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More than a few jaws drop when Syfy announced that feature film director Mary Lambert, helmer of PET SEMATARY, THE IN CROWD and SIESTA, would be tackling the cable channel’s latest over-the-top monsterfest, MEGA PYTHON VS. GATOROID. After tons of both mainstream and fan press over the wacky project’s announcement, MEGA PYTHON VS. GATOROID will premiere on Saturday, January 29 at 9 p.m. The Syfy original movie spawned from The Asylum, makers of such low-rent fare as MEGA PIRANHA and MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS, which respectively starred MEGA PYTHON VS. GATOROID headliners Tiffany and Debbie Gibson. In this exclusive interview, Lambert says she dove into her first Syfy flick for the fun of it and predicts viewers will follow suit.
FANGORIA: Who would have thought that a movie called MEGA PYTHON VS. GATOROID gets a write up in The New York Times last weekend.
MARY LAMBERT: I know, I can’t believe it. I think people just really want some entertainment, you know? [Laughs] It’s a really fun movie.
FANG: And a premiere at the Ziegfeld next week…
LAMBERT: I know! Listen, nobody is more surprised than I am. I thought we were doing a little Saturday night creature feature. I just really do think that there’s an appetite out there for people who want to be entertained, they want to have some laughs, they want to have some scares, they want to take a ride.
FANG: It seems that your movie in particular is the crescendo of all these silly Syfy movies.
LAMBERT: Oh, well let’s hope we live up to expectations.
FANG: Most Syfy directors are usually direct-to-video people, they’re not people of your caliber. Why did you decide to take this movie on?
LAMBERT: Well, I just really liked the script [by Naomi L. Selfman]. From my point of view, I rarely see a script, much less get offered one, that’s about two strong women. Even though this movie’s a little bit of a goof, the characters are still very clear. Debbie Gibson plays an animal activist, and Tiffany plays a park ranger and they’re both women in authority and they’re not fighting over a man, and they both have a vision of how things could be and they’re really dedicated to it. And best of all, they just really screw up, they’re totally flawed characters, they both make really bad decisions and they have to try to clean up this big mess. I like flawed heroes; rarely do you find the right parts for women where they get to be the protagonist or the heroine of the movie, and at the same time are a little bit flawed. They never write that sort of Bruce Willis character for women. Women have to be perfect all the time. But especially if you’re gonna get to star in a movie and you’re gonna be the “good girl,” they have to be really good. And I like bad girls. Also, the idea of doing all these crazy effects was just fun, I wanted to do it.
FANG: Was it tough taking a movie called MEGA PYTHON VS. GATOROID and making it a good movie?
LAMBERT: Well, I don’t think you want to try to make it into something that it’s not. It’s not WAR AND PEACE, I don’t want to sound ridiculous by saying we’re making a social statement or something like that, but I approach everything I do with the same degree of consideration, and there’s no reason that the actors have to be directed like, “Oh, who cares about this character?” I approached every one of the characters in this movie with complete seriousness, within the context of the movie, to make them a real character, with hopes and desires and shortcomings and reasons why they do what they do. Sometimes the reason is that there’s an alligator the size of a house, so you’ve gotta find some motivation in there somewhere! [Laughs] The reason people are having so much fun with this movie is that we have some really good actors in it. Kathryn Joosten is amazing, and Kevin Horton, who plays Tiffany’s deputy, is a real up and coming young actor and a lot of his talent is that he’s comedic, but you still care about him. You still see the humanity underneath. But everybody in the movie, especially Debbie and Tiffany, approached their characters with absolute sincerity. And that’s why it’s fun to laugh at them and why you care about them. If you don’t care about the people getting eaten by the snakes and alligators, then it becomes dull. When I direct horror movies, the key to making what otherwise might be called a ridiculous plot intriguing is that you have to care about the people.
FANG: How much humor or camp is in the film?
