Crypticon Countdown: Troma's Lloyd Kaufman On The Toxic Avenger And His Yale Classmate George W. Bush

The legendary Lloyd Kaufman is the co-founder of Troma Studios, and directed classics such as The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke 'Em High, and Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, which will be screening this weekend at Crypticon Houston. Hair Balls asked the legendary actor, author and Yale graduate about Troma's past, future, and George W. Bush.

Hair Balls: First is the question I have to ask everyone: have you ever spent any time in Houston?
Lloyd Kaufman: Yes, I have been to Houston many times! Rather then go to Rome or Paris, I always prefer Houston. The Alamo beats the Louvre everytime!

HB: Ooookay. It's the 35th anniversary of Troma, and resources available to filmmakers truly allow many more people to "make their own damn movies" these days. But do you think it matters given the stranglehold the major studios still have on distribution?
LK: Troma has a well-known slogan that proudly proclaims us as "MOVIES OF THE FUTURE". Even though the economy is not in the best shape right now, the key to Troma is the love and passion that go into all our films. Since we are low-budget, we can always persevere at times like this, so I don't see why any other young independent filmmakers couldn't succeed. The big problem now for independent film is that the media has been consolidated by conglomerates, and that is why there are fewer independent film studios. Another thing for young democratic filmmakers is that they often forget to write a good script.

HB: Perusing your IMDb resume, I notice you were in Rocky and Rocky V, both times as a drunk. I'm assuming this came about from your collaboration with John Avildsen?
LK: Yes, I was pre-production supervisor for Rocky, and Michael Herz (Troma Co-founder and Vice President) and his wife Maris also synced the sound for the film. I was the one responsible for setting up the museum steps that Rocky jogs up while "Gonna Fly Now" plays. After my excellent portrayal as drunken bum in Rocky, and I been asked to do similar roles on many films since. Including performing live at the Alamo Drafthouse for the fans.

HB: You attended Yale at the same time as George W. Bush. Now that he's out of office, are there any stories you'd like to share?
LK: Well, we took a number of baths together. I also couldn't figure out why in his freshmen year he was constantly searching the campus for weapons of mass destruction!

HB: Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke 'Em High played a big part in the background of my dateless high school years. Does it bother you that mainstream Hollywood doesn't acknowledge the influence of Troma in their product?
LK: Well, film critic Michael H. Klienschrodt in the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper has noted "Without Lloyd Kaufman, there probably never would have been There's Something About Mary or Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo. So I have received some notice. Slowly but surely the influence is being recognized more and more. Brett Ratner is currently producing the remake of Mother's Day, which my brother Charles and I have a cameo in. The Toxic Avenger is getting a lot of attention because of the Off-Broadway musical version as well, which is playing in New York and will be premiering soon in Toronto!

HB: You turn 65 next year. Any plans to retire?
LK: How dare you! I'm only 63! I have no plans to retire because of Obama's death panels. When my time does come, I want to go the Jack Kevorkian route, but instead of lethal injection, all I need is to watch Spiderman 3 or 500 Days of Summer!

HB: I must have left my notes at the Alamo. My wife made me ask this: what was your first job?
LK: Being your wife's boy toy! Other then that I haven't had a job since, that is if you consider running Troma a real job.

HB: One of the reasons Troma's movies have stayed fresh is because they always seem to be a response to the times. how would you address the health care crisis or Dancing with the Stars?
LK: I would like the address this issue by making a film that combines the Step Up films with Dancing with the Stars, but have it only cast with men and women that weigh over 400 pounds! This film would also be a comment on how we are losing the war in Afghanistan.

HB: What lies ahead for Troma? Is Tromaville still planning to secede?
LK: The mainstream tend to copy each other. Mother's Day is being remade by Brett Ratner's company, and we are getting calls everyday from other big Hollywood types who want to remake Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, Class of Nuke'em High, and The Toxic Avenger! Also, if I don't have the courage to blow my brains out, we will produce The Toxic Avenger 5: The Toxic Twins, and a few other scripts we are looking into as well.

Interested in seeing Lloyd Kaufman at Crypticon? Check out the Crypticon Houston web page.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar