Director Jack Sholder is, perhaps, best known for a trio of 80s horror and science fiction titles, Alone in the Dark, Nightmare on Elm St 2: Freddy’s Revenge and The Hidden. But his adventurous resume includes such features as Renegades (featuring Kiefer Sutherland) , an episode of the short-lived television version of Tremors and (another terror sequel) Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies. Plenty of comic book aficionados, though, still thrill to Sholder’s Generation X, a fun television film based on the X-Men comic spin-off. Here, on the eve of his appearance at the Sci-Fi Spectacular, where The Hidden will be screened, Sholder takes a moment to talk about the behind the scenes dynamics of Generation X and his experiences working with some of Hollywood’s most established talents.
BGHF: The Sci Fi Spectacular will be showing The Hidden this weekend and everyone knows you for Alone in the Dark and Nightmare on Elm St 2, as well. But, I’m actually thrilled to be talking to you because I love so much of your work: By Dawn’s Early Light, Generation X…Twelve Days of Terror, which I think is really, really well done.
Jack Sholder: Thank you. I’m really glad that you have seen some of my other films. 12:01. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen 12:01…
BG: I haven’t.
Sholder: You should really see that one. I think that it’s certainly in my top 3.
BG: Awesome! I’ll have to check it out. That would have been one of my questions: what’s a neglected favorite of yours? So, I’m glad you brought it up. But, as a burgeoning comic book geek, I’d really love to talk about Generation X, here. Matt Frewer, as the villain Dr. Tresh, is just over the top and amazing in it. What kind of experience was it like working with him?
Sholder: Oh, Matt?
Sholder: Matt was fantastic! As a matter of fact, the writer was one of the producers, and he was extremely protective of his work. He didn’t want anything changed. He was on set everyday and criticized me for having the actors move around too much! (Laughs) He just wanted them to stand still and say his lines. We didn’t always see eye to eye. He didn’t want anyone changing his dialogue. But as far as Matt went, he’d let Matt do anything! Matt was brilliant. He’s kind of like a Jim Carrey. He never quite got that kind of recognition, but he’d just improvise and he was unbelievable. He was kind of like a genius. He was a lot of fun. He was a great guy.
BG: He’s so well balanced by Finola Hughes in that, who is just so cool and detached and sexy as Emma Frost!
Sholder: Yeah. That was a difficult film to make because we were trying to do something extremely ambitious. The means were very limited, though. New World Pictures, which was the producing entity, had been taken over by Revlon, I think. They were doing the film for Fox, but they wanted to run it like a normal business. Like, “If you say you’re going to bring the film in for $6,000,000 or $7,000,000, you can’t go to $7,000,000 and 10 cents! So, everyone was very nervous and people were standing around with their arms crossed, keeping an eye on me. So, there was a lot of pressure. But, it was a great shoot and it was really fun to do. It was fun to be able to push things really far, visually, and in terms of performances.
BG: On that, you worked with Frewer and Hughes, who were well honed, but a lot of the cast was younger and just starting out. Do you work differently with seasoned actors than with fresh talent?
Sholder: Yes. When you’re working with younger talent, they’re very open. They’re not set in their ways. They’re grateful for whatever they get. But, sometimes, they don’t quite have the chops. When you’re working with the old guys, the seasoned guys, they really know what they’re doing. But, occasionally, they can get a little grumpy. On By Dawn’s Early Light, Darren McGavin could be a little grumpy. Martin Landau is lovely. He’s a terrific guy. He’s actually been sort of a mentor of mine in terms of how to work with actors. Rip Torn was kind of a handful. But, he’s a great actor. James Earl Jones…you know, it doesn’t get any better! I love working with those guys. I did a pilot for NBC. The series never got made. I had Norman Lloyd. He had been in the Mercury Theatre with Orson Welles. He was the guy who fell off the Statue of Liberty in Saboteur by Alfred Hitchcock. He used to play tennis with Charlie Chaplin. He was friends with Chaplin! He was friends with Welles and Bertolt Brecht! So, just by having lunch with him, I was only one step removed from almost everyone who was ever great in Hollywood
BG: That’s amazing! I’m a theater critic on the side, so those names are killing me!
Sholder: Oh, nice! Speaking of great, great theater actors, I worked with Beatrice Straight.
BG: I love her. Hopefully, she will come back into public consciousness a bit with this Poltergeist remake coming out. She was so great in the original.
Sholder: She got an Academy Award for Network. She played William Holden’s wife. She was basically in two scenes. There was one small scene and then there was one big scene where she finds out that he has been having an affair with Faye Dunaway. That got her an Academy Award.
BG: …and it was so well deserved! I love those character actresses who made such a mark, but don’t have the recognition of Meryl Streep or what-have-you!
Sholder: Yeah. Oh, yeah! Me, too!
(Note: The film that Sholder worked with Straight on was a 25 minute adaptation of The Garden Party, a Katharine Mansfield story. It was shown on PBS and won a number of awards, further proof of this director’s amazingly eclectic skills.)
Be sure to meet Sholder this Saturday, April 18th, in Chicago at the Sci Fi Spectacular. After the screening, Sholder will be discussing The Hidden and many of his other projects. There will be a number of cool vendors, free autographs and photos and, in addition to The Hidden, there will be 16 hours of cool horror and science fiction films, including Screamers and Alien, shown, as well. Get more information at: https://www.facebook.com/events/771555102921288/.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!