From Kascha To Costner
In a wide ranging interview, director-producer Eric Louzil talked about directing such stars as Kevin Costner, Traci Lords, Kascha, Dana Plato and Ron Jeremy. He also spoke about working for the infamous Troma Pictures and his ownership of a Golden Gloves documentary by the French brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet of CBS's 9/11 fame.
Thursday afternoon (3/14/02), I hung out in the offices of Lions Share Pictures waiting for Eric Louzil to arrive for our 2PM appointment. Two grisly bloody synthetic heads sit on a desk beside me and the walls are covered with posters for Louzil's low budget exploitation pictures like Lust for Freedom and Sizzle Beach, U.S.A..
A hefty bearded man of over 200 pounds, now in his early 50s, Louzil arrives 15 minutes late and invites me into his cramped Sunset Blvd office.
Eric: "I almost became a ballet dancer. My mom was a dancer in Europe. I went to ballet classes for three years. I didn't tell anyone at school [in Sydney, Australia]. I was on the swim team too. As we were moving to the U.S. [around 1967, when Eric was 14], I was accepted into the Royal Australian ballet program. There was one guy there and about 200 girls.
"I attended UCLA film school [graduating in 1975]. My original goal was to be a Director of Photography (DP). The only way I could figure out how to do that was to get a job on a film as either a producer or a production manager and then figure out how to get the cameraman fired. Then I'd be there and available to take over at a moment's notice. I did get a few jobs like that. I then figured out how to get into the union, the IATSE (International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees). All films in the United States are done under union jurisdiction. It was a closed shop and difficult to get in.
"The federal government stepped in and told the union that they had to allow an open period for people who had credits to come in. A group of about ten of us figured out how to get in. We forged some documents. I even went to the extent of making film clips and putting my name into the film clips. I bypassed everything but I didn't know anything. My first job was to go to Warner Brothers and take charge of a crew putting in scaffolding over a set. I had never been on a soundstage. But everybody else knew what to do. They'd been in the union ten years.
"Sonic Boom  was my student short film. Most students do films about quadriplegics or handicapped people. We got a truck of equipment. We were going to do something called Public Doom. We were working with Lenny and Squiggy of Laverne & Shirley fame. But they were too controlling so we decided to not work with them and came up with Sonic Boom."
I found this story on the internet site IJamming.net:
A previously little-known Keith Moon film appearance - SONIC BOOM, made in 1974 - has been unearthed by Dear Boy reader and iJamming surfer Chris Radcliffe. How a movie that also included in its cast Ricky Nelson (as a birthday cake delivery boy), Sal Mineo, Johnny Winters and George Kennedy slipped through so many cracks is a little baffling until you hear the story behind it. My thanks to Chris for conducting an interview with the film's Associate Producer Eric Louzil.
"At the time," writes Chris, "Eric was in the film course at UCLA and had two film ideas. One was about killer bees coming to California either to be called Deadly Buzz or Deadly Hum to star David L. Lander and Michael Mckean a.k.a. Lenny and Squiggy before they had been cast in the hit television show Laverne & Shirley (1976-1983) and the other was Sonic Boom, a comedy short about a supersonic jet that lands in a small town and creates hysteria over an impending sonic boom that never happens. The former project got scrapped because Landers And Mckean wanted too much creative control over it.
"The way they cast Sonic Boom was simply this: they would get together at production meetings, take out the entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times and find out who had made it into press. Then they would essentially stalk these performers and ask them to help out with their student film. In Keith's case there was a story about him renting a house which was later to be found full of dog shit after he vacated it. (Much as was the case with Tara when Jeff Beck visited.) But at the same time Elton John was in town playing at the Troubadour so it was a toss up between Keith or Elton. They chose Keith because he was a bigger name at the time. They began hanging out at the clubs he was know to frequent until they caught up with him and he agreed to appear in the film for $1,400 In cocaine and a television, though the one page agreement signed between the producers and Keith read for "One Case Of Coke And A Television" - to which one can only assume that the latter he used to throw out of some window.
