28th Feb2018

‘Death House’ Interview: Lloyd Kaufman

by Philip Rogers

With the highly-anticipated horror Death House being released in cinemas on March 2nd, I got a chance to ask filmmaker Lloyd Kaufman about how he got into film making, what we can expect and his favourite moments during filming.


How did you first get into film making?

I got into filmmaking because I made the mistake of going to Yale University. I was heading to doing something useful with my life like teaching or social work, but my roommate was a film fanatic. Our beds were in a very small bedroom, they were head to toe and at night I would inhale his stinking feet and I sort of caught the Aroma du Troma. He ran the Yale Film Society, so I would drift in and suddenly I started watching the screen and I had no idea that film was such an art, I didn’t even know there was a director for a movie. I thought Charlie Chaplin was just a clown and I didn’t realise that he was a genius director, writer, musician all that stuff. Slowly but surely, I got knocked out by John Ford, Howard Hawks, Stan Brakhage of course the greatest visual artist of our era. One night we were watching Ernst Lubitsch To Be or Not to Be (1941), later remade by one Mel Brooks. During the Lubitsch version I decided right then and there; it was such an amazing film, crazy but yet incredibly disciplined and clearly the product of a very strong director. I decided right then and there to give what I have to the people out there in the dark. It was as easy as getting out of the lazy boy armchair, going to the icebox and cracking open a beer, it just was. Instead of teaching the bums to paint happy faces or teaching the people with hooks on there hands as a social worker, I would film them, and the rest is a very sad career.

I speak fluent French and the films society at Yale had a stack of this magazines Cahiers du Cinéma, which I started reading. They propounded the theory that the director should be in total control of the movie and it should be an expression of his, her or its soul, heart and brain. I bought into that and of course totally fucked up my career.

I’ve written seven books, one of which is my memoir from 1984 called All I need to know about Filmmaking I learned from the Toxic Avenger. You can get that book, its widely available in the UK. The first book that I wrote was written by non-other than James Gunn who wrote Tromeo and Juliet (1996). I don’t know what happened to him after that, but hopefully he’s ok.

In Death House film you play Doctor Chalice…

That sounds correct, I took a lot of acid in the 60’s and I’m in so many movies. I don’t know the name of my doctor, but if that’s who you say it is, that’s who it is. It’s a wonderful film, Death House is great, its terrific.

Can you tell us what we can expect from the film?

Well I think if you like horror, other than I, every talented horror star is in this movie. Debbie Rochon and all our buddies are in it. It should be up for the BAF [BAFTA] or at least an Oscar. Maybe not the BAF because that’s the highest, the British Oscar that’s the most important, but the American Oscar that’s easy. It’s a slam dunk, but this is a very corrupt industry. The hash tag ‘Me Too’ is fucked up as well. Grammys with their step-up policies, I guess they overlooked [Steven] Spielberg and Death House, what can I tell ya. It’s a pity.

How did you become involved in the movie?

We actors have to do certain things for the producers and directors these days. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but I have lips like a woman, just remember that and I know how to use them. I gave a performance that… well I was exhausted after my performance as the doctor. The operation, the scene, the costumes, the assistants. I got prepared for months for my role. Months of rehearsal, I read book on medicine, I gained 75 pounds to do it properly, I wrote prescriptions for opioids, the whole thing a typical thing an American doctor has to do.

What was your favourite moment filming Death House?

I think my favourite moment was the people I met there, it was such a great crew. This was a team, many times you don’t get that magical team spirit and the love of the art. I met everybody on set that day and it was pretty big group, they were all excited about movies, they wanted to talk about movies, they love Harrison [Smith] and Death House, it was very inspiring.

Do you have any other projects which you are working on?

Yes, of course Return to Return to Nuke ‘Em High AKA Vol. 2 which played at the Prince Charles and a small number of UK theatres is going to be opening in Los Angeles March 8th. It’s going to play the Laemmle Theatre, The Fine arts and then the NoHo. We are going to have a big deal there with the bands and the Troma Art Show that the gallery is putting together with artists who are obsessed with The Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986) and The Return to Nuke ‘Em High series. We will also have an after party at Club Cobra which is right near the NoHo. So, its very exciting about 200 theatres will eventually play Return to Return to Nuke ‘Em High AKA Vol. 2 in the next year.

We have written a decent draft for our version of The Tempest, we are going back to the bard 20 years after Tromeo and Juliet (1996). The Tempest was one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, its got a monster, it’s about old people and losing power, it’s got psychedelic stuff, dreams, trippy, druggy. So, we have written that, and we hope to shoot this summer. We are getting locations now. My wife says this is the best script we have ever had, as did one of my daughters. We are still working on it, but I think its going to be very good. The title is Shakespeare’s Shit Storm, its our version of the Tempest.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get into filmmaking?

To thine own self be true, run your career that way. It was a phrase coined by William Shakespeare who as you know wrote that book 101 Money Making Screen Play Ideas, otherwise known as Hamlet. That would be my advice. Now there is a crossroads that you might come to, James Gunn wanted to be successful, he wants an Oscar, a big house and all that stuff. He is very talented, and he is absolutely the best, there is nobody better than him. He went to California. So that’s what a young, old any person, if that’s what a person wants they must go to California or you must be partnered with a vassal of the giant conglomerates. I chose to stay in the underground of New York. There are people who want to be independent and want to be underground, but it’s not easy. James Gunn spent 10 years so did Eli Roth. Everyone thinks these are overnight sensations, but they have at least 10 years of sending scripts and working hard and out there in California it is also working at night. You have to be seen, go to the parties and where I am no body wants me at any of the parties and I am living under a freeway in a refrigerator box. The point is there is a cross roads and you’ve got to make that decision what do you want.

Do you have any other projects which you are working on?

Well not only is the Toxic Avenger the Musical is playing all over the world and opening in Chicago, they have made a movie out of it. They have a movie version of the musical, they basically filmed the English show in the West End. I saw it opening night and it was terrific, but it has closed since. The producers filmed that version and its going to have a US Premiere in Chicago in March. Its at an event called C2E2, it’s a huge convention and they are bringing me out for that.

I am going to be over there across the pond for Raindance, I am going to be doing a Make Your Own Movie Master Class. Then I think I have a big deal in Brussels for the Brussels International Film and Fantasy Festival.


You can find out more about Lloyd Kaufman and Troma on the following social media:

Troma Entertainment,Inc: www.troma.com
Fan site: www.lloydkaufman.com
Twitter: @lloydkaufman

Watch 250 free movies on Troma’s movies YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Tromamovies

Check out Troma’s latest feature Return to Nuke ‘Em High Vol. 2 coming soon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3TRIFJw384

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