Zach Galligan talks Waxwork Blu-ray & Gremlins 2
In 1988, British director Anthony Hickox (Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, Warlock: The Armageddon) made his feature debut with the horror comedy Waxwork, which starred a young, post-Gremlins Zach Galligan as the leader of a group of students who take a midnight jaunt to the local town wax museum run by a very evil gentleman played by David Warner. They wind up getting sucked into the various horrific exhibits and dealing with werewolves, vampires, mummies and other iconic creatures of the night.
The movie was a minor cult hit when it was released on video, and spawned an even funnier and more outlandish 1992 sequel Waxwork II: Lost in Time. Now the newly-revived Vestron Video Collector’s Series imprint has released a two-disc set containing both films, and we had the chance to speak to the amiable Mr. Galligan in an exclusive 1-on-1 where he tells some amazing stories of his experiences on these films, working with Bruce Campbell, and how Drew Barrymore got her cameo in Waxwork II. He also talks a little bit about the parallels between Donald Trump and Gremlins 2!
ShockTillYouDrop: This is actually the first time I’d seen either of these movies, and I was really surprised at how fun and imaginative they were. They really show off kind of a range of different settings and genres. Was that part of what attracted you to the movies?
Zach Galligan: Yeah, I mean, they were definitely very imaginative. When I just read the scripts I didn’t really like it that much, but after sitting down with Tony Hickox and talking about it he really sold me on it, and sort of gave me what his vision was like. I think that was very much the kind of the turning point, because I was hesitant to do the material at first, partially because the dialogue was very Anglicized, very British, and he’s like, “No, I’m going to let you guys fix that, you American actors. I just want you to say it in your own words.” So, I was like, oh okay, well, that makes a big difference because I can’t wake up in LA and walk outside and say, “Oh, the lorry needs some more petrol.”
Shock: That’s so funny. Well, it’s interesting because the vibe of the school scenes was kind of strange to me. I couldn’t tell if the characters were supposed to be in a fancy private school or a college or a high school. They seemed to dress and act like 1950’s kids. Was that anachronistic tone on purpose?
Galligan: Well, the only way I can explain it is that, and I think I say this on the commentary, but basically, Tony Hickox just wanted stuff that looked cool. If it looks cool, it’s in. He loved early 60’s, Sean Connery, 1960’s James Bond style. He loved the style. And so, he was like, “You’re all going to dress like it’s 25 years ago.” And we were like, “Uh okay.” So he wanted it to be anachronistic, and it’s literally done only to be cool.
Shock: Right. Well, that’s fine with me, man. I think it definitely works with the vibe of the movie. To your best recollection, what was the reaction to the films when they first came out?
Galligan: Well, certainly the screening we had at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, once it got to the real gory part, like the vampire sequence -which you’re seeing in all of its uncut glory- once the blood started spraying everywhere, the guy was on the table with his leg flayed open and the rats were eating on it. Basically, I would say about a third of the female audience got up and left.
Galligan: And just walked out. They were like, “This is repulsive.” Because you’ve got to realize, back in 1988, that level of gore was kinda shocking. Nowadays, it’s really just, we’ve been so desensitized, it’s just par for the course.
Shock: But the way it’s framed within the context of the movie didn’t feel visceral. It was so stylized and so silly, it didn’t have the same impact as watching a torture porn movie or something like that.
Galligan: Right, but you’re viewing it through a 2016 lens, and you’re a sophisticated film critic who works for ShockTillYouDrop and has seen more horror movies than you can shake a stick at. You’re not a 41-year-old Beverly Hills housewife whose idea of a great movie is “Driving Miss Daisy”. Imagine someone whose favorite movie is “Cocoon” would go see that movie, and you get the problem.
Shock: Touché! Speaking of touché, you got to get into a real old fashioned Errol Flynn style sword fight with the Marquis. Was that an actor’s dream come true?
Galligan: Yeah, that was definitely a fun sequence. I couldn’t believe the kind of overt sexuality that Tony Hickox put in a horror movie, because usually, the only kind of sexuality you get in a horror movie is two teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake having sex on a cheap bed. Instead, you have this kind of sophisticated S&M, which almost never makes it into mainstream movies ever, much less talked about whipping and coming and then whipped. I mean, I’m going to tell you right now, that was pretty racy for the time.
Shock: Yeah, I mean, I think they barely scratched the surface of that in “50 Shades”, honestly.It’s still bold. In terms of that end sequence, it had a very chaotic vibe to it. Was it as chaotic to shoot as it looked?
Galligan: Do you mean in the final battle scene?
Shock: Yeah, where everybody’s running around. I couldn’t even keep track of all the crazy things. Somebody shot a bat in the head. It was like, so many insane things happening all at once and it looked utterly chaotic.
Galligan: Well, if you listen to the commentary, Hickox explains that he has three days to shoot the final battle scene and he saved it for the end because it is the most complicated. Then the completion bond company came and said, “You’re running out of money and you have one day to finish the movie.” So he had to shoot a three-day sequence in one day, and he admits it’s a complete mess and he’s embarrassed to watch it, but he had to do the best he could, given a 12-hour shooting day.
Shock: Each time someone goes through an exhibit, it’s like its own little short film. What was your favorite sort of individual segment in either movie?
Galligan: Well, I’m not in the werewolf and I’m not in the Marquis de Sade, and I’m not in the alien sequence. So of the ones I was in, I would probably say the Bruce Campbell haunted house sequence was my favorite.
Shock: That was mine, too, yes. That was such a dead-on parody of Robert Wise’s “The Haunting”. The camera work, the tenor of all of your performances… everything was mimicked so precisely. It was just pitch perfect. Was Anthony very precise in trying to capture the look and feel of the things he was sort of homaging or parodying?
Galligan: Oh, I think so. He totally said that “The Haunting” is one of his favorite movies. He just loved that movie, and that’s why he shot it in black and white. Of course, he worked with Bruce Campbell on “Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat” the year before and he was on good terms with Bruce. Quite frankly, Bruce was at a point in his career where he was kind of like, “Hey man, I’ll take just about any job coming my way.” You know what I mean? He was a working actor. So he kind of jumped on board because he knew it could be fun and he and Hickox had a good working relationship, and I felt like he and I got along great. I guess he felt the same way because I had a picture of him and I from “Waxwork II”, he retweeted it about two weeks ago.
Shock: One interesting thing to me is something I noticed is in the first movie: You, Michelle Johnson and Deborah Foreman all had the distinction of kickstarting your careers with a really major film. In your case, it was “Gremlins”, in Michelle’s it was “Blame it on Rio” and in Deborah’s it was “Valley Girl”. Since you all wound up together, how do you think their career experience was kinda similar to yours?
Galligan: Well, I think it’s very difficult to compare women to men in Hollywood because there’s such a double standard. I mean, it’s getting better, but in Hollywood, once you’re over 35 or 40, it kind of becomes exponentially harder as a woman to continue your career, unless you are an absolute top of the line A-list award winning actress. If you’re just sort of a run of the mill working actress, by the time you hit 35, it’s kind of like Armageddon. You know, whereas for men, if you can hit a certain age and have career resurgence, I believe Charles Bronson had his biggest career resurgence when he was in his late 40’s and early 50’s. So it’s like, how many women do you know that have a career explosion at 50? Not very many. So I think it’s kind of unfair to compare me to Michelle and Deborah when they have kind of a tougher standard to live up to.
Shock: But was there a feeling of simpatico in the sense that a lot of actors spend years and years trying to get a big break and all three of you kind of *boom*, right out of the gate, had a really big hit?
Galligan: I mean, I guess we were just fortunate or we were good or I don’t really know. I think it’s probably a combination of both. I mean, isn’t the definition of success when luck meets opportunity? I mean, I think it was probably a combination of we had a decent skill set, we were in the right place at the right times, and everything just—it was a numbers game. We got lots of auditions because we were new and we were young, and I guess people thought we were generally physically attractive. So once we got those opportunities, it was just a matter of time before we were going to land something.
Shock: Now normally, I like to phrase an elegant question, but I’m just going to say a name and let you explain how this happened: Drew Barrymore. How did that happen? Go.
Galligan: Drew Barrymore was an acquaintance of mine. I met her in 1985 and she was also an acquaintance of Anthony Hickox. I don’t really know how he met her. My guess is through his mother, who’s Anne Coates, who’s an Oscar winning doc editor, who edited “Lawrence of Arabia.” So she and Tony and I were all acquaintances. I wouldn’t really call her a friend because I’ve never spent a significant amount of time with her, but she was always the type of person where I would see her in a restaurant, we’d wave at each other and maybe do a little hug and say, “How are you?” and then she’d go and sit down. So she was always warm and friendly, but I don’t think we’ve ever spent even a half an hour together with each other discussing things. So Tony calls her and asks her if she wanted to just like, visit the set, and that’s what he does. He gets people to visit the set, and then when you visit the set, he says, “Come on, why don’t you jump in there and do a little cameo.” So I think what he did, which is clever, was he knew her, he got her best friend to be in the movie, who is not famous. And so, the best friend is in the bed with her—
Shock: Right, during the silent movie scene.
