The B Club presents “The Interview”
In this edition of The Interview, we welcome a true legend, Director of
MEGA SHARK VS GIANT OCTOPUS,
B: Welcome Jack, thank you for joining us.
Jack: My pleasure, Shaun.
B: Can we start way back to where it all began.....how did you get into the industry and who and what films were your inspiration(s)?
Jack: Independently, I made AMERICA'S DEADLIEST HOME VIDEO before being hired to do anything in Hollywood. The owner of a production company in LA saw it and liked it, and hired me on to do behind the scenes documentaries for big studio productions - my first Hollywood gig.
It was low-paying, but steady, and more importantly, I was able to observe veteran directors doing their thing. I was on HARD TARGET, John Woo's first American pic, DAZED & CONFUSED, CARLITO'S WAY, THE FLINTSTONES, GRUMPY OLD MEN, etc. It was because of the profile I did on John Woo that brought me to the attention of Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, who were producing HARD TARGET. They asked me to direct the second unit action sequences on the HERCULES mow's with Kevin Sorbo, which ultimately landed me the job directing the pilot episode for XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS.
My inspirations were many, because my father was a hard-core movie lover, and introduced me to all the classics at an early age. I became a big fan of Robert Aldrich, who did KISS ME DEADLY, THE LONGEST YARD (1974), THE DIRTY DOZEN and probably my favorite movie of all time, VERA CRUZ (1954), a super-western with crackling dialogue, beautifully-staged action sequences and a wicked sense of humor, that heavily influenced Leone and Peckinpah. Later, I became a huge Peckinpah fan, specifically BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, because it was so damn personal.
B: It’s appears you owe a lot to AMERICA’S DEADLIEST HOME VIDEO for taking you down the epic path your career has taken? And maybe some of the later releases that were big hits in a similar genre owe you!
The projects you have worked on are as varied as your inspirations, and you’ve worked on and with some very high profile projects and creators, from big budget movies to TV series, no doubt a great learning curve for you. Was this you paying your way and discovering who Jack Perez was before your next Directorial full feature releases, THE BIG EMPTY and then the classic LA CUCARACHA?
Jack: America’s Deadliest Home Video definitely opened one door, that
that lead me to other doors. But it also taught me something. That the most gratifying work is the truly independent stuff, made outside the studios. The personal projects, with actors and crew that you know and love. It sounds obvious, but when I was young and naive (and just wanted to be a professional, paid movie director) I thought that if studios discovered my specific, perhaps idiosyncratic tastes, that they’d support them. Which is nuts. They want to make what they want to make, and if that ain’t what you’re peddling, you’re gonna spend a lot of time waiting by the phone. Which I did.
"Sometimes we just need a fix"
That said, I can “play normal”, and as such I’ve been super lucky to be able to make a lotta different types of movies and TV shows in a variety of genres - all genres I love: crime, horror, melodrama, thriller, comedy. But the ones that I’m most proud of, and the ones that I know truly represent me - are the ones that were made totally outside the studios, even the so-called “independent” production companies, which they most definitely are not. Anyway, that’s why my new crime-thriller, SEARCH & RESCUE, is in part being financed
through crowd-funding. Which I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing if it didn’t have a pretty radical and political animal rights message running through it.
But going back to your question, everything I made prior to The Big Empty and La Cucaracha totally shaped me, giving me technical chops and showing me what is most valuable in the job. For example, after I made the XENA pilot, I knew that a studio and a paycheck and having technical toys wasn’t what I was after. I thought it was, but it wasn’t. Because the result of all that hard work (and EVERY production is very very hard) was something that didn’t really represent me. I felt detached from it.
Oh, it had stuff in it - swords and battles and monsters - that I could connect to my childhood, but it wasn’t reflecting anything going on with me as a 30 year old. Even though I’d been battling to get to that point for 7 years, when I got there, there wasn’t a whole lot of “there there”. That perception can of course shift during one’s career, depending on how desperate one becomes - and I’ve been plenty desperate plenty of times. Sometimes just the need to make something can be reason enough. We’re all drug addicts, filmmakers. Sometimes we just need a fix.
B: Great quote “just need a fix”, thanks for the detailed insight there.
We’ll come on to SEARCH & RESUCE shortly, regarding La Cucaracha, EPIC! Congrats on this release, for the B, this was Jack Perez on screen! Do you consider this to be one of your finest? Btw, what a cast........
Jack: Thanks! I was lucky to be able to track down the negative and do an HD transfer for Amazon Prime. Yeah, it’s definitely one of my personal faves. It was the first film my writing partner, Jim McManus, and I tried to get going. We almost got it made with William Hurt and Raul Julia, and at one point Oliver Stone’s company was interested (with Jim Belushi in the lead?!), but it never materialized. We went off and made The Big Empty (1997) instead and came back to it in ‘98. It was a
prime example of what I like to do best in film - take a genre I love - in this case the south-of-the-border noir - and then merge it with more personal, character-based dramatic elements. That way you retain all the atmospheric and stylistic components, but hopefully take the form a little bit farther than expected. A lot of films influenced it, notably Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. In fact, one of the coolest things happened when Roger Ebert, in writing his review, likened Eric Roberts’s performance - the desperate quality - to Oates’s in Garcia. But Treasure of the Sierra Madre was in there, as was The Wages of Fear, Ride the Pink Horse, etc.
