Interview with Zach Galligan.
Tonight I am joined by an actor who I feel many of us grew up watching and associated with our childhoods. An actor who starred in one of the most popular cult classics of the 1980's and went on to star in several very memorable roles along with very over the top and bizarre sequels. An actor who just recently made a very memorable comeback in the last installment in Adam Green's Hatchet trilogy. I am speaking of none other than Mr. Zach Galligan.
I have spend years watching Zach act, and had the pleasure of meeting and talking with him several times this year. Tonight via Skype I had the complete pleasure of chatting with him and instead of doing the regular lowdown on the Gremlin movies, I decided to ask Zach about his more underrated pieces of work, mostly my favorites Waxwork and Waxwork II Lost In Time. Zach was nice enough to take the time to talk with me about his thoughts on fans getting these movies released on blu-ray, and some of his fond memories of working in the business over the last thirty or so years.
Twenty-five years later, are you still surprised that Waxwork has a strong following?
I am still surprised by the amount of fans I've come across in life, but in some ways it's more popular now than it was back in the day. So that I find kinda surprising, some of the things that I thought would handicap it. Like the cheesiness of the 80's ended up being sorta a good thing.
What was the most memorable scene to film in Waxwork?
Every time I think about Waxwork I think about shooting the ending because it was just total chaos. It was good fun and it was kinda silly. I think we shot the ending, closer towards the end of the filming so it was very fitting. I would say that was super fun. Also the scene where we meet Michu Meszaros for the first time. I don't think a lot of people know this but a lot of the laughter that's going on in that scene is genuine because Michu's English was very broken. I mean it was a lot better than our Hungarian but it was very broken. So when he would say (Hungarian accent) “Please a do come inside!” he was sorta making it up as he was going along. So he would make new lines all the time and we would be cracking up because he had a funny kinda high pitch voice, he didn't speak English very well, he didn't seem to completely know what he was doing and it was kinda hilarious and improving at the same time. I mean, the guy is 2'9, he's thirty-three inches tall!
Yeah I was surprised when I saw that photo of him and Sean Clark pop up. I thought he passed away years ago.
Yeah me too!
What was it like working with director Anthony Hickox? I know you guys worked together on a few projects.
Well that was the first time I had worked with him, and we later went on to be best friends for years before we both moved to different cities and stuff like that. Then it became very difficult maintaining a friendship when your thousands of miles away from someone. But he was great! He was super hungry, I was about twenty-three, he was a few years older than me. He had just come to LA and was really hungry to make it. It was one of those things where everyone was young and excited to do it. Think about it, I'm twenty-three, a year out of college.
The following year you reunited with actor David Warner in Mortal Passions. Any memories about making that movie?
Yeah that movie was interesting. I was working with these two guys Wayne Crawford and Andrew Lane. And Andrew had just produced this movie I did called Rising Storm that Wayne starred in. We shot that down in South Africa, and it was so strange to be down there in 1988. I mean Nelson Mandela was still in prison on the island. So afterwards Lane who was the producer of that movie was trying to get his directing career off the ground and he wanted to know if I was interested in Mortal Passions. So I did it and I just happened to be paired with David again. Which I enjoyed because I love David, he's a great actor and an awesome human being. The thing I remember most about that movie is I have a scene where David I think is my shrink and I have to scream at him, and I did it so many times and misused my vocal cords so badly because I hadn't had my vocal training or how to support them when your screaming that I actually ruptured a polyp in my vocal cords. So I had to have surgery on it the following year.
Oh my God, that's awful!
Yeah, I went on to do a movie called Psychic which was filmed right after Mortal Passions and by then I started sounding like Tom Waits. I couldn't get hired because I looked like this sweet innocent twenty-three year old baby faced kid and I sounded like Tom Waits. I basically sounded like Louie Armstrong but I looked like C. Thomas Howell. It was a very very weird thing so I had to go in and get the surgery so I could sound a lot like myself, which I did as soon as I had the surgery. In fact I've never been able to recover the top quarter of my range after having that surgery.
Wow...thanks Mortal Passions. (Laughs)
Yeah I kinda fucked that one up.
I'm a big fan of Psychic, you filmed that up in Canada?
