Interview with Enzo Castellari in
Discussions on Mark Gregory's melancholic nature (and strut), attending the Conan the Barbarian premiere, a love of motorbikes, the fact that some illiterate sod put the Riders in charge during translation, Bronx Warriors 3: Escape From the Earth (& yours truly being promised a cameo) PLUS future projects (well, they were 4 years ago when we did this).
LM- Thank you for arranging to see me today, it’s been a pleasure
EC- My pleasure
LM- I do love your films and I hope to see Bronx Warriors 3
EC- Well, err..there is an idea from the States, two guys that are fans of the Bronx movies. They wrote me an email, several times repeating that “we must do it, we must do it, we must do it” and maybe, maybe who knows it.
LM- Next year, this year?
EC- Next year of course, it’s not easy to find money in the States too right now.
LM- You obviously LOVE making your movies, Bronx Warriors and Bronx Warriors 2 it’s just fun. You just seem to be having a lot of fun. Is there any bits that you found a bit of a drag, was there any bits you didn’t like?
EC- Well in all my movies when I see it again there is something that I like and something that I don’t like and I remember the problem during the movie shooting maybe some time that the moment and the shooting time problems became heavy and heavier and I resolved the scene and sometimes I like my way to resolve and sometimes I don’t like but anyway it’s still the fun because I, to shoot and to direct gives me a lot of fun. I mean I’m so lucky to do that kind of job that I can show on the screen. To direct and to build up a movie is so great a pleasure.
LM- For example Bronx Warriors 2, that final 20 minutes is just like a paint ball game. It’s so much fun it’s just like “ok let’s hide behind this wall and shoot him”. You were obviously having a lot of fun making that and I think the actors were too. They seemed really excited to be there.
EC- For all of them, all of us it’s really fun to do it especially when you are doing war movies or a violent movie. A violent scene is funny because all of us know that it’s false it’s not true. So to shoot when it’s really violent, to shoot the blood and to shoot the death is false so it means it’s a play, it’s a game so we enjoy to do that.
LM- Who is your personal biggest influence? When you look back on other movies who do you think has influenced you the most?
EC- Well, several authors, several directors. American directors since I was just a little young spectator. So watching American movies I grew up with American cinema. So especially for the violent scenes, the high speed, the interest is Sam Peckinpah. And then the shot, the way to shoot especially in Aluja. Sidney J Furey. Aluja with Marlon Brando and John Saxon, a western. I like so much the way that Sidney J Furey used the camera and composed the shot.
LM- Tarantino has cited you as an influence and in fact is remaking Inglorious Bastards. Are there any parts of his films where you can see your own style?
EC- Well in Kill Bill…
LM- 1 or 2?
EC- 1. There is a lot of action so yes, I recognise this part of the shot and part of the way how to use the high speed and the action especially the action. All when he is cutting an arm, the blood. But I don’t know really he is influenced by me. He is influenced by the general older action moves that we made since the 60s but I appreciate, I like, I’m very proud that Tarantino is still saying in all these interviews, talking about me about my movies. I like that, I like it very much. And I’m waiting for him to start his Inglorious Bastards the remake.
Right now his lawyer told us that he will do Kill Bill 3 before IB but it depends on how the market is. It’s a lot of problems just to decide which movies you can start or wait to start. So he will tell us the good news as soon as possible, I hope.
LM- John Woo actually has cited you as an influence and you can see this in films like Hard Boiled…
EC- I read sometimes in interviews when they are talking about me. They say that I am the European John Woo, before I was the European Sam Peckinpah so it depends. In my next movie I will play the European Tarantino.
LM- I’ve heard you called the Italian 80’s Tarantino, I think it was. Enio your brother plays Shadow in The New Barbarians with the long silver hair and the beard. Looked like Pao Mei from Kill Bill Vol. 2.
LM- Did you ever realise the huuuge appeal that 1990 would have? At 13 me and my mates thought this was the best film in the world.
