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As we celebrate this Summer of Savini (cover story of
FANGORIA #304; directorial comeback THE THEATRE BIZARRE debuting at Fantasia this month), I decided to share with you my first-ever
professional interview, which I conducted with the King of Splatter as a
17-year-old high school student in 1980. Part one appeared here.
“The Great Savini” or How a “Famous Monsters of Filmland”
Reader Made Good
By Anthony Timpone
TONY TIMPONE: When did you first officially work for Romero,
and how did it turn out?
TOM SAVINI: I was later hired to do makeup for MARTIN, which
I also had a part in. Then I was hired for George’s next picture, DAWN OF THE
DEAD, which helped my career enormously. I got tons of scripts because of the
success of DAWN OF THE DEAD and later on FRIDAY THE 13TH.
TIMPONE: What was your involvement like on DAWN OF THE DEAD?
SAVINI: Oh, it was all so much fun! I had a crew of eight
people just to paint people gray (the zombies), while I had to do all the
TIMPONE: What was one of the more complicated makeup effects
in DAWN OF THE DEAD?
SAVINI: A complicated one was chopping off the top of that
zombie’s head with a helicopter blade. The effect involved four people. The
actor we used had to have an especially short forehead. The problem was, even
with his false appliance forehead on, the actor’s head was absolutely round,
very abnormal looking. This wasn’t noticeable on screen though, because the
false hair bunched up for some reason and made him look like Frankenstein’s
Monster. The top of his head looks square when in actuality it was completely
TIMPONE: FRIDAY THE 13TH had some of your most elaborate
special makeup FX. Which effect did you find most difficult and how was it
SAVINI: There were two of them: the beheading of Betsy
Palmer, and the arrow worming its way out of the guy’s neck effect. Now, I
don’t like to give away the secrets to my effects, but there’s a book coming
out from Doubleday called FILM TRICKS, and in it Rick Baker, Dick Smith and I
discuss our makeup effects. I explain those from FRIDAY THE 13TH in it.
TIMPONE: How was Sean Cunningham as a director on FRIDAY THE
SAVINI: Excellent! He made the film work and was very
organized. He knew exactly what he was after: scaring the wits out of the
TIMPONE: Has he approached you about doing a sequel?
SAVINI: Yes, he asked me to do it, but I turned it down to
do THE BURNING. Sean finished directing the sequel, and it will be called
JASON: FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART 2.
TIMPONE: After seeing the completed products, what were your
impressions of DAWN OF THE DEAD and FRIDAY THE 13TH and their contributions to
the horror genre?
SAVINI: Well, it’s really hard to be objective about my
films. Though I think DAWN OF THE DEAD is a classic. FRIDAY THE 13TH was a blatant
ripoff of a lot of films, which even Sean Cunningham agrees with. It was a lot
of different films: PSYCHO, HALLOWEEN and even a little of ALIEN. I really
liked the film, although a lot of people told me that they only liked the
TIMPONE: What is you opinion of the latest horror trend:
killer-on-the loose, gross-out-the-audience movies?
SAVINI: Well, some of them are just poorly made, like PROM
NIGHT. The audiences today want to see everything in a horror film; DAWN OF THE
DEAD started all that. I’m just riding the crest of these new horror films,
work-wise. But, it’s only a trend.
TIMPONE: Horror films are always going through trends. In
the 1930s-‘40s there were the monster films; in the 1950s there were the giant
atomic monster movies; in the 1960s there were the Poe films; in the 1970s the
demon-possession films; and now we have the mad-slasher movies.
SAVINI: I think it’s time for the monsters again.
TIMPONE: From the clips I have seen, your makeup FX in
MANIAC look like you have reached new heights in realistic human slaughter.
What were some of the more difficult FX in the film?
SAVINI: Besides the scalping effects, my unique death in the
film was complicated. In the scene, I play a victim whose head is blown off by
the maniac [Joe Spinell]. The effect involved first making a life mask of
myself, taken from a mold of my head. I scored the latex mask in several places
so that when the blast hit it, it would blow apart easier. I put in a plastic
skull lining, filled it up with fake brains, contraceptives filled with blood,
and on the outside, I placed in glass eyes, a mustache, hair, the whole bit. In
the scene, the maniac jumps up on top of the hood of my car and blows me away.
Before the blasts from the shotgun go off, it is actually me, in the maniac’s
costume, firing both shots into myself [the dummy]. Since I have to execute my
own effects, it was a weird feeling killing myself!
TIMPONE: Are you worried about being typecast on these gory
SAVINI: It’s too late; I already am. But, hopefully, with
George Romero’s new film KNIGHTRIDERS, which I star in, I will get more acting
parts and break out of the typecasting.
TIMPONE: How do you rationalize the no-holds-barred type of
violence in your films?
SAVINI: When I was a kid, a film usually depicted a violent
incident, say a gunfight, with a bang and then a body falling. No blood,
nothing involved. A person then might have thought that it was nothing to shoot
someone and go out and do it. Today, by showing the full intensity and detail of
violence, it may act as a turn-off. I have no way of proving that, but that’s
TIMPONE: What are some of your coming films?
SAVINI: KNIGHTRIDERS should be out in April. It is basically
a Gothic adventure about jousting motorcyclists dressed like medieval knights.
I play the Black Knight. My other makeup assignments include: EYES OF A
STRANGER, a mystery with lots of murder (a la FRIDAY THE 13TH); THE BURNING,
another revenge oriented film; MIDNIGHT and THE GRADUATION [later retitled THE
PROWLER], a complicated murder mystery starring Farley Granger, who for
revenge, murders people with pitchforks and bayonets.
TIMPONE: I find it odd that finally the big studios are
releasing these low-budget fright flicks. Examples being MGM with HE KNOWS YOU’RE
ALONE, 20th Century Fox with TERROR TRAIN, etc.
SAVINI: Obviously, the reason is FRIDAY THE 13TH made $41
million for Paramount Pictures. Money talks.
TIMPONE: What is your favorite aspect of filmmaking: special
makeup FX, acting, or stunts?
SAVINI: I prefer acting, stunts and then special makeup
effects. Actually, I’m happy doing any of them.
TIMPONE: What is your main goal in the film business?
SAVINI: Doing more acting.
TIMPONE: What are your favorite types of horror films?
SAVINI: The old ones. My favorites include: THE THING, THE
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
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