I'm a big fan of Psychic, you filmed that up in Canada?
Yeah we shot it up in Toronto in the winter of 1990/91 so it was half December, half in January.
What was that like?
Cold, really really cold. I had a great time on that movie. There were some really terrific people on that film. Catherine Mary Stewart was great, Michael Nouri was a real sweetheart, really loved him and got along well. I like Toronto a lot, I was staying in a really nice hotel called The King Edward Hotel, everybody calls it the King Eddie Hotel, it's a huge actor place where people come to stay when their shooting stuff. There's probably actors staying there right now. It was actually really funny, it was 1990 like I said and The New Kids On The Block were staying there also.
So I would come home after work, and you gotta remember I was about the same age as The New Kids On The Block at that time, I was in my twenties. So I pull up in a car and all of these girls with New Kids signs outside the hotel screaming like I'm the Beatles, and I step out of the car and their screaming and screaming and then they see me and obviously I'm not one of The New Kids On The Block so the screaming stops within half a second and they all start looking at me like “You asshole you fooled us” And I'm just a guy getting out of a car , I didn't do anything!
Which I don't really get at that point people would have known who you were and it's not like your ugly or something. (Laughs)
They recognized who I was, but they were so pumped up for New Kids On The Block , and I wasn't a New Kid. If your looking for Justin Bieber and fricking like Jake Gyllenhaal walks out your like “Your not Justin Bieber! Your...you.”
So did that go on your business cards from that point on. Like...Zach Galligan...not a New Kid On The Block.
God, I don't think I used a business card until I was like thirty-five.
Wow...thirty-five, that's ancient...kidding.
(Laughs) I was a knuckle head, I was like “I don't know, I'll just say hi to people and shake their hand!”
(Laughs) And that worked for a little while.
Yeah it did for a while (laughs).
After the Waxwork films you appeared in Warlock 2, and Hellrasier III: Hell On Earth. Can you tell us how you came about doing cameos in those two movies for Hickox?
Well they both came out the same way, he was working on a movie and they were made about a year or two apart. Like I said we were best friends so he would call me up and ask me to visit the set. So I came to the set and I remember for Warlock 2, I got there and asked where he wanted to go for lunch and he says “You gotta do your part first.” and I had no idea what he was talking about and he goes “You need to do your role, opposite Julian Sands.” and I was like “Dude stop being ridiculous.” and the wardrobe woman came up and started sizing me and I just look and go “What are you doing?” and Anthony goes (English accent) “Your doing a party today with Julian Sands, go get changed and here's your lines.” So he hands me a page of dialog and I thought “Oh my God, don't tell my agent about this!” And I didn't.
So I basically ran to the dressing room, threw on my clothes which were like velvet pants...and I went out and met Julian. And Tony says “Your gonna do this scene with Zach.” I did three or four takes, two different angles, and left and had lunch with him. The whole thing took forty minutes. Then when I came for Hellraiser III I was wise, I was like “I'm not doing a speaking part in Hellraiser III.” because at that point my agent was like “Dude you need to stop doing these horror movies all the time, you gotta try and do some more mainstream stuff.” So I went there and he's nagging me saying “Come on, be in the film!” and I told him my agent is gonna kill me! So he goes “What if we do a cameo, a really short cameo “ so I go “Like what?” and he says (English accent) “Get impaired with a pool cue.” So I went “Oh my God that's so ridiculous.” and he said “Come on, it will be fun!” They put a lot of pressure on me so I just thought, let me just do this. It was one shot.
It was, your in it really quick. You have to freeze the DVD to see you.
Exactly! So I went with one of my agents to the screening because one of his other clients was in there and he asked “Is that you?!” and I said “Noooo...”
(Laughs) Well I love that you did those parts, nice little Easter Eggs for horror movie fans. So when were you first approached to do a sequel to Waxwork?