"There was something of a scene when the Director and some other guy went down to Palm Springs to get the cocaine and were afraid they would get busted on the return trip. In any event Keith's scene was filmed at the Burbank Court House where he played the part of a professor wearing a cotex on his upper lip for a mustache. He arrived on the set in a gold limousine (which at that time was extremely rare and impressive) and left in a different one. The short film was eventually released theatrically in 1975 where it was shown before the feature film of the evening Man Friday (1975) starring Peter O' Toole and Richard Roundtree. Man Friday was a retelling of the Robinson Crusoe story with a strong social message."
Eric tells Luke: "Every weekend we took out the LA Times Calendar section and took out the list of what actors were in town. We'd then figure out how to go see them and put them in the film [Sonic Boom]. Keith Moon was our biggest find. I still have the contract. It says that we had to give him a case of coke and one TV set. We drove to Palm Springs and spent $1400 for the cocaine to make him happy. It was a choice between him and Elton John, who at the time was playing at the Troubadour. Everybody thought Elton was too small. Keith was then considered one of the greatest drummers of all time. Keith was a party animal. He gave us a day for free."
Luke: "How did you work on Steven Spielberg's only flop, 1941 [made in 1979]?"
Eric: "I was bouncing around the studios for 13 years [from 1975-1988]. Not too many people mention the film. At the time, he had more time than any other director to work on 1941. It was slow that year  and he took over the whole town. He had soundstages at Sony, Warner Brothers, and elsewhere. Almost everyone in town worked on it at one point.
"During my 13 years bouncing around the studios, I got 26,000 hours in. And during the summer, when it was slow, we'd make a film. Or we'd shoot it on weekends. In 1986, I met Lloyd Kaufman from Troma and we hit it off. The first film I made for them was called Georgia County Lockup, a women-in-prison film changed to Lust for Freedom . We used to say, 'You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll kiss five bucks goodbye.'
"We made the film for $50,000 and then Troma gave me another $125,000 to improve the sound, add scenes and blow it up to 35mm for a theatrical release. We made a ton of money on the film, more than $2 million, because those were the days when people were buying videos and paying high prices.
"Troma is still going strong, with a film library of over 2000 films. Lloyd never wanted to go public because he wanted to control the destiny of the company. They've been in business for about 30 years. Lloyd and his partner Michael Herz graduated from Yale. They were close friends with John Avildsen, who directed Rocky. They used to work on pornos in New York. John Avildsen used to direct pornos. Sylvester Stallone was known as the Italian Stallion and he did pornos.
"Troma did all the post-production and location scouting for Rocky. Lloyd plays the bartender in all the Rocky movies. Lloyd worked as an associate producer on big films like [1980's] The Final Countdown.
"You don't see his partner Michael Herz a lot. I haven't seen him in six years. I don't think he goes to the film markets anymore. I think he's just enjoying life. Lloyd still goes. He's so energetic. He's into Chinese - Japanese culture. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. Troma has a cable TV show in Europe. Not here, because, as Lloyd puts it, 'The gatekeepers won't let me in.'
"They have a brand name. When you say, 'I'm going to watch a Troma film', you know it's going to be mayhem and tits. Lloyd is not like that in person. I remember when we were going through the script for Nuke 'Em High at Dennys on Sunset Blvd, Lloyd eliminated all the 'Fucks'. He crosses out everything that is derogatory.
"A lot of his reputation [for making trash] is misinterpretation. When The Toxic Avenger got screened in Canada for the censorship board, it was the first time in the history of of the board that the censors walked out after about ten minutes. The Toxic Avenger is about a blind girl who lives in a junkyard. And when she's feeling the guy's genitals out, she says, 'Oh my...' And she's blind. Lloyd says they submitted the script to the Institute of the Blind in New York and they thought it was a funny scene. They approved it. Yet people criticized the film for making fun of blind people. But the blind people thought it was funny.
"I made about seven films for Troma. My second was Fortress of Amerikkka. Lloyd put three 'Ks' in it. One of the presidents used that line years later. 'We will not return to a Fortress of Amerikka.'
"I made Sizzle Beach, USA, just as I was meeting Troma. It starred Kevin Costner as did Shadows Run Black. I sold both films to Troma. Kevin was also a grip - stagehand at the time. He was very inquisitive. We worked together at Raleigh Studios.
"I was doing Sizzle Beach, then called Malibu Hot Summer. A lot of people were calling it Silicone Summer. More women then were getting breast implants than they are today. I don't think anyone in the film had natural breasts. Back then there was more nudity in films than there is today. Today you won't see full front female nudity but then it was common. On men it wasn't acceptable. You couldn't do a backshot of a male nude but now it is ok on TV.
