The Funhouse Retrospective: An Interview With Tobe Hooper Page 2

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Page 2 of our massive interview

The Funhouse Retrospective: An Interview With Tobe Hooper Page 2Shock: I have to ask, bifurcating for a minute, where did you find some of the freakshow animals?

Hooper: That was amazing. It was basically a casting call for animals that came out genetically strange. I hate to use the word "freakshow" but that was a real traveling carnival show with real animals with the exception of Rick Baker's little "Tad." It was very difficult to find and a bit unnerving, too.

Shock: What were your own experiences with carnivals growing up?

Hooper: When I used to live in a small town in Texas and the carnival came to town, I was there all of the time. There's something so seedy about it. I loved the darkness of it. "Something Wicked This Way Comes." I loved Ray Bradbury's Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show in the story.

Shock: Another highlight of the film for me is Kevin Conway… Who's idea was it to cast him in three parts?

Hooper: It was his request. He had just won the Tony and he read the script during the New York casting session. He said he'd love to do it, but he wanted to play all three parts. I said, if you can pull it off, nothing would be better. And he did. He pulled it off.

Shock: Did you let him find the characters?

Hooper: He gave me samples to choose from. But we worked harder on finding the funhouse barker where the other two shots of him as other barkers were brief. He would invert lines, too. "All mistakes, creatures of God not man," he'd say, asking how it was. Right on, Kevin, right on. He's a really good actor. He's really good when he's talking to the "anomaly" in one scene and referring to the little Girl Scouts in Dallas. And he says, "That was the worst." [laughs] I, at first, wanted him to pace around in that scene. He told me it'd be better if I just lock him down because he wanted the camera to see his eyes. That was it. You can see this twisted pleasure in his look as he talked about these half-pint Girl Scouts in Dallas. Jesus.

Shock: Well, that's the scene where I think the film lurches into "full-tilt Tobe" territory.

Hooper: Every time I have a chance to take a look at the darker side of things, there's the carnival manager who's the quite obvious pedophile. I mean, that scene is all implied with the exception of a couple of lines he says to the parents like, "You should have seen what I had to do to him to get your phone number" or "I washed him up real good." [laughs]

Shock: And the mother is completely ambivalent.

Hooper: [laughs] The mother's drunk. The father's trying to keep it together. And Elizabeth has the vent fan, she can see her parents on the outside of the funhouse and she's inside trying to call for them through the vent fan. They can't hear her. That was a last minute idea that caused a bit of a rile between Laszlo and myself. Throwing something new into the shot list. He didn't like that. He liked holding to a pattern.

The Funhouse Retrospective: An Interview With Tobe Hooper Page 2Shock: Besides that little spat, did you feel crushed by the schedule, comparatively speaking to some of the films you've been on.

Hooper: We had about six weeks, it wasn't so bad. It wasn't a fast cut movie and it was my first Cinemascope movie. I really wanted to hold on shots and if I wanted to get in closer to a character I could just dolly into it. There was not as much coverage. That saves a lot of time. It was all about trying to make my nights before the sun comes up. There were things happening in Miami at the time. Teamsters being killed, people taking shots into the crowd with pistols. I believe it was during a drug war at the time. I was in my office and someone shot the glass front door. It was commonplace to hear a gun go off. I don't know how it happened, but someone within our transportation department was killed. Nothing drug related, but it had something to do with power. I was so focused on what I was doing, I wasn't paying attention to a window being blown out from a gunshot. I had things to do. In the midst of the turmoil, one of the producers sent out Friday's footage to drop it off. The following Monday, the footage just disappeared. No one outside of the transportation could have done a thing like that. There were rules and unions. So, I had to go back and shoot the scene where the creature is posing as a mannequin. I was happier with the energy the first time we shot it.

Shock: Did you ever step back and realize the kind of film you were making for a big studio? Especially with the devious little bits you were squeaking into the tone. Did you feel you were getting away with murder?

