Whether or not he would accept the fame (or blame) for these raunchy, mainstream blockbusters, there can be no doubt that what Lloyd Kaufman has achieved is enormous. In 30 years, Kaufman and partner Michael Herz, has built Troma Studios up from a young company struggling to find its voice in a field crowded with competitors to legendary status as a lone survivor, a bastion of true independence, and the world’s greatest concentration of camp. Among Troma Entertainment’s library of over 1,000 movies are the early performances of such stars as Kevin Costner, Billy Bob Thornton, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert DeNiro, Dennis Hopper, Dustin Hoffman, Fergie (Black Eyed Peas) and countless others! As a filmmaker, Lloyd Kaufman has accumulated a remarkable list of credits, as well as a more extraordinary list of debits to loan sharks and pawn shops across New York.
MovieMikes had the pleasure of talking with Lloyd and asked him questions about Toxie, Troma’s career and what’s to come!
Mike Gencarelli: Looking back on the production of “The Toxic Avenger”, is there anything would you have done differently?
Lloyd Kaufman: Wow, that is a good question. (Long pause) No I think we did everything that we wanted to originally. Well I regret doing number 2 and 3. I got pushed to make them R-Rated, I regret that. Besides that I think that the original “Toxic Avenger” turned out the way I wanted it to.
Mike Gencarelli: How do you feel about the success of “The Toxic Avenger Musical”? Will we be seeing Troma returning to stage again?
Lloyd Kaufman: It’s been great the fans have really reached out and made “The Toxic Avenger Musical” a real success. The play was put together by a group of real great people. The music by Bon Jovi was really great and people really seemed to like it. It ran for year off-Broadway and it wouldn’t have done that if I was the only person to like it. There are talks that it might be heading to Broadway in 2011, Bon Jovi and all. Some producers showed interest and who knows it could happen.
Mike Gencarelli: When you started Troma, when did you stop and say, “This is actually happening” once you hit success.
Lloyd Kaufman: It was actually “Squeeze Play”, when it opened in small theater in Virginia back in ’79. No other theater would play it due to mix of spoof comedy and raunchy sex. When it opened, I looked out in the theater and I was really surprised people actually showed up. This was before anything viral, there was no internet sites or online advertising. This was good old fashion word of mouth. That was the point I think was realized people might like what we have.
MG: Of all the films you worked on what was the hardest to make during the production? Favorite?
LK: I have to say it was probably “Troma’s War”. It has a mix of transformations and high tech special effects. It was not an easy film to make and definitely one of the hardest productions I have done. “Poultrygeist” actually tied “Troma’s War” since it has everything above plus more like signing and dancing. “Poultrygeist” is one of my favorite films I have done, it really looks great for a film that cost less than $500,000 dollars.
MG: How do you feel about “Mother’s Day” being remade by Darren Bousman? Any other Troma remake in the works?
LK: Well I haven’t seen the film but I know it is being done by a group of real talented people. “Mother’s Day” was actually made my Charlie Kaufman but Troma helped release it and due to that it grew into this amazing film that people love. As you might know “The Toxic Avenger” was announced officially this week and that is very exciting, there are already rumors going around that Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz are interested in being a part of the film. My role on the remakes will be executive producer., besides that they will probably use me for press like they did with the Toxie musical. My expertise is not in mainstream film making, I am leaving the remake in their hands. The people involved are very talent and one of them has even won an Oscar for their work.
MG: I was on the set of Terror Firmer as an extra and it looked like you were really having fun. Are you still able to enjoy what you do?
LK: I remember you, that was a hard film to make. The crew was really difficult to work with and I think we still made a great film. Yes, I am able to enjoy making films even more since 1999 because we have a really amazing crew that gives there all and really wants to see a good film made. It is really important when your crew work really hard for you because with out them the production could be next to impossible especially when you are working on a low budget.
MG: We’ve seen you at various conventions, do you enjoy meeting you fans? What is your craziest fan encounter?
LK: I love meeting my fans, I think that is extremely lucky to have the fan base that we have. Troma is a brand name and our fans are the reason why we are around. Fans go to our website and purchase our home videos at our website for years. They want theses films get made and they support them. When I meet my fans they are sometimes under the influence of booze or copious types of drugs. They sometimes based on that display certain behaviors due to the effects of the booze or drugs. We actually met a girl one time with Troma tattoos all over her body. She has Toxie, Nuke’em High all over her body. She even had one where I can’t say. Since meeting her we started a tattoos section on Troma’s website to showcase these people’s tattoos.
MG: You have written a bunch of books on film making, have you ever considered writing about about Troma’s history and how you have built this company over the last 30 year or so?
LK: Well I did actually do a book “All I Need to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger”, which was about some of the history of Troma up to “Tromeo and Juliet” in 1996. So would I do an update to today’s history, No, not unless a publisher wants me to. Troma’s film has had major impacts on many people. Today’s directors like Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith have all said that Troma has inspired them over the years. Roth and Tarantino have said that they have each seen “The Toxic Avenger” over 200 times. There is a lot of history and it only keeps growing.
MG: Tell me about the upcoming Tromadance and it’s return to NJ?
LK: We are in our 11th year and we are returning to NJ in Asbury Park. Trey Parker, Matt Stone and I went to Sundance 12 years ago. We saw how terrible they treated independent cinemas and how it was a complete disregard. After that we said we should do an independent festival where you do you have to pay to submit your films. You do not have to pay to see them and there is no VIP section of the event. Everyone is treated the same and everyone is allowed to participate. Over the last 12 years, Sundance has improved its position on independent films which was much deserved. This year’s Tromadance returns to NJ and takes place April 16th and 17th.
MG: Tell me about some of your future project? I hear “Toxie 5” is in the works?
LK: Yeah, right now I am in the process of writing the script slowly of “Toxie 5”. Very slowly. I am not sure where we want to go with it. I am planning on following the last film so it will focus on the Toxie’s twins but I am not sure the exact path I am looking to take just yet. I am also doing another film that is sort-of like “Terror Firmer”, in the sense that the director is on a production and it is out of control. It will be a lot more sub-due and not a crazy as “Terror Firmer”, it will be a lot more serious and less cornball comedy. It is hard for the future because the big studios have control of most of the distribution. For us getting a film released in not easy but with the help of you Troma fans we have been able to survive and will continue to survive. We have been more famous than ever most recently and the future is bright for Troma.