Exclusive Interview : James Gunn


Talks to Clint Morris about “Slither”

It’s been quite an interesting journey for James Gunn. Kicking off his career at Troma, and then exporting his rear to uber-studio ville where he penned the first two “Scooby Doo” films, before shifting gears and penning the remake of horror classic “Dawn of the Dead” – he’s a hard man to pigeonhole. His latest cab off the rank, is “Slither”, a funky horror effort that also serves as his directorial debut. Gunn talks to CLINT MORRIS about it.

James, how does one go from “Scooby Doo” to “Slither”? I can assume that horror films were always the main interest?
I love horror films, but I’ve always loved fictional pieces that explore the darker side of life, whether they be the horror films of David Cronenberg or the novels of Charles Bukowski. Because the stories I tell are usually of a
fantastic nature, I seem quite at home in horror. I don’t know if the question is so much how does one go from Scooby to Slither as how did I get to Scooby in the first place after having only written profanity-laden R-rated films. And, that, I guess, would have to be circumstance.

Speaking of which, how was it to make “Slither” with a big studio, in comparison to some of your earlier films at Troma?
I had more freedom on Slither than any other movie I’ve worked on. Universal and Gold Circle were involved, they threw out ideas, suggestions, and criticisms, but essentially they let me do what I wanted.

Did you get a huge say in casting? If so, how did you decide on your actors?
Yes, all of the actors were my choices. I simply worked very very hard to find actors who fit the roles I had written. Some were easy: we hired Elizabeth Banks and Michael Rooker immediately. Others took a long time to find, like Gregg Henry and Tania Saulnier. Nathan Fillion was a natural for Bill Pardy, but it took some arguing on my part to get him the role. I love the cast of this film — not only are they great in the movie, they’re wonderful, warm, and funny people.

How does “Slither” differ from some of the other horror films out there?
It’s a lot funnier than other horror films out there, I suppose. Its boundaries aren’t so strict, in terms of what genre we’re dabbling in. And I think, despite the violence and gore, it’s a hell of a lot of fun, something lacking in most current horror films.

Did you enjoy the responsibility of directing this one?
Loved it. I loved being able to see the vision of the script through to the end. Of course, you have to sacrifice your life during the process, something you don’t have to do so much as a screenwriter. But, what the hell. Life is what happens in-between making movies.

Tell us about the hardest day on the shoot?
We shoot a lover’s quarrel of sorts between Starla Grant (Elizabeth Banks) and her husband Grant Grant (Michael Rooker). It’s like any other argument between a husband and a wife, except that Grant takes up half the house at that point and has many enormous tentacles growing from him. 95% of what makes the scene work are the performances between the two actors, but 95% of dealing with the scene on set was trying to get the fucking puppeteered tentacles to move right, and feeling sorry for poor Michael Rooker in this agonizing makeup.

Did anything have to be cut from the film – in order to get its rating?
Nope. We got an R the first time through.

What is next for you?
I’m writing a movie about Satan. However, since “Slither” came out I am having a ton of other projects being thrown at me. So if there’s something that comes in that I fall in love with, I could direct that before the Satan movie. So who knows? I’m aching to direct again, but it has to be the right thing.

Are you involved in the next “Dead” sequel?
Loved doing the first one. Not interested in doing another. But I wish them all the best if they do it, and would be involved as a friend to the producer, Eric Newman, and Zack Snyder, the director, if they are involved.

I’ve heard rumours of a “Scooby Doo 3”, possibly direct-to-video, any truth to that?
Well, I don’t think there’s currently ANY Scooby Doo sequel happening. But I think direct-to-DVD is probably the way to go. The cast is getting older, and I don’t know if anyone wants a 40-year-old Mystery Ink. A lower budget DVD with a fun cast and a new spin on the series would probably be a smart thing. But, again, I’m not going to be a part of it.