Well Tony told me he was writing it. And this is my recognition of it. It came about very quickly, and he wrote it very quickly. Which is one of the reasons it's like bat shit crazy. I feel, and I could be wrong...but I think he wrote it in less than a week. I know there was a lot of pressure to get it out so he started throwing everything in but the kitchen sink and he whipped it out. When he gave me the script and I read it I was like “Um...okay...” I just thought it was kinda wild. Then we started shooting it and the only thing I remember about shooting that movie was that I was in practically every, close to every shot. So they had two units going. An A unit, and a B unit going. So I would do my A unit stuff and they would rush me over to the B unit and I would shoot that. I was going like fourteen hours a day, six days a week. For like six weeks. It was kinda blur to me, I remember a few things like shutting down the Westside Pavilion and shooting the zombie Dawn Of The Dead sequence which was awesome. And then the sword fight with Alexander Godunov, we did that on a Universal back-lot which was great. We had a lot of fun shooting that movie, but it was very chaotic.
Yeah you said the filming seemed very fast.
Well it took a while but I think it felt so fast because I barley sat down. It was one of those things where it just kept going and going.
Almost five years later form the original Waxwork you returned to the character of Mark Loftmore. How was it like returning to that character and what was it like teaming up with a new leading lady that replaced the Sarah character?
Well you know it was strange, it was completely expected because Tony dated Deborah Foreman, had a relationship and dated her for like two years. Then the relationship fell apart about six months to a year before they decided to do Waxwork II. So I knew he wasn't going to work with her again because things between them weren't going well. So I knew they had to find a new actress. I was very surprised with the person that he chose because she's so totally and completely opposite 180 degrees different than Deborah. In terms of looks and style and everything. There wasn't even the tiniest attempt to have any kind of continuity from one to the next. So that was a little strange. Also she had no acting experience of any kind so she was very nervous the first couple of days, then eventually she calmed down. I acutely thought she did kinda a nice sweet job in the movie. They cut around some of her awkward moments and she's fine.
The ending to Waxwork II was left kinda open ended. Was there ever any talk about returning for a part III or doing another project with you and Hickox?
Well after Waxwork II I always thought Hickox and me would do another project. Then it never really panned out. If you do look I did do Prince Valiant with him. But the weird thing about this which I still don't understand is he kept giving me these stories of investors wouldn't take me because I wasn't a hot enough name or something like that. But then Stephen Moyer who was a 100% complete unknown gets cast as the lead and I who had been in two movies of his and made half a billion dollars worldwide, it never made any sense that I wasn't a hot or big enough name so they would go with total unknowns. I mean maybe that's the way it works like “Oh this person is hot and up and coming.” So their more likely to gamble and take a chance. I mean some of the people I would get replaced for I was kinda surprised. I suppose you could say he's vindicated on True Blood and everything, but also if you go back and look he didn't do anything from 1997 to 2005. He had eight years where he was pretty much some unknown British actor. So the whole thing that's very strange for me is I didn't understand why I started getting cast in these really tiny roles. I mean in Prince Valiant I have five lines. And some of these English actors you've never heard of before had like fifty! The whole thing sorta left a bad taste in my mouth. I went over there and basically spend five weeks in Berlin and a little time in London and a big chunk of time in Whales, and here I was in this big movie with all these big people and I ended up having maybe half a day where I actually worked. The rest of the time I literary was a guy who stands in the background with a sword. I kinda thought to myself...the whole thing just doesn't make sense.
Would you have done a Waxwork III with him after your experience working on that film or did you feel it was time to shift gears?
It wasn't that I had a problem with a Waxwork III per say, I felt I should kinda stop doing horror movies in general. I feel I was starting to get pigeonholed. And you know what it's like when your young, you feel like “I wanna establish myself as a serious actor!” which I am, and I feel I did do. I just didn't want to keep going back to doing special effects stuff. I wanted to do a few movies where I'm sitting on a couch talking to people about things and relationships.
A few years you were able to show audiences a spooky side of yourself in a film called Cupid.. Tell us a little bit about how you got into the character of Eric Rhodes, the psychopath who murders his girlfriends on Valentine's Day?
(Laughs.) Well I told you the story of how my mother gave me the biggest compliment of my acting career because of that movie right?
Yeah I remember you mentioned how she couldn't finish watching it.
