A tradition at the Provincetown International Film Festival finds summer P-Town resident John Waters interviewing the festival’s annual winner of the “Filmmaker on the Edge Award” on stage. This year’s winner was legendary producer and director Roger Corman (the original “Little Shop of Horrors,” “The Raven,” “Swamp Women”), and Waters enthusiastically feted him to a packed audience at Provincetown Town Hall (including Parker Posey and Kirby Dick, who also recieved awards at the event).
“He gave Jack Nicholson, Peter Bogdanovich, Ron Howard, Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme and Scorsese their first chance,” Waters said as he introduced the interview. “He is, in my opinion, well beyond being a filmmaker on the edge. He created a whole new cliff, dove off and climbed back up many, many times. He’s one of my all time heros.”
Check out some highlights from their subsequent talk below.
1. Corman thinks comedy is the “most dangerous genre” to make.
“The safest genre is the horror film,” Corman said. “But the most unsafe — the most dangerous — is comedy. Because even if your horror film isn’t very good, you’ll get a few screams and you’re okay. With a comedy, if they don’t laugh, you’re dead.”
2. Corman doesn’t think Hollywood felt threatened by his early success.
When Waters asked Corman if he thought Hollywood was threatened by success in the beginning, Corman responded: “At the beginning, I think they weren’t. I don’t think they were even aware of what they called ‘young independents.’ It wasn’t even until the 1960s when people became aware of what they were doing.”
3. The LSD trips in “The Trip” were collaboratively inspired by the real-life LSD experiences of Corman, Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper.
“My trip was wonderful,” Corman recalled of his one and only experience with LSD. “And that was the problem. If the film only followed my trip, it could be considered to be promoting LSD. Luckily, almost everybody connected with the film had LSD experiences too. The lead actors were Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper… And writing the film was an actor who was a good friend of mine who wasn’t getting much work as an actor at the time, Jack Nicholson. And sometimes on the set we’d start getting into talking about these LSD experiences [and it would inspire what ended up in the film]. Finally, I said, ‘whose trip is this we’re making’? Finally we decided it was ours.”
4. He acted in some of his own films to save money.
“I acted in my own films a couple of times for this reason,” he explained. “Screen Actors Guild rules at that time had it so you’d be paid from the first day you worked until the last day you worked. So you’d try to get your most important actors in and out in the shortest period of time for obvious reasons. But there almost always ends up being this crummy little part that works the first day and the last of shooting. And I’d play that role myself.”
5. Frederico Fellini told Corman to go back to directing.
“He gave me advice,” he said of the Italian director, who had films that were distributed by Corman’s New World Pictures. “He said ‘get out of distribution and go back to directing.’ On the other hand, I think it worked out… He won the damn Academy Award!”
6. Roger Corman knows how to dish dirt (with a little nudging from John Waters).
John Waters poked fun at how nice Corman is, begging him to offer up some rare dirt: “Don’t you have one horror story about a star that you worked with,” Waters asked.
Prefacing the story by noting he’s a “good actor and a good guy,” Corman obliged with a tidbit about 1950s star Stewart Granger.
“He had done nothing but big budget movies,” he said. “But his career was dipping a bit. He was cast in a feature I did called ‘The Secret Invasion,’ which for me was a pretty big picture… We were shooting this scene on this boat off the coast of Yugoslavia in the middle of the night. We were rehearsing this scene and out of the blue [Stewart] said ‘I want that line’ to [his co-star] Edd Byrnes. And Edd said ‘but that’s my line.'”
Granger demanded he get the line since he’s “a star.” Corman decided to instead add a bunch more lines for Granger’s character into the script to appease his ego.
“He was happy,” Corman said. “But this is something actors don’t quite seem to understand. Once you’re done shooting, you go into the editing room… And I cut all his lines out.”
7. But he has no dirt on Dennis Hopper.
“Dennis Hopper was very interesting,” Corman recalled. “I’d never worked with him, but he did not have a good reputation at all. He caused some trouble.”
When Peter Fonda approached Corman about having Hopper cast in “The Trip,” Corman was hesitant.
“I said to Peter, ‘we only have 15 days on this film. We know some of the things Dennis has done on certain pictures.’ And Peter said the three of us should have dinner and just talk about it. I tried to approach it as subtly as I could. After a couple drinks I just said to Dennis, ‘look we’ve only got so much time on this picture and it’s a very difficult picture.’ And he just said to me: ‘Roger, you don’t even need to finish the sentence. I know exactly what you’re going to say. But I will be there on time, everyday and I will work to the best of my abilities everyday.’ And he did. He was a brilliant actor, and there were no problems whatsoever.”
Watch a conversation between Craig Chester and Parker Posey from the same event here.