Filmmaker Interview: Michael Paul Stephenson Returns to Nilbog in “Best Worst Movie”

Filmmaker Interview: Michael Paul Stephenson Returns to Nilbog in "Best Worst Movie"
Filmmaker Interview: Michael Paul Stephenson Returns Nilbog "Best Worst Movie"

“Best Worst Movie” is the acclaimed feature length documentary that takes audiences on an off-beat journey into the undisputed worst movie in cinematic history: “Troll 2.” The film is scheduled to open theatrically this Friday, May 14.

In 1989, when an Italian filmmaker and unwitting Utah actors shot the ultra-low budget horror film, “Troll 2,” they had no idea that twenty years later they would be celebrated worldwide for their legendary ineptitude.

Two decades later, the film’s now-grown-up child star (Michael Paul Stephenson) unravels the improbable, heartfelt story of the Alabama dentist-turned-cult movie icon and the Italian filmmaker who come to terms with this genuine, internationally revered cinematic failure. [Synopsis provided by the filmmakers]

“Best Worst Movie”
Director/Producer: Michael Paul Stephenson
Producer: Lindsay Rowles Stephenson
Producer: Brad Klopman
Director of Photography/Editor: Katie Graham
Editor: Andrew Matthews

Director Michael Paul Stephenson on his past as an infamous child actor and his origins as a director…

I started out as a child actor. I had done a few school plays and really enjoyed it, so I managed to get an agent in Salt Lake City, who eventually got me the audition for the lead in “Troll 2.” After that travesty, I kind of laid low for a while, just doing a lot of writing. I moved to Los Angeles and was making commercials, writing, and occasionally going on auditions. My inspiration to become a filmmaker was purely out of a love for the medium, and an insatiable desire to get involved in any way I could.

…on being unable to escape the pull of “Troll 2″…

For the longest time, I completely ignored “Troll 2.” Then I started getting these messages from “Troll 2” fans on MySpace (Yes, this really dates the project…) telling me how much they loved this movie; this horrible, horrible movie that I wanted nothing to do with. Then I woke up one morning and thought to myself, “I’m the child star of the worst movie ever made… there’s a story here.” And the ideas for making the documentary just kind of snowballed from there.
…on reuniting with his co-stars to make his documentary…

We kept a very small crew – usually it was just me with one camera and my Director of Photography Katie Graham with another camera, and of course the subject. With documentaries especially, you have to build a certain trust between filmmaker and subject before they’re able to ignore the camera and really open up, and being as intimate as possible is a major factor in doing that. If you have 5 or 10 people in the room with them, it makes the subject hyper-aware of what they’re doing and the armor comes up. It also didn’t hurt that I was, in effect, one of them, having also acted in “Troll 2.” It was like a family reunion of sorts.
…on the appeal of “Best Worst Movie”…

I think it’s a film with a very broad audience – the challenge is just convincing people to watch it in the first place. At its core, it’s the story of George Hardy, this small-town dentist who has suddenly been catapulted to marginal fame. It’s a very relatable story because George is such a genuine person, and people cling to that. Once people realize that it’s not just about people fawning over vegetarian goblins, they seem to really enjoy it.
…and on documentaries that have inspired him.
“American Movie,” the documentary by Chris Smith. The idea that no one in the world would have known about these amazing characters, this great story, had the film not been made. Also, while we were making the film, seeing the success of “The King of Kong,” another niche documentary, was very inspirational. It told me, “Okay, so there is a market out there for these bizarre, non-political documentaries.”

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