Interview: John Gulager, Director of PIRANHA 3DD

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Piranha 3DD

With his latest movie, Piranha 3DD, hitting DVD/Blu-ray, we sat down with cult filmmaker John Gulager to talk about carnivorous fish, Feast, family and the future…

Starburst: You come from a long lineage of entertainers dating back to your grandfather, whom you were named after, that worked with the late, great George M Cohan. Do you feel that this legacy influenced you to continue the family tradition in the movie business?

John Gulager: Yes. It’s the only thing our family knows. Some families don’t encourage their siblings to work in show business. They know it’s a tough business and they only want the best for their sons and daughters telling them to pursue another career.  My family encouraged it. There were feast and famine times, as people who work in this industry know. My father would take an acting job and with what money we had left over after paying bills, would invest it in film projects. Some that came to fruition, some that didn’t. There were some good times and there were some bad times, like having our car almost repossessed… three times.

When working on independent films such as Feast as compared to studio productions what have you learned?

It’s all shocking when you first get into the studio system. You encounter things that have never happened before on any indie production. When making your own film, you have more control over the direction of your movie and where you want it to go as opposed to a studio film where you encounter interference. On Piranha 3DD, we were worried about the MPAA giving us a hard R rating because of the gore, amount of blood, mutilations, gratuitous nudity, etc. in the film and had to do some heavy editing. Because it was considered a comedy they looked at it differently and we were able to keep the film as it is. A lot of people give me hell for the finished project, but it is what it is. I set out to make a fun movie you could invite your friends over, have some beers and have a good time. Its not a dissertation on the election here in the U.S. nor is it Citizen Kane. It’s just pure fun.

Will Season 3 of Project Greenlight [HBO’s reality show that helped launch Gulager’s career] ever be released on DVD? It’s the only one still unavailable.

Probably not. We shot the DVD commentary out at Raliegh Studios for it, but when the Weinsteins and Miramax were split up and Disney got the Miramax films, that was part of the package. They released the Survivor series on DVD and it tanked, so hopes of getting Project Greenlight out there were finished.  Feast didn’t do that well at the box office theatrically, but it did find a cult audience in the DVD market and that was enough to spawn two other sequels. I’ve had people come up to me and tell me that they teach my Project Greenlight episodes in film schools across the nation showing what to do and not to do.

What if Disney packaged all three Feast films and they threw on Project Greenlight as a bonus?

That would be a good idea. I think they’d find an audience for it.

Tell us about casting for Piranha 3DD.

We approached the original actors from the Corman movie; the ones that are still alive and they all opted not to do it. However, we did get David Hasslehoff to do a small part and Ving Rhames called me out of the blue and wanted to be in the film. He’s a great actor and we had a good time working together. We shot the movie in North Carolina as the original location was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but they turned us down after reading the script because of the profanity and nudity in it, yet the heavy violence didn’t bother them at all.

You mean because of the gratuitous use of bodacious ta-tas, in the film?

That’s a phrase I haven’t heard in a long time! Nice Russ Meyer reference! We did a lot of local casting from ahem… strip clubs… ahem, for some of the more scenic imagery featuring bodacious ta-tas as well as regular casting.

What do you have lined up next?

I have a several scripts I’m looking at and a film noir and a western I’d really like to do. There’s also a biography on Tex Watson, but that would be a film that would be financed totally independently. I don’t think any studio would touch it because of the subject matter.

One last question; tell us about the rabbit suit…

Yes, the infamous rabbit suit. I have this rabbit suit from way back that I’ve always wanted to wear on Hollywood Blvd. doing cover songs from the Ramones with a cup out in front of me. What money I would make, I’d use that towards making a film. For Halloween, I got one of those foot long rubber penises you get at the adult stores, glued it on the front and walked around all night with it. I haven’t been able to get it off since. When my niece and nephew come over to visit, I have to hide the costume so that they don’t see it.

Ahh, just paint it orange and tell them it’s his carrot.

Now, that’s funny!

Piranha 3DD is out now on DVD/Blu-ray.

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