Ever wanted to know the almost true story of Mark Torgl, the man behind The Toxic Avenger’s Melvin Junko? Mark’s teamed with filmmaker Joe Nardelli to bring fans Toxic Tutu, a mockumentary that takes a skewed and humourous look at Mark’s life since the fateful day Melvin was affected by radioactive waste and turned into Toxie. With Toxic Tutu in the final stages of an Indiegogo campaign, we were lucky enough to catch up with Mark to discuss the feature, Toxie and plenty more.
STARBURST: When and how did the first idea come up to make a mockumentary looking at your story?
Mark Torgl: Toxic Avenger was made 30 years ago, where my character Melvin becomes Toxie. 2 years ago, the monster convention Mad Monster Party based out of Charlotte, North Carolina called me and said their fans wanted to meet me. I had never done a monster convention as I’ve been successfully working as a TV editor in Hollywood all these years. So I thought it would be fun and agreed to participate. My only requirement was that my fans must be allowed to tickle my ass with a feather when they wanted to. My film school friend Joe Nardelli asked if he could come along to document my experience at the convention. I said yes and Toxic Tutu was born.
You’ve largely been out of the spotlight since Toxie first appeared back in 1984. What was it like to see the rise of the Toxic Avenger whilst you stayed out of the public eye?
Yeah, I was largely out of the limelight as I was living with Julie the sheep in a wooden shack in the swamps of New Jersey. When I finally saw the light of day, I was happy to see that Toxic Avenger had survived and thrived all these years. And since the birth of public media it has exploded. I did a couple of small acting roles for fun, including a cameo in Toxic Avenger 4 and a cameo in the upcoming Return to Nukem High: Volume 2. Now that I have been attending other monster conventions to continue with the making of Toxic Tutu, my cult celebrity popularity has blossomed and my penis has grown 2 inches.
How much of Toxic Tutu actually pulls from your real life experiences?The filming we do at conventions is real interactions with fans. The fictional story is a whole made up world of where and why I have been in hiding all these years. Toxic Tutu is “The Almost True Story of Whatever Became of The Toxic Avenger’s Mark Torgl!”
And for the moments of Toxic Tutu that use creative freedom and look to exaggerate certain aspects, were there any particular things that influenced those ideas?
It’s all based on my experience in the original Toxic Avenger; the fictional idea that something happened to me on the set of The Toxic Avenger in the waste site where the movie was made. Toxic Tutu is also an homage to Troma, and the cinnamon anal cream that Lloyd uses on his haemorrhoids.
How was it to come back and work with so many of the Troma family on a full feature again?
I always enjoy working with the truly independent Troma gang. It’s all for the love of film and definitely not for financial gain. Lloyd is a comic genius in my opinion, and there is never a dull moment when we are together. I’ve attended several conventions where I sat at the Troma booth with Lloyd to meet the ravenous Troma fans. Troma fans are the greatest and best looking fans in the world. Lloyd and I also have spent a good amount of time in the restrooms of the conventions comparing urine streams.
You appeared again in Citizen Toxie, but do you think there’s any way that we’ll ever see another Melvin Junko appearance at some point?
Lloyd is busy writing Toxic Avenger 5 and he has said there will be a part for me, but I will have to pay Troma $50 to be in it. Also, there has been a Hollywood version of Toxic Avenger in development for a while. I would love to have a part in that, maybe as Melvin’s dad or a sheep.
Your on-screen appearances have been kept to a minimum over the decades, which makes this feature even more intriguing. Was your absence by choice and was it a case of you just being happy to focus on other avenues in life?
I never wanted to be a struggling actor looking for that next gig. I went to NYU grad film school to work on the other side of the camera, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I originally got involved with Troma because they put up a notice on the NYU job board to come work on a real film. I started with Troma working as the script supervisor for The First Turn On, the movie they made the year before they made Toxic Avenger. During the filming of The First Turn On, the actor that was supposed to play Duane, the camp counsellor’s boyfriend, didn’t show up and Llloyd told me to step in and do the part. Duane was another over-the-top socially awkward outrageous nerd. There is a dinner scene I have in this movie that is unlike any dinner scene ever filmed. The next year when they were casting Toxic Avenger, Troma called me up and asked if I wanted to play the lead character of Melvin as they were looking for a similar character to what I did on First Turn On. I told Lloyd I would do it but I wasn’t going to pay them $50 to do the part. They finally said, “OK, just pay us $25.”
As for Toxie himself, do you feel that he’s often overlooked when superheroes are discussed amongst film fans and critics?
Toxie is a superhero unlike any other so I think it’s appropriate not to be lumped in with other superheroes. Toxie is comic, socially-aware, wears a tutu, and comes from a background of super nerdom. Other superheroes only wish they could be compared to Toxie.
At our publication we absolutely love pretty much any and everything Troma, but do you think that the reputation of Troma Studios as low-budget, guerrilla filmmakers hinders the company in the perception it has from some in the film industry?
Of course, but it also sets them apart as being completely autonomous and unbeholden to Hollywood. Hollywood cannot make a movie the way Troma does, and that’s something Troma prides itself on.If all goes well, when can fans expect to see Toxic Tutu and how will you be distributing it?
We’re deep into post-production and we still have some pickups to shoot and a big finale scene that Lloyd Kauffman is in. We are hoping for a release in early 2016. We will be shopping for a distributor soon, and have not ruled out Troma.
Finally, for those wishing to help out, how and where can they do so?
Our current Indiegogo campaign to raise the finishing funds needed to complete Toxic Tutu can be found at Indiegogo “TOXIC TUTU Finishing Funds”. Also, check out our progress and updates at ToxicTutu.com and the Toxic Tutu Facebook fan page.
Be sure to check out the latest teaser for Toxic Tutu:
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