"We shot Sizzle and Shadows on weekends and it took a year to finish them. Many films were shot on weekends then including a famous one, You Light Up My Life . People had jobs during the week. Today people just max out their credit cards and shoot.
"Kevin was just a stagehand. When you needed something then, you'd go to Kevin's boss and he'd tell Kevin to go get it. Kevin walked into my office one day and said he was thinking about getting into acting. He was a good looking guy so we gave him the part and made him one of the boyfriends of one of the girls in the film.
"My wife and I kidded at the time about signing him to a percentage deal of his future employment, in case he became a star.
"He was a terrible actor. I like him in some stuff today but I don't think he's a classic actor. He had a terrible habit of putting his hand in front of his mouth when he was talking. So we'd cut the camera and say, 'Kevin, you've got to take your hands away from your mouth.'
"Years later he did a film called No Way Out. The critics said that the love scene he did in the backseat of the car with Sean Young was the steamiest love scene in a decade. We laughed because the first film we did with Kevin, we had to give him a bottle of wine. He was stiff. He didn't want to kiss the girl. He was shy. He had two kids at the time.
"The last interaction I had with Kevin was during No Way Out. He wanted to buy back the two films we did together but I'd already sold them to Troma. He was pissed. He didn't want anyone to know about his early films. He'd just gotten the lead role in The Untouchables . Everybody knew that because he had the lead in a Paramount film, he was going to become a star. The producers and distributor of No Way Out held the film back a year because they knew they would have something valuable once the publicity machine for Untouchables came on board and made Kevin a star.
"You have to understand that when studios produce a film, they also own the media that promotes them. They own Time magazine, Entertainment Weekly and People. You think you're getting an independent source but you're not.
"If you read the Time magazine article on Kevin for The Untouchables... They had a front page picture of Kevin with the headline, 'The American Dream - struggling actor from Fullerton College makes it to the big time.' But they don't talk about his past in the article. The story of how he became a star was totally fabricated by the PR department at Paramount. They made him sound like a struggling student going through school studying acting. It doesn't mention anything about him having a job at Raleigh Studios because that's not romantic."
From Imdb.com: "Kevin [Costner] was born in Lynwood, California on January 18, 1955, the third child of Bill Costner, a ditch digger and ultimately an electric line servicer for Southern California Edison, and Sharon. His older brother, Dan, was born in 1950. A middle brother died at birth in 1953. His Dad's job required him to move regularly, which caused Kevin to feel like an Army kid, always the new kid at school, which led to him being a daydreamer. As a teen he sang in the Baptist church choir, wrote poetry, and took writing classes. At 18, he built his own canoe and paddled his way down the rivers that Lewis & Clark followed to the Pacific. Despite his present height, he was only 5'2" when he graduated high school. Nonetheless, he still managed to be a basketball, football, and baseball star. In 1973, he enrolled at California State University at Fullerton, where he majored in business. During that period, Kevin decided to take acting lessons five nights a week. He graduated with a business degree in 1978 and married his college sweetheart, Cindy Silva. He initially took a marketing job in Orange County. Everything changed when he accidentally met Richard Burton on a flight from Mexico. Burton advised him to go completely after acting if that is what he wanted. He quit his job and moved to Hollywood soon after. He drove a truck, worked on a deep sea fishing boat, and gave bus tours to stars' homes before finally making his own way into the films. After making one soft core sex film, he vowed to not work again if that was the only work he could do. He didn't work for nearly six years, while he waited for a proper break. That break came with "The Big Chill", even though his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor -- he was remembered by director Lawrence Kasdan when he decided to make "Silverado". Costner's career took off after that."
Eric: "I've given about 300 interviews about Kevin. Once he became a star, everybody wanted to interview me because I'd made two of his early films. Once he became a star, he focused on eliminating his past.