LAMBERT: Well, there’s a lot of humor. And I pushed for the humor, and I would have gone for more. I love the humor, but it wasn’t my desire to make it campy, it was my desire to make it funny. Because real humor, again, comes out of a connection to the situation, and not out of the ridiculousness of the situation. Whenever possible, I try to give the characters the humor of who they are, and how the humor would come out of the manifestation of the action, of the scene or the drama of the scene, rather than, “That gator looks really stupid.” But our gators are scary; the effects team did a great job. I’ll be interested to see what they look like on the big screen [laughs]! There’s certainly gonna be moments where these effects certainly can’t stand up to SPIDER-MAN, but if they could, my gosh! There’s a huge disparity in terms of time and money on this movie and even PIRANHA 3D.
FANG: The CGI in these Syfy movies is usually not the greatest. Did they step it up for you?
LAMBERT: You know, I really did my best. I approach everything that I do with that in mind, and there were places where we were just reared up against the restrictions of how much money there was to make things perfect. And some places it’s not. I’m not gonna point those things out to you, because they’ll be perfectly obvious [laughs]. And with a movie like this, you just have to enter into the spirit of it. You know, “I see that imperfection, so what?” You either go past it, or you enjoy it. That’s one reason sometimes people do enjoy movies like this, because you can learn a lot from them. Sometimes you can see through the artifice, you know how the effect was achieved. You see the underpinning a little bit, you see the line on the screen that tells you it’s not real, but you know it’s not real anyway. I sure pushed people. There were times when they wished I wasn’t onboard! “Oh no, not her again!” [Laughs] But the executives at Syfy are great. They want everything to be as good as it can be, so ultimately, everybody appreciated the fact that I sometimes brought a higher standard than some people wanted to deal with.
FANG: What will audiences be more interested in, the Mega Python vs. Gatoroid scenes, or the Tiffany vs. Debbie Gibson scenes?
LAMBERT: God, once again, you’re just putting me on the hot seat with a question like that [laughs]. Or course, for me, I care the most about the Tiffany vs. Debbie Gibson scenes, because to me that’s the heart of the movie. So it’ll depend on who you are. That’s the thing that’s gonna be cool about this movie, because there’s an audience that’s gonna want to see Debbie and Tiffany facing off and then becoming friends, then getting pissed off at each other again, saving each other, whatever, which they do in the course of this movie. That’s one movie, and that’s one audience. And then there’s gonna be another audience that’s not gonna really care one way or the other, they just want their Saturday night creature feature. They just wanna dig in and watch the gators-eat-the-snake gags and the snakes eat the gators [laughs] and then go after the cars and the buildings and the gas stations and all the other stuff that blows up. People will see it for different reasons.
FANG: Where does Micky Dolenz fit in?
LAMBERT: At the center of the movie there’s this Everglades benefit, and he’s the star celebrity performer. But unfortunately, a rather vicious reptile attack takes place that night. I’m not gonna tell you what happens to Micky, but he’s not in the third act [laughs].
FANG: What was it like shooting in the Everglades?
LAMBERT: We didn’t. We did do a second unit down there, and it’s very effective. But principal locations were in Los Angeles. That’s one of the economies that was necessary in order to achieve what we did with the budget.
FANG: Was it tough to sustain viewer interest while waiting for the big showdown between the creatures?
LAMBERT: Well, that’s where the characters and the humor come in. But we have snakes right from the beginning, and I’m always amazed at how many people are really afraid of snakes. You respect wild animals like that; they’re objects to be venerated and adored. I’m a redneck; I grew up in Arkansas, in the country, and I’m not afraid of snakes. I wouldn’t like to get bitten by a large, 20-foot rattlesnake multiple times. But most snakes won’t harm you if you don’t bother them. Now alligators, that’s a different story [laughs]. You screw up, you get a small snake bite, you get to the hospital, you get treated, you’re all right. Gator takes your leg off, your leg is gone [laughs]! We had a couple of live alligators on the set, and they were frightening.
What’s next for Mary Lambert? Check Fangoria.com’s news section tomorrow for the scoop!
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