Interview with Paul Davis

Paul Davis directed a feature length retrospective on the first horror movie he ever saw, “An American Werewolf In London”. The documentary covers the making of the film and feature interviews with the entire cast and crew.  Since the documentary Paul has become friends with, “Werewolf” director, John Landis and has a cameo in his latest film “Burke & Hare”.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Paul about his documentary and what he is working on next.

Click here to purchase Paul’s documentary

Mike Gencarelli: Why did you choose “An American Werewolf in London” to make documentary about?”
Paul Davis: “An American Werewolf in London” is a movie that has been dear to me since a very early age, in fact, when I was 3-years-old and first introduced to movies, we only had, I think, five movies taped from the television that I would watch over and over – “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Star Wars”, “Superman II”, “Blazing Saddles” and “Werewolf”. I was a huge Michael Jackson fan, right up to his shocking death last year, and my parents were aware of Werewolf from “The Making of Thriller”, so they taped it for me. I saw it and instantly fell in love with it. It didn’t scare me because thanks to “The Making of Thriller”, I knew that movies and monsters were work of fiction. That people made these things for a job. So from that point on I could watch anything and know it wasn’t real. Fast forward many years later and I was writing a retrospective article on the film for Horrorhound magazine and that’s when I thought it’d be cool to really delve into the making of and give the movie a well deserved, feature length chronicle to celebrate all it did for horror movies and special effects make-up.

MG: Tell us about the hardest aspect of making “Beware the Moon: Remembering ‘An American Werewolf in London'”?
PD: Making “Beware the Moon” was not really difficult, and actually a lot of fun. A lot of dreams came true in the nine-months it took us to shoot it. The hardest part was getting it released, and for that we really have to thank John Landis, because it was his influence and stronghold with Universal (plus the fact he’s made them a bazillion dollars with “Animal House” & “The Blues Brothers”) that stopped them from shutting us down, let alone releasing our movie. It took a lot of patience and hard work from New Wave Entertainment, to work with us and Universal, on getting all of our legal clearances in order. I’ll never forget being told that Clint Eastwood had given us the thumbs up to use his likeness for a “Kelly’s Heroes” poster we put in there. That was pretty trippy.  As for the making of the doc, the hardest part, if any, was just the initial gathering of cast and crew and arranging interviews. It took a lot of explanation, dedication and heartfelt sentiment to get some people on board – specifically John at first, which is totally understandable. He eventually saw that we were genuine in our approach and helped us in every way possible to get the movie done and on the Blu-Ray release. The best things to come out of this for me are stories of people who genuinely dig the documentary and understand that our love and enthusiasm for the film was the driving force. It’s been a pretty exciting and bizarre experience. One that I’ll never forget and look back on with great fondness.

MG: Besides “An American Werewolf in London”, favorite horror film and why?
PD: This is a question I get asked a lot and my answer often generates confusion. My favourite movie of all time is “The Exorcist”. To me, it’s the perfect film (the 1973 theatrical edit, not the 2000 re-cut). However, I don’t consider it a horror movie, it’s a movie about life and choice and Faith etc… so my favourite horror movie is Stanley Kubrick’s “Tbe Shining”. It’s so damn creepy and I think a lot of people share a deep fear of the unknown, and the movie certainly delivers that. I know it is very different to the book, but novels and movies are very different. The reader’s imagination can conjure up any vision it wants based on the written material, whereas with a movie, you’re seeing the preferred vision of a director. I think the differences between the King’s novel and Kubrick’s movie make them incomparable. Other horror movies I adore include the portmanteau classic “Dead of Night”, “Night of the Demon” and the brilliant “The Haunting” directed by Robert Wise.

MG: Tell us about work with John Landis? You also have cameo in his latest film “Burke and Hare”?
PD: Working with John Landis is an absolute joy and pleasure. He’s one of the nicest and warmest people I’ve ever met and is quite possibly the best storyteller I’ve ever been in the presence of. Meeting and working with him on “Beware the Moon” was one thing, considering he was the first person I was ever aware of being a ‘director’, but then to be asked to play a small role in “Burke & Hare”, oh man, that was a dream come true. I got to spend the day on location in West London, working alongside the masterful Tim Curry – with Curry playing Dr. Munro, and myself taking the role of one of his unfortunate amputee patients.  Being directed by John was a lot of fun, but it was amazing to see him doing what he loves in person. His enthusiasm and energy on set is contagious, and he always gets the best out of his cast and crew. It was also thrilling to experience some of his quirks that people had told me about while making the documentary… specifically, I totally geeked out when I heard John yell ‘More blood, here, give me the blood!” to the make-up girl, and then proceeded to pour blood ALL over my leg. The movie just opened in the UK and it really is a lot of fun. John is certainly back to his comedy best, and Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis are brilliant as the title characters. I hope you guys in the US get to see it sooner rather than later.

MG: How did you get involved with Horrorhound Magazine (hands down best horror magazine ever…thanks right Fangoria!)?
PD: I got involved with Horrorhound back in late 2005. I was already familiar with the editor, Nathan Hanneman, as we would both frequent the same Horror forum at the time. I think I was just about to curate the horror section of a UK entertainment convention and Nathan got in touch because he was planning a retrospective on “Re-Animator” and I had access to Jeff Combs that weekend. I started out doing a few interviews and giving him the low down on some British horror productions, but it wasn’t until issue three that I really started to chime in. Between 2006 and 2009 I contributed to all but one issue. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, without the “An American Werewolf in London” retro in issue five, there would be no “Beware the Moon” – and I’m eternally grateful to Nate and the publisher Jeremy Sheldon for giving me the opportunity to contribute to their wonderful magazine. I still keep in touch with Nathan from time to time, although not as much as I’d like to, and he has said that the door is always open for me to work with those guys again. So, never say never, I guess.

MG: Tell us about your involvement with “Habeas Corpus”?
PD: “Habeas Corpus” is a good old-fashioned anthology in the same vein as “Creepshow”. You’ve got four stories with a linking story, all focused on the concept of exploitation of the dead. I’m directing a segment called “S.C.U.M.” which is about a student who uses dead bodies to help create an art project/exhibit. It’s very tongue-in-cheek (this particular story, not the whole thing) and draws a lot from pop art and post-modern imagery. I can only describe it as De Palma and Warhol in a blender! It’s going to be pretty fun and extremely ambitious. Right now the movie is still in development. We were set to start shooting early next year, but the effects budget just took a considerable leap. People are interested; it’s just a case of when rather than if it happens.

MG: Any other documentaries planned in the future or any features in the works?
PD: No more documentaries from me, but I do have a feature screenplay currently sitting with a UK based production company. It’s a comedy/horror set in the early 90s. I’m hopeful that will move forward in the coming months. Mainly, however, I’ve been getting more acting work than anything. “Gladiators Vs. Werewolves” is still on the cards to start up again at the beginning of next year.  One of the first things Rick Baker said to me, when I met him on the documentary, was that he wanted to put me in a monster suit. When I was cast for “Gladiators Vs. Werewolves”, I fell in love with it. The casts, the make-up, seeing myself change into a monster… and so now I’ve pretty much put it out there to all of my make-up artist friends that I want to do as much creature suit/monster work as possible. So right now, who knows what the future holds.

Click here to purchase Paul’s documentary

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