Interview with Rena Riffel

Rena Riffel is known best for her role of Penny in 1995’s erotic cult classic “Showgirls”.  Rena is returning for “Showgirls 2: Penny ‘s from Heaven” but not only starring, she is directing, writing and producing it!  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Rena about “Showgirls”, its sequel and her other series “Trasharella”.

Mike Gencarelli: What did you like most about the role of Penny when you co-starred in “Showgirls”?
Rena Riffel: What I loved the most was being able to work with Paul Verhoeven.  He has always been my hero, he is a genius filmmaker and such a nice person.  And “Basic Instinct” was my favorite movie at that time (and still is), it was the same Director and Writer team for Showgirls… I was in heaven!  I loved playing the role because I got to play my signature “ditzy” character, which I had been developing. And it was incredible to be able to dance in the movie, since I am a dancer.  Elizabeth Berkeley(Nomi) and I had such a great time dancing together.  We had rehearsed the dancing for about five months, actually.  Glenn Plummer and I rehearsed our dance a lot and I loved every minute of it.  I was originally auditioning for the lead role of Crystal Connors, I think the casting director may have seen me starring in a movie called “Art Deco, Detective” (Directed by Philippe Mora) where I had played a similar “Crystal-type” character.  I had four call-backs for the role, both acting and dance auditions, and was then put on “hold” for weeks just waiting to get confirmed.  When I finally heard back, they had changed my part to Penny because they said I wasn’t old enough to play an aging Showgirl, I was in my early-twenties.  But I was thrilled to get the role of Penny.

MG: Tell us about how you got your song “Deep Kiss” into the film “Showgirls”?
RR: I simply went through the proper channels, giving my “cassette tape” to the Music Supervisor.  They only wanted good songs, so she made it clear to me she wasn’t going to do me a favor if it sucked.  She played it for her assistant without telling him it was “Penny”, to make sure it didn’t suck.  The entire production office said they loved it (this is what she told me).. then she played it for Mr. Verhoeven, after he also loved it and said it would be perfect for the lap dance scene, then she said ‘guess who it is, it’s “Penny” singing!’  When they told me they would use the song in the movie, I was so happy.  To be included in a film score with Prince, David Bowie, and Dave Stewart was such an honor.

MG: With “Showgirls 2: Penny’s From Heaven”, you are not only acting but writing, editing and directing, what can you tell us about this film?
RR: To be reunited with Glenn Plummer, Dewey Weber, and Greg Travis from the Showgirls’ cast, working together once again on “Showgirls 2: Penny’s From Heaven” was the most amazing experience.  I am so proud of this movie.  It qualifies for the Academy Awards, so it will be “In Consideration” for the Oscars.  So, if any Academy Members are reading this, please watch this film and I hope that it will win your votes!   We all took this film very seriously and I worked very very hard on it.  It’s been one of those movies in which the filmmakers sacrificed everything to get this film made.  Like the making of  Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now”, we had such incredible challenges in the making of  “SG2:PFH”.  But the good thing is, I  always came in “on budget” and “on time” despite the obstacles.  I think I must have a Showgirl Angel watching over me.

MG: How do you feel it will stand up with the original film by means of erotic and edgy?
RR: The story revolves around a sapphic erotic romance. It is very erotic and edgy. It has very controversial themes and subjects.  I do have an NC-17 or possibly X rated version which is similar to Showgirls’ nudity but includes not only full frontal female nudity but also full frontal male nudity, but I decided not to release it.  I was getting feedback telling me that if I include it, it will make the movie too shocking to see genitalia all over the place.  And the full frontal male nudity seemed to dominate the scene, which I enjoyed, but..  I figure my job is to make a movie for the audience to enjoy, so I sadly cut it. But, I will eventually release the full frontal version someday.  For now, this version has some violence, nudity, erotic dance numbers, sexual content, and some adult language, so I think it would be considered an R rating.

MG: When can we see expect to see this film released?
RR: I am planning to do “Sneak Peek” screenings in the Fall 2011 in Los Angeles. And possibly in select cities, like in the N.Y. area, Portland, OR., San Francisco, CA., and the U.K.  I expect the movie to be released world wide in 2012. I will have more info and updates on the website,

MG: What do you like most about directing and do you find it difficult to juggle roles?
RR: What I love most about directing and being a filmmaker is bringing my vision to reality, it’s a great feeling to see what I had in my mind unfold before my eyes.  It’s not difficult at all to juggle the roles of acting and directing. I found it easy to snap back and forth into my character, then back into dealing with the technical aspects and running the show.  I am inspired by Barbra Streisand, and as she said so eloquently, it actually makes it easier to both act and direct at the same time, because there is one less actor you need to worry about. I find the same with screenplay writing, it feels the same to me as acting, drawing from that same creative place, and using the impulse of timing and revealing.  And editing feels the same as writing.  It is all intertwined from that same creative place and instinct I use as an actress.

MG: How did you come up with the idea for the film “Trasharella Ultra-Vixen”?
RR: I was basically improvising and writing as we were filming.  But I was going for a grind-house type of Russ Meyer influence, then threw a Vampire in the mix. I loved what Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez did with “Grindhouse”, and with my equipment I had at that time, it gave me hope that I could make a grind-house retro B-Movie.  A lot of the story is from a script I wrote called “Butterfly Lane”.  “Butterfly Lane” deals with vampires, witches, ghosts, and being possessed.

MG: Do you have plans to follow-up with “Trasharella in Space”?
RR: Yes, I have the script ready to go.  I just need to build the spaceship for the Scream Queens, they are the drag queen astronauts who Trasharella will be traveling to cyberspace with while killing off vampire-zombies, the vampires have mutated.  It is a musical, like “Trasharella Ultra-Vixen”.  This one should be a blast!

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