Shade Rupe loves underground film. He’s spent several decades supporting it as a publicist, acquisitions agent and producer, but he found his greatest expression of fandom in the art of the interview. His new book, “Dark Stars Rising: Conversations From the Outer Realm,” contains 27 casual conversations with established directors and actors from several generations of transgressive cinema. Beginning with a conversation between the teenage Rupe and Divine, the compilation includes elder veterans of the craft such as Alejandro Jodorowsky and more recent cult directors like Crispin Glover and Gaspar Noé. Rupe spoke with indieWIRE about the inspiration behind the book and the counterculture that made it possible.
When did you originally begin compiling these interviews?
I had been thinking of reprinting Funeral Party, a journal which was first published in an edition of 1,000 copies in 1995. I had those interviews in one folder. In 2002, I was cleaning other folders and found that I had a few more interviews here and there, published in other places. I thought, “Why not collect all the interviews in one book with some illustrations?” I sent an e-mail to David Kerekes of Headpress books and he suggested I send a proposal. He sent me a contract the next day.
How has the underground film scene changed since you first got into it?
Two important books crossed my path as a young person. The first I found when I was very young, I don’t even think 10 years old: The illustrated screenplay for “A Clockwork Orange.” Thankfully, Mom often would leave me at bookstores while she was doing errands. I was at this little bookstore in Gilman Village in Issaquah, Washington, and pulled it out from a bottom shelf in the film section. I was mesmerized by these images and I learned that cool movies were out there. Seattle was really into cult and exploitation movies back then. It was a whole different world. America was not yet a big giant mall. And this was when punk rock was punk rock. It wasn’t this click-a-button ordering system. You had to leave your home and go find it.
When I moved to New York in 1992, it was still pretty much New York. Guiliani had just been elected and hadn’t yet sicced his goons on the city. I immediately joined Anthology Film Archives and saw every Paul Sharits and Stan Brakhage and Jordan Belson film I could. I had read about this stuff for so long and here it was. There were midnight movies and all sorts of crazy stuff. September 11th brought downtown to a halt, and the developers were given free rein to destroy what little of the city was left. Art, and the underground, died.
Some parts of the book read like a memoir. We witness your relationship to certain filmmakers and their work at different stages of their careers. How do you see your growth as a cinephile reflected in the book?
I love this question. This is a collection from three different decades with a couple interviews performed while I lived in Seattle, many in New York, and a couple while on the road. I interviewed Alejandro Jodorowsky while I was a judge at the 2000 Chicago Underground Film Festival and Jodorowsky was the guest of honor. The Stephen O’Malley interview was while I was visiting Seattle in ’09. I’m reading the book now because it’s so exciting how many people are enjoying it that there must be something there. There are several books I’ve read that gave me a path, like Robert Anton Wilson’s “Cosmic Trigger” and Colin Wilson’s “The Outsider,” which I read with only Divine under my belt. As the years have gone by and the quality of what’s available in cinemas has lessened, the meetings I’ve have with such great people are what really keeps me going. I was extremely lucky to have worked with the greater-than-great folks at Lincoln Center who allowed me to put together a week’s worth of visits from Ken Russell.
Which interviews are among your favorites?
Gosh, favorites? They’re all so different and offer so much. Udo Kier just makes me laugh. Tura Satana is one amazing lady. Gaspar Noe makes me laugh too, but his style is so particular to him and he’s one of the more humble people I know. People find him so shocking, expecting some forceful dialogue, but he’s a casual guy who enjoys life and likes to entertain. I feel bad even mentioning just a few names because the entire book is one work. I understand it’s made of different people at different times in different mediums, but they’re all just so amazing and mean so much to me. The only interviews I’ve done that are not included are the ones that sadly I did not have a recorder for in my teens. I was flown to Chicago on a press junket for “Sixteen Candles” when I was 14. I interviewed Molly Ringwald, John Hughes and Anthony Michael Hall. No recorder, no photos. I did get my “Sixteen Candles” poster signed by all three but that got lost in the high school art room storage area many, many years ago. Helena Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes for “Lady Jane” — no recorder. Peter Coyote, Bobby Roth, Sidney Lumet — no recorder. I did have my recorder when I interviewed Dennis Hopper, but it dropped on my way into the hotel. I took one shitty picture but I think I lost that negative a long time ago.
The New York Underground Film Festival is no longer around, at least not in the form that you often talk about in your book. What’s the best venue for you to discover these filmmakers today?
There are actually quite a few theaters throughout the country, and the world, to find great unusual eclectic programming. For sheer bizarre and underground stuff, Hadrian Belove’s Cinefamily operation at the Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles is an amazing treasure trove of material you just won’t find anywhere else. New York does have great programming at MoMA, the Walter Reade, Anthology Film Archives and more, but you do have to keep your eyes open for “underground.” The New Beverly is a dear friend, and the Clinton Street in Portland is also close to my heart. I’m hearing about various venues that start up and drift away. Try typing queries in on the internet and see what pops up. You just never know what might be happening near your own home, even in smaller towns.
“Dark Stars Rising” is available from Headpress and can be ordered here.