“INHUMAN RESOURCES”: Tom Savini sees “Redd,” Part One
Tom Savini is one name Fangorians and even average horror fans should instantly recognize. In person the makeup FX maven is incredibly enthusiastic for everything. He’s in possession of a childlike wonder that is constantly in use (he names the furry cover this writer uses on the microphone on his faithful recording device, “Basil”), and he exudes an energy that you can see has obviously got him through the worst days on set.
On the way to the Sydney set of the psycho-in-an-office-building-flick INHUMAN RESOURCES (formerly REDD INC.; now the debut release on the FANGORIA Presents VOD/DVD label; see here for details), where Savini has been hired to supervise the makeup FX and to also perform in front of the camera, FANGORIA caught up with the esteemed makeup man/actor and immediately adjourned to a nearby bar for an interview. In the space of the half a block we had to walk, Savini was recognized several times and kindly greeted each act of recognition. Finally reaching our destination and with drinks ordered, Savini flipped me one of his business cards and without a question being asked, the interview was on…
TOM SAVINI: I preach to my students all the time, don’t go anywhere without your portfolios; don’t even go to 7-Eleven, you never know when you’re going to meet someone who might hire you or help you. I give one of my cards to every one of my students the day they arrive and again the day they graduate. Most of them respect it, but sometimes I get a call at 3 a.m. from somebody screaming their head off. It’s a great example though; you know, you can put your whole portfolio on a flash drive, have it on your key chain, always have it with you, and then you can plug it in to somebody’s laptop. There have been so many cases, mine in particular, where you can be in the right place at the right time, but you have to be ready! And so I was. I was in the right place, at the right time, and I was ready, so I got my first movie job, got a full scholarship to Carnegie Mellon University, and that was the beginning. I took leave of absence from college to do DAWN OF THE DEAD, and I haven’t looked back since [laughs]. That was a long time ago, but I was in the right place at the right time and had my portfolio ready and started my first movie two days later.
FANGORIA: How did the second movie come about then?
SAVINI: Well, the second movie was the result of the first movie. The first movie was DEATHDREAM and then DERANGED. They were both Bob Clark films. We went to Canada to do the second. And then six years went by, and I went back to Pittsburgh to audition and then got a scholarship. But I always remember showing George Romero my portfolio. Sometimes I had to follow him around the office, because he’d always be walking…maybe we can use you on this gig, his NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. But I’d enlisted in the Army and was in Vietnam when they made that. But then everything turned around, and years later I was directing the remake of it. I got the job with MARTIN by that method. Just turning up in his office and him recognizing me from high school when he’d come by to audition kids for a movie that never happened. But he remembered me, which led to being hired for MARTIN, and I got that from my portfolio. And I had a history with Romero; did DAWN OF THE DEAD, and then the FRIDAY THE 13TH producers wanted to mimic the success of that, so I was lucky to get FRIDAY THE 13TH. Those two in a row, DAWN OF THE DEAD and FRIDAY THE 13TH, they just propelled my name out there, and I did one movie after another after that; the ’80s splatter phase. But I don’t do effects any more. I just concentrate on acting and directing. [INHUMAN RESOURCES] is the first film I’ve worked on in that capacity since MR. STITCH. FROM DUSK TILL DAWN really stimulated my directing career. I did the remake of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD before that and episodes of TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE for TV, then the “Wet Dreams” segment in THE THEATRE BIZARRE. People think I’ve retired from acting, but that is not true. I’m doing it, every day from my house, from my school and everything. I just don’t do it for a living any more, until now. So we should make a big deal about that.
FANG: What was the connection to INHUMAN RESOURCES?
SAVINI: Last year at a trade show for makeup artists, I met these guys who gave me a script and talked about making a movie. Well, of course they’re out there, but tell me when you’ve got the check and are ready to hire me. I don’t get serious about anything because I’ve been burned many times in the past. I worked on a film for three years. Three years! The director came to my house, we worked on a script, it was a killer clown. I said, “My best friends are clowns, I can’t; besides we’re sick of clowns, make it something else.” [Laughs] It took three years, back and forth, and I kept looking for the dough. When he got the money, he hired some kids right out of film school, and do you think that movie was a success? Now I don’t do anything to accept a project until half the money is up front. Once they give you a deposit, they’ve got to use you. My first question whenever an offer comes in via e-mail is, “Well, that sounds like fun; what’s your offer?” And I tell my students the same thing. If somebody asks how much you want to do something, never give a price. Just say, “Make me an offer.” That happened to me with GRINDHOUSE. Elizabeth Avellan, who produced the film, called and said, “What is your day rate? What do you usually make in a day?” “Oh, no, make me an offer.” Well, she came back with five times what I would have asked for; so, if you tell them how much you want, then that’s what you’re going to get. If you say “Make me an offer,” they’ll come at you with maybe five times, 10 times, what you would have asked for and that’s what you get. Otherwise you get what you said.
FANG: Are you surprised to be working in Australia?
SAVINI: No, I’d always wanted to come here, and I’m seeing a girl here who has come to America a couple of times. They’ve put us together in an apartment, and this is paradise; it’s near the beach. So it’s a lot of, “What’s your offer? That’s a great offer, you’ve seduced me with having a good time.” [Laughs] I met the guys from MEG FX at the trade show. We got talking, they invited me to their studio, and I saw a lot of great stuff; they’re planning a movie that they want me to be in. So when [writer/producer] Jonathon Green called me, I said, “You have to call the MEG guys. You’ve got to get them on board, they’re right here, they’re the best makeup effects guys around.” At that time, I thought I was going to have a part in the movie, but they came back and said, “Well, there is a part for Peter Bava, but we will pay you to supervise the effects.” “Could you use my name twice, as supervising effects and playing this character?
TO BE CONTINUED