're not going to get her back today.' So we finished around 6PM and came back another day to finish the shot.
"Was I upset? No, I was philosophical. What could I do? Do I control the resources? Writer-producer Michael Braverman told me on the set of Life Goes On, 'You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make a duck wear a saddle.' And that's true. That's the lunacy of the entertainment business. I've learned to rail against that less. I've gone from being one of the more volatile elements on a set to one of the more enabling elements. My goal is to the Zen master. But I've run into shows where no matter what I did, I couldn't be the Zen master.
"Television is visually more simple than features. You take fewer chances.
"I believe in playing my role and leaving the cinematography to the cinematographer and the editing to the editor. I remember doing this movie where an actress is banging this Mafia guy. And they go to this big wedding. And he goes into the men's room to take a leak. And he hears these sounds coming from a stall. And at first he smiles. Then curiosity gets the better of him and he looks through the crack, and he sees his girl getting banged. He sees the girl leave. Then the guy comes out of the stall, feeling good. And the Mafia guy stabs him to death. And the editor intercut the stabbing with scenes from the stall, of the girl riding up and down on the guy's cock. And that was an editing technique I would not have thought of."
Luke: "Why did you use the name "Alan Smithee" as the directing credit for Birds 2, a remake of the Hitchcock thriller?"
Rick: " I was a last minute replacement for a director that had dropped out about 5 weeks before shooting was to start. I read the script and told Universal and the producers that the film couldn't be made for the budget they were talking about. I also told them that I thought there was a better story to be told than the script had delivered so far.
"I said that that I wasn't interested in doing the script as it was written, but I then told them where I would take the story and said if they were interested in going in that direction, I would sign on. They called me back the next day and said they wanted to go where I wanted to take the story.
"That's the last nice thing I have to say. Two weeks before we started shooting the producers wanted to go back to the old script. We didn't, but they demanded a lot of changes to the script that the Wheat Brothers had written, which I thought was poignant, scary and emotional. It didn't get better from there."