Flashback Interview: Shon Greenblatt of NEWSIES and FREDDY’S DEAD!
Editor's note: Shon Greenblatt (NEWSIES, FREDDY'S DEAD, CHOPPER CHICKS IN ZOMBIETOWN) was nice enough to sit down with our new Contributor Melissa Green to chat about movies, his career, and what he's up to now. Enjoy!
Shon, I would like to talk about your first feature CHOPPER CHICKS IN ZOMBIETOWN. I can’t get enough of this title. Did you get to roll around with the Cycle Sluts?
I did get to roll around with the Cycle Sluts. In fact, the Cycle Sluts were the ones that got me the role.
Yeah, two of my closest friends and actually my best friend at the time, Kristina Loggia, was one of the Cycle Sluts. She really helped me get the role. She had a relationship with everybody in the film.
I was training at Stella Adler Academy in Hollywood and I was in desperate need of getting my union card, my SAG card, so we saw a way for me to finagle trying to get my Screen Actors Guild card. I did the movie for free, I slept on someone's couch up there. So, I didn’t cost them anything basically. The reason why they gave me the role ... Nina Wong was one of the Cycle Sluts and these were really, really close friends of mine.
The thing people don’t know about CHOPPER CHICKS was that the original title of the film was CHROMEHEARTS. Chromehearts were the people that provided the leather jackets and the chaps for the Cycle Sluts. These two guys, Richard and John, ended up taking the original name of the film and made it their company name. Chromehearts today is one of the largest high-end leather providers in the world. They have this ridiculous store in Manhattan and Tokyo and all over the place and their first gig was CHOPPER CHICKS IN ZOMBIETOWN, but they got their name from the original script.
That’s great! They probably have some wicked chaps. [Laughs] Back in 1991, you were of course the lead in FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE, which is one of my faves. What did you do when you found out you got the part? Did you go out and throw your classic LA heavy metal vomit party?
No, I was actually relieved that I could do a proper amount of grocery shopping and that it was a proper paying gig.
No more 7-11. [Laughs]
Yeah, it was great, I mean, I had really connected with the director, Rachel Talalay, during the audition process and even Aron Warner, the producer. Although, I didn’t have an extensive background or knowledge of the Elm Street craze or series really, so it was a real competition. You’re always auditioning against the same group of guys and I was doing this crazy film at the time called THERE GOES MY BABY. It became a topic of amusement about the antics of what was going on with that film when auditioning for Rachel and Aron. It was something I really wanted to do.
I really wanted to work with Rachel and it was obviously an opportunity to do a big, national, well known film that had a built in audience and that was exciting to me as well. There was a lot of hype around it because they were making this to be the last one and a lot of people were involved. They guy who wrote the original script was Peter Jackson and then of course they went with Mike DeLuca, who was a young studio head at the time for New Line who now runs the universe and Bob Shea, of course, who founded New Line. Did you see the documentary that recently came out on the Elm Street legacy and how it funded New Line Cinema?
Oh yeah. How they were looking to sort of reboot the Elm Street franchise and speaking of that, did you get a chance to watch the remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET? What are you thoughts?
I didn’t get a chance to watch, but I respect that actor a lot who plays the new Freddy Krueger. I mean, he’s a tremendous actor. I didn’t get to see it, I mean I heard a lot of feedback when I did Monster Mania. I’ve done like two conventions in my entire life and they were fairly recently and of course all of the fans were outraged, but no I didn’t get a chance to see it.
Have all the Comic-Con tours been to promote the NEVER SLEEP AGAIN documentary?
I think the genre will always be a breeding ground for young filmmakers because their imagination is never limited in horror. They always have an opportunity to be outrageous or come up with things that would typically be edited out in fear of exposing their true perversions, whatever it might be. I’ve always seen the horror genre and more recently the music video genre as a great stepping stone and a great opportunity for young filmmakers to really take risks and try different things. So, I think the future of the horror genre is as strong and as vibrant as it has always been.
I just wanted to mention one of the really cool things about FREDDY'S DEAD is that it had a 3-D component. How do you feel about 3-D being such a prevalent part of the movie industry right now?