EC- Well I was hoping that at the time but not sure of course and as soon as the producer Fabrizio de Angelis told me “is a big success, what really you don’t believe it but it’s a big success. You are the most famous director at this moment in the world because I saw the movie everywhere. It’s a big success everywhere”. Well good news. “So now we will do Bronx 2” Ok you pay me double (laughs)
LM- I think from my own personal perspective your films are good because you don’t patronise the audience. You don’t have dialogue for 10 minutes just to pad out the film. I mean in Bronx 2 within the first 5 seconds we see that guy come flying out of a window, land with a splat and then they beat him up. Start as you mean to continue.
EC- That was Ottaviano dell Aqua. The stuntman. This is the way because it’s easy for me to do action scenes. So when we are losing time or do not have permission to shoot somewhere or we have some problem during the movie on the set I resolve with action. I have my stunt men, the camera man and the special effects for the fire, the squibs, very very easy for me to build up the choreography and the action.
LM- With the proliferation of DVDs on the market and the interest recently in Vipco (UK), Shriek Show and Blue Underground re-releases of your movies are you surprised that the movies are proving so popular with a new generation?
EC- Yeah, I’m very surprised and very glad and happy of course. It gives me the second youth. Because I didn’t expect so many young fans in the world. But only in foreign countries DVDs of my films have never been released in Italy. The problem for all my professional life since I began is that in Italy I am quite known and appreciated you know, the critics are talking about me sometimes a good way and bad way. Depends on the movie of course. But the big unbelievable success that I have in the world nobody, nobody in Italy knows that and nobody of the journalists the newspapers are talking about that. Now after Tarantino they are starting “Ah, Tarantino is talking about him”. So he has given me this new chance to read some news about me in Italy, but in the world I am accustomed to it since always, I have fans everywhere. I remember that in MIFED in Milan there is a big festival where they are selling and buying movies. It is the movie market. And I remember that I went there 3 or 4 times but each time I found the producer, a foreign producer buying movies of mine and said I remember that the line is “I am a Castellarista!”. (Laughs). Unbelievable. “I am a fan of Castellari. So I will buy will buy everything as soon as I read Castell… I buy the movie”
LM- What year was this or is it all the time?
EC- Yes always.
LM- In England everyone, at least everyone my age has heard of your films. They know the Bronx movies and Warriors of the Wasteland. They know you.
EC- I remember a Western festival Bite the Bullet in London and there was a wonderful theatre. So the projection was Keoma first and Jonathan of the Bears (Jonathan degli Orsi) second. And Alex Cox the director was directing the meeting to discuss the conference with the fans sitting in the theatre. All of them young people. All. Really unbelievable. And their questions to me were about all my movies. I remember a young guy sitting in the first row tried to talk and Alex went “Ok what you want?”. And he said I’d like to know how, directed to me, how you shot the movie in the Big Racket, the scene when Fabio Teschi was sitting in his car and the bad guys are rolling the car and throwing it down the hill and we see him inside the car during the rolling. How did you do that? I said it’s strange that you remember that well but he said that you must know that all of us know about this scene and we are curious we must know, we must know how you did it. Well a lot of my colleagues want to know how (laughs).
LM- Trade secret?
EC- Yeah, it’s true. It was funny. To be reminded of the Big Racket in England. A young guy sitting in the first row. We are talking about Westerns but he asked me about The Big Racket. It was a big surprise. I like that very much, very proud of that.
LM- When was this?
EC- 3 years ago. Jay Slater do you know him? Jay Slater and Alex Cox organised it.
LM- I think if there was a Q&A session, if you came to like a film convention and you had people there who like your movies like I do you’d be there for 3 hours because there’s so many questions. The whereabouts of Marco de Gregorio being the obvious one but there’s so many things that we would want to know. For example the guys always seem to be very close to the actual explosions when bombs go off.
EC- I used to, I’m accustomed to have the remote control of the bomb and I will push the button at the right time because the stunt guy from a high level has to jump on the tramp and at the moment that he touches the trampoline and then starts to fly I push the button. Especially in Bronx 2 there were a lot of deaths
LM- I read in an interview with you on Franco Nero’s website where you say you do not plan but are influenced by your surrounding locations. This is evident in the mass brawl that occurs at the end of Bronx Warriors 2. How long did that final 20 minutes take to film?