"A German named Bill Harris had a live show on pay-per-view and Kevin was the guest. And all of a sudden, they showed clips from Sizzle Beach, USA and two other low budget films he'd done. And after they'd shown the clips, Bill Harris turned to Kevin and asked, 'Is that you?' What could Kevin say? Of course it was him. And that started the investigation into his real past. Paramount never mentioned that he did low budget films. He was known in those days as the kid on the cutting room floor. He'd gotten parts in three big features and was cut out of all three [The Big Chill, Frances and Night Shift]. The most famous once was Lawrence Kasdan's The Big Chill. They shot all his scenes and then the studio decided it was better to talk about his death than to actually show it.
"But that was instrumental in starting his career because Larry Kasdan felt sorry for him and decided to put him in Silverado . If you look at early Variety listings on Silverado for casting, Kevin was listen about number ten. But Larry liked him and gradually his part increased. And he ended up with third billing. Everyone was pissed. Linda Hunt, who just won an Academy Award, got low billing. It created a stir.
"Success does change people. Probably the only person it hasn't is Ron Howard, who's still down to earth.
"Many of the films I've made, even though shot for low budgets, keep turning up on TV and people know about them. I did a film called Shock 'Em Dead . It was Traci Lords second straight film. Back then the AIDS thing was starting. She was a porno star and therefore she was 'dirty'. Nobody wanted to be near her. She had to have her own trailer and she wasn't allowed to drink out of the same water containers as other people. Traci was fun. She was a cute girl. She stuck with it. She was a smart business woman."
From Imdb.com: "Traci Lords is a study of a determined and complex women with a very controversial background. A teen runaway Traci began nude modeling and making adult films at the age of 15. An incredibly developed full figured girl she easily duped photographers and producer/director types with the help of a false birth certificate and driver's license. Her stage name is a combination of Traci, from a former school friend, and Lords in honor of her favorite male actor Jack Lord (Hawaii Five-O). Her cat is named Steve McGarrett, the name of the character Lord played on the show. Traci made some 80-100 X-rated movies (some are footage from previous shoots) between 1984 and 1986. In '86 it was discovered she was underage and the word got out that any films with her in them were illegal to rent or buy and video stores around the country rushed to remove them. Meanwhile on her 18th birthday Traci made the only legal footage of herself in a porn movie. She controlled distribution rights and many people believed she orchestrated the revelation herself so she could be the only one to profit from her x-rated films. Many people within the adult film industry made a tacit agreement to never promote Traci or talk about her since they felt betrayed. The government tried to prosecute the producers of the movie "Those Young Girls" for child pornography. The case fell mostly apart when the government admitted they too had been duped when Lords traveled to Europe on a fake passport.
"After her exile from adult films Traci began to resurrect her life. Her ambition was to make the transformation into mainstream films. She enrolled in acting school, began voice lessons, and built on her natural acting talents. Her first mainstream "break" came in the 1988 remake of the Roger Corman sci-fi classic "Not Of This Earth". It would prove to be the last time Traci would openly bare her breasts for the camera. Rare footage of a scene where she exits a shower has been seen as an outtake. Traci walks out of the shower and warning the cameramen to get ready to get the best look they could at her naked form. She jokes while draping the towel around her waist, turning her exposed chest to the camera, and then covers up. Subsequent roles would have her placed in romantic scenes with very little to see and much to the imagination for a public that only a couple of years earlier had seen every facet of this beautiful girl. Throughout the nineties Traci distinguished herself as a respected actress, an advocate for gay rights, a singer, and a reliable talent. Her role on TV's Melrose Place was critically acclaimed. Over the last half of the nineties Traci has emerged as a popular lead actress for many B movies that go straight to video/cable. She has always despised being referred to as "an ex-porn star". She hates that Tim Allen can be convicted of selling drugs and Hollywood will forgive and forget but she still bears the stigma of her porn years."
Eric: "She only made one porno movie after turning 18 - Traci, I Love You, to which she owned the rights. People suspected that she turned herself in to the authorities so that all her previous porn movies would be banned. It was a great coup on her part.
"She had these puffy wide lips. She was always putting lipstick on.
"I'm pissed because back in those days, I had the Rob Lowe tape [of Rob having sex with an underage girl at the 1984 Democratic National Convention] and somebody stole the tape while I was making the Traci film. Boy, they did her [Lowe's underage girl] almost all night. They were taking turns. The tape ran for hours.