I think it’s a total rip off. I think it’s bullshit. I think it’s a gimmick, unless you’re goal is to try to do something unique like Martin Scorsese shooting HUGO entirely in 3-D, that’s a unique experience. All this other stuff is some cheap 3-D overlay so that they can charge an extra ten bucks a ticket and they are slapping it on every movie that comes out now. In fact, I go out of my way to take my kids to the version that isn’t 3-D. Just because it’s ludicrous.
A family of four has to pay like fifty-six dollars to go see a movie. It’s disgusting. I think it’s whack. On FREDDY'S DEAD it was early 3-D too, those cameras were like unbelievable. It was basically three full size Panavisions sort of morphed into one, where two of them were upside down and you had to hit the marks exactly precise or the shot wouldn’t work. It was really intricate and it was another sort of color of hype for marketing purposes for making this the last Elm Street and blowing up Freddy in 3-D, but you got your glasses and it was all part of the experience I guess. I never got to work in the 3-D since I was the last one to die and Lisa gets my revenge in 3-D.
Right. [Laughs] I gotta go there. You got to work with Robert Englund. What is Freddy Krueger, I mean Robert Englund, like?
He is super fun, super smart, world traveler with a slice of kinky perversion and such a fun guy to hang out with anytime: breakfast, lunch or dinner, day or night. He always brings something to the party. He’s so much fun.
I can tell you the last two days of the filming schedule, it came down to just him and me, doing all this work together. Everyone else had wrapped and New Line wanted to be on budget. They weren’t going to send actors and crew home and just shoot like normal shooting days, we had to finish whatever we needed to finish, we had to keep working until we were done, so we stayed up for well over 48 hours and we just started getting so delirious in our makeup trailer and we just started sharing things about our ... that men typically don’t share about.
Intimate moments. [Laughs]
[Laughs] We just started cracking up and having a blast and whenever we do see each other, bump into each other, it’s nothing but hugs and kisses. The last time we randomly bumped into each other was at the Broadway version of Spamalot.
We were sitting two or three rows away from each other, we made eye contact, we threw up our hands and said 'Hey!' He came up and we caught up and stuff like that and even at a Broadway show at intermission there was a line of people that wanted to meet him, touch him, shake his hand, have him sign the playbill and he’s always just so gracious. You know, something he said has always stood out to me, 'I’ll take being a B-movie star over an A list character actor any day.' He just loves his role in history, he just loves his fans, one hundred percent. It’s such a part of him, he’s fantastic, you’ll love him.
Here’s my morbid curiosity of the day. So, what was it like to wear the infamous glove?
Powerful. It was definitely powerful, it was fun. We had some fun with it. There’s this great photo on my fan page of Alice Cooper and I goofing off backstage and I’m wearing the glove. It was a lot of fun. I had a fan recently make me a replica and I keep it in my safe and we take it out on Halloween and we have a good time and it’s great. It’s a lot of fun to wear, but they kept it constantly under lock and key. It never left the propmaster's eyesight for very long.
Wow. Speaking of Alice Cooper, FREDDY'S DEAD has quite a few cameos with everyone from Johnny Depp, whose first on screen gig was in the original A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, to Roseanne Barr, Tom Arnold, and once again, Alice Copper. Who would you want to grab a beer with?
Out of those cameos?
Elinor Donahue from Father Knows Best was also in it. Let’s see, they were all very, very cool.
You also worked with Breckin Meyer.
Yeah, Breckin, I probably wouldn’t want to have a beer with him so much.
You know, Alice Cooper was great. I bumped into him recently and he remembered everything and was charming and gracious. Tom and Roseanne were crazies, dry humping each other in their trailer. But you know to have a beer with, it’s got to be Robert Englund.
There ya go. In 1992 you worked on the Disney musical NEWSIES, playing Oscar Delancey, the villain. Let me ask you, is it fun being the bad guy?
It’s always fun being the bad guy, right? It’s always fun. What’s cool was Delancey and those guys existed in history. Delancey Street in New York City is named after them. His brother moved to San Fransisco and there’s one named after him. I played the younger brother and he was a real a-hole. He was a perverted guy. In fact, when the early dailys were coming in, I had Jeffery Katzenberg come in and ask me to water down the character. “You’re making him too perverted, stop licking your lips, it is Disney, we’re trying to get a G-rating.” Kind of kept it in perspective, so I tried to make it a little more obnoxious and comical than cruel.