EC- I don’t remember that but I mean for the last fight was an entire week. Only fighting fighting, fighting, explosions jumping and it’s true it’s the environment and the place that suggest to me the action always. This is born on the set.
LM- Was there anything you wanted to but couldn’t do.
EC- Well no not really, I was quite free just to do what I wanted. The problem doesn’t exist because always I write the script. It’s written by me the last version of the script. So I think in advance of all the scenes and I am on the set and I can shoot in the way that I wrote the script. I can change easily. Easy for me to come to a err…new invention for the scene so it’s like that I am front of the computer writing is the same as to stay on the set. We can do this, we don’t have this and this ok, we do it different so what do we have all the elements and I use my choreography.
LM- There’s a lobby card for 1990: Bronx Warriors where we see Rocco Lerro being held down and kicked in the face by Witch, The Ogre’s whip woman. This scene isn’t in the movie in any way, shape or form. I often wondered if there are deleted scenes knocking about. Was this cut for pacing reasons, time restraints…?
EC- Sometimes in the editing. I will find a way to connect scenes just in the editing because they are not connected one to another one. Sometimes if the character is not present in the scene we must forget about him.
LM- I loved the motorcycles from Bronx Warriors.
EC- I wished to have that motorcycle at the end of the movie.
LM- I liked the fact that Trash’s still got that bike, well it’s a different model but he’s still got a bike with a skull on the front at the beginning of Bronx 2 but it gets destroyed in the first 5 minutes when they blow up his house.
EC- I wanted a Motor Guzzi.
LM- They’re beautiful aren’t they.
EC- Oh God! Once in a while you see them driving around Rome. In Bronx Warriors 2 we have a double of Marco to ride on the stairs. He was a big champ of Moto Cross.
LM- I like also in the beginning of Bronx Warriors 2 when Skyboy 3 are looking for people generally and they radio in “We’ve found him!” and they’re really excited because they’ve found this horrendous gang leader. He’s so miserable, Trash, he’s such a melancholic kind of guy that when they start shooting he’s just like “huh?”.
EC- Under the bridge?
LM- Yeah when he’s hiding behind those pipes. But it’s the fact that he doesn’t actually realise they’re there until they fire at him.
LM- It’s wonderful this kind of slow reaction to it.
EC- He was used to it. It’s a war. He was thinking of his problems or he was concentrating.
LM- I saw Bronx Warriors 2 straight after Bronx 1 and assumed it was going to be a direct sequel so there’s very little to link the two so I thought it was revenge for the fact that Anne had been killed in part one and that was why they were shooting at him. We had all these connections in our minds because we’d seen the first one so often.
EC- That scene, the bridge scene there is good with the chopper, the helicopter is very good when there is the explosion and we see the man falling down.
LM- The bendy man. I love that because his leg goes over his head, he somersaults. In English the radio operator then says “That fucker’s KOd Skyboy 3”. I put that on the website there’s all the best lines. Like Dablone says in part 2 “Nobody will sit on a john full of dynamite!” which I think is a wonderful line.
LM- There’s guys in a control room somewhere monitoring all this chaos, in the movie, you were one of them
EC- With a moustache.
LM- Trash keeps killing all the disinfestation squads and there’s this very emotionless guy sitting there saying “Trash has just wiped out another unit” reporting back to Floyd Wangler the chief. Is the character of Trash based on anyone or similar to anyone you know?
EC- No because. Well because, the idea to have a young tough guy in the story was written in the script. But as soon as I chose Marco I do the scenes according to his physics, his face and his value. So I build up on him the character.
LM- How did “the walk” come about? The way he walks?
EC- Well the walk was very, a big problem, big problem. It seems that he’s doing a very strange walk.
LM- Everyone notices it. Everyone I know who’s even seen the film once and isn’t a fan remembers that, that’s the one thing they remember.
EC- There was no way to change his movements. Because maybe for the boots, maybe for the… I don’t know.
LM- The jeans maybe?
