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In this conversation with CHILLERAMA’s out writer/director
Tim Sullivan, he recounts some of the trials and travails of getting his very
gay “I Was A Teenage Werebear” segment to the screen for the anthology, which
hits Blu-ray and DVD from Image Entertainment November 29. (See Fango #308,
currently on sale, for more of this interview.)
SEAN ABLEY: How did CHILLERAMA get started?
TIM SULLIVAN: It goes back to 13 years ago, when I produced DETROIT
ROCK CITY, which Adam Rifkin directed. We hit it off so well, we found out we
both played in the same sandboxes with the same influences, from Mad magazine
to PLANET OF THE APES to John Landis movies. We just felt we should do
something together after DETROIT. Originally, we were interested in getting the
rights to Famous Monsters magazine. Forry Ackerman was going thru his lawsuit
and all that, so we thought, “Let’s do an FM movie.” And the idea was, what
would an FM movie be? It could be set at a drive-in and there would be four
monster movies, and each one represents a different genre… It didn’t work out
with FM, so we changed the name to CHILLERAMA, went to MTV and sold it with
Gene Simmons attached. It sat on a shelf at MTV for years, and finally, a
couple of years ago, Rifkin and I got the rights back to it.
ABLEY: How did you decide who the other directors were going
to be? Back then, you hadn’t directed a feature.
SULLIVAN: Originally, Adam was going to direct and I was
going to write. [Since then] I had directed 2000 MANIACS, so now I was a
director, and we thought, “Let’s find two other guys.” Adam Green and Joe Lynch
were so obvious, because they’re like the Abbott and Costello of horror. They
have the same sensibility as me and Rifkin. Socially, we’re friends; we used to
get together at the Rainbow Room and shoot the shit. So one day we told them
about the project, and Green went out and within a month he’d gotten financing
through his HATCHET connections.
ABLEY: Green and Lynch actually suggested “I Was a Teenage
Werebear” to you.
SULLIVAN: They said that to me, and I thought, “Oh my God,
we’re making a homage to all these classic genres. We’re doing the drive-ins,
we need to do the beach-blanket [movies], THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH…” And then
it became, “What if James Dean from REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE was closeted?” Which
he really was. And to me, with REBEL, it was, “Should I be with Sal Mineo or
James Dean?” And what if we had that guy with the ultimate iconic leather
daddy, Marlon Brando from THE WILD ONE, and what if Brando from WILD ONE was
like Kiefer Sutherland in THE LOST BOYS? This James Dean-esque guy is
angst-ridden, he’s the new kid in town…and they f**king fell in love with each
I said, “Let’s take these gay clichés, and what has been subtext, let’s make it
text. Let’s have fun with it. Let’s combine Roger Corman with John Waters…and
let’s do this!
ABLEY: Once you decided what you were going to do, what was
the reaction in the industry?
SULLIVAN: From that moment on, it’s been so heartwrenching…
People cannot—managers, actors—they cannot read the script and get out of it
what it really is. They see gay, gay, gay. Managers wouldn’t let their actors
even come close to this material.
was auditioning the lead role of Ricky, who’s in every scene—Zac Efron meets
James Dean, who can sing and dance. I had seen 50 kids, and the ones who were
good and wanted to do it were being told by their managers, “You can’t do this
or we’re dropping you.” And the kids were like, “I don’t want to lose my
manager for this film…” But OK, at a certain point you’ve gotta f**king say
what’s right for yourself.
actually cast an actor, we bought his costume, for five days we were
rehearsing, and three days before filming, they f**king pulled him out of it.
It was like DEAD POETS SOCIETY, where he was closeted, and…it was life
imitating art. Every step of the way, it’s been like life imitating art.
ABLEY: And then when you finally found one of your leads, it
was almost even worse, right?
SULLIVAN: I knew who I wanted for this. And everyone was
telling me—my friends, my family, everyone was saying, “Tim, you’re gonna kill
your whole career if you cast this kid. You’re making a gay-themed film, and if
you cast him, everyone is going to think you cast with your cock and not your
brain, and your career is going to be over.” I met with him and fell in love
with him, and I saw what he was trying to do, and everyone said, “No, no, no.”
So I said, “OK” and auditioned all these other people, and I kept coming back
to him because nobody was better than him. And he was the number-one gay porn
star of all time, Brent Corrigan, a.k.a. Sean Lockhart [pictured above].
has been trying for two years to be Sean Lockhart, and no one will f**king let
him. He came to LA, he was in an acting class and two weeks in, his acting
coach dropped him because someone called and said, “You know that’s a gay porn
star.” Meanwhile, Jenna Jameson is on Broadway, Sasha Grey is on ENTOURAGE, but
because it’s gay, this kid, who’s the hardest-working actor I’ve ever worked
with, one of the sweetest human beings I’ve known, who was manipulated into…
Even if so, what crime did he commit? But because he’s gay, this kid has not
been given a break. No agent will hold him, nobody. I met with him, and even he
was like, “Tim, I don’t want to get excited, because I can’t tell you how many
times… And then if your actors find out who I am, they’re gonna drop out. I
need to do this, but I don’t know what to say…” But he was the best.
ABLEY: How did your fellow director/producers feel about
SULLIVAN: I finally went to Green, I went to Rifkin, I went
to Lynch and said, “Guys, I don’t know what to tell you, but the best person
for this is this guy.” And I waited for the [rejection], and one by one they
said, “F**k it, Tim. Your movie is about acceptance, your movie is about making
a stand. We support you. If he’s the best, if you honestly can show us his
audition and we can see he’s the best, and it’s not just because you like who
he is and you wanna get him in bed, if you’re really doing it for this reason,
we support you.” I sent them the tape, and within 10 seconds they said, “Jesus
Christ, in an alternate universe this kid could be Zac Efron, Shia LeBeouf—his
comedic instincts, his timing, his passion for this…”
was very touched by that. And Joe had to add, “Ya gotta respect that cock.”
Good ol’ Joe. I was so happy, I completely would have understood if they had
said no, but they said yes. That was wonderful, and I called Sean up and said,
“You got it.” He broke down crying.
ABLEY: You also used SCREAM QUEENS winner Gabby West
(pictured above with Lockhart) as the female lead. It will be nice to see what
she can do after her tiny part in SAW 3D.
SULLIVAN: I met Gabby when I was a judge on SCREAM QUEENS,
and I thought she had this raw talent and wanted to work with her. And to be
blunt, these girls were put through so much and held to such a high degree of
expectation as actresses for this coveted role in SAW 3D, and then Gabby won,
she got the role—and it was such a slap in the face for all of us. I mean,
literally, she’s just lying on a cinder block, screaming, tied off with barbed
wire, she has no dialogue, she screams twice and gets her head ripped off. And
that was the big grand prize? It kind of made the whole SCREAM QUEENS show look
ridiculous. We were furious. And I said, “I want to do something about this.”
So I put her in the film. I just knew she could do it. What’s interesting is on
the show, it’s all about running away from monsters. But in this film she’s
doing Olivia Newton-John from GREASE; she’s playing “Sandy,” so to speak. She
sings and dances. It’s a very comedic performance, but at the same time very
gory as well. So I think people who liked her on SCREAM QUEENS will see a side
of her that will impress them even further.
ABLEY: It’s nice to see Lin Shaye in another one of your
SULLIVAN: Lin Shaye, my staple; she’s my good-luck charm.
Lin has been in everything I’ve done, starting with DETROIT ROCK CITY. She
plays a character called “Nurse Pulava”; imagine if the gypsy woman from the
old WOLF MAN movie with Lon Chaney Jr. was actually the school nurse.
ABLEY: And what’s up with those twins (pictured above)? How
did you find those two?
SULLIVAN: They’re the Billem Twins, who had cameos in 2001
MANIACS: FIELD OF SCREAMS. We were shooting in Iowa, and there was a restaurant
there next to the hotel where we all went and ate lunch, and there were these
two cool guys working there, twins—they were adorable, yes I admit. I said,
“Hey, do you want to be extras?” So they were, and they ended up being
production assistants and worked really hard on the film. We needed twins [for
“Werebear”], so I asked them, “Hey, do you want to fly yourselves out here?”
They did, and they have big parts in this film. And it’s amazing, just from
their cameos in FIELD OF SCREAMS, how much fan mail they got. There they are
one day, they’re waiters at a restaurant where we’re filming FIELD OF SCREAMS,
and a year later they’re starring in another movie.
ABLEY: You’ve spoken about the insane amount of support
you’ve gotten from fans—investments, people flying in from all over to be on
the crew, etc. Must be nice to have a project like “Werebear” supported by all
different types of fans.
SULLIVAN: I didn’t come out until I was 27. I moved to
California then, and finally said, “OK, I’m going to just be who I am.” And I
started working and thought, “I’m going to be accepted by the gay community in
gay Hollywood.” And I found the opposite. I found that gay Hollywood is the
most isolating, backstabbing… And where did I find acceptance? In the horror
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