Interview: 'Piranha 3DD' Director John Gulager On Fish, Fun And Feast
When it comes to blood, gore and creatures with big teeth, nobody does it better then Director John Gulager. As the chosen director for the Project Greenlight film "Feast" and the helmer of its subsequent sequels Sloppy Seconds and The Happy Finish, Gulager has carved a niche as a filmmaker who can deliver sins and scares of the flesh with ease. His latest outing is no different - a funny, salacious and blood-soaked sequel to Alexandre Aja’s updated Piranha film aptly titled "Piranha 3DD." (Available on DVD/Blu-ray now from Anchor Bay Entertainment and Dimension Films) But unlike Aja’s sometimes darker toned take, Gulager’s version has its tongue firmly planted in cheek, paying more homage to the 1978 Joe Dante film and re-teaming Gulager with fellow "Feast" scribes Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. From an unforgettable opening with legends Clu Gulager and Gary Busey to more zany explanations via "Back to the Future" icon and local piranha expert Christopher Lloyd, "Piranha 3DD" is fun and clear case of what you see is what get. (Namely lots of blood and boobs – and set in a water park no less!) We got a chance recently to chat with filmmaker Gulager and he talked one-on-one to Starpulse.com about everything "Piranha 3DD," including how he got involved, some of his film influences and insight into some of his colorful cast. So grab a weapon and get out of the water, here’s 3DD helmer...
Can you talk about how you came on board for "Piranha 3DD" – was it something you were offered or did you pursue it?
John Gulager: It was a phone call out of the blue. My phone ringer for Dimension sounds like that emergency dive sound, ehhh, ehhh - so it’s always a little scary. Then it was like, ‘Hold for Bob Weinstein.’ And he just said, ‘Gulager. "Piranha." You wanna do it?’ It was very strange and unexpected and very much out of the blue.
The tone of your film is very much in the Corman style of camp – would you say that this one takes after more the Joe Dante version as opposed to the Alexandre Aja remake?
JG: There’s a lot of the Joe Dante version in here, like when the kids are skinny-dipping. That’s how Joe starts out, but we just did a twist where we don’t kill the kids! (Laughs) But also we had a lot of "Jaws" stuff too, which the original "Piranha" was a spoof on "Jaws." "Jaws" had just come out and was very successful and "Piranha" was the Corman version. So there was a lot of the Joe Dante stuff in there – at least we thought so!
The film is filled with tons of cool celeb cameos – was this something Patrick and Marcus wrote in or from your own ideas?
JG: Both. When I got the call way back when Bob had this idea that there would be celeb cameos. So Marcus, Patrick and I came up with the names and one of the names was David Hasselhoff. For me I’m a big fan of the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie "JCVD" and I’m not comparing it to that film, but the original version of the Hoff character was actually way more down and out, but I don't think he was into that. (Laughs) Like for instance the hotel room scene we added the two girls to make it not quite so bad. A lonely ex-TV star composing a song for his next album – that’s how rock bottom it originally was. But there are always changes in the script as you go along.
I adore the highly underrated David Koechner when he's in comedic mode – can you talk about casting him?
JG: I’m a big fan of his and he came on with a very sleazy smile naturally. He’s so funny and a staple of the movie.
Christopher Lloyd does much more work here then in the Aja version – was he gung ho about doing more piranha material and what was he like to work with?
JG: He had line after line and words after words. In between takes you’d just look over at poor Chris and he’s just working out all the lines for himself. They don’t all have to make sense because it’s all kinds of scientific mumbo jumbo, he’s explaining things and he gives an idea of how this stuff works, but really it’s just mumbo jumbo and to be able to actually say that is pretty tricky. But he’s great.
Loved the amount of gratuitous nudity and blood and gore all in 3DD – was there any rating difficulty as far as the MPAA goes?
JG: This is my take on that, because some people run into so many problems with the MPAA it’s not even funny. But each time with go to them we more or less get a pass in that because it’s a comedy I think they view it differently then when it’s serious. I dread to think if I ever make a serious movie what I would come up against and the infuriating cuts that might be demanded. But because it’s a comedy they look at it differently and we didn't have any problems. I wish I could say it was a big fight, but I’m glad it wasn’t.
Looking back at your first film, the Project Greenlight experience "Feast", what did you learn most and is there anything you now would have done differently?
JG: I think it’s always shocking when the first time you get into the studio situation where you suddenly have people re-working what you think you should do. It’s so shocking and I think it’s a good thing, but I am still working towards making a film on my own more. I was just reading about a great filmmaker Jose Padilha doing "Robocop" and him saying that for every ten ideas nine are cut and coming from Brazil he’s not used to that – it’s just shocking.
"PIRANHA 3DD" IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY/DVD NOW FROM ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT AND DIMENSION FILMS.