EC- Yeah, something, something. But I remember the comments of the bikers, the Hell’s Angels. When he was walking through all the bunch they were “Hey you! Woo-hoo-hooh!” (Laughs).
LM- He’s got the leather waistcoat and he’s oiled. He’s very strange and exotic anyway so I can imagine.
EC- I remember one said “Hey you boss!” (Laughs)
LM- I remember on the director’s commentary on the DVD of Bronx Warriors you said it was lucky he couldn’t speak English so he couldn’t understand their insults.
EC- Yeah, sure to, to not hear the comments (Laughs)
LM- Was he speaking in English and then it was dubbed or was he speaking in Italian.
EC- No, no no. With a dialogue coach he did all his dialogue in English.
LM- But it’s somebody else’s voice later.
EC- Yes of course, but I mean he was talking in English.
LM- The guy that dubbed his voice is a voice in Dario Argento’s Demons.
EC- Well there are not too many actors who are doing the dubbing. They are changing the character. Maybe it is the same actor for many, many, many movies.
LM- Marco de Gregorio had it all. Young, handsome and charismatic. Why do you think he was so uncomfortable as an actor and has now chosen obscurity?
EC- He was very timid and very sweet. He had his own personal big problems, because I remember New York, the first day in New York. We were invited to a big discotheque where Schwarzenegger was presenting Conan. There was a big party and I said “Look Mark, you are for the first time in your life in New York. You are the leading character in the movie you are a very…, you must be proud of this moment. And look we are invited to a party where Schwarzenegger is just in front of you. You see you are taller than him so you must be happy” and he was like “Yeah”.
LM- Is that what he was like? Melancholic all the time. He doesn’t smile at all in the Bronx movies until the very end of part two.
EC- Who knows why he chose obscurity. He disappeared but he told several times that he didn’t like the movie atmosphere and industry.
LM- He didn’t like the pressure or he didn’t like the people or…
EC- He just didn’t like it.
LM- It’s strange because he looks like he’s acting and enjoying himself.
EC- I think that I gave to him the opportunity, the chance to get out from his ghetto so that was strange to see him uncomfortable.
LM- You said on the Bronx 1 DVD commentary that he trusted you and was OK with you but everybody else thought him over sensitive and troublesome.
EC- For the people, the crew they are treating him like they are strange people that he doesn’t like or he presumed to be a star. It was not that. He was timid first of all. And then with his own inside problems, he didn’t resolve it, didn’t resolve that.
LM- Family issues and just maybe being shy. He’s very good looking and very muscular to be shy. He’s one of those guys that everyone’s going to look at, you know, woman or man if you see him walk past. Very charismatic.
EC- You must. If there are a lot of people you are looking at him.
LM- That’s why he was good as Trash I think. I wanted to be Trash. That’s how good he was. Like when I was 13 or 14. The clothes and everything else he wore he just looks good in what he’s got on.
EC- Did you grow your hair too? (Laughs)
LM- I’m trying to now. That’s why I currently look like I’ve stuck my finger in an electric socket.
LM- Stefania your daughter actually defends him in an interview I read with her on the Internet where she’s talking about you and talking about working with Marco and the interviewer says “was Marco de Gregorio difficult to get on with” and she says “not with me and not with my father”.
EC- Yeah, that’s right.
LM- That photo on your website, she’s being wired up with squibs for her death scene…I never understood that. The whole purpose of Bronx Warriors was get Anne back, get Anne back and suddenly they kill her. Were they trying to do that?
EC- Well that I remember that we decided that evening to kill her. And my wife was for the first time on the set.
LM- To see her daughter being killed?
EC- Yeah, started crying. During the movie, during the shooting, “Oh no what are you doing?” (Laughs)
LM- In the original British version we don’t see the scene on the beach or the full funeral. When Trash and her are on the beach and he kneels down and you hear his jeans wrench and she says I’m scared and I should leave and he says “death gets on our skin”. At the end she says as she’s dying “we in the Bronx live with death”. And you think “that doesn’t make sense”. But then you watch the DVD the full version, and you think Ah Ok, because I was like “that doesn’t make any sense. It’s very poetic but it’s because that scene was cut by the censors.