Yeah so I gave my mother a copy to watch while I was staying with her, so I went upstairs to bed and the next morning I asked her what did she think? She told me she turned it off after forty-five minutes. I was like “What? Why did you do that?” And she was like “You know that scene where your talking to yourself in the mirror?” and I said “Yeah?” She said “There was no part...that I couldn't recognize watching on the screen and it unnerved me.
So I said “What do you mean?” and she said “Well I'm used to watching you, I'm used to watching Zach...like act.” and she goes “I didn't know who that person was on the screen talking that way into the mirror and acting that way and it weirder me out so I shut it off.
Oh my God...
Yeah, and that's my mom!
That's insane! That must have been creepy, I mean you really were scary in that role.
(Laughs) You were scary, I never thought the kid from Gremlins that I grew up watching could be so creepy. I watch it every Valentine's Day now and yeah, you're scary in it Zach. You should play more villains, I think you have a knack for it.
I think so too.
My friend Tara, I'm sure you've seen she's an artist and she's working on a beautiful piece for myself of you from the Tales From The Crypt Episode Strung Along. Have you seen it?
She actually tweeted me some of it and it's excellent!
Yeah, she just finished it and mentioned that she'll try and make sure you get some prints of it, which leads me to my next question. The first thing I actually ever saw you in was that episode from Tales. What was it like appearing in such a popular TV series and working with director Kevin Yagher with all the animatronic puppets?
Well of course I was super used to that and I think that's one of the reasons Kevin casted me in that. Because he knew I was good with puppets and stuff. But the most fun thing about that was the casting director Victoria Burrows. After I read for her and the producers, they left the room and I was like “What's going on?” and Victoria came back in and she goes “Come with me?” and I asked “Okay, where are we going?” and she says “We're going going down to the costume fitting.” So it's the only time in my career that I auditioned and got the part right then and there and went and got fitted for the costume. So I call my agent and they asked how it went and I said “Um, I got fitted for the wardrobe and I start shooting tomorrow afternoon.”
Yeah everyone I talk to always remembers that episode, I don't know if it's the clown puppet but your part was very memorable and yet again played the villain!
Yeah I think it worked out well because of Patricia Charbonneau who plays the shrillish wife who's pretty good and I think there's a nice physical chemistry between us even though nothing ever happened. The kiss we had I felt works out really good for our characters. Gives the audience the idea, that wow...these people were really hot and heavy lovers and that's why they murder the guy.
I actually just showed a few friends of mine that episode a few months ago, and it's always fun watching it with someone who's never seen it before because they were upset at first when the wife character throws you out. In fact one of them yelled at the screen “Don't throw Zach Galligan out! He's the friend!” But as soon as you stepped out of the other room at the end, they gasped. It was so awesome to see that kind of response because so many people aren't used to seeing you as the villain.
I just had the pleasure of watching you for the first time in Round Trip To Heaven. What was it like puking pizza on a woman's breasts?
That movie...it was made at such a strange time in my life, that I really don't have a whole lot of recognition of. Not that I was out of my mind on booze or something but the whole thing was shot very quickly and it's just kinda of blur. I basically signed onto it because I was dating one of the girls in it, Julie McCullough and we were living together and our relationship was just a disaster! And I thought maybe if we did a movie together it would somehow bring us closer and we would have fun...but we shot on different days, she was gone a lot, there were all these naked girls around. The whole thing was a fiasco. It was just a miserable shoot.
That's terrible! That poster always makes me smile you and Corey Feldman sitting on the limo together!
Well I had one of the stupidest haircuts ever created in that movie.
It was seriously one of the dumbest haircuts ever, so what I found out later was that the director Allan Roberts had done all sorts of Time Square cheep crappy exploitation movies and if you watch Round Trip To Heaven you notice I don't think the camera ever movies. It's like static. But he just sets it up shoots, sets it up shoots. I think I have a few funny moments in the movie though with the Russian girl. Like when I find the money and go “These are fake!” and she looks down and says (Russian accent) “These are not fake!” and I go “No the bills! (Laughs) That scene still cracks me up.
I love the scene where your trying to buy the condoms and your throwing tons of stuff on top of them and she ends up holding them up. I think it's so funny that in 1984 you and Corey Feldman were in Gremlins together, and you know he was like the little boy who got to see the mogwai and then you two are trying to get laid together a few years later. Goes to show what a few years difference can make.
