Now on release, Sparks is the superhero genre’s dirty little secret. The titular hero has no powers to speak of, just the ability to take, not to mention dish out, one hell of a beating. When he loses all that he has, Ian Sparks must fight to regain what truly matters, with twists, turns and sleek, stylish action aplenty. We were lucky enough to grab some time with some of the cast and crew of this low-budget, high-entertainment feature, including executive producer and villain of the piece, Bill Katt. After a career that took in the likes of Carrie, House and The Greatest American Hero, Katt discusses how he became involved in Sparks way back when it was just an idea.
Starburst: You’ve been quite involved with Sparks from the get-go. How did that happen?
Bill Katt: Well I met Chris, his first foray into movie making was a very funny mockumentary called Gamers, kinda semi-autobiographical about a bunch of guys playing a Dungeons & Dragons-type game for 22, 23 years, much to the dismay of their friends and family around them that suffer as a result. It was a very funny look at that, and my friends, Kelly LeBrock, Beverly D’Angelo, John Heard and I were all in that, and that’s where I first met Chris many years ago. Then we became fast friends and we were both comic book aficionados. We said let’s do something with that. Chris has the stories, I have stories to tell, so we jumped into the market, right at the most opportune time, when the publishing world was imploding back in ’08. We laugh about it now but we were crying at the time. Sparks was the first story, which was really Chris’ brainchild. We talked about it, we launched 5 books of the 7, and we never actually got to finish. We had another book called Mythology Wars, which we never actually published, and we did publish 3 episodes of The Greatest American Hero. But Sparks, we did some motion comic books after that and we had some limited but good reviews with that. Limited success. So we said let’s completely bankrupt ourselves and do a feature film, and that’s what we did. It was very impetuous but well planned at the same time, so 2 years ago we decided to pick the coldest month of the year when the actors are available, which is January, after everyone has gone home for Christmas and before pilot season starts. We were able to assemble Clancy Brown and Ashley Bell and Chase Williamson and Jake Busey and myself and a few other people. And we made a pretty darn good little film in 12 days with two complete crews. We only had 12 days’ worth of money to pay for this location, so we had to cram it all in. I think it stays true to that Dial M for Murder, that noir genre, some components of 300 in the more modern world, Sin City and 300. And it was really because we had to use a lot of blue screen and green screen, which gave a certain style to the film.
When you became involved in the film, was it always the case that you were going to be playing the villainous Metanza?
When we were doing the comic book, originally Archer was always going to be my part. When we did the motion comics, I played the part of Archer, but when it came to the day that we were planning, about 2 or 3 weeks before we were starting production, I had a bad accident where I completely tweaked my back and could barely move. So we had to scramble and get somebody else, and fortunately our dear friend Michael Bell was good friends with Clancy Brown. I have served with Clancy on the Screen Actors Guild, and he graciously consented to step in for that role and save the day. It turns out he was a wonderful choice, and he lends a lot of gravitas to the production because of his appearance. I was able to play Metanza because there was no real physical stuff to do and you could see him being kind of stiff, that was because I couldn’t move my neck.
You touched on The Greatest American Hero. Along with Carrie that’s what you’re best known for. How is to play on other side of the fence to The Greatest American Hero and to play the bad guy?
It’s great! I have to play the bad guy. Anyone who’s a parent, you play the bad guy periodically. You have to be the bad guy once in a while if you’re an effective parent, so you just use that side of yourself. It kind of comes easy. Channel the inner father.
The story goes, you were in the running to play a certain Luke Skywalker in Star Wars…
I was. Kurt Russell still blames me for him not getting that role was kind of long – I think it took place over 2 or 3 meetings, then after that it was blue screen stuff. It was taped, which is where you get Kurt Russell and I. I think they put that on the bonus features of the DVD. George Lucas and Brian De Palma were conducting interviews at the same time, and I think they were seeing all the up and coming young actors. We all just had to go in there and read for both roles, both for Tommy Ross and for Luke Skywalker. And I didn’t lose out entirely; I got to play Tommy Ross.
And Carrie is an all-time horror classic. Have you had chance to see the remake at all?
No, I haven’t. I’ve seen the trailer, which I thought was quite good. I’m a fan of all the stars – Julienne Moore and Chloe – so I would imagine, and friends of mine have told me it was not a bad film at all. You’re basing it against the work of Brian De Palma, and Carrie was really a seminal film that really brought him to the attention of mainstream America.
Back to Sparks, is there any chance of there being a follow-up?
Well we have a story in the back of our mind to tell. But first we have to see how the roll-out goes, and if we can recoup some of our losses over the next year, year and a half, then I think we’ve learned an awful lot and we will definitely jump back in. We have, I think, an equally-compelling, if better, story to tell in the sequel.
Sparks is available on DVD and Blu-ray now. You can find our review here.
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