EC- That scene was shot here at the beach in Rome, Umbria close to the restaurant. We were eating and it’s like let’s shoot the scene and then come back to eat.
LM- Is it me or did something get lost in the translation from Italian in Bronx Warriors. The Tigers were controlling everything yeah?
EC- Yeah, the Tigers were in charge.
LM- Because the English version says that the Riders control the Bronx.
EC- No the Tigers were the big guys.
LM- The written prologue in the English version says that after the Bronx is declared No Man’s Land the Riders rule but in the film everyone has to pay homage to the Ogre and he kills George Eastman for being disrespectful.
EC- Next time I send the script first to you (Laughs)
LM- Was there ever a scene shot with more of Chris and the “gizmo” because we see him impaled on the pier. Was there ever a scene shot with more of him or was it like that from the beginning? Was there ever a scene with more detail?
EC- No, no it was always like that.
LM- What projects are you working on at the moment?
EC- A Western. A Western that I’ve been working on since 9 years and I hope next year, that in January or February we will start shooting?
LM- Can you tell me the name of the film?
EC- Well, it depends it will be it will be, the movie a wonderful, unbelievable names of actors. They’re, the cast will be unbelievable, but it became more and more important because each actor is reading the script and he likes it so much that he gives it to a friend. For instance, Liam Neeson read the script and gives it immediately to Ethan Hawke and so it’s like “I like it but now I am directing a movie so you can postpone?” but the problem that we have here is that we don’t have from the government the money that they must give us since 8 months ago, so we are still waiting for that. So the times passes, we must change actors because the actor that was interested before is busy now and maybe is not free for the moment that we are shooting. So that the cast, anyway will be a great cast because people, all the people that read, especially all the actors that read the script they so enjoyed it. I like so much the script, it’s a wonderful story. The ecological, anti racist, a big unbelievable adventure.
LM- I’d like to see you make another film, I really would. I love the Bronx movies and I’ve seen Warriors of the Wasteland, I like that too. I think I’ve seen Bronx Warriors like maybe 20 times I think.
EC- I think that what for sure will happen in the cast, is that several American directors and Dario Argento.
LM- He’s funny. Because you see him and then you see his daughter Asia and it’s like “Is she adopted?”
LM- Bronx Warriors 3, question mark.
EC- It’s still a question mark (laughs).
LM- Escape From the Earth, yeah?
EC- Escape From the Earth. It’s a good project but unfortunately after September the 11th all changed especially in the States for American industry for the independent productions. Very difficult.
LM- I think you said the only returning character would be Alessandro Prete who played Little Strike in part 2. The gangs…it would be nice if we could have some reference to Marco.
EC- Marco’s restaurant? (Laughs) Should be great to find him at last. We tried in the phone book and there are 3 de Gregorios. We called and all 3 of them said “no I’m not the person you’re looking for”. Maybe, who knows it, one of the three was and said “No, I’m not”. Could be, because he’s in his 40s now.
LM- Yeah, depressingly he is. 18 in Bronx Warriors, 1982. 22 years ago. So he’d be 40, probably bald no hair and fat. Wouldn’t even recognise him.
EC- Fat for sure. If he didn’t keep following working out.
LM- In the remake of Dawn of the Dead you get like Wooley’s Diner, and Wooley was a character from the original movie. So in Bronx 3 maybe Trash’s Restaurant?
EC- (Laughs) Or Trash’s bar, or Strike Home Video. Rider’s club.
LM- Maybe Ice’s jacket hanging up in the background. Can I be an extra in Bronx 3? I’d love to do that.
LM- Do you think that the remake of Inglorious Bastards and the fact that Tarantino is directing it will put you in line for a bigger budget?
EC- Yes, what’s going on now is good it’s true. And after Inglorious Bastards will be more, I’m sure, I’m sure. Especially for the Italians are more provincial. Now you are in the mouth of everybody because Tarantino remakes your movie but I am the same as before and maybe I am waiting for this opportunity and this opportunity will give us this moment.