Eric was wonderful in it - gave a real performance, evocative of his great early work. As did Joaquim De Almeida and Victor Rivers, and a super-young Michael Peña in a small part. I loved working with these actors and fabricating Mexico (due to budget limitations) in Los Angeles - much of it being a build-up of the old Mexico street on the Universal backlot. It was also the first time I had a little bit of a budget (though only 18 days to shoot) and I was able to bring some scale and style to the picture.
B: Eric, legend..... La Cucaracha, Classic, hence the interest!
Onward from a few other projects you were involved with including WILD THINGS 2, MONSTER ISLAND, 666: THE CHILD, we then come onto another of your classics for different reasons, MEGA SHARK VS GIANT OCTOPUS, a true B-Movie! The B recalls that even in the U.K., there was a bit of an internet frenzy about this release, even with the tabloids getting involved.
Where did this idea come from, also is it true it’s very different to what your “Directors Cut” would be?
Jack: I’m very proud of La Cucaracha. We made the movie we wanted to make. Thank you.
Afterwards, it was a little harder than I thought to get the next movie made. Perhaps it was because La Cucaracha was a blend of genres with black comedy, so it didn’t really fit into any specific commercial category. I hadn’t “branded” (and I hate that word) myself as one type of director. So I struggled some.
The first bigger gig came with Wild Things 2 for Sony. And that gave me a chance to do a “swamp-thriller”, but pretty conventional stuff. Monster Island for MTV was a passion project drawing from my childhood love of Ray Harryhausen and 50’s insect mutation pics like THEM! My biggest achievement there was getting MTV to agree to finance a movie where stop motion animation was the driving FX technique (and also giving Mary Elizabeth Winstead one of her first breaks). I did 666: The Child, a deliberate OMEN knock-off, and Mega-Shark vs Giant Octopus when I was hurting for money after a couple personal projects fell through.
I was asked to write Mega Shark in 2 weeks and shoot it in 12 days, and I knew it would likely be monkeyed with in post, so I took a pseudonym going in. The irony is it turned into this huge cult thing - was a Jeopardy question, played theatrically, whole thing. And as I expected, they recut my version, and horribly.
They needed to extend the running time for a specific foreign market and basically padded it out by adding pauses to the heads and tails of every shot.
It plays like a porno accordingly. Just unnecessarily awkward. My cut played fast, tightly-paced, as any B-movie should. One of these days I’m gonna release my original version. Only Ed Wood would be ok with the cut as it was released.
B: We long for the day for the release of your version. Although enjoyable, we do agree with the flow of the movie, that said Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus did open the flood gates, not just for the later Mega series from The Asylum, but with other colossal titles within the B-Movie industry including your own epic FEAR FORCE FIVE series, for this we thank you (and your pseudonyms) for being a pioneer and visionary in the world of the modern day B.
Onto your latest project SEARCH AND RESCUE, which also sees you reuniting with Kevin Corrigan from another of your classic releases, SOME GUY WHO KILLS PEOPLE. What can you tell us about this movie, it seems very personal to you?
Jack: Thank you so much for that. You know, one thing I neglected to point out earlier is how important it was to work with Adam West on Monster Island (which for me is so much more spirited than Mega Shark). Adam was my childhood Batman, and I wrote the kindly mad scientist, “Dr. Harryhausen” for him. When he accepted the role, I was over the moon. And during production, he was the coolest guy imaginable. I feel so lucky to have been able to work with one of my heroes.
B: An epic mention right there, Adam West, the man, the legend, sorely missed.
Jack: It’s wild how much Mega-Shark did for me, even though I considered it a fucking mess. It certainly helped get me the Some Guy Who Kills People meeting, even facilitated my getting into teaching (which I’ve done for almost 10 years, and genuinely love) simply because that movie was “in the air” and faculty and students knew about it. So I’m grateful. And of course, it enabled me to do Fear Force Five, which was my way of trying to correct some of the mistakes imposed on Mega-Shark.
Search & Rescue is certainly more personal, but it has a lot of crazy shit in it derived from the world of B. It’s a crime-thriller with a distinctive animal-rights component. I’m a lifelong animal lover and activist, but instead of doing a doc on the horrors of factory farming, the fur trade or animal experimentation by pharmaceutical companies, I’m putting it all into a badass private eye pic, with plenty of action, suspense, kink and gore.
It’s the best way for me to get the message across. And my primary cast from Some Guy Who Kills People - Kevin Corrigan, Lucy Davis and Barry Bostwick - are all along for the ride. I’m really excited. But definitely need crowdfunding to make it happen, as the story is way too controversial to be funded by any studio.
CALL TO ACTION
SEARCH & RESCUE
Needs your support!!
Check out the great perks on Indiegogo for this EPIC Jack Perez feature. And to speak out and raise awareness for the voices that cannot be heard.
We’re definitely looking forward to SEARCH AND RESCUE, good luck with crowd funding on this project, the B will support where possible, please keep us informed of any further developments and announcements.
Thank you so much again for your time and enriching our lives with so many enjoyable movies, any final words for the fans?
Jack: Exceptionally kind of you to say. It’s been my pleasure, man! An honor to be featured on your very cool site!
And I definitely want to thank everyone who's watched and supported my stuff over the years. No matter what the project, from the highly-personal to the work-for-hire, I've always given it everything I had. So it's enormously gratifying when people appreciate the work! It means everything!
SEARCH & RESCUE
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