Hooper: Probably. Because it's in the interpretation, really. Reading the dialogue and the characters, that can be interpreted many different ways. [laughs]

Shock: What was Funhouse for you? Coming off of 'Salem's Lot were you ready for another Chainsaw-like teen body count flick?

Hooper: Well, it wasn't the film I expected to be doing. I actually thought I'd come off of 'Salem's and do something like Eyes of Laura Mars. But this was available and they really wanted me to do it. The writer, Larry Block, talked me into it over the course of 48 hours. It wasn't the film I expected. It surprised me, so my approach to it was probably lighter, less stressful. There were challenges at every turn, but I had a really big challenge in trying to get the creature's mask off. It was the night before shooting when I came up with having him start beating himself and going into a rage.

Shock: Right, because he's got the Frankenstein mask over the makeup FX, with gloves on, too.

Hooper: Yeah, and he drooled a lot, too. That was some of Rick Baker's fake drool.

The Funhouse Retrospective: An Interview With Tobe Hooper Page 2Shock: Were you aware of Rick's work at the time?

Hooper: Yeah, I asked him to come on board. He came up with a clay…I don't remember the severe cleft head, I'm almost certain that was his idea to separate the eyes further and come up with that cleft head. There's something way disturbing about that. If you're shooting a creature and you're seeing it hanging upside down, it takes you a moment or two to comprehend what you're looking at. The makeup is disorienting.

Shock: And there's that aversion to inbreeding that Rick's makeup plays on.

Hooper: [laughs] Kevin’s got that great line to the creature about “not wanting to end up like little Tad.” [laughs]

Shock: Was Wayne Doba the first choice to play the "anomaly" or creature?

Hooper: No, Rob Bottin was going to play him. There were talks and Rob was involved in the makeup as well. He's a big guy. I went to a club in Miami and I saw this mime who was doing really fast cricket-like movements and I started thinking this thing could be like a spider. It could climb the walls, skitter up walls if it could. Saw I found Wayne, a local mime artist working in clubs. He could make these strange movements. It was a hunch that worked out.

Shock: When was the last time you watched Funhouse and what are your thoughts now?

Hooper: It was a couple of months ago when it was on HDNet. I have it at home on the hard drive. Before thought, I hadn't seen it in many years. I was really pleased with it. It's okay.

Shock: John Beal's score sounds big for the film…

Hooper: It was a 30 piece orchestra. I would, at times, feel that the film would be too slick. But the more I would worry, the slicker I would try to make it look. That wasn't hard to do with the crew I had.

Shock: I've always looked at The Funhouse as a peek into your world. Something that's purely your own that somewhat caps an unrelated trilogy that begins with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, continues with Eaten Alive and ends with Funhouse. They're threaded by unique themes and truly bizarre characters.

The Funhouse Retrospective: An Interview With Tobe Hooper Page 2Hooper: I could see it that way. But I'm not sure what was deliberate and what was fate. I'm sure it was fate. Right after Chainsaw, William Friedkin got me a three-picture deal at Universal. It was a development deal and it ended up that none of the films got produced. When I went back to Universal, I knew everyone there. It was like going home. I spent three years on the lot years before Funhouse. I had a chance to go with Warner Bros. or Universal. Warner had acquired 'Salem's Lot and they said I could get on it, but it might not ever happen. So I went with Bill for a bit. Later, Friedkin was going to produce 'Salem's Lot as a feature, but there's not way you could do that book as a feature. Funhouse is much slicker than those films you mentioned. Being able to call the shots on an entire carnival coming to life, I couldn't resist.

Shock: Last year, Eli Roth was attached to a remake.

Hooper: I've heard about it. It may happen. Almost everything I've done will be remade.

Shock: Except for Eaten Alive…

Hooper: That one I would like to remake. But there's a lot of work to do. It would be weird. And the challenge would be to replace Neville Brand. That's another film and another story, though.
 

Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor