What is Caffeinated Clint’s Greats?
I’ve had plenty of emails from you guys asking such questions as “Who were your favourite actors growing up?”, “Do you have a favourite movie?”, “You’re producing films now, any particular film that inspired you to take that road?” and “Hey man, Got Kristen Stewart’s phone number?”, and it gave my an idea – why not profile some of my favourite films? (It saves me from flaming a pimply, unintelligent publicist or another fresh-from-junior-high exec over some harebrained remake he’s just greenlit for a couple of weeks, after all) and in doing so, why not make contact with some of the people from these films?
Title : Fright Night
Year : 1985
Director : Tom Holland
Starring : William Ragsdale, Roddy McDowell, Chris Sarandon, Stephen Geoffries, Amanda Bearse
A ridiculously cheesy but exceedingly original take on the monster-next-door film, “Fright Night” told of a wet-behind-the-ears youngster (William Ragsdale, pre-“Herman’s Head”) who discovers his next door neighbour (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire. Thankfully, TVs Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell), the star of the ratings wart “Fright Night”, is looking for a job (“Apparently your generation doesn’t want to see vampire killers anymore, nor vampires either. All they want to see slashers running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins”, Vincent tells Charley Brewster as to why his late night show, featuring classic monster movies of years gone by, is failing) so our dimish hero recruits him to help slay the neighbour from Hell… or Transylvania.
Based on his own terrifically-written libretto, Holland’s horror comedy was released in theaters (in Australian anyway) in late October of 1985. I remember the ad campaign – it was an attack force! And though I don’t remember film catching the film that first weekend, word of mouth started to spread (that, if you think about it, is the only way sleeper hits like “Fright Night” could find an audience in the ’80s) rather quickly, spurring most of us youngsters to attend a session before it finished it’s run. And, I guess it goes without saying (since it’s being featured in this column), that I loved it. Still do. I quote it’s lines in my sleep.
One of the film’s best assets is it’s cast – Ragsdale, McDowell, Stephen Geoffries (as the oft-quoted, forever referenced ‘Evil Ed’) and, of course, the charming Chris Sarandon. At the time, I believe Sarandon was best known for his role as Michael Ransome in “Protocol”, the Goldie Hawn film that’d been released a year or so before, or at least that’s where I recognized him from (I hadn’t seen “Dog Day Afternoon” at that stage – I know, shameful!). Whatever the case, Sarandon has since become somewhat of a favourite with us horror buffs – due to his role as both Jerry Dandrige in “Fright Night” and cop Mike Norris in “Child’s Play” (another Holland film) – so it was an absolute pleasure to be able to chat to him about his old necksucking days.
Youngsters mightn’t recognize the name (though they’d likely know his face – he’s appeared on many TV series in recent years; I recall seeing him on “Psych”, “Law & Order : SVU” and “Felicity”), though they’d know his face from Tim Burton’s “Nightmare before Christmas”, but film fans of the ’80s will undoubtedly be familiar with the work of one Chris Sarandon.
Caffeinated Clint : Did you think you’d be still talking (and being interviewed) about “Fright Night” all these years later, Chris?
Chris Sarandon: I knew the movie was special, with a terrific script, a perfect cast, and a director who knew exactly how to shoot it and who communicated well with the cast. The rest is luck, and we seem to have had a good dose of that. The movie is continuing to be discovered by generations of audiences, which also helps.
Caffeinated Clint : It does indeed. Is it true you initially turned the role down?
Chris Sarandon: Actually, no. At first I was reluctant to work with a first time director but I loved the script and he wrote it. I requested a meeting, we got together in LA and Tom (Holland) described the movie to me shot by shot. I was sold and immediately said I’d do it.
Caffeinated Clint : What interested you about playing Jerry?
Chris Sarandon : He seemed three dimensional character to me, with desires, regrets, and, obviously, tremendous powers.
Caffeinated Clint : For sure..
Chris Sarandon : ..And Tom was very collaborative: he listened when I had ideas about Jerry and sometimes incorporated them without changing the structure and intent of the movie, which was impeccably laid out.
Caffeinated Clint : Any specific examples?
Chris Sarandon : For instance, I thought it would be interesting if Jerry has some fruit bat DNA, since most bats are of that variety and not vampires. So Tom let me incorporate Jerry eating fruit at various moments in the movie.
Caffeinated Clint : Nice touch! And how many hours a day were you in make-up?
Chris Sarandon : For the final sequence of the movie where Jerry is in full “Nosfaratu” mode, an intentional homage, I would report to the makeup trailer at 4 am for a noon set call, so 8 hours in all.
Caffeinated Clint : What does one in a chair for 8 hours!? There were no Gameboys around in that time!
Chris Sarandon : I helped alleviate the boredom by helping with the hand makeup while Ken Diaz and his crew worked on the rest of me.
Caffeinated Clint : Butter-up time. You’ve done so many wonderful films – “Fright Night”, “The Princess Bride”, “Child’s Play”, “The Nightmare before Christmas”, “Dog Day Afternoon”… but do you have a favourite?
Chris Sarandon : hat’s a pretty amazing list and I would be a fool to pick a favorite. Each was a unique, indelible experience and I’m very lucky to have done them all.