"We gave [porn star] Ron Jeremy bit parts in three films we did. Ron is a funny guy. He never sleeps. He takes cat naps. You've got to be careful getting in a car with him when drives. He'll fall asleep at a stop sign. He owed me a dinner once. He said, 'I've got to go to work for half an hour and then I'll take you to dinner. Follow me.' So we went to this porno setup in the San Fernando Valley. He wouldn't let me watch him. 'You've got to stay in the waiting room.' Which was OK because we were talking to a girl there. We asked her about getting tested for AIDS. He does his scene and then he drives like a maniac to the Rainbow [at about 8900 Sunset Blvd]. We carry a film of his roommate Bob Gallagher. They've been roommates over 20 years and lead separate lives.
"Ron told me that his biggest problem is that he can't have a relationship with a woman. Once they find out what he does for a living, it's all over. I was directing a film in Miami. He had a small part. It was tough because everywhere we went, somebody recognized him. We almost lost one location when the family found out he was a porno star. People would act differently when they found out he was a porno star.
"There was a girl who wanted to go out with him, thinking he was a famous actor. He says it is typical for him to go out with a girl, and then a couple of days later, he'll call her up and all he'll hear on the other end of the line is screaming.
"Dana Plato appeared in a couple of my films. When I first met her, she was like a caged animal [from drugs]. We were shooting on Key Biscayne. We were all living in this Polynesian Village house. She didn't have any drugs. She'd make so-called "Russian cocktails." She'd go to the store and get Psuedofed, Nyquil, and just mix everything together. She was trying to straighten her life out.
"She had a miserable childhood. She was on [TV show] Different Strokes. When she got pregnant on the show, she went in to the producer and said, 'I can either have an abortion or have the child on the show.' And within half an hour, she was fired [in the show's seventh, and next to last, season] because they didn't want to have anything to do with any of it. And her manager absconded with all her money, and the life savings of about 20 other clients. Because she was a minor on the show, all her checks went to him.
"When we met her, she was working as a hostess at a Mexican restaurant in Las Vegas. She was high all the time. That's where she held up the video store in Las Vegas."
Denny Jackson writes on imdb.com: "Dana Michelle Plato was born in Maywood, California on November 7, 1964. Her first excursion into the film world occurred when she was eleven in the television film "Beyond the Bermuda Triangle". Dana never really made an impact on the TV screen until she landed the part of Kimberly Drummond in the TV hit sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes" from 1978-1984. After the series ended, Dana had a hard time trying to find other acting work. Sometimes she would surface in a made for TV movie or a low budget film for the silver screen. Times were rough. Her marriage to Lanny Lambert lasted a year, but produced a son. She was arrested in 1991 for robbing a video store in Las Vegas, but was placed on probation. The following year Dana was, again, arrested for forging a prescription for Valium. Things were at a low ebb. She had just finished an interview with Howard Stern, in the spring of 1999, when she and her fiancé, Robert Menchaca, were headed back to California. The interview was one in which Dana hoped to revive her stalled career. They stopped at his parents house in Moore, Oklahoma for a weekend Mother's Day visit before continuing on to California. On Saturday, May 8, 1999, Dana died of what appeared to be an accidental overdose of a painkiller called Loritab. Later, on May 21, a coroner's inquest ruled her death a suicide due to a large amount of drugs in her body and her history of past suicide attempts. She was 34 years old."
Eric: "She met some guy who was a control freak. He would call her every ten minutes on the set to ask 'What are you doing?' He'd take all her money all the time. She was so afraid. She would tell stories about how she was electrocuted at her grandparents' house. How they would beat her. She had a troubled childhood and it never got any better. She appeared in three of my films - including Bikini Beach Race  and Silent Fury . Around the same time I did Fatal Pursuit with Malcom McDowell.
"We shot Fatal Pursuit in New Orleans so nobody was sober ever. Malcom is a fun guy. We had a shitty script. He just came up to me and said, 'Don't worry about it.' He could take something that was shitty on paper and make it work. He would take terrible material and make it look interesting. He had a 21-year old girlfriend or wife with him. She had a little dog. We had to rent a limo for her the whole time so she could go buy antiques. We also had Lydie Denier, a French actress, in the film. She refused to take her clothes off for the nude scene [though she does in numerous other films]. Her contract said nude scene. We used a body double.
"We shot the film in the same mansion where they shot In the Heat of the Night [TV series from 1988-94]. Malcom is in bed waiting for her and she announces, 'No, I am not going to take my clothes off.'"
