you worked on any major movies recently?
The last big-budget feature I crewed on, I guess, would be Starship
Troopers, Verhoeven's parody of Heinlein's classic SF novel.
I was on that one for about a year, year-and-a-half. Mostly as a
special effects still photographer. Oh, and I authored a Making
Of Starship Troopers book, too, for Boulevard Books. That came
out in 1997, right after Future Noir. And because of that
book, I was on the Starship sets nearly every day, just like
Blade Runner. I really enjoyed working on Starship Troopers,
mainly because one of my best friends, Jon Davison, was producing
that, and because it was based on a book I'd read and adored as
a kid, and because it gave me a chance to work with Phil Tippett
again. Phil's a special effects maestro who's incredibly sharp and
very, very funny; we met during the first RoboCop, which
was one of my films when I was working at Orion as a studio suit.
N: Didn't you also have a walk-on
in Starship Troopers?
PS: That's right! Paul Verhoeven gave me a bit part.
I'm the guy who pushes that cow into a room with the Warrior
Bug, who then proceeds to rip the cow apart. That was a fun
afternoon; I enjoyed the opportunity to perform with a sweet-tempered,
highly professional cow named Sarah... (laughs).
Finally, as far as my personal life goes - I hope I'm not boring
N: Not at all.
PS: Okay. Well, you asked for it.
Back in 1982, I was doing many of the same things I'm doing today.
Reading, voraciously. Watching every type of film imaginable. Getting
into trouble. Playing guitar. Traveling. Shooting photographs. Writing.
Lecturing. Living unconventionally. Grappling with the existential
paradoxes of the universe. All that nonsense.
N: What exactly did you think you
were getting into when you got the assignment from Cinefantastique
(and associated articles in Omni) to follow the filming of
Blade Runner? Did you ever think it would lead to a book?
PS: Never. And I really had no idea of what to initially
expect from the people who were making BR. See, I'd already been
around the film business long enough to know that the tone of each
project, its overall personality, differs from movie to movie. Which
means that sometimes a production company can be warm and accommodating,
while other times it can be cold and uncooperative. Or everything
in between. Those kinds of variables greatly influence what a journalist
is able to pull out of a production - facts, set visits, interviews,
or photos. All of which, of course, shapes the final piece you're
supposed to write.
when I first contacted Brighton Productions, the one-shot corporation
Michael Deeley set up to produce Blade Runner, the only thing
I knew to expect was the unexpected - there were a lot of different
ways Brighton could've responded to me. Thankfully, both Deeley
and Ridley Scott seemed to sense early on that I was going to approach
the history of their project with the same seriousness and dedication
they were applying to the making of their film. The bottom line
was, I got lucky on BR. I was fortunate enough to deal with extremely
talented filmmakers who trusted me enough to let me go about my
work in the way I thought best suited their picture. That basically
meant pestering everyone. Mercilessly (laughs).
There's always been a curious love/hate relationship between Hollywood
and film journalists, you know. The people involved with the actual
creation of a film - its cast and crew - usually treat entertainment
journalists relatively well. Unless you're absolutely incompetent.
Or a jerk. Or someone with an ax to grind. I mean, filmmakers usually
want their movie to get exposure; that way audiences can get enough
advance word on a project so that, when it finally comes out, they'll
remember that advance word and want to see the picture. Conversely,
the people involved with the distribution and marketing of a film
- studios and publicists - want to control whatever you write as
much as possible, at least in the sense of keeping any controversial
or negative aspects of the production away from the press. Studios
and publicists can also be very, um, counterproductive concerning
the process of photo approval, especially when they withhold illustrations
they feel shouldn't see print before a film is released. That approach
has only gotten worse, by the way, which makes me grateful that
I actually work in the film industry most of the time now, instead
of just writing about it. Because today's journalists typically
have to pass through so many layers of approval just to get a handful
of stills that the process drives them right up the wall.