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JAMES GUNN


Starting out with B-movie godfathers, Troma, James Gunn has since gone on to write such films as the superhero comedy The Specials, the live-action Scooby-Doo flick and the much grumbled about Dawn Of The Dead remake. He's also an author having written a novel (The Toy Collector) and co-written a book with Lloyd Kaufman (Everything I Know About Filmmaking I Learned From The Toxic Avenger). We had an opportunity to ask James a few questions and here's what he had to say...


Who do you think you are?

A clump of bio-organic mass, spiritually charged, thinking too much.

You started out with Troma by co-writing their 1997 film, Tromeo & Juliet, how did that come about?

I applied for a job at Troma filing papers, answering phones, whatever. Lloyd Kaufman found out I had done some writing and hired me to write Tromeo & Juliet for a hundred and fifty bucks.

How did you end-up attached to Scooby-Doo?

I did a draft of Spy Vs. Spy for Jay Roach and Warners. They liked it, but not enough to make it, I suppose. Anyway, they thought I was the right guy for Scooby, and offered me the job. I said okay, sure, why not. I didn't know it would lead to what it has.

With all the fan pressure you're obviously going to be under for the Dawn Of The Dead remake, what was your intention going in and how close to the original George A. Romero film were you trying to get?

My intention was just to write a kickass zombie film with heart, soul, and gore. I didn't want to stick close to Romero's version at all. He did what he did wonderfully. I wanted to take the same general situation and create my own story.

Are you happy with the results of "Dawn" and how do you think it will do? How will fans react?

Dawn is going to be a big hit. As for how fans will react, I don't know. That's up to them, I suppose.

What are your thoughts on the horror genre, in general?

In general? It's in a bad situation. But I see hope with films like Cabin Fever and 28 Days Later - films that were risk takers, and didn't work within the studio system. I wish horror films weren't as popular as they are. I wish they went back to being fringe entertainment that existed on the outskirts of Hollywood. Then people would get to make films that are truly shocking without a million noses getting into the process, diluting it. Also, we need to get the MPAA off our backs. If a movie is Rated R, you're not supposed to get in if you're under 17. So why are they so strict about the violence in those films? Either the MPAA need to loosen up or people need to make NC-17 or Unrated films a viable economic option. They don't allow advertising for NC-17 films in most major papers, TV stations, etc. So it's almost impossible to make a good flesh-eating pic in this day and age. Thank God for DVD. The MPAA hasn't caught on to the Unrated versions on disk yet.

Looking back on your thoughts of the horror genre, how do you feel about Hollywood's current obsession with remaking movies? In the last year alone we've seen Texas Chainsaw, Dawn..., Starsky & Hutch, S.W.A.T. and there's more coming, do you think there's a "block" on original ideas currently?

I don't think it has anything to do with original ideas, and it has everything to do with what audiences pay money to see. If Starsky and Hutch came out with the same actors, same plot, and so on, but a different title, it'd make a lot less money. People like the comfort food of familiar ideas, and they like to see how these stories change and remain the same in the light of a different medium and different historical context. If people want to stop seeing remakes and reinterpretations they should stop buying tickets. It's not the studios' fault - they just do what people want.

That said, remakes are kind of a stupid thing to get up in arms about. Listen, I think the new Catwoman costume looks silly as anyone. But it doesn't take away my little boy boners I got looking at Julie Newmar in her sleek black sparkly suit. The memories of those are as pure as they were in '74. Reinventing stories and myths has been a part of popular entertainment as long as there's been popular entertainment, from Shakespeare to Mary Shelley to Christianity to the Grimm Brothers. Sometimes the reinterpretations are good, sometimes bad. It's always been this way. Yet, suddenly, at this one point in time, people start freaking out on Dawn of the Dead or Superman. I really don't think the people having seizures over this stuff have any awareness of the history of popular entertainment. They're seeing culture through a keyhole. They are to popular entertainment what literal-interpretation fundamentalists are to Christianity.

It's almost like you're getting to live out a "fanboy" dream what with working for Troma and writing scripts for two well-known "franchise" names; but what is your total "fanboy" (or dream) project?

I've never been that interested in reinterpreting other people's works, so I don't really have a dream project in this area. I did like Freakies cereal a lot, though. If there was a big budget Freakies movie being considered, I might like to be a part. A sock puppet version of the New Testament could be cool, too.

What's next for James Gunn?

I'm about to go downstairs and make myself another cup of coffee. After that, who knows. The world is mine.


If you'd like more info on James and his career go to his Official Website.

Film images are by Warner/Universal