Luke: "Was it fun auditioning all these women for nude parts?"
Eric: "It was a job. It's an interesting phenomena in this town. I met a lot of porno actresses in the early '90s. The porno actresses want to straighten out their lives and become legitimate actresses. I hired three porno actresses for the Nuke 'Em High film. On location, we went to Yuma, Arizona and Phoenix. It was funny. All the so-called straight girls on the film would party all night long and sleep with everybody. And the porno chicks (including Kascha) went to bed early, read books, and were the only ones to have breakfast with me in the morning and were ready to go for work. Because they were so straight. Porno for them was just a business. And the normal girls were all screwing around all night and wouldn't eat breakfast.
"Kascha was hot. If you're analyzing porno chicks, a lot of them come from the Midwest. They usually come from a religious background. Kascha had a Master's Degree in classical piano. She met her boyfriend-husband [Papillon] and she was going to change the porno industry by just sleeping with her husband. Even though he didn't show that same philosophy. The first time I interviewed Kascha, we had a groundfloor office with street parking. The first time she walked from the car to the front door, you'd hear nothing but cars screeching and coming to a halt. She was dropdead gorgeous. She had a body that was unbelievable. She was Tahitian looking, blonde hair. She was the most down to earth girl you've met. She was friendly. She offered to babysit my kids. She was really normal and most porno girls were like that. She just wanted to be a legit actress. She was a hot number then. She was in all the magazines and people wrote about her constantly. I don't know what became of her."
Kascha, an Asian with fake blonde hair, fake boobs and fake eyes, entered porn in Introducing Kascha, Hawaii Vice 1-5, Backdoor to Hollywood 5-7 and Good Morning Saigon.
Kascha rarely talks in any of her tapes.
Soon after Kascha married the French body builder Papillon, she reduced the number of her porn performances, put on weight, got a breast job and had eye surgery to make them rounder - which led to speculation that she was trying to pass as a Caucasian.
Kascha hit the dance circuit, appearing under a variety of names. She appeared briefly in The Bashful Blond From Beautiful Bendover before returning to stripping. Kascha put on more weight and gained a reputation with some club owners of being "difficult." She did a schlock B-movie as Kascha LePriol before gaining more weight.
Her real name is Allison Chow. She graduated Leileihua High School in 1984. A star tennis player she aspired to hit the pro circuit, but an injury late in her junior year forced her to look for "alternative" career opportunities. Allison's father is a police officer and her family disowned her when she entered porno. Contrary to popular belief, she is not part Swedish or European.
Eric: "Oh no! She was so cute. I remember all the porno chicks from Nuke 'Em High talked about Magic Johnson [Los Angeles Laker basketball star]. They said he would always rent a limo after a game and come into the [San Fernando] Valley and pick up all these porno chicks and party all night. Him and the other black talkshow host [not Montel Williams]. He had a show on for years on latenight TV. He'd hang out with Magic Johnson and party all night. The porno chicks would talk about Magic Johnson and how he was fucking every porno chick in the Valley. He was trying to take after Wilt Chamberlain.
"When I cast for Troma, they had me, when I was interviewing girls, have another guy and a woman in the room. And the door had to be open."
Luke: "Did the girls still try to sleep with you anyway?"
Eric: "I didn't get that. When you're working on a film as a producer-director, you're tired. You're wiped out. I thought that maybe one day I'd be able to direct a film, and that's it. I've always dreamed about being able to come on a set and just direct and then go home. But in the independent world, you're doing everything. Late at night on the Troma films, we spent an hour or two doing cash receipts for the day because they had to be Fed-Ex'd first thing in the morning to New York because they wouldn't wire anymore more until they had the receipts. Most films are like that. The completion bond companies today track everything you do every day.
"We just bought a film called Hook, Gloves and Redemption. It was made by the two world-famous French brothers [Jules and Gedeon Naudet] from that 9/11 documentary on CBS the other night. It's their only other documentary.
"It's tough to sell documentaries but I really liked these two brothers. I've been talking to them for a long time. Every time I went to New York, I'd see them. I wanted to help them out and sell their little documentary on boxing.