As we all know, NEWSIES starred a very bright-eyed Christian Bale. What was it like working with Christian Bale? I think everyone wants to know that. Did he exhibit any characteristics of the infamous Christian Bale-out?
No, zero. Zero, but you know he’s one of those once-in-a-generation talents and unless you are an actor you don’t truly know what that means on what he puts into every role. It’s easy to dismiss and be cynical about.
I mean first of all, he was the coolest, he was one of us. Not only did we work together for six months making that movie, between rehearsals and shooting, even on the weekends, we would go out and hang out with each other. We would go paintballing or we had parties. There’s this really amazing 'Teen Beat' article and pictures of me showing up to his seventeenth birthday party. It was just funny, but he was absolutely one of the guys. I mean there was no difference. You felt no difference in how he acted and the hundreds of extras. There was zero ego and rank. He was just wanting to fit in and he worked hard and he played and he was just one of the boys. There was nothing that made him stand out on an ego side or on a movie star side more than anyone else.
I remember Robert Duvall, when he came to work, you really felt tension, like it was Robert Duvall. It was this, it was that, and he had his own way of diffusing the tension. He’s well aware that people are probably intimidated by him, so he also goes out of his way to make you relax. But Christian holds his own and does his work and in between takes we were having fun and goofing off and smiling. We really, really had a blast. We actually made a little horror film that’s out on the Internet between takes called 'Blood Spills on the Set of Newsies'. It’s such a viral craze you wouldn’t believe it and he participated in that, so we had a great time making that.
Great. Great. I just wanted to ask you, how do you feel about that sort of faithful fanbase, rewatching the VHS and the Disney channel promoting and then creating this Bieber-like cult status of NEWSIES today?
Right, it’s fanatical.
When I first got into social media, like Facebook for instance, I was getting tons of requests from the horror fans who had pictures of blood coming out of their eyes and fifteen year-old girls and I’m explaining to my wife why fifteen year-old girls are on the page and stuff and it was these NEWSIES fans and we recently had this fan day because they are bringing it on Broadway. It’s going to be at the Nederlander Theatre. I think it actually opens [this month] and the fan day was all these people that love it. They love the movie, they love the songs, they have these fan bases everywhere. It’s really special. It was recently on Showtime, there’s this whole new life that has come to it and it’s gotten to the point that Disney said we really can’t ignore this on our end.
You know, it failed miserably at the box office. The fact that it’s always had this rabid cult following is really, really cool.
You started a production company with your friend Balthazar Getty. You worked on the feature called SHADOW HOURS. Do you prefer to work in front of the camera or behind the scenes?
To me, it’s two totally different things. They both have their challenges.
The short answer would be I prefer to work in front of the camera because it’s almost easier work. Behind the camera, it’s a real full-time job. Right? I think the good thing that happened with that was that you had two actors who are producers and knew how to deal with actors and we cast people who we were either friends with or whose work we had respected over the years. Some of those actors, they all have their challenges, one way or the other. Peter Greene is a tough egg and Fredric Forrest, you have to manage him in a certain way, so you took those sort of skills and were able to apply them in dealing with these different personalities and they respected you because they knew you are, or were, an actor, so there was always that common thread. Peter Weller, who everyone was warning us was a difficult actor, we had the best time with him. It was a really, really great experience.
We never expected it to be accepted into Sundance. We never actually expected it to be picked up by the Angelika theater downtown, so the whole ride was a lot of fun. It was our first outing, we learned a lot. We didn’t make a lot of money, but that was never our intent. We finished what we started and that was pretty cool.
Awesome. And lastly, do you have any projects in the works?
No, I mean on the entertainment side, I don’t have a lot of aspirations to do it. I see a lot of my friends still working and doing their thing and [I] live vicariously through them.
I’m really more than happy where I’m at right now, what I’m doing, and where I’m at in life. I did it for a long time, I got a great taste for it, I have respect for it, I know what it takes to be a working actor in that town and my head’s not there in any shape or form. I respect the work that everyone does day in and day out in that industry to get a gig or what not, so I’m very happy just being a consumer and buying the ticket and enjoying their hard work.
Thank you so much Shon for taking the time to talk to us. It was a blast talking to you and this was an insightful interview.
You got it guys. Have a great day and let me know when it’s up on the site. I would love to check it out.