Exclusive Interview With Lloyd Kaufman On Return To Nuke ‘Em High Vol. 1



WGTC: What does it take to be an actor in a Troma film? I was talking to Return To Nuke ‘Em High Vol. 1 stars Asta Paredes and Catherine Corcoran at the NYC Horror Film Festival about their audition process, but what makes you certain a performer will fit into the Tromaville world?

Lloyd Kaufman: The most important thing is originality and energy. I’ve written six books about filmmaking and we have a very long audition period. First people come in and they can do whatever they want, they have two minutes, or three minutes, and it can be a monologue, a magic trick, they can talk about themselves – anything they want. You can usually tell in those first minutes if someone has any originality or energy. You then bring the best back to read scenes from the movie. Asta I think came back twelve times. It takes a long time. We have to be 100% sure someone is original, has good energy, and has total loyalty to the project. The acting is very important obviously, but I have a certain style of acting I impose upon the actors to some extent, so I don’t know that we’re talking about the Actor’s Studio type of acting here. I think it’s the Troma style of acting, or my style. It’s a combination of everything.

The three stars of this movie all have Shakespearean backgrounds, are all intelligent, well read, and that does have a lot to do with it, but what’s most important is 100% loyalty to the project. They’re basically giving us three months of their life, full time. Did they tell you? There was a long rehearsal period here in New York, where we were just improvising and screwing around in the Troma Studios, but then they all went up to Niagara Falls for a couple of months, sleeping on the floor. Some days they didn’t work at all, some days they did work, sometimes only two would work – what a luxury to have everyone available 24/7 for two months. What a luxury that is. You don’t get that on a $200 million movie.

WGTC: Do you ever have to deal with apprehension amongst your actors? Troma films are known to push the boundaries, and your actors have to be willing to put themselves out there immensely…

Lloyd Kaufman: They’re always apprehensive about everything, especially in America where we have this puritanical upbringing in history. All that stuff has to be brought up in advance. If their parts require nudity, the actors are going to audition naked. If they don’t want to do that, there are plenty of other parts that don’t require the nudity. Troma is sort of famous now and actors trust us enough to deliver a movie that will endure. It may not do $100 million at the box office, but it will be something special.

Tromeo and Juliet was made twenty-something years ago, but people still talk about it, look for it, still discover it, and still speak highly of it. People know they’re working with the company who created The Toxic Avenger and has a history of forty years – they trust us at this point. None the less, we want to make sure people know what they’re getting into and that they can prove it at their audition. If there’s any crazy stuff they have to do it in the audition, in the rehearsal, then we film the rehearsal – we can’t have something where suddenly they chicken out. I don’t want debates on the set, but the actors do come up with a lot of the script, they write a lot of it as we’re always looking to improve the script. Over the three months the actors were with us, they contributed a tremendous amount to the script.

WGTC: You have some amazing cameo appearances in Return To Nuke ‘Em High Vol. 1 from “The World Champion” Judah Friedlander to President Lemmy, but I’m wondering how they get involved. Are these people lifetime fans, coming to you for a bit part?

Lloyd Kaufman: The famous people who are in our movies don’t charge us for it. Judah is a big fan, he wore our T-shirts on 30 Rock. How nice of him. The people from Oddities put me in two of their episodes, so they’re in the movie – in fact one of the episodes revolves around filming Return To Nuke ‘Em High Vol. 1. Those guys happened to be fans, and were nice enough to put me on their show.

Stan Lee’s been a friend for forty years. Our Tromaville universe is so inspired by the Marvel universe and my discovering his comic books during my Yale days. He’s a buddy, and how nice is he. All these people are donating their time because they want Troma to survive. Those people get it. Lemmy gets it. As busy as he is, he gets our humor and social commentary. The people who are in our movies understand it. They can see beyond the elements that might offend people.

WGTC: How do you find that special balance when making a Troma movie? You’re being admittedly silly, but also making a film with a purpose.

Lloyd Kaufman: Troma movies are very hard to make. We’ve got thousands of people in them, we’ve got special effects, we’ve got costumes, monsters, transformations, crowd scenes, explosions – they’re very complicated. The movies we’re making now are $400-$500,000, which is the exact same number the original Toxic Avenger was in 1983. We’re probably making movies for a third of what we used to, and that’s in large part because our fans are coming to help us make our movies. In this one particularly, people came from all over the world – Australia, France, Japan, California, Iceland – to help us make Return To Nuke ‘Em High Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. They all paid their way to get to Niagara Falls, they all slept on the floor, they all learned how to defecate in a paper bag – all so they could do something they believed in. All so they could be involved in a Troma project. If they got paid at all, and most of them got paid something, they certainly lost money on the deal because they paid airfare and such. They came out of love though, and it enables us to make a $20 million movie for half a million bucks.

I don’t think anyone makes a bad movie on purpose, but I just don’t think a lot of people have something to say. So many people want to be filmmakers but they haven’t read any books, they have no education, and they have no point of view. OK, another zombie movie that doesn’t work – you’ve got to have some sort of inner resources. It’s an art form. If you’ve got nothing to say or nothing to express, there’s nothing there. Unfortunately, with a lot of today’s movies there’s nothing there, including $200 million Hollywood movies. There are good ones, but most are lacking vision, art, and a point of view.

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