Interview with director Albert Pyun.
Earlier this week I reviewed one of my all time favorite 1980's high school thrillers, Dangerously Close. I was beyond blown away when I received a message from the film's director Albert Pyun. I'm a huge fan of Pyun's films, mostly Dangerously Close and his science-fiction-musical-fantasy film Radioactive Dreams. Both movies have gathered a pretty strong cut following over the years and I was beyond honored when Mr. Pyun agreed to do an interview with me. A million thanks again Albert! Here are some questions I asked about Dangerously and Radioactive.
What are some of your all time favorite movies?
Streets of Fire, Brewster McCloud, O' Lucky Man, The Good the bad and the ugly, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Day For Night are a few I really loved. A couple quilty pleasures like Grease and Phantom of the paradise.
What made you want to get into film-making?
I think seeing Dr. No and Bye Bye Birdie in a double bill really got me going in the early 60's. I just loved being in the world those two movies created and got the bug to create my own worlds.
How did you come about writing Radioactive Dreams?
I wanted to do something after "The Sword and the Sorcerer" that was distinctive and not like anything else. I think I felt that if I only got to make 2 movies in my life, the second had to be as imaginative as I could create. So that was the start of it and I had a lot of meetings with studios and what they liked about my first film was how it was imaginative, so I went that direction.
Did the 1980's missile crisis have anything to do with what inspired you?
Well, no, but growing up in the Col War years certainly did. I always was a fan of Dr. Strangelove and i think that and "O Lucky Man" got me going on the idea of the last nuke left.
How long did it take for the guys to get the “Post Nuke Shuffle” down?
Did they ever?? To be fair, we had to shoot it really fast as the sun was coming up and we were losing extras. So we had to shoot it fast and that was unfair to John and Michael because they did work hard on that dance. We shot most of the big music scenes and extras scenes in one night so that really made it a very rushed shoot night.
I don't know if John was as comfortable with the dance as Michael. I think it went against this sort of "cool" vibe John had. He was very dedicated to what we were doing but some of it i could tell unsettled him.
The dance looked pretty amazing. I'm surprised it isn't a staple to dance to at weddings and birthdays. Any memories of when you filmed the big final scene?
Just how fast we had to do it. I was disappointed we could do it with more takes and shots. It was pretty basic and FAST. And they had a costume change in the middle of it. I had actually shot several book end scenes which were set 40 years later and had a young mutant reporter interviewing Rusty about Philip and Marlowe. It talked about what eventually happened to them and how Marlowe was murdered by a gang trying to get the launch keys and how Phillip left rusty to destroy the keys once and for all but never returned. I think there was a small shot at the end showing Philip and Rusty's son and a quick peek of Philip watching from afar to keep them safe.
The soundtrack to this film still remains very popular. Did you personalty pick any of the artist that made it into the movie?
Yeah, I selected the songs used. My friend and co-producer John Stuckmeyer was into that LA music scene and got a lot of bands to submit cassette tapes of demos. He weeded out the most appropriate ones and he and I selected the final choices to be used. I think we had a couple written for the movie specifically when we couldn't find exactly what we wanted.
How did you end up meeting John Stockwell and Michael Dudikoff?
They came in during the casting process. We saw a lot of great actors of that time, Judge Reinhold, Clancy Brown, Tim Van Patten, Harry Anderson, many really good actors. We even had a breakfast meeting with Tom Hanks, a tape submission from Ellen DeGeneres. All were young and at the start of their careers as was I.
As a special effects makeup artist, I found the mutants completely terrifying! Any memories of the makeup process on the actors?
That was by Greg Cannom who would go on to win oscars for Dracula and more. He figured out the design and look. I was disappointed that I had to lose the surfing sequence in the film. We wanted to dye the ocean flourescent orange and have surfing mutants surf and rot I think but the Coastal Commission said no.
Shortly after Radioactive Dreams, you began filming Dangerously Close. How did you become involved in that project?
I got called to meet at Cannon and I was offered the film in that meeting.
John Stockwell co-wrote the screenplay. How was it like directing a movie he helped write?
It was fine. John was already working with me on another script about young drafted soldiers sent to fight a war on Mars. So we were in the groove of that. He really did a good job on Dangerously Close but he and I did lock horns over how much I was stylizing the film in look and music. He wanted a more gritty high school movie. But he was great to work with except for that.
You had a very impressive young cast behind this movie. Any fond memories that stand out during filming?
Just that everyone was very excited and all very creative and good. I enjoyed the entire process. Carey Lowell was so otherworldly that she elevated the material I thought. Don Michael paul and Thom Mathews were great as well. I went on to work with everyone at least once more I think.
Like Radioactive, this movie also has a very popular soundtrack. Do you feel great music is important for your movies?
Yes, its one of they keys for me. If i can't hear it, I can't see it. I'm sure music is one of the hallmarks of my movies. My newest film is ROAD TO HELL which is an homage of sorts to Streets of Fire. We have the two big Jim Steiman rock ballads performed in RTH as well as a dozen other songs.
Were there any plans for a sequel for either Radioactive Dreams or Dangerously Close?
No. But I did shoot those bookend scenes with Rusty.
Did John and yourself ever talk about working on a third project?
No. He was on his way at that point while I wanted to do a remake of Johnny Guitar next with John Travolta or a adventure caper like Key Largo or After Hours and John was into more serious dramatic fare.. This was in 1996. And I was still experimenting a lot and John knew my stuff was a bit on the margins.
After many years of a very busy career, what do you believe is the key ingredient to making a fun watchable movie?
You have to have a strong need to see the movie yourself and have fun doing it.
Are you surprised by the cult following Radioactive Dreams and Dangerously Close has today?
Yes, its stunning actually how they live on. Having grown up in a world with no cable or home video, films didn't have a chance to live on like they can now. Its really wonderful and I enjoy reading reviews like yours and articles about how the film is viewed by different audiences. I find it very satisfying that they live on. And I talk to those involved even years later so there's a lasting imprint.
I've had a weird career...I mean as a lifelong independent filmmaker, I've had a chance to make a Van Damme movie, a Seagal movie, a marvel Comic Book Hero movie, even a Charlie Sheen movie, and many odd genres like cyberpunk, urban rap movies and many interesting actors like John, Michael, Lis Blount, George Kennedy, Burt reynolds, Kris Kristofferson, Rob Lowe, Mario Van Peebles, teri Hatcher, Christopher lambert and even Andre Dice Clay and Snoop Dogg! Its been a pretty crazy life and I've loved making all these weird movies which all come from my heart. None were jobs, and all were passions.
Will these movies ever get a proper DVD release with a commentary with you and the cast?
I am hoping so. If we can find good surviving masters! Just keep your hopes up!
A million thanks again Albert. Thank you for making movies for all the right reasons and creating some pretty awesome classics!