What are your thoughts, as you know I'm trying to kick start the two Waxwork movies to be released on blu-ray. I'm in talks with different people, trying to raise fan's support and just try to get these two movies that I think a lot of fans love released on blu-ray. What are you thoughts on fans having a passion and wanting to see these movies in blu-ray twenty-five years later?
Well I think you know the fans have an expectation that the technology will keep up for the stuff that they love. If there is the technology to see Waxwork one or two on 10.80p blu-ray then they wanna see it. So obviously it comes down is it worthwhile to spend a little money on the packaging and the this and the that. I think you just need to let Lionsgate know that there's a ground swell of people who want it. I think some online petition or something would be a way to go about it. You go to them with thousands of signatures their not gonna sneeze at a fifty-thousand dollar shipping sales or something.
Yeah that's what a lot of people have been telling me. The more support you have from fans the studios can't ignore it and I think after all these years these two movies are still loved. I mean I was born the year the original Waxwork came out and it's one of my all time favorite movies. So if there's any way we can get a special edition blu-ray of both these movies and get you on the commentary I know I'm not just speaking for myself but that would be a lot of fan's dream come true.
I would be happy to do the commentary on both of them because I find when I watch the movies again it really stimulates my memory and a lot of stuff comes flying back that I haven't thought about in years.
Okay well my last question Zach is are you a suspense, thriller, or horror fan? And if so what are your favorite titles?
Well those are three very different genres, so the answer to all three is yeah! My favorite horror movie is definitely John Carpenter's The Thing. That's the perfect horror movie and I love it. The original Dawn Of The Dead I saw in theaters was very seminal for me. I really liked The Decent, that's kinda an amazing movie. I really liked the Conjuring that I just saw. I thought that was one of the best made horror movies in the last three or four years, and Insidious. I like James Wan a lot. I'm sure I'm forgetting some. Suspense movies? Um...name a couple and maybe it will jog my memory.
Um, Rear Window...The Brain De Palmer movies...
Oh yeah! Well Rear Window is an incredible movie. It might be Hitchcock's best. I love that movie, that movie is awesome. Oh...and this is sorta a guilty pleasure but I love The Exorcist III.
I love that movie too!
I love that movie and that single shot in the hospital...
The nurse scene. Oh my God...
That static shot is an absolute masterpiece. That scared the crap put of me. You know what also scared me a lot. It's cheap but it made me scream a lot is this low budget movie called Grave Encounters.
I haven't seen it yet but a lot of people are raving about it. Do you recommend it?
I would...oh you know what movie I loved. The original Spanish movie REC.
Oh my God yes!
That movie is pronominal, I love that movie!
Have you seen the sequel yet REC 2?
I haven't yet.
You'll love it. I highly recommend it.
I hear REC 3 isn't that good.
No, I haven't heard one good thing about that one.
Yeah and you know I actually enjoyed the first Paranormal Activity movie. I also just saw recently but more as a guilty pleasure was a movie called Troll Hunter?
I saw that, I surprisingly really liked that movie...it made me very nervous.
Yeah I really liked that...I really like the whole found footage thing when it's done well. Which is not that often. But when it is done well I definitely like that. But that REC movie scared the crap out of me.
Oh yeah it's terrifying.
Yeah that was a good one. So yeah a little sampling for you right there.
Well I'll definitely have to check out those movies. You got great taste Zach.
With Hatchet III coming out on blu-ray this up coming week, do you think you might appear in movie horror movies now or are you trying to stray away from it?
Well at this point I just wanna work. So it really doesn't matter to me that much. I don't know I'm kinda attached to something right now. I don't really wanna talk about it simply because I don't wanna screw it up for the guy. Not that being attached to it would screw it up for him but people get very cautious when things are sorta in development stages. They don't wanna jinx anything or have anything leak out or get annoyed for some bizarre reason. It's a good script though and I'm really excited about it.
Well I just want to thank you Zach so much for taking the time to do this interview and speak with me. As you know I'm a huge Waxwork fan and you have been a huge part of my childhood, so thank you again from the bottom of my heart.
Special thanks to Kristy Jett and Zach Galligan.