What is the first thing you think of when you hear the name John Schneider? People my age usually say “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Others remark on his country music career. Still others remember his as Pa Kent on “Smallville.” Well, as of today, you can add successful writer/director to your list.
Born in New York state 54 years ago, Schneider rocketed to stardom when he co-starred opposite Tom Wopat as Bo Duke on television’s “Dukes of Hazzard.” His star burned brighter with the release of his first album, “It’s Now or Never.” The title track hit #4 on the country charts and became the first of his ten Top-10 hits, including four that hit #1. But even fans of his music, as I was, were amazed when he took to the Broadway stage as Baron Felix Von Galgern in the Tony award winning musical “Grand Hotel.” I’ve been very fortunate to have seen many great performers in great shows, from Jerry Orbach in “42nd Street” to Michael Crawford in “The Phantom of the Opera” and I would put Schneider’s performance in “Grand Hotel” in my top 5 of greatest stage performances. Schneider’s old “Hazzards” partner, Tom Wopat, has also found success in musical theatre. May I be the first to suggest here a revival of “Guys and Dolls” starring the both of them!
Schneider’s latest project puts him behind the scenes. As writer/director of the new horror/comedy “Smothered” he puts another successful feather in his cap. Schneider took time out from promoting his latest film to not only answer some questions but to help me win a three decade old bet!
Mike Smith: What was your inspiration in creating the story?
John Schneider: Years ago a friend of mine said that he was sick and tired of all the movies where the big titted co-eds got killed by the sickos in the masks. He thought someone should make one where the guys ins the masks got killed by the big titted co-ed. I thought that was a cute idea but couldn’t see what device could possibly cause a group of “sickos in masks” to go on a camping trip together. That all changed in Dusseldorf when I realized I could get a Winnebago full of icons to go just about anywhere with me for a grand apiece because the show was not making them any money.
MS: You’ve pulled double duty on feature films before (“Collier and Company”) but this is your first foray into horror. What was it about that genre’ that intrigued you?
JS: I like movies that make me feel. By feel I mean scare me, make me jump, cry, shiver and anticipate stuff coming down the pike both good and bad. Horror movies are the best at manipulating these emotions because of the personal nature of what’s happening to the people and where it’s happening. Everyone has been in a dark basement… attic or..in a campground before… right?
MS: What is YOUR favorite horror film?
JS: There was a film in the early 70’s with Don Stroud called “The House By The Lake.” I haven’t seen it since I was a kid but remember it scaring the shit out of me. It made me feel very uncomfortable. I’d love to see it again but can’t find it on a list anywhere.
MS: You work consistently in both film and television. Do you have a preference?
JS: I prefer film because there is more time to get it done right. In film you shoot a script. In television you shoot a schedule.
MS: This year marks the 35th Anniversary of “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Are there any “reunion” plans in the works…not necessarily a television show but a convention appearance or two?
JS: Cathy Bach had a wonderful party at her house that many cast and crew attended. It was private and a blast. I think that was the best way to celebrate. When we do “events” non of the cast ever gets to hang out. After 35 years I believe it’s our turn.
MS: What else do you have coming up soon?
JS: We start shooting the 2nd film at the studio here soon. It’s called “Anderson Bench” and it is a very twisted love story.
MS: Finally, you can win me five dollars (or lose it) from a bet I made about 30 years ago. Can you put to rest the rumor that you have a brief role in the 1979 film “Hardcore,” starring George C. Scott. I say that, even though the young man resembles you, that it isn’t. Have you had this question before?
JS: Never. And nope… wasn’t me. William Katt maybe? Go collect your $5. (NOTE: The Internet Movie Data Base says the actor’s name is Will Walker, who appeared in a few things in the late 70s, with his work in “Hardcore” being his last performance. Time for me to get my money!)