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The Awesomely Punk Rock Filmography of Jello Biafra

By Will Harris | Indiewire March 20, 2014 at 1:13PM

With Jello Biafra appearing on "Portlandia," we checked in with the Dead Kennedys frontman to talk about his very eclectic acting career.
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From there, you took the next logical step from playing Satan and turned up as an evil porn director in "Bikini Bandits" (2002).


That was the name of my role: "Evil Porn Director." Yeah, they gave me a blonde '70s 'do and a Fu Manchu mustache and shades and a leisure suit. Dee Dee Ramone played the Pope, Corey Feldman was the Angel Gabriel and Maynard James Keenan played the Devil. Very few of us were on the set at the same time, but I did meet Dee Dee while I was there.

Was that the first time you’d met him?

I’d met him one time before: as a wide-eyed teenage fan when the Ramones played their first show in Denver in early '77. 

2004's "Death and Texas" seems like it's right up your alley, given its political message.

That's another one I wish had gotten a larger audience. It was a cool anti-death penalty statement film -- I think Charles Durning is in it, too, but we never met -- where you have a star NFL wide receiver who's on death row because he was sitting in a car during a fatal armed robbery by the building and is scheduled for execution, but the fictional version of the Dallas Cowboys needs him for the Super Bowl. So they let him out of prison, he drops the pass at the end of the game, so they take him back and execute him. [laughs]

I was only set for a day. They cast me as the press spokesman for the Texas Department of Corrections, and on what I’m assuming was the last take, I didn't hear them yell, "Cut," so I had to keep on going, reading a statement until I'd run out of paper! I just made up more and more stuff, explaining exactly how lethal injection works, adding, "And then, should all that fail, we will fry his ass!" At that point, the cast and crew all cracked up, so I guess they couldn't use it for the movie. I know the film industry is a different world and there's too many people for everybody to keep track of later, but I'd kind of like to be informed when these things actually get released! I found "Death and Texas" at Atomic Records in Burbank, in the used bin. And I found a "Tapeheads" DVD in a gas station in Idaho!

After that, you returned to politics again to play a mayor in a 2008 zombie movie called "RetarDEAD."


Yeah, that was a strange connection. I saw the previous movie those guys made: "Monsturd," where a serial killer escapes from prison and tries to hide in a sewage plant, falls into a vat of radioactive sewage and turns into this giant piece of shit who begins mauling and eating people. [laughs] I saw the movie, and my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I realized that part of it had been shot on my block! I began to wonder, "Who are these people? One of them must be my fucking neighbor!"

I think the ex-wife actually has the house, but they all still work together on these projects. The two guys who make those, Dan West and Rick Popko, they may do commercial advertising for a living, because the production value on those movies is quite high, but they did both of them for tiny amounts of money. And the editing is very sharp and very crisp, unlike a lot of underground independent films. 

For "RetarDEAD," they had already shot it when they found out I was a fan, so they just added a scene and added a character. And there I was, yet again, at a press conference. This time, I was the mayor of Butte County, lying through my teeth -- of course -- trying to quell the hysteria about the mysterious developmentally disabled zombie murders which are going on. It was the drug that the same mad doctor who created the Monsturd was involved with. It was supposed to make developmentally disabled people rise up to more normal intelligence, but instead it turned them into rabid zombie geniuses.

These last few films you made weren't full-length, but you're actually in them longer than you're in some of these other films we’ve talked about. The first one, from 2011, is called "I Love You... I Am the Porn Queen."


I play a couple of roles in that one. The movie was written and directed by Ani Kyd, who I had first met on the set of "The Widower" years before. She handed me a demo of her music the next day, and I was absolutely floored, so Alternative Tentacles ended up releasing the album. She just put out an album of newer material that's less heavy rock and more... voodoo torchy. She plays the disgruntled porn queen, obviously, and I am both her pimp-like agent and the reclusive Bukowski-looking sculptor that she falls in love with. She hadn't made a film before, but she's got some other irons in the fire now, so stay tuned!

And then Ani also turns up in 2013's "The Hipster Games: Blowing Smoke," where -- to bring this thing full circle from "Lovedolls Superstar" -- you play the President again.


She'd come down to California for a visit, and I needed to get that part done, so we just tossed her in. [laughs]

I can't decide if your role makes you the Donald Sutherland of punk or not.

Well, I'd rather be Donald Sutherland than Kiefer Sutherland. I don't know how anybody who tried to make a hero out of Jack Bauer in "24" could sleep at night!

Did you actually have any frame of reference to the "Hunger Games" films?

No, I've never seen them. I just kind of did what they wanted me to do. But at least there was an actual script this time! For "Portlandia," I was told ahead of time to memorize my lines because there would be a lot of improvisation, then right before the first scene we shot, the director told me, "Oh, yeah -- by the way, Carrie and Fred haven't learned any of their lines. You've just got to go with the flow!" [laughs] But it's actually a lot of fun to work that way. I think having those original lines as a guidepost was probably a good idea. And that formula really seems to work for them.

So if they called you back, you’d be ready to go again, then?

Well, especially if it’s all improv. How can I not be ready?

This article is related to: Television, TV Interviews, Interviews, Jello Biafra, Portlandia, Tapeheads, IFC





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