Galligan: Yes, during the “Nosferatu” sequence, the girl was supposed to be alone in the bed, and I think she was standing there watching, and Tony was like, “Come on, Drew, you want to be in this movie. Just jump in bed with your friend. It’ll just be a goof. We won’t even credit you and we’ll pay you.” And she was like, “You don’t need to pay me. That’s fine.” She jumped in the bed for one shot, and it took five minutes, but it lasts forever. That’s how I got in “Hellraiser 3”. In “Hellraiser 3” you see me for about three quarters of a second be impaled by a pool cue. And the reason that happened was, I went to visit somebody at lunch, and at lunch, he said, “By the way, you’re getting impaled by a pool cue.” And I went, “Okay.”
Shock: That’s awesome. Was that also how David Carradine got in? Did he just shove David Carradine in front of the camera?
Galligan: I think Tony was a huge Carradine fan, so that struck me as more about just a legitimate offer. I’m not sure if they’d worked together before. I think they were trying to get good cameos, and Carradine was available. And you know, he only shot one day on it, but he did a very nice job. That was out at Griffith Park. I remember that day, even though it was 25 years ago, like, it happened 25 minutes ago. So yeah, he was in, shall we say, typical David Carradine form.
Shock: Lots of shenanigans?
Galligan: Typical David Carradine form.
Shock: That says it all. When I was a kid, I was a huge “Avengers” fan, so what was it like working with Patrick Macnee?
Galligan: Well, that was a little surreal because I grew up with the “Avengers”, too. I mean, in the early 70’s, it was repeated on American TV all of the time, and I loved Mr. Steed and Mrs. Peel. I had a huge crush on Diana Rigg.
Shock: Oh, didn’t we all?
Galligan: Yeah, we all did. She was sort of like the British equivalent of Phoebe Cates. Like, everybody had a crush on her. And so, basically, when he came on board, it was pretty trippy. I’ve had that happen a number of times with Christopher Lee and working with Bill Murray and some of these people that you absolutely idolized as a kid, and suddenly, you’re standing across from them delivering lines, and it’s just like, how did I get here?
Shock: Exactly. I was going to ask you, too, does Tom Schiller have any intention of ever releasing “Nothing Lasts Forever” on Blu-ray… or in any form at all?
Galligan: No idea. I’m not sure he even owns the rights to it anymore. I think it’s reverted back to MGM. It’s been to a number of places and I think people stopped paying the license, and so, now it reverts back to its original owner. I don’t know. But I do know this, I am going in December and giving it its first United Kingdom screening ever on December the 4th.
Shock: Fantastic. I’ve seen it before on YouTube. I’ve seen a crummy sort of copy of it, but I’ve always wanted to see a crisp pristine version, the way it was meant to be sort of experienced in a movie theater, which I guess it never got the chance to have that, really.
Shock: Because I’m a huge “Gremlins 2” fan I wanted to know, given the nature of John Glover’s character, do you think people will perceive that movie differently in the wake of the election this year?
Galligan: I don’t know if they’ll perceive it differently. They might appreciate it more. You know, one of the crazy things about that movie, and people hardly ever believe us when Joe Dante and I talk about it, even though it’s the truth, but after we did that movie and we sort of lampooned Trump, in the movie his girlfriend’s name is Marla. At the time of the movie, when we shot it, we wrapped the movie and edited it, and by the time the movie came out, Donald Trump had left his wife for Marla Maples, and we were like, “Oh my god. What are the odds of that happening?”
Shock: That’s crazy. It reminds me a little bit of “The Great Dictator” in a way, because the way Chaplin’s satire in that movie almost seems soft in comparison to the person that he was parodying, in retrospect. It’s still a brilliant character that Glover played and it’s also got a lot of Ted Turner in it as well.
Galligan: I was going to say, in terms of the character there’s probably two thirds Ted Turner and one third Trump. It’s much more of a Ted Turner satire with the news network and the end of the world tape and the colorizing the movies. That was all Ted. There’s a lot of Ted Turner in there.