"We'd been talking about this fire thing they were doing. They are the only filmmakers to get permission to follow a unit ever. They got a one-year permit. They're now at the top of the list. Our phone is ringing off the hook from people wanting to talk to them. People are asking about their documentary. Everyone wants to get their hands on everything they've shot. The bids are going through the roof. We can't even deal with it. We figured we'd take a two week breather to figure out what to do.
"They're talented and into whatever they're doing. They're not in a rush. When they pick a subject, they want to get to know it. When you watch 9/11, you get a sense of how they want to be part of a thing. One brother cooked a dinner for all the firefighters."
Luke: "Have you gotten to see the raw tapes?"
Eric: "Not yet. I think that's going to be the real documentary that comes out. The version on TV was toned down. When you heard those loud noises on TV, those were bodies dropping. He panned the camera to film some of that. When they came upon the scene, there were arms and pieces and everything and they certainly didn't show that on TV. I'm sure another version will come out. And that will take them to another level.
"The last film I did was Dilemma . I had to change my name to Eric Larson. The buyers knew me from making low budget films and the distributor thought the buyers wouldn't buy the films for the higher price.
"The films I'm now working on will take about two years to go from script to screen. The discipline of that is unusual for me. Our budgets range from $8-15 million. I'm now concentrating on financing and distribution. I go to 14 film markets a year.
"The American Film Market this year was down 20%. Our Wisegirls film [starring Mariah Carey and Mira Sorvino, shown at Sundance] has given us recognition in the industry. We just closed a theatrical deal yesterday on Long Ago and Far Away. We've signed Joe Charbanic, who directed [2000's] The Watcher, to a movie called Consent. It deals with an actor raping someone during a rape scene. She presses charges. So we're doing quality projects. It will be tough to go back to making a low budget film.
"I've decided to get more into dealmaking. When you direct a film, you get so immersed that your quality of life declines. Now I can just make deals and enjoy life more. I go to Europe five times a year and life is good.
"It's tough when you start as a directing making low budget things [to crossover]. It's even tough for an actor who's been on TV to cross over to features. It's tough to make the transition. It's easier to start out fresh."
Eric has two kids - aged 21 and 17. His third wife, Rita, is a psychologist "who deals mostly with kids and people in the industry. Many of her clients are in the music industry. They're more screwed up than people in film. There's more backstabbing in music than in film. She can't stand the film business."
Luke: "What's her last name?"
Eric: "I can't say. One of her clients has been trying to find out for a long time what I do. He knows I'm in the film business and he is too. She told one patient what movies I'd done, figuring that nobody would ever have heard of me, and he turned out to be a big fan and I had to sign a Nuke 'Em High poster for him. She freaked out that anybody would know who I was."
Luke: "What do you think is your best film?"
Eric: "I should say what Lloyd says, 'They're all my best films.' As a straight movie, I like Dilemma. As a Troma-type film, probably Nuke 'Em High 2. Even today, it is such a classic. If my wife had seen Nuke 'Em High 2, prior to our getting married, I don't think she would've married me. I don't think I could ever do another film like that. It was so strange. It's totally different from anything out there. I still have people trying to track me down to find out things about Nuke 'Em High 2. I've got testimonials on video. My wife had a patient, 17-18 years of age, going on to college, and he begged her for a poster from me so that he could put it in his college dorm room."
Luke: "How many times have you been married?"
Eric: "Three. And I'm going to do it until I get it right. I've been married to my current wife three years and we've been living together about six years. My first marriage was when I was 18. It lasted only one year though we were together for six years during high school and college. She was a primate paleontologist involved in the Leakey Foundation. She never got a 'B' [grade] in her life. She was the only non-medical student allowed [to study corpses at UCLA]. I used to pick her up after class and she'd smell of formaldehyde from bodies she'd been working on. The Leakey Foundation took an interest in her and she went to these mountains in Iran.
"After we were married a year, she wanted to go off to do her doctoral work [in Iran?]. She wanted me to come along to be a still photographer and catalogue the bones and stuff. She couldn't cook either. Next I married someone [Laurel Koernig] who could cook and just wanted to raise kids and have a family. We had two kids and we were married almost 20 years (1977-1995). She just wanted to find herself at one point [hence the divorce]."
Luke: "What did she think of your movies?"
Eric: "She worked on many of them. She thought they were nuts but she didn't care so long as I paid the bills and brought home the check."