Interview with John Wilson

Since Movie Mikes are a member on the voting committee for the Golden Raspberry Awards, we recently has the opportunity to talk with the founder John Wilson. John started the Razzies 30 years ago which are an annual ceremony dedicated to “honoring” the worst in film, set the day before the Oscars.

Mike Gencarelli: How did the Golden Raspberry Awards start?
John Wilson: It came out of several things about 30 years ago. At the time, I was barely out of college and I was working for a company that made movie trailers. The company sponsored a film festival, I agreed to be the liaison and between that part of my job the movie I saw working on trailers and my own interest in movies in 1980, I actually saw 250 films in one year. When you see that many the odds don’t favor the Oscar stuff, they favor what the Razzies is talking about. Specifically in the summer of 1980. I came back from a trip to Europe and went to a double feature for $.99 cents of two now infamous disco musicals. Olivia Newton John in “Xanadu” and The Village People in “Can’t Stop the Music” and even though I only spend $.99 cents, I wanted my money back. When the manager said no, when I drove home I remember clearly running through my head “We’ll those two movies really sucked, what are other movies from this last year? I could name a dozen off the top of my head that if there were an awards for the worst certainly, those would be contenders. At the time I was doing an annual dinner party to watch the Academy Awards, the end at a fairly reasonable hour, like 9pm or 10pm. The very first one started as a party joke. I made a cardboard cut out podium. I put a foam ball on a broom and pretended it was a mike. I painted a banner and hung it in the alcove of my living room. When the Oscars were over, we spent 20 minutes doing a fake imitation Oscars with clips from the nominated pictures, ballads at the buffet table and a sing-a-long at the end where we rhymed the names of the movie stars that died in 1980 to the tune of “That’s Entertainment”. Two or three dozen people were there, everyone still talks about the first one. The following year I sent a press release in advance and got two newspapers. By the fourth year, I realized you couldn’t do it on Oscar night and hope to get any attention. We moved it to the night before and that is when it really took off. Press from all over the world come to LA for the Oscars, and the night before there is nothing for them to do. Partly by perseverance, we have lasted 30 years which is a lot longer than anyone doing something this silly seem to last.

Mike Gencarelli: You just celebrated the 30th anniversary, honoring the worst films, what has been one defining moment over the years?
John Wilson: As cool as it was to have Sandra Bullock show up with a wagon of DVD’s and give them to the audience, the ultimate Razzies moment was 5 years ago at our 25th, when the first Oscar winner showed up to admit that she made a career mistake. Halle Berry came out on our stage with the Oscar in one hand from “Monster’s Ball” and her Razzie in the other. She was killer funny for seven or eight minutes straight, ripping on her own Oscar speech, naming all the people that needed to share this award. She trashed the studios, she was absolutely hilarious and in doing that she put “Catwoman” behind her. Now when people talk to her about it, its not about what a rotten movie she made, but how you had the guts to show up and accept the awards.

Mike Gencarelli: Do you still enjoy watching movies or do you find that you are always on the “job”?
John Wilson: I do but on different levels. Watching the Oscars this year, I was rooting for the picture that did win. I thought that “The Hurt Locker” was a brilliant film. “Avatar on the other hand…huge money maker, wasn’t a particularly original, clever or valid film. I would salute Cameron for “Titanic”, “Avatar” ehh. I am capable of coming at a movie from several different perspectives. Supposedly there is a movie coming out called “The Expendables” that has Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke. It is like a 1980’s Razzie nominees reunion. Some people have to understand if it is the right bad movie, it can be incredibly entertaining.

MG: What do you look for when you watch a movie to consider it the worst?
JW: There are three or four yardsticks, that we generally go by. One of them is, yes we do pay attention to reviews. There are two sites that we go by, Rotten Tomatoes and Meta Critic. We look at box office and compare to how much something costs. “Land of the Lost” is a perfect example. It cost, I heard $150 million to produce, $100 million to market and it grossed $49 million. That is going to get our attention. We pay attention to the comments and discussion that is posted on our official forum. Then there is the “Razzie Pedigree” to a movie, which is how many people involved in the movie in front and behind the camera have a history with our awards. I was surprised it took Michael Bay until this year to win a Razzie, he is a terrible director and should be doing trailers for insurance commercials blowing stuff up.

MG: Do you typical invite all of the celebrity nominees to the event? Anyone every give you a problem?
JW: What we normally do, we wait until we know or the trend is clear and who the winners are going to be. We contact the people that we think are going to win. I have been on an annual basis hung up by managers, agents, people representing these various artists. My favorite was when Madonna won worst actress of the century. I spoke with her publicist and the woman totally said “What makes you think that she would show up to accept that award?” I said back “I can’t argue that she didn’t earn the award” and the phone clicked in my ear and the conversation was over. We do not discourage people from attending certainly, we are a well-known enough event, if you wanted to attend. It’s posted on the website and it’s mentioned in the press release. What we don’t want is people showing up and being pissy, that doesn’t work for anybody. Over the 30 years we have done it, I do not even think it is ten people who won awards accepted them.

MG: If you have to narrow it down, what is your favorite film? and your least favorite?
JW: Favorite good movie is “Sunset Boulvard”. I have it memorized. I grew up watching it as a kid. To me that movie has everything. It is a comedy, drama, romance, mystery, in places it is a horror movie. The only genre it really doesn’t have, except when Gloria Swanson sings, is musical. It has every other genre all wrapped up in one wonderful package that also at the same time is talking about how cruel and heartless Hollywood is. My favorite Razzie movie is a toss-up between “Mommy Dearest” that has every credential to have been good, everyone involved was an Oscar winner. The movie is still an enormous joke. The ultimate Razzie movie, that held the most awards for a while is “Showgirls”. A group of adults that make a serious drama about the tragedy of being a lap dancer in Las Vegas. The people that made the movie did not mean it as a comedy. My least favorite movie is “Freddy Got Fingered”. It is the most indefensible, unfunny, sick, ugly, angry, nasty, gross piece of crap I have ever seen in my life. Tom Green showed up and behaved almost as abominably as I thought. We literally had to drag him off the stage. He figured it was funny to stand on our stand for what felt like five minutes, it was probably three and play the harmonica. We carried him yelling and screaming off the stage, the audience loved it, Mr. Green was livid and threatened to sue.

MG: What is your 5-year goal for the 35th anniversary of the awards?
JW: I would love to see the show broadcast. As well known as it is, most people have seen clips of the show on the news, so they think it has been broadcast. It has never been because the studios have always refused to give us any permissions commercially. We are trying to figure out a way to get around that at this point and you may finally see the show broadcast.

Click here to purchase John Wilson’s Books

Watch below to see Halle Berry & Sandra Bullock’s acceptance speeches at the Razzies.

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