David Giancola (Director - 'Illegal Aliens')
'Up Among The Stars'
Following the untimely death of actress Anna Nicole Smith, Edgewood Studios and MTI Home Video have now finally released her very last film, 'Illegal Aliens' into the mass market.
Smith was actively involved in all aspects of the film, not only starring in 'Illegal Aliens' but also serving as a producer. Her now-deceased son Daniel worked as an associate producer and prior to Anna Nicole Smith's passing, the production companies and Smith had planned on dedicating the film to Daniel's memory.
You thought they were from another planet ... you were right! 'Charlie's Angels' goes sci-fi, with a touch of 'Men in Black' thrown in for good measure, when three aliens morph into super-hot babes and arrive to protect the earth from the intergalactic forces of evil. Guided by Syntax, their holographic mentor, these illegal aliens are willing to use every trick in the book and every sexy outfit in their wardrobe to accomplish their mission!
'Illegal Aliens' was directed by David Giancola from a screenplay by Ben Coello. The film stars Smith, Joanie Laurer, Lenise Soren, Gladys Jimenez, Patrick Burleigh, Dennis Lemoine, Mark Keppel, Michael J Valentine, and Kevin McGuire.
OK, taking this from the top, and I noted winks and nods to Star Wars,
Superman, Planet of the Apes, Men In Black, The French Connection, Charlie's
Angels (Lucy, Cameron and Drew!), and a whole lot more before the end
credits had rolled! For the most part, were these scripted tips of the hat
or incidents that occurred along the way of filming due to actor
opportunities? Director: David Giancola - "Most of our homages had to be scripted in order to execute them properly
but a few, like Syntax's refrence to "2001" and the opening "Superman" black
& white prologue credits were improvisations or thought up in
post-production. What Director wouldn't want his name in that huge, ponderous streaking font?!
We spent well over a year in post, which I consider to be
one of the most fun parts of filmmaking. I also think that some of the nods
to hit films of the seventies and eighties came to myself and screenwriter
BEN COELLO simply through osmosis as both of us grew up on the blockbusters
of our childhoods in the late 70's. I noticed only now, after the film has
been released what a huge effect directors like Lucas, Spielberg, Scorsese,
and Richard Donner have had on my filmmmaking style. It pervades the pacing
of my editing, the mise en scene of the action, everything."
What was it like working with these three ladies on this film and were
there any speed bumps encountered by any of their 'demands' and such?! "Well Chyna came in on her first day and had to get out the entire "Villian
Monologue" something like seventeen times over the course of the day. She
gained the respect of everyone for that because she never missed a line all
day. Anna Nicole was a great improvisor but not as great at remembering her
lines. The other actors were just trying to keep up but by around take five
or so everything seemed to miraciously click most times. Eventually, to save filmstock
I made a secret deal with the crew to only roll film for real when I thought
we had a chance of getting the scene. I would say a nonchalant password and
then we would shoot."
Knowing that this was a low budget film from the beginning, it also seems
that due to some semi-decent special F/X that you also had a healthier
monetary investment than normal. To your mind, what elements of selling this
movie (from a script point of view) to those investors were the most
compelling? "Frankly, none of that was there at script stage. To tell the truth, I had
made a steady career of Directing and Producing "Movies of the Week" and
"B-Movies" profitably and used that track record to entice investors. What I
did differently this time was to lie to the first few key investors (yea
they can laugh now...) about the interest I had received from my regular
distributors about the project when in fact they had told me they hated the
script. I was bent on breaking the glass ceiling that I had been under and
make a film that was trancendent of it's means and had a chance to find a
larger audience. I also have to acknowledge that I could not have made this
film ten years ago without the strides that have been made in computer technology.
My first film had three special effect shots that cost thousands to execute on an optical
printer or in-camera, "ILLEGAL ALIENS" has over four hundred! We had a small
army of seven special efx artists working on Mac G4 and G5 computers turning out
incredible stuff, our deadline for a lot of the shots was when many of the artists
had to return to college!"
At what point do you decide between filming a real explosion and using a
composite shot? And, to your mind, what explosion in this film turned out to
be your finest moment now you reflect back on the final cut ... and could a
fork in a microwave REALLY cause such explosive devastation?! "Look, you should still not put a fork in the microwave, it is just not
right and it is dangerous. If you watch the show "Mythbusters" you can find out
what really happens, I don't want legions of people experimenting in their
kitchens. The amount of explosions in the film was part of the satire of
action movies and also used as a sort of scene punctuation. You can not blow
up a car just by shooting it's gas tank (again, see "Mythbusters"). I had
come from the B-Movie world where if, say you had just completed a car crash
and since you already destroyed the car you figure, hey lets blow it up. I
noticed that long ago that even the major studios are following that rule
and felt like, as we did with everything in the film, taking it to extremes.
But to actually answer your question; generally the only time we went to composite
explosions was when it was a safety issue. For example, helicopters and
explosions don't mix well."
In the French Connection homage how much fun did you have filming those
Friedkin-inspired car /bus chases? "What was really fun is that about 75% of the lines in those scenes were
inprovised on-set. I would tell writer Ben Coello to go off and pen some
additional one-liners and we would start from there. Poor guy, I kept him on
set to help with script changes and he had to watch while the actors and I
made the script into our film. It was like slow torture for him watching us
improvise on top of his words."
Did Joanie Laurer ('Chyna') ever have to slam anyone to the floor to make
a point just for old times sake, perhaps?! And, what was up with all her
weird voices and contorted facial expressions throughout the movie!? It
looked like she was suffering a massive stroke each time she spoke!! "Joanie never slammed anyone until our wild wrap party but I am hoping she
does not read my answer to your last question as I am afraid she will slam
me next time I visit her in L.A. Her performance was created to emulate the
villians of 50's sci-fi films like "Cat Women of the Moon". It was simply
more fun to take it way over the top than to make any subtle choices, I mean
this is not "Remains of the Day" here!"
In the restaurant scene it was named the '3 Tomatoes' ... an in-joke gag,
perhaps? "Uh, no that was the name of the actual restaurant we shot in. A really
great Southern Italian place in Rutland, Vermont. Did it get a laugh?!"
Anna Nicole seemed to be enjoying her role of self-parody. Please tell us
more about how she approached her character of Lucy "Anna Nicole saw this as a chance to get back at all the critics and
"haters" as she called them. The jokes at her expense were written by her
son Daniel and herself. I was amazed, I had never seen anyone go so far for
a laugh. She approached the character of Lucy as that of a innocent five
year old, part for the plot and part for the parody of her image."
It's been said that Anna Nicole was instrumental in adding numerous
elements and rewrites for her character throughout the filming. Is this true
and in what way did her thoughts enhance her character? "Anna Nicole knew what she wanted and very often got it. I was the only one
who would tell her no on set and we did have a few battles. In the end
we become close I think due to the fact that I never wanted anything from
her other than a great performance and I spoke my mind. She had been through
so many people hanging on and taking advantage of her friendship throughout her
life that I think that is why she had so few friends at the end. She had
become very guarded and protective of her privacy."
The break-of-character moments were unexpected to say the least, but
surprisingly worked! So, how much of the film - come the final cut - was
actor improv compared to completely scripted dialogue? "As I said many times, I am a big fan of improv when the actors have a good handle on their
characters and everyone is prepared. It is a technique that has to be used carefully though.
Believe it or not I would say around 30% of the film's jokes were improvised or came
from takes of the film where one actor was intentionally trying to break up another one
and make them laugh. Of course always secretly Directed to do so by me. I used this
technique to keep the film feeling spontaneous and to lighten the tension on the set. Ironically,
Anna Nicole was the hardest one to break up during a take. The scene where Henchman Dennis
Lemoine complains about having to escort Anna to the MegaGravitron while she is already under
mind control was something we hatched without her knowing, but she just played along like a pro."
Now that you are officially labeled as the director of Anna Nicole's
very last movie following her untimely death, I'm wondering what weight on
your shoulders (if any) that now brings for all your future projects? "It's all good. The film has broken a glass ceiling career-wise for me and I am
already fielding offers and being courted by Agents and Personal Managers
but Hollywood is not really my scene. I have no plans at this time to leave Vermont
or Edgewood Studios. Regardless of the potential cult status of the film that everyone keeps
mentioning, I really just want to continue to entertain."
Indeed, what is going to be your next directorial project? "Ben Coello and I are working on the development of a couple different projects at this
time, one of them utilizing extensive CG effects and a comic-book, very stylized story that would capitalize
on the very innovative (for us) effects work done on "Illegal Aliens". Something similar in style
to the recent film "300" with a nod to comic great Will Eisner, with whom I made my first short film.
Of course, I also have a huge widescreen action film in the works as well."
In closing, and quite literally in this case, have you had any stick yet
re: your ending credits tag line of 'No Canadian's were hired during the
filming of this movie'?! "No way! Canadians are way too polite to complain! I put that in as a nod to my loyal
crew, many of whom have lost careers due to "Runaway Production" and our governments
complete lack of acknowledgment of the problem. Canada's not the problem really, they are
only one of many countries improving their economies by encouraging film production with
tax incentives. For the record, my wife and half my family are Canadian. I have already taken a
lot of flak for that joke at home!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
Watch the Uncensored 'Teaser' Trailer Right Here!
Photo Credit: www.edgewoodstudios.com
If you would like to win a signed 8.5x11 'Illegal Alliens' flyer - or, if they arrive a signed full-size movie poster of the film, and you think you know all there is to know about Anna Nicole Smith, just answer all these five (5) questions:
1) What is the full (with correct spelling) birth name of Anna Nicole Smith?
2) Whilst working as a waitress, Anna met (and subsequently married) Billy Wayne Smith ... but what was the name of that restaurant?
3) Smith secured a contract to replace which supermodel in the Guess jeans ad campaign?
4) In which year was she crowned 'Playboy's Playmate Of The Year'?
5) What movie of Anna's is this the premise to: Anna stars as a helicopter pilot, Carrie Wisk, who lands on a high rise building and, upon learning it has been taken over by terrorists, becomes engaged in a deadly fight to save hostages?
Send us all of your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful signed 'Illegal Aliens' great 8.5x11 flyers or full-size movie posters! Just send us an e:mail here before August 1st with your answer and the subject title ILLEGAL ALIENS CONTEST to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Back To Archives