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Q&A: Franchise Mainstay Michael Gross talks “TREMORS 5: BLOODLINES”

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It is hard to believe it has been 25 years since the original TREMORS film shook up screens. And while its stars Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward have moved on to other things but its original co-star, the gun toting Burt Gummer played by Michael Gross has long taken over the lead in the franchise, which is now wiggling into its fifth sequel.

Casting Michael Gross at the time was an inspired and unique choice; Gross was of course best known as the kind-hearted dad Steven Keaton on the hit 80’s sitcom FAMILY TIES.  Since then Gross’s Burt Gummer has become the heart of the film series that as spawned three sequels (TREMORS II: AFTERSHOCKS  & TREMORS 3: BACK TO PERFECTION) and a prequel (TREMORS 4: THE LEGEND BEGINS) where Gross got to play Hiram Gummer, the great grandfather of Burt Gummer and a short lived TV series in 2003. Things have been quiet in the town of Perfection since then but Michael Gross is back now with another sequel TREMORS 5: BLOODLINES that will be unleashed on DVD and VOD on October 6th, 2015. Michael Gross spoke to Fangoria about being Burt Gummer and what TREMORS fans can expect this time around.

FANGORIA: Are you much of a horror fan yourself?

MICHAEL GROSS: Not particularly but I grew up on the ancient Universal classics; the Frankenstein’s, Dracula, The Wolfman, Invisible Man, Karloff and the Mummy and all that sort of stuff. There have been some unbelievable horror films over time. Just adored THE EXORCIST and I love THE OMEN for example. Extraordinary cast and was wonderfully written.  One of my favorite movies from the 50’s was THEM! with the giant ants that was produced by Warner Brothers. That was 1954 or 1956, something like that. I tend to like monster movies rather than space or futuristic stuff. I like good old-fashioned monsters. So this was perfect for me. I don’t seek out horror per say but when I hear of something that is pretty wonderful I go to see it.

FANGORIA: What is interesting about TREMORS series is that it’s so hard to place in as far as style. How would you describe it?

GROSS: I’ve said to people that (TREMORS) is what horror films that THE NAKED GUN series is to detective stuff. It’s hard film to place. It was creating its own genre. It flipped some of the horror genre on its head.  When I think of horror I think of dark places, bruiting woods and New England and we are in the middle of the desert with almost no scenes that weren’t in daylight. You think of horror and you think of darkness, here was horror in the middle of the day.

FANGORIA: You haven’t done a TREMORS film in well over 10 years, what keeps you coming back to the role?

GROSS: It has been a long time and part of that has to do with fact that Universal couldn’t get somebody for a long time to green light it.  It may have had something to do with the failure of the TV series. But there were people like Patty Jackson at Universal that always believed in it, (she said to me) “It’s not dead, we are just going to sit on this.” People change their minds at Universal until a different set of executives comes in and I’m going to keep bringing this up. Until they finally green lighted it.  So yes it’s been something like 13 years since we made TREMORS 4.

FANGORIA: I think the character of Burt Gummer so funny is he always is taking himself seriously in an insane world.  Would you agree?

GROSS: It’s very tough to be Burt Gummer to be honest with you because you never relax.  You when they say chose your battles? Well everything is a battle with poor Burt. Which is what makes him funny. I keep coming back for the character. I’m not a particular fan of any one genre, I just like good writing. And Burt’s comic paranoia simply appeals to me in a huge way.

FANGORIA: Tell us about TREMORS 5. What should we expect for this one?

GROSS: Well first off it has been 13 years. That is a long time so Universal green-lit this and wanted me to come on board. In some ways there will always be a TREMORS fan out there and although we want to keep them happy, times have changed. It’s a social media world, it’s a faster world and we want to appeal to a younger generation along with the people who liked the original films.

In terms of style, the quirkiness is still there and the very real danger is still there but it is updated and in some ways it moves a little faster. I can tell you this, Burt has been tested before and he is some ways her personally that he has never had to deal with before.  Naturally as TREMORS has always done in the past, Burt comes prepared for one thing and then finds another. So that is lot of that fun. There is some interesting interpersonal stuff that we haven’t quite seen before.

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FANGORIA: Has there been any talk of a TREMORS 6 at this point?

GROSS:  I will tell you this. It is ripe for a sequel the way they left it. I saw the screening and I turned to the producers and said this really screams sequel the way that you have left it. So if this is accepted and if Universal is happy with the results and then there would definitely room for another.  

It is an interesting thing for me because I am 13 years older than I last did this. So when was the last time you saw an action hero who was a senior citizen. Ha-ha it’s fascinating!

FANGORIA: Well you are in good company with THE EXPENDABLES…

GROSS: I guess so. I saw Schwarzenegger the other day and somebody said “He must be your age too.” You know you are right! He refuses to give up either.

I realized after 13 years I still had a lot of get up and go but boy did I sleep well at night. Holy crap. This being what it is, action and a lot of jumping around and running, climbing. I still have scar from the gash I opened up on my shin one day, that was last October and it took so long to heal because I was in action every day.  It wouldn’t close up so I think I have a scar for life on my shin as a result of that. I broke a rib, a pulled muscle, and all that sort of crap.  

FANGORIA: On this one or over the entire series you mean?

GROSS:  On this one. I mean everyone gets banged up a little but I took a fall and ended up breaking a rib. And it was for a shot they didn’t even use.  So it hurt every time I inhaled for like two weeks.  I keep coming back to Burt because he entertains the hell out of me.

He was little bit like my father was. My poor dad who was man who was extremely cautious his whole life. Burt’s preparation and bravado is the flip side of fear. A man who is worried that something terrible is going to go wrong and always be prepared for it. And my poor father was a little bit like that.  So I feel very close to my dear departed father when I’m playing Burt. Because he was always felt like life landed right in the middle of a minefield and never had a map, the way he treated life.

FANGORIA: It is so interesting that you based it on your dad being that you also played the ultimate father that we all wanted on FAMILY TIES.

GROSS: In a sense, that is really true.

FANGORIA: I think that is what makes these kinds of movies fun is that fan debate of which of the films are the best. Which is your favorite?

GROSS: The film I like most after the first one is the fourth one when I play own grandfather. A guy who comes from the east and doesn’t want anything to do with guns and anything to do with you people or anything to do with this place. I just want to make some money and get the hell out of here and he had to transition, he had to make an emotional journey to decide to be with those people, to decide to protect them. He wasn’t going to run out and there was an interesting arc to that character. He started in one place and ended in quite another. So I loved that character of Hiram Gummer. That to me was interesting. It has a lot of the same things that the first film had going. They were protecting an entire community and women and children.

It is always interesting, people love TREMORS. I think universally TREMORS 1 was loved and adored but 2, 3 and 4 there was always felt there was someone saying that one wasn’t good. Or I didn’t like that as much as blah, blah blah… 2, 3 and 4 never pleased anybody the way that Tremors 1 did but to me they were always a hell of lot of fun. So I’m sure there will be a great number of people that will love TREMORS 5 and others will say naw, I’m just not buying it. So it’s a crapshoot. Everyone has their favorites and they love to talk about.

This fan base has been extraordinary and meeting some of these people and occasionally go to an autograph show and meet some kid and they go “Wow, you are Burt Gummer!” Kids just eat it up and its so exciting and always a thrill. The same age as me seeing THEM! all those years ago.

About the author
Kelly Michael Stewart
Along with being a contributing writer to Fangoria, Kelly has also written for Planet Fury and KISS Monster magazine. As a film presenter and speaker, he has been a guest speaker at the Toronto Silent Film Festival and hosted many film events in Toronto including his Fright Nights monthly series. He is the creator and Festival Director for the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival and a judge for the Toronto